Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Driver's License for Computers?

If you drive down the highway, you’re at risk of getting in a car wreck.

If you log onto the Internet, you’re at risk of identity theft, viruses and malware — no matter who you are or where you’re coming from.

Like safe driving, maintaining a secure computer is all about being attentive, defensive, proactive and educated. 
This is why drivers of cars need to be trained and licensed to drive.

This is why many computer professionals think computer users should be educated and licensed to browse the Internet and handle email.

What about your "Internet License"?

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Microsoft Accounts and Windows 8 – A Rant

In a nutshell, any email address can become a Microsoft account just by “registering” it with Microsoft (MS). Almost any live, usable email address is acceptable. But since we talk about MS it actually is not quite that simple; there are, for lack of a better word, implications.

Any email address with or issued by any MS service is a Microsoft account. Some of these services are Hotmail, Microsoft Passport, Microsoft Live, MSN, Outlook email service, .NET Passport, Member Services Passport, Messenger ID, Windows Live ID, Xbox Live ID, Zune/Zune Pass ID, Windows Phone and SkyDrive ID. To name only the most well known ones.

I documented my opinion about MS accounts already in October 2012 in my blog post “What does Microsoft want to do with Windows 8?”.

Have you ever set up a new Windows 8 computer? Or, even worse, updated from Windows 8 to 8.1? MS goes through quite some trouble and IMHO actually tries hard to literally trick you into setting up Win8 with a MS account. I wrote here in some detail about the tricks MS uses.

I smell a rat and my opinion voiced in “What does Microsoft want to do with Windows 8?” has only been confirmed by MS' shenanigans and seemingly desperate attempts to make us use a MS account.

With establishing a MS account you get automatically some GB of “free storage space” on SkyDrive, MS' cloud storage service. Again, that sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Like in “free is always good”. For the home user “cloud storage” is nothing but a glorifying name for a File Hosting service.

It may only be me but I am troubled by getting sucked into using SkyDrive. In May 2013 I documented my personal take on cloud storage; IMHO much more revealing is what the rest of the world thinks about this.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that there are advantages to cloud storage and I use it to some extent.

The brighter side is that it is fairly easy to avoid all the implications of MS accounts and cloud storage, even when using Windows 8. Win8 can be set up to work nicely with a conventional local computer account without any direct connection to MS. And it works very nicely in desktop mode, just like we have gotten familiar with during the last 20 years. 

The main reason that MS gives for all this is that you can log into your MS account from many different computers or tablets or smart phones and you will have everywhere “your” desktop, the sane apps and programs, your individual settings and even via SkyDrive the same data files. Sounds almost too good to be true, right?

Smart phones are telephones with lots of added computer like capabilities and very small touch enabled screens.

Tablets are easily portable media consumption devices with added computer like capabilities and relatively small touch enabled screens.

Computers can be more or less of all of the above plus I can get work done on them. I can not write this blog on either a smart phone or a tablet! So far at least computers usually do not have touch enabled monitors (screens).

And frankly, do you know how heavy your hand gets when you stretch your arm forward only for two minutes? Thank you Microsoft, but I DO NOT WANT to be forced to stretch my arm and work with my fingers on a computer monitor; and so do literally all of my customers.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Learning About Computers

During my last radio show (Jan 6, 2014 on WTKM 104.9 FM) a caller expressed his dismay about the demise of a good TV show with very helpful information and practical tips.

When I checked on the morning of Jan 7th I found a very interesting email from a listener with lots of information on the subject of computer info on TV. With that email author's kind permission (Thank you Jeremy R.) here is the full text plus an additional note he sent later. I have done only very minor editing but have added links to the web sites and shows mentioned and to persons as available.

I heard your radio show today.

I am enjoying the conversations you and Dave have been having when you are waiting for callers.

I decided to email you with some info about the TechTV show one of the callers talked about.
I missed TechTV when it went away, but now there are much better shows available online. I wanted to point your attention to some that are relevant. All of these are free and available on demand through their websites, or through set-top boxes like Roku, etc...

'The Screen Savers' (1998-2005)    (This is the one the caller talked about)
    • A program on the old TechTV channel that no longer exists.
    • The hosts Patrick Norton and Leo Laporte
  • Revision3.comhttp://revision3.com/
    • Patrick Norton from 'The Screen Savers' is now on Revision3.com
    • Revision3 makes a variety of shows for varying degrees of computer skill.
    • Some examples of their 20+ shows are:
      • Tekzilla - News and brief How-To's much like TechTV stuff.  (host Patrick Norton)
      • HD Nation - Focusing mainly on Home Entertainment computers and gadgets.  (host Patrick Norton) 
      • GeekBeat.tv - brief technology news updates.
      • The Ben Heck Show - in depth, hands on project building.
    • Revision3 also makes a few shows purely for entertainment.
  • TWiT.tv
    • Leo Laporte from 'The Screen Savers' created his own network called TWiT.   ("This Week in Tech")
    • Leo Laporte hosts most of the shows.
    • Read about the transition from TechTV to TWiT here: twit.tv/the-twit-story.
    • TWiT has 20+ audio and video broadcasts actively being produced.
    • Various show topics include: Android Tablets, iPads, How-To, Home Theater, Free Software, Ham Radio, Security
  • Category5.tv  (not related to the viewer's question)
    • Based in Canada
    • A relaxed show about current tech, including some hands on activities, and answering viewer questions.
    • Airs LIVE every Tuesday night at 6:00pm Central Time.
    • Viewers can ask questions by Phone, eMail, or Instant Message Chat
    • Viewer questions range from quite technical to very basic.
    • The host helps people with Windows and linux questions.
    • Category5.tv is currently my personal favorite.
    • Some episodes include:
Microsoft Phone Scam
I want to point your attention to the Category5.tv episode #327 - Fake Support Call Scams where they have video footage of what the phone scammers have people do on their computers.  The show notes page for that episode has a link to the last 30 minutes the guy spent on the phone with the scammers.  Now if someone says to me, "They called me up and asked me to do 'x-y-z'" I have a better idea of what they went through.

The scammers were clever, but not clever enough to notice that the machine they were hacking was a freshly installed Virtual Machine specifically set up for this purpose.
This was the first email and here is the additional note he sent with his permission to publish his information here:
One note about the shows being available on the Roku and similar devices...

Revision3 and TWiT have their own channel/app for various devices, while I believe Category5.tv has to be added as an ordinary RSS feed.

When TechTV went off the air, I missed not having that stuff to watch.  Now, there is more "Tech TV" than I have time to watch.  I am still getting caught up on episodes of Category5 that I have missed.

The video of the scam phone call includes little popup notes on the screen that briefly explain what the scammer is really doing, while he is saying something else.

Well, that was this. I publish this information without any warranty to be fit for any purpose.

But again I want to thank Jeremy R. very much for theeffort he put into assembling his email.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 01 06 WTKM Talking Points (Jan 6thd 2014)

CryptoLocker lure victims with fake activation codes
Adobe, Microsoft

 Hacker backdoors Linksys, Netgear, Cisco and other routers

Snapchat issues update in wake of 4.6 million user data breach
     Not one mention of "apology" or "sorry"

Slovenian jailed for creating code behind 12 MILLION strong 'Mariposa' botnet army

Skype's Twitter account, blog hacked to spread anti-Microsoft messages
     Message said not to use Micro$oft email. I spread that message for many years.

Privacy: I read an article How the NSA hacks PCs, phones, routers, hard disks 'at speed of light':
Spy tech catalog leaks
     Subtitle: It's not as bad as you thought - it's much worse


Windows 8.1 and Microsoft account