Strange folders and files appeared on my disk

I’ve noticed an increased number of people asking about strange files and folders appearing on their computer drives. Like this…

cybereason_ransomfree_honeypotfiles

Cybereason_RansomFree_HoneypotFolders.png

These folders and files are named randomly to avoid being targeted or ignored by ransomware writers.

I’ve instantly recognized the pattern with users asking about these “strange” files…

It’s Cybereason’s RansomFree Anti-Ransomware tool, the one I’ve actually wrote about here and I’ve even tested it myself and it’s very effective. You can read more about it here.

Cybereason RansomFree also notifies users about this, but either people click over it quickly or forget about it…

Cybereason_RansomFreeNote.png

These folders and files are called “honeypot” files and they are placed there to trick ransomware into fiddling with them and when ransomware does that, RansomFree pounces on it. Ransomware is captured and you don’t actually lose any of your real documents.

Be aware that if you have such strange files and you haven’t installed Cybereason’s RansomFree or any other security product that uses similar protection mechanism, I suggest thorough scanning of the computer with security software (antivirus).

DeLonghi AC230 Air Purifier review

This might be a bit unusual thing to be reviewed on my page, but in a way it is related. Every PC user knows dust is the seed of evil. Clogs filters, clogs coolers and fans and it’s just nasty and annoying. If you have a computer that runs almost 24/7, you know dust gathers like crazy inside it and around it. I also happen to sleep in the same room which makes it even worse. I’ve been thinking of getting air purifier for months, but couldn’t really decide. There are literally hundreds of them, mostly what I’d consider as no-name brands. There are also from well known vendors like Sharp, Philips and so on, but they cost a fortune and are ridiculously hard to buy, at least in my country. But in the end, based on several factors, I have decided for air purifier from a well known Italian appliances manufacturer DeLonghi. I have opted for the highest model AC230 because the price difference as well as dimensions of the unit weren’t particularly higher compared to their more basic AC100 and AC150 units. Plus I’ve heard filters for AC230 are significantly easier to obtain than for other two units. Have been using AC230 for several months now, with review being mostly written in the Draft folder, here is my final experience…

DeLonghi AC230

Construction and design

AC230_Unit.jpg

The unit is very sturdy and has no rattling elements. Maybe the rear case plastic is a bit cheap on touch, but the front one you’ll see most of the time is very high quality. The front plastic cover imitates shiny sandblasted metal which also looks very nice. This front panel is locked in place with magnets which make it really easy and durable. No hinges or mechanisms, just strong magnets. Certainly a good and durable design decision. Only bad design choice I’ve noticed so far is the cable storage compartment on the bottom of the unit. Its cover is attached with screws which point out of the case almost as much as the rubber feet. I can see this as a potential problem for delicate floor if you drag the unit around, it might scratch it. Especially over time as rubber feet will wear or compress because of weight and time. I’ve removed all 4 screws on the bottom just to be sure.

Filtration

It has a 5 stage filtration. Washable pre-filter for larger particles, HEPA filter rated to filter particles larger than 0.3 microns, active carbon filter to absorb toxic fumes and odors, Nano Silver filter with anti-bacterial effect and lastly a TiO2+UV photo-catalytic filter. UV light by itself kills viruses and bacteria by disrupting their cell structure with UV radiation. And with usage of TiO2 (titanium dioxide) mesh, it further enhances this action.

Filter is rated at 720 hours which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I think I know the reason why they rate it at such low number of operating hours. HEPA filter itself may last a lot longer. I’m speculating 6-12 months actually, depending on usage and amount of dust. It’s the active carbon filter that wears out so quickly. So, if you mostly care about dust filtering, you can just ignore the 720 hours recommended replacement cycle. I would still recommend filter replacement at least once a year.

Be aware that HEPA and Active Carbon filter are bonded together. To replace one, you automatically replace both.

I did find another flaw, a green/grey mesh “filter” covering UV bulb started dissolving, I’m guessing it’s because of UV bulb. After removing it, location where it was pressing against UV bulb was just crumbling into dust. I don’t think it was meant to be like this, so I removed it to avoid potential dispersion of these particles into the air. UV bulb is still covered with plastic case mesh for protection.

Make sure to regularly clean pre-filter. I also clean HEPA here and there using vacuum cleaner furniture brush at lowest vacuum cleaner speed and gently go across entire filter surface from the dust receiving side (white one, not the carbon granules side).

Control panel

AC230_Controls.jpg

From left to right…

  • FILTER light which warns you to replace filter (time based, 720 hours of operation)
  • RESET button below it to reset the status after replacement of the HEPA filter
  • AQS control for the front red/orange/blue lighting
  • IONIZER button to toggle ionizer on/off
  • 3 manual fan speeds (Low, Medium and High)
  • AUTO button for automatic fan speed based on AQS air quality sensor
  • Off timer with 1, 2, 4, 8 hours settings
  • ON/OFF button

Buttons are full touch operated and they glow brightly, but they go into dim mode after few seconds. They emit some light to the room, but it’s not annoying even during night. Every touch of any button creates a beeping sound as a feedback for changed settings.

AQS (Air Quality System)

DeLonghi AC230 comes with sensors which detect various particles from fumes, smoke, gases etc and activates the higher ventilation speed depending on severity of the detected impurities to accelerate air cleaning. AQS system is always active, but you can decide not to obey it by manually selecting a desired ventilation speed. To use AQS system, you have to press AUTO button on the control panel. When using manual speed settings, AQS will still show the state of air quality, but will not modify fan speed even if air quality changes.

Pressing AQS button on control panel only enables or disables air quality status lighting, which is useful for night operation, so it’s not too distracting.

AC230_AQS_States.jpg

Orange is very bad air quality, green means acceptable and blue is for excellent air quality.

There is general misconception that AC230 units have a hardware bug which makes them stuck in certain AQS colored mode. Based on my observations, sometimes air becomes so bad, AC230 is not able to improve it. Opening door or window of the room for few seconds made the unit cycle back to green and later to blue mode. I have also noticed removal of the small green/grey mesh in front of UV bulb improved things a lot and the unit is now able to maintain blue state much easier for some reason.

Ionizer

Like many air purifiers, this one comes with ionizer which is using high voltage needles with ionizing tips to generate negative ions. It’s actually an useful feature sometimes, because it can neutralize bad smells and force dust to fall on surfaces instead of floating around, but can also be annoying if you cannot turn it off. Ionizers create ozone (O3) which is an irritating oxidizing gas and can cause problems with some users. Luckily, AC230 unit has a dedicated ION button to turn it on or off at any time. It’s a simple thing, but you will often not find this even on units 5 times more expensive!

Night usage and noise

As I’ve said before, top control panel emits some light, but gets dimmer when nothing is pressed for few seconds. AQS air quality lights can also be turned off. In terms of emitted light footprint, it’s pretty good and isn’t annoying. Would be nice if there was also option to fully disable even control panel lights entirely. I’m sure some users would appreciate it.

Noise levels are very subjective thing, but if you have the AC230 unit running at Low speed, it’s reasonably quiet. If there are any other noises like quiet music, TV being turned on or having a conversation, you won’t even hear it. At Medium and High speeds however it is quite noticeable. I only use these modes when I’m not around and I want to accelerate filtration.

Sleeping with this unit nearby is possible, but if you’re not used to constant static noises nearby, you’ll want to disable it for the duration of the night.

My room has high temperature changes from very cold to very hot sometimes and I’ve noticed fan noise does change depending on temperature. Most of the time it has an uniform, even noise, but sometimes it goes into a bit more annoying oscillating noise. Imagine having a fan that is not balanced perfectly. It sounds like that here and there and that is in fact more annoying. This also changes depending on distance and angle from the unit.

In general, I think noise levels are very good.

Specifications and comparison with smaller models

AC230_Specs.gif

Power consumption

Measured with Voltcraft Energy Check 3000 consumption monitoring device on European 230V wall socket.

Consumption at given fan speed:

  • Low: ~41 W
  • Medium: ~47 W
  • High: ~60 W

Additional consumption for optional features:

  • Ionizer: 0.4 W
  • AQS LED status lights: 0.6 W

My usage and results

All observations are based on me having AC230 unit only 1m (~3.3ft) away from my head during day and around 3m during night. Unit is running pretty much 24/7 and is placed on a piece of furniture, 110cm above the ground which is less than ideal, but only option for me. Recommended placement is on the floor.

It did not eliminate dust problems entirely, to achieve that you have to run the air purifier at maximum speed at all times in order to catch more dust particles while they are floating in air and even then, some would still fall on surfaces. But I can sense being a lot less irritated by dust and I also noticed there is a lot less dust being accumulated on surfaces and also inside my computer. Indication of its efficiency is also the amount of dust caught on the pre-filter. It was a moderate amount during a year, but rather large amount during winter time because the heating makes dust particles circulate around the room a lot more. DeLonghi AC230 unit is clearly catching dust in its filtration system.

Verdict

All in all, a very good all around air purifier. Is well made despite few silly design flaws, has good noise levels, has settings not found even on most expensive units and it’s simply doing its job rather well. There is really nothing that bothers me very much and for the price, it was a very good purchase. I’m still using the first HEPA filter, so I can’t comment on parts availability, but we do have official DeLonghi service chain in my country and filters aren’t that expensive based on prices found in online stores like Amazon. If you’re looking for a good and affordable air purifier, DeLonghi AC230 is an excellent choice for sure.

Cybereason RansomFree Anti-Ransomware

We all know ransomware is on the rise and it’s one of the most annoying types of attack in recent years. I mean, in the past systems got infested with various junk that was hard to clean, but essentially, you could always just start over by reinstalling Windows. Ransomware changed that, because it attacks stuff that’s irreplaceable. User files like documents and photos. You can’t just stat over by reinstalling Windows.

Now, the only 100% protection is backup of your data, but reality is, it’s really annoying to constantly make backups by hand and if you have it automated, we’ve already seen malware and ransomware which ruins your backups as well. So, I personally prefer prevention, rather than remedy or backups to the whole thing.

There are various tools and protection systems of which some can be found here. One tool however stands out a bit, for two reasons mostly and that’s because it’s free and provides very high generic protection against known and unknown ransomware and they are continuously improving it. It is called…

Cybereason RansomFree

Like anything, nothing is ever 100%. But if you can dramatically decrease the chances of getting hit by ransomware, I’m sure anyone would take it. It’s like with real vaccines. There is always small chance it still won’t be effective against one specific strain of flu, but if it can protect you from 95% of it, wouldn’t you take the “chance”?

I’ve made a test of it recently and you can see for yourself how effective it is.

When out of several strains only 3 types got past RansomFree defenses, I’d say that’s pretty damn good or something that’s free and consumes nearly no resources.

And today I’ve even received news about new version 2.1.1 which also addresses the mentioned issues of not protecting non-system partitions as well as potential other improvements thanks to our tests that showed the flaws. If they can figure out Petya strain, that would be also awesome. But they are already doing a good job as it is and I can only recommend this software to everyone who value their personal files.

DOWNLOAD

https://ransomfree.cybereason.com

Double layer tortilla pizza

I know my blog isn’t exactly known for cooking stuff, but I like doing that when I’m not fiddling with computers. I also happen to love pizza. But I’m just too darn lazy to make pizza dough myself. I was doing it for a while, but it’s just too time consuming and unless you follow recipe to the letter, you’ll get dough that is hard to work with, especially since I usually do it using full grain flour which is especially demanding.

I’ve tried everything from frozen pizza’s, frozen dough in blobs as well as pre-shaped frozen dough. And it just never ended up actually good, not to mention anything frozen takes forever to bake. And that’s when innovation happened. πŸ™‚

Tortillas. Instead of bothering with the dough, you simply buy already done tortilla wraps which come in many different types like plain white wheat to corn tortillas and I’ve once even had spicy wheat ones. But I’ve gone even further. In the past I’ve made it using single tortilla and they were a bit to thin. It’s what most online tortilla pizza guides do. So, I’ve made double layered tortilla dough with mozzarella cheese in the middle to get a bit of an extra thickness. And it’s sooooooo gooooooood πŸ™‚

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Double layer tortilla pizza

Ingredients for classic pizza:

  • 2x tortilla wraps (wheat, corn or any other)
  • Gritted mozzarella cheese
  • Ham (or pepperoni)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Oregano or a pizza mix of spices
  • Fresh or canned mushrooms (fresh white champignons in my case)

IMG_20161221_103302.jpg

In the end, ingredients can be anything you want. Either classic or veggie, maybe you fancy it with tuna, best part of all this is that ingredients don’t have to be thoroughly cooked. Only thing that really needs that are mushrooms and even those are done super fast. You can also replace ham with bacon and replace mushrooms with some onion and then top it up with a bit of a spicy BBQ sauce. Or my other favorite, mushroom pizza with Boletus Edulis mushrooms topped with yogurt, garlic, chili and chives sauce. Combinations are endless.

Preparing the double layer tortilla “dough”

Lay one tortilla flat and spread mozzarella cheese across it in a thin layer and then place second tortilla on top, like so…

IMG_20161221_103511.jpg

Why stack just two tortillas when you can also use cheese in the middle πŸ™‚

Layering the ingredients

I like ingredients stacked in such order, but you can do it in whatever way you want. You can also use whatever ingredients you prefer really.

But you always start with tomato sauce and if you want, also some spices…

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Then comes a layer of ham…

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And a layer of mozzarella cheese and again some spices…

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Some mushrooms. I prefer the fresh ones because they taste better and take no longer to prepare than opening a can and draining the salted water…

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Baking process

Since all ingredients apart from mushrooms are already edible as is, baking process takes no time at all. You can do it in a frying pan, in a classic oven placed at the very top with a grill mode or like I’ve done it, in a table top convection oven. I like this one because it’s right underneath the heating element and it requires no pre-heating what so ever. You just drop it in for around 5 minutes or until you get a desired level of crunch with the ingredients on top.

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Inside table top convection oven…

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Finished double layer tortilla pizza

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Enjoy!

ASUS released new firmware v3.0.0.4.380.4180 for ASUS RT-AC87U router!

ASUS has released a larger bug and security update for the RT-AC87U router.

ASUS RT-AC87U Firmware version 3.0.0.4.380.4180

Security related
– Updated OpenSSL library to 1.0.2j to fix security issues.
– Updated Dropbear SSH to 2016.74 to fix security issues.
– Fixed a security vulnerability regarding XSS.
– Fixed a security vulnerability regarding CSRF.
– Added protection for Brute-force attack.

Bug fixed
– Fixed Chrome, Edge and IE compatibility issues.
– Fixed quick internet setting wizard compatibility issues.
– Fixed NAT issue caused by UPnP media server.
– Fixed dual wan issues in PPPoE or PPTP or L2TP + DHCP environment.
– Fixed AiCloud related issues.

Modified
– Updated NAT Acceleration setting help message.
– Supported Google DDNS .
– Modified the Quick Internet Setting wizard behavior to enhance compatibility.
– Enabled smart sync under AP/Media Bridge.
– Supported new 3G/LTE USB dongle, Docomo L-03D.

Grab it here (select β€œOthers” as OS version):
http://www.asus.com/us/Networking/RTAC87U/HelpDesk_Download/

Bitdefender Antivirus Free 2017 released!

Some years ago, Bitdefender released a widely popular free version of their product in a very trimmed down version with minimal settings and most of detection based on cloud lookup opposed to full fledged protection offered by their main paid for programs.

It was very popular because it was free, fast and had very high detection ratio. But then Windows 10 came and there were problems with its drivers which for some reason never got updated even though their main lineup was fully compatible already. This new version (I call it 2017 even though it doesn’t have such official name) was in beta for quite a while, but has been released into public final version.

BD_Free_2017.png

BD_Free_2017_2.png

As you can see (apart from white border of the bottom screenshot merging with my page background πŸ˜› ) it’s again super simple. You basically have no settings to control other than one button to initiate full system scan, one protection switch which allows you to toggle protection on and off on your own. Exclusions and quarantine are only under user control once something is detected first and user decides to release the file from quarantine and exclude it. You can’t exclude things in advance by adding file or folder paths on your own like in other antiviruses. Some don’t like this, but it’s perfect for most casual users since it just protects them with minimal interference and interface that isn’t overwhelming at all.

I haven’t yet tested it’s protection capabilities, but since it’s from Bitdefender which has always been at the top of all protection charts, it should be pretty effective despite lacking a lot of advanced protective features found in their paid product.

Be aware that Bitdefender Antivirus Free requires registration of a Bitdefender account and being logged into that account within the antivirus in order to use it for free. Registration itself is free, I just wanted to let you guys know, because I know some don’t like antiviruses which require this.

DOWNLOAD:

http://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/free.html

Samsung Magician 5.0 SSD software released!

I don’t know, either Samsung actually listened to my complaint on 19th November or it’s all just a pure coincidence πŸ™‚ Because here it is, a major overhaul of the Samsung Magician software. This time in version 5.0 which comes with fixed SATA and AHCI detection as well as entirely new interface (which looks absolutely amazing I have to add) and new tray icon.

Samsung_Magician_5.0.png
New Samsung Magician 5.0 interface

This has to be by far the best interface design I’ve seen in years. It’s super minimalistic, looks really nice and is very responsive. And as you can see, very informative as well. But not too cluttered. Asian companies used to be famous for their botched interface designs, but this thing, this defies old stereotypes and puts many western designs to shame. Really nice job Samsung!

Download

Download latest Samsung Magician

Download Samsung Magician 5.0 (Mirror)