Friday, July 22

Keeping your passwords safe on the internet.

Let's admit it. Sometimes it's hard being a human. Especially when asked to create a password. The fact is that most people use the same password for every single web service to which they subscribe. The frightening part is that if someone has access to your Hotmail account from highschool, they may very well have access to your bank account. Today, we will discuss proper password management.

When choosing a password, the worst thing you can do is pick something that someone will be able to guess. Don't make your password "penguin" -  even if you really really love penguins. Don't make your password "Florida" - even if you really were born there. The guy trying to break into your account will, of course, think of the most commonly used passwords. This includes: names of family members, places lived, favorite sports teams, "123456," "money," "love," etc. And then he will try each of the above followed with a 0, 1, or 123 because nobody wants to use 2 through 9, or god forbid, anything more complicated.

Anyway, let's play a little game. Go to this website. Find the simplest password that provides the best protection. My results:

HeL10 k!tTy
I'm e1337

The point of this demonstration is that it's pretty easy to create high level passwords without remembering a string of characters such as this: 8G2W#95D$5eKM53626N28W7298. Also, it's important. The barrier between the world and all of your personal information can be very thin.

Here's the really fun part - guess which of the above is my password.


Thursday, July 21

File Management

For those of you who noticed, and I think that digit would be monosyllabic, we neglected to do a post yesterday.  We are currently taking stock of what we should actually be posting on Wednesday, since we have stared into the abyss and learned that we aren't funny.  So, to fill the void that Humor Wednesday may have filled in the depths of your desolation, here's a montage of Tobias Funke:

File management is an integral aspect to computing that, I think, goes by the wayside on the hard drives of the average user.  Feel free to disagree.  I posit that hard drives should be treated more like file cabinets or the library card catalog than an amalgamation of binary digits (although that's actually what it is).  Unless you're me, or work in our office, you probably organize the various papers in your filing cabinet, either with folders or dividers.  Why do this?  To make it easier to find stuff, as well as prove to the rest of the people who look at it that you can be as anal retentive as the best of them.  We need to take this same philosophy when organizing our computer.  Too many times have I seen a computer where every file is sitting on the desktop, labeled in an obscure language that I can only assume came from a Facebook photo download.  Worry not however, once you get organized the first time, it's relatively simple to keep that file structure going.  

As you can see by this image, I have organized my "hypothetical" picture folder into subcategories, followed by inception-esque sub sub categories.  A simple act such as this saves me hours trying to find my favorite Lolcat.  

On most occasions, especially with programs, Windows will organize these things for you, but each time you install you want to make sure your programs are going to the same place, or at least take note of where they're going.  I've found that with Windows 7, they tend to split stuff up all over the place, so I make sure where things are going, and if I don't like it, I change it before I have to try and search through my poorly indexed system.  

File management need not just be about personal computing.  It should go without saying that anyone using a shared folder or server in a business had better make damn sure they're following the existing file structure since the IT guy most likely painstakingly put that together at the behest of your boss, and the IT guy will know if you mess it up.  They can be vindictive.  

Tuesday, July 19

HEADLINE: Google+ App Available on iPhone!

Short and sweet, all of those iPhone users out there can now Google+ it up with the official Google+ app.


BREAKING NEWS: Internet faster than it used to be!

It's pretty astounding that the first 56k modem was released in 1998. Does anybody remember lag on text based (video)games, and images taking longer to load than it would take to go to the bathroom and return? If you really think about it, the speed 56kbits/s means that there are potentially 56,000 zeroes or ones sent every second. That is approximately 1000 times faster than a "skilled" morse code operator.

At the office BlueScreen and I have a 30mbit/s connection. To put that in perspective, that is 30,000 kbits/s - or 535 times faster than a 56k modem. Pretty impressive, I'd say. Let's explore it a little more.

Comcast currently offers an internet option for a pricey $105 per month. It's no coincidence that the boasted download speed is also 105mbit/s. No need to do more math - we all know it's fast as applesauce in freefall. A lesser known fact is that Comcast considers traffic, in and out, added together, if totaled over 250 GB, excessive. Let's ask Comcast why we even have a cap in the first place:

Why is Comcast providing a monthly data usage threshold for its residential high-speed Internet users?

We have been evaluating a monthly data usage threshold for quite some time and we have heard from high-speed Internet customers who have asked that we provide a specific number for excessive use. By providing a specific monthly data usage threshold, we are providing greater clarity to our customers about excessive use.

Frankly, it's not a very good justification. "Excessive use" is of course, an arbitrary term - and no customer worth the hair on his head would be worried that he is using too many internets. Back to the subject at hand, Comcast provides an internet option with provides 105mbit/s, with the monthly cap of 250 GB. Turns out, with these limitations, a user is able to completely fill his monthly cap by using his internet at full speed for 5.4 hours. Of the 720 hours in a month, 5.4 hours is less than 1% of time that a customer can really put his connection to use. Let's compare this to internet speeds across the world. Not only do we have very slow speeds compared to Japan, South Korea, Sweden, France and Finland, we also pay an exorbitant sum for what we do have.
Now trust me, I do realize that the sweet old US of A is much more fortunate with our first world problems than many other countries, however, I find it astounding that even though profits are up, internet speeds are still down. Of course, I also realize that Comcast will put in 110% to make sure we pay out of our noses for the most meager service possible, so that they can gouge us even further when they provide a faster option.
So keep in mind, if you are on the internet, you are grossly being taken advantage of.


Monday, July 18

Glary Utilities

Today marks the end of my vacation, which brings a lone tear to my eye.

It was either too long or not long enough to make me excited to come back to work.  I would ere on the side of insufficiency.  At least that way I can justify doing this post at the office.

Not too long ago I did a post on start up management, which mentioned the use of Glary Utilities and I promised that I would cover a wider array of its functionality at a later date.  The future is here.  Above all else, Glary is a one click maintenance tool, making it a very useful tool to run at the beginning of each day, or even after each reboot.  Once downloaded from either their website or Ninite you are taken to the main tab labeled-you guessed it-"1-click maintenance".

The series of checkboxes mark what will be done once you enable the scan.  Among the most useful are the Registry Cleaner, which fixes or deletes incorrect entries in the registry, speeding up your computer, and the Temporary Files Cleaner, which deletes files that usually show up during an installation of a program and are meant to be deleted afterwards.  These are very similar to the .DMG files that are used on a Macintosh.  All they do once the program has been installed is take up space on your hard drive where you could be storing password protected archives of cats or synonyms thereof.  The other features have their uses as well and there's no harm in running them but most of them should be looked at more carefully anyway.  The Startup Manager checkbox does not clean up your startup as well as the actual manager, which was covered in the previous post.  The spyware remover is typically useless as Microsoft Security Essentials grabs most of that during its own scan, and most people prefer not to use the Tracks Eraser which deletes your internet history (useful in its own right but most people do that anyway) and all of your stored passwords.

Once you have completed the scan, if it's never been done before, you should notice a small increase in computer productivity.  It's not unusual for a first time scan to pull up tens of thousands of registry errors, as they occur with vigorous frequency, not unlike spelling errors in my own posts.  Fields of red squiggles haunt my nightmares.  You may also notice another tab labeled "Modules".  This is where the nitpicking can commence.  There are 20 different modules designed to either repair issues with your computer or to simply maintain it.  I've used a fair amount of the features at one time or another, including the Uninstall Manager, which allows you to batch uninstall programs.  This can be a useful tool if you need to get rid of a fair amount of bloatware at a single time, but it's unpredictable and also allows you to delete vital programs on accident, so I typically avoid using the batch tool.  What it does have is a disk defragmentation tool, a duplicate file finder, and a an empty folder finder, all of which clear up space on your hard drive.

In my experience, simple maintenance of a PC can extend the life of your computer by a couple of years, which is a considerable money saver if you're not like me and don't need high end components as soon as they're announced.  There are ads for computer cleaning all over the place, all of which essentially do what Glary can do for you, and it's free.  A poorly maintained computer is the natural enemy of productivity, much like I am the natural enemy of spelling and punctuation.  Registry errors can run amok and wreak havoc upon your efficiency much like my comma usage can turn a simple expository piece into a work of dramatic pauses and run on sentences.  So, if you're looking for a way to clean up your PC, look no further than Glary Utilities.


Friday, July 15

HEADLINE: AMD to Launch First Desktop Processor with 8 Cores!

AMD's site really doesn't say a lot on the subject, however I was able to find a few more details from Techspot, for those of you interested in numbers.

It hasn't been until the release of the Sandy Bridge line of CPUs by Intel that AMD really seemed to drop behind  in the processing race. They have been releasing new CPUs using the same old formula, which really isn't cutting it. Intel offers much higher performance at a similar pricepoint to AMD's top dog.

Regardless, what AMD has excelled at recently is offering a mid-high end CPU at an excellent price. Namely the 965BE. With the release of the FX series later this year, we'll see how AMD stacks up to the competition. I have high hopes, even if they're showing up a bit late to the game.


Portable Agoraphobia or: Why I want a new laptop.

I would like to begin by thanking FatalError for taking over the blog for the past few days while I was on vacation with my lovely wife at the Ace Hotel in Portland.  If anyone ever has a chance to stay there I would recommend it.  Other than the WiFi, which isn't password protected so not only was the signal strength horrible, but it has potential to compromise every single thing you do while on the internet.  But I digress, it's Friday again; which means, oh chers lecteurs, that it's time for another lengthy article.  I admit that I wasn't sure what to write about at first, but several hours spent in my hotel without a suitable laptop revealed to me that I really need a new one.