The Humane Society of the United States

Clean and Disinfect Your Computer

Always on the lookout for better products to keep the pests at bay, I keep coming back to the reliable combo of CCleaner, AVG AntiVirus, and SysInternals RootKitRevealer.

If you're "not a computer person", make friends with (or hire!) someone who is and point them to this program. (They probably already use it.)
CCleaner is a freeware Microsoft Windows (98/NT4/ME/XP/Vista) registry and files cleaner. It's not automatic like AVG because, like another fine freeware product - HijackThis, not all of the suspicious registry entries and files it finds are necessarily superfluous or malicious. That said, I've found that by unchecking certain of its many categories, I can routinely let it delete everything it finds without corrupting the system and still getting rid of most of the bad stuff.
AVG AntiVirus (Free)
AVG AntiVirus is the core of my disinfecting suite.
AVG AntiVirus 8.0 is one of the many commercial products that began life free and still distributes a fully free version, albeit missing some functionality from its commercial brethren. Once setup through the very nice user interface, AVG automatically keeps itself updated and watches for malicious files coming down the pipe. This product pretty much "just works". They've done a better job than most at making it easy to use yet robust. A "poor stepchild" (version 7.5), though quite functional, Linux version is also available.

The commercial product adds anti-rootkit, website-screening and support for $34.99 with the full Internet Security product adding anti-spam and a firewall to that for $54.99. Not a bad deal. See the feature comparison for details. See Wikipedia article, AVG Technologies, for info on the company which was formerly known as Grisoft and AVG (software) for more about the products.
SysInternals RootKitRevealer
Like having a good set of mechanical tools, the SysInternals utilities have never let me down.
I picked up the TBSS rootkit a while back on a machine running just AVG Free (no anti-rootkit) so I got to scan the field of (free) rootkit detectors and found this one to be reliable and robust with excellent rootkit detection and a simple, solid user interface. Microsoft now owns the rather extensive array of free SysInternals utilities which can be downloaded individually or all together in the entire SysInternals Suite. Highly recommended.

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Linux & Windows Synergy

Synergy eliminates the need for a KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switch when you want to use one keyboard and mouse across multiple computers. The one difference is that video is still routed to each computer's own monitor. Perfect for anyone who wants all the screen real estate they can get!

Contrary to my usual highly critical assessment of most software written today, I'm happy to say that Synergy works as advertised and classifies at the top of my quality ratings as "Way Cool".

Excerpt from Synergy documentation...
Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It's intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s). Redirecting the mouse and keyboard is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Synergy also merges the clipboards of all the systems into one, allowing cut-and-paste between systems. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all. Learn more about how it works.

Synergy installs like any other software on Windows and needed only simple configuration through the GUI to work between two Windows XP machines. Installation through the built-in Synaptic Package Manager on Xubuntu 6.06 ("Dapper Drake") and 7.10 ("Gutsy Gibbon") was a breeze though it required some config file editing. I'm upgrading a machine from Xubuntu 7.10 to 8.04 ("Hardy Heron") now so those experiences are forthcoming. Don't anticipate any problems. A separate GUI setup utility is available called QuickSynergy that simplifies things a lot.

First Linux install was a couple of years ago on SuSE Linux 9.0 (pre Novell takeover) with SuSE's YaST installer, which made the actual install as easy as on Windows. Getting it configured to work both before and after login took some fiddling though. Contrary to the online documentation, the 3 lines needed to start the synergy client (i.e. kill it if it's running, sleep 1, then start it) only have to be invoked in /etc/X11/xdm/Xsetup (which enables Synergy for the linux login screen) and /etc/X11/xinit/.xinitrc (which enables Synergy after login for all KDE user sessions).

Synergy installs under Xubuntu are much like the SuSE install. Client configuration (have not configured server on linux since am using Windows laptop as server) requires modifications to:
  • /etc/X11/Xsession:
    Add startup call just before the "# use run-parts..." line.
  • /etc/gdm/Init/Default:
    Add startup call right after the function definitions.
  • /etc/X11/gdm/PreSession/Default:
    Add startup call right after the function definitions.
  • /etc/X11/gdm/Xsession:
    Add startup call just before the "# use run-parts..." line.

    Synergy is open source and released under the GNU Public License (GPL).

    Highly Recommended!

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