by Robert Sanborn
Having tried a lot of different anti virus and firewall programs over
the years, I finally settled on a combination that I felt would give me
the best protection for my computers at home. For Anti Virus, I settled
on the Symantec Norton program which over the years has offered the best
level of protection and prevention available. Granted that every once in
a while, they have serious lapses of judgment in what I think are the
right ways to build software, but for the most part, have protected my
system very well and that is what I used on my main system. For a
firewall program, I settled early on with Zone Labs Zone Alarm system.
For those of us on the budget minded trail, they offered one of the best
programs you can get for the best price, free to a good home. And
despite the problems of the newer versions which can catch all of us now
and then, I decided that for my home work system, I wanted to go with
the Internet Security Suite that Zone Labs offers which will give me a
protection level higher than the two programs I had used before.
Installing it was very simple and I have to say
easy for me because I was in the process of building a new work computer
for me and starting from scratch with the Security Suite made sense. I
have heard lots of grumbling about problems with updates from prior
versions and in fact, had held off in updating the free version of Zone
Alarm for those very reasons that as critical as this system was to me,
I wanted no snags in software getting in the way of a computer that was
running my business and life.
The installation is simple. You start it up and
like prior Zone Labs programs, gives you a very good summary of what it
is doing as it does it. Enter your license key and the program then
steps you through each phase like the Smart Defense Advisor that will
automatically update the program to catch spyware and the like. They do
give you the warning that if you had installed any other anti virus
programs, you must uninstall them before installing the security suite.
Some new features you will find as you start the
install process and here I wish that it would give you a spot for
getting more information. For instance, the Email Junk Filter feature
for Outlook is an excellent feature that tries to weed out the spam mail
in your system as it comes in but didnít tell me what it was going to do
with it, I had to look into the manual to find out that it creates new
junk mail folders for you. Another new feature is the Instant Messenger
Security to ensure your conversations on IM are private. Since I use
Trilliamís instant messenger program, I will be interested to see if it
covers that as well as AOL, MSN, and Yahoo.
A privacy control is also included to block pop
ups, banner ads, and third party cookies. Again in the past, I have used
Googleís toolbar to block up Pop Ups and relied on Internet Explorerís
security settings for banner ads and third party cookies but it is nice
to have this bundled in a single place.
Once the computer is restarted, you can watch a
simple video about how zone alarm works and protects your computer.
Pretty slick. Once I got things up and running, I did notice that the
Windows Security message was up telling me my anti virus files were out
of date. Click on the Zone Alarm box and you can easily check the Anti
Virus file listing and sure enough, they were out of date so there is a
quick update there. I suspect that if I had waited a while, it would
have done that automatically but when I did the update, the security
message disappeared. As I continued to use the program, I did notice
that it did update both the spyware and anti virus definitions on a
If you click on Overview in the main ZA window, you
will see a good summary of the status of each component. Donít be
surprised to see a large number of programs already granted access to
the internet. Incredible to see how much software phones home these
days. Hit the product info tab and you will see the dates of your files,
product level, and when your subscription expires. Normally, you are
good for a year if you buy the program which sells for around $60.
There are some annoyances with the program. One
being that it seems that anytime an installer program starts up, it will
let you know but it is sometimes a bit cryptic as those installers often
donít really tell you what program started them up. You just make the
rash assumption that since you clicked on setup for a program and the ZA
alarm pops up, they must be related. But it sure would be nice someday
to have it figure it out for itself that yes, you are installing a new
program so it wonít have to keep telling me.
Of course, when you get it working for a few days,
it will settle itself to the point where you hardly see anything going
on and that is what you hope that a good anti virus and spyware program
will do for you. Having read a lot of email messages regarding problems
upgrading to the newer version of Zone Alarm, I took the easy route of
installing it from scratch and that worked just fine. Though if you do
decide to give it a try, be sure to uninstall your old software first.
It just makes life easier. As a long time user of the firewall program,
I am very satisfied with it and it does seem to be doing a good job of
keeping things clean so if you are looking to make a switch with your
anti virus program, by all means take a good close look at Zone Labs.
Built a new Media Center PC the other day and ran
into some interesting things. It came with the new Microsoft Bluetooth
Keyboard and Mouse combination and there are some plusses and minuses
with it. First of all, it is a big keyboard but I like typing on it.
Comfortable feel to it and there is a zillion buttons that will take
weeks to figure out. What is strange though is that if the keyboard
sits idle for any length of time, it will go to sleep so to speak as I
suspect the Bluetooth connection (which in this case comes with a little
USB device), wakes up. Same for the mouse. I donít like the mouse that
came with it as much as I do the regular Microsoft Optical Intellimouse.
Too many sharp edges for me, and it is a heavy mouse, so not that easy
to glide around the desktop with but like anything else, I am getting
use to it. But it is sure nice to just be able to pick up the keyboard
and mouse and move it anywhere else when cleaning, rearranging equipment
and the like. And I do like not having the cords in the way especially
after diving through the mass of cords in the back of the computer.
The other downside is that both devices run on
batteries. I am using rechargeable AA types in the mouse and regular
alkaline batteries in the keyboard and will see how long they last.
When I built this system, I used an In-Win case for the first time and
discovered a few flaws. While a very sleek looking case using the new
BTX form type mainboard, I found that when I installed the mainboard, it
is not close enough to the back plate making it difficult to keep a
keyboard or mouse connected via the usual PS/2 type ports. In this case,
having the Bluetooth connectors for them made it unnecessary to use
those ports but sometimes, you really need a real keyboard plugged into
that port to start your computer. The other problem was that the DVD
burner I used (Plextor) would fit in the case just fine but the button
on the front of the case needs to be pushed really hard to get it to
open the door. I resorted to having a short cut to the drive on the
desktop to right click on it and say eject. Another minor snag is that
I canít tell when the DVD drive is active or not because the activity
light on it is hidden behind the door. This is also a pretty noisy case
considering all the hoops I went through trying to quiet down my old
computer so I need to start looking for quieter BTX type CPU Fans.
Sometimes I hate trying out new stuff.
Having gone through the troubles of updating my
computer, I can tell you that it can be a real pain. I try very hard to
keep track of all of my install CDs for programs and the like but you
know, with so many opportunities to buy these useful utilities on the
web, you really need to work at keeping track of them. What even gets
worse is the problem of finding and keeping track of all the updates.
Life gets pretty easy for me because I have a cable modem for high speed
internet access so I can easily click on a program and tell it to update
itself and I donít care if that update is 20 meg or higher. But what if
you donít have a high speed connection. The way things update
themselves, it is going to take you weeks to get caught up again.
My recommendation here is that if you have a
chance, buy the boxed version of the software, that way you will have it
to reinstall if things go bad. Same with updates if you can. The other
alternative is to see if you can download the updates (especially the
major ones), and then save them to a Downloads Folder on your computer
for later use.
The new DVD burner is great. I wish I hadnít
stalled so long to get one installed. Having the capacity of 4.7
gigabytes to back up files is so much nicer than the 700mb for a CD I
really wish I had switched earlier. Now if the prices on the media would
come down even more, then I could start using the double layer feature
and get 8+ gig onto a disc.
Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC
Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at email@example.com