20 Years Ago Today…Birth of THE Virus

A dubious anniversary at best is the birthday of the first computer virus. Dubbed (Pakistani) ‘Brain’ it was developed by the (real) brothers Basit and Amjad. And affected the boot sector of floppy disks. Infected disks had their disk volume re-written as ‘© Brain’.

And if I recall correctly the virus caused the in-screen characters to slowly decay. Falling downward in rapidly fading jumbled streaks of green and amber; depending on the monochromatic monitor. For a more recent generation, something like the screen effects of the Matrix and Matrix Revolutions. And for a complete time line of the cyber virus evolution, do visit the Computer Virus Timeline that runs from 1949 to the present day.

That that was then. And in the now most people have never see a floppy disk. With CD (and increasingly DVD) the common exchange and install removable media of choice. But that doesn’t mean that malware has gone into hibernation. Far from it. It’s just all that more sophisticated. And doesn’t arrive on disk. More commonly from the Internet. Courtesy web sites with malicious code. Or emails with infected attachments that round-robin like do the rounds spreading disease and pestilence in their wake.

Yea I’m going on about spyware! And Microsoft AntiSpyware, one of the most popular, and free, Microsoft products has just been updated. Although the new update released Jan 20, 2006 bears version 1.0.701. It’s definitely an update of the existing x.701 released in late-2005.

Just the other day I finally decided I’d had enough of juggling files on my 80 GB secondary data disk. And with storage media prices crashing the way they have decided to upgrade to a 120 GB. True I could have upgraded to 160 but my company’s preferred manufacturer (Western Digital) wasn’t available. The word from corporate on high is absolutely no Seagate drives on account of 4 un-related drive failures in the space of one year (most probably from a series of bad batches)! With a caveat to avoid SATA as most company computers support only IDE drive controllers. All the same my new Samsung 120 GB is awesomely fast.

XXcopy Basic commandline optionsHowever what I didn’t relish was transferring approximately 78 GB of data to the new drive without replicating the partitions and folders of the old. Enter XXCopy 2.92.6, an enhanced version of the DOS XCopy utility included with every single Windows version. There are two XXCopy variants: free and Pro. The former is available for non-commercial (personal) use. Works only on standalone computers. And contains almost all features bar those for networked computers. The Pro version can support automated backup with advanced features. And available in 60-day trial full-featured version. The software is also available in separate 16- (8.3 fixed file names) and 32-bit (long file name) versions.

As an application XXcopy is simplicity itself. It runs from the command line. And offers over 200 command line options. You can also use the software to clone a bootable Windows9X/ME system disk!

Although I installed the Pro version as I needed to transfer some files from a network location to the new drive. I used a very simple set of switches (options) for the file transfers. But having worked with XCopy in the past and found it of limited intelligence. I was pleasantly surprised by XXCopy. Like being prompted once per transfer to approve creating a new root folder on the destination drive. But it was the transfer speeds that really wowed me.

I had begun using Total Commander’s fastcopy to replicate folders. Except a 10 GB folder took nearly 8 minutes. A fall back to Windows Explorer didn’t improve speeds. If anything they went down! XXCopy, in contrast, transferred a 21 GB folder structure in just under 60 seconds to its new home. And my 40 GB music collection was migrated to its new 50 MB home in just over 90 seconds! Absolutely amazing.

XXcopy is one of those applications that you don’t really need until you (as I) did. But once you do find it. You do wonder how you managed until the present. So don’t tarry, download a copy as soon as you can

There’s also a Total Commander 6.54 Beta 2 release. This resolves several bugs that crept by in the previous Beta 1 build. Other that this I didn’t notice anything significantly enhanced about the version. If you use Total Commander like I do as a versatile file and archive manager. You may want to download the recently upgraded 7Zip Plugin 0.4.8 built using the stable 7-Zip 4.32 base.

Do also download PDFCreator 0.9.0. Use this freeware printer driver to create PDFs. This version fixes several bugs and adds new features like PDF compression. It also supports x-64 Bit processors, along with Windows Terminal and Citrix Servers. Although the download size is large, the wait is well worth it. I use PDF Creator to capture all kinds of interesting web pages to PDF format.

And finally if you want to see how the forthcoming Internet Explorer 7 looks like. ActiveWin have put together a collection of over 50 screen captures of various facets and features. Click here to view Windows Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 Preview Build 5299. And if you are feeling adventurous, you can also download and install this Beta.

That’s it for this week. Stay safe until the next time we meet.

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