The columnist log for today is full:

• Here's a prediction: Microsoft is going to keep selling Windows XP.

I know, XP was supposed to have died a slow, horrible death on Monday, but as I am writing this, I just can't make sense of why Microsoft is going to make a whole lot of consumers mad by forcing Windows Vista on them, when Vista, in many cases, is chock full of junk.

I just have my Spidey sense tingling that there will be a last-minute swoop to save XP for consumers and not make them suffer "downgrade rights" on certain machines just to keep the operating system they want. It's dumb marketing on the part of Microsoft, when Apple is tossing out gleaming white boxes that simply work.

I could be wrong, but look for something interesting with XP.

• The newest version of Firefox is out, Firefox 3, and it is pretty cool. The best feature is the new "Smart Location Bar" built in to the top row of the browser that you can treat like a search window. Type in the words of what you're looking for, and (hopefully) cool and relevant answers will come tumbling forth.

It performs faster than the old Firefox 2, and at least in my tests, about 20 percent faster than Internet Explorer when loading the same content. It uses less system memory to run, and it's only a 7.2 meg download. (Of course, I remember when Netscape, Firefox's grandfather, could fit on a floppy disk, but that's another column.)

It is a free, fast install from www.getfirefox.com. Installing it took less than a minute, it didn't sneak in any funky add-on junk without asking me, and I didn't even have to reboot. I highly recommend it.

• Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool (MRT), which runs on most Windows machines every month without you knowing it, removed more than 2 million instances of a password-stealing Trojan in June alone, IDG reported. One was removed from 700,000 machines the first day the update was released, Microsoft said.

MRT comes with Windows Update each month and scans for the most common threats. It is not a substitute for an anti-virus product, but does catch some predatory software out there. These Trojans targeted game players who rack up large amount of gaming currencies, which are worth real money on the open market, and often lose their accounts or online currencies to thieves. The Trojans often are installed via hacks or fake game cheats.

When you run Windows Update (or when Microsoft runs it for you) and the new MRT comes out each month, it scans your PC for the worst threats out there, and if it can, removes them. In my experience, it has not been particularly effective (you can run it yourself by going to START, then RUN and typing MRT.EXE in the box and hitting OK) on XP or on Vista.

However, it's free and it's there. And it is certainly better than nothing.


James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim@cyberdads.com.