Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

That’s a computer?*

Sometimes, I like to post “lighter” articles. By now, your eye has glimpsed the picture of nightstand. And, maybe, you’re wondering why a piece of furniture is being shown on a Tech website..

Media Center PCWell, the reason for that is that this chest of drawers is interesting.
(Yes, Paul. Fine. But, interesting how?)

This nightstand (or.. whatever) is not really a chest of drawers at all, but is – in reality – a Media serving computer.

Really!

While “researching” the latest high-end Gaming Rigs (read “goofing off”) the other day, I decided to take a look at what people had submitted lately in the way of case mods.

Mixed in with the usual assortment of glowing, multi-fanned, custom painted, hard-core, high-performance gamers was.. this. And by contrast alone it caught my eye.
(I have never mentioned this here before, but old Tech Paul has watched the New Yankee Workshop a time or two.)

A fella by the name of Kyle Shipp took a bunch of old computer parts, and assembled them inside this $20 chest he found at Target. He has posted a webpage describing the process.. and it has a bunch of pictures of the stages. You can see how it was done, here.

Very thought provoking, and I bet it looks good in his living room.

Today’s free download: 360Desktop (This is one you should look at, because I really can’t describe it..)
* Get more desktop space for everything you like to do
* Take your favorite content from across the web and put it on your desktop
* Choose from an endless selection of 360° wallpaper you download, create & share.

Orig post: 4/3/09

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 24, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, free software, hardware | , | 10 Comments

Tech Paul’s Friend of the Internet Surfer Award – 2010

Ronen Tzur Wins For Sandboxie

Folks, last year I invented a little thing I called the Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award. I have awarded it three times so far, but not yet this year.

Winner of the 2010
Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award
Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award

My intention with this was to bring to your attention, Dear Reader, people (and their websites) who are worthy of special mention due to the fact that they are looking out for us — the “average computer user” — and helping us to have a better, safer, online experience.

Ronen wins this special award as he is the creator of the program called “Sandboxie”. I consider Sandboxie an essential and primary tool for helping protect my machines from cybercrimals (incorrectly called “hackers”).

How Sandboxie works: Sandboxie takes a whole different approach (tactic) than traditional antivirus and anti-Spyware programs use to protecting you. Sandboxie runs your applications (aka “programs”) in an isolated area called a “sandbox”, as this animation shows…

Any programs that are “launched” (aka “Open”-ed, aka “run”) within Sandboxie only function within the sandbox, and have no direct access to your files, the Windows operating system or any other part of your PC. After you have finished with the ‘session’, you can right click the Sandboxie icon and delete all sandboxed files and processes, and your PC will be returned to the same state it was in before you started (how those red boxes vanish). To paraphrase, “What happens in the sandbox stays in the sandbox.”

GizmoAwardMy first recommendation for safe browsing is a free program called Sandboxie.~ JonathanT, Gizmo’s Best Free Browser Protection Utility.

Ronen has always offered this (essential, IMHO) security tool free, as well as a “pro (for pay) version”. It consistently wins “Best” and “Top” mentions on the reputable download sites, such as PC Magazine and MajorGeeks.

Note: Sandboxie is NOT a replacement, nor substitute, for traditional anti-Malware (antivirus+anti-Spyware) but is used in conjunction with. (This is referred to as “layering” your defenses.) And Sandboxie is not exactly intuitive to the “average user”, so I highly recommend that first time users see Tutorial: Getting Started with Sandboxie. This is a serious security tool and taking the time to learn how it works is well worth it! Using Sandboxie is simple, there’s just a few things to know.

So, congratulations Mr. Tzur. You’ve earned a big tip of my Geek hat. And folks, please click here and take a look Sandboxie.

Previous winners:
* First-ever Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award
* Tech Paul’s Friend of the Internet Surfer Award for October
* Tech Paul’s Friend of the Internet Surfer Award for December

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 23, 2010 Posted by | computers, Internet, security, software | , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Sunday Beauty 8

Today’s pretty picture… Sea. Sky. Sand.

Sunset at Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

August 22, 2010 Posted by | Digital Images | , , | 4 Comments

Back To School Computer Shopping Guidelines

Some of you will be shopping for a computer for a student, so today I will re-post some advice on what to look for in a new machine. I’m not going to get into a Mac versus PC debate. I am going to focus solely on hardware (the ‘capabilities’) options of a non-Mac desktop or laptop PC.

Tip(s) of the day: What to look for..
* Laptop computers. Most of what I am going to recommend today applies equally to laptops and desktops with very few exceptions. Today’s portable machines (notebook and tablet PC’s) very nearly rival the hardware capabilities of a desktop (or “tower”), and some models market themselves as a “desktop replacement”. They have large hard drives for storage, can ‘burn’ dual-layer DVD’s, have nice large screens, can access the Internet wirelessly, and are fast. Some have high-end graphics adapters that can keep up with the latest games.

Where laptops are different is: they are comparatively more expensive, they (often) depend on a battery, and they’re limited in terms of “expansion”. Expansion, quite literally, is room to “add stuff”, commonly referred to as “upgrading”. For this reason, I advise (when purchasing a notebook/laptop/tablet) differently than when buying a tower/”box” – buy the most machine you can afford. (that means, faster CPU, bigger “Gigabyte” numbers..)
Also, I advise buying the battery “upgrade”.

If you have to penny-pinch, reduce the RAM and/or go with a smaller hard drive… because these are the two components on a laptop that it is relatively easy to “upgrade” at a later date, when your finances have recovered. The other things – CPU, graphics, motherboard, sound, etc. — are not so easy to swap out/upgrade. In a Desktop PC (“tower”) there is practically nothing you cannot replace: in a laptop you’re kind of stuck, so buy as high up the scale as you can. Not just what you think you’ll need today, but buy for tomorrow as well. Because that’s the way the machine will be for its lifetime.I would look for an i3/i5/i7 CPU.

When deciding which model laptop, do not forget to compare battery life (these stats are published). Also, and I can’t stress this enough, do not buy a laptop that you haven’t typed on. Yes, you can make your purchase online or out of a catalogue, but go into a store and touch it first (sorry, all you Best Buy salespersons out there). Each keyboard and touchpad is different. Make sure you like the layout and “feel” of typing on the keyboard. There’s nothing worse (in laptop computing) than trying to work on a keyboard that just isn’t “you”–IMHO.

Considering a netbook? The portability of the compact netbook computers would certainly appeal to the student. For those who go this route, I would suggest the addition of an “external” hard drive (for more storage) as well as a DVD reader.

* Desktops: When considering which tower/desktop to buy, there’s basically three categories of machines; budget/student, workstation, and “performance”/gaming. Low, middle, and top-end. You can spend as little as $300 $250, or as much as $8,500. (Yes. $8,500. But, those systems are cool!) I have mentioned before that to do it right, you can get everything you want/need for $700 – $1,100 $399 – $899, and that even the budget machines have the “good stuff”.

My advice for what to look for in a desktop, is a little more flexible. First, decide roughly what you’d like to spend. If you really are in the $300 -500 $250-400 range, do not rule out “refurbished” machines. Factory rebuilt/refurbished machines are an excellent value. Any negative stigma they may have is largely unjustified.

Get the most RAM you can.I would not buy a PC today that had less than 4 GB’s.

If your machine is coming with Windows 7 (and most of them are), you should look for 64-bit.

Go with a mid-to-high end CPU. The quad-core CPU’s from Intel are very good, and are the latest ‘generation’. If it is in your budget, go quad-core.

Optical drives. Unless you really need a ‘high def’ burner and you want it right now, hold off on going for a “Blu Ray” burner just yet. Blu-Ray readers are available and should suffice. Two optical drives, while nice, is not a necessity. Do, however, make sure your “combo drive” can burn (”write”) to a dual-layer DVD.

Graphics. Most people do not need a $800 graphics card (only us hard-core gamers, and other boys-of-all-ages, do) nor do they need an “SLI” set up. However, whenever your budget allows, it is almost always better to have a “graphics card” than “onboard graphics”. Onboard graphics chipsets are built into the motherboard, and while they do a quite adequate job, they “share” your RAM … and by that I mean “steal” your RAM.
Please note, you can buy, and install a graphics card at any time..

Power Supply. Do not forget to check the Wattage of the machine’s power supply. Here is another area where more is definitely better. It constantly surprises me how many seemingly unrelated computer ‘glitches’ and quirks turn out to be caused by an inadequate or failing power supply. Shoot for one that’s rated in the neighborhood of 350W, unless you’re going for a more “loaded”, high-end performance machine — in which case 500W, or higher, is not unreasonable.

* Will your student be in a dorm? Consider a “small form factor” (aka “mini tower”) size. These smaller boxes fit on (or under) a desk much easier than a normal size. You can find some “bundled” with a 17″ LCD monitor.. perfect for the dorm.

Well, that should get you started. Buying a new PC should not be a stressful thing. It should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Just remember to test drive before you buy, and do a little comparison. It really doesn’t matter if you decide upon a no-name, a HP, a Sony, Dell, or whatever.(see, Which is Better, HP or Dell? and/or Tech’s Most (and Least) Reliable Brands

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 20, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, shopping for | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Own Shares Of McAfee?

This morning I woke up to the news that Intel had purchased McAfee, and McAfee’s stock price had “skyrocketed”. And I thought, “too bad I didn’t get an ‘insider tip’ about that one.”

The acquisition underlines Intel’s bet on “hardware-enhanced security” and demonstrates that that security is a necessary component as the tech company’s reach expands to handle billions of new Internet-ready devices, such as mobile phones and computers, TVs, cars, medical devices and ATM machines.” intel_mcafee_secure_illo01

Those interested can read more about the acquisition here. (And even greater detail, here.) I have watched Silicon Valley become Silicon Valley.. and I have seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions over the years. Some made no sense to me at all, but this one does. And it underscores how big a factor cybercrime is becoming.

Speaking of which… New analysis of stolen data brings surprises
By Woody Leonhard

Every year, the highly respected Verizon Business RISK data crime–investigation team publishes an analysis of major online data thefts it’s been asked to study.
This year, a first-ever joint report by VBR and the U.S. Secret Service presents a fascinating view into the state of the data-stealing art, with many surprising facts that should interest all consumers.”

New analysis of stolen data brings surprises
Who’s stealing sensitive data? Surprise!

How the bad guys get your personal information

What companies must do to protect our data


This week I posted two articles (and a video) on your privacy. (See, Big Brother Big Business, and Protecting your “identity) I guess a few others are thinking about the topic… including Google’s boss.. Google CEO’s social media warning; Impending information armageddon?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt warns of the consequences of social media and networks, and the vast amount of personal data that users put out there on the Web. Is privacy dead?

Folks, I know that computer security is not your favorite topic. And I know that if you do happen to be curious, and start reading about it.. you can get the sense that it is already a hopeless mess. Well, there’s a certain truth to that feeling. The “hackers” (read: “cyber-criminals”) have won all the battles. And, no, switching to Mac is not the answer. (Although, in the short term.. the idea has appeal..)

The truth is, the tech industry has finally woken up, and is scrambling like mad to find answers. In the meantime, you have a responsibility.

There are computing “Good Practices”.. and certain “Do’s & Don’ts”.
For the “do’s“, I have provided readers the basic “common good practices” in what I call my “Top 10 Things You Should Do” list.

As for the “don’ts“, well, most of those are simple common sense and some of them are “paranoid common sense”. For example, “don’t open attachments in an e-mail from a stranger promising riches”.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 19, 2010 Posted by | cyber crime, News, tech | 2 Comments

Firefox: managing stored passwords*

Most (all?) web browsers offer to “remember” the  user name and password combination you use to log into certain websites (such as Hotmail, or your bank, etc.) which allows for faster access when you return to the site. Firefox is no exception.

If you should need to change the remembered login on your machine – say, if you “remembered” an incorrect combo, or if you changed the login using a different machine (it is highly recommended that you change your passwords several times a year..) – the following steps will allow you to delete the ‘bad’ ones.

Tip of the day: Manage your login passwords in Firefox.

1) Open Firefox, and click on “Tools” from the menu bar at the top.
2) From the Tools menu, click on “Options…”
3) A new window will open. Click on the “Security” tab.
FF_Opts

4) Now click the “Saved Passwords” button.
5) Now a new window will show you all of the “remembered” logon combinations that Firefox is storing for you. Simply click on the troublesome/obsolete item and then click “Remove”.

This deletes the (old) entry. Now go to the website in question. You will be asked to log in. Then Firefox will offer to “Remember” this (new) password – click Yes.

That’s it. You’re done.

Related link: For those of you who may like to learn what constitutes a good password (and, what does not) please read, Strong passwords, hidden Admin

Today’s free download: Portable Glary Utilities. Folks, I have mentioned the wonderful, free, Glary Utilities program here before. It contains a safe Registry scanner, Privacy sweeper, anti-spyware sweeper, temp file emptier, and more. Now you can carry this tool around on your thumbdrive by downloading the “portable” version. I suggest using the first link; the “self-installer”.

Orig. post: 11/1/09

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 17, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, Firefox, how to, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Big Brother Big Business

A Society of Surveillance: Everyone Should Be Aware Of Our Current Reality

CNBC’s David Faber examines the rapid advance of technology that allows companies to monitor our every move and record our most private personal information.

Folks, the same reader who submitted Saturday’s article on protecting your privacy submitted this video. I am not a big fan of CNBC, but this should be seen by every voter, IMHO. It will open your eyes.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Big Brother Big Business, posted with vodpod

Related:
Concerned About Government Snooping?

Linux in your car*

Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy

“In Germany, they first came for the gypsies, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a gypsy. Then they came for the Bolsheviks, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Bolshevik. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics. I didn’t speak up then because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.” – Martin Niemoller, A Lutheran Pastor arrested by the Gestapo in 1937

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 16, 2010 Posted by | privacy, tech | , , , | 4 Comments