Tech – for Everyone

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

Computer Gaming and Me.. and a 12 yr-old.

To actually be in “vacation mode”, I must resist the compulsion to hammer out a new article everyday. And so today I am re-posting an article that I enjoyed writing, some time ago, and I hope you will enjoy reading today.

When I first started writing Tech–for Everyone way back on the 8th of June (56 how-to articles ago)[update: today is #741], I wondered how long I could go before I talked about computer gaming. I think I did fairly well at delaying the inevitable. Two things triggered this post: a user with a pre-teen boy, and my mood. I’ll look at the latter first.

This week I got into a foul mood. I became short-tempered, irritated, antsy. I was definitely ‘out of sorts’. I was not a Happy Camper. Part of this was due to the fact that I had several back-to-back days of too-much-to-do/too-little-time (can anyone relate?). I felt a bit less than “in control”.
I managed to keep up with demands, and my time-spent was successful. I not only kept afloat, but I succeeded. However, this didn’t lighten my mood.
Finally, by staying up a little longer than I should, I was able to take a break and play a conquest map of Age of Empires III, The Warchiefs (naturally, I won). Amazingly, I was calm, refreshed, and happy. I was a Happy Camper again.
Why? I realized that it had been several days since I had played a game, and I had subconsciously “missed it”, like a smoker during a long flight, or a dieter walking past the bakery. And that once I got my “fix”, I was returned to a normal psychological state. This realization has caused me to wonder if I (me! myself!) wasn’t developing a gaming “addiction”. Wow.

There have been several news stories about computer gaming; ranging from the couple who suffered financial ruin by devoting their lives completely to the online game World of Warcraft (a couple of nut-jobs, if you ask me), to the medical ramifications (carpal-tunnel) of too much controller/mouse/keyboard use … especially in children.

There is a real belief in “gaming addiction”, and there’s a doctor who’s gone so far as publicly stating that as much as 40% of all WoW players are clinically addicted to it. (Read the article) Consider that there’s at least six and-a half million people subscribing, and you realize that that’s a LOT of people … and that’s just one game. It is my belief that these news stories will only increase in number; that as our society becomes more and more of a shut-in society, and more of our interactions take place online, topics along this line will only grow. Google “World of Warcraft+divorce” and you’ll see 747,000 results. WoW.
If your friends are telling you you’re an addict, please … don’t take it as a compliment. Take a serious look at yourself, before you lose everything.

That said, I do play computer games; and if you’re curious, I like the WW II FPS titles (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor), air combat simulators (Lock On, Il-2, Microsoft), and civilization games. And good-old Solitaire. I play a couple of games a day, to “unwind”. I think I’m alright… I haven’t, as yet, spent real money on ‘magic armor’.

The second topic I mentioned was the lady with the pre-teen son. She keeps having “weird pop ups”, and her machine is “always so slow.” I had installed a security suite, and the full gamut of protections onto her machine, and yet she keeps having these issues. She asked me, “why does this keep happening?”

I asked her several questions and looked over her logs and histories. She told me she has a 12 year-old son, and that as soon as he gets home from school he goes straight to the computer to “do homework” … that he spends quit a bit of time on the PC. Well! I was once a 12 year-old boy, and I remember well how much time in the afternoon — freshly released from scholarly confinement — I spent on homework. None. Zero. Nada. (At least, not willingly.)

Sure enough, a look at IE’s browsing history (read how to do this here) did not reveal any instances of National Geographic, The History Explorer, Encyclopedia Brittanica, or “math help” (or anything else even vaguely homework-related), but revealed endless explorations of Flash games, online games, and “cheat codes”.

I looked at his download history and found plenty of “demo games”, magic swords and shields, and other “bonuses” he’d earned playing his online games. Could one of those ‘magic swords’ (or demo-games) have contained spyware??? Does spyware slow down your machine? Cause pop ups? Well … (duh) YES!

Tip of the day: Here’s the thing most folks fail to fully grasp — when you let your child run under your User Account, he’s running with full administrator privileges and can install programs unrestricted and when you click on “download this file”, you’re bypassing your protection. (It has to be this way, or you’d never get anything done) You are telling your anti-malware apps, “it’s OK. I know what I’m doing.” A 12 year-old boy, caught up in the excitement at having just “triumphed” and earning himself a +2 Sword of Sharpness, probably doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he will click “download your prize now!”
98% of the time, it’s harmless fun. How can you tell which demo game or ‘magic shield’ is safe, and which one’s contain spyware? You can’t. Sorry. Like I said, 98% of them are safe.

If missed my series on protecting your kids from the Internet, you can learn how to remedy this — creating a Limited User Account, and cranking up IE’s security, etc. — by clicking here.

Today’s free link: Today’s free link is a light-weight (small and efficient) 3-D chess game. It will run easily on older machines. You can adjust the difficulty level from Beginner to Club, and improve your game. Pawn 2

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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July 15, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, Internet | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Hide Your Files*

Sometimes a little privacy is nice. Today I’m going to show you how to hide a folder so that other people who use your machine won’t be able to see it, or its contents.

Tip of the day: Create a hidden folder for your private files. The first thing to consider is where to place the folder. You want it to be someplace you’ll remember easily, and someplace sort of out of the way. Some folks will put it right on their desktop, and there is a certain elegance to the “hide in plain sight” approach, but I’m going to bury it a little… inside my My Video folder (inside My Documents).

Navigate to the place you want to place your hidden folder (in my example, My Documents >My Video) and open it. Now create a new folder. Right-click on any part of the blank area and select “New” from the list of choices, and a new list of choices appear — select “folder”. myvid.jpg Now you will see a folder ready for a new name. I chose to name mine “stuff”, as it is fairly uninteresting and innocuous. If you want to make sure nobody is tempted to look in there, you could name it “efficiency reports 2005”, but you want to avoid an intriguing name, like “private”, “confidential”, “good stuff”, or “collection”.

Now we’re going to make the folder hidden: right-click on your new folder (“stuff” in my example) and select “Properties”. Down towards the bottom is a checkbox labeled “Hidden”. Check it, and click on the “Apply” button.

Now when you navigate back to the My Video folder you will not see your folder. If you do, it should be faded, or “dim”. This means you have your Folder Options set to “show hidden files and folders”. This is normally off, by default; but to undo this setting, look (up) to the Tools menu and click it, and select “Folder Options” (the bottom choice) and then the View tab. foldopts.jpg
Make sure the radio button “Do not show hidden files and folders” is selected, and then click on the “Apply to All Folders” button, or the “Apply” button if you only want to affect the My Video folder. Now the folder is invisible. To make it visible again, for when you want to use it, reverse the steps above to “Show hidden…”

Let us say you want to put a password “lock” on the folder to make it even more difficult for other users to look inside (should they locate it somehow). Right-click on the folder and select “Properties” again and click on the Sharing tab.
Place a check in the “Make this folder private” checkbox and click “Apply”. Now the folder is protected with your User Account’s logon password. If you have not implemented a User Account password, you missed the second Tech–for Everyone article ever written — to see it, click here. You will now be warned that there’s no User Account password. setpass.jpg answer “Yes”, and you’ll be taken to the User Accounts control panel.
Since you will have to enter this each time you log onto the PC, I suggest you follow the rules of a strong password (complex), as discussed in the article above (the link) and write it down someplace as well. Now you have a secure — and private — place to keep your personal files. But wait, there’s more!

Today’s free link: Because of the fact that hidden files and folders can be found by someone with a little savvy (like you, now that you know the “Show hidden files” command) and the password protection will only apply to network shares and when the other user have their own User Accounts… if you are sharing your UA (User Account), you need a 3rd-party tool to hide and encrypt the folder(s) you want to keep private. True Crypt is the free solution I recommend.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 9, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, passwords, PC, privacy, security, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment