Latest Blog Posts & News
Thursday, September 8th, 2011 at 6:03 pm
If any of your Word documents contain sensitive or important information, you may want to password protect them. This will help prevent unauthorized access from prying eyes. Here are a few articles covering the easy steps you can take to protect your documents, just click the appropriate link for your version of Microsoft Word.
Microsoft Word 2010
Microsoft Word 2007
Microsoft Word 2003
Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 at 10:37 pm
Laptops are great for their convenience and portability, but unfortunately also often suffer from overheating issues. The most obvious symptoms are a fan that runs at full speed all the time and decreased performance. If the overheating is very bad, the machine may even shut itself off to prevent physical damage.
Luckily, there are a few easy tips to help prevent your laptop from overheating. First, be sure to keep your laptop dust free, especially near the fan exhaust. The second, and easiest, is to place your laptop on a hard flat surface when in use. Lastly, if overheating continues to be an issue, you might consider getting a laptop platform with additional fans. These are usually very inexpensive and are powered by one of your laptop’s USB ports.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 6:52 pm
Sometimes gadgets are called toys, sometimes they’re called tools. In this post, we’ll talk about how 2-way radios can be used to keep you safe in an emergency.
Items such as 2-way radios are great for keeping in touch with loved ones in an emergency. You never know when you’ll lose access to phone, cell and Internet service. 2-way radios operate outside of those services and as long as they’re turned on and charged up, you can reach someone when you have no other way to do so. One of their limitations is range, so be sure to pick one that can cover a sufficient distance. In conjunction with your 2-way radio, some manufactures offer alarm-like devices that can be set to alert you when your attention is required. These wireless infrared devices can be placed around your home, or temporary shelter, and will detect intruders or wild animals that cross the infrared beam and send an alert to your 2-way radio. One that comes to mind is provided by Dakota Alert Inc.
How to choose 2-way radios
Dakota Alert Inc
Thursday, August 25th, 2011 at 5:43 pm
An SSID is simply the name of a network. A viral SSID is an illegitimate ad-hoc or peer-to-peer network that is designed to look like a legitimate Wi-Fi hotspot. You may have seen them before while perusing available Wi-Fi networks at home, work, the coffee shop, or while traveling (particularly at airports and hotels). While not all of the following are always viral SSID, some commonly seen are “Free Public WiFi”, “Megahoc”, “hpsetup” and “default”. These are just a few in the sea of viral SSIDs that are out there. They thrive wherever laptops connect to Wi-Fi networks. Far too often these SSIDs aren’t actual Wi-Fi hotspots but another user’s laptop set to “Ad-Hoc” mode to propagate these viral SSIDs. It is understood that they spread from one infected wireless-enabled computer to another, usually by a user accidentally signing on to one or when an unsecured network or machine is exploited. The full intent and implications of this anomaly remain somewhat of a mystery, however, there many theories as to why more and more of these “Zombie Networks” are appearing across the World Wide Web. They could have been set up by an attacker with malicious intent to steal information, monitor your internet traffic, or in extreme cases, infect your machine with a virus that could open a “backdoor” to your home or company’s network. Another more sinister theory some believe is that cyber-criminals may be setting up a massive bot-network for, as of yet, mostly unknown purposes.
In any case, it is best to avoid these viral SSIDs if you can. Fortunately, there are some relatively easy methods of reducing risk to your machine and information from accidental connection to these rouge networks:
- The first and easiest is to only connect to wireless networks that you own or are positive are legitimate.
- Second, it is a good idea to remove any unknown or suspicious network names from your “Known” or “Preferred” networks list.
- Third, you can configure your network to only connect to Access point (infrastructure) networks only.
If you would like additional information on protecting yourself from Viral SSIDs, see the links provided below.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 at 9:56 pm
Just a brief reminder for all of our readers: Free software doesn’t usually come without strings attached. It is very important to read all of the fine print when downloading and installing any software, especially free software. Far too often there will be what is known as Bloatware, Junkware or Adware attached to the application you want. Sometimes this Bloatware is just an annoyance, but a lot of times it can cause some real problems with other applications. A common tactic is to include some sort of unneeded toolbar that affixes itself to your Internet browser and can change certain settings or render your browser inoperable. Adware can collect some level of information about you which is then used by advertisers to market products to you and others, often without your knowledge. They claim you gave consent when you clicked “Agree” on the User Agreement. Again, read that fine print.
This has been an issue for quite some time, but was again brought to our attention most recently when a prominent software download site was accused of attaching Bloatware to their software and being dishonest about their reasons for doing so.
You can view articles related to that story here:
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 10:39 pm
When your computer is infected with a virus, not only do you suffer from a loss of productivity, but also run the risk of identity theft and other time consuming nuisances. Potential perils include having online passwords, personal information and financial records plundered. If this information were to fall into diabolical hands it may take weeks, months, or years to straighten out the damage. You may also be in danger of having your email compromised and used to send Spam to all your friends, family and coworkers. All of these reasons, and many more, are why we introduced our Virus-Free Guarantee. See the link provided below for additional information on this revolutionary method of preventing viruses and protecting your PC & peace of mind.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 at 5:09 pm
We’ve talked about the importance of a strong password before, and have provided tips to strengthen your own, but we wanted to take a moment and describe what a mighty password looks like.
The basic gist is this: Long passwords are much preferred. The longer it is, the harder it is to crack. Use both capital & lowercase letters. Use not only letters, but numbers and symbols as well.
You can also use certain numbers and some symbols (or combination of symbols) to replace letters in an easy to remember word or phrase. Some are more obvious to the human brain than others, some are nearing the abstract, but all will help fool any robots or villainous persons trying to hijack one of your accounts. Below is a legend of suggestions, there are probably many more, but this was all that came to mind at the moment:
- 0 (zero) = O (that’s one of the more obvious ones)
- 1 = I or L
- 2 = Z or Q
- 3 = E
- 4 = A
- 5 = S
- 6 = G or b
- 7 = T
- 8 = B
- 9 = g
- @ = a
- < = C
- |) = D
- |= = F
- # = H
- |-| = H
- ! = I or L
- | = I or L
- |_ = L
- |< = K
- |\| = N
- /\/ = N
- |\/| = M
- /\/\ = M
- () = O
- |o = P
- ? = Q
- |2 = R
- |” = R (r)
- $ = S
- ~|~ = T
- -|- = T
- + = T
- |_| = u
- \/ = V
- |/ = V
- \/\/ = W
- |/\| = W
- % = X
- >< = X
- `/ = Y
- & = “and” sound, ex: S& or $&= “sand”
- @ = “at” sound, ex: C@ = “cat”
- _ = a space
To exemplify these concepts, we’ll walk through how to transform your favorite phrase or existing password into a much stronger one.
Pick something easy to remember as the base of your password. Say your favorite song is “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison, a weak password would look like this:
A slightly stronger password would look like this:
indreamsroyorbison But that’s still not really strong enough…
Implement just some of the techniques we’ve covered, and you get something like this:
If you want to take it a step even further you can add random symbols to the beginning and end to get this:
If you want to get really crazy with it, you could do something like this:
_-~*^v^*~-_1/\/_|)|234|\/|$_|”0`/_()|28!50|\|_-~*^v^*~-_ Now that is a STRONG password!
Here’s a puzzle of a password, let’s see if you can figure it out…here’s a clue, it’s the name of a famous western movie:
(Hint: _ has been used as spaces to help you along, but be careful, not all _’s are spaces.)
Thursday, August 11th, 2011 at 5:10 pm
Computers and technology are not only great tools for work and play; they can also command an important role in disaster planning, keeping you safe in the event of an emergency or catastrophe, and can possibly even save your life and those of the ones you love.
With Google Maps, Google Earth, and other mapping technology you can plan your route to safety, pinpoint areas to be avoided, and identify geographical high spots & low spots. In the midst of an emergency it is important to have an established plan. In general, it is always a good idea to know the quickest route to the nearest hospital or appropriate medical provider. However, if a wide spread or major incident were to occur, it may not always be best to take the “quickest” route. You will need to use your best judgment on what to do when, and always take into account any recommendations made by the authorities, but here are a few things to consider:
- If a catastrophe involves flooding, you may consider avoiding areas and roads near bodies of water or areas below/near sea level. Google Earth can be of a great assistance here, helping to identify the topographical features of your region.
- If a catastrophe were to cause mass panic, or in the event of an epidemic or other health hazard related danger, you may consider avoiding congested or major roadways and highly populated areas. Traffic.com is a great resource for checking current traffic conditions. But don’t wait until the last minute to identify congested roadways. It is advisable to, over time, watch for patterns and spot troublesome traffic areas. To help estimate the population of a given area, the US Government provides useful maps and information at www.census.gov.
- If a catastrophe requires the need to take shelter underground or elsewhere, check your city or county’s official website. Most often they will provide a list of shelters and point out which may be pet friendly. Online maps can also help locate natural sources of protection such as caves, mountains and canyons.
Just remember to perform as much of this kind of planning as you can now. Don’t wait for something to happen, you may not have electricity, Internet access or use of your cell phone during an emergency. Also consider acquiring a few two-way radios, solar or dynamo battery chargers, and perhaps a generator for your home.
Stay tuned for more great technology related emergency preparedness tips!
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 at 5:56 pm
Just a quick reminder for everyone, laptop displays don’t last forever. Try to remember to turn down the brightness level on your laptop screen whenever it is not in use. You can easily set your screen to go to “sleep” after 5 or 10 (or more) minutes, which is great, but it’s also not a bad idea to locate your brightness controls for manual adjustments. It may not make a huge difference, but if you turn down the brightness level even if you’re just walking away for a moment, chances are your screen will last that much longer. Have you noticed dimming of the screen, particularly in certain areas such as the bottom of the screen? This may be a sign that your screen is already on its way out. It will probably still last quite some time, but if you’re already seeing symptoms, it is now more important that ever to take care of your display.
Thursday, August 4th, 2011 at 7:06 pm
If the recent LulzSec & Anonymous headlines have taught us anything, it’s that protecting your personal information is now more important than ever. One of the simplest things you can do is to have very secure passwords containing capital/lower case letters, numbers & symbols. Also, it’s not a bad idea to regularly change them to something new. That way, not only do you make it harder for some nefarious robot or person to hijack your accounts, but if someone or something was able to sniff out one of your old passwords it would no longer be valid anyway.
Another great security tool is file encryption software. There are many options out there; some popular ones are BestCrypt and TrueCrypt, but almost any reputable software will do the job. These tools can help you protect the important and sensitive data on your machine. Some programs even allow you to have multiple passwords for the same encrypted area, each revealing a different facet.
These are two of the easiest things people can do to protect their data, but there are many more methods out there. Stay tuned for more great security tips!