Adobe’s Moved Creative Suite Exclusively To The Cloud. Is This Good Or Bad?

cc-toolsAdobe has announced that, from now on, the only way to get Creative Suite is via the cloud. That’s right, no more boxed versions of CS – you get it via the Internet or no Photoshop or Illustrator for you. Many people are wondering how this is going to work in the real world, myself included.

Related article: The Register: Adobe kills Creative Suite – all future features online only

I’ll preface this by noting that I’ve worked with graphic designers throughout my career, and do web design myself. These are tools I use, so I’m more than a little concerned about what this is going to entail. I have my doubts as to whether making CS exclusively cloud is such a great idea.

I can’t help but think of all the graphic designers I know who are still using older versions of CS, either because they can’t afford to upgrade their computers or because they have client requirements that can only be met with older versions.

Bear in mind, a graphic designer’s computer is not a $500 PC. (Or, it shouldn’t be.) Most of them use Macs because it’s the standard in graphic design. Yes, Macs are more expensive, but in my experience they last longer than those bargain basement PCs. Those who use PCs use the super-high-end models. Why? Because that’s the kind of processing power you need if you’re doing 3D rendering or serious layout.

But graphic designers are poor sods like the rest of us who can’t afford to buy a new computer every five seconds. This means there are a ton of graphic designers out there with slightly or more-than-slightly obsolete computers using old versions of Adobe CS to make a living.

They need those boxed versions of CS. If their computers die, they can’t just go buy a new one. Maybe they have to scrape up the money for a new hard drive and pray the computer holds together until they get paid for their current gig. Maybe they have this one client who absolutely refuses to use anything but Photoshop 6 and insists upon files in that format – and they’d love to tell this particular client to jump out a window only it’s their most lucrative contract and they need to pay rent.

Similarly, I know a lot of graphic designers whose Internet connections are far from always-on. Have you heard about the PR gaffe about Microsoft Xbox and the always-on connection? I happen to live relatively near Janesville, Wisconsin (the town mentioned in Microsoft’s PR gaffe) and there are plenty of people around here who do not have reliable Internet access.

If Adobe CS is cloud-only, what happens to graphic designers if their Internet connection dies? Because right now, if their Internet connections are down they can still Photoshop all they like and send files to their clients on CD, if it really comes down to it.

Now, if you read Adobe’s FAQ they make it clear you can use your software offline. But personally, I don’t trust that. They don’t even call it Creative Suite anymore – it’s Creative Cloud. What if there’s some special filter you need that they decide to make online only? What if your licensing gets screwed up and you need the connection to re-enable the software? I’m sure the graphic designers out there can tell you the number of times they’ve had to contact Adobe to fix licensing issues. Let me put it this way… it’s enough of a problem that Adobe has a Licensing Repair Tool.

I can tell you what it’s like to have software that requires the Internet for full functionality because, putting on my gamer hat for a moment, I have a video game I play (Might & Magic Heroes VI) that Ubisoft REALLY REALLY wants you to play online. You can play it offline, but you’re prohibited from using certain spells or abilities. In other words if you want to play offline you have to put up with a limited version. This could quite easily happen to Creative Suite, if it hasn’t already.

(May I note that Ubisoft just had a major outage that prevented Might & Magic Heroes VI fans from using the program? Didn’t affect me. I play offline.)

I’m also concerned about costs of Creative Suite… er, Cloud. On the face of it, $50 a month seems reasonable compared to $1,500-$3,000+ for upgrades or new versions, right? Well… maybe, until they start upselling. How soon does this become like in-app purchases? You get the basic game free but if you want to be able to play more than a crippled edition you have to buy the in-game purchases. Will $50 a month become $50 a month plus $20 for these filters and $15 for those filters and $25 to be able to export to a particular file type?

Okay, my graphic design peeps, sing out: What do you think of Adobe’s decision to move CS exclusively to the cloud? Will you be grabbing a boxed copy of CS6 while they last? Reply in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

 

What To Do If Your Email Account Is Hijacked

My column in today’s Northwest Herald talks about the recent uptick in hijacked email accounts. Hackers hijack your account in order to prey on your contacts by sending spam, malicious links, and outright requests for money in your name. And not just your email account… Facebook, LinkedIn, and other accounts can also be hijacked.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself, not just from hijacked accounts but also from viruses, spyware and other Internet threats:

• Use strong passwords that are unique on every system, and change them every few months. Earlier this week I posted an article about how to create secure passwords. This is the number-one thing you can do to prevent your accounts from being hijacked.

• Use a high-quality security software suite. I used to recommend free solutions for Windows like AVG combined with Spybot or AdAware, but these days I’m finding the freebies aren’t enough to protect you. Norton and McAfee will do the job, but Norton in particular tends to take up a lot of memory which may make older machines run more slowly. I prefer AVG’s paid Internet Security Suite or Trend Micro’s Titanium Internet Security or Titanium Maximum Security. If you’re using free AVG, you can get a discount on the full AVG suite if you buy through the “upgrade from free version” option.

Whatever solution you choose, be sure it is a full suite—containing antivirus, anti-spyware, and firewall—and not just antivirus. And be sure it’s real software and not one of the many rogue security programs that are actually viruses in disguise.

Mac users, you need security software too. My personal favorite is Intego VirusBarrier or Internet Security Barrier. If you run Windows on your Mac through Apple’s Boot Camp or a program like VMWare or Parallels, try Intego’s Dual Protection options: VirusBarrier DP or Internet Security Barrier DP. These include BitDefender for Windows to protect the Windows half of your computer.

• Make sure ALL of the software on your computer is regularly updated. In one of my previous Northwest Herald columns, I talked about the dangers of old software. Here on my blog I’ve also talked specifically about the risks posed by old versions of Adobe (Acrobat) Reader and Flash.

• If you’re on Windows, use a browser other than Internet Explorer. Using Firefox or Opera instead of Internet Explorer offers you that much more protection. If you must use Internet Explorer, find out why older versions of Internet Explorer pose a greater risk of virus infection.

• Watch out for poisoned search engine results and learn how to spot bad web links.

• Never click on links or open attachments in email. Always visit the site directly. For example, if you get an email saying you have a new Facebook message, go directly to facebook.com from your Web browser instead of clicking the link in the email.

• Learn about social engineering and how hackers will do anything and everything to trick you into letting them in.

• And, finally, subscribe to the free email version of Triona’s Tech Tips for easy-to-understand tips you can use to protect yourself from the latest Internet threats.

Web Browser Extensions

Did you know you can expand your web browser’s functionality? Extensions (also called add-ons or plug-ins) are little programs that run within Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and other web browsers. While extensions offer increased options, they also pose security risks.

Some extensions are probably familiar to you. One of the most popular, Flash, lets you see video content on the Web. Flash also illustrates the risks of extensions. Viruses can enter your computer through malicious Flash content, especially if you’re running an older version of the extension. Most people don’t realize that browser extensions, like all software, need to be updated.

To solve that problem, several months ago Mozilla introduced a check for Firefox to help users find and update their extensions. Mozilla is now offering this free service for other browsers. To maximize your computer security, become familiar with the extensions you’re running. The easiest way to do that is to visit Mozilla’s extensions check page, but you can also find them under Tools>Manage Add-Ons (Internet Explorer), Tools>Add-Ons (Firefox), and Help>Installed Plug-Ins (Safari).

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Poisoned Search Engine Results

The next time you do an online search for something, pause before you click. Some of the results you receive are poisoned links to malicious sites that may infect your computer with viruses and malware.

Search engines don’t verify that keywords match results, nor that sites are free from infection. Sponsored ads are particularly notorious. If you do a search for “Windows antivirus”, the paid results are often links to fake antivirus programs just waiting to lure you in.

I advocate the use of link-checkers such as McAfee SiteAdvisor or LinkExtend for Firefox. These free add-ons indicate through red, yellow or green icons whether links are safe to visit. Even so, you should always be cautious. Make sure your security software is up to date and that you have the latest versions of programs like Adobe Reader and Flash (here’s why). You can also run Secunia’s Online Software Inspector to check the status of your security protections.

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Old Software Poses Risk Of Viruses

Starting in 2010, I’m writing a monthly technology column for The Northwest Herald. In January’s column, Old Software Poses Risk Of Viruses, I talk about how outdated versions of your software can open the floodgates. Here are some previous Tech Tips articles on how you can protect yourself:

Below you’ll find links to related resources including those mentioned in the column.

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Fall In Love With Secunia Personal Software Inspector

Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) is a beautiful thing. We’ve talked about how hard it can be to make sure your Windows computer has all the right patches for its software: Windows itself, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash, Java, Mozilla Firefox… it’s enough to make your head spin.

PSI takes care of this for you, by scanning your computer and giving you a vulnerability assessment, with links to download what you need. Call it one-stop shopping for computer updates. While it doesn’t detect every program, it does scan for all the major ones, and that alone is enough to give you an edge on viruses and other threats.

If you want to check it out, give the Secunia Online Software Inspector (OSI) a try. If you like it, download PSI and toast your new-found happiness.

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Mozilla Firefox Expands Check For Unsafe Plug-ins

Mozilla Firefox has upped the ante in the fight against cybercrime with automatic checks for updated plug-ins.

Plug-ins are bits of software that work within your Web browser to provide additional functionality. Mozilla debuted this feature with a check for updated versions of Flash, a popular plug-in used to view video content. Outdated versions of programs like Flash are used to spread viruses and malware.

Firefox will run the check automatically, or you can visit this site to check your plug-ins manually. You still have to update them yourself, but Mozilla’s new feature provides a more intuitive way to do so. You can also view your plug-ins and get more information about enabling and disabling them. The check works for both the Windows and Mac versions of Firefox. It’s such a good idea I suspect we’ll see this sort of functionality added soon for Internet Explorer and Safari, the default browsers for Windows and Mac, as well as other browsers like Opera.

Mozilla says it will continue to expand this feature to include additional plug-ins, which is great news for users struggling to keep their computers free of malware and other threats.

No Click Required: Malware Via Infected Ads

As if scareware (fake antivirus software) via legitimate news sites wasn’t bad enough, now we’re getting a veritable swarm of malware (virus-like stuff you don’t want) via ad services sold to legitimate web sites by Google and Yahoo, among others.

The ad services, including DoubleClick, FastClick and ValueClick, offer infected ads that use malicious PDF files to inflict viruses via bugs in older versions of Acrobat Reader. You don’t even have to click on anything, merely visit a page with an infected ad. All you see is a window opening and closing as the PDF is launched. Remember, Google, Yahoo and the infected web sites are not going to protect you from this stuff. Your only option is to protect yourself.

Your best protections are using strong security measures and keeping your Adobe Reader (aka Acrobat) up to date. Meaning, if you’re not using the current version, 9.1.3 (and I know many of you are still on version 7 and earlier), you want to RUN not walk to Adobe’s site to download the latest version.

Installing Adobe Reader is similar to installing Flash. You’ll have to install Adobe’s Download Manager if you haven’t already, then download and install the Reader software. I’ve put the links for Acrobat Reader and Flash Player in the right-hand sidebar under Help For PC Users and Help For Mac Users.

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Firefox Checks For Unsafe Versions Of Flash

The latest version of Mozilla Firefox 3.5 (3.5.3) includes an important new feature. It checks to see if you have old, unsafe versions of Flash, a plug-in used to view multimedia content.

Old versions of Flash are problematic because they can be used to infect your computer with viruses and other malware. It’s not always easy to tell which version you’re running, and Flash often goes under the radar screen because it’s a plug-in, not a program you run directly by clicking an icon.

Mozilla reports that 99% of Firefox users have Flash. Of the six million users who upgraded Firefox after last week’s upgrade, half of them had unsafe versions of Flash.

Firefox can’t run the Flash upgflash_update_messagerade for you; you have to do it yourself by clicking the link to visit the Adobe site. When I visited, Adobe tried to lump some free McAfee antivirus software with the Flash upgrade; you can de-select that. You may need to approve the Adobe Download Manager (look for the yellow bar at the top of your Firefox window). Once Download Manager completes, Firefox needs to restart. A new window will appear, downloading the latest version of Flash. Finally, close Adobe Download Manager by clicking the orange button. (With all these steps, is it any wonder people don’t upgrade Flash more often?)

While the new version of Firefox 3.0 (3.0.14) also includes this Flash check, I encourage you to upgrade to 3.5.3 for greatest security.

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First Snow Leopard Update Plus Other Mac Security Updates

Apple has released the first update for Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6.1, due to erroneously including an old and vulnerable version of Flash in the original release. This update also includes a few additional fixes.

Even if you’re not running Snow Leopard yet, you’ll want to use Software Updates under the Apple menu to get your copy of the latest Security Updates for Mac OS X 10.4.11 and 10.5.8.