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How to Uninstall the Ask Toolbar

Once upon a time, Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves) was primarily a search engine and was even competitive with the likes of Google and Yahoo.

Sadly, in the years since then, Ask hasn’t aged so well.

In 2005 Ask was acquired by a company named InterActiveCorp, an umbrella organization that owns many other popular websites like Dictionary.com, Match.com and About.com.

InterActiveCorp is also notorious for pushing toolbar downloads through many of its properties, the most well known of which is the Ask.com Toolbar.

Ask Toolbar and altered Homepage

Ask Toolbar and altered Homepage

While this toolbar is not technically malware, since it does ask permission to install, it is most commonly installed as part of the installation process for other programs. Computer users who aren’t paying close attention or don’t understand the software installation process often install the Ask Toolbar without realizing they’re doing so.

Once installed, the Ask toolbar takes up screen space in your web browser, changes your homepage and redirects your searches so that they use Ask.com. This generates lots of advertising revenue for Ask and InterActiveCorp. So, as you can see, the whole point of the toolbar is the drive traffic to websites owned by InterActiveCorp.

How to Remove the Ask Toolbar

The Ask toolbar can, for the most part, be uninstalled like any other program. Just make sure all browsers that have the Ask Toolbar are closed or the uninstall process will not work.

First, open your Control Panel. On Windows 7, this can by done by clicking the Start button and then clicking Control Panel.

From the Control Panel, click “Uninstall a program”. This will load a list of programs that can be uninstalled.

Find “Ask Toolbar” in the list. It should be near the top since the list is sorted alphabetically.

Right-click “Ask Toolbar” and select “Uninstall”. This will run the uninstallation program that will remove the Ask Toolbar.

Follow the steps in the uninstall program, and the Ask Toolbar will be gone when it is finished.

If the Ask toolbar changed your homepage and search page, you’ll need to change those to the settings you would like. How to change these settings is a little different for each web browser so that’s an article for another day.

Do you have a problem with your computer you need help removing? ZookaWare computer experts are online 24/7 for remote technical support and can solve any software problem. Guaranteed!

How to Uninstall iTunes

I was a little surprised when I found out iTunes was one of the programs people most often search for help uninstalling. But after I thought about it for a minute, it made a little sense. iTunes is installed on millions of computers and one of the first and easiest troubleshooting steps when working on an iTunes error is to uninstall and reinstall it. Sound simple enough.

Actually, it is pretty simple, but if you’re trying to uninstall everything that is installed with iTunes it’s not quite as straightforward as you might think at first.

Here’s how to completely uninstall iTunes:

To start, the usual first step for uninstalling any program, is to open your Control Panel and choose the “Uninstall a program” feature.

Then, here are the component names to uninstall, taken straight from the iTunes support page:

  1. iTunes
  2. Apple Software Update
  3. Apple Mobile Device Support
  4. Bonjour 
  5. Apple Application Support (iTunes 9 or later)

Important: Uninstalling these components in a different order, or only uninstalling some of these components may have unintended affects.

Like it says, make sure to uninstall the programs in that specific order. Then restart your computer to make sure the uninstall process is complete.

If you’ve followed all of those steps, iTunes is now completely uninstalled.

Need help uninstalling iTunes or any other program? ZookaWare techs are here 24/7 for remote technical support.

The 3 Most Private Search Engines

I was going to write a big long introduction about why you would want your search results to be private, but I honestly don’t think I need to anymore. We’re all aware that the NSA and probably other government agencies are in the habit of collecting both private and public conversations. And we know that massive internet companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others are built on a foundation of advertising, where knowing as much about your potential customer as possible is the name of the game. These days it seems like everybody wants to know as much as everybody else as possible. The expression “Knowledge is Power” has never in human history been more true, and knowledge comes from information.

But as all of these organizations have built themselves around collecting as much information as possible about their customers, a new market segment has emerged that does just the opposite. Here are 3 search engines

Ixquick

First on our list is the strangely named “Ixquick”.

From the Ixquick About page: “Ixquick does not collect or share any personal information! … When you search with Ixquick search engine, you are searching many popular search engines simultaneously and anonymously. Combined, these engines cover more of the Internet than any one search engine alone.”

As it says about, Ixquick pulls search results from many different search engines, combs through the results and then delivers them to you. Since none of your data is ever sent to the search engines it pulls results from, and because Ixquick says it doesn’t collect any customer information, your searches are essentially anonymous. Ixquick also features a integrated phone search feature, image search and video search which is nice to have.

Also useful for privacy conscious web surfers is the built-in “proxy” feature on the search results page. Next to any search result you’ll see the word “Proxy”. Clicking this link will load that search result, but Ixquick will connect to that web server and load the page for you. That way your unique IP address is never sent to the server hosting that website, which is pretty neat.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a search engine focusing on anonymity and user friendliness. Much like Google, Bing, and other modern search engines, typing a question into DuckDuckGo will often give you the answer without having to visit a single search result. DuckDuckGo pulls the information from various sources it’s aware of and tries to compile it in a useful way at the top of the search results page.

So, for example, if I search for “google” on DuckDuckGo, I’m presented with a short introduction about Google, Inc. pulled from the google Wikipedia page, as well as Google’s trading symbol on the NASDAQ, where Google was founded, who founded it, it’s most recent revenue, and number of employees.

Startpage

You might notice that StartPage looks an awful lot like Ixquick. That’s because they’re owned by the same parent company. Both search engines have strong privacy guarantees and both have the proxied browsing feature I mentioned before.

Startpage’s search results are different than Ixquick’s. This is because Startpage pulls its search results directly from Google, and not a collection of search engines. Some people may like this, others may not. It’s really a matter of personal preference. Otherwise Startpage and Ixquick seem to be virtually identical, which isn’t a bad thing.

 Worried about the privacy of your data? ZookaWare techs know how to keep your PC safe from attackers and are available 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Secure Your Computer using Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)

2014-06-10 16_41_50-Enhanced Mitigation Experience ToolkitToday I’m going to show you how downloading a single program and spending 2 minutes configuring it can substantially improve the security of your computer. With this software installed, your PC will be almost completely hacker-proof.

First, you’ll need to download the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) from Microsoft and install it. It’s best to use the Recommended Settings option. This will enable recommended settings designed to protect against the exploitation of the most commonly vulnerable programs. These program include Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook Adobe Reader, the Java plug-in, and Wordpad.

Next, open the EMET GUI (which can be found in your Start menu).

Then click the Import button at the top left.

Of the files listed as available for importing, select “Popular Software”. This will add new protection rules for many popular programs, including:

  • 7zip
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Apple iTunes
  • mIRC
  • Opera web browser
  • Google Chrome
  • Pidgin instant messenger
  • Quicktime media player
  • Skype
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • VLC media play
  • WinAmp
  • WinZip
  • and many more programs.

It’s possible to add your own protection settings for individual applications, but this is an advanced feature recommended only for expert computer users.

How EMET Works

EMET enables many security features that are built into Windows but not always turned on by defautlt.

One such protection is Data Execution Prevention (DEP) which allows the operating system to mark specific memory sections as non-executable. This means your computer will treat it only as data, and not as runnable software. In the event that an attacker attempts to use a buffer overflow vulnerability in a protected application that relies on executing memory marked as non-executable, the attack will fail.

Another security feature enabled by EMET is Address space layout randomization (ASLR). ASLR randomizes the locations where applications and system libraries are loaded into memory. Not being able to predict where in memory an application is loaded makes it much harder for attackers to write reliable exploits.

These two features have been available in Unix systems like Linux and OpenBSD for years, and with EMET they’ve been successfully integrated into Windows. In fact, at the most recent Pwn2Own hacking competition, Internet Explorer 11 with EMET protection was the only web browser not to be successfully exploited. (It should be noted that the other browsers were not using EMET protections, which was probably a big factor.)

Together these features substantially reduce the number of security vulnerabilites that can be exploited, and the severity of the vulnerabilities when they occur. And they do all of this without impacting the functionality or performance of the programs that are protected, which is pretty impressive.

Want to keep your computer safe from internet super villains? ZookaWare’s computer experts are available 24 hours a day for remote technical support.

How to Try a New Operating System for Free

MintScreenThe operating system is the most important piece of software on your computer. Every other program on your computer relies on the operating system in order to run.

Most people know Windows is an operating system, and many also know Macs have their own operating system that is not based on Windows. But did you know there are a lot of other operating systems available for your computer, most of which are completely free?

You’ve probably heard of Linux at some point. It’s the operating system that most servers on the internet use, and a lot of other connected devices like routers and even TVs and other appliances. Most people assume that using Linux as an operating system on their computer would be very hard and technical. 10 years ago that may have been true, but these days a number of improvements to open source operating systems like Linux have made them as easy to use as Windows or Mac OS X.

How to Try a New Operating System:

Most Linux and other free operating systems are distributed as ISO files. And ISO is a file that holds all the data that would normally be stored on a CD. ISO files are designed to be usable by CD burning software directly, so you can easily create an installation CD.

Most Linux ISO files are what are called “Live CDs”. This means you can run the entire operating system from the CD as a kind of test drive without having to install anything on your computer. This makes it really easy to try out a new system and decide if it’s a good fit for you before you take the plunge and install it on your computer.

All you have to do to use a Live CD is download the file, burn it to a CD, and reboot your computer. As long as your computer is set to boot from CDs (which is a BIOS setting that will be a little different between each PC) the Live CD system should run automatically.

Here are a few live CD operating systems to get you started:

Ubuntu Linux – a full featured, secure operating system designed to be usable by any computer user.

Linux Mint – “…a modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use. Started in 2006, Linux Mint is now the 4th most widely used home operating system behind Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS and Canonical’s Ubuntu.”

Mageia LinuxMageia is a GNU/Linux-based, Free Software operating system.It is a community project, supported by a nonprofit organisation of elected contributors.”

PC-BSD“PC-BSD is a user friendly desktop Operating System based on FreeBSD. PC-BSD uses a host of popular open source window managers and uses a custom-tailored application installer that puts popular applications in easy reach of users.”

Need help with your current operating system? ZookaWare techs are on-call 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Run Two Operating Systems at the Same Time using VirtualBox

vboxI test a lot of software.

A LOT of software.

Literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of programs both for my professional work and because I really like playing with computers.

But installing  and then uninstalling hundreds of programs on a single computer can cause unintended consequences. I really don’t like having a cluttered PC, and doing all that software testing is a good way to cause a lot of clutter.

Fortunately there is a way to run two (or even more) completely different operating systems on your computer at the same time using a technology called “virtualization”.

Virtualization technology basically ‘tricks’ your computer into running a whole operating system as if it were just another a program on your computer. But instead of the operating system talking directly to your compute hardware, the operating system talks to the virtualization software, which then translates those commands into something that can be used by your computer without interrupting your currently running operating system.

This is really useful testing software programs, or for testing new operating systems without having to install a new hard drive on your computer or overwrite your current operating system.

There are many different virtualization programs, and some of them can be quite expensive. But as luck would have it, one of the best virtualization programs, VirtualBox, is completely free.

To use Virtualbox, download and install it from the VirtualBox website. It’ll ask permission to install several specialize device drivers, be sure to allow this.

You’ll also need a CD or ISO file of the operating system you want to install, and several gigabytes of free disk space to hold the new operating system.

In Virtualbox, press the New button to start the operating system install process. You’ll need to point Virtualbox to the installation CD or file and then let Virtualbox know what operating system you’re installing by selecting it from the list shown. For most operating systems you can leave the rest to the defaults Virtualbox provides.

Virtualbox will then run the operating system install process just like if you were installing on a new computer. From this point on, it’s just like using another computer, except its running on top of you current operating system.

Virtualbox has a lot of more advanced features like snapshots and shared folders, but that’s a tutorial for another time.

Having a hard time with just one operating system? ZookaWare computer techs are here 24/7 to help with any computer problems with remote technical support.

How to Find the Source of An Image

Let’s say you have a friend on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever that always posts horrible hilarious pictures.

These pictures are so horrible hilarious, in fact, that you’d like to find out where your friend is getting them from.

A couple years ago this meant you’d have to randomly surf the internet looking for pictures similar to the one your friend posted, hoping you’d eventually find the right website.

But now many search engines have added a “reverse image search” feature. This feature actually lets you search the web using an image instead of a search term.

It works like this: You upload an image to the search engine and the search engine analyzes the image. This analysis takes many areas of the image into consideration, like color and shapes in the image, and then attempts to match them to the closest image with similar metrics in its database.

This is a really complicated process for the computers that do the analysis, but it’s really easy to use.

Reverse Image Search Using Google

Searching for the source of images using Google is almost exactly like searching using words.

On the Google Images search page, click the little camera icon. You should see new options pop up that look like this:

2014-06-09 18_14_23-Google Images

If you have the web address of an image your want to find the source of, type it in or paste it on the line provided.

If you have an image on your computer you’d like to find the source of (more common) click “Upload an image” and Google will let you upload your image.

After that, just press “Search by image” and your search will take place like normal, with the results displayed just like a normal Google image search.

Reverse Image Search Using TinEye

TinEye is a similar reverse image search engine that actually predates Google’s image search. It also uses different metrics to compare images, so the results may be different than Google. Different results can be helpful in narrowing down where an image came from or finding all of the locations where an image is hosted.

2014-06-09 18_21_00-TinEye Reverse Image Search

TinEye’s search interface is almost just like Google’s. You can search by uploading an image, entering its web address, or just dragging and dropping an image onto the page. That third option could be very useful for people who are not skilled at using computers.

After the image search is complete, TinEye will show a list of all the results it found ranked in order of what it thinks is closest to what you were searching for. It will also provide the web address for any images it finds.

That’s it, now you know how to track down the source of images online.

Need to track down the solution to a pesky computer problem? ZookaWare computer experts are online 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Stop Being Tracked Online

2014-06-06 17_38_29-GhosteryOnline advertising is a trillion dollar industry. It is arguably the life blood of the internet and the fuel for almost all of the web’s most popular destinations.

Google alone is valued at nearly $400 billion and the vast majority of that is from online advertising through its AdWords platform. Facebook, Twitter, and most other search engines are also backed almost entirely by the advertising revenue they generate.

If online advertising were to disappear tomorrow, most of the internet as we know it today would disappear with it. Except maybe Wikipedia.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why all of these online advertisers want to know as much about who they’re advertising to as possible. The more they know about their potential customer, the more they can tailor the advertisements you see, the more likely you are to buy what they’re selling. Knowledge is power.

If you’re like me, you’re not really comfortable with these organizations keeping track of everything you’re doing online. Especially when these organizations have been known to sell off information they’ve collected to overzealous government agencies and other even less scrupulous people and organizations.

Today I’m going to show you how to very easily block the vast majority of online advertisers and other groups that want to track you from collecting your data.

We’re going to use a browser plugin called Ghostery to accomplish this task.

According to the Ghostery website, “Ghostery has the largest tracker database available on the web. We meticulously select, profile and cull over 1,900 trackers and 2,300 tracking patterns.

Ghostery acts as a kind of blacklist against online tracking, preventing online trackers them from seeing what websites you’re visiting.

Note that this won’t stop your ISP from seeing what you’re doing, though, so you’re not anonymous. You’re just not being tracked by advertisers.

Downloading and installing Ghostery is very simple. Just visit the Ghostery download page and install the plugin for your browser.

The next time you open  your browser you’ll be asked a few questions about what kind of tracking you want to block. If you’re unsure, you’re probably OK to select everything. You can also unselect it later.

That’s it, you’re now virtually invisible to online advertisers and other trackers!

Spyware got you feeling like you’re always being watched? ZookaWare techs can remove even the toughest spyware and are availabe 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Search the Web Using Your Voice with Google Chrome

2014-06-04 13_24_24-GoogleWe truly are living in the future. Google has working self-driving cars, Microsoft is testing software that does automatic instant voice translation, and NASA’s Voyager spacecraft has left our solar system and entered interstellar space. All of these developments were merely science fiction 20 years ago.

And now you can even search the web without ever touching your keyboard. OK, maybe that’s not quite as unbelievable as cars that drive themselves and the other stuff I just mentioned, but it’s still pretty cool and would have been hard to believe 15 years ago.

To search the web using your voice, you’ll need Google Chrome. Once you have Chrome installed, open Chrome’s settings by clicking the 3 horizontal line icon next to the address bar. From there, click Settings.

In the settings menu, scroll down and click ‘Show advanced settings”.

Under the Privacy category check the box next to ‘Enable “Ok Google” to start a voice search’.

After you’ve checked that checkbox and closed out of Chrome’s settings, you should be able to start a new Google voice search simply by saying the words “OK Google” and then asking Google any question or search term you would normally search.

Even cooler, if you have your speakers on Google will attempt to respond with an audio response, not just the standard search results you’re used to.

If you have an Android phone, you may notice this is basically the same as the voice activation features that are built into Android. If you have an iPhone, you may also notice that this is suspiciously similar to Siri, Apple’s voice activated helper program. You’d be right on both counts. This is basically the same technology that makes Siri and other voice activated programs possible. But now it’s on your computer.

While this technology isn’t extremely useful or world changing yet, it’s also still in its infancy. I can’t wait to see what it’ll be able to do in another 20 years.

Computer problems not going away, even if you yell at them? ZookaWare technical support agents are here 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Download YouTube Videos

According to YouTube, more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute and more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month.download-youtube

That’s more than 680,000 YEARS of video watched every single month on YouTube.

While I’m sure most of those views are from people who only watch a video once, I’m also pretty confident many of those views are from people watching the same video more than once, maybe many times.

If there’s a video you’d like to save for offline viewing, so you’re not having to visit YouTube every time you want to watch it, it’s actually pretty easy to do.

All you need is a free Firefox extension called “Download Flash & Video“.

After you’ve downloaded the extension from the Firefox plugin site, visit the YouTube page of a video you’d like to download. The icon for Download Flash & Video will turn blue indicating there is a video that can be downloaded.

Click the blue button and the downloader extension will show you a list of versions and formats of the video file that you can choose to download.

Generally, I’d choose a version in MP4 format because most media players support that format.

Click the version you want and it will automatically start downloading for you.

Now you have your youtube video saved on your computer, available to be watched anytime without ads and without even the need for an active internet connect.

The Download Flash & Video extension also works on a number of other video sites, according to its extension page, so try it out on different websites you visit.

Need help with your computer? ZookaWare remote support technicians are available 24/7 for online technical support.

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