Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft officially released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) today. It is a free tool to protect your computer from malware, viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojans. Unlike the previously released Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), MSE runs all the time and actively searches for threats.

Blurb from Microsoft:
Microsoft Security Essentials

Early tests show MSE to be very effective at catching threats. It updates itself automatically and without hassle.

It takes over all antivirus functions and is recommended to be run as the ONLY antivirus software on a computer. You should not run it alongside other popular software such as Norton Antivirus, McAfee, or AVG. Presumably this would cause the antivirus software to fight it out on your computer, hurting system resources and confusing one antivirus program, for example, when it finds a virus in the other antivirus’ quarantined vault.

I recommend this for all Windows computers: Windows XP, Vista, and 7.  The only exceptions are pirated versions of Windows since MSE requires Windows Genuine Advantage to run and make sure that your copy of Windows is legit.

MSE has a small footprint with low minimum requirements:

  • For Windows XP, a PC with a CPU clock speed of at least 500MHz and at least 1GB of RAM
  • For Windows Vista and Windows 7, a PC with a CPU with clock speed of at least 1.0GHz and at least 1GB of RAM
  • VGA (display): 800×600 or higher
  • Storage: 140MB of available hard-disk space
  • An Internet connection is required for installation and to download the latest virus and spyware definitions

MSE Quick Scan

Dropbox to Sync, Share, and Save Your Data

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a service that runs from Windows, Mac, and Linux computers that gives you a virtual drive which stores files on the Dropbox servers. This drive can be synced automatically with all your computers. You can share the files, folders, or photo galleries with anyone, even people who don’t use Dropbox.

Think of it as a magic folder. It is a great service for people who want to:

  • share data across multiple computers
  • share data with friends and coworkers
  • have a backup of important files stored off-site in case of theft or fire

Video Tour from Dropbox


Dropbox is free for 2GB of space, $10/month for 50GB, or $20/month for 100GB.

Sign Up

Sign up for Dropbox by clicking on this Dropbox Referral Link in order to give both of us an extra 250MB for free.

New Developments

Dropbox popularity has grown dramatically over the past year and its capabilities are growing regularly. New versions will have direct peer-to-peer syncing making it faster for computers on the same network.

Users can reach Dropbox files through the iPhone formatted website:

iPhone Dropbox AppUPDATE: An official iPhone app for Dropbox was released today. The iPhone Dropbox app allows you to not only access dropbox as you could through the website, but also to:

  • download files for offline viewing
  • take and sync photos and videos with Dropbox
  • set up a photo gallery with your iPhone photos
  • share links to Dropbox with your iPhone contacts

HD OTA Channel Lineup for DC

Over-the-air (OTA) high definition television is great. It provides free high definition programming that is higher bitrate (meaning higher quality) than high definition TV from cable, fios, or satellite.

But it can be tricky to get antenna placement correct.

Channel Spreadsheet

I use a spreadsheet that I create from data for installing HD OTA TV for DC Metro area clients.

HD TV Channel Spreadsheet

This allows you to write down signal strength numbers on all your channels using different configurations:

  • different antennas
  • different locations
  • amplification on/off

Generally a higher placement for the antenna is best.  For the Washington D.C. channel lineup, I have found the Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna to work best in most situations, at least when located close to the city. Amplification can help for areas with weaker signals but should not be done if you already have a strong signal.

There is typically a trade-off in choosing the best configuration. A particular setup might favor one channel and hurt another because channels use various tower locations and frequencies.

Monoprice for Cables

At Tech DC, we regularly set up home theater systems for people. We rely on Monoprice for all our cables. They are great quality and only a fraction the cost of cables from big box and other retail stores.

Local retail stores try to sell a HDMI video cable for $50 with every TV. See the HDMI cable selection at Monoprice showing equivalent cables for $10-20.

From a Virginia Target store:

HDMI cable from Target

From a Best Buy advertisement in the Washington Post:

HDMI Cable from Best Buy

Replace UPS Batteries

If you have computers or electronics that you don’t want to be killed by power fluctuations, it’s a good idea to have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). The battery in the UPS keeps your equipment running through blackouts our brownouts (reduced power).

Dead Battery

The main problem with a UPS is that its battery might only last a couple of years. A dead battery is often announced by a UPS through regular beeping. Because a UPS is expensive, consider just replacing the battery instead of the whole UPS when the battery dies.

You can buy a replacement from the UPS company or for significantly less money from a third party such as Battery Mart. Just be sure to get a battery that is designed for your specific UPS. I have had good luck with with Battery Mart, but there are some third party batteries which are of poor quality, possibly having a short life, acid leakage, or even causing a fire.

I replaced the battery for the APC Back-UPS 500 ES for $26.39 from Battery Mart instead of $48.99 from APC (prices include shipping).

Battery Mart Replacement Battery