10 February 2008

#57. The New Love in My Life

Welcome to the Tool Bar & Grill, friends. Please come right in and find your own seats. I’ll be back to take your order soon. Right now, though, I’m very busy getting acquainted with my new love and outfitting her just the way I like.

Oh, you want to see her? Sure, she’s right over there… No, not her; that’s my devoted, long-suffering girlfriend Louise at the kitchen door. I mean the beauty sitting on the stool in front of the counter. Yes, that sweet, bright little black one. My new ThinkPad laptop computer. Yep, she’s the one for me.

Sure, I have dallied with other laptops over the years. I’ve been having serious relationships with portable computers for most of my adult life. But I only fell in love with my ThinkPads (and, of course, my 1982 Osborne; you never forget your first one). True, ThinkPads can break your heart too, like that sexy little Convertible subnotebook I had to part with when she started losing keys till she looked snaggle-toothed, or the hefty G model that another fellow stole away from me. My computing history plays like the good ole hurtin’ songs on the jukebox in my favorite country honky-tonk.

Getting To Know You

My new Lenovo ThinkPad came into my life a couple of weeks ago, but I have had precious little time together with her to admire her sleek lines… the brilliant shine of her screen… her modern technology and seamless synthesis of hardware and software… her legendary reliability… her firm yet pliant keyboard… her fingerprint reader… and that cute, perky little TrackPoint in her keyboard. No sir, nothing else is a ThinkPad.

I’ve been configuring my new cutie and feeding her my favorite software a little bit at a time, as well as getting to know the Windows Vista she brought with her. So far, Vista has failed to impress me with its cosmetic frippery and fixes to things that weren’t broken in XP or third-party utilities. Maybe time will tell if Vista’s under-the-hood changes, such as supposedly improved security, will justify the trouble of learning where everything is in the new interface.

Startup Kit

Among the first essential utilities I installed is AnVir Task Manager Free. This useful tool vastly improves on the Windows Task Manager, which is only slightly updated in Vista. AnVir Task Manager displays useful details about running applications, processes, services, browser help objects, and connections, and whatever else your computer is doing while you’re staring at the screen. AnVir Task Manager shows and manages your startup list, allows you to delay some programs’ startups (not configurable, though), assign CPU priorities to running processes, and be alerted to programs inserting themselves in the startup routine. Helpful tray icons graphically display CPU, memory, and disk use. The two for-pay versions provide greater security protections and more detailed information about your programs.

I have previously recommended WinPatrol, whose functionality in both free and paid versions is quite similar to AnVir’s. WinPatrol remains an excellent choice, though I’ll stick with AnVir for its slightly prettier looks. Among the other minor differences, WinPatrol lets you specify the startup delay, but lacks the tray gauges.

Back in My Good Graces

If you are a regular reader (and if not, why not?), you have followed my hopes and tribulations with Comodo Firewall Pro version 3, which includes HIPS (host intrusion protection system) anti-malware. I started using the new version even before it was publicly announced, due to my satisfaction with version 2 and its excellent results in tests and reviews. Alas, joy escaped me as I encountered problems in running the firewall.

I granted the latest Comodo Firewall release a second chance on my new Vista machine. So far, so good, I am pleased to report. Comodo’s firewall and HIPS module are very chatty indeed, popping up numerous notifications and questions about software I am launching or installing (perhaps because in my paranoia, I set the security settings to a high level). And sometimes Comodo fails to recognize known applications that should be in its white list database.

Overall, however, Comodo appears to be doing a fine job of protecting my computer in the short time I have used it. It is very informative and configurable. I eagerly await professional tests of Comodo’s efficacy in comparison to other firewall and HIPS products, which I hope will continue the previous version’s respectable ratings.

Protects and Annoys

I also tried a new antivirus program on my new Vista computer – and again, so far, so good. Avira AntiVir Personal Edition Classic (free) is highly ranked; both it and AVG Free, still in use on my old computer, earned the Virus Bulletin 100 ranking for detecting all in-the-wild viruses without any false positives, and AntiVir has sometimes beaten AVG in other laboratories’ tests.

However, AntiVir pops up an irritating window every day that tries to sell me the professional version. AntiVir also warns that its registration will expire in several months. If this proves to be an inconvenience, I will consider replacing AntiVir with AVG.

Thank you for sharing in my romantic tales about my new love interest. I hope you’ll return for more utility reviews every week, along with all your friends. And please feel free to explore the offerings of the advertisers who vie for your attention in and alongside this post. Finally, I encourage you to share your suggestions and ideas by clicking on “comments” below or writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

P.S. A loyal reader from Spain has suggested carrying the Tool Bar & Grill restaurant theme to its logical extreme by sharing our exclusive meal recipes with you (see post #54), as well as distributing free beer (nice try, pal). Though our best recipes are secret, Spain has kindly proffered some great recipe Web sites for all of us to enjoy in his comment on post #56.


  1. What a great service you provide Jonathan! I never knew AnVirTaskManager existed and in the little time I've tried it, I think it's a gem. I look forward each week to your advice. Thank you.

  2. Hi Jonathan, I'm wondering why you did not consider the free version of avast! for your anti-virus needs. Also, have you seen System Explorer? I have been using it for a few weeks, and I love it (use it instead of the Windows Task Manager now). Cheers.

  3. Dear Anonymous, thank you very much for your compliments. I am always delighted to learn that my blog has helped someone to discover useful software and Web sites. I hope you will continue to frequent my blog, and tell all your friends about it too.

  4. Alek, thank you, too, for reading and for submitting your excellent suggestions.

    You're right that Avast! antivirus has an excellent reputation, and I don' know why I picked AntiVir instead of Avast!. I should give it a try indeed.

    I am acquainted with System Explorer, though I have not used it in depth. I had the impression that its depth of functionality and its interface fell somewhat behind Anvir. I encourage you to take a look at AnVir, or even WinPatrol, and then let us all know how System Explorer stacks up against it.

    My thanks again for your readership.

  5. So did I miss it? or which ThinkPad model is it??? I got a T60 for more than one year now, and before that a A31p. I am in love with both of them!

    BTW: did you try PC Tools firewall?
    I was using Comodo 3 before, but I recently switched to PC Tools FW. It maybe be not as good in leak test, but it is less talkative, lighter on resources, and less buggy.

  6. Hi Jonathan,

    To make "free beer" at the Tool Bar & Grill (which I may also try myself some day - I hope it ), I have found the following software, all reported in the extended list -available to suscribers- of 46 Best (at techsupportalert). It is a good idea to check such sites (I am sure you already know this site), so as to improve on them with a few more ideas in your blog.

    They have a very good software list, mostly in the field of computer security, the other sections however - IMHO - don't always report all the best alternatives.

    [1] BeerSmith
    Website: http://www.beersmith.com/

    [2] QBrew
    Website: http://www.usermode.org/code.html

    [3] CyberBrau
    Website: http://cyberbrau.sourceforge.net/

    Best regards,

    A reader from Spain.

    P.S. Thank you for commenting on the recipes, I will myself check these Websites that I recommended (I may try the Mexican recipes).

    P.P.S. I will not always be sending comments, I just wanted to send a few recommendations.

  7. I share your appreciation of the Thinkpad. I own a T41 that's been good to me over the years and recently bought a T60 that I absolutely love. The dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM I put in helps, but there's just something about the feel of the Thinkpad that's won me over.

  8. Dear Jonathan,
    Thanks for your objective advice and honest comments. I appreciate them. As it happens, I'm looking to buy a new laptop, so your latest blog is just for me !

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  10. Dear Anonymous and Chris, my new ThinkPad is an R61i. It's not the most powerful or the sleekest, but it's a workhorse, with dual core, 2GB RAm, big hard disk, and the big wide screen I want. And it's the best I can afford [this blog is not a money maker :-( ]. The ThinkPad keyboard feel and all-around durability are legendary. I love it!

  11. Anonymous, sorry I forgot to respond to your question about the PC Tools firewall. I have not tried it, though I certainly have heard of it. It has a good reputation, but I prefer to stick with firewalls that rank the highest in protection tests, even with minor annoyances.

  12. Dear Louise: Thank you for your kind compliments about my blog. But as for a new laptop, forget about it. You can't have my new one, that's for sure. You'll have to stick with the old ThinkPad I gave you last year. (Hah! I blew your cover!)