Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Patent Wars

Patents were originally created to spur innovation by ensuring that people could create without fear of losing control of their inventions.
However patentsare being increasingly used by big companies to put a stranglehold on innovation instead.
Corporations are falling over themselves to acquire patents for the sole purpose of keeping the status quo.
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A great example of this is the $4.5 billion recently bid by a consortium including Apple and Microsoft for a “war chest” of patents owned by Nortel to keep them out of the hands of Google.
And, once again, Microsoft is leading the fight against innovation by using the patents it has acquired to restrict the use of Android – exactly the sort of behaviours that have landed them in such hot water in the past.
 Using  acquired patents Microsoft have forced companies that produce Android devices to pay ‘license fees’ for each device sold –  increasing the cost to the company and the consumer.Until recently those deals were kept private as part of the agreements made (coerced?) with device makers, creating exactly the sort of fear, uncertainty and doubt that I’m sure Microsoft wanted.

And the types of innovations that Microsoft are using to extort these fees?  How about the ability to display a graphic while a downloading is occurring.

Fortunately Barnes & Nobel have refused to sign and, in the process, are bringing the details into the light.  In its response to Microsoft’s complaint, B&N says that Microsoft is trying to dominate Android with “exorbitant license fees and absurd licensing restrictions,” that is more than Microsoft charges for the entirety of Windows Phone 7.

B&N has asked the U.S. Justice Department to review Microsoft’s patent-licensing agreements with makers of Android devices, saying “Microsoft is embarking on a campaign of asserting trivial and outmoded patents against manufacturers of Android devices.” Its attorney Peter Barbur said in an Oct. 17 letter to a DOJ official: “Microsoft is attempting to raise its rivals’ costs in order to drive out competition and to deter innovation in mobile devices. … Microsoft’s conduct poses serious antitrust concerns.”

Microsoft wants to stifle innovation in the Open Source space because it knows it can’t compete.  Their intention is clear – if they can’t beat them with innovation, then they will do it with litigation.

Patent law has been corrupted – turning it from a defensive tool into a weapon.  Without a major overhaul of the existing system we are heading into a modern dark age.

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Free Anti-Virus – The Best Way to Protect Your PC

Summary Difficulty Rating Time to complete
Replacing your existing Anti-virus with a free alternative.   20-30 minutes

As I mentioned in my last post, the first question I ask is whether people have a backup.   The second question ask is whether they have up-to-date anti-virus software installed.

A shocking number of people fall into the group of having anti-virus software that hasn’t been updated since their trial period ended, and yet still believe they are protected.

Let me make this clear – if your subscription has expired then you are NOT protected.

But who can blame them?  Anti-virus software is expensive, isn’t it?

If you go with what arrived on your PC then, yes, it is expensive.  PC manufacturers make extra money by including software (known collectively as Bloatware) because vendors pay them.  Norton and McAfee fully expect you to sign up when the trial period runs out because you don’t know that you have a choice.

But there are companies that offer great anti-virus solutions for free!  Why?  Well, some do it for philanthropic reasons while others (e.g. Microsoft) do it because they need Windows to appear secure if they want people to buy it.

Replacing your existing anti-virus with a free alternative is a relatively painless procedure involving 3 easy steps.

  1. Remove your existing anti-virus
  2. Install the new anti-virus
  3. Configure your anti-virus to automatically update and scan your machine

Here we will cover installing Microsoft Security Essentials.  Why MSE?  Well, as I see it, Microsoft know more about their products than anyone else and have a vested interest in presenting Windows as virus free.  Unlike the big boys in the virus world, it is not in Microsoft’s interest to have you worrying about viruses.  I have also found MSE to take less CPU than some of the other offerings.

Let’s get started.

1. Removing your existing Anti-virus

Since most PCs come with Norton or McAfee installed the first thing we need to do is remove that, because running multiple copies of AV software is really bad news.  Normally this is a simple affair, however do not take this step until you are ready to complete step number 2, otherwise you will be left completely naked – and for some of you that isn’t going to be anything we want to see!

To remove your existing software click the Start button and select “Control Panel”.  Depending on which version of windows you are running you will then take one of several options:

  • Windows XP:
    Select the option “Add or Remove Programs”  
  • Windows 7 or Windows Vista:
    Select the option “Uninstall a program” 

Wait for the list of programs to populate and then then locate your current AV software.  Click on that program name to highlight it and then click Remove (Windows XP) or Uninstall (Vista/Windows 7).  Follow the prompts to uninstall the software.  Make sure that you reboot your machine after uninstalling to be sure it completes this process.

During this step you will most likely receive warnings that your PC is unprotected.  Don’t worry – we will fix that in step 2.

Note: If you already have a paid subscription then uninstalling the program will not stop future payments - many companies default to charging your credit card each year "for your protection" and you will need to contact them to stop future payments. 

2. Installing Microsoft Security Essentials

Now we are ready to install the Microsoft anti-virus software on your machine.  To do this open a browser and visit this link – Microsoft Security Essentials.  Select the Free Download link and select the version for your Operating system.

If you are given the option to Run the software – take that.  If not, download the program to somewhere you can find it later, open that folder and (once the download is complete) and double-click to start the install.

Follow the instructions on the screen (which involves clicking Next a couple of times, plus agreeing to the software license).

3. Configure your anti-virus to automatically update and scan your machine

Once the install is finished take the option to scan your machine for threats.  Doing this will automatically download the latest virus definitions are part of the scanning process.  Your PC will continue to show an “at risk” status until this first scan is complete.   This first scan can take a while, depending on how large your machine is, however you can continue to use your machine while this is working.

Finally, you are going to want to set up your anti-virus to automatically scan your PC on a periodic basis.  This allows the scanning (which can slow your machine) to occur while you are not using the machine, and because it will download new definitions before each scan.

To set this up run the software (it will already be running if you are following on from above) by clicking on the little castle in the toolbar.  Select the Settings tab and set up a time when your PC will be on but not in use.  Make sure that the option to check for the latest virus and spyware definitions box is checked.

That’s it!  Now you can continue to enjoy the use of your PC free from viruses and without fear that your subscription will run out.  Better yet, you have just saved yourself  $50 per year, all for 20 minutes work.

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