What’s in Your Computer (and phone, and WiFi)?

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Lenovo

This week the news is full of Lenovo, a computer manufacturer that has been selling machines that they have already fitted with what some call Malware or just Adware. Magic in the machine indeed!

The mal/adware in question is made by a company called “Superfish.” The software is essentially an Internet browser add-on that injects ads onto websites you visit. Details here.

Besides taking up space in your computer, the add-on is also dangerous because it undermines basic computer security protocols.

That’s because it tampers with a widely-used system of official website certificates. That makes it hard for your computer to recognize a fake bank website. This means that you are more likely to give all of your personal data away, let nasty things into your computer, and allow people to monitor your use.

No good I hear you say, and all so that they can feed you adverts while you are browsing.

Hidden Extras?

But this news does bring up another question, what else is in the computer? What else is it programmed to do? The simple answer is that I and probably most of you do not know. We have bought a machine that does the things we want it to do, but who knows what else?

Now as I eat my breakfast, I like to read the ingredients on the side of the packet. It is good for language skills as it is usually in several languages. But can I do this with my computer? You don’t get much in the way of documentation with a $400 laptop. Certainly not considering what is inside it.

So the computer company in question have disabled something at their end and the problem is resolved. But if they tell you that they fixed the problem are you going to believe them? After they did something that put your computer and everything saved on it at risk? Or should you put a new operating system on the new machine, wipe the hard drive and start again?

Why do we trust these manufacturers when they consistently do things that are not in our interest? WiFi providers that con your computer into trusting fake certificates so that they can block certain sites (and read your mail or follow your searches)? Samsung that record your voice through your smart TV and send it non encrypted over the Internet to unnamed third parties, social media sites and search engines that collect your data, mobile phone companies that map your every movement, the list goes on.

So if you cannot trust wifi, or computer manufacturers, or Google, or Facebook, or Samsung to treat our data securely and correctly, who can you trust? And more to the point why are we giving them our lives to play with?

How the Latest Tech Can Help Meet Deadlines

It seems that it doesn’t matter what industry you work in, you’re always faced by deadlines that loom large above your head, waiting to strike. Whether you’re a journalist facing daily deadlines to get your copy written and published, or a warehouse worker tasked with creating so many of your products each day or an agency worker tasked with getting a job done before the end of the month, we’ve all got them.

Computing from the cloudIf only there was some way of making things simpler, taking the stress away and helping us to relax a bit more and get the job done without the typical end of month stress. Fortunately, thanks to the developments in technology over the past decade, there is. Developers are now working on software packages designed to make the hard, laborious tasks much simpler allowing us to focus our time, effort and resources on other areas of the business, like discussions with clients and ensuring that the marketing goes as well as possible so that you can expand the company at your own pace and in the right areas.

Let’s look at one particular example. Sorting out the rota for the next few weeks can be one of the hardest task faced by any member of the management, having to deal with holidays, sickness and ensuring that the optimum number of people are in on the busiest and quietest days of the week, and covering themselves for a quiet day turning into chaos, too. The installation of shift scheduling software can help those tasked with organizing the rota to ensure that the right people are in on the right day, and that people who are booked off aren’t included in the plans so they can adjust accordingly. It’s far more efficient and professional than using a pen and paper and saves an incredible amount of time.

Cloud solutions have proven to be another fine example of helping to meet deadlines. You might be faced with one strict deadline, and get called away from the office for an important meeting. Alternatively you may have a family emergency that means you have to work from home at the worst possible time. Cloud storage, however, enables you to access all of your work files wherever you are and upload the updated versions ready for someone else to access them and put them to print, send to the relevant people or save for the finishing touches from a member of another department.

No matter whether you’re a large or small, established or fledgling business, there are now all kinds of technologies and software packages designed to make our lives easier on both a personal and professional level.

Infix PDF Editor – Review

This is a sponsored review on behalf of Infix. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

In this article I am going to review a piece of software by Iceni Technology, called Infix PDF Editor. The version I will be reviewing is Infix Professional for PC.

Infix PDF Editor is a program that enables you to edit and then save PDF documents. As Iceni put it:

“Infix Pro includes tools for handling graphics such as grouping, hiding and locking. It also adds the ability to edit and create clipping masks plus a vertical ruler to allow easier object alignment together with grids, guides and page margins.”

The quote mentions ‘Infix Pro’; this is because there are three different versions of the software. Form-Filler – a free version of the software which only lets you edit and reflow text. The ‘Standard‘ version of the software offers a lot more functionality, also allowing you to convert PDF files into other formats (ePub, RTF and HTML), add notes to the document, among other things. The ‘Professional‘ version lets you do even more, including joining multiple PDFs into one document, automatically renumber pages and adding/removing watermarks.

For full details of what the different versions offer, check out the table below which is from iceni.com.

Infix Version Comparison Table

The Form-Filler version of the software is free to download. The Standard version costs £59 and the Pro version £99.

So, that is the technical specifications of what the three different versions of the software offer, but, the real proof of the pudding is in the using – how easy the software is to use, and does it really work like it says it does.

The Interface

The interface is very easy to follow. It works in the same way that many programs do, so that you can find your way around it really easily, and you don’t have to spend a long time pondering what buttons do. I call this type of approach to software interface design KISS – Keep It Super Simple.

A KISS approach to interface design is, in my opinion the best. People don’t buy software for it to look good on their PC, they buy it because they want to increase their productivity, learning or enjoyment in some way.

As a result of the KISS approach, the interface does look a little basic. Basic is easy to understand, but not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing.

In my opinion the functionality of software comes first, and aesthetics comes second. If you want software that looks okay and works well, then Infix fits the bill, however if you must have designer looking software, then you might be better looking elsewhere.

Below is a screenshot I have taken of the software.

Infix PDF Editing software interface

The interface design of Infix PDF Editing software

Ease of Use

As I mentioned above, the design really aids the usability of the software. It is easy to find the function you want with the various optional toolbars, and the menu options.

Much of the software on your computer is probably not made by Microsoft, however you will probably notice that most software designers stick to the standardised layout. File, edit, view and help are standard on the top menu, below the top menu comes some optional toolbars, then the main content you are viewing, with a few options (often involving resizing and scrolling) at the bottom of the window.

There are some software producers who stray away from this tried and tested design. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. In Infix PDF Editor, the design conforms to the standard design, meaning that it is really easy to work out what is what.

Does It Work!

Iceni Technology LogoOkay, the software may be easy to use, affordably priced, etc. however if it doesn’t work, you aren’t going to want to buy it. I can inform you that it does work, and it works really well!

I have tried editing various different PDF documents with the software and it has surprised me every time with the functionality it offers. Like in Microsoft Word, you can ask the software to track changes, and put them in a different colour. This can be really handy if you want to show someone what you have edited.

You can also add notes when editing PDFs, sticky-notes, scribbles, text highlights and stamps are all available options, and as you would expect, when you save, you can view the edits with any PDF viewer. For more details, check out this handy screenshot and explanation on the Iceni site.

Not only does the software make it easy to edit PDFs, but it also makes is it easy to copy data from them. Sometimes, the way the PDF is constructed, if you try to copy some of the contents, say to quote it, when it goes into your document, it can often be a little mixed up. Infix makes it really easy to copy data from PDFs and transfer it to other locations.

The software also makes finding and replacing text really easy. Edit > Find and Replace > Replace > type in the word(s) you want to be changed and what you want the change to be to > click ‘replace’ and the software will chew its way through the document, changing any occurrences of the terms you asked it to. If you are tracking changes, you can then see the words that have been changed.

There are so many other things this software can do, it would take far too long for me to talk about them all. To mention a few you can: adjust paragraph indents, add header and footers, add new text, merge PDFs and renumber pages.

Help

Good software always needs to be backed up by good help and support. Iceni Technology don’t fall down in this area though, not with Infix at least. Their website hosts a series of screenshot guides and video tutorials which help you get to grips with all the different functions of the software.

They also have a support helpline and email address.

Compatibility

Infix is very diverse, and can be installed on a USB memory stick, Windows PC (2003, XP, Vista and 7) or a Mac (with MacOSX 10.5 or above).

For Windows 2003/XP you need at least 512MB of RAM (almost all PC’s do) or 1GB for Windows Vista/7, as well as a 1GHz x86 processor/CPU and 60MB free disk space – that should be no problem.

In terms of weight (power and space needed to run the software) I would say it is relatively light. I have some programs that require around 15GB of hard disk space, and a very capable graphics card, along with a large amount of system memory. Don’t get me wrong, still check your PC is up to the job, but I personally think most peoples will be.

Is Infix Value for Money?

Like I almost always say when I end a review, whether you think the product or service is value for money really depends upon what your use for it would be. If you occasionally use PDF documents and would like to be able to change them as a convenience, but don’t really need the software for any reason, I would suggest that it probably isn’t going to be that useful to you.

If however you are regularly dealing with PDFs, for whatever reason, be it part of your job, hobby or whatever, and would find it helpful to be able to make changes to them, then I think you would benefit from Infix software. Whether you go Standard or Pro is for you to decide, I think they are both reasonably priced for the services they provide, and the additional help that you get online.

If you are interested in Infix PDF editing software feel free to visit the link which follows through to the software’s site, where you can learn more about it.

What are your thoughts about the software? Would you find it useful? If so, will you be buying it? Any questions, feedback or comments, as always, leave them below.

Two good registry and PC cleaning tools

To keep your computer clean, inside and out, is often a challenge! I’m not talking about the dust and dirt that tends to accumulate in your computer’s case, but the nasty stuff that tends to cause your computer to become slower, little by little as you use it regularly.

I’m sure this is a problem you are familiar with, you bought a computer and the first thing you notice how fast it is. Everything runs without a hitch and programs are snappy like the beat of a well versed drum.

However 6 months later you start noticing a few things. It first starts out with programs needing to take a couple of extra moments to open, surfing the web starts to become a chore as things feel like they come to a crawl at moments. Even something such as turning on your computer seems to take forever and ever and ever. “This cannot be right!” you have probably thought to yourself, and you are correct!

Much like a motor car, a computer needs their fair amount of touch, love, & care. The problem is, if you are not sure exactly what to do, then you could end up playing around and damaging your computer. This is why, unless you are a PC expert, you should stick to using programs to help you do the fiddling!

The first thing you notice once you start searching for a good, safe, & efficient computer cleaner software is that there are a ton of them, more than you or I could ever count! Being the computer savvy person I am, it’s with the most honorable intent that I present to you the software that I personally feel does the best job. Some PC cleaning software can be dangerous, if it is not well made, or designed to damage your system, you could get negative effects. Check the software has lots of good reviews, if from a trusted source and experts like it, before you go downloading it onto your PC.

My favorite PC cleaner is CCleaner, which I think is an amazing little program. With a quick and simple Google search it is bound to come up – easily available on internet, if you’re unsure as to where to download it, always try to get it from the official website.

A screenshot of the CCleaner interfaceThis program is super handy because it clears out the majority of junk and trash you have incidentally stored and have hidden away in places you wouldn’t have imagined! When you launch the program you’re going to be presented with a handy onscreen menu; you should select ‘analyze’ and then ‘run cleaner’. Once completed you’ll notice that a whole lot of space on your computer has been freed and a sense of speed has been restored to your machine.

The second program that I would like to recommend is Glary Registry Repair which is a dandy little tool that I highly recommend, because I have seen it perform some truly glorious work.

Mostly everyone has heard of a computer registry, and that at times their registry becomes out of sync due to the programs that they have installed and uninstalled over time making incremental changes as it goes along.

A screenshot of the Glary Registry Repair interfaceGlary Registry Repair attempts to help you spot and fix the errors in your registry, so that your computer can run faster.

There are many different programs that you can use to speed up your computer and clean your registry. These are my personal favorites, however feel free to choose your own.