Tech – for Everyone

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

You On The Web (and some free tools)

I do not simply tell my readers the Internet is risky place to visit, and is being abused (ruined?) by many: I have for four years now provided tips, advice, and how-to’s for keeping yourself, your machines, and your ‘identity’ safer and more secure. Here are a few more items I think you should know about…

image source: PCWorld

Google’s ‘Me on the Web’ Tool Alerts You to Personal Data Leaks

Google has launched Me on the Web, a new tool allowing anyone with a Google account to monitor what personal information about them appears online.Read more..

And I have discovered (new-to-me, that is) an interesting browser add-on.. TrackMeNot Firefox Add-on Keeps Search Engine Data Profilers Confused

The free TrackMeNot Firefox add-on takes a unique and creative approach to protecting your privacy from search engines that can create profiles of you based on terms you search for. Rather than hiding your searches from them in some way, it takes the exact opposite tack: It inundates search engines with a blizzard of background searches from you, so that no practical profile can be built because there are too many random searches.Read more..

(To see my personal list of Firefox security add-ons, click here.)

Best Free Software for Protecting Your PC and Your Privacy

Want to make sure that your PC and all its files and data are kept safe, secure, and private–without breaking the bank to do it? It’s not an impossible task–in fact, it’s easy to do. We’ve rounded up ten free pieces of security software that do everything from protecting you against malware, to keeping you safe at WiFi Hot Spots, to encrypting your entire hard disk.Read more..

Folks, the Internet is not Disneyland, nor a vast public library, where everyone is on their best behavior, and there’s security guards keeping an eye on things. Ha! Not even close! The reality is the Internet is a battleground, as well as being Big Brother. In the best cases, folks are merely trying to sell, sell, SELL, you stuff. In the worst, they’re trying to steal everything you own (or put the company you work for out of business)(Or bring down your government). Please don’t be a victim. Exercise paranoid common sense when online (no – your email did not just win the online lottery). And sign up to receive my newsletter, and keep receiving information you can use to be savvy. For instance..

.. do you know what that ‘paperclip’ symbol means?

It means if you, or your email client’s Preview Pane opens that email, your address will be automatically added to the Global Sucker List, and I guaranty you’ll get more spam. (See, Disable the Preview Pane For Safer Computing & Less Spam)

Today’s quote:Friends and neighbors complain that taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might the more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<


September 7, 2011 Posted by | advice, browsers, computers, free software, how to, Internet, privacy, security zones, software | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taskbar,blue screens,IE 7– Holiday Edition

It is my sincere wish that all of you are enjoying a long Holiday weekend. In that spirit, I am taking the day off and reposting an earlier article that answers reader questions and includes links to several important topics. I hope you didn’t miss yesterday’s article,.. and that you are staying warm. Enjoy.

Reader questions this week bring me back to IE 7 and the taskbar, and a new topic: what to do when an Update causes crashes and other troubles. So today I will not post my usual Tip of the day, but the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format.

IE 7 Questions:   (you may want to review my post on IE7 Security zones, and Questions answered, as well.)

Q: My Explorer menu bar disappeared, how do I get it back?
A: In IE version 7, the old familiar menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) was removed from the default configuration to ‘streamline’ IE’s look, and quite possibly because Microsoft was aware that people were installing their own toolbars (see “toolbar madness“). To get it back, use a method similar to the one used for Windows’ taskbar. Click on the down arrow next to the grey “gear” icon marked “Tools” and click on the Menu bar option. Now a checkmark will appear next to it, and your menu bar is back. To keep it there, hover your mouse over the option below Menu bar, “Toolbars”, and click on (select) the “Lock the toolbars” option.
While you’re there, you may want to play around with the “Customize” option and tweak which buttons appear on your bars.

Q: I can’t add a site to my Trusted zone:
A: I answered this in the previous answers post, but this detail is worth repeating: The person was on their personal machine and was running as an administrator, so there’s no problem there. The trouble was they hadn’t cleared the checkbox next to “Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.https.jpgThe difference is the “s” at the end of “http”, which indicates a special, secured internet protocol. You will know if you’re on such a website by the gold lock icon that appears in the URL window (and/or elsewhere on the page). It is an encrypted connection generally only used for electronic payment sites. A check here prevents you from adding regular websites.

Q: Can I make IE block sites when my child is browsing, but allow them for me?
A: This is a great question! And the answers are: yes, sort of, and … how many sites are we talking about? There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I want to spend more time on this topic than there’s room for here today. Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet is a huge subject. I wrote a series of four articles on it, and to read it click here.

Taskbar question:

Q: What happened to the icons in my taskbar?
A: These “my icons disappeared” questions depend on if we’re talking about the Notification area (on the right, by the clock), or the Quick Launch area (on the left, by the Start button).
In the Notification area, an icon’s disappearance usually indicates that the “process” has gone idle and is not “running” at the moment.That means it isn’t needed, and hasn’t been needed for quite some time. It will run when it’s needed so, in this case don’t worry about it. In some instances, such as the speaker icon or the the two PC’s network icon, speaker.jpga checkbox has become unchecked and you simply need to check it again. Click on Start >Control Panel >Speakers and Audio devices, and select (check) the “Place an icon in the taskbar”.

If the Quick Launch icons have disappeared, right-click on a blank area in the taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab, and place a check in the checkbox labeled “Show Quick Launch”. As I have mentioned before, these Quick Launch icons are simply shortcuts. You can add more shortcuts here by simple drag-and-drop, or remove the ones you never use.

NOTE: If your icons have always been there and then, suddenly, some (or all) of them are gone — you may have picked up some malware. I recommend that you run “deep” antivirus and an anti-spyware scans immediately.

Windows Update:

Q: An Update is causing BSOD’s, what do I do?
A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually. In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.
add1.jpg
Click on the Update you want to remove, and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: How about playing some games today.. in light of the long holiday weekend. Hop over to Armor Games for a nice selection of time wasters. These Flash-based games are for kids of all ages.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

November 24, 2007 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, how to, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, removing Updates, security zones, System Tray, Taskbar, tech, Windows | , , | 7 Comments

Reposting: Reader questions answered

Due to prior obligations, I am reposting an previous article that, judging from the questions I receive, a lot of you missed. I will have a fresh topic to post tomorrow. This appeared on 7/26.

Reader questions this week bring me back to IE 7 and the taskbar, and a new topic: what to do when an Update causes crashes and other troubles. So today I will not post my usual Tip of the day, but the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format.

IE 7 Questions:   (you may want to review my post on IE7 Security zones, and Questions answered, as well.)

Q: My Explorer menu bar disappeared, how do I get it back?
A: In IE version 7, the old familiar menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) was removed from the default configuration to ‘streamline’ IE’s look, and quite possibly because Microsoft was aware that people were installing their own toolbars (see “toolbar madness“). To get it back, use a method similar to the one used for Windows’ taskbar. Click on the down arrow next to the grey “gear” icon marked “Tools” and click on the Menu bar option. Now a checkmark will appear next to it, and your menu bar is back. To keep it there, hover your mouse over the option below Menu bar, “Toolbars”, and click on (select) the “Lock the toolbars” option.
While you’re there, you may want to play around with the “Customize” option and tweak which buttons appear on your bars.

Q: I can’t add a site to my Trusted zone:
A: I answered this in the previous answers post, but this detail is worth repeating: The person was on their personal machine and was running as an administrator, so there’s no problem there. The trouble was they hadn’t cleared the checkbox next to “Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.
https.jpg
The difference is the “s” at the end of “http”, which indicates a special, secured internet protocol. You will know if you’re on such a website by the gold lock icon that appears in the URL window (and/or elsewhere on the page). It is an encrypted connection generally only used for electronic payment sites. A check here prevents you from adding regular websites.

Q: Can I make IE block sites when my child is browsing, but allow them for me?
A: This is a great question! And the answers are: yes, sort of, and … how many sites are we talking about? There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I want to spend more time on this topic than there’s room for here today. Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet is a huge subject. I will start a series devoted to this tomorrow. (To read this series, click here.)

Taskbar question:

Q: What happened to the icons in my taskbar?
A: These “my icons disappeared” questions depend on if we’re talking about the Notification area (on the right, by the clock), or the Quick Launch area (on the left, by the Start button).
In the Notification area, an icon’s disappearance usually indicates that the “process” has gone idle and is not “running” at the moment.That means it isn’t needed, and hasn’t been needed for quite some time. It will run when it’s needed so, in this case don’t worry about it. In some instances, such as the speaker icon or the the two PC’s network icon,
speaker.jpg
a checkbox has become unchecked and you simply need to check it again. Click on Start >Control Panel >Speakers and Audio devices, and select (check) the “Place an icon in the taskbar”.

If the Quick Launch icons have disappeared, right-click on a blank area in the taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab, and place a check in the checkbox labeled “Show Quick Launch”. As I have mentioned before, these Quick Launch icons are simply shortcuts. You can add more shortcuts here by simple drag-and-drop, or remove the ones you never use.

NOTE: If your icons have always been there and then, suddenly, some (or all) of them are gone — you may have picked up some malware. I recommend that you run “deep” antivirus and an anti-spyware scans immediately.

Windows Update:

Q: An Update is causing BSOD’s, what do I do?
A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually. In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.
add1.jpg
Click on the Update you want to remove, and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: I do NOT recommend uninstalling security updates unless they cause your machine to become inoperable. I am a big fan of security updates and want all my vulnerabilities patched. If you’re like me in that aspect, Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector is for you. While this software is still in beta, it is very good at scanning all your programs and reporting any missing updates and open vulnerabilities. (Thanks Ryan!)

Your opinion matters. Let me know what you like/don’t like about this blog. Click Here to take survey

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

August 17, 2007 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, how to, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, removing Updates, security, security zones, System Tray, Taskbar, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 1 Comment

More Internet safety–Use your router for access control

A reader comment (thanks Mike) reminded me of a point I intended to make — most home routers/wireless routers have the ability to add another layer of protection for your kid’s Internet safety. Today I will show just how to take advantage of the features built into these devices. A big advantage is the router’s blocking (typically) won’t be undone by a savvy kid. Today’s free link was also inspired by a reader comment. Keep those useful comments coming folks, they often benefit everyone.

Tip of the day: Use your router’s security features to limit your child’s access to the Web. I wrote a three-part series titled “Steps you can take to keep your kids safe on the Internet” and this post should be considered part 4. In part 1, I showed you how to create a Limited User account and lock down Internet Explorer. In part 2, I discussed monitoring and controlling your child’s web-surfing with Parental Control programs. And in part 3 I told you how to monitor chat, and decipher the “code” language used there. If you missed any of these, click on the blue links to view them.

For the purposes of demonstration, I’m going to demonstrate on arguably the most common/popular wireless router sold to date — the Linksys WRT54G — but I want you to understand that these features can be found on most, if not all, makes and models and accessed in similar ways. If you have already gone in and changed the address range and/or router name and password, substitute your settings … I will show the Linksys defaults.

Step 1) Access your router’s control panel. Open your browser and type in http://192.168.1.1 and you will be asked for a name and password. Leave the name blank and type “admin” (no quotes) in the password box. You will now see the Linksys control panel’s Setup page, which is where you make general connection (to your ISP) changes.
lsetup.jpg
We are not going to make any changes here on the Setup tab (I am just showing you what to expect), we’re going to use the Administration tab and the Access Restriction tabs.

Step 2) To prevent our tech-savvy kid from undoing the restrictions we’re going to put in place a new password. Click on “Administration” in the upper black bar. The top input boxes are for our new password. Think up a complex password your child won’t be able to guess, like “Kepe0uThek1dz”, (and write it down, and keep it someplace they won’t snoop) and enter it, and “confirm” it. Now scroll down and click on “Save Settings”.
lpass.jpg
The control panel will disappear while the router absorbs these changes and then a screen will tell you your changes have been saved. Click “to continue” and the control panel will reappear.

Step 3) Now we’re going to put some restrictions in place — click on “Access Restrictions” in the upper black bar. On this page we are going to set up an ACL which Linksys refers to as a “policy”. You can establish more than one policy if you desire, but for our purposes one is enough. In the screenshot below, I have told the router that there’s to be no Internet access from midnight to 6am on any computer, but you can assign your child’s machine a fixed IP address and by clicking the Edit List of PCs button, apply these restrictions only to your child’s machine … if they have their own, that is. [update: you can also use the MAC address. For my article on how to find and use it, click here.]
lac.jpg
As you can see, you can ‘tweak’ the time restrictions on a day-by-day basis, so schoolnights can have a different shutoff time than weekends, say.

Now scroll down and you will see where we can do some more specific blocking.
lblock.jpg
Here I have specifically denied access to My Space, and if I were really doing this I would also add the other popular “social networking” sites (like Facebook). Please note that I used wildcards (“*”) in place of “www” and “.com” — this is done to eliminate/block all the pages of the site “MySpace”. You are not limited to four URLs as the boxes might indicate. You can put as many into one box as you’d like … just seperate each URL with a semicolon.

I have also started a “keyword” list to be blocked, which will block any websites that contain these words. This is far from the list you would want to use, I suspect — you would probably want to include “wild parties”, “wild sex”, “totally nude”, “wild girls”, “boys gone wild”, and you may want to include “gun”, “guns”, “shooting”, and such. This is up to you to decide and configure … just seperate each keyword (or phrase) by commas.

Step 4) Click Save Settings and exit the control panel. And that’s it. Congratulations: you’ve added another layer of security, and shown your kid you just may know enough “tech” to earn a little respect.

UPDATE 8/26:
A reader commented that he has done the above steps and could still access My Space. He naturally wondered why. The first thing to ar.jpgverify is that you have verified that your new policy is enabled.
It is not necessary to give your access policy a name, but it may help you to do so — I named mine “Restrictions” to demonstrate.

The second step may not be required, but if you can still visit the sites you’re trying to block, you need to tell the router which PC’s to apply this policy to. Click on the “Edit List of PCs” button.
ar2.jpg
Here you can “apply” the policy to a specific machine by using the MAC address or fixed IP, or to all attached machines by setting a range of IP’s. To ensure coverage of every machine, enter the range 0-254, as shown. Now Save Settings, and you’re set.

Today’s free link: A very thorough resource for parents concerned about Internet safety for their kids can be found at the all-volunteer WiredSafety.org. From site: “All-inclusive, free resource focusing on Internet safety, help and education for Internet users of all ages; providing information and solutions to online…

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

July 31, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, kids and the Internet, networking, PC, routers, routers and WAPs, security, security zones, tech, Vista, Windows | 24 Comments

Steps for keeping your kids safe on the Web, conclusion

I live on the Lefty coast, and naturally I did hear some “negative feedback” from friends and neighbors who seemed to think my suggestion (in part 2) was out of line. Spy on your kids?? Appalling!! What about their Rights?! I said to them what I say to you: the Internet isn’t some Shirley Temple movie (and, consider this, would there have been a Columbine if those boy’s parents had taken one look at their Internet activities?) and you — as a parent — not only have the Right, but the Responsibility, to keep an eye on your kids. Just like in the rest of our modern world, on the Web you can find crooks and con artists, perverts and pedophiles, sickos and snake-oil salesmen — it pays to be cautious.

I will repeat: talk to your kids and tell them of the dangers. Tell them to not give out their address and phone number or post pictures of themselves. Here is in an excellent advice article on what to tell your kids, Top Ten Safety Tips.

Tip(s) of the day: Learn the lingo and find out what’s being said in the chatroom and IM’s. As I said in an early article, people in chatrooms/IM’s (and “texting”) don’t communicate in simple sentences and proper grammer, but use an abreviated code-language. This “code” is not meant for parents to understand.

Step 1) Restrict IM’s to known friends. There are many different ‘flavors’ of IM programs — AOL, Microsoft, Google, ICQ, ie. — and they all can be set to only allow incoming chats, or invitations to chat, from known friends (often called “buddies”). Make sure this feature is enabled when you install the program when you’re creating your child’s (Limited) user account (to read part 1 of this series, creating a user account, click here) by selecting the proper Privacy settings. Each IM is a little different, but these settings can usually be found under the Options menu. If you have any troubles, look in the IM’s Help files/FAQ’s for the specifics.

Step 2) Monitor both sides of IM converations: Most of the “Pro” (read “not free”) parental control programs allow you to record instant messages and chats. If you have one, turn that feature on. If you are using one that doesn’t, there are free IM monitoring software which I will point you to in the “today’s free link” area (below) which you should download and install. With the program installed and the feature turned on, you will see a “log” of your child’s online converations. This is eaves-dropping (with hard proof) I admit.

I will repeat my suggestion that, again, what you’re doing is really only keeping an eye out for risky behavior, and if you see it, you can then decide on your next steps. There will no doubt be quite a few “chats” in the log. (It is reported that the only thing kids do more than “text” and “chat” is watch television!) It will probably be as easy to read as Farsi, though you will probably recognize “brb” and “lol”. Find the ‘odd’ ones (it shouldn’t take you long to figure out which ones are from friends and schoolmates), or pick a few that are almost completely in “code”. Go to a lingo translator site, like Lingo2Word, and copy/paste a suspicious section of your child’s chat into the automatic translator. Now you should be able to understand the gist of the discussion.

If you run across a particular acronym, and want to know what it means, you can use a Lingo Dictionary like Net Lingo, which is often updated with the latest “codewords”. I should warn you that “urban” (read “hip”, “with it”, or “in”) language is quite foul and violent. It may shock you to hear the ways kids speak outside of adult earshot. (One benefit of the Hip Hop Culture.)

I sincerely hope your occasional monitoring of your child’s online activities turns out to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience to you. And please, don’t write me and tell me how wrong it is for me to post this advice … I’ve already been told.

Today’s free links: This page offers the free downloads for three of the more popular IM ‘flavors’. (If the IM your child uses is not listed here, use a search engine to search for “monitoring IM name chats”.) Click here, and scroll till you see the right IM, and click on the “free download” link.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

July 30, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, security, security zones, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 3 Comments

Steps you can take to protect your kids on the Web, pt.2

The Web can be a dangerous place. It is unlikely that you haven’t heard of kids (and spouses) running away to go meet with a stranger they met in a chatroom. It is common knowledge that child predators use the Web’s anonimity and strike up conversations with our kids (N.C. found 26,000 on My Space). I want to remind you that the most effective tool you have is talking frankly with your children. But since this is a tech how-to site, I’m going to help arm you with some other tools to bolster your defenses.
Since I’m going to have to reference the steps I suggested yesterday, please read it before continuing (if you haven’t already) by clicking here

Tip(s) of the day: Spy on your kids. Let me rephrase that — monitor your child’s online activities. Yesterday I suggested giving your child their own user account (Limited) and password protecting it. If your child goes in and changes their password to try and prevent your snooping, don’t worry, as an administrator you can still access  their account. But to make things easier, let’s make a change so that they cannot change their password. Right-click on My Computer and select Manage, and then click on Users and Groups. Click on the Users folder.
mmc.jpg
Now double-click on your child’s account (my pretend kid-genius, “Charlie” in this example). mmc1.jpgSimply place a check in the “Password never expires” and “User cannot change password” checkboxes and then click on the Apply button. Now “Charlie” is stuck using the account password I gave him, and we can close out of these windows.

 Now let’s get down to the fun part — spying (Ahem. I meant ‘monitoring’. Pardon.). Use IE’s History feature to view your child’s activities. To start, log onto your child’s user account and launch IE (all browsers work similarly). Open Internet Options from the Tools menu. In the “Browsing History” area, click on the Settings button. Now change  the number of days IE will log to a decently high number. In the illustration below I am setting “Charlie’s” history recorder to one month. (I suggest it wise that you take a peek at your child’s viewing patterns a little more often than that…)
hist.jpg
I can now click on the gold star “Favorites” icon and click on History. I can view what websites “Charlie” has visited, and by sorting by “frequency”, I can see where he’s spending the most time. I cannot see what he does there, or what he types while he’s in a ‘chat’ … for that I need a special, freely available, program or two (I will return to this later in the series). By taking a look at the websites “Charlie” visits — and determining if it was a ‘one-time thing’ or a daily habit — I can gage if he’s into risky behavior or not without actually “reading his diary”.

Today’s free link: If you have done these steps, yesterday’s and today’s, and done a little experimenting, you now know that “Charlie” can undo some of the security changes we made to IE, and that when we enable content filtering it affects our browsing as well; so we are sort of forced to disable it to do our (adult) stuff and then we have to remember to enable it again when it’s our child’s turn to use the computer. You will also likely discover that IE’s content filtering (None, Partial, Allow) is fairly clumsy and unless you spend a lot of time ‘fine-tuning’ it, it will block even such innocuous sites as Google and MSN. (But making the settings adjustments isn’t hard to do.)

The solution, like so many others, is found in 3rd-party software. You can find a large assortment of types under the categories of “Parental Control” and “content filtering”. The “best” are for sale, and if spending a few dollars is not out of the question for you, my personal reco is NetNanny. These tools usually come with a pre-built list of “naughty” sites and “bad” words to block and some are capable of analyzing images for too much skin (or bodies too close together…I’m not sure how they do it exactly). They can let you set times for your child’s Internet usage, so he or she can’t get up in the middle of the night to do their shenanigans. Some record the contents of chats. And most offer other ways to restrict your child’s online activities while still allowing them to do their homework, etc.

Update 8/30– I can no longer recommend the free program I had listed here. It did what it said, but was impossible to remove.
Click here to read part 3.
And here to read part 4.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

July 28, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, security, security zones, tech, User mode, Vista, Windows, XP | Leave a comment