Sunday, October 28, 2012

Viber Application Review

I've been using Viber on both my Blackberry Bold 9700 and my Samsung Nexus-S for approximately 1 week and I thought that now was a good time to write a short review on it. Even though I installed/used the program both on my AndroidOS phone (Samsung Nexus-S) and m Blackberry phone (Bold 9700), the majority of my review is based on me using the program on my Blackberry since I was mainly looking for a cross-platform chat program since there were some things that I didn't like about Touch or Kik. Viber is also available for the iOS platform but unfortunately I wasn't able to install it on my iPhone 3GS because I haven't updated the OS in awhile and the version of Viber in the Apple Apps Store isn't compatible with the iOS version that I am still running on m iPhone 3GS.

Viber is a cross-platform phone OS application that allows for voice chat as well as text chat. On the Blackberry platform, it only allows for text chat. According to documentation on the company's website, there are plans to include voice chat capabilities to the Blackberry version of the program but based on the VoIP applications that I've used/tried on my Blackberry, I find it doubtful that it will include VoIP capabilities and if it does, I would expect that the sound quality to not be as good as what it is for the Android platform or the iOS platform.

What I like about Viber is that the registration process is very simple and works via the phone number that is registered as opposed to a username/userID. This makes it easy to add people (or know when people are using Viber) since you don't have to ask them for their username/userID. It also integrates with your phone's address book so that you are notified if anyone in your addressbook is using Viber. If someone has you in their address book (and they have Viber) but you don't have that person in our address book, he/she won't appear as a Viber user in our Viber application.

Registration occurs via SMS or in case your mobile phone isn't capable of receiving SMS (because it is blocked), you can also register the program by receiving an automated voice call. I've tested both and both work without any issues. With the SMS registration option, you receive an SMS on your phone indicating a 4 digit code which you must enter into the Viber program. With the automated voice call option, your phone will ring and you will received an automated message with a 4 digit code that you must enter into the Viber program. In cases of installs/uninstalls, you can only register the phone number twice within a 24 hour period and the application will only work on 1 phone at a time (with the same phone number). If installing onto a second phone and if you were to use the same phone number, Viber would automatically unregister the first phone from its system.

Something else that I like about Viber is that because it integrates with your address book is that the person's name in Viber (if they obviously have Viber installed on their phone) will appear exactly as it does in our address book. It is your phone so why should your contact be able to specify what name/nickname appears on your phone.

Whenever one of the people in your address book install (or have Viber) installed on their cellphone, you will receive a message that they have Viber installed on their device. Some people might have privacy concerns regarding this notification. I don't have any problem with this notification because the contacts will only receive a notification regarding the fact that I've installed Viber if I'm already in their address book so they would already have my contact information and be able to contact me irregardless of whether I had Viber installed or not.

There was a brief problem during my testing period with the text chat on my Blackberry. According to the company's Facebook page, this was due to a problem with the server (Amazon) that they were using but all in all I find the text chat to be very good.

In terms of the VoIP capabilities of the program on my Android phone, I haven't really tested this but it allows you to voice chat only with people in your contacts and does not call phone numbers via VoIP. Because the VoIP capabilities/quality of the call would not only depend on your internet bandwidth/quality but also on the internet bandwidth/quality of the person you're speaking with, for the time being, I don't really have a need for this. I use other phone applications that are 100% VoIP and call actual phone numbers using the internet which doesn't rely on whether the person I'm calling has a data plan or is connected to the internet via WiFi.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will be automatically flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

TrueCrypt Encryption Program/Software Review

Along with the encryption program that I wrote about last week (Axcrypt), I also use another free (open-source) encryption program called TrueCrypt.

What I use TrueCrypt for is to encrypt an entire partition, storage device, or to create a virtual encrypted disk within a file that mounts as a real disk. For Windows laptops/netbooks, I use TrueCrypt to encrypt the entire Windows partition (as well as any partition containing data files). I find TrueCrypt to be very useful because if I happen to lose your laptop/desktop (or it is stolen), all the information on my hard drive is password protected and even if the person removes the hard drive and attempts to read the information as a secondary hard drive off another machine, without TrueCrypt and the password, the contents of that hard drive are virtually irretrievable. This is perfect when saving/storing personal files like tax slips, etc. when I didn't get a chance to encrypt the file individually.

After the partition, storage device, or virtual encrypted disk is unencrypted, the files are completely accessible to anyone who has access to the device whether on the computer itself or via the network. For example, once an entire storage device is unencrypted (such as an external USB drive), if this drive is on the network (and is shared), any device/computer will have access to the contents of this external USB drive as long as not unmounted or the computer is not shutdown/rebooted. The same thing holds true to encrypting the computer's entire hard drive. Once the computer boots up and the initial TrueCrypt password is entered, the files are completely accessible to anyone who has access to the files on the computer (if these files are shared or these files are accessed by a third party program (or person) via the internet). This means that even if you encrypt your entire hard drive but you don't configure your router, computer's firewall or fileshare properties correctly, the contents of your files might still wind up in someone else's hands. If these files are not encrypted (such as using Axcrypt), the person will have access not only to the file but will have access to the contents of the file.

TrueCrypt is available for Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. I've only used it on the Windows platform (Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) and I've never had any issues with it.

Using TrueCrypt or any encryption program on the entire hard drive or on an entire partition does slow down the computer a little bit but I've never noticed any real difference. Any difference is in speed is under 1 second in my opinion (for example, launching Microsoft Word might take a fraction of a second longer but I would say that most people would hardly notice any difference).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Axcrypt Encryption Program/Software Review

I've been using encryption software for a few years and there are 2 free programs that I use almost all the time. One of those programs is called Axcrypt.

Encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred to as a key or passphrase/password. Depending on how strong the encryption is, anyone with access to the encrypted file but without the key or passphrase/password will basically have a "useless" file.

I use a lot of cloud storage or online free storage sites for backup purposes (such as Dropbox,, Google Drive, and Skydrive) and when I want to store sensitive/private/personal files such as tax slips, tax receipts, etc., I find that it is a prudent to encrypt these files before storing them on the internet (or even saving them on my computer). Anyone with access to these files would require my key file and passphrase in order to view the contents of the file.

A key-file is an extra means of protection that some encryption programs support which offers a second level of protection whereby if someone manages to guess your passphrase/passcode, the file is still not usable without a specific file (key-file). This key file is needed to decrypt your file so that it is readable and is used when you encrypt your file. However, using a key-file does carry some risk and that is if you lose the key file or the key file becomes corrupt, your encrypted file is basically useless and the contents are almost irretrievable. Using key-files are great if you have/keep a copy of your key-file on a USB drive and you use a lot of different computers where some of the computers might have keylogging software installed on them. Keylogging software will capture the passphrase that you are using to encrypt/decrypt a particular file but the passphrase is useless without the key-file. Just like someone who manages to get access to your passcode/passphrase but doesn't have access to your key-file won't be able to access the contents of your encrypted file, someone who manages to get a copy of your key-file but doesn't know the passphrase that you used to encrypt a specific file won't have access to the contents of that file.

Axcrypt is a file encryption program for Microsoft Windows. I've used it on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 without any issues. What I like about Axcrypt is that it supports right-click integration with Windows Explorer and it also supports double-click integration which makes it as easy to open, edit and save protected files as it is to work with unprotected files. Something else that I like about Axcrypt is that there is also a standalone program that does not require installation (and can be kept on a USB memory drive) which will allow you to encrypt and decrypt files where you don't have the proper access to the computer to install any programs.

With the right-click integration, I can basically right click on any file and then click on Axcrypt in the shortcut menu and I am able to encrypt the file (or decrypt it), shred/delete the file, or encrypt a copy of the file (among other features).

When encrypting a file using Axcrypt, you are presented with a window where you enter your passphrase twice (first time and then as a verification step just in case you incorrectly typed a passphrase the first time). You are also able to select a key-file for the encryption. When clicking on "OK", the file is encrypted. The toggles for "Remember this for decryption" and "Use as default for encryption" applies on the computer only until you restart your computer.

I find encryption software to be a useful tool especially for people who store personal files on the internet and I have no problems recommending Axcrypt for Windows users since I've been using this program for over 5 years without any issues (other than me misplacing the key-file for one of my encryption protected files and not being able to decrypt this file but this was my fault).

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL hyperlink (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.