Saturday, October 31, 2009

Virus alert: You have received a Halloween E-card!. An old friend added you as a friend on facebook.

I've noticed an increase of the malware with the subject You have received a Halloween E-card!. Do be careful this Halloween or your computer might end up possessed.

Whilst I've only seen the email with the subject An old friend added you as a friend on facebook once, this is a reminder to be very careful with emails purporting to be from people you may know. Most of the time the aim is to trick you to install the software attached to the email. If a friend has added you to Facebook, then log on to Facebook where you will have received a notification, if in fact it is real.

These emails can be easily avoided using a pop mail account and OzEfilter. In the last two weeks I've received 53 emails which had malware attached, which wasn't detected by the commercial anti-virus software package. These emails would have been easily deleted by OzEfilter before ever reaching the computer.

Please take care with malware.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

OzEfilter 1.8 now available

OzEfilter 1.8 is proving to be very popular amongst those who use it. It is our secret weapon against spam and malware and is now available at a reduced price.

The problem with anti-virus software is it waits until the malware is in your computer before it checks it. Then anti-virus software can't pick up the latest malware because it takes a couple of days for the solutions to be created and released to users.

OzEfilter isn't an anti-virus solution, but because you get to check your email at the mail server before you collect your email, it helps to avoid most of the unwanted emails. Based on the recent Face-off between the free anti-virus software packages, an ideal combination would be OzEfilter and Microsoft Security Essentials. That combination will give you excellent protection at minimal cost.

OzEfilter is now also a Virtual Profit Sharing opportunity. Our business model is to share our profit with those who help us by referring business. Not just once, but for the life of the customer relationship. VPS members using OzEfilter can now help spread the word about OzEfilter and receive not only our thanks, but cash as well.

A couple of ways I use OzEfilter that makes my life easier are the following. I've installed OzEfilter on a netbook which enables me to continuously monitor my emails when I'm not on my main computer. I've also used OzEfilter to monitor newsgroups and only keep emails which contain the subject for things I'm interested in. This has saved my hours in deleting unwanted newsgroup emails. Perhaps you have an interesting way you've used OzEfilter.

Thank you to everyone using OzEfilter. Your support really is the lifeblood of OzEfilter.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Monday, October 26, 2009

Amazon Kindle For PC beta

The eBook reader market is certainly getting some attention lately with Amazon's new Kindle reader and Barnes & Noble releasing their reader. What I thought was very interesting is Amazon is releasing the Kindle For PC beta application for Windows in November.

To me this makes sense. Why limit your potential sales to a dedicated hardware device such as the Kindle reader, when you can make books available the larger market. I've put my name down to be notified when the beta application is available and will be checking it out. If you're interested in the Kindle For PC beta you can register using this link.

Many books such as those written by Australian authors (as listed on the Book Project page), will mostly likely never be available via Amazon. The good thing for consumers is there is more choice. You can access Amazon's range, you can read PDFs directly on your computer, or you can purchase printed books. The choice is yours.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, October 22, 2009

British (and potentially Australian) spelling now possible with Outlook Express.

Anyone using Outlook Express under Windows XP who upgrades to Office 2007, will find their Outlook Express spellchecker no longer works, unless they wish to spellcheck in French.

There has been a solution for those using American English, but those wanting to use British or Australian English didn't have a solution. Now they do.  I've now made available a program which extends the solution provided for American English which adds the British dictionary as an option. For Australians you need to have an older version of Office 97 (possibly 95) as you need a file from the CDs. Once you copy the file to the right folder you can then use the program I've written to enable the Australian dictionary.

You can find more information on the Outlook Express page.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

iTouch or iPhone

Recently I purchased an iPhone and started to review the unit. Yes. The IT consultant in me never stops, but neither does the desire to share the information I learn. If you are about to purchase an iPhone, checking out the iPhone article is worthwhile.

As an example I purchased the iPhone, set it up and checked my location and the local map. That cost me around $28 and there was no warning. Something I had done on other mobile phones at no cost.

The iPhone is an excellent product, but as with all products it has strengths and weaknesses. As I explore the world of the iPhone I'll be sharing my experiences as a series of MyAnswers solutions. Had I known one trick I would have saved myself $28. I suspect others may fall for the same trap and it could easily cost them hundreds of dollars. Find out what I didn't know in the iPhone article.


- Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Virus alert:,,,

Recently I completed the anti-virus face-off (comparing free anti-virus programs) and I found the anti-virus software with new malware, that after a couple of days they would generally find and remove the malware from emails purporting to be from,, or

You know the emails. They have subjects and attachments like the following:

Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Shipping update for your order 254-78546325-658742 / Shipping

Then recently something weird happened. I started to see emails with the same subject and malware attachments not being picked up as malware. Surely the anti-virus software knows about these malware attachments I thought. Now that was weird so I decided to check. 

As it turns out the files sizes are slightly different. My guess is the malware writers are changing the malware ever so slightly to get past the anti-virus software. This cat and mouse game between malware writers and anti-virus software vendors has been going on for months.

Normally I tell people not to worry about blocking malware as the creators continuously change the email address. But in this case the same (faked) email addresses have been used. If you don't use the services of the companies, or, then blocking the domains or filtering on the subject at the mail server may be a good way to handle these unwanted emails.

In my case I use OzEfilter so it doesn't matter how many times malware writers change the malware, since I don't want email from those email addresses, they simply get deleted at the mail server when I check the mail.

So if you think your anti-virus software is losing its memory, it isn't. The malware writers a simply changing the attachments to get past the anti-virus software.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Is it true that for every degree you decrease your thermostat you can save up to 15% off your heating bill?

I was recently asked "is it true that for every degree you decrease your thermostat you can save up to 15% off your heating bill?"

I'm not an energy expert, but I do tend to think things through since I have science training in my background. What concerns me about the statement is it doesn't ever seem to be backed by a link to appropriate research. In addition I've heard a figure of 10% mentioned a number of times.

I actually think there is a bit of trick to the figure. If you think things through you'll see it is probably a true statement, but it does require certain assumptions.

As an outright statement of fact, I'd guess it is probably misleading, unless put in context.

Why context?

In Melbourne let's check the average temperature for the past week. The average temperature has been 12C. The maximum 21C and the minimum 2C. I've seen a figure of 18-20C degrees as the suggested temperature to set the thermostat for Winter.

If the average temperature has been 12C and you set your thermostat at 18C then the difference is 6C. Each one degree is roughly 16.66%. Drop the thermostat by one degree to 17C and you'll save the suggested 15%. If you originally had the thermostat set to 20C then the difference is 8C and one degree change to 19C will be 12.5%.

So really a figure of 10-15% saving is probably realistic.

The assumption here I suspect is you leave your heating on 24 hours, 7 days a week. This approach means once your home is heated to a certain level your heating will cut in and out to maintain the temperature. The average then should tend to work out.

My question then is, is it better to leave your heating on 24 hours a day, or to only use your heating as required?

For example when we get up we often turn the heating on. Once everyone goes off to school or work we turn it off. Later at night we'll turn the heating on again for a few hours. The heating is thus running 4-5 hours a day and not 24 hours a day.

Is turning your heating off when not required a better approach?

I don't know the answer to that question and perhaps I should do a study for a couple of days using the two approaches. Whilst it won't be exact as the weather will change from week to week, it might give a good indication.

The reality however for us is if the heating was left on 24/7 the heater would turn on and off regularly during the night. We find the noise of the heating if we leave it on, to disturb our sleep. So from a practical point of view it wouldn't work for us.

In my case I recently determined that parts of my home were not used, but the heating vents were open. I decided to close unused vents and to only heat the parts of the home as required. Parts of our home often don't get used for days. For example sometimes we don't use the lounge dining area because the family is busy doing other things. I see this part of the house not being used for 2-3 days at a time. During the day the sun warms the area, so at times there is little reason to heat the area. The immediate effect of closing off vents was the areas with open vents heated up much more quickly.

My thought about the statement you can save 10-15% of your heating costs by reducing your thermostat by one degree is it is probably true, if it is based on your running your heating 24/7. I also think it is one of those shock figures marketers use because for most people it just seems unbelievable.

I could be completely wrong, but my gut feeling is using only what you need, when you need it, and in the areas you need it, possibly uses less energy than reducing the thermostat. Reducing the thermostat to a comfortable level and wearing appropriate clothes is also a good way to reduce energy usage.

I'd really like to see what my gas bill would be if I did run heating 24/7 compared with how I currently run my heating.

My yearly gas bill for the past two years (which includes heating and hot water) has averaged $616 a year. I've started closing off areas of my home that don't require heating and I'm interested in seeing how that affects the gas bill.

I know the pilot light on the gas heating uses perhaps 10% of the gas each year. I could turn off the pilot light during winter, but I've found relighting the pilot light to be an experience that is very frustrating. They've hopefully improved that in more modern heaters.

I often wonder how my bill compares with other people's gas bills and I wonder how others reduce their gas costs. I've been able to find some great ways to save money on electricity using the Energy Cost Calculator, so perhaps it is time to check out what can be done with saving gas.

If you have any tips or thoughts please feel free to share.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Save money with the Energy Cost Calculator.

For while I've noticed local councils and organisations saying they will change over your old light globes for low energy light globes, as long as you have three or more light globes and sign the energy credits over to them. Now I really don't know the full picture, but something doesn't feel right.

If the government wants us to be more energy conscious for the good of the planet, then perhaps the best way is to simply show us where the savings are. I decided to work out the costs of running appliances around the home and work out the payback period should I change old inefficient lights with more modern low energy lights. As it turned out the savings are pretty good.

For example in the family area I have a light with 2 x 40W globes (total 80W). I wanted to change these to 2 x 8W (total 16W) low energy globes which cost $9 for two on special. I estimate we use that light around two hours a day. Using the Energy Cost Calculator I worked out the payback period would be just over a year. Since the globes will last well over three years, after the first year I'm saving money. It makes sense to change the globes.

Armed with a low cost energy meter I've been able to work out areas in my home where I can make considerable savings, sometimes with a small change in habits. Sometimes with the purchase of an inexpensive piece of equipment. For example my TV/DVDs around the home cost about $38 a year when in standby. I tried powering off the TV/DVDs at the power point, but unfortunately that was hard because the power points aren't easy to get to. I'm also concerned constantly turning power points on and off will mean an electrician will need to be called in more often and that can be expensive. 

Recently I found a really neat device from one of my suppliers which is a remote control with three power packs. That is you can control each of the power packs separately with the one remote. If you plug the power pack into the wall and then the TV/DVD into the power pack, you can easily turn the power off and save the money standby uses. The aim for me is to do this around the house with the TV/DVDs and computers. The payback for each power pack is 4 months. After that I'm saving money. Nearly a hundred dollars a year when I'm using all three power packs.

If you're interested in the energy meter, or the remote controlled power points, you can find more information on the Energy Cost Calculator page.

As I find more ways to save money on energy around the home, I'll post the tips as comments. If you've got a good tip please feel free to post a comment. (Posts considered advertising will be discarded.)


- Kelvin Eldridge

Round 5 - Free Anti-virus face-off. Free AVG vs Avast Free vs Microsoft Security Essentials.

Today is the final day of the Free Anti-virus face-off. The combatants, AVG, Avast and MSE have performed well, but some of the challengers performed well and managed to bypass their defences. We also saw CA (Computer Associates) and OzEfilter perform well.

Let's begin round 5.

A total of 17 emails containing malware were received with 7 being unique in terms of the email subject and the attached file. Two emails with different subjects had the same attached file. The files and shows the virus writers dynamically change the file names based on the email addresses they are sending to, and thus the actual number of unique malware files is less.

Subject / Attachment

Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Re: approved /
Re: Re: my data /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
excuse me /
Re: important website /


CA missed 0

AVG missed 0

MSE missed 0

Avast missed 1

OzEfilter missed 0

At the end of round 5 as a result of the free anti-virus face-off the results for the free software are:


1. MSE

2. AVG

3. Avast

Of the free software option the winner is Microsoft Security Essentials.

MSE being the winner is based on it being able to detect and clean all viruses it saw and that could have infected the computer. We think it could be better as it allows people to receive and forward malware without any warning, which would be better for the community. But for the user, what is important is they are protected from infecting their computer and MSE does that well.

CA (Computer Associates anti-virus/anti-spyware) performed very well. It did miss a couple of viruses at the start. We know that all virus manufacturers take up to 48 hours to release new signature files so this is expected behaviour, although not ideal. The ideal is there be no delay, but that is not possible. Once CA had released the new signature files it then had a perfect score, even finding a malware which whilst benign, was not found by others.

OzEfilter takes a different approach in it helps users delete emails at the mail server before the malware even reaches the computer. OzEfilter did let the benign email through, but that is because we want to receive emails from the mail server so we can receive emails which bounced because of email addresses which no longer exist. The mail server really shouldn't be passing the email on because it isn't an email it generated. OzEfilter also stops spam and other forms of malicious emails such as phishing attempts from reaching a computer. Using OzEfilter and MSE would be a very good option. Using OzEfilter with any of the anti-virus software package would reduce the chances of a malware infection to very low.

This face-off however was about the free anti-virus software packages. To the victor which in this case was Microsoft Security Essentials goes the trophy and our congratulations.

If should be noted that no one knows how any of the anti-virus packages will perform with new malware packages. All we can say is for the malware received over the past week, MSE performed best.

The free anti-virus face-off is now over. In the future if there is interest I would be happy to have a face-off with the leading commercial anti-virus packages. In this face-off we would see how CA (Computer Associates) matches up to Norton anti-virus 2010, Trend Micro 2009 and McAfee. Now that would be an interesting face-off.

I hope you've enjoyed the face-off and it helps you make better decisions as to which anti-virus program you use so your computer remains a joy to use.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, October 09, 2009

Round 4 - Free Anti-virus face-off. Free AVG vs Avast Free vs Microsoft Security Essentials.

Today there were quite a few more nasties arriving than usual. There was some unusual activity which I'll explain later.

The following are the unique malware received since yesterday.

Subject / Attachment
Mail delivery failed : returning message to sender / Message Part>
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Shipping update for your order / Shipping
Re: message /
Re: Developement /
Re: your data /
Your internet access is going to get suspended /
Your illegal internet activities are being logged /
Congratulations! /
Returned mail: Data format error /
Here is it /
Delivery Status Notification (Failure) / Message Part>
hi / winmail.dat>Documents and Settings\MyDocuments\Readme.doc .exe
Delivery failed / .zip
Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender / Message Part>
Your Pay Pal Account May Be Compromised /

The unusual activity was with the following malware.

Mail delivery failed : returning message to sender / Message Part>

MSE did not detect the virus because it was text in the message. Because it was text it couldn't be downloaded as a file. Avast picked it up and tried to delete it, but it didn't delete and Avast kept trying each time we clicked on the message. AVG missed the malware. CA identified and fixed the malware. OzEfilter also missed the malware.

The reason the anti-virus products missed this malware is it wasn't an attachment, but it was text which would have been the raw form of the original data. This form is usually not seen by the use. It took us a while to work out what had happened. I'll explain.

Somewhere a computer sent out a fake email with malware using our domain. The receiving email server saw the malware and sent a copy of the malware as text in an email message to the mail server I use, thinking it was that mail server that sent the message. My mail server saw this rejection of the message and passed it back to me. Now since I send out emails to people on my mailing list and sometimes people's email addresses no longer exist, I need to accept these emails from the mail server. I could just delete them, but this information helps me to keep my mailing list clean. That is why OzEfilter didn't flag the email. It was from the mail server and I want those emails. MSE had nothing to work since it was text in an email and not an attachment. AVG missed it, Avast saw it and got stuck on how to handle it. Only CA treated it correctly. Although since the virus was now in the form of a text message as raw data, there is no way the virus could infect a computer. Thus, whilst this was very interesting the analyse, from a users point of view it would have been a benign email that was just junk to be deleted.

OzEfilter works differently to other approaches. I set the conditions so OzEfilter knows who I receive emails from and then it only shows me the emails from people I don't know. This approach is called exception handling and saves quite a bit of time. I only need to review the emails from people I don't know before accepting them or not. Emails from people I now I always want to accept. I am presented with a screen which shows the total number of emails and how many emails are from people I don't know (the To filter value on the screen image belowe). Most emails from people I don't know are spam or malware. I receive 70-100 emails a day and around half are unwanted. All of the unwanted emails are deleted at the mail server and never reach my computer. When I review the emails I see the subject, who the message is from, and around half the time I see the country the email has come from. The country of origin is a great indicator as to whether or not the email will be wanted.


CA missed 0

AVG missed 1

Message Part>

MSE missed 1

Message Part>

OzEfilter missed 1

Message Part>

Avast missed 2

One other thing that I noticed was the MSE signature file had not been updated since the 6/10 and it was now the 9th of October. Before checking for malware I perform an update of all the packages. However in the real world this would not be the case. The user would turn their computer on and within a few minutes check their email. If an update had occurred then the software would have the latest protection. If not the users protection reduces. The next round will be done without manual updating.

Another thing that MSE did that was strange is when I went to save to the computer MSE stopped me. That means MSE does recognise some malware in a zip file. This isn't what I've seen before.

For MSE to be a better product in my opinion it should automatically check zip files without the files being extracted. Microsoft should at least have their own products (Outlook, Winmail, Outlook Express) check the attachments on incoming emails as they arrive. That would in my opinion put MSE ahead of the pack.

AVG performed very well today. It placed malware into a separate folder without fuss.

Avast has been slow recognising the malware others now recognise. One thing I didn't like about Avast is when receiving emails it would stop if it found malware and wait until I took action. With dozens of malware that was quite time consuming. With the other anti-virus software I could leave the computer and do others things. I had to interact with Avast and it was quite time consuming and tedious.


1. CA
2. OzEfilter, AVG, MSE
3. Avast

The winner of today's round is CA. That's a pretty impressive effort from the CA team. At this stage CA is out front because it is having the best outcome and scans email attachments as they are received.

Until tomorrow.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Round 3 - Free Anti-virus face-off. Free AVG vs Avast Free vs Microsoft Security Essentials.

Ready to face another day, AVG, Avast, CA, MSE and OzEfilter have had a good rest. The combatants today face the following enemies.

Subject / Attachment

Returned mail: Data format error /
Re: List /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation
Mail delivery failed : returning message to sender / Message Part>
Shipping update for your order 254-78546325-658742 / Shipping
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Delivery Status Notification (Delay) / Message Part>
Returned mail: see transcript for details /

All the combatants except Avast had a good day.

CA missed 0

AVG missed 0

MSE missed 0

Avast missed 2

OzEfilter missed 0.

I did notice with CA that somewhere between around 8:07pm and 10:24pm last night the anti-virus software updated and malware it didn't previously find in round 2, it now found and removed.

CA removes the malware in the email and provides a text attachment letting the user know the malware was been removed.

AVG puts malware into a separate folder which is a pretty neat way of handling malware.

Avast removes some malware and provides a notice in the email, but for others as the email comes in it asks if you want to block them. Then later when you click on the email it asks if you want to delete the email. I thought this was an extra and unnecessary step. The sound file is certainly a good warning to users, of course, if you receive too many emails with malware the warnings could become annoying.

MSE whilst is has shown to be the best at finding malware with a perfect score so far, the problem is you receive the emails with the malware attached but don't know. You can send the malware on to others and wouldn't know. You can save the files to your hard disk and you wouldn't know they contained malware. It is only when you save the attachment to your computer and then extract the malware file from the zip file that MSE takes action. I can't complain about the action because it is certainly working. If you can work this way then MSE is a good product.

OzEfilter works for me. I wrote the program. It allows me to check my mail at the mail server and delete unwanted emails at the mail server before they ever reach my computer. I receive 50-100 emails a day and half of those are spam and malware. OzEfilter helps me to delete spam and malware so I never receive the emails. OzEfilter isn't an anti-virus program and you should still install an anti-virus/anti-spyware program in case you receive a malware infected email. Using MSE and OzEfilter together would provide an excellent solution to my needs and probably the needs of many people who use pop based email accounts. OzEfilter doesn't help if you are using web mail.

For those just using web mail, MSE could be a good solution as it will detect and remove any malware you download and so far it has been 100% in its detection.

AVG, Avast and CA have all missed malware. AVG and Avast are free for personal use. MSE is free for personal and business use. CA is a commercial product. In this round CA pulled ahead of Avast, but so far there hasn't been much difference between AVG, Avast and CA.

This round has also shown it can take a up to 48 hour for the anti-virus software developers to update their software for the latest threats.

Outcome for round 3.

1. CA, AVG, MSE, OzEfilter
2. Avast

Overall today has been a very good outcome for the combatants. Four with perfect scores and with Avast only missing two. Except for MSE not being integrated with the email client, MSE would be a clear leader at this point in time. That is pretty impressive. Only the future will tell if MSE stays in the number one position.

OzEfilter has performed to expectation. It isn't an anti-virus program, but more a helper to help stop unwanted emails before they reach your inbox. So far it would have stopped all of the unwanted emails from reaching your computer.

CA, Avast and AVG have all let malware into the computer and whilst they perform pretty well, letting email with malware into a computer will result in infections. It is only a matter of when, not if.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Use the Energy Cost Calculator to save money on power bills?

I'm quite excited about three new items I have available as we are now all very aware of how important it is to save energy. Two of the items I've already purchased myself and the third I'll be purchasing shortly. To me the best recommendation for a product you can get is from someone who uses the product.

The first product is an energy meter which enables you to get a reasonable idea of the watts an appliance uses.

Lights are easy because the wattage is written on them. However for many of the appliances around the home the best way to get a an idea of the energy they use, is to measure their energy use. I've found some very interesting results. Once you measure how much energy an appliance uses, you can determine the best approach to saving money. (Whilst the power meter has other functions, I only use it to measure the watts.)

The second item is a four port power board with a remote control. This item allows you to turn off the individual pieces of equipment plugged into the power board.

For example, I've found a TV plus a DVD when in standby consumes around 25W. That adds up to about $38 a year if the item is left in standby and never used.

My aim is to use the four port power board with the TV/DVD/Entertainment system. I can power down all the devices, or if I want to record something on the DVD recorder, I can leave that powered on. My father-in-law uses this unit with his computer so he can power down his computer, monitor, printer and ADSL modem without having to get under the desk.

The last and I think the most exciting item is the remote control with three power packs. (I call them power packs.) You can plug the power packs in different places around the home and power each unit on or off separately as you go around the house. (I get a feeling I'll end up buying two of these so I can use them with the computers as well.)

For example you can power off the TV/DVDs you have in different locations around the home. For me the payback for power packs will be around four months. There isn't many things you can buy which pay for themselves in just four months.

To help everyone work out the energy cost of an appliance over a year I wrote an Energy Cost Calculator. You can use the calculator in two ways.

1. To find the energy cost for an appliance over a year.

All you need to enter is the watts the appliance uses and the amount of time per day the appliance is on for. Hit Submit and you'll get how much the appliance costs a year.

2. To find the payback period.

A really handy feature of the calculator is when you are trying to work out if it is better to keep the old inefficient light, or to purchase that more expensive low energy light. I wrote the payback feature because whilst it felt good about purchasing the low energy lights, they are much dearer than normal lights and I wanted to know the payback period.

As an example I was looking at replacing two 40W normal screw in globes with two 8W low energy globes. The 8W globes were expensive at around $7. Price varies quite a bit from store to store. The good thing is if you look around, often you will find specials. I picked up two low energy globes for $9 for the pair on special. 

Using the Energy Cost Calculator I entered the two globes as one to give 80W for the old globes and 16W for the new globes. I estimated the light was on for around two hours a day. It could be more, but this is a good estimate. The calculator showed me the payback period would be 13 months. Since I expect the globes to last three years or more, after the first year I'm saving money. To keep using the old globes doesn't make sense.  

  1. Check around for the price of globes as you do your normal shopping. You'll find the price can vary quite a bit from store to store.

  2. Work out what you want and then take your time to buy. I find there are often specials on lights.

  3. Think about how you use your lights. A small change of habit can save money without replacing any lights. You may change some lights now that you use more often and that gives you the biggest saving.

  4. Don't assume the energy a device will use. We've been very surprised by how little energy some devices use and how much others use. The best decisions are made based on real knowledge. The power meter has helped us make better decisions. I could say knowledge is power, but in this case, less power.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the above devices please feel free to contact me. I can organise shipping anywhere in Australia. You can find the pricing on the Electronic Cost Calculator and if you click on the image on that page you can see a larger image.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Round 2 - Free Anti-virus face-off. Free AVG vs Avast Free vs Microsoft Security Essentials.

Round 2 of the anti-virus face-off didn't go as expected. I found the issue with emails where the emails weren't kept on the server for all the computers to retrieve. Completely my fault. I have multiple email accounts and one of those accounts would clear the server. All though is not lost. The challenge continues.

For this round I retrieved all the emails using the computer with CA installed. For the emails containing malware that CA did not detect, I forwarded them on to all the other computers. In addition instead of listing every malware infected email, I've decided to list only the unique emails.

The following are the emails received:


Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Stolen document /
Shipping update for your order 254-78546325-658742 / Shipping
Re: Re: website /
Canada immigration / winmail.dat>Documents and Settings\MyDocuments\Readme.doc .exe
Error /


Total unique malware 7

CA missed 3


Because the emails were collected it is not possible to see if the other combatants would have missed malware CA detected. All we can now do is check to see if the three malware missed by CA were handled by the others.

AVG missed 3


Avast missed 3


MSE missed 0

OzEfilter. Would have deleted the emails at the mail server.

Outcome for round 2.

1. MSE
2 AVG, Avast, CA

What is interesting is AVG, Avast and CA all missed detecting the same files that were missed from yesterday's round. It will be interesting to watch the time it takes before these products correctly handle the three malware.

MSE already handled them so the real challenge for MSE is to see what happens when it receives malware it doesn't already know about. Time will tell how it performs. 

- Kelvin

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Free Anti-virus faceoff. Free AVG vs Avast Free vs Microsoft Security Essentials.

Our aim: To pit the free ant-virus products against each other in a gruelling, ferocious, winner takes all battle.

Our technique: To drag out three old warriors consisting of Windows XP SP2 computers with Outlook 2003 installed. They may be dated to some, but to others they are skilled operators.

The outcome: Over the coming week as the warriors do battle, I'll report how the battle unfolds.

Warrior 1: In the first corner we have AVG Free. Well known and mentioned in the inner geek circles.
Warrior 2: Avast Free version. Less well know, but still a very brave warrior.
Warrior 3: Microsoft Security Essentials. The new kid on the block. Will MSE get its block knocked off, or will MSE be the new David.

We don't know the outcome. No behind the scenes deals have been done. What you read is the combat as it unfolds.

Join me on this journey of evaluation. To see what we will see. Enjoy the ride because it will be over all too soon.

Let the journey begin......

The rules of engagement:

1. All combatants will pit their skills against the emails being received. These emails can hold nasties unimaginable. Those weak of heart should avoid reading further. The nasties the combatants have to beat are emails carrying malicious loads. Combatants do not have to pursue links outside of the arena (such as clicking on links), but only fight the fight brought to them.

2. At the end of each round a score card will be presented. It is expected each combatant will receive minor blows, but none are expected to be fatal.

3. A side event will be running in parallel. A little know outsider named OzEfilter, often seen working with a combatant, will be watched. OzEfilter is like a shield for a combatant. OzEfilter fends off the enemy before ever reaching the combatant. But should an enemy get past OzEfilter, the combatant needs to be able to slay the enemy. OzEfilter however has proven to be so effective in many cases, combatants often live a life unaware of enemies.

To the victor goes the spoils.

Round 1: 6 October 2009

The combatants trusty steeds were tended too. Each steed consisting of a Windows XP SP2 computer. Outlook 2003 installed. AVG free and Avast installed easily. MSE's steed was older than the rest and had to be upgraded to XP SP2. Only then could MSE mount and begin the battle. All the combatants prepared, the battle begins. In waiting, 150 plus recent emails, most friendly, but some containing enemies disguised to trick.

Avast was the first. As each email was received, enemies were loudly announced and lay to rest. Avast is not shy at letting the crowd know it is doing battle.

AVG was next. The emails were received silently. Nothing was said. The enemies were captured and put into a separate folder.

MSE welcomed all visitors into the inbox with no fanfare. One by one the emailed visitors were invited into the local computer. One by one MSE slay the enemies and partied with friends.

OzEfilter: The combatants shield. Not to be used without a fellow combatant, but providing extra protection to the combatant. A combatant generally end up doing little as OzEfilter, the trusty friend, deals with many enemies from afar, before they even approach.

CA: An employee of the kingdom, paid to do what others do for free. Is CA worth his weight in gold? We will see.

This test was going well. The first computer with CA received the emails and the result was the following:


Test /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Shipping update for your order 254-78546325-658742 / Shipping
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Coca Cola is proud to accounce our new Christmas Promotion. /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
excuse me /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Re: Protected Mail System /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation
important /
Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! /
Illegal Website /
Mail System () /
Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender / Message Part>
believe me /
Your account has been suspended for over usage /
illegal... /
Re: my product /
Re: Message Error /

CA missed 5


AVG missed 5

Avast missed 3


MSE missed 0

Unfortunately something happened such that all the emails on the server were gone before I could perform the receive of emails. Instead I forwarded on all the files CA missed. MSE doesn't check at the time of receiving an email. It checks when you go to save the file to your computer. In the case of a zip file it doesn't check until you extract the files. At this point MSE identifies the file and then takes some time to remove the file. MSE correctly identified all the files as malware.


Because the emails had been received and removed from the mail server, I could not test OzEfilter, so I had to desk check manually what would have happened. OzEfilter shows a list of emails from people you don't know. You can then review those emails and delete them at the mail server before they ever reach your computer. In this case all emails were from addresses we don't already know and accept. So all viruses would have been deleted before reaching the computer.

Outcome for round 1 

1. MSE
2. Avast
3. AVG
4. CA

With round 1 over the combatants can earn a well deserved rest. Tomorrow is another day, another fight.

Until then.

- Kelvin Eldridge

This blog is available from the JustLocal site under the News heading.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Search Australia now available as a Firefox 3 search engine.

The Search Australia page is proving popular with Internet Explorer users. Now the page can be added as a search engine to Firefox as well. Click on the link at the bottom of the Search Australia page and you can make the page your default search engine.

Now you can have your home page as your preferred page instead of the Google page and you can use the search area in the top right of Firefox to perform your searches.

I've found many people don't realise the search area in the top right of modern browsers is available until it is pointed out by someone. Once you know it is there however, searching becomes a lot more fun because you can add a number of search engines. If you want to check out what you can do with search check out my Fun With Search page.


- Kelvin Eldridge

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Goggle it - Search only Australian sites.

If you want to do a search using Google and only search Australian sites, try our Search Australia page. This page uses the Google search engine and limits the results returned to only those sites considered to be associated with Australia.

The sites associated with Australia are the domains ending in .au.

Previously I used Pages From Australia in Google but now I don't find that limits pages to Australia. By limiting the sites to sites with domains ending in .au you don't end up with large overseas organisations with deep pockets promoting themselves at the expense of smaller Australian organisations.
Please enjoy.
Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.
Servicing Doncaster, Templestowe, Eltham and the surrounding area.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Virus alert: Subject: ALERT. Attachment:

As part of my review of Microsoft Security Essentials yesterday one malware attachment was not picked up as malware by any of the software packages I was reviewing. That is AVG (free), Microsoft Security Essentials or CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2009 all could not identify the attachment as being malware.

The email had the subject "ALERT" and the attachment

This attachment has now been confirmed as malware.

You should delete any of these emails that you receive. Do not extract the contents of the zip file.

- Kelvin

Virus: Microsoft Security Essentials gets the thumbs down and thumbs up.

To my surprise I've completed the parallel testing of Microsoft Security Essentials in a much shorter time than I expected. I have sufficient information now on whether or not to recommend Microsoft Security Essentials to my clients.

I have read a review giving Microsoft Security Essentials 9 out of 10. It is pretty obvious to me at least, insufficient testing of the software was performed. All I had to do was to collect one days worth of emails, compare the results and that was sufficient to reveal all I needed to know.

I am hopeful that Microsoft uses the feedback from its user base as they could have a great product in the near future. Full marks to Microsoft for getting this far with their product.

If you are interested in my results they can be purchased for $9.90 from MyAnswers. You can find the solution on the Virus page of MyAnswers. The solution number is 1931.

- Kelvin Eldridge

PS. Based on the Free Anti-virus face-off results Microsoft Security Essentials performed best of the free anti-virus solutions tested. It really is about how you use MSE and what you are happy with whether you consider MSE to get the thumbs up, or the thumbs down. In my opinion it gets both. To use being able to forward on emails to other with malware attached isn't community friendly. But to protect your own computer, MSE performed very well. 

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials: I feel naked and exposed, but all for a good cause.

Microsoft have released their free anti-virus software Microsoft Security Essentials. The current players in the market will use the old argument "you pay for what you get". But the reality is we've tested the leading anti-virus software packages that are generally available to consumers from retailers and we have to say we've been disappointed in all of them.

Is Microsoft Security Essentials good enough?

I support a lot of customers and for my own needs the question for me is: Is Microsoft Security Essentials better than what I'm currently using?" Should I stop paying my yearly subscription and move to Microsoft Security Essentials and save some money.

I decided the only way to answer this was to get naked and exposed, in a virtual sense. That is I disabled the anti-virus software on one of the mail servers, so I will now receive all potential malware threats that are sent to me. I receive the same emails into two different computers. One running Outlook and my current anti-virus software, the other running Outlook Express and Microsoft Security Essentials. The email client isn't important in this test. What is important is how each anti-virus product performs.

I've already received one email with malware attached and I can say the result totally surprised me.

Over the next week or so I will be evaluating Microsoft Security Essentials with the best approach I know how. That is a parallel test of two anti-virus software packages receiving the same emails and noting how they respond to malware.

If you are using other leading anti-virus software packages, I can assure you in many cases they won't catch the very latest malware. You are exposed. Is Microsoft Security Essentials any better? I hope to find out and share the information with clients. The result could be savings of thousands of dollars for those who know me.

If you are interested in my findings, I'll be posting the results in MyAnswers and update the MyAnswers solution as I find information to share. As I said, I am already surprised with the outcome and that's only with the first infected email I received.

I am also happy to parallel test Trend, Norton and McAfee and other anti-virus software if there is interest with paid support.

I would highly suggest that if you look after computer users, you also review Microsoft Security Essentials for yourself. Most of what you read in the media is without substance. The protection the anti-virus software companies say they provide is misleading, because the biggest threat is when you have anti-virus installed, are new viruses and in that area all the anti-virus software packages tend to perform poorly. 

If you are a computer user, the best thing you can do to protect yourself, is to learn some safe computing techniques as well as using anti-virus software. Using the low cost techniques I use to protect myself from malicious emails, I rarely receive email based malware into my computer.

So whilst I feel naked and exposed, I know it is a for a good cause. My customers will end up with the better outcome and for me that is worthwhile.