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A reader writes: "My Norton anti-virus is coming up for renewal and I'm thinking of trying to go for free with Avast anti-virus. Is that what you guys use and, if so, are you reasonably happy with it?"

We're not surprised that he thought we were using Avast, because our last two mentions were positive. Avast won PC Magazine's Editor's Choice award in the freebie category. Techlicious recommends its cellphone app. But one of our readers said he got overcharged by Avast tech support.

We formerly recommended the free AVG AntiVirus, easily confused with Avast since they both start with "A." But we're told by experts that it is now so loaded with unwanted software that uses excessive disk space and memory, it could slow down your computer.

We use Bullguard Internet Security, available for Mac and PC, partly because we're superstitious about changing after using it for so many years. The one time we switched, we got a virus. Also, Bullguard's tech support, which is 24 hours a day, is great. And they won the coveted Gold Malware Protection Award for 2017 from the independent Austria-based AV-Comparatives.

On the downside, you have to go into the program to turn on anti-virus checking. Click "settings," then "antivirus," then "advanced," then "manage profiles," then "when," to turn on daily, weekly, or monthly virus scans. The default is set to "never, I'll start it myself."

We tried Norton in recent years and thought it was excellent. It's not the resource-hogging software it used to be. So if that's what you use, stick with it. They have a basic version for $40. We'd steer clear of the $99 version that comes with LifeLock identity theft protection, however. Recently, the LifeLock website was hacked. It allowed anyone with a Web browser to harvest customers' email addresses. This is pretty shocking for a company that claims to protect identities.

Bottom line: If you've never had a virus, stick with the security solution you have.

APP HAPPY

Last week, we suggested an app called The Harmony Project by Acoustic Sheep. It produces sounds that put you to sleep.

We later decided that nothing beats the sound of perfect rain. Our current favorite is the free app Nature Sounds by Relaxio, which has many other choices.

If you download the free Alexa app to your phone, or have an Amazon Echo with Alexa inside, you can say, "Alexa, play rain sounds." The difference between the app alone and the smart speaker is this: If you just have the app on your phone and not the smart speaker, you have to tap the app and then tap the center icon to speak to Alexa.

Rivet, a free app for Android and iPhone, offers 3,000 free books for kids. They're mostly nonfiction, aimed at kids age 6 to 8, with eight reading levels. If you tap the microphone while your child reads aloud, the app gives feedback on his or her reading ability.

INTERNUTS

"How to fold napkins, impress your guests." Search on that phrase to find an amazing YouTube video. Napkins turn into a rose, a bow tie and more.

SafeElectricity.org is targeting college freshmen with these tips: Don't overload outlets, extension cords, or power strips. Use power strips with current protectors. Make sure outlets around sinks are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters. (How quickly does an interrupter shut off the electricity when it detects a surge or short-circuit? Answer: as little as 1/40th of a second, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.)

CALENDAR SPAM

One day we woke up to find Russian characters all over our Google calendar. Here's how to remove this kind of spam permanently.

First, click one of the spam items and then click the little trash can. Choose "all events," to wipe it off everywhere it appears. To prevent it from happening again, click the little picture of a gear in the upper right. Choose "settings," then "event settings." The culprit is under "invitations." Change it to "only show invitations to which I have responded."

OFFICE FREE

After having to reformat our test computer, we were ready to reinstall our favorite programs. To our surprise, Microsoft Office 2007 wouldn't install. So we turned to the free OpenOffice.org, which we've often recommended. For some reason, it wouldn't install either.

Finally, we remembered Kingsoft Office Free from wps.com. It's great.

At first, we thought "Who needs any office program?" We use Google Docs, a Word substitute; Google Sheets instead of Excel; and Google Slides instead of PowerPoint. But sometimes it's handy to work offline.

Kingsoft Office Free has great templates for stationery, business promotions, business cards and resumes. If you want a storage account online, you have to activate the software, which costs $20. Otherwise, it's free.

For those of you suspicious of all free programs, both SafeWeb.Norton.com and VirusTotal.com marked it as safe. VirusTotal checks files and Web addresses using tools from 35 well-known companies, including Microsoft, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Symantec (makers of Norton AntiVirus) and others.

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at bobschwab@gmail.com and joy.schwabach@gmail.com.

Business on 09/07/2019

Print Headline: Even with anti-virus options, most users should stay put

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