Monday, December 25, 2006

Where Did all the Ephedrine Go?

Please note: I am not advocating in any way, shape or form the illegal purchasing of prohibited products. I am not a licensed doctor, so please check with a doctor before taking any of the products mentioned below. However, because of the abuse of many illegal drug users, people who have a legitimate need to use ephedrine based products are being strictly limited in access to them and this article attempts to shed light on sources to purchase these products for legitimate medical needs.

As you may have noticed if you have been shopping around for ephedrine lately is that almost none of the supplement shops are carrying it in stock anymore. Due to recent legislation and the continuing risk of lawsuits, most companies that manufacturer or even sell ephedrine have stopped. The cause of this is the drug epidemic of methamphetamine production and abuse, which is illicitly manufactured from ephedrine or it's chemical cousin, pseudoephedrine. The herbal ephedra formulas have all but disappeared after an Appeals Court judge struck down a ruling that the FDA ban against the herb was illegal.

So, what's left for the people who use ephedrine as a staple in their supplement regiments? There are a couple options. SupplementPriceMatch.com is having a final closeout sale on many popular ephedra and ephedrine products, even some that have expired several years ago, but were some of the most popular blends available. But, the prices are quite high for many of the generic products and even the synthetic ephedrine hcl tablets in small amounts. Most of the products in the closeout sale are made by a company called American Generic Labs and the formulas are knock-offs of supplements like Ripped Fuel, Xenadrine, Yellow Jackets & Hydroxycut. They do also have some original brands, like D&E's Bolt Ephedrine, Megapro Vasopro, NVE's Stacker line and others. Before the first ephedra ban went into place, I stocked up on some of my favorite products. Now, however, stimulants like Stimulant X, AMP and Spike blow those formulas out of the water in terms of jitter free energy with no crash. Still, it's hard to match the good old reliable ECA stack in terms of successful fat loss.

Another place to get ephedrine online, which will probably remain available, is D&E Pharmaceuticals. D&E makes a wide variety of ephedrine hcl products, including the very popular Bolt Ephedrine without guaifenesin, which some people claim can hinder the effects of ephedrine. Unfortunately, one problem with D&E is that you have to submit a valid ID card so you can order ephedrine, and you cannot exceed purchasing a certain alloted amount per month. Bolt Ephedrine now costs a staggering $89.95 for one box of 272 25mg tablets. That amount is clearly intended to dissuade people who would want to buy this to manufacture speed, but it is also outrageously over priced for any normal customer, even people who suffer from nasal congestion would be turned off by a price like that.

eBay seems to be another place to find ephedrine, although their policies strictly forbid it. Some of the products you may find there might be from other countries that don't have as tough laws on the drug as in the US, and others might just be fake, so be cautious when ordering. If you do order, eBay and it's payment system PayPal, might not afford you any protection you would get from other auctions, since they are just as able to cancel an auction of ephedrine, even after it's been sold - voiding out any insurance that would have been kept on the auction otherwise.

Another obvious place to find ephedrine would be at your local pharmacy, where ephedrine was once commonly found in many cold medicines, only to be replaced by pseudoephedrine, and now phenylephrine - an extremely expensive compound with little in the way of options (such as time released formulas). However, there are still a few ephedrine products available. Although they don't seem to be listed on any of the pharmacies websites, many of them do still carry ephedrine products, but they can be tucked away behind the counter, up high on shelves or in other places that you would need to ask for help from an employee to find and purchase. Yet, another haven for ephedrine is your neighborhood gas station. Although most convenience stores like 711 don't carry it, many gas stations near highways still sell Minithin tablets at the register or in the isle with small packets of cold medicine. Sometimes you may have to ask at the register for them, and you will probably have to show ID for it. Many truckers still use ephedrine to stay awake for long hauls, but many new energy drinks are fast replacing it as a cheaper means to keep from falling asleep on the highway.

One product still sold at most local pharmacies such as Walgreens, CVS, and even some stores like Walmart is Bronkaid. In most states, you are now required to carry a slip with a picture of the product to the pharmacy and sign a ledger to purchase it. In Texas, they will only allow you to purchase a single box, and attempting to purchase more, or go to other stores and purchase more can be viewed as highly suspicious by law enforcement. Bronkaid contains 25mg of ephedrine sulphate and 400mg of guaifenesin (an extremely large amount) per tablet. They are generally sold in boxes of 60 tabs. I found it being sold on Amazon.com as Bronkaid Dual Action Formula Coated Caplets - 60 ea for $9.99 and Bronkaid Caplets - 60 for $12.99 - both appear to have the same ingredients. But, I have a suspicion that the dual action formula might be a slow release form of the product, although I am not sure of that.


Another ephedrine containing product which should be available at the same locations is Primatene tablets, which contain 12.5mg of ephedrine hcl and 200mg of guaifenesin per tablet. It is available on Amazon as Primatene Bronchial Asthma Relief Tablets 60 ea for $10.63 at the time of this writing. Primatene even has a $2 off coupon on their website currently, although it appears to require you to input personal information in order to print out or receive. They also have information on stating that the Primatene tablets are now only available behind-the-counter at pharmacies now.

You may have noticed Primatene® Tablets missing from the shelves of your favorite retailer. Well, that's because in many stores, Primatene® Tablets have moved behind the pharmacy counter. Don't worry-Primatene® Tablets are still available without a prescription. Primatene is still the #1 over-the-counter medicine sold for the relief of physician-diagnosed, bronchial asthma. It's the one that has helped so many asthma sufferers get relief, every time.

BioTek Pharmacuticals also sells ephedrine in boxes with a maximum 24 count per box. As with all the other sellers of ephedrine, it comes with 200mg of guaifenesin included with the 25mg of ephedrine hcl. They also require you to mail in your identification and comply with all state and federal laws. Once you've sent in your info to them, they store it on file, so that once you're an established customer, you don't have to resubmit your information again. They do have reasonable prices and two special offers of buying 3 boxes and get a 4th for free, and if you buy 5 boxes and you get a 6th free plus free shipping.

I've also stumbled across a couple new interesting "legal ephedra" supplements. A company called Viridis Labs sells a product called Ephedra 5 and a bottled tea, appropriately called Ephedra Tea. The Ephedra 5 product contains 100mg of "Ephedra Viridis", a real genus of the ephedra family which is also known as "Mormon Tea". Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information on this compound and it's unknown at this time how much of the active ephedrine alkaloids are contained in ephedra virdis. The tea simply states that it contains "ephedra" as one of it's ingredients, and the FDA specifically mentioned that herbal tea products would be exempt from the original ban.

Are all products containing ephedra affected?

Essentially all currently marketed dietary supplements that contain ephedrine alkaloids will be affected by the rule. The scope of the rule does not pertain to traditional Chinese herbal remedies. It generally doesn't apply to products like herbal teas that are regulated as conventional foods. Ephedra is not Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for foods and not approved for use as a food additive.
Questions and Answers about FDA's Actions on Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids



One last refuge for cheap ephedrine may also be in Canada, where sndcanada.com has been selling 8mg tablets of ephedrine hcl under the 4EverFit brand for years. The price for one bottle of 50tabs is $3.99 CAD, which converts to around $3.77 USD. However, I am unsure if they are still shipping this product to the US. Another place I was able to find Vasopro Ephedrine still being sold at a reasonable price was at Taylor's Nutrition. However, as other sites in the US require, they have a details picture and map detailing exactly what you need to file with them and which states the product can and cannot be shipped to.

Finally, many people will probably have some luck checking on Froogle (now called Google Product Search).

Be sure and check with the BBB before purchasing from a company you haven't dealt with before.

So, would there be anywhere else to find ephedrine? Probably the most unfortunate outcome of the creeping criminalization of ephedrine will be it showing up more and more on the black market, on underground steroid dealers lists and on nefarious online pharmacies. Ephedrine is a legitimate drug with a very legitimate use as a decongestant. Many people find that other compounds that claim to work to help relieve sinus passages aren't as near as effective as ephedrine is, and that leaves consumers out in the cold, no pun intended. Where does that leave people who want an effective fat burner? Probably in the realm of the new and untested world of ephedra free fat loss supplements - some of them good, some not so good.

Good luck in your search and please feel free to post any comments with your results in acquiring ephedrine or any legitimate sources for it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Simple Diet Trick to Help Shed Pounds

No matter what diet you prefer, there is one diet that almost anyone can follow and still have success. It requires no major dietary modifications, no supplements or drugs, and probably not much more exercise than would be normally recommended for anyone. It's called "The Water Diet" and it's very simple to follow. All you have to do is drink 3 full 8oz glasses of water with each meal. One before, one during, and one after.

So how does it work? Very simply, it reduces your appetite by filling you up with water. Scientists have known that increasing your intake of water reduces your appetite, and thus reduces your caloric intake because of it.


The other interesting benefit is when you add ice to your water. Drinking ice water actually "burns" more calories than drinking plain room temperature water. When you drink ice water, your body actually has to heat up to melt the water, a process known as thermogenesis, which is what most fat burning supplements attempt to replicate in the body. However, drinking ice water by itself doesn't burn off sufficient calories on its own to warrant labeling it as a sole factor in inducing weight loss.

A local Dallas area man reported his success using this diet plan to news station WFAA and was successful losing 70lbs in 7 months, a remarkable feet. However, this wasn't simply achieved by adding water to his meals, it also included an addition of sensible diet and exercise to the regiment.

So, would this diet work for everyone? Many people complained of frequent trips to the bathroom following this plan, but that would be a small price to pay for losing a good deal of weight. That effect would also be typical of any type of water pills, diuretics, or other types of fat loss supplements. So if you're dieting, there's no harm in giving it a try to help out with extra appetite cravings. See the video below for more information.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cool Random Links of the Moment

Here are some cool links that I've found or discovered that don't have much to do with each other or anything, just that they are cool. So, here they are with descriptions beside them.

  • TV Links: A collection of television shows that you can watch online. The site is essentially a directory of a collection of a variety of different shows that range from regular comedies, sitcoms, dramas, and cartoons from recent to old and anime. The site doesn't actually host the shows itself, it just links to them on one of the many various video sites that have sprung up lately in the wake of all the Youtube clones. However, I have a feeling that once the copyright owners see this, they will probably have a fit, so this site might not be around for very much longer, so enjoy it while you can. UPDATE 11/30: As predicted, this site is down. However, a mirror has popped up, along with a discussion about the original site.
  • RetailMeNot: This is by the creators of the popular username sharing site, BugMeNot. It's got a similar concept in that it works off user contributions. But, RetailMeNot has coupons for sites, and not logins. So, the next time you want to buy something from a retailer, like Amazon for example, just type in the site name and you'll get back a list of coupons that are available. InboxDollars has a similar list of coupons and rebates from companies it's affiliated with, but are only available if you're a member. On InboxDollars, you have a listing of hundreds of companies and a discount you'll get when using them. Both are free services.
  • HardToFind800Numbers: Basically, the name says it all. This site contains a collection of phone numbers for companies that generally don't list their phone number, or hide it very deeply. Although the site is small, anyone can help by submitting numbers for companies they've found. If you need to call PayPal or Yahoo you can find their number here.
  • OldVersion.com: If you've ever been looking for an older version of some software you're using, this is the place to find it. OldVersion keeps copies of older versions of a lot of popular software hosted on it's own servers, so the links will always be good. Some of the software there is there because maybe the newer versions of software that still work perfectly well have added features that you may not like. Other software, like Napster, I assume is just kept their for historic purposes, like a software museum, of sorts.
  • Optimize Guides: This is a very well put together site with guides for helping PC users to Optimize XP and Windows 2000. It includes tips, free software, guides, and a list of myths that are debunked. It also contains a section on Firefox myths, which is a bit controversial and not all people agree with. However, most of these myths are technically true, I still find Firefox my preferred browser, even over Opera or IE7, if nothing else, for the fact that it has a huge collection of free extensions.
  • NOD32 Online Virus Scanners List: A well maintained list of all the best free online virus scanners. It contains scanners for a variety of potentially malicious viruses, trojans, spyware and others. Most of the scanners require IE and ActiveX, but it's always good to have these available, even when you have anti-virus software installed, so you can scan your system and get a second opinion. Try scanning with ewido or Panda, you'll probably find something that your regular scanner hasn't found.
  • ThingsYouNeverKnewExisted.com: You might have seen their catalog, or remember this company from when you were a kid. I used to love to order stuff from TYNKE, most of which was weird, whacky or just junk. They have all sort of joke and gag items, magic stuff, and all sorts of other neat things you don't particularly need, but would like to have. Just looking through their catalog is fun, you can order a free one today.
  • MenuetOS: This is a nifty little operating system that has a lot of features and is written in pure assembly language, something you don't see much today. But what's really novel about it is the fact that it will fit on a 1.44MB floppy. You have to see it to believe it, if you your computer still has a floppy drive, that is. Another cool portable operating system is PCLinuxOS which you can download as an ISO and burn it to a CD-R, and then boot to it. It includes all the tools you would need to run a full fledged operating system, but you don't need to install it at all, although you have the option to do so. It's got a very simple Windows like interface, so anyone could use it. Try it out if you've ever been curious about Linux but didn't want to or didn't know how to install it.
  • FunTrivia.com: Like trivia? If so, or any type of word games, crosswords, check out FunTrivia. They have a quiz on just about any topic in existence, and it's easy to take them or create your own and accrue up points to move up the ladder and challenge other members. Any topic you know about, they most likely have a quiz about it - check it out and see what you come up with!
  • Streamload: Want 25GB (yes, that's GIGABYTES) of free storage online that you can share with your friends? Streamload offers it! Great for backing up online files. Xdrive, recently purchased by AOL, offers a similar solution, but only has 5GB. Xdrive has the plus of coming with software that allows you to schedule backups and acts as a separate drive letter too.
  • vNES: The virtual NES emulator that has a collection of online ROMs that you can play through a Java console in your browser, without having to download an emulator or hunting around for ROMs. Very cool and fun, but like the TV shows site, might not last too long.
  • SDF Free Public UNIX Shell: Remember the days of having a UNIX shell with your ISP or hosting account? Maybe not, but if you do you'll appreciate this site. The SDF gives away free UNIX shells which you can maintain if you donate $2 through the mail or $36 PayPal. If you don't want to pay, you can use it just to learn the experience of what a UNIX shell account holds. They have tons of apps installed and you can do most everything you can do on any shell account (with the exception of running eggdrop bots and trying to crack passwords, of course).
  • Free Linux Disks: The FLD project gives away free Linux CDs of most of the popular editions of Linux, including SUSE, Fedora, Mandriva (formally Mandrake), Gentoo, Debian, Knoppix, and Ubuntu.
Well, that's all the links for today. If you have any other cool links to share, feel free to post them under the comments or email them to me. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Comodo Offering a Wide Array of Freeware Security Products for Windows Users

Comodo, a company that has seemingly come out of nowhere, has released a suite of applications for Windows end-users that are completely free and do a variety of security related tasks that other companies charge a great deal for. One of their most popular products is their firewall, which is well received due to the recent halt in production of several free firewall products, such as Kerio and Sygate. They also have a suite of other security products that are free for Windows users.

Comodo Firewall
Free lifetime license

Comodo Firewall, rated by PC Magazine Online as an Editor's Choice, constantly monitors and defends your PC from internet attacks. It's easy to install and use and passes the industry's most stringent firewall "leak" tests. Unlike some other 'free' firewalls, this is not a stripped down version but is the full, completely functional product. This free solution comes complete with continual updates that are free forever!

Comodo AntiVirus
FREE lifetime license

Eliminates Viruses, Worms and Trojans from Windows XP and Windows 2000 computers. Features on-demand & on-access scanning, email scanning, process monitoring, worm blocking, full scheduling capabilities and more. It's easy to install and configure; will not slow down your PC by hogging system resources and the full program is free for life to the end user.

Comodo BackUp
FREE lifetime license

Comodo Backup is the straightforward and powerful utility that allows users to quickly and easily create backup copies of critical files. Free of charge, it includes complete file and folder-duplication to local network drives and FTP servers, intelligent incremental backups, e-mail reporting, extensive report logs, real time back ups with “synchronization” mode, advanced rule-based filtering, flexible scheduling of backups, space-saving archiving capabilities, and more.

Comodo Verification Engine
FREE for life

VerificationEngine anti-phishing and identity assurance tool for Microsoft Windows offers an extremely simple way to differentiate legitimate web sites from fraudulent ones. Place your mouse cursor over a site logo. If it is authentic, a green border will appear around your browser. So if you really wish to be sure you are looking at the real www.paypal.com site rather than a clever imitation created to steal your identity, install VerificationEngine now!

Comodo AntiSpam
FREE license

Install Comodo AntiSpam for free and reclaim your inbox. Our powerful challenge-response technology authenticates the sender of every mail – a system that automated spam bots can’t get around. This is the full product, not stripped down ‘cripple ware’ and is free forever to the end user.

Comodo iVault
FREE license

iVault saves time by providing instantaneous logins to any username/password secured web pages such as online banking and email account sites. It also doubles up as a 256 bit secure storage for private and confidential information such as credit card details and social security numbers and protects against the very latest key-logging Trojan Horse viruses.
Their anti-virus software seems to have subpar ratings from most, and is probably not recommended for most people. So far, one of the best free anti-virus solutions is still Grisoft's AVG Anti-Virus. I also have not tried their backup software. Since AOL has been on it's spree of giving everything away, they have developed XDrive as a free online backup option for anyone who has an AOL screenname. You receive 5GB of online space with free desktop software that allows you to have the system as an extra drive letter (X:\). Still, Comodo's intentions seem well placed, and any free suites of security software are always welcome, even if it needs more time to develop. Comodo's main way of making money looks to be by selling Enterprise solutions and SSL certificates. Feel free to post any comments on how the software works for you.

Comodo Free Desktop PC Security

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Proof of the Benefit of Testosterone Therapy

A new study from the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that men older than 65 with low testosterone levels have increased chances of falling. In senior citizens, falling can be quite traumatic and lead to major bone fractures, especially breakage of the hip bones, which become more fragile with age.

Endogenous Testosterone Levels, Physical Performance, and Fall Risk in Older Men

Eric Orwoll, MD; Lori C. Lambert, MS; Lynn M. Marshall, ScD; Janet Blank, MS; Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD; Jane Cauley, MD; Kris Ensrud, MD; Steven R. Cummings, MD; for the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study Group

Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:2124-2131.

Background: Gonadal steroid levels decline with age in men. Whether low testosterone levels affect the development of common age-related disorders, including physical functioning and falling, is unclear.

Methods: This longitudinal, observational follow-up study sought to determine whether low testosterone levels are associated with physical performance and fall risk in older men. A total of 2587 community-based men aged 65 to 99 years were selected using a stratified random sampling scheme from a study cohort of 5995 volunteers. Bioavailable testosterone and estradiol levels and physical performance measures were determined from baseline. Incident falls were ascertained every 4 months during 4 years of follow-up. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate risk ratios for the relation of sex steroids to falls.

Results: Fifty-six percent of the men reported at least 1 fall; many fell frequently. Lower bioavailable testosterone levels were associated with increased fall risk. Men with testosterone levels in the lowest quartile had a 40% higher fall risk than those in the highest quartile. The effect of low testosterone levels was most apparent in younger men (65-69 years) (relative risk, 1.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-2.7); testosterone level was not associated with falls in the oldest men (≥80 years). Lower testosterone concentrations were associated with reduced physical performance. However, the association between low testosterone levels and fall risk persisted despite adjustment for performance.

Conclusions: Falls were common among older men. Fall risk was higher in men with lower bioavailable testosterone levels. The effect of testosterone level was independent of poorer physical performance, suggesting that the effect of testosterone on fall risk may be mediated by other androgen actions.
Source

Reuters has reported that the authors of the study recommend HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for elderly males. They have also suggested that testosterone might possibly be involved with vision, thinking and coordination.

"Like women on hormone replacement therapy, many older men are turning to testosterone therapy to regain some of what has been lost physically and mentally in the aging process," said Dr. Eric Orwoll, a professor of medicine at the school.

The study, appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, said that testosterone decline is a normal part of aging in men. It also said previous studies have shown that older men with reduced testosterone who got shots of testosterone experienced an increase in muscle mass and strength.
CNN: Old-age testosterone decline leads to falls, study says

Solutions for Web Sites that Force Registration to Access Content

We all come across pages online that require you to register. Sometimes these are straightforward, just asking for your email address and a username so you can post on a messageboard with other information being optional. But some sites want more, like your name and address, date of birth, and lots of other details you might not want to give out. Even if the site says it won't sell or give out your details, how do you know they won't? There is no obligation for web sites to follow or even implement a privacy policy. While most sites will ask if you want to sign up for their newsletter, sometimes they automatically subscribe you without your authorization, forcing you to opt-out, or worse.

So what can you do to bypass these forced registrations?

The first and easiest solution is to use bugmenot.com. Bugmenot is a community oriented site that stores usernames and passwords for websites that require users to register to read content. It's a public database that anyone can access, and when you come across a page that asks you to register, all you do is find the link indicating that you have already registered and that you want to login. Lookup the site on bugmenot and input one of the usernames and passwords. They also have a voting mechanism to get rid of old or invalid logins. Making the whole process even easier is the BugMeNot Firefox Extension that automatically retrieves the data from bugmenot.com and inputs it into login forms. Just right click on the empty login field and choose "Login with Bugmenot" and it goes at it. It will even continue to input usernames if one or more fails and prompts you to go and get more if all the ones it tried have failed. If you've come across a site that doesn't have any logins, you can contribute your own username and password for others to use.

The best way to create a new login for bugmenot, or any other site that requests your email address that you don't want to give is to use a disposable email account. Since most sites often require you to activate your account by sending an email to the account you specify and clicking a link within the email to ensure less abuse of their registration system. Disposable email addresses are simply email addresses that are created on a system that have no password, but a username with the domain as the @ extension. So, to login, all you do is go to the site and put in the username, and the email will show up. One might think that this would obviously be the opposite of private, but the object is not to create an email address for you to use permanently, only temporarily. These accounts can only receive email and not send them, so you simply use them to get the validation email and, depending on the requirements of the site you are attempting to register for, the email address itself becomes the username.

A few services that provide disposable email addresses are:
You can also find a directory of disposable email addresses at about.com and dmoz.org. Among the several email addresses I use, I have a commercial Yahoo account that came with my DSL connection, which includes a feature called AddressGuard. This feature allows a user to create up to 500 disposable email accounts. All the accounts have the same beginning, such as abc123, followed with another word or phrase that you can use to associate with the site you're using, and ends with the @yahoo.com address. So, for example, if I wanted to create an account on CNN, I could use abc123-cnn@yahoo.com. I can send and receive from the email address, and specify a color I want to show when an email from that address comes to my inbox. Other email providers, like Gmail, allow you to add a plus (+) onto your email to track where your email would be coming from, such as janeroe722+cnn@gmail.com. Unfortunaly, many sites do not parse the plus symbol properly and when you attempt to register using an address in the above example, it will come back with an error asking you to submit a valid email address after you submit the form on the server.

Finally, if a site requires you to put in your name and address, there is a site to remedy this problem, without having to pull a random name out of a phone book or create a completely bogus address. The Fake Name Generator will create a fake name, address, city, state, and a selection of countries, along with a phone number, a mothers maiden name, birthdate, email address, and even credit card number. The last feature I cannot see what the purpose is. In any case, the credit card that it outputs would not work on any modern system for the intention of fraud that I am aware of. According to the site's FAQ, the data it generates is essentially random, so you won't hopefully put some total stranger's name into a database of potential spammers.

All of these concepts were originally created out of the needs I describe, essentially in order to bypass annoying and cumbersome web registration when a user simply wants to look at a news article or something related. One of the first people to put this concept into practice was Marc Majcher, with his Random NYTimes Login Generator. This was created of a need to read articles on the Nytimes site without having to register and give out private information. It has evolved into sites such as bugmenot, so it can benefit both groups. The NYTimes will not be overloaded with bogus info in their database, and users who know about these functions and don't want to give out private info can use public accounts for this purpose.

What about the potential for abuse?

With things like this will come the potential to be abused. Bugmenot allows sites who don't want to allow logins with it to request it using an online form. Of course, there will always be methods to attempt to break the rules anywhere one goes. A user can use a proxy to login to a site and post abusive messages, or use a proxy to post anonymous information about a legitimate topic that they might not have otherwise. So, the potential for abuse is always there with systems such as this. It is just up to the community and site operators in general to decide on how best to work around problems and find solutions that will work out best for everyone. If a website operator finds that most of it's registration data is bogus, then they can either disable the need to register to access an article or completely remove access to those articles. Obviously, decisions like those and the discussion of abuse is beyond the scope of this article. If you have any comments to add, feel free to post them.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Too little testosterone causes ignorance

In a widely misinterpreted study, the media and the authors of the study have concluded that "too much testosterone kills brain cells".

Tests on brain cells in lab dishes showed that while a little of the male hormone is good, too much of it causes cells to self-destruct in a process similar to that seen in brain illnesses such as Alzheimer's.

"Too little testosterone is bad, too much is bad but the right amount is perfect," said Barbara Ehrlich of Yale University in Connecticut, who led the study.
So how much is too much and how much is the right amount? What is the object of this study if we have completely vague results being shown. The average man produces around 10-20mg of testosterone a day. However, individuals who receive hormone replacement therapy receive a larger dose, and of course the implication being directed at steroid users is that "too much is bad".

"Next time a muscle-bound guy in a sports car cuts you off on the highway, don't get mad -- just take a deep breath and realize that it might not be his fault," Ehrlich said in a statement.
This comment smacks of pencil neck scientific bias towards "big muscle bound guy[s]". What kind of response is this from a person claiming to report on legitimate science? However, what is most clear about this study is how it was performed.

Tests on brain cells in lab dishes showed that while a little of the male hormone is good, too much of it causes cells to self-destruct in a process similar to that seen in brain illnesses such as Alzheimer's.
So, we have a completely in vitro study being equated with the common mythology of the foaming mouth, muscle man steroid user - a totally unfair analogy. Anyone with any amount of critical thinking should draw the obvious conclusion that this same test would need to be performed on healthy adult males using testosterone therapy in a double blind peer reviewed study in order to make any correlation with reality. For now, this is just more hype brought onto a meaningless study by a scandal hungry press and a researcher who seems to have reveled in her 15 minutes in the lime light. If anyone wants to look up some sensible studies would have to consult Pubmed. Unfortunately, there are very few real world studies involving steroid use in humans. So, now we'll have to endure the stigma of people equating testosterone usage with smoking marijuana. If another study were conducted that showed testosterone to be beneficial, it's highly doubtful it would make front page news or a top story on CNN.

CNN.com - Too much testosterone kills brain cells - Sep 27, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Happy Birthday Greta

Today, September 18th, is the birthday of film legend Greta Garbo. If you were to stop anyone on the street and ask them who she was you would probably get a variety of guesses. She's probably most known in contemporary culture from the phrase "[she's]... the next Garbo", referring to anyone who believes the latest actress on the scene is the next big thing - Greta Garbo was (and still is to some degree) the standard to which movie actresses are held up to. Still, Garbo that made only 34 movies during her short career (many of them silent), she continues to be regarded as one of the most acclaimed actresses of all times.

Her films often imitated her life - loneliness, seclusion and heartbreak. She shunned the press and media and essentially stopped all public appearances after the early 50s - the Sphinx answered to no one. Yet, over 100 years after her birth, we are still fascinated with her.

What is it about her that makes us interested in her? Was it her reclusive lifestyle and secrecy, her incredible beauty, her unfulfilled talent? Greta Garbo is the stuff of legends, and legends of the best kind, America's royalty: the Hollywood film star.

Garbo, herself, would have never appreciated any news blurbs about her. She believed her films would stand the test of time and speak for her. So, if you have TCM you're in luck. They're having a Garbo movie marathon running all day. If you don't get the channel, I recommend the Garbo Signature Collection DVD Set.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

AOL Offers Free Streaming XM Radio

AOL, in a move to offer more free services and cut back less on it's dial-up internet subscriber base, which has been losing significant amounts of money since the introduction of widespread broadband use, causing a drop in AOL dialup subscribers.

AOL, or America Online, has become a culture icon in the years since its inception. Both lamented by some for it's excessive mailings of unwanted software CDs, to being the premise for a title of a movie. In 2000 the company was purchased by media giant Time Warner and has never been the same since. Still, AOL has maintained a large presence in the online world, being one of the largest internet service providers in existence, it has tried an enormous variety of tactics to keep itself alive. It has seen the purchase of Netscape and it's open source spinoff, Mozilla, Nullsoft, makers of Winamp, and other companies providing a laundry list of products and services, sometimes related to the companies goals, and sometimes not. At one time, AOL was rival only to Microsoft in it's battle for internet dominance, and there was talk of it purchasing RedHat to create an operating system to directly compete with Windows.

With AOL's recent decline in providing paid internet services, it has modified its business model to allow for a large variety of free services. Billing itself as "The New AOL" it has begun to offer a free version of it's internet software, that includes a free AOL email address and a Security Suite. However, the client has brought significant skepticism from privacy advocates, akin to other so called "free software" that comes with hidden adware not mentioned anywhere except in the pointless EULA. It's been well known that most of the recent versions of it's AIM Instant Messenger client include built in spyware and adware that cannot be removed easily, leading many to opt for alternatives like GAIM or Trillian. For those wishing to use the official AIM client, a free AIM Ad Hack is available to not only get rid of the banner ads, but completely strip it of all the unwanted addons. AOL has also recently come under fire for publicly releasing search data from all it's subscribers. A public relations headache for AOL as it's still unveiling all it's new services from its "free AOL" concept business strategy.

Even before AOL offering up their free services, they allowed anyone with an AIM screenname a free webmail address at aim.com with 2GB of space and antivirus/antispam functionality to rival Yahoo and Gmail. These accounts seem to have been, at least partially, converted over to the newer Free AOL Mail accounts, so it appears that they can be used and possibly even created without installing the new AOL software client. When I went to open my mail, a rogue window of Windows Media Player opened for some reason and then Firefox crashed.

Now, AOL has unveiled their video service, AOL Video, an attempt to mirror services like Google Video and YouTube. Even better, AOL Radio offers anyone with a freely available screenname to listen to streaming XM Satellite radio, virtually uninterrupted by ads, and with a long list of stations, previously only available to people who paid for an expensive and cumbersome radio unit & receiver, along with a monthly fee for the service. Yahoo! Music, which plays ads unless a subscription is paid, also allows skipping songs (to some extent in the free version) and the creation of customized stations based on listeners preferences. AOL's XM Radio doesn't allow any skipping, and rating songs data supposedly only goes to the stations DJ's to "help them choose music". One problem with both AOL Video and Radio is that they require installation of their own players into the users browser. When I attempted to use these services in Firefox, I was prompted to load a "Mozilla ActiveX Plugin" that never worked and does not show up under my Extensions list, making me wonder if it just didn't get installed, or if it installed on my system somewhere without my knowledge and not having the ability to remove it. I had far better luck using the AOL services in Internet Explorer, but still, other services do have an advantage of using preexisting players to stream media, such as Macromedia Flash or Windows Media Player.




It's hard to understand how this new business model for AOL is expected to work. The Dot Com bubble that burst in the late 90s was a model that was somewhat similar, relying on converting high traffic to view advertising and paid subscriptions. The days of AOL may truly be limited now, but it's demise has been predicted many times in the past, and part of AOL's legacy is it's longevity and ability to act as a chameleon in constantly changing landscapes. At least we can all enjoy the free radio while we're waiting to find out AOL's fate.

Monday, September 04, 2006

XP-AntiSpy Now Includes WGA Disabler

Windows Genuine Advantage, or WGA, is a tool that has met which much scorn since it was first released a few months back. WGA is a background utility that is required to be installed on all Windows XP machines in order to download manual updates. The program checks to determine if the copy of Windows is properly registered and has a valid license key. If it doesn't have the proper credentials, it won't allow the user to run Microsoft Update and in some instants nags the user that they are using an invalid copy of Windows and they should purchase and install a correct one. This can happen to not just people who are knowingly pirating copies of Windows, but individuals who might happen to buy a computer from a non-licensed Microsoft Partner or one that includes a copy of Windows on a retail PC that comes with a false OEM version of Windows .

The other main concern about WGA is from privacy advocates. WGA purportedly sends data back to Microsoft on each boot of the machine and it is unknown what this data is or why it does this. It has clearly annoyed enough people that the main discussion on WGA is how to disable or crack the program. One site which was mentioned in a article on C|Net News was forced by Microsoft to remove the links to the cracks they had posted, but a simple Google search will turn up others.

However, now, a popular program for removing background and foreground annoyances in Windows XP, XP-AntiSpy, has included a function for a work around to the WGA issue. The program now has an option included in it's latest version to "Disable [the] WGA check at logon" which it describes as:

If you see this setting it means you installed the WGA check utility through a windows update. This check utility contacts the microsoft website everytime you logon to your Windows OS. If you don't want that to happen, disable this setting. If you want to get this setting back to work you have to install the WGA update again.


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I'm unsure exactly what it does to disable the WGA check, but it is either a registry hack or it somehow uninstalls the utility. XP-AntiSpy has many other useful functions for privacy and security, such as disabling the automatic sending of data back to Microsoft in the form of error reports, Windows Media Player data, and it's time server. It allows users to completely uninstall MSN Messenger, which is otherwise unremovable.

Hopefully, Microsoft won't pressure the publisher of the software (who seems to be located in Germany) to remove this feature of the program, as it is an extremely needed one.

Download XP-AntiSpy 3.96-2 English

UPDATE 9/5: I've come across another program that has a similar function to disable the WGA Notifications. It's called RemoveWGA and simply disables the data that the WGA tool sends back to MS, but doesn't have any effect on the authentication of XP's validity.

Enables you to remove the Microsoft "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications" tool, which is calling home and connect to Microsoft servers every time you boot (pilot version), or every two weeks (current release).

Once the WGA Notification tool has checked your OS and has confirmed you had a legit copy, there is no decent point or reason to check it again and again every boot. Moreover, connecting to Microsoft brings security issue for corporate networks, and privacy issues for everyone. It is also unclear which information are transmitted (Microsoft published an official answer, but an individual study brought some questions). All of that, along the fact that Microsoft used deceptive ways to make you install this tool (it was told you it was an urgent security update, whereas it is a new installation giving you no extra security) makes me calling this tool a spyware.

Also, Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications is different than Windows Genuine Advantage Validation. RemoveWGA only remove the notification part, phoning home, and does not touch the Validation part. As the time I'm writting this, the Validation part is mandatory for some not critical downloads from Microsoft, but the Notification part is not mandatory at all, and you are able to install all of the security updates without installing this one. This may change in the future thought, I don't know what are the Microsoft plans.

Note : once the WGA notification is removed, the Automatic Update will bug you about installing the update again. This is normal, and out of the scope of RemoveWGA (since at this point, the WGA notification is uninstalled from your system). If you are concerned about tweaking Automatic Update to prevent Microsoft trying to push the update on your computer.
Source

Saturday, September 02, 2006

T-Mag Slams Muscle Milk

T-Mag, now known as T-Nation or Testosterone Nation is an online bodybuilding zine that's well known to most in the supplement world as a fairly biased, yet still a worthwhile read most of the time (I syndicate their RSS feed here on my blog). T-Mag is owned and operated by supplement maker BioTest, and has always had somewhat of a laughable element behind many of the articles, since they generally go to great lengths to pimp BioTest supplements. The online magazine was an enormous promoter of some of the worst supplements in history, including the ill fated Methoxy Isoflavone and the so called Myostatin blocker, CSP3. However, despite those failings, much of the information found on T-Mag is very well written and they have some excellent articles on training, much news about the latest happenings in the bodybuilding world, and some of the best writers around. BioTest has also come along way with its supplements, including making one of my personal favorites, is their jitter-free stimulant, Spike.

Another common complaint is of the T-Nation forums, which are reported to be heavily censored towards any criticism of BioTest products and the articles on the site. For a long period of time, T-Mag and BioTest have had a running feud with fellow supplement maker, Syntrax. They were one of the first to have serious criticisms of the compound glycocyamine. A substance first seen in Syntrax's first incarnation of Swole, and the subsequent tide of copy cat formulas that followed. Since Syntrax has turned into SI03 and it's online message board disappeared, it left them in a limbo, with people wondering who is now behind the scenes at Syntrax and does the renowned Derek Cornelius still reside as president? But, the debate over the safety of glycocyamine is a valid one, the concern being that it raises homocysteine levels, which is generally answered with the inclusion of Betaine (also known as TMG) in most supplements.

Now T-Mag has made another striking accusation against glycocyamine - that it is a neurotoxin. Unfortunately, the research they use to validate this is questionable. Used as their first source for this is the study Activation of GABA(A) receptors by guanidinoacetate: a novel pathophysiological mechanism. Quoted from this studies abstract for the method to determine that the compound is neurotoxic: "To examine a potential role of GAA accumulation, we analyzed the electrophysiological responses of neurons induced by GAA application in primary culture and acute murine brain slices." To be clear this study was conducted in vitro and is not sufficient to define glycocyamine as a toxic compound.

The next claim to be made by Dave Barr, author of the article, is that glycocyamine inhibits the "sodium pump". According to the Wikipedia, the sodium pump is correctly termed as:
Na+/K+-ATPase (also known as the Na+/K+ pump or sodium-potassium pump) is an enzyme .. located in the plasma membrane (specifically an electrogenic transmembrane ATPase). It is found in the plasma membrane of virtually every human cell and is common to all cellular life. It helps maintain cell potential and regulate cellular volume.
In essence, the sodium pump is not simply a brain enzyme as defined in the article, but actually a critical transport that regulates potassium and sodium, two highly important electrolytes, on a cellular level. Again, we see the author quote a study not done on humans, or even more pertinent, male athletes. Rats are the subject of this March 2006 study, titled Intrastriatal administration of guanidinoacetate inhibits Na+, K+-ATPase and creatine kinase activities in rat striatum. In the next study we see for the purported evidence against glycocyamine, is - surprise, surprise, "...the pathogenesis of the brain dysfunction in this disorder is not yet established. In the present study we investigated the in vitro effect of GAA on Na+, K+-ATPase and Mg2+-ATPase activities in synaptic plasma membrane from hippocampus of young rats."

However, just because these studies are not in vivo, or even done in male weightlifters or the human species, does that mean there is not valid evidence against glycocyamine? No, the evidence should be weighed as it, since it is some of the only good studies that show the activity of glycocyamine. There is one other problem with the studies all mentioned by Barr. All studies involve symptoms of an "inherited neurometabolic disorder" called a "GAMT deficiency" or Guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency. Guanidinoacetate being another term for glycocyamine. But, what exactly does this mean? What is a Guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency? The answer can be found through a quick Google search with the first result, a PDF study from the UK in 2001.

Guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT, EC 2.1.1.2) deficiency is a newly recognized inborn error of creatine synthesis. The clinical phenotype is variable including a spectrum of neurological involvement from progressive extrapyramidal movement disorder and severe muscular hypotonia, to epilepsy and mental retardation. Biochemical findings include high urinary excretion of guanidinoacetate (immediate precursor of creatine and substrate to the deficient enzyme activity), low urinary excretion of creatinine, and depletion of creatine in brain and muscle. Enzymatic diagnosis is possible by the demonstration of deficient GAMT activity in liver, skin fibroblasts and virus transformed lympho blasts. Prenatal diagnosis has not been performed so far. Symptoms are partly reversible under oral supplementation of creatine-monohydrate. GAMT deficiency is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder. In the 9 patients known so far in the literature, 5 mutant alleles have been identified which are located in exon 2 and exon and intron 6 of the GAMT gene. The most efficient way for investigation of patients at risk seems to be determination of guanidinoacetate in body fluids. Several analytical methods including gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, tandem mass spectrometry and column chromatography are available for this purpose.
So, not only is the author of the Muscle Milk article using studies that were not conducted in humans, but they were conducted on specimens that had a specific disorder that already had a deficiency of glycocyamine in the first place, making them totally irrelevant for weight lifters.

Still, despite all the banter back and forth about the mostly non-existent dangers of glycocyamine, Muscle Milk is still not a great MRP. The author is right about the fats, but he fails to mention the high GI carbs in the protein shake - made of maltodextrin, it will raise insulin levels which will in turn put the body in a prime state for fat storage. Still, MCTs aren't as bad as the author made it out to seem. The other negative for me for Muscle Milk is the worst sin of all - whey protein concentrate. For anyone who is the slightest bit sensitive to dairy products, it will send the user running straight for the bathroom.

But, for most, Muscle Milk should be a "cheat" protein shake. With all the flavors, which are all incredible, anyone could find Muscle Milk as enjoyable as a shake from McDonalds. It should be used sparingly, when you get sick of the Neapolitans - chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, try a root beer or pina colada. But, worry more about the high GI carbs, low quality protein, and questionable fat content in the MRP - not the glycocyamine.

Testosterone Nation - Consumer Report: Muscle Milk

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Final Blow for Ephedra

On August 17th, the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the previous ruling by a Utah Judge that the FDA's banning of ephedra was invalid, thus allowing supplement manufacturers to sell it in over the counter supplements in 10mg per capsule amounts.

The Consumer Health Digest newsletter said the following:

Appeal court upholds FDA ephedra ban.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has upheld the FDA's ability to enforce a ban against the selling of ephedra products as dietary supplements. In 2005, a Utah federal judge limited the FDA's ability to enforce a ban against the selling of ephedra products as dietary supplements. That ruling temporarily prevented the agency from taking action against Nutraceutical Corporation, a Utah-based company that sued to block the ban. The 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) states that to ban a product, the FDA
must prove that it poses an "unreasonable risk of illness or injury." http://www.quackwatch.org/02ConsumerProtection/dshea.html Ephedra products have been linked to several deaths and thousands of complaints from consumers, many of whom have filed lawsuits. The FDA has concluded that "in the absence of a sufficient benefit, the presence of even a relatively small risk of an important adverse health effect to a user may be unreasonable." But the lower court judge ruled that to ban all ephedra products, the FDA would have to prove that they are unsafe "when used as recommended and suggested in the labeling." Concluding that a single dose of Nutraceutical's 10 mg product would not be dangerous, that judge ruled that the FDA could not stop the sale of dietary supplements containing 10 mg or less of ephedra alkaloids. He also ruled that DSHEA did not permit the FDA to compare benefits and risks as part of its evaluation of unreasonable risk. (In other words, whether a product is completely worthless is not relevant to judging whether it is reasonable to permit it to
continue to be sold.)

On August 17th, the Appeals Court disagreed and ordered the lower court judge to enter summary judgment in favor of the FDA. Its ruling concluded that Congress intended to integrate a risk-benefit analysis into DSHEA and that the FDA had met its legal burden by doing extensive research before ordering the ban.
http://www.casewatch.org/fda/court/ephedra/utah2.shtml
After the Utah ruling, some manufacturers and vendors decided to sell the herbal ephedra, despite the shaky legal ground the ruling set. In January, the FDA seized supplies of the supplement, Lipodrene, which contained 10mg of ephedra, from a warehouse in Pennsylvania. This did not determine some, though, as the supplement continued to sell through other marketers. The main hindrance for most to decide whether or not to sell ephedra had more to do with legal and insurance reasons than monetary ones. Some companies are trying to get rid of their final stock of the product now, while others believe that this most recent ruling will start to be enforced after a certain time period. Whether or not this is true is unknown at this time.

However, not all - even some in the government, disagree with the ruling. In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who authored the DSHEA, is quoted as saying "I can live with ephedra being off the market," Hatch says. "But if you give bureaucrats the right to determine the risks and benefits of supplements, the same standard used to evaluate drugs, [supplements] will be priced out of the marketplace just like drugs are now." The article goes on to discuss the possibility of supplement companies being forced to test new ingredients to the standards pharmaceutical companies are now required to do before bringing a new drug to the market. Sen. Hatch believes the original wording of the DSHEA is sufficient to allow for supplement makers to bring ingredients consumers want to the market without the lengthy evaluation process.

For now, however, consumers will no longer be able to purchase the natural herb, ephedra, and instead have to rely on the currently legal synthetic drug ephedrine HCl which is still available over the counter to anyone 18 and older.

FDA Statement on Tenth Circuit's Ruling to Uphold FDA Decision Banning Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids

Saturday, August 26, 2006

FreePay gone Bankrupt?

According to a recent post from a purported ex-employee of FreePay, the company might be filing for bankruptcy. FreePay, formerly known as Gratis Internet, is a company that gives away free products using a referral marketing based system.

In March, the company changed its terms of service so that users only had ninety days to complete the requirements to get the prize, where as previously, they had an unlimited amount of time. After this change occurred, many people stopped doing the FreePay sites altogether, while some tried to finish the requirements in time to get their gifts (myself included). Since the beginning of May, I have been waiting on a Macintosh Mini and a iPod Nano to be delivered to me by FreePay. Many others have reported similar problems with FreePay, prompting Anything4free to drop the company to a "D" rating, and Referral Swapper to remove them completely. In some cases, people are only reporting that they are receiving their merchandise after reporting the company to the Better Business Bureau.

According to the anonymous ex-employee, FreePay has been hit hard by a lawsuit filed in New York against the company for violating their privacy policy by selling their email list. However, in a strange move, FreePay seems to have started a new blog here on Blog*Spot. They previously had a blog on their regular web site. Why they have chosen to do this, I'm not sure. I can only hope it is a good sign that they are actively still at work and will hopefully continue to fulfill their contract obligations and send out customers (some who have been waiting since January) products.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Get $10 to Promote Freedom Online

The authors of a proxy software program called Circumventor are willing to pay anyone who installs it $10. Circumventor was created to help people who are firewalled in (either at work, school, or by country censorship) and allows them to view web pages they otherwise wouldn't be able too.

Unlike other proxy systems which rely on main servers that can be blocked, Circumventor wants to have a range of many IPs, so individuals can connect through your personal computer to blocked sites. By using this method, it would be virtually impossible for firewalls to be configured to block out a range of IPs.

There is very little documentation on Circumventor, except that it is reported to be based off of a similar proxy called CGIProxy. Circumventor can only run on systems running Windows XP or 2000 and you must run it for at least 2 weeks to get your $10. I have not run it myself so I don't know how much bandwidth or system resources it uses. However, the reasoning behind it is genuine, as it was mentioned in the EFF's newsletter. Their intentions are to allow people who live in countries that censor their internet connections, so it is a worthy cause.

If you sign up and run it, leave me a comment and let me know how it's going.

We will pay you $10 to install the Circumventor and share it out

Monday, July 10, 2006

Publishers Clearing House buys Blingo

Blingo, the online search engine that allows users to win random prizes for searching, has been purchased by the direct mail and prize company, Publisher's Clearing House. The new site is called "PCHBlingo", but the domain remains the same. Publishers Clearing House is known for their postal mailings and the TV commercials, which originally featured Ed McMahon, that show ecstatic prize winners opening their doors to news of winning millions of dollars, balloons and flowers.

Blingo is a search engine that queries Google for it's results. A user has a random chance at winning a prize by using Blingo for the first 10 searches they do per day. The prizes range from a movie ticket to an Apple iPod. Blingo users are encouraged to sign up friends under them to help them win prizes. Anyone who uses their friends affiliate link to signup to Blingo will become their direct referral and if they win a prize, the person who they signed up under will also win that same prize. You may only claim one prize per month. Blingo has browser toolbars and plugins to make it easier to be used. The search results it returns are identical to those on Google, and has image and news search functions as well.

Like Publisher's Clearing House, Blingo makes it's money from advertisements. Blingo states that clicking on the advertisements don't increase your chance of winning, likewise, just as subscribing to magazines through Publisher's Clearing House won't increase your chances of winning with them.

Hopefully, current Blingo users won't start receiving unwanted PCH mailings, but if so, they are very easy to opt-out of. PCH says it doesn't rent or sell their mailing lists.

Blingo Buzz - Blingo's Future Just Got Brighter!
Publishers Clearing House Acquires Blingo - DMNews

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cracks.am Firefox Plugin is Spyware



If you've been to cracks.am recently, a site for security software, they have a new plugin that they require you to download in order to download files linked on their site. When you click a link on their site you are greeted with the following message:


The file name for the plugin is "npdlplug-1.5.0.1-0147-setup.exe". It has an icon that would make it appear that it is compressed with WinRar SFX (which it is) and it is only 240kb. So, it may seem that it could be legitimate and you might need to install it to download files, but most computer veterans will see this as looking very suspicious. So, I decided to scan it with VirusTotal.com. VirusTotal runs any file (under 10MB) against most all major anti-virus programs to determine if it is a virus or suspicious in any way. Here are the results:

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The software is an adware program known as Adware Lop, a particularly nasty bit of software that is hard to remove. It seems most AV providers will remove this, however, if you do not have one or need a web based solution, I recommend you run a Panda ActiveScan to correct the issue. Alternate online scanners can be found here. If you are not using an active anti-virus solution, you are putting yourself and your computer at risk every time you browse the web, download a file, check your email and do other activities. Panda Anti-Virus includes an anti-virus and anti-spyware in one package with constant updates that can catch, detect and remove threats like Adware Lop before have an attempt to install it. If you're visiting this page - obviously you've either downloaded the file, installed it, or if nothing else, been wondering what it was before doing either of those. Make SURE you are protected from virus and spyware threats at all times.

Still, even if you go to the website that the plugin is downloaded from you get the following message:

PluginDL.com

For quick and simple downloads!

Download Uninstall
If you click "Uninstall" you see the following clear message that the program is spyware/adware.

Uninstall Download Plugin

Start the installation software (if you removed it, download here) then chose the uninstall option.

Uninstall bundled advertisiment

Go to your control panel > Add remove programs > Uninstall "Zone Media * "

* Previously Search Plugin
There is also a comment within the archive, which is it's EULA that states the following:

Path=Download Plugin
Setup=DlPlugin-Moz\setup2.exe
Overwrite=1
Title=Setting up Download Plugin for Mozilla, Opera, Netscape
License=License and Privacy Policy
{
PLEASE READ THIS END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT AND PRIVACY POLICY CAREFULLY AND MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THEM. THIS IS A CONTRACT AND BY INDICATING YOUR ACCEPTANCE, YOU ACCEPT ALL THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THIS END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT AND THE APPLICABLE PRIVACY POLICY AND WILL BE PERMITTED TO INSTALL THE SOFTWARE. IF YOU DO NOT ACCEPT THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THIS END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT AND THE PRIVACY POLICY, YOU WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO INSTALL THE SOFTWARE.

Download Plugin License

The Download Plugin may not be sold or be included in a product or package.

You may not reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble Download Plugin.
Plugin is an Ad-Ware software which enables the broadcasting
of advertisements, and execution of e-commerce and other internet
related services on the user-interface of the software. You agree to
receive, from time to time, advertisements and other contents through
the Download Plugin. In no event shall the creator be liable for any damages
whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of business
profits, business interruption, loss of business information, or any other
pecuniary loss) arising out of the use of or inability to use this product.
All title and copyrights in Download Plugin (including but not limited to any
images, photographs, animations, text incorporated into Download Plugin),
the accompanying printed materials, and any copies of Download Plugin are
owned by the creator. Download Plugin is protected by copyright laws.

End User License Agreement

This End User License Agreement ("Agreement") governs use of Zone Media Ltd..'s ("ZONE") software product known as Zone-Media.com, and related written materials (the "Software") that you are about to install. The term "Software" also includes any upgrades, modified versions or updates of the Software, which may be provided to you from time to time. A copy of the Software will be licensed to you as the registered end user. ZONE PROVIDES YOU WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO DOWNLOAD THIS FREEWARE SOFTWARE AT NO CHARGE OR A REDUCED CHARGE IN RETURN FOR YOUR AGREEMENT TO INSTALL THE SPONSOR SOFTWARE, WHICH WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH ADDITIONAL CONTENT, PROMOTIONAL OFFERS, ADVERTISEMENTS AND OTHER WEB BROWSER ENHANCEMENTS BASED, IN PART, ON KEYWORDS IN THE WEBSITES YOU VISIT. Before you may download and install the Software, you must agree to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.

1) You represent and warrant that you are at least 18 years of age and that you are the owner or are authorized by the owner of this computer to download and install software on this computer. Because the Software is advertising supported and provides additional content based on keywords in the websites you visit, you agree to provide a copy of ZONE's Privacy Policy and this Agreement to any users of this computer and obtain their consent to this Agreement and the Privacy Policy before installation of the Software, unless you can legally accept this Agreement on behalf of all other users of this computer.

2) By accepting these terms and conditions, the Software will be installed on your computer. If incorrect host-file entries are detected for this Software's related domain names, those entries will be removed in order for this software to function properly.

3) By accepting this agreement you acknowledge that in order for this software to function properly it must communicate with its host network via the Internet from your computer. You hereby grant your explicit approval for this software to communicate from this computer system through your software firewall or hardware routing system (if present) with ZONEs' host network. For users of Windows XP Sp2 this softwares host domain names will be added to your web browsers allowed list for popups. Because this software will incorporate as part of your Internet Explorer web browser package and will run as part of that process when active on your system, your firewall or router may not prompt you for communication access once this software is installed.

4) The use and presence of the Software is voluntary and the Software may be uninstalled at any time from your computer. The Software may be removed through a variety of methods, including going to the start menu, selecting Control Panel, Add / Remove Programs, and then selecting the Software for removal. This software will be listed under the name of the freeware application that it is bundled with or under the name "Search Plugin" for generic installation packages. You can also request a separate installer from support@Zone-Media.com.

5) Acceptance of this Agreement may be indicated by downloading and installing the Software. Bookmarking to a web page whereby this Agreement is by-passed shall constitute an implicit acceptance of the foregoing terms herein set forth for any copies downloaded or installed by such by-pass. You, or any user, may terminate this Agreement at any time, by removing the Software from your computer through any one of the above described methods, and destroying any other copies of the Software.

6) This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of Jersey. This Agreement will not be governed by the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, the application of which is expressly excluded. If any part of this Agreement is found void and unenforceable, the balance of the Agreement shall remain valid and enforceable according to its terms. You agree that the Software will not be shipped, transferred or exported into any country or used in any manner prohibited by the laws, restrictions or regulations of the United States or the laws of any other country, which may apply. This Agreement shall automatically terminate upon failure to comply with the terms and conditions and you shall immediately delete and uninstall all copies of the Software upon such termination. This Agreement may only be modified by a writing signed by an authorized officer of ZONE.

7) The Software may display advertisements or additional content that contain links to third party websites and such links to third party websites should not imply an endorsement or approval of ZONE of the material on such third party websites. These third party websites are not under any control of ZONE and ZONE is not responsible for the content available on such third party websites. Accessing any such third party websites shall be at your, or the users own risk.

8) The Software is owned by ZONE and its Suppliers, and is protected by United States Copyright Law and International Treaty provisions. You agree to not copy, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, or make any other attempt to discover the source code of the Software, ZONE's technology and methodology for delivery of additional content, the content of any and all of ZONE's and Suppliers communications with the Software, or the content stored on ZONE's servers. You will also not rent, lease or sublicense the Software. You also agree to install the Software in a single location on a hard disk or other storage device and will only copy the Software for backup purposes and not for the purpose of using an additional copy. You agree to display all proprietary notices or copyright notices that appear on or in the Software. You agree to not access or use the Software other than through the graphical user interface provided with the Software. You agree to not make any derivative works of the Software and that any and all such modifications or enhancements to the Software are the sole property of ZONE or its Suppliers.

9) ZONE grants you a non-exclusive, limited license under the terms and conditions of this Agreement to only install and use the most current versions of the Software for the purposes described herein and in the Privacy Policy, including use of the Software only in the manner for which it was designed as provided in any documentation and only for personal and non-commercial purposes. You agree to not allow any use of the Software by any party who has not agreed to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.

10) ZONE may from time to time, either automatically or through other means, distribute an update to the Software and/or may replace the Software with new versions, and may also modify the Software. ZONE may require you to review and accept a new license agreement and ZONE's then current privacy policy when a new version of the Software is released and installed on your computer. The installation of new software may occur automatically or through other means. Notwithstanding the foregoing, ZONE and its Suppliers and associates have no obligation to make any subsequent versions or updates of the Software available to you.

11) DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY. THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS-IS," "WHERE IS," WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, AND ANY USE OF THE SOFTWARE IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. ZONE AND ITS SUPPLIERS DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, EITHER EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE, ACCURACY, OR NON-INFRINGEMENT OF THIRD PARTY RIGHTS. ZONE AND ITS SUPPLIERS DO NOT AND CANNOT WARRANT THE PERFORMANCE, OR RESULTS YOU MAY OBTAIN BY USING THE SOFTWARE OR DOCUMENTATION, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THAT THE SOFTWARE WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, OR THAT THE OPERATION OF THE SOFTWARE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE, OR THAT DEFECTS IN THE SOFTWARE CAN BE CORRECTED.

12) LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. BY ACCEPTING THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, YOU WILL RELEASE AND DISCHARGE ZONE AND ANY OTHER PROVIDERS, OWNERS, CREATORS, DISTRIBUTORS, SUPPLIERS, BUSINESS ASSOCIATES, ADVERTISERS AND CUSTOMERS ("THE SUPPLIERS") OF THE SOFTWARE FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY WHICH MIGHT ARISE. IN NO EVENT SHALL ZONE OR ITS SUPPLIERS BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY INDIRECT DAMAGES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOST PROFITS, LOST BUSINESS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, OR LOST OPPORTUNITY, OR ANY INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR SPECIAL DAMAGES OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES INCLUDING LEGAL FEES, ARISING OUT OF THIS AGREEMENT OR ZONE'S PRIVACY POLICY OR YOUR INABILITY TO USE THE SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ZONE OR ITS SUPPLIERS HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES, OR FOR ANY CLAIM BY ANY THIRD PARTY. ZONE AND ITS SUPPLIERS ALSO DISCLAIM ALL LIABILITY WITH REGARD TO YOUR VIEWING OF ANY WEBSITES THAT MAY BE LINKED FROM ANY ZONE SUPPLIED MATERIAL OR ANY ADDITIONAL CONTENT PROVIDED BY THE SOFTWARE. SOME STATES AND JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF CONSEQUENTIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR SPECIAL DAMAGES OR THE EXCLUSION OF IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR LIMITATIONS ON HOW LONG AN IMPLIED WARRANTY MAY LAST, SO THE ABOVE LIMITATION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. IN ANY EVENT, ZONE's LIABILITY TO YOU SHALL NOT EXCEED US$10.00.

13) By downloading and installing the Software, you agree to all the terms and conditions of the ZONE's current Privacy Policy, attached to this Agreement.

14) During the process of accepting this Agreement, downloading the Software or using the Software, you may be offered the opportunity to download and install software from third party software vendors ("Third Party Software"). Any download or use of Third Party Software shall be governed pursuant to license agreements or other arrangements between such third party vendors and yourself and is subject to different license agreements or other arrangements. ZONE, in its sole discretion, may elect to sell, resell, or license any Third Party Software. ZONE disclaims any responsibility for or liability related to any Third Party Software associated with the Software. Any questions, complaints, claims or other communications related to Third Party Software should be directed to the appropriate vendor.

PRIVACY POLICY

Your privacy is very important to Zone Media Ltd.. ("ZONE"). ZONE provides you with the software product known as Zone-Media.com (the "Software") free of charge or at a reduced cost in exchange for your agreement to accept advertising and other promotional messages delivered by ZONE and third parties to your computer based in part on the keywords in the websites that you or any user of the computer visits. The additional content may include advertisements, promotions, links to third party websites or other materials delivered to your computer that match your interests, based in part on keywords found in the websites that you visit. Your interests are matched to the additional content based on keywords collected from the websites you visit. The keywords are provided to ZONE's servers or third party servers, which deliver the selected additional content to your computer in response to the keywords. For example if you visit a website related to travel, ZONE or its Suppliers and advertisers may determine the website you are currently visiting is about traveling and present an advertisement that promotes the sale of airline tickets using various browser enhancements and pop-up windows. This Privacy Policy only applies to the Software and not to any additional third party software downloaded in conjunction with the Software or in response to additional content provided to you or a user of the computer.


INFORMATION COLLECTED BY ZONE

ZONE and the Software DO NOT COLLECT ANY PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION about you, such as your name, address, telephone number or e-mail address. ZONE DOES NOT transmit or record the website address (URL) of websites that you visit while you browse the web.

INFORMATION ZONE COLLECTS INCLUDES:

- Standard web log information and computer settings such as your Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, operating system, CPU speed, browser type and version, screen resolution, time zone selected and the version numbers of some of the software installed on your computer.

- Your Software ID is a numeric identifier that is generated by the Software and the Time and Date that you accepted this Agreement and Privacy Policy. This Software ID does not include any personally identifiable information, such as name, age, address, telephone number or e-mail address.

- A historical record of content and advertisements delivered by the Software, and the response rate associated with the content and advertisements that was delivered to you through the Software application.

- Information provided to any ZONE employees, contractors, or technical support members may be stored on ZONE servers in archives of ZONE's support and customer service department, but such information will not be associated with the information collected or stored in association with your Software ID that may be provided to third parties or the provision of additional content.

- While you are browsing ZONE Media owned web sites, as is true of most Web sites, we gather certain information automatically and store it in log files. This information includes internet protocol (IP) addresses, browser type, internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, operating system, date/time stamp, and clickstream data (links you click on the page).

- All of the above information submitted to us by your browser or the Software is considered anonymous information and to the extent we share such information with third parties, it is not traceable to any particular user and will not be used to contact you by e-mail, telephone, or mail. We use this information to analyze trends, to administer the site, to track users' movements around the site and to gather demographic information about our user base as a whole.

SOFTWARE AUTO-UPDATE

The Software has both client and server-side components. The Software servers communicate with your computer frequently to ensure that you have the most recently released version of the Software. You acknowledge that ZONE or parties appointed by ZONE may from time to time provide programming fixes, updates and upgrades to you, including automatic updates to the Software, through automatic electronic dissemination and other means. You consent to such automatic updates and agree that this Privacy Policy will apply to all such updates. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, any new features that augment or enhance the Software application, including the release of new Software, shall be subject to terms of this Privacy Policy.


SOFTWARE CONFLICTS

Conflicts may occur with other software applications that may already be installed on your computer. The Software may report back to our servers what applications are running on your computer and this information will be used to help resolve these conflicts whenever possible. This will make the Software more reliable and provide you with products and services that are compatible with your current computer settings. In most cases ZONE will only transmit this information back to ZONE's servers if a software conflict has been detected. If you are having problems with a software product you have installed you may contact ZONE's support department at support@Zone-Media.com for help.


WHAT HAPPENS IF ZONE MEDIA LTD.. CHANGES ITS PRIVACY POLICY?

By installing, using, or copying the Software you acknowledge that you have read, understood, given your informed consent to, and agree to be bound by this Privacy Policy. This Privacy Policy is subject to change by ZONE at any time. Notice to you shall be made by adding any changes to this Privacy Policy document, which will remain posted at www.Zone-Media.com/privacy.html. You agree to review this Privacy Policy from time to time for changes and updates. Notice of any revisions to this Privacy Policy shall be considered effective when transmitted to the Software or posted on http://Zone-Media.com/privacy.html .


COOKIES

A cookie is a small file, often containing an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies can be sent to your browser from another computer and stored on your computer's hard drive, or they can be generated by the Software or website and can be stored on your computer. Each server in communication with your computer can store and read only its own cookie. The Software and web pages uses cookies for the following purposes:


- To display the most relevant advertising based on your interests and surfing activities.

- To identify the affiliate that introduced you to Software, so we know how many introductions that particular affiliate made, and how much to pay that affiliate for the introduction.

- To identify which version of the Software is on your computer.

IF YOU WISH TO DISABLE COOKIES IN YOUR WEB BROWSER

In Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
On the Privacy tab, move the slider up for a higher level of privacy.
Select Block all cookies. Cookies from all Web sites will be blocked and Existing cookies on your computer cannot be read by Web sites

SOFTWARE SECURITY MEASURES

The Software uses encrypted data packets to communicate back and forth with its host server. The host server has security measures in place to attempt to prevent the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. All information is for ZONE's accounting and registration purposes only. Only employees and affiliates of ZONE and its licensor will be authorized to have access to varying degrees of this information.
So, for the time being, I would recommend avoiding this site and not using it for your security solutions. Find another site that has what you are looking for, and do not download or install this plugin. If you already have, uninstall it immediately. I would advise cracks.am to stop using this intrusive and deceptive software to try and make money. If they need to make cash, there are plenty of banner ad providers and affiliate programs that they can sign up for to attempt to generate income for their hosting cost or whatever their purpose is.

UPDATE 1/22/07: Charles Herold has reported that he has had to use an alternate method to remove this malware program from his PC. He has all the instructions listed in a post on his blog. I will be writing a new article soon with extensive instructions on removing spyware/malware/adware and I will link to it here when it's completed.
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