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Technology Today April 2009, More From the CES Mailbag.
by Robert Sanborn

Norton Internet Security 2009

If you, like many people, have a love hate relationship with Symantec and the Norton Anti Virus products, you will be very pleased to know that they have finally gotten it right.  I have probably tried dozens of anti virus products over the past 20 years and I don’t care what kind of vintage your computer is, what you want in an anti-virus program is the following:  Easy to install, Quick to install, quick to update, quick to scan, and when you look at it, you can tell at a glance whether the virus definitions are up to date, when the subscription expires, and whether all parts of it are working. If you fail in any of those seven pieces, you are going to have a lot of unhappy people and Symantec has been as guilty as every other product in that regard, sometimes, even more so. But then a funny thing happened and that was I started to hear some good things about the new Norton 2009 version and I took the approach of letting those other pioneers get the arrows if it doesn’t work out and what happened was that they weren’t grumbling.  Oh sure, I heard lots of grumbles from people about how bad the Norton products are but they were talking all about the older stuff so as my own Antivirus suite was about to expire, decided to give it a try again. Another reason is that one of the newsletters I subscribe to took a look at the current reviews of AV software and have given it the highest marks so it was time to see it for myself.

The first thing I did was to have the computer uninstall the current AV program (Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2008) and that worked without a problem. Then started the Norton Internet Security 2009 installation and literally, before I knew it, it was done. They brag about a one minute install and on my main computer, it was done before the minute was up. I am running Vista on this machine and it pops the usual icon in the system tray down beside the clock and then also on the Vista Gadgets to tell me that my system is secure. Of course the update took a bit longer, depending on how fast your computer downloads them, but that went quite quickly, it activated itself, and then was done.

On my second computer, I stuck the CD in the drive without uninistalling the Trend Micro and it immediately came up with a message telling me I had to uninstall it and in fact, gave me a link to Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel to make the task easier. Once the system restarted, all I had to do was to restart the Norton install and it took slightly more than a minute to install. Leave it alone, and it also takes care of updating itself and this version will also do background scans as well.

My first impression here is that this is the best Norton Antivirus program yet.

What really seems to be working is the set it and forget it approach and the Norton on both computers has been working without a hitch. When I open it up on this computer a few days after having installed it, it tells me that the updates were done just a minute ago.  So it also seems to do it quietly as well without the problems of my internet access bogging down.  One of the newer features that has come back in the 2009 version of these products is free technical support via web, email, chat, and most importantly, phone. They also have greatly improved the smart scheduling to perform most of the scans while the computer is idle. While the list of their protection technology is impressive, what I liked to read was the fact that they now do what they call “Pulse Updates” in that every 5 to 15 minutes they bring update information to your computer.

Overhead has been the curse of the Norton products for years now and this is one of the more impressive features of this new release. The press blurb tells me that it takes no more than 7mb of memory and on this Vista computer I am using, I am tracking just over 7mb out of a total of 82 processes using 58% of my 2gig of ram. So I have a lot of things going on and the Norton is not slowing it down one bit. In fact, I suspect that they have been so beat up on this point that now they include a CPU monitoring screen with this version that is pretty neat to look at. It tells you your computer’s memory and CPU usage over the past 90 minutes to show how much processor and memory you are actually using and also when your computer has been sitting idle during that time. Another new feature that helps the geek in you monitor your systems performance is called “Norton Insight”.  It gives you a look at all the programs currently running on your system and in my case, now nearly 90. What it does is to determine what they call “Trusted” applications and files that don’t need to be constantly scanned. For a program that is really designed to do it all on its own, there is a ton of settings you can configure to change it to perform the way you need it to.

To add to it all, they have also upped the protection level of your computer with this product by making a smarter two way firewall, improving the network security and improving browser security. They have also added a new Botnet detection to prevent them from taking over your computer. There are two major add ins to your internet browser from Norton and one is very important. It is the Norton Site Safety check which will tell you the safety and security of each website you visit. The Browser protection also secures your web browser against the drive-by downloads by keeping the browser program plugged for the seemingly endless array of programs that target IE.

This is quite the comprehensive package including AntiSpyware protection, Antiphishing protection, and additional Intrusion Protection through the smart firewall feature as well as a new technology called SONAR which is short for Symantec™ Online Network for Advanced Response. This is the engine that looks for things they don’t know about yet. It looks for unusual behavior of files, programs, memory, and the like to help to keep your system protected.

Another new feature is the Identity Safe which is part of the browser & anti-phishing tool bar. It is a tool for managing and protecting your online accounts and passwords. Supported both in Internet Explorer and Firefox, it is a repository for that information as well as the ability to create profiles to be used for new web sites you visit. You can set up a profile for business purchases, a corporate profile for company business, an anonymous one for one time visits, and even a social profile for those kinds of sites. Once set up with a master password, your information is safely stored.  This is one part of the NIS 2009 package I would probably not recommend using because if you decide to change anti-virus software in the future, you might end up having to re-enter it into a new program. It does look pretty good and I wish that it was a separate program or tool bar.

With all there is, there are a number of features that I didn’t bother to take a close look at. They are: Parental Control; Remote monitoring of other Norton protected computers on the network; Trust Control Management; One Click Support and Auto Fix (so far so good); and the Anti-Spam for Outlook mostly because I think Outlook is doing a pretty darned good job right now.

I am truly impressed as this is a terrific program and they finally got it right. For what you get, it is definitely worth paying for. Available pretty much everywhere for around $70, less after rebates.

LensPen SensorKlear Loupe

I have to admit, I have been a fan of Lenspen, www.lenspen.com since I first saw a Lenspen at a Consumer Electronics show several years ago. Picked up a couple at the booth, quickly gave them away, got some more, and they have been a staple of my camera gadget bags ever since. Whether you are a digital camera buff or stick with traditional film, these pens are great for keeping the lenses clean. Take a look at the variety of them on the website. They are easy to use, work great, and are something that I wish I had with me years ago when traveling overseas. Since that time I first met them, they have come out with a variety of products for laptops, and other monitors and screens and have all been worth getting your hands on.

So what really peaked my interest at CES this year was the SensorKlear Loupe. This is a product that you will buy to clean the sensors on your digital camera but will end up using it for lots more. You may not know it but nearly all of the point and shoot digital cameras out there don’t have the digital sensor exposed and so this product is not for you. This product is for the digital SLR camera with removable lenses like the higher end Canons and Nikons.  For the professional photographer and serious amateur, this will soon become a necessity. What happens is that at some point in time, your camera’s sensor is going to get dust or something on it from the constant changing of lenses.  

What comes in the package is the Lenspen SensorKlear Loupe with a nice cloth travel case, an adjustable SensorKlear II pen, and the Lenspen Hurricane Blower.  All of these are available separately but as a kit is around $80.

Finding and cleaning the dust particles from digital camera sensors has been a really hit and miss prospect before. The Loupe is really unique in that it has a 6x magnification lens built into it to better see what is below and it comes with 4 led lights to shine on the sensor and with the cut out side of it, you then have the room to put the pen inside to actually clean the sensor. But before you do that, take the blower to it first. According to LensPen, nearly 95 percent of the dust particles can be removed with the blower so do that first taking care to keep the tip away from the sensor and letting the air do its thing. The last resort is to use the SensorKlear II pen and this part takes some doing and that is where the adjustability of the pen comes in really handy. The opening in the loupe is about 1/3 of the size of the lens and so you have a little space to work in but you will find you may need to adjust it a couple of times. As always, be sure to try the blower first to dislodge and maybe get rid of any loose particles. The loupe is built to last out of very tough material and has snug fitting caps on both ends to keep it secure and clean as well. This loupe really makes it so much easier to clean the sensors and of course, while you have the lenses off, use the Lenspen DigiKlear pens.

Because the digital camera sensors are such a critical and sensitive part of your camera, if you get this package, you really need to take a look at the instruction video which is available on YouTube. It describes even better than I can (and better than the instructions that come with it) how to actually use the pen and loupe for the best results.  The video also gives you a much better look at what you are getting, so go take a look at it on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li4eS_5kXxA.

For the serious digital camera user, this will be one of the requirements to keeping your camera taking great pictures. Having worked with digital cameras and digital scanners a long time, you quickly appreciate those tools that can help you keep the lenses, glass, and now more important, the digital sensor clean.  So when it is time to upgrade to the digital SLR, be sure to get one of these for your bag.

Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at robert@pcll.com




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