Twitter Talk

Golden Tweet Award
The Golden Tweet

Congratulations to Stephen Colbert for being awarded the Golden Tweet for posting the most retweeted tweet in 2010!  Full Article

Twitter.  Tweets.  Retweets.  Twittersphere.  You hear about Twitter everywhere, but what is it?  It’s a social network, like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and many others.  The main purpose of social networking sites is facilitating communication between friends, coworkers, and strangers with like interests.  The sites offer search capabilities for members to find others they know and “friend” them.  Members post messages, pictures, links, etc. to their accounts.  Depending on the member’s privacy settings, the post is visible to specified people, all friends, or everyone.

Twitter distinguishes itself in a few ways.  First, post (or message) length is limited to 140 characters.  This means messages must be short and to the point.  On Twitter, “friends” are called “followers.”  The posts are called “tweets.”  If someone likes your post and wants to share it with their followers, they “retweet” it, meaning they post it to their account, while crediting the original author.  A retweet is indicated by “RT” in the post.

If a group is using Twitter for a discussion on a particular topic, they create an identifying “hashtag” (#) to group the posts.  For example, in a discussion about e-books, the hashtag #ebooks could be created to group the tweets together.  Anyone tweeting to this hashtag would include #ebooks in the post.  The viewer could then go to this hashtag to see the entire conversation.

You may also see the @ symbol before a username.  This means the poster is responding to a particular user’s tweet.  As an example, if my username was techie, and someone wanted to address me, they would begin the tweet with @techie.

There is much more to Twitter, but those are the broad strokes to get you started.  To find out more, visit their “About” page.  If you would like to create an account or search by keyword for tweets, see the Twitter home page.

The lowdown on anti-malware programs

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Today’s inaugural post [Warning: this information is outdated! -ed.] concerns anti-virus and anti-malware software.  In today’s world, it seems like our computers are under constant attack.  Fortunately, there are several excellent tools to help us combat nasties that are trying to invade our computers.  The even better news is that many of these tools are free!  Here is the rundown on some of my current favorites:

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials This is a free download from Microsoft designed to work with Windows XP, Vista, and 7.  It is an all-in-one solution including both anti-virus and anti-malware definitions.  A user can set the software to update and run completely automatically, or be prompted to gather updates and run scans (if desired).  I have been using it with Windows 7 for over 8 months without any sort of infection.  To make sure it was really doing its job, I ran another tool once per week to see if MSE had missed anything.  It hadn’t.
  2. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware I use the free version of this product to double-check virus scans by other software.  If a computer is acting suspicious, but the resident anti-virus software didn’t detect anything, I run this program.  Though it is not a good idea to install more than one anti-virus program on a single computer, the free version does not seem to conflict with MSE or Symantec products.  You will need to purchase the full version in order to get realtime protection, automatic updates, and automatic scanning.  (Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)
  3. AVG Another anti-virus program.  Like Malwarebytes, the free version is limited and scans/updates need to be initiated manually.

A good rule of thumb is to run the deepest scan possible the first time a program is used.  This will probably take awhile, so you may want to do it overnight.  From then on, the shorter scans should suffice, unless an infection is suspected.  If your software finds threats on your computer, make sure to take a look at each one to make sure it wasn’t a false positive.  For instance, some cookies placed on your computer by website may show up as threats, but you may need that cookie to make your online experience more convenient.  For example, online banking can generate cookies that, if removed, require re-registration of your computer.