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Is software-as-a-service important to you?


There is a big media "buzz" these days about the end of software.  Instead of installing software on your PC, these writers say that soon you will just use web sites and web services that do the same things.  If you want to edit a photo don't install PhotoPerfect, just visit a photo-editing site.  If you want to play music, you stream it from an online music station, instead of running Zortam Mp3 Media Studio.

Why use software as a service?  Proponents mention certain advantages:

  • You can use the software from anywhere that you have an Internet connection, on any computer.
  • You don't have to worry about installing software on your PC.
  • Upgrades and bug fixes are automatic.

However, even though mega-company Google has moved into this area, software as a service has not taken the world by storm.  Providers are seeing growth, but the stand-alone software industry is also doing well.  So why do many people and companies still prefer to use software programs installed on their own computers?

For one thing, there is the issue of security.  If you use an online document-editing program, your data will be travelling across the public Internet, and will be stored on servers that someone else owns and someone else maintains.  If they miss a security problem, your information is now vulnerable.

Performance is often still an issue.  Even with a fast cable modem or corporate high-speed Internet connection, editing a document by connecting to a server over the Internet can be much slower than working on that same document stored on your own PC.  Of course, if you are disconnected, for instance on a plane, you simply can't use these services.

If you are using a service to edit and store your data, what happens to you if they shut down and stop providing that service?  For instance, if all your photos are stored on a photo service and the owner of that service has a problem, all your photos become unavailable, maybe forever.  One day, you try to work on your photos and they're just not there.  Software installed on your PC is much less likely to simply vanish, and your data will always be where you can get at it.

Stand-alone applications offer much more variety—FindApp has over 40 choices in Photo Albums alone!  In general, applications will have a more mature, polished feature set.

None of these points says that software as a service is always a bad idea.  I believe that it's especially useful for team and group applications.  If people have to share information, having it stored on a central server has huge advantages. 

Just don't believe the hype. Stand-alone software isn't going to be going away any time soon.




Your first line of defense: personal firewalls

 Network & Internet

Every day, the news reports on "hackers" or "cybercriminals".  They steal credit card numbers, turn computers into zombies, and use people's home PCs to hide illegal files.  We all want to protect ourselves.

The good news is, you can protect yourself pretty easily.  The components of basic protection are:

  1. Antivirus and antispyware software.
  2. A personal firewall.
  3. Being careful!

We will talk about personal firewalls, what they do, and some of the available software.  In the future I will cover the other areas.

What is a firewall?

A firewall is a system to protect a computer or network from intruders.  Firewalls can be either hardware or software.  This article is about software firewalls that protect individual computers.

One thing that a firewall does is very simple: it blocks all network connections from the outside. If the intruder can't even connect to your computer, the attack fails.  Obviously, some things, like certain multiplayer games, require network connections to work.  In these cases, you set the firewall to allow exceptions.  Be selective when making exceptions.  Don't allow every program to do everything.

More advanced firewalls actually check the data coming in over the network, looking for the "signatures" of dangerous software.  For instance, an advanced firewall can detect everything from viruses to so-called "Trojan Horses" and prevent the transfer from continuing.

Modern firewalls will also block connections out of your computer unless you make an exception.  Why?  Because if some "malware" does manage to get installed on your computer, this function can stop it from sending spam or serving illegal files, and the firewall software will also alert you that an unauthorized program is trying to access the Internet.

What firewall to use?

Microsoft Windows XP and newer come with a built-in Windows Firewall.  If you do not have another firewall installed, you should definitely be sure that Windows Firewall is activated and working. Windows Firewall is not considered a particularly advanced or powerful program, but it is certainly better than nothing.

The Iolo Personal Firewall has a special "IntelliDefense" feature which makes smarter decisions while bothering not bothering the user with unneeded popups.  It provides an extra layer of defense by monitoring important files on your system so that they can't be modified.  Advanced users also will like the superior logging and customization features.

Agnitum Outpost Firewall Pro includes several kinds of protection in a single package: it is a firewall, antispyware protection, and also steers you away from dangerous web sites that host malware or attempt to steal passwords.

Ashampoo offers two firewall products.  Ashampoo Firewall FREE offers standard firewall functionality.  Ashampoo Firewall PRO adds a host of additional capabilities:  a child protection mode, stealth ports to allow Internet access without being detectable to hackers, an Internet accelerator, and more.

If your computer connects to the Internet, not protecting it is like leaving your wallet in an unlocked car.  It's just asking for trouble.   Please be sure you have a capable firewall protecting all your computers.

I hope you've found this article useful. 

John M.




Why buy software online?


In a previous article, I talked about shareware, programs you can try before buying.  When you plan to buy software, one decision you will make is whether to buy boxed software or download it. Obviously, we editors here at FindApp are believers in the idea of getting software online, and I'd like to explain why.

With apologies to David Letterman, here are the top 4 reasons to get your software online:

  1. Try Before Buying: As I explained in the earlier entry, with downloadable software you have the chance to try it for a while before making your buying decision.
  2. Instant Delivery:  Once you decide what software to use, you can pay for it and be using it within minutes
  3. Selection:  FindApp has over 10,000 programs available.  With downloadable software, you will always have a wider range of choices than you can find any bricks-and-mortar store.
  4. Support Directly From the Publisher:  When you buy downloadable software, you are buying directly from the maker.  Because of this, you have a direct relationship with them, and can get support from the experts who publish the program.  Most shareware has at least email support for all registered users.  If you purchase software in a box, you may have to deal with a retailer for support.

How much do we at FindApp believe in downloadable software? I personally have bought exactly one program in a box in the past 10 years.  When I asked around the office, none of us can remember buying boxed software in the past 5. It's no contest: online is the way to go.

I'd like to wish you all a joyous holiday season, and thank you for using FindApp.



At Your Leisure: Arcade Games


We all use computers for practical things, everything from creating documents to doing budgets.  I'm here to remind you that computers are fun.  The "At Your Leisure" entries will talk about games, music players, and other software created just for you to enjoy.

This time I'm going to talk about one of my favorites, arcade games.

If you liked Pacman and all the sequels, you should check out Agent Chewer.  You control the extremely secret agent, Chewer, as he searches for the dangerous semi-atomic bomb.  Can you save PacLand?

Arcade Race takes the basic driving game and adds missiles, bombs, and land mines.  With 8 tracks and excellent 3D graphics, it should keep any car-lover entertained.

Any younger kids will be fascinated by Bubble Bobble Quest.  They can help the two dragons, Bub and Bob, defeat their enemies with magical bubble-blowing powers.  The game is surprisingly complicated--adults might just find they are addicted!

There are hundreds of other games available in FindApp's Home & Education category.  Take a look, and have fun!



What is Try-Before-You-Buy software?


One of the main reasons people use FindApp is to get try-before-you-buy software.  As I start this blog, I thought I'd take the time to explain the way it works for anyone new to the system.

Also known as shareware, try-before-you-buy software is commercial, copyrighted software.  Anyone is entitled to download and try the software, but the software has some sort of limitation on it that can only be removed by entering an activation code.  For instance, a program might only work for 15 days from the time that it is first used, and then stop working until paid for and activated.  Other software will work forever, but certain features don't work.  For example, a shareware video editor might limit the user to saving only 30 seconds of each file until it is registered.

Generally, try-before-you-buy software is activated online.  When you decide that you like the program and want to activate it, you navigate to the maker's web site, and purchase the software.  You are then emailed a "serial number" or "activation key".  Typing this key into the program unlocks all the features.  You almost never need to download a new version of the program, you simply activate your already-installed trial version.  If you lose the serial number, there is usually an automated system to send it to you again.

The try-before-you-buy model has been increasing in popularity since it was first introduced. Major companies like Microsoft and Adobe now let you download and activate their software.

An example of popular shareware is Auto FTP Manager, an file transfer program.

Shareware is different from freeware.  Freeware is software that is completely free of charge.

Some software is free for personal use only.  If a business wants to use the program, they are required to purchase it.

Almost every software company has its own license terms.  It's always a good idea to read the User Agreement.

In a future blog, I'll talk about how to pick the best shareware and freeware.

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading.



Tidings of the Season: Timely Screen Savers

 Desktop Enhancement

Welcome to the FindApp Editors' Blog! 

Christmas is celebrated around the world.  Every year at this time, many people decorate their homes for Christmas. Maybe you'd like to decorate your computer? It's easy with the 3D Xmas Screensaver

Xmas Holiday 3D Screensaver

 If you prefer an outdoor Christmas scene, you can try the Xmas Holiday 3D Screensaver

3D Xmas Screensaver

 If you would like to celebrate the leaves changing color (here in the North), the Autumn Forest screen saver is perfect. 

Autumn Forest

  To give your computer a wintery feel, try Desktop Snow.  This animated Windows background makes it snow behind your open windows.  You control the size of the flakes and how hard it's snowing. 

Desktop Snow

 There are dozens of holiday screen savers at FindApp.Take a look at the Holiday & Seasonal Screensaver area and you'll surely find one—or more!—that's perfect for you.

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