Posts Tagged ‘software’

Trusteer Rapport for Mac

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Trusteer Rapport is a piece of security software to help protect your Mac’s internet browser against key logging and phishing attacks. It is being pushed by a number of large banks including NatWest, ING and First Direct. I’ve previously written about using Trusteer Rapport on a PC , and today I’m putting up some screen shots of what it looks like on a Mac.

When installed (you can download it from here you’ll get an extra icon next to your address bar. It will be green if the website is being protected, and grey if it is not. You can choose to protect a website that you log into by right clicking on the grey Trusteer arrow and clicking on ‘Protect this website’.

trusteer rapport for mac 1

If you click on the arrow you’ll get an information box like this which will allow you to access the console.

trusteer rapport for mac 2

The first page of the console should look a bit like this giving you the option to disable the Trusteer Rapport icon.

Trusteer Rapport for Mac has a lot less options than the PC version. On the security policy page all the options are set to the highest level of protection apart from the ‘Warn when login information is used in unknown websites’.

trusteer rapport for mac 4

If you want you can set this option to ‘On my partner & my sensitive websites’, which will give you a warning if one websites’s password is entered into another website.

trusteer rapport for mac 5

I have read one account of someone having problems with Trusteer Rapport on a Mac, but I’ve not experienced any problems with it on my MacBook Pro. If you do find yourself wanting to uninstall it you can get full instructions from Trusteer’s uninstall page.

Setup Trusteer Rapport to protect other websites

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Trusteer Rapport helps to stop key loggers from stealing your passwords, and stops viruses or spyware from seeing what you are doing in your web browser.

Many banks are now offering it for free download. You can for example download it from NatWest’s website here – even if you aren’t a NatWest customer.

It is preconfigured to protect a small number of partner websites, but you can configure it to protect other sites you use as well.

You can enable it for each website that you enter username / password / credit card details into. When on the website you want to protect click on the grey Rapport arrow, and then press the ‘Protect this Website’ button.

trusteer rapport unprotected website

Then:

trusteer rapport protect this website

When you are on a website it is protected if the arrow is green, and it is not protected if the arrow is grey.

As well as protecting each individual website I’d recommend you increase the level of protection Trusteer Rapport offers.

Increase the security from the default settings

Click on the ‘Rapport’ arrow in the address bar of the web browser and press ‘Open Console’.

trusteer rapport open console

Click on the green circle with the right facing arrow on the bottom right of the screen.

trusteer rapport green button

Click on ‘Edit Policy’.

trusteer rapport edit policy

On this screen go through all the pull down options and make sure the bottom option of each is selected.

trusteer rapport advanced configuration

Click ‘Save’. You will be told that it is a good idea to restart the computer. There’s no need to do this now. The setting will be applied when you next turn the computer on.

After saving you can close the Trusteer window by clicking on the green ‘x’ on the top right hand corner of the screen.

In my case I was able to turn all the settings up to the maximum level apart from the ‘Block Kernel Keylogging’. I found that this setting prevented my wireless keyboard from working. If you have a problem with a wireless keyboard after installing Trusteer Rapport then you should try turning this setting off too.

Using Trusteer Rapport

Trusteer is only configured by default to protect a few websites. You need to manually enable it for the sites that you enter username / password or other sensitive details into. You can enable it to work for up to 50 sites. Do this for each sensitive website when you visit it next.

When you visit a website that needs username password details, and which is not already protected (i.e. it has a grey Rapport arrow), click on the grey arrow and choose ‘Protect this website’ as detailed above.

When you submit your login details you will probably see this box. Select ‘Yes’.

trusteer rapport password monitoring

Trusteer Rapport will then warn you if this password is being sent to a new website – for example to a phishing website.

Trusteer Rapport password leakage problem

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

If you bank online then there is a good chance you will have been prompted to install a software product called Trusteer Rapport. It is recommended by NatWest, HSBC, First Direct and a whole list of others.

Trusteer Rapport helps increase the security of your Windows operating system by attempting to block keystroke logging attempts, screen capturing, validating the IP address of sites you visit (to protect against phishing/pharming), and more.

On the whole it looks like a good piece of software to have on your computer when combined with an up to date virus scanner, firewall, spyware blocker, and Windows automatic updates turned on. I use it on my computer and intend to continue to use it for now.

However there are a number of worries about the software. RLR UK Secure IT Services has written about some of the worries here and here.

I have a new worry to add to the list.

Password leakage

One of Trusteer Rapports security measures is to warn you if you enter a known password onto a new site. This is a security measure to protect against the password for one site being stolen by another sites phishing attempt.

This is all good stuff. However they have created a new potential problem in the way they have implemented the warning message. If you use the same password on multiple sites (as most people do), and someone discovers your password, then they can use Trusteer Rapport to get a list of other sites that you have asked Rapport which use the same password.

The malicious user will need access to your computer to do this, but if they have this access then all they need to do is enter the password on a new website and they will trigger this Trusteer Rapport warning dialog.

Trusteer Rapport password information leak

You will see that in this example dialog Trusteer Rapport has now leaked that this particular password is also the same password used on 6 other websites.

This means that instead of gaining access to one account, the malicious user could gain access to many of your password protected accounts.

Now you can argue that users should use a different password for each site, but in reality that is never going to happen. People have two choices (unless they have some kind of super brain), they either use a small number of passwords they can remember on all their sites, or they write the passwords down somewhere. Most people will reuse the passwords.

I think Trusteer would be better off changing this message so that it doesn’t print out the names of the websites. Perhaps Rapport could just print out a message saying that this password is in use on other websites, and that this is a new website that has not been given this password before.

Overall

Despite this I’d still recommend using Trusteer Rapport at the moment as it does many things which will increase the security on your computer. You must make sure you use it in combination with up to date anti-virus and anti-spyware.

iPhone apps for learning Japanese

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

There are many different ways you can learn a foreign language such as Japanese. There are classes, textbooks, CDs, applications for your PC or Mac, podcasts, language exchanges etc. Now you can learn Japanese on your iPhone and iPod Touch as well.

I’ve tried many different iPhone Japanese learning apps and am going to review the five apps that are still installed on my iPod Touch! In other words the apps that I found useful enough to keep.

Human Japanese – Version 2.0

Human Japanese is a bit like an interactive textbook. It has chapters covering loads of topics such as verbs, questions, numbers, kana (hiragana / katakana) and particles. In the current version there are 40 chapters dedicated to learning Japanese and another 6 chapters of cultural information about Japan.

human japanese iphone

Human Japanese works you through the various chapters starting from complete beginner level. As well as reading the Japanese words, each word or phrase can be clicked on to allow you to hear how a Japanese person would pronounce it – very useful.

To help cement what you have learnt many of the chapters have multiple-choice quizzes where you can test your English to Japanese and Japanese to English skills.

This is a very well put together application. There is a free version available to download from the app store with a limited number of lessons. If you like it you can buy the full version.

Download from iTunes: Human Japanese – Brak Software

Kotoba Japanese Dictionary

If you are learning Japanese then you’ll definitely need a dictionary. Paper dictionaries can be slow to use and are bulky to carry around.

To solve these problems you can get Kotaba – it is a full Japanese dictionary for free!

As you’d expect there is a search facility where you can type in an English word and you’ll get a list of results in a few seconds. You can also type in the Romanised version of the Japanese word (e.g. watashi, chika) and you’ll get the Japanese words that match.

Kotoba Japanese dictionary iphone

For Japanese words Kotoba will give you the Kana version (in either Hiragana or Katakana), the Romanised version (useful if you haven’t yet learnt the kana) and the Kanji. For words that are composed of multiple Kanji the dictionary will break the Kanji down into their component parts.

For each Kanji Kotaba gives you a whole list of supplemental information which can be useful if you want to look the Kanji up in a textbook.

If you want to save a word for later then you can add it to your ‘favourites’ list – a great feature when you are trying to learn the language. There is also a history list that shows you which words you have recently viewed.

I have just one suggestion for a future version – that is to allow the favourites list to be exported or saved – I’d find it quite handy to be able to save the list to my laptop or print it out.

I can’t fault this iPhone Japanese dictionary – it is free and extremely useful.

Download from iTunes: Kotoba! (Japanese dictionary) – Pierre-Phi di Costanzo

Japanese Pod 101 – Newbie Lessons 1-25

This iPhone / iPod Touch app comes from the people at Japanese Pod 101 who do great podcasts for learning Japanese. They have loads of podcasts available to download for free and more learning material available for people who subscribe.

They have released some of their more structured lessons in the form of iPhone applications.

If you do a search for these applications it is a bit confusing to work out which app to get. There are a whole series of applications from them with very similar sounding names and very little description as to the content. For example some of the apps are listed as ‘begginner’ and others as ‘newbie’. Is one of these supposed to be more advanced than the other? I’ve no idea – but I took a chance with the Newbie lessons 1-25.

This has 25 different audio lessons – each is about 6-8 minutes long. You are meant to follow the lessons from the beginning. For each lesson you can listed to the audio as a single track or you can play it line by line. There is also a brief write up for each lesson, vocabulary lists, flashcards and grammar points. Words that you have trouble with can be saved to the Word Bank to look at later.

japanesepod101 newbie 1-25 iphone

As with all the learning material from japanesepod101 this is a good course to help your learn Japanese. The audio has been put together very professionally.

There are a few suggestions that I have for the makers to make this better.

  • Make it easier to distinguish between the many apps with very similar names. It is confusing working out which one to buy in the app store.
  • The audio lessons are very professional with proper voice actors and good sound quality. However the lesson write-ups look like they have been done in Notepad. They could do with some formatting to make them look better.
  • The 25 lessons don’t have proper names – they are just called ‘Lesson 1’, ‘Lesson 2’ etc. They should have names that indicate the topic of the lesson to make it easier to find the one you want when you go back through them later.
  • As the audio is in an app rather than as an MP3 playing through the normal iPod music player you have to keep the iPhone/iPod Touch screen on to listen to it. It you press the power button to switch the screen off (as you would when listening to music) the audio stops. I imagine that there is nothing that can be done to fix this as I don’t think Apple allow apps to run when the screen is switched off. However I’ve found that it is still possible to listen to the podcasts when my iPod is in my pocket as fortunately the play/pause button is very small.

Overall this is a good set of Japanese lessons – but a few tweaks to the app could make it much better.

Download from iTunes: Pocket Japanese – Newbie I (1-25) – Innovative Language Learning, LLC

Japanese Essentials by AccelaStudy

There are different ways of remembering foreign language vocabulary. One way is to use flashcards that show you a Japanese or English word. You have to then recall the translation.

This is what Japanese Essentials does. It has categories of word lists that you can choose from (shopping, colours, numbers, etc). You can choose which ones to revise and test yourself on them.

accelastudy japanese learning iphone

Japanese audio for each word is provided so you can hear how the words are pronounced.

You can choose to study the flashcards one by one, do spaced repetition and do a quiz.

This is a very simple application but does what it does well. There is a free version with a limited number of words and categories, and a full (paid version) with 2100 words in 65 categories.

Download from iTunes: AccelaStudy® Japanese | English – Renkara Media Group, Inc.

Beginning Japanese Words & Phrases

Japanese Words and Phrases is an interesting app which allows you to learn in several ways.

There are many categories containing lists of words. You can look at the whole list, or learn the list one by one using flash cards. Japanese audio for each word or phrase is provided. Words can be saved to the Study Bank for later. When you have learnt the words you can test yourself using the built in quizes.

japanese words and phrases iphone

As well as the words and phrases you can work through the built in lessons on a number of topics.

There are lessons on the Hiragana and Katakana phonetic alphabets which if you are serious about Japanese you’ll definitely need to learn.

Then there is a Grammar Fast Track 100 containing 100 pages of information, each one about a particular grammar point. For example one is about verb forms and another is about counters.

There is a lesson that gives an introduction to a small number of Kanji, and there are some miscellaneous lessons on family words and polite Japanese amongst others.

I don’t find I use the flashcards much but I have been finding the grammar lessons interesting – Japanese grammar can be tricky!

There is a free version of this app available with a limited subset of features and the full version has everything described above. Another recommended app for your iPhone if you want to learn Japanese.

Download from iTunes: Japanese Phrases & Lessons – TheJapanesePage.com

Friend Quotes – My first Facebook ‘app’

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

A few weeks ago I finished my first Facebook ‘app’… Well, ‘app’ is too grand a word. All it does it display a random selection of your friend’s quotes on your Facebook profile page.

I wrote it just to see how easy it was to make a very simple Facebook extension. As it turns out it was very easy. Everything you need is on their official website – http://developers.facebook.com/. You’ll need to download their PHP library and put it on your web server.

My ‘app’ displays four randomly selected quotes from your friends (if you have any that is) on your profile.

One thing that I found important is to test the app using accounts other than your own. You are not allowed to create multiple standard accounts on Facebook. However you can create test accounts. To do this you create a standard account and then quickly convert into a test account. Full instruction for how to convert accounts into test accounts are here. Just be careful not to turn your main account into a test account!

To install the app to your profile go to the Facebook Friend Quotes page.

Update February 2011: Friend Quotes will no longer work as the profile.setFBML way of adding content to a Facebook profile has been deprecated.

Writing and releasing a free software tool in two weeks

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Two weeks ago I started a mini-project to write a simple piece of software in C#, package it up and release it. Although I had initially given myself two weeks, the actual time I spent on this project was less than a week due to a pest problem, a birthday, and a family visit. The purpose of this project was to learn the basics of a new programming language, and to learn how to package and release the initial version of a new piece of simple software.

Picking a language

I had never written a line of C# in my life but knew that it had similarities to both C++ and Java. I’ve been programming with C++ and Java professionally (by which I mean that someone pays me to do it) for many years so it seemed an interesting new language to experiment with.

I downloaded the free Microsoft Visual C# 2008 Express Edition and installed it. I followed the initial tutorial to learn how to build a very basic application and then started experimenting with adding new features.

Visual C#

Version control

The version control system that I am used to working with is Perforce. I therefore wanted to use a different version control system for this project (remember this is a learning exercise so I want to try new technologies!).

I picked the well known subversion as the version control tool with TortoiseSVN as the front end to subversion. Subversion is a popular choice and is easy to use if you are used to using something like Perforce. It has many differences but also many similarities.

tortoisesvn

What to write?

I had decided to write a Windows clipboard extender. There are loads of other clipboard extenders available but that didn’t worry me. My goal isn’t to create something original, just something that I would use myself.

The core features that I wanted to include was stack and queue support for the clipboard. Normally copying an item of text to the clipboard overwrites the previous item. I wanted the previous values to be stored in either a queue or a stack. e.g.

I copy (using Ctrl-C) the values ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’.
I then paste (using Ctrl-V) and the pasted values are ‘one’, ‘two’ and then ‘three’. This is the queue behaviour.
If using the stack the pasted values would be ‘three’, ‘two’ and finally ‘one’.

Online help with writing the software

As I was completely new to C# and its APIs, I had to do a lot of searching to find out how to do Clipboard operations. The Visual C# help system was also very good.

There is a huge amount of help for almost any C# problem you can think of on the internet so it wasn’t hard to find out how to solve any problem that I had. In particular the following articles were very helpful:

  1. Create a Windows Clipboard Monitor in C# using SetClipboardViewer
  2. Global System Hooks in .NET

Writing a EULA

When releasing software you would normally ship an end-user licence agreement (EULA) along with the software. This tell the user what they can and can’t do with your software.

If you want to open source your software there is a good source of licensing information at the Free Software Foundation.

In my case I wanted the software to be free to use but proprietary (I’m not shipping the source). It is harder to find information on how to produce a licence in this case. One option is to look at existing licences and adapt any bits you like. I used the XS EULA Generator (update: sadly the tool no longer exists) and then adapted it for my needs.

Creating an install package

Once I had written my clipboard extender (which I named nbClipboard) I needed some way to package it up with a Windows installer.

After looking around the best option seemed to be Inno Setup combined with ISTool (a front end for Inno Setup). You can download both together by going to the Inno Setup website and downloading the QuickStart Pack.

ISTool

This creates a professional looking software install executable which looks identical to the install tools used by many popular software applications.

nbClipboard setup wizard

Making a PAD file

To release software you can add it to your own website and in addition you may want it to be added to the many software download websites out there. Almost all software download websites require you to submit a PAD file (Portable Application Description). This file describes all the attributes of your software (purpose, author, screenshots, OS requirements etc) in a standard format which allows these download sites to stay up to date.

The format was created by the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) and they have a free PADGen tool that you can use to create the PAD file.

padgen

Releasing the software

After creating the install package and the PAD file I uploded both of them to my website and then submitted the PAD file to the ASP repository (a store of PAD files that many software download sites use as a data source).

Just two hours after making the submission nbClipboard had appeared on two download sites and was even appearing in the Google search results as a result of one of these download sites being indexed. In the next few days it appeared on other download sites as well. You may want to note that the sites that pick these PAD files up automatically seem to be the small download sites. If you want your software to appear on better known directories such as Tucows and download.com you’ll need to handle the submission manually.

nbClipboard

nbClipboard is available from the below link and it might be available from some small software download sites as well – if you can find them!

nbClipboard Clipboard Extender

nbClipboard - adds queue and stack support to the Windows clipboard

It certainly won’t win any awards but then I was more interested in going through the whole process of writing and releasing a new software tool than creating something which was ground breaking.

Self Assessment and clever PDFs

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

For 05-06 I was able to use the HMRC free online self-assessment tax form which proved to be very easy to fill in and which did most of the tax calculations automatically. This year I wasn’t able to do this as I needed to fill in the Capital Gains Tax supplement. This supplement isn’t included in the sections available on the HMRC free online tax software.

There were therefore two option:

  1. Fill in the paper forms. Complicated, not fun, and easy to screw up.
  2. Investigate some 3rd party software to fill in the tax return.

The Inland Revenue has a list of approved software listed on their website. The software from ftax looked the best to me – they have a demo on their site if you want to see. The look and feel is identical to the paper forms. It allows you to fill in the main form and all the supplemental sections.

I purchased the software and downloaded it to my desktop. I went to my desktop and was expecting to find an exe or a zip file. I could find anything that looked like an installable application so I went back to the ftax site and downloaded it again.

Once more I could see nothing that looked like an install file for this software. I did however spot a PDF called SA2007. I was puzzled as I was expecting some software to be downloaded, not a PDF.

I opened the PDF and it became clear. This is no static, dumb PDF. This is the King of PDFs. You can fill in fields, save the data and press buttons to calculate your tax figures, and to submit your final return. It really is an amazing use of the PDF file format, I never realised PDFs could do this kind of thing. Many of the tax calculations are automatically done for you which makes it really easy to fill in. There is a lot of field validation in there as well, so you don’t mess up the form as you can easily do with the paper version.

The official (and free) HMRC software also does automatic calculations and validation, but if you need to fill in any supplemental pages that aren’t covered by the free software then I can definitely recommend a package like this. I haven’t yet submitted my return so I won’t be fully convinced until I have my submission receipt from HMRC but it is looking good so far.

Update 2010: The online self assessment tax forms from the HMRC do now allow you to declare capital gains.