Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Put That Old Computer to Good Use

Daily Cup of Tech Unless you are forced to rely on it as your main PC, you may be tempted to throw an older computer away, thinking it is useless and obsolete. But don't make that mistake!

Over on Daily Cup of Tech is a great article about twelve useful things you can do with an older PC, that you may be thinking of permanently retiring. All kinds of things from a firewall/router to a file server to a bittorrent box.

So head on over and get some ideas and don't put the snail on the curb just yet. It still has plenty of life left in it.

Visit Daily Cup of Tech

Thanks for the tip, Alberto!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Do I own an old snail?

askbobrankin.com Some people may be a bit confused about what qualifies a computer to be called a snail.

Bob Rankin has a nice amusing little checklist to see if your computer qualifies.

If you answer 'Yes' to anything on his list, but your computer is still usable for normal purposes (web browsing, email, word processing, etc), with recently written software...then you have a snail.

If it's too old to run any recently written software, you have an antique. That is a different class of PC, than snail.

And be sure to read on, because following his checklist, there are some good tips for getting more out of your computer, no matter what its age may be.

You May Need To Buy A New Computer If...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

KB936357 = funky

This warning does not apply to systems running older versions of Windows. It only applies to systems running XP or Vista. If your system can run either of these, it isn't a snail.

But since many people own newer systems too, I thought it appropriate to warn everyone about this.

KB936357 is a Windows Update patch you have to watch out for and be careful.

It is microcode for the BIOS of certain affected systems.

Only systems with the following CPU's need this:

  • Mobile: Intel Core 2 Duo mobile processor.
  • Desktop: Intel Core 2 Duo desktop processor, Intel Core 2 Quad desktop processor, and Intel Core 2 Extreme processor.
  • Server: Intel Xeon processors 3000, 3200, 5100, and 5300 series.

The problem with this patch is that it is installing itself on XP & Vista systems not affected and it is causing problems.

If you have your Windows Update settings set to automatically download and install patches, you might want to change this to downloading, but asking before installing.

When a new update downloads and you are asked, do not select the typical or express install. Choose the advanced option and check for this patch in the list.

If you don't have one of the affected CPU's, unselect this patch and do not install it.

You will have to do this every time, so keep the patch number handy so you'll remember the name of it.

I know of at least 1 person that ended up with this patch that didn't need it.

For one guy with an older P4 CPU, it messed up his router causing him to have a problem with it disconnecting every few hours.

Another guy...I haven't heard from him since he rebooted after an update tonight (he has an AMD64 CPU). I suspect he ended up with this patch and it may have caused problems, but I can't be sure at this time.

So please be careful with this one. Don't install it if you don't need it.

But if you do have one of the CPU's affected, please install it...you do need it, even if you are not currently having problems. There is a flaw in the listed processors that creates an exploitable vulnerability and your BIOS needs this patch to correctly deal with it and protect you.

The alternative to installing this patch on affected systems is to install a BIOS update from your motherboard manufacturer. Not all manufacturers have released a BIOS update to address the issue, and some require your system to have a floppy drive to install it. It is just easier to use the update from Microsoft for affected systems.

Full patch info from Microsoft

Details on the vulnerability with select Intel processors

Thursday, July 5, 2007

K-Meleon 1.1 - The Snail Friendly Browser

First some bad news:

If you are running any form of 9x (Windows 95, 98, ME) or NT4 and are using Internet Explorer for your web browsing, you are a sitting duck waiting for disaster. When an exploitable vulnerability is discovered in Internet Explorer, newer versions of Windows will receive patches to fix it, but you will not. It's a security disaster waiting to happen...and it is on your PC.

That basically means you will have to find a newer and better browser..something that is being actively developed and supported...and will run on your old machine.

Many people may tell you to ditch IE and get Firefox. But there is a problem with that. In the latest version of Firefox, they dropped 9x support. That means if you want to switch to that browser you will have to run an older version. This puts you right back at the same point you were with the IE problem.

Additionally, Firefox isn't very snail friendly. It uses a lot of RAM and becomes slower and slower the longer you use it. It also takes quite a long time to open.

But here is the good news:

K-Meleon 1.1 K-Meleon is a very fast light-weight browser that is both snail friendly and actively developed. It is based on the Mozilla Gecko engine, which is the same one used in Firefox. This means you can have a safer, more secure browser without having to sacrifice performance.

It has all the basics you would need in a browser such as a popup blocker, tabs (They call it 'layered windows'), bookmarks (it can use 3 different types: IE, Opera, and Mozilla - select the options you want while installing), mouse gestures, ability to choose a default search engine, multi-user support, etc.

It also supports the following plugins (some of these can be a little tricky to install, please read the instructions):

And it has its own macro language and some premade macros:

  • Shortcut 2006-11-27 - Send URLs to your desktop as Internet Shortcut (*.url).
  • SpeedUp 2007-06-28 - Tune K-Meleon's pageload performance.
  • BugMeNot 2007-06-19 - Bypass compulsory registration using bugmenot.com.
  • KeepVid 2007-06-19 - Save Flash Movies to disk using keepvid.com.
  • W3C 2007-06-19 - Validate web pages using the W3C's tools.
  • WHOIS 2007-06-19 - Find out more about domains you're visiting.

And when I said it was snail friendly, I really meant it. K-Meleon can run on 486 systems and Windows 95...low end machines with only 32 MB of RAM! (some system updates may be required)

There is even a symbiotic loader option available during installation to make it open even faster (faster than even IE!), by preloading parts of it at startup. This might be quite useful for people that do a lot of surfing, but not much more with their computers. If you are afraid of using too much resources while not browsing, either do not install this or close it from the tray when no longer needed. If you do install the symbiotic loader, restart your computer after installing, so it will load.

It includes FlashBlock, which replaces all Flash objects with a button, allowing you to decide if you want it to load. This is almost mandatory today, if you are using an older PC on the internet. It only takes a few Flash ads to freeze up an older PC. Being able to block them from loading, unless you want them, is a great snail friendly feature.

After installing, on first run, it does take a little while to load (I presume it's because it is searching for your bookmarks & favorites). But don't let that fool you. Afterwards it is pretty zippy.

I feel almost like a Pentium II! Up until I tried K-Meleon, I was afraid to do any kind of web browsing with my old PC. I was paranoid about the security problems and lack of updates for IE. I hated how slow Firefox was and would rather not surf at all than to use that.

K-Meleon is the best thing to happen to that old machine. It has given it a new life and put a smile on my face. I now have a new default browser.

K-Meleon 1.1
Download Size: 5.16 MB
Support Options: forum
Price: free (open source)
Documentation: FAQ, installation guide, tutorials, User's Guide & Reference Manual, Macro Language reference, documentation page, tips & tricks

Monday, July 2, 2007

Layered Security and BitDefender 8 Free for Individual File Scanning

In my previous post I recommended AVG Free as your main anti-virus. But security experts recommend a layered approach to PC security and I agree with them. This is definitely a case of where a little paranoia is a good thing, especially if you are running an older operating system which is no longer being updated with security patches. The lack of support for your operating system makes security even more important than ever.

In addition to having a main anti-virus product, that runs in the background protecting you at all times, you should also have a second product just for scanning individual files as you receive them.

When you download files, they are first scanned automatically by the background scanning of your main anti-virus. When the download is complete, it is a wise idea to scan it again with a second product before opening it.

Who can you trust?

All files you download should be subjected to an extra scan, even ones sent to you by your own mother or boss. Too often, someone ends up with an infected computer that emails out nasty malware to everyone in their address book or starts sending infected files to all contacts in their instant messaging client.

It can happen to anybody. Your mom or boss aren't immune to things like this happening, so don't just trust a file based solely on who sent it to you. And when you tell them about it, make sure they know you are not accusing them. You are merely inquiring and informing. No sense in making someone angry over something they didn't deliberately intend to do.

Is there a free snail friendly scanner I can use for individual file scanning?

BitDefender 8 FreeWhy, of course! This is where BitDefender 8 Free comes in. You can get it for free and install it for on demand and individual file scanning. It will place an option on the right click menu in Explorer. When you want to use it, you just right click the file you want to scan and select the 'BitDefender Antivirus v8' option on the menu.

It is yours free, for one year, after which you will have to contact support by email, to renew your license for another free year. You may renew it as many times as you wish, for free.

Installing and Configuring:

Installing is pretty straight forward and traditional, nothing special to note except that if asked, select to update after installing if you have an active internet connection. If not, then don't select to update or scan after installing.

If you do have an active internet connection and have left the option to update after installing checked, go find something to keep yourself busy because the installing and updating process will take quite awhile.

After installing, do not restart your computer yet. Right click the tray icon for BitDefender 8 and select 'Show'. Go to the status tab and uncheck 'Virus Shield'. This is the background scanner that you don't need and can cause problems with your main anti-virus if left checked.

Go to the 'Settings' tab and uncheck 'Load BitDefender when Windows Starts'. You won't be needing this for on demand and individual file scanning and you will be saving resources by disabling it.

Also uncheck 'Receive Security Notifications'. This is an annoying unnecessary news announcer that will just waste system resources.

Click the 'Apply' button.

Restart your computer.

Updating and Registering:

If you do not have internet access on your PC, please refer to this page for information on downloading and manually updating the anti-virus definition files.

If you do have an active connection available, updates should be automatic and you shouldn't have to do anything else, but it is a good idea to manually force it to check for updates about once a week. Click the icon on your desktop or in the start menu to launch 'BitDefender 8 Standard', then right click the tray icon and select 'Update Now'. Once it is finished updating, right click the tray icon and select 'Exit'. You do not need this running for individual file scanning.

If at any point in time you get popup notifications that your copy of BitDefender is about to expire, contact support and ask for a free key for BitDefender 8 Free.

Now all you have to do is remember to right click and scan any new files you download, as you acquire them.

What to do if BitDefender detects an infected file:

If for any reason some file slips through your main anti-virus undetected and you do get a positive result when scanning with BitDefender 8, your next step should be to verify this as not being a false positive.

VirusTotal VirusTotal is a per file scanner available online for free use. All you have to do is upload the file in question to their site and it will be scanned with 32 different anti-virus products and you will be given the results. They accept files under 10 MB and you can even email the files to them, rather than uploading through your browser. They also have a small tool you can install to place the option in your Send To menu, to send them a file for scanning.

Jotti's Malware Scan Alternatively, you can also use Jotti's Malware Scan for the same purpose. They use 18 different anti-virus products. The only problem with this site is that their servers are usually pretty overloaded and there can be a rather long waiting period before you can upload.

Safely storing suspicious files:

If BitDefender 8 seems to be the only scanner that thinks the file is infected, I would recommend not opening it. Do not immediately assume it is a false positive. It really could be infected.

If it is an important file and you were expecting it, place it in a safe place where it won't have the chance of being opened by anyone that has access to your PC, and keep it there for at least a week. Copy it to a floppy or burn it to a CD, clearly marking it with the date and as being possibly dangerous and keep it in a locked location. Then remove the original from your PC.

If it seems to be too important to wait a week, contact the person you got the file from and find out exactly what it is and if they really sent it to you, especially if you were not expecting it. Let them know that it was flagged as an infected file and that you do not plan on opening it unless you can be sure that it is clean. Do not take their word for it if they insist that it's clean. They could have an infected PC and not know it.

If the file is still important when the week is up, rescan it with the online scanner to see if the results have changed. It is possible that BitDefender 8 was giving a false positive and the file is perfectly safe, or that the other anti-virus vendors were a little slow in adding detection for that particular malware. By waiting a week and scanning again, you might know which situation has occurred.

Of course if the file isn't important, you could just delete it and not worry about scanning it with the online scanner or holding it for a week. This would probably be the safest way to go. Don't forget to empty your recycle bin!

If the file was sent to you by someone you know, let them know about it so they can scan their PC and make sure that they aren't infected with something nasty.

Final word of advice:

And as always, no antivirus product, no matter how good it is, is a substitute for common sense. Always use your head before downloading or opening files.

BitDefender 8 Free
Download Size: 13.8 MB
Manual Updates: Download
Support Options: forum, email, and live assistance
Price: free
Documentation: .pdf manual (2.18 MB)

Download Size: none
Support Options: none
Price: free

Jotti's Malware Scan
Download Size: none
Support Options: none
Price: free

Saturday, June 30, 2007

AVG Free 7.5

Click for full size Avg Free is the most friendly anti-virus I have ever tried for an old slow PC.

Unlike the heavyweights, like Norton and McAfee, you will hardly know it is running. It will sit there in the background doing its job while allowing you to still do yours.

I have not had any problems with the background scanning locking up the PC or slowing it down to a crawl.

I have also not had any problems with my taskbar icons or opening folders in Explorer, if there are .rar files present or a shortcut to an application containing some type of server. I had both of these problems with some other anti-virus products I have tested, before.

I have been an AVG user for about 4 years. In all that time I have never had an incident where any version of AVG has crashed. I also have never been infected with any viruses or trojans. While an anti-virus does offer you protection, it is not a substitute for common sense. You still have to use your head and not do stupid things like opening strange email attachments from unknown sources.

So if you want protection against viruses and trojans, and want something that won't get in your way, AVG Free can't be beat. It's my #1 choice. And you sure can't beat the price (free).

Note: If you install AVG Free and later decide to uninstall it, you will have to use the original installer or download the latest version of AVG Fee and run the installer and use that to uninstall the older version. You can not uninstall it through add/remove programs.

AVG Free 7.5
Download Size: 21.7 MB
Price: Free
Support Options: forum

Software List

Applications are listed alphabetically.

Want to Join the Team?

Do you think you have what it takes to be a Snailware reviewer?

If you love software, have some decent writing skills, some free time to write short reviews of new software you find and try, why not give it a shot?

There are a few very important requirements though:

  • You must be the owner of an older slower (Pentium II or less) computer running some form of Windows 9x (95, 98, ME) and have less than 256 MB of RAM.
  • All software you test and review must be tested on that machine.
  • You must have some sort of screen capturing ability to make screenshots of the applications you test. If you need software to do this, Screenshot Captor is a good one to try.
  • You must have a Gmail or Blogger account.
  • You must agree to the statements in the Disclaimer and the Privacy Policy. (the us and we will be referring to YOU)

If you are interested, contact us and we can discuss it further.

Test Machines

All of our testing machines are Pentium II or older with less than 256 MB of RAM. They all run some form of Windows 9x (95, 98, ME)

Our writers and friendly team of snails:

Meet our Mascot

This is Laggy, the official Snailware mascot.

Laggy moves at a blazing dialup speed of 33.6k. He doesn't talk, verbally. Every idea and feeling he wants to express, appears on his monitor. Read his screen and you basically read his mind.

What does Laggy like?

Laggy loves developers that put software users first. He has a great respect for those developers who understand that not everyone can afford the latest and greatest hardware or operating system.

He likes software that doesn't waste system resources with flashy eye candy. He thinks it is pretty silly to spend so much time creating an interface and not so much time on functionality. Who cares how good it looks if you can't run it or it doesn't do anything?

He likes small lightweight single purpose tools.

He loves freeware and donationware! He thinks it is great when developers offer software at a price that everyone can afford.

And he LOVES black licorice!

What does Laggy hate?

Laggy doesn't like developers with an arrogant attitude that define a person's worth by the operating system they run. Having an older operating system or hardware doesn't make one any less of a person than someone else, or any less deserving of quality software.

He doesn't like developers that do not listen to their users and do not consider the needs of their users.

He hates deceptive marketing practices and those that lie about their products or their affiliation with a product. He doesn't like people that get paid to write good reviews rather than telling the truth about a product or service. He also doesn't like people that write reviews about their own software while pretending to be a common user.

He hates spam and spammers. He doesn't like email spam, comment spam, or forum spam, or any other kind of spam, including the kind in a can. (he's a vegetarian)

Laggy hates malware of any kind, including viruses, trojans, and spyware.

What kind of monitor is that on his back?

That is a 17 inch Sun 447L, manufactured by Nokia. He picked it up used, for about $50, when he outgrew his original Packard Bell 15 inch monitor.

Does Laggy have any friends?

Laggy considers anybody with an old slow computer to be a friend of his. Birds of a feather flock together.

Speaking of birds, he also has a special friend named Cody, who is the official mascot of DonationCoder.com. Cody is a crazy coin eating bird with a great sense of humor and a rather large family.

If you would like to know more about Laggy and how he came to be, you can read about it here.

Privacy Policy

Snailware will never sell or give your email address or any of your personal information to any other party, unless a legal order from a court of law requires us to.

Snailware will never send you unsolicited email. You will never receive any email at all unless you email us first. We do not send out spam. We only send out replies to email you send us.


  • We are not the developers of any product that we recommend or review.
  • We do not have any financial interests in any product that we recommend or review.
  • We do not offer any technical support for any product we review.
  • All reviews are based on our own personal experiences with the products on our own computers. Your experiences may differ.
  • We are not responsible for any loss or damages you may experience from following any of our advice, tips, or recommendations.
  • We will not lie about a product, not even in exchange for cash, merchandise, trips, or even chocolate. We value our integrity and honesty is our policy. You can not pay us to say nice things about your product, so don't bother trying.
  • All information we provide is correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of posting.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Snailware Mission Statement

Snailware is software for snails. Snails are older slower computers. We consider this a term of affection, not an insult. We love our snails.

As snail owners, ourselves, we understand it can be quite frustrating to find decent software that will run on older operating systems and equipment. We understand your pain. Too many developers today are filling their software with eye candy, features, and bloat that give our snails indigestion and headaches. They assume everyone is running the latest & greatest hardware and operating system, when that just isn't true.

Around this time last year, there were at least 50 to 70 million snails out there running some form of Windows 9x (95, 98, ME). That's not exactly a small number. Their owners had just as many valid reasons for not buying a new computer or upgrading their operating systems. Odds are that most of those systems are still in use, and still running the same operating systems they were last year. Microsoft ending support for those operating systems didn't suddenly enable that old hardware to run Windows XP (or Vista). And there wasn't suddenly a PC fairy, delivering new computers to replace all those older machines.

Too often, snail owners are treated with a great amount of disrespect. It is just as wrong to pass judgement on them as it is to pass judgement on your neighbor with a 6 to 10 year refridgerator. Just because something is old doesn't make it useless junk. And it doesn't make their owners less deserving of common curtesy and respect. Hardware and operating systems do not define the value of a human life.

It also doesn't make snail owners less deserving of quality software. Their money is just as green as anybody else's. It would be crazy to tell someone they didn't deserve food or to refuse to sell it to them, just because their refridgerator is more than 5 years old. The same goes for owners of older PC's.

It's really not that different when you stop and think about it. In fact a new computer costs about as much as a new refridgerator and can have about the same life span, in terms of years of use. A new PC bought today will become a snail rather quickly. If you are not a snail owner now, you may become one very soon. We hope you won't have the problems that current snail owners are experiencing, when your time comes.

It is the goal of this site to present software that is snail friendly.

We will try to present software which is less than 1 year old, when we can. There may be times where we might present older software or an older, yet still available version, which may be snail friendly when the latest version is not.

Everything we present will be tested by our own friendly team of snails. If our snails don't like it, then it won't be listed here.

You will find nothing but honesty, integrity, and respect here. We will not do anything that would violate our principles or cause us to lose our self respect. We wouldn't be able to live with ourselves if we did. Please read our disclaimer to learn more.

If you are a developer that has an application that you think is snail friendly and you would like it considered for inclusion in our list, you may email us for more information and arrange for a snail test. If our snails like it, we will write about it.