[CCC News] Assorted News 5 🙂
In this edition:
I don’t have any!
What’s New on the ‘Net
Zoom in on webpages
Clean those Fans!
Easy way to manage passwords
CCC and Charity
The Quiet and Loud Mouse story
Exetel Pricing going up?
How to make the computer read to you
For Sale / Donation:
Ancient Pcs $50
15″ screens $10
Nothing in particular jumps out and deserves the title of Important News at the moment. Perhaps that’s Good News? 🙂
Every now and then you hear some horror story of some government laptop going missing, taking with it the personal and financial details of thousands of people. This can so easily be avoided if those corporations would encrypt the information.
Chances are some of you are, like myself, also responsible for holding ‘sensitive’ information. Have you thought about what would happen if someone took off with your computer? Or how about those memory sticks that love to go AWOL 🙂 You might like to consider having a play with TrueCrypt – a free program that can make encrypted virtual hard disks.
In my case, I use it to encrypt part of the laptop. All emails, documents, and Instant Messages are stored in the encrypted area; so should someone manage (or bother!) to nick it, they’d have nearly no hope of getting that information. (A password alone is not enough to get the information in my case as you can have secret ‘key files’ which if they’re not present, will not let you get the information out.
It’s a little challenging to set up at first, of course, but offers the best security. http://www.truecrypt.org/
An alternative exists and is built into Windows XP and Vista, where you can right click a file or folder, choose Properties, and then tick the “Encrypt Contents to Secure Data” box. This works pretty well, but only uses your logon password for security. Another downside is that it also prevents those files from being defragmented, so if you have a lot of encrypted files, the computer can get slow.
YouTorrent is a new Torrent File search website. If you’re a BitTorrent user, you might find it useful to find well seeded downloads. http://www.youtorrent.com/
Torrents are a way for people to distribute large files without needing to have a central server. This system has become popular in recent years as a means for distributing movies and TV shows on the Internet – albeit often of questionable legality. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.torrent for the whole story 🙂
If you are looking for a BitTorrent program, I recommend uTorrent as it does not carry any advertising, etc. Of course, be careful as most BitTorrent downloads are big – don’t even think about it if you’re on Telstra’s 200MB or 400MB plans!. http://www.utorrent.com/
Zoom in on webpages
Here’s a feature I really find hard to live without! It’s been in Firefox for years, and now Internet Explorer 7 has it too.
Simply hold down the Ctrl key and press the + or – buttons. It makes the writing bigger or smaller.
Many webpages use quite small writing in order to fit more stuff on the screen, but particularly in the case of laptops it can make the writing too small to read comfortably.
Sometimes pages go a bit screwy when you do this, but reducing the size restores the problem. (Writing overlaps, etc.)
Clean Those Fans 🙂
The recent warm weather has seen an increase in computers failing due to having too much dust in their CPU fans. Computers are a bit like vacuum cleaners when they’re running, often constantly drawing air in from the front and blowing it out the back – but since there’s no ‘bag’ the dust gets stuck in the metal cooling fins instead.
Most computers will simply shut down if they get too hot, but not all are set to do this, and they can cook themselves and simply stop working after a while – or get erratic.
So, perhaps once a year (or more regularly if you’re in a dusty place) take the side panel off and flick the dust out with a paint brush. If you have an air compressor, you can use that as well. Portable spa bath air pumps also work.
Laptops also have fans, and you can usually see and feel where the hot air comes out. They’re not so easy to take apart however, so instead you can often get away with simply blowing hard into the outlet and then plucking the muck out of the fan inlet.
Of course, if you’re concerned about breaking something, I can do this work for you 🙂
Easy Way to Manage Passwords
A common complaint from people these days is how many passwords they have to remember. So, here’s a tip that might help you.
1 – Create a Microsoft Word document.
2 – Enter all the passwords you want to remember into it.
3 – Click File –> Save As …
… and while the Save As box is open, look for and click on the “Tools” button, choose General Options
4 – Click in the “Password to Open” box, and choose your most secure but memorable password. Enter it here, then save the file with whatever name you want.
Now you can store that file on a memory stick so that you have access to all your passwords wherever you are, provided you remember the one to open the Word document
A word of warning of course! Computers are so good at working out passwords now (because they can try millions of combinations a minute) that it is better to have a longer password than a short one. Perhaps a phrase is a better option – like “The dog was born on a Tuesday” etc. There may potentially be software out there to bypass the Microsoft Word password too, but it’s still safer than having them on a piece of paper!
CCC and Charity?
I’ll admit to often deliberately walking around the back of the Guyra Bus Shelter charity stand when it’s operational, and avoiding charity stalls in general. Some might view this as ‘snobbery’ or lack of charity – but really it’s just because I don’t want to donate in that manner. (Plus, I’m often a busy fella!) Instead, I contribute to charity and other NonProfits by the 30% reduction in hourly rates that I offer them on any work carried out. That’s fair I reckon?
One of the easy recent jobs was a complaint of a broken keyboard on a laptop. The owner usually uses a separate cordless keyboard on the laptop since that’s more comfortable. The symptoms were recognisable as a stuck “Shift” key, and there was a satisfying crunch as the crumb under the shift key was crushed by a keystroke, thereby restoring the laptop to health!
The ‘Quiet and Loud’ Mouse Story.
Since Armidale and Guyra are small towns, and there’s much competition in my arena, I am pretty diverse in the repairs I’ll carry out. This story is from a customer who had a broken stereo. The volume control knob was broken, and it was blind, so it could no longer see the remote control – sure signs that senility was kicking in on this cheap Asian stereo. (The remote control tested fine.) Taking the cover off, I was able to operate the volume by shorting various connectors together – which surprised them, but of course was not the most practical way to turn the music up! So, I used the same solution for them that I used on the $50 dishwasher @ home – an old Mouse! Right button is now Louder, Left button is Quieter.
Exetel Pricing going up?
Exetel is unusual in that it’s manager has his own Blog in which he posts his thoughts. One thing that’s troubled him for a while is that they are reselling ADSL via Telstra’s network. Indeed, anyone in Armidale and Guyra using Broadband is actually using Telstra resold connections. He’s a bit spooked by the change of government as well as changes in global financial markets, and Telstra’s retailing cheaper than wholesaling strategies, and appears to be planning to up the activation fees on Exetel plans to slow growth.
I’m not really sure where this is headed for us out here in the sticks. I believe they’re looking at moving people over to wireless broadband where possible, but until we get 3G carriers other than Telstra out here, that’s not an option for us. I don’t believe they’re going to try to disconnect existing customers, but it means that for me as an agent, I might have to look for alternatives for new customers looking for reasonably-priced Broadband. (The 3G stuff is rumored to be coming soon!)
Since I’m not in Big Business, I don’t see what’s going on clearly in the financial markets, etc; but can understand the need to reduce the rate of growth if that is deemed necessary as conditions change. I think in this case he’s concerned about future pending changes rather than current ones 🙂
I act as an agent for Exetel because they have among the best pricing of any provider, and of course there is a small income for CCC from it as well. It was the best way I could find to migrate from Dialup to Broadband since the market for tiny ISPs like myself has shrunk dramatically over the last 10 years.
The noisy exhaust is fixed at last, after bartering a computer repair for a bit of assistance. It’s tricky when you rely on a vehicle so much as it’s hard to live without it! I can understand how Taxi drivers feel! Speaking of taxis….
How to make the computer read to you.
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/13560/20000719-0000/zeus/rufree.htm – one of the first ever e-Books. Have trouble reading from a screen? Try http://www.readplease.com/ and have the computer read it to you instead.
The Mailing List software did something I didn’t expect, and squashed all 2007’s editions. So instead, for the time being I’m posting them onto the CCC Blog. http://auzzie.net/cccblog/
For Sale: Old Computers & Screens.
If you know anyone who needs a cheap computer, I have some 400MHz PCs here with XP on them. Only $50. Good enough for general letter writing, but a bit slow for modern Internet.
Also for sale is a garage wall of 15″ CRT screens – only $10 each. Their 14″ bretheren are being used as anchors for tarps.
If I cannot find a buyer for these old PCs, some may go to Charities.
Next Newsletter: Podcasts Explained.