Securing Windows

MS Windows has come a long way in terms of security. When it comes to Personal computers’ Operating System (OS), Windows (Windows XP, Vistas and Windows 7 put together) accounts for nearly 90 % according to the statistics published in W3Schools. The statistics for March,2011 show that Windows 7 has 34.1 %, Vista has 7.9 % while Windows XP has 42.9% of share. For the curious, Linux has just about 5.1% share whereas Mac has 8% at the same period.

Microsoft has worked hard on its latest avatar of Windows to make it not only more user friendly but also a lot more secure than other versions of windows. It offers an effective anti virus software – MS Security Essentials and a Malicious Sofware Removal tool too.

Windows 7 also offers a better firewall with complex inbound/outbound configurable ruleset. In other words, MS offers – better security straight out of the box than before. With that said, it still pays to be prudent and follow the suggested steps to enhance the security of your Windows computer. Windows 7 Firewall

Steps to Secure Windows Computers:

Basic :

1. Enable internal Firewall.
2. Set up ‘hard’ passwords for all accounts. In older Windows set up password for all accounts. Disable guest account while you are there.
3. Keep your patches and hot fixes current. This is not just for the OS alone – but also to your browsers and Email clients.
4. Disable Remote Desktop until you need it. When you are done, disable it promptly.
5. Create backup in an external device.
6. Disable hidden file name extensions. This step will also help you avoid duplicate extensions. When you are browsing in File explorer, you should see what extension a file has.
7.Never run or execute a program from email.
8. You may want to use OpenDNS – a ‘public’ DNS server which will allow you to configure the kind of sites allowed for name resolution in your network.  It offers webcontent filtering,Phishtank anti-phishing and whitelist/black list creation of lists.

Securing Windows

There are some tools to diagnose and monitor your computer. We list below some of them:
1. WinPatrol – from BillP studios – ( This tool lets you take a brief snapshot of your critical system resources and alerts you to any changes. For the kind of monitoring it does, it has a surprisingly low memory foot print.
2. Collection of security utilities from Sysinternals (
We show below only a couple of the most used system tools here. You will find more command line utility tools listed there.
a. Process Explorer: It is a powerful tool which lets you see the various process running in your computer – PID,CPU usage,memory used, description of the process and the company name of the process involved. You can replace the normal task manager with this more advanced version if you so wish.
b. TCPView: Lets you see the network connection – Process, PID, Protocol,Local Address, Local port,Remote Address,Remote port, state and sent/received bytes.
3. If you have any sensitive data you would not want any prying eyes to see, enable file encryption. In Windows 7 ultimate edition, you can use Bitlocker to encrypt a file or a directory. If you have an older Windows, go with the OpenSource TrueCrypt ( – an encryption software that does on-the-fly encryption of the files in memory.

Vinegar Uses

Vinegar has a long history – from the time of Babylonians 5000 BC. Vinegar – derived from the French word – vin aigre – for Sour Wine is a dilute solution of acetic acid. It occurs from a natural fermentation process of alcohol.

Chemical Formula of Vinegar: The major ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid (ethanoic acid) whose chemical formula is CH3COOH

The humble ubiquitous vinegar has hundreds of uses in and around your home. Before we check out all the Vinegar uses, we will say here that not all vinegars are made the same way. Though they all contain acetic acid, the strength of the acid varies from 4 % to 18 % depending upon their origin. The most common Vinegar from grocery stores is Apple Cider Vinegar made from Apples or cider. Apple cider vinegar has a brownish yellow color and it is widely used in health and for general culinary uses.

Vinegar Health Benefits:

There are many vociferous advocates for the various Health benefits of Vinegar. Vinegar is shown to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrate, reduce cholesterol level, blood sugar levels, triacylglycerol and helps in weight reduction amongst others.

Hippocrates, the father of western medicine prescribed Vinegar for reliving the symptoms of sinus. A drink called as Posca, Vinegar mixed with water and a little of honey was used by the Roman soldiers to ward off infections. At the time of Black Plague, a concoction made of garlic soaked in Vinegar called as Four Thieves Vinegar, was used to protect – 4 thieves from Plague.

1. Apple Cidar Vinegar in Weight Reduction: 1 Tablespoon of Apple Cidar Vinegar mixed with a glass of warm apple juice taken at the time of every meal helps to shed excess body weight.

2. Cholesterol Reduction: One tablespoon mixed with water or any fruit juice once a day on a regular basis has shown to reduce cholesterol levels significantly.

3. Reduction of Blood Pressure: 1 tablespoon of Vinegar and one tablespoon of honey in a glass of water helps to reduce the blood pressure.

4. Diabetic management: 2 tablespoon of Vinegar taken with food helps to reduce the blood glucose levels.

5. Improves Digestion: Vinegar, taken in small quantities (about one tablespoon) along with water aids the digestive process especially during a heavy meal.

6. Control of Flatulence: Some foods like beans and cabbage increase flatulence for some individuals. Vinegar helps to promote better digestion thwarting flatulence in the process.

7. Tenderizing Meat: Vinegar has traditionally been used to tenderize meat. Add one or two tablespoonful of vinegar to marinate tough meat.

8. Control of Urinary Tract infections: Regular intake of Vinegar helps to maintain the right pH balance in the urinary tract which tends to curb UTI.

9. Managing infections: Vinegar’s potent bactericidal ability could be used to fight mild infections.

10. Jelly fish stings: Dousing the stung region in Vinegar helps to prevent the spread of the venom called as nematocyte. Vinegar can be useful for some other insect bites as well.

11. Increase the bioavailability of iron from some vegetables like Spinach: Vinegar added to spinach enhances the absorption of iron.

Vinegar as Beauty Aid:

1. Use Vinegar to control Acne: Cotton ball dipped in a dilute solution of Vinegar helps to reduce the inflammation and the infection.

2. Reduce frizz and add shine to hair: Applying dilute solution of Vinegar on the hair and rinsing afterwards unshackle the frizz and adds shine.

3. Control Oil in oily skin: Equal parts of vinegar mixed with water can be applied on the surface of the skin (avoid sensitive areas) and then rinse with copious water. Acidic Vinegar opens the pores and removes the dirt and oil from the skin.

4. Tighten the skin: Dilute Vinegar helps to peal away the dead surface layer of the skin.

5. Control Body odor: Applying a little of vinegar in your underarms can retard odor causing bacteria.

6. Foot care: Immerse you feet in a shallow tub of warm water mixed with a cup of vinegar for 30 minutes.

7. Controlling Dandruff: Apply vinegar on the scalp. Wash your hair after about 30 minutes.

Vinegar Uses

Vinegar as Green Cleaning Agent:

Vinegar deodorizes refrigerators, ovens and microwave ovens. Keep a small saucer filled with Vinegar inside the refrigerator for a few hours to remove the odor. Clean the inside of ovens and refrigerators and freezers with a solution of Vinegar to kill the bacteria.

Dilute solution of Vinegar can remove stubborn stains and dirt from the ceramic tiles, grouting and glass surfaces – almost any surfaces. Use a weak vinegar solution to clean and remove the dark stain from marble surfaces. Wash with water immediately after cleaning the surfaces.

Vinegar removes glues, stickers and stains from automobile glass and mirrors. Vinegar also tends to ward off insects and germs.

It kills weeds, slugs, insects and flies in the garden and from your pets. It is not harsh on the environment as well.

Vinegar combined with baking soda can be used to declog a drain. Leave the fizzing concoction for an hour before pouring down water.

Clean your DVD/CD with a soft non lint cloth dipped in vinegar. Dry the DVD/CD before playing. Your drive electronics don’t take kindly to water or vinegar.

I have outlined only a few of the possible uses of Vinegar in this blog. If you are going to try the vinegar for any of its health benefits, consult your physician or health care professional. A few hours of research – however meticulous it may be – is no substitute for professional guidance.

Image Sharpening Tips

If you are into photography, you will have some photos which are blurry. In fact most images could do with a bit of sharpening. Almost all image editing software can do a bit on sharpening the final outcome if you are prepared to spend some time working on them. You don’t need NASA level photo manipulating technology to touch up your collection in most cases. In this Hands-On page, part of  the series on Photography techniques, we start with a deliberately out-of-focus image to show what can be done with ubiquitous industry standard Adobe PhotoShop and another tool which claims to have forensic strength deconvolution technology to uncover lost details.

Before we delve into the How-to methodology, we will take a look at the process of sharpening a blurry image.

Sharpness is a matter of detail perceived by the eye – simply put without any technospeak. In other words, places in a given image – when they change rapidly from one tone to the other in a small area – your eye sees more detail. The definition or image resolution is better with higher transition in tonal range.

Human eye doesn’t perceive so much detail when it comes to fast transition in color. Human eye is so versatile and our visual acuity is so high that you can’t really compare our eyes with anything we create. Our eyes along with our brains perceive details in a stream. The eye moves rapidly in small angular slices and takes in the view before it in small slices which the brain recreates into one homogenous image. It might interest you to know that in terms of megapixel resolution capability of the human eye, it puts to shame all modern digital camera technology. It has in excess of around 500 megapixel working out for a 120 degrees for the typical field of view. We will not talk about a Hawk’s eye which can discern far higher details in a greater visual acuity.

Stained Glass image out-of-focus

Stained Glass image  deliberately to be out-of-focus

Same image after processing

Same Image after Processing

Same Image after Processing with Adobe PhotoShop

Same Image after Processing with Adobe PhotoShop

So what we need to do for enhancing the apparent sharpness is to make the transitions from one tone to another occur rapidly. This is possible to do – subject to the proviso that – like all things in photography – that you start with the best image possible. The end result is going to depend on what you start with and how far you are willing to go.
The trick is to make the tonal changes a bit abrupt and also to push the tone and color a bit to the edge without making the end result a blob. There are many ways of doing this.

One technique is to use Unsharp mask – a filter you will find in most image editing tools. This creates an underexposed soft layer superimposed onto the original image thus enhancing the details artificially.

Set the preview on in your photo editing software. You need to play around with 2 parameters – Radius and Threshold. The images we show along side represent the actual deliberately out-of-focus image,the final version from a typical Photo editing software like Adobe PhotoShop and the version given by the other specialized software like Focus Magic from Acclaim Software. Actually we are showing a worst case scenario here – a fully unfocused image. The results will be far better with normal images.

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