February 2005, Week 2
– Action at a
We looked at two Windows programs for controlling your computer from anywhere. One of them was free.
The two programs are I'm InTouch from 01 Communique, and LogMeIn from 3am Labs. Both work off the Internet and were remarkably easy to use. You install the software on the computer you want to control, and you're ready. Both programs have free trial periods, and LogMeIn has a totally free basic version if you're willing to get by without being able to transfer files. There's a way to get around that missing link, by the way, which we'll get to later.
LogMeIn has a free and a paid version. In the free version you can control another computer, but you can't transfer files. In the paid version, you pay $13 a month or $100 a year and get all the features. Transferring files could be the feature that matters most, of course. Let's say you're in Stockholm and left your Nobel Prize acceptance speech on the computer back in Kansas City. What's a body to do? No problem, you go to one of the computers at the Stockholm public library, log on to the LogMeIn Web site (www.logmein.com), enter your password and access code, and you're on.
Now in order to do all this, or to operate any computer by remote control, you have to have done two things: You have to have installed the software on the computer you want to control, and you have to have turned it on. Don't forget to do that; remote access software cannot turn on computers that are turned off.
Here's how to get a file, even with the free version of LogMeIn. Unless that file is unusually long, you can use a screen capture program. We use SnagIt from TechSmith (www.techsmith.com). You can then capture a file as you scroll through it. SnagIt is not free, but it's useful for other things as well. You would have to have SnagIt loaded on the computer you're using, of course.
I'm InTouch works much the same way and costs $100 a year. This is from 01 Communique (www.01com.com), a Canadian software house. We've reviewed their programs for a dozen years or so, and they've always had good stuff. Some of the good stuff in version 4.0 is tab navigation.
From your remote computer you get online and go to their remote-access login page. There you can choose from several languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Chinese (both simplified and traditional). When you installed the software back at your base computer, you gave it a name. Type that name here and hit the Go button. Enter your password and you're in. Choose Remote Access, File Management, E-mail, etc.
A "no, we didn't forget that" note: The market leader in computer remote control and access is GoToMyPC. We did not get into that program because it has already been reviewed by every computer writer in the known universe, and you can go on the Web and check a dozen of them. It is also more expensive than the ones reviewed here -- $20 a month or $180 a year -- and there seems to be no advantage.
The Spyware Thing Again
Okay, okay, we've done this to a fare thee well, but ... they're still out there, waiting to attack. Yes, the barbarians!
So here's the problem for the defense: You can kill all of the spyware some of the time, or some of the spyware all of the time, but you can't get all of the spyware all of the time. No, no, that was a different speech. But it applies. What we have found with the dozen or so spyware-removal programs we have run is that each tends to find stuff the others didn't.
The most recent removal program we've been using is Internet Cleanup, $30 for either Windows or Macintosh, from Allume. Allume is the new name of Aladdin, formerly a well-known Mac software house.
What attracted us first was Joy noticing you could get a free scan of your computer by going to www.allume.com. The free scan found 48 pieces of spyware our other programs had missed. This does not mean, by the way, the other programs are junk; what it indicates is that the very latest spy-catching programs and updates are needed to, well, catch the latest spies. We downloaded an update for Spyware Doctor (www.pctools.com), for example, and it found five spyware programs not found by Allume's Internet Cleanup. But Internet Cleanup still found some that Spyware Doctor did not.
Internet Cleanup is a little confusing to run at first. If you click "Buy" from the Web site, the program you download says nothing about spyware on its start-up page. You have to click a button labeled "Manual," for manual operation, and then you'll see a button labeled "Spyware" and removal can proceed. Do not be tempted by another button, labeled "Thorough Scan." This turned out to be so thorough that several of our programs no longer worked. We resorted to Windows System Restore.
Internet Cleanup also removes keystroke recorders and screen-capture programs, and blocks unauthorized access to personal information such as account numbers and e-mail addresses. The "Secure Delete" button shreds everything you delete so it cannot be recovered by other software.
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