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Issue #324: October 6, 2013

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Q: My wife’s computer is constantly “locking up” on her when she tries to play any game on the “pogo” site. I am always doing disc clean but it doesn’t seem to her. We have the Viper Internet Security system installed and it does a deep clean three nights each week.

Her computer is a Dell. Her computer is on line with Mediacom High Speed Internet but games are with [redacted]@aol.com.

Wayne S.
Navarre, Florida

A: I don’t know much about Pogo, Wayne, but that last tidbit you gave me is an e-mail address, so she can’t be playing the games with that.  My research also doesn’t show any relationship between Pogo and AOL, so I’m not quite sure where that’s coming into play in your question.

One thing that I did discover in reading up on Pogo is that it relies on Java technology in order to run.  Java is a cross-platform browser add-on.  That means content is not specific to any type of device, but will run on any Java-enabled system, whether it be a PC, or an Apple, or a smartphone, or whatever.  Java has also been identified in the not-too-distant past as somewhat dangerous when left loaded and active on one’s PC.  This is mostly because it can allow Internet bad guys to design web pages in such a way that they can run actual program code on your computer, allowing them to do almost anything they might do if they were sitting at the keyboard.  That can include such nasty things as installing spyware, altering or deleting your files, and stealing passwords or personal data, among other things.  With that in mind, my recommendation would be to find a different set of games that don’t require Java, and get Java off your system as a protective measure.

In the likely event you don’t want to give up the games you’ve come to love, my research also revealed that when people have problems with Pogo’s games, the source is often tracked down to either outdated Java software, or old versions of the game software being re-loaded from your browser’s cache, rather than newly downloaded from the Internet.  To get the latest Java, go to tinyurl.com/26mjclw.  The following steps will reset the browser cache in Internet Explorer version 7 and higher: From within the browser, click Tools->Internet Options, and go to the “General” tab.  In the “Browsing History” section, click “Delete…”.  Make sure “Temporary Internet files” is selected, then click “Delete” to clear the cache.  Note that you can also clear other things from this dialog, and if you do, you will lose useful things like stored passwords and data for online forms.  When the delete operation has completed, back out of all the dialogs, then close and restart your browser.  Hopefully your games will work a little better.  If not, hit up Pogo’s customer service for assistance, and describe your problem to them.

Q: What anti-virus free software do you recommend?

Sam G.
Odessa, Texas

Q: I’ve been using Windows 8 for several months. I like it. But somewhere I read that I do not need to download an Internet Security program, as Windows 8 has its own security system. Is this so? Or should I download my usual security program?

Gerald A.
Okaloosa Island, Florida

 A: I’ve combined these two questions into a single answer because of their similarity.  The answer to your question, Sam, is “I don’t”.  When I started writing this column over six years ago, I made the decision that, unless a company wants to pay me to be their spokesman, and I have tried and approve of whatever they’re selling, I am not going to be an endorser for anyone’s product or service.  I’ve always stuck with that, however, that hasn’t ever stopped people from asking me that question.  While I don’t necessarily endorse or recommend any one product, I will tell you what I use.  Until a couple of years ago, I used the free version of AVG.  I switched to the free version of Avast! after reading a couple of “Which scanner is best?” type articles.  I’ve been very happy with it, and, since it was free, I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth.

On the other hand, there are the free security tools that Microsoft included in Windows 7 and 8 that Gerald asked about.  In Win7 they introduced Windows Security Essentials, which is exactly that its name implies: just the basics.  It’s good, but it’s not particularly broad in the type of protection it offers.  Win8 went a step farther.  If your system is capable of taking full-advantage of the newer Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) that replaced the older Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), you can use a feature of Win 8 called Secure Boot, which supposedly prevents “unauthorized” operating systems and software from loading during the startup process.  Unfortunately, it also prevents other, desirable functionality, and although Microsoft has sold it to the public as fairly bullet-proof, some hackers have already demonstrated ways to bypass it.  Despite that, the Windows security features are supposed to be pretty darn good, though they do not offer all the features of a full-blown Internet Security Suite (which you won’t get for free anyway).  For more information on the difference between a simple malware scanner, and an Internet Security Suite, visit my website, and see Issue #311 from July 7, 2013.


Bonus Web-only Content:

This Week in Geek:

Here’s a brief look at some other tech happenings from around the web this week:

Dat’s about enough!  Until next week – good luck and happy computing!

– Geek

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