Archive for March, 2010

03/29/2010 – What should I do with my sluggish Computer?

“Oh, I am tired with my sluggish computer……,” this has become the common statement that we tend to hear or say. Computers are supposed to speed up our productivity by helping us to do more in less time. But, it would not be the same case always when slow running computer keeps us away from getting our work done.  This blog focuses on specifying some of the easy, do-it-yourself suggestions to keep system running and performing better.  So, before throwing away your sluggish computer and buying a new one, better try these easy steps.

a. Get rid of garbage: The more files and programs you have, the slower your machine will be. So, deleting unneeded stuff off the hard drive can speed startup and energize the CPU. Definitely ditch the trial versions of software that came on your computer (games, Internet services, and so on), as well as temporary files and system logs.

The PC fix: Use Disk Cleanup (search for it via the Start menu) to get rid of files. Click More Options to delete programs.

The Mac fix: Drag apps or files to the Trash. Also delete an application’s support folder, found under your user name: Places: Library: Application Support.

b. Clean up the desktop: Got documents, folders, photos, and programs scattered across your desktop? Both PCs and Macs must sort and load this pile of files when you start the computer. That wastes memory and takes time. For snappier startup, store stuff elsewhere.

The PC fix: Stash files and apps under My Documents. For desktop access to certain items, create shortcuts, tiny files that point to the real file: Right-click the item and select ‘send to Desktop’.

The Mac fix: Move files to folders under Places. To create a shortcut, control-click an item, select Make Alias, and drag it to the desktop.

c. Manage Launches: Applications that are set to launch automatically delay startup. Such programs then run in the background, draining processing power. Some open without your knowing it (like iTunesHelper, which isn’t needed until you load iTunes). To un-choke startup, disable auto-launch where possible.

The PC fix: In Windows Vista and 7, type “msconfig” in the Start menu; in XP, type “Run,” then “msconfig.” Click Startup, and deselect apps you don’t need right when you turn on the computer.

The Mac fix: Go to System Preferences: Accounts, pick your user, and click Login Items. Uncheck apps you don’t want self-launching at startup.

d. Simplify Security: PC security suites provide whole-hog protection from worms, viruses, hackers, and more — but they drain computing resources while scanning for these threats. Besides, some of the programs’ features are redundant. Today’s web browsers have pop-up blockers to prevent malware installation, and Windows has firewalls to block spyware. Trading out power-suck suites for simple virus protection can make your computer more efficient.

The PC fix: Delete the suite in favor of ESET Nod32 Antivirus.

The Mac fix: None; Mac users typically don’t use security software.

By following these steps you might be able to improve the performance of your sluggish computer dramatically. Try these simple steps as there are no harms involved with it.

Thanks for reading ~

Don’t forget to take the quiz on Blackboard.

Sandeep

March 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm 2 comments

Google Stops Censoring Search Results In China!

In keeping with their ‘don’t be evil’ mantra, Google has stopped censoring the search results of users in China. Here’s the release announcing the decision from Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond.

On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other U.S. companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, and that during our investigation into these attacks we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers. We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger—had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.

So earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.

Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced—it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.

In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk. Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them. Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers. We are immensely proud of them.

This decision should have a profound affect on the way Chinese people access information. For example, prior to this decision, if a Chinese user were to search for “Tiananmen Square”, they would not see any results that have to do with the famous image of the Chinese student standing in front of a row of tanks during the famous student protests of 1989. All results that depicted the Government in a negative light were censored. Now, however, Chinese searchers will be able to have full access to the information on the internet. There still remains the possibility that the Chinese government will block Google all together, though.

March 23, 2010 at 7:41 am Leave a comment

3/18/10 – State, Federal Policymakers Foresee the Increasing Importance of Technology in K-12 Education Policy and Practice

Hey readers and welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing break.  Hopefully you guys had fun and stayed safe for the most part.

While I was walking with a friend the other day, just discussing how we felt about the average person and their knowledge of how computers work and basic problem solving skills, you know, things that are normally on a 21 year old’s mind, we started to wonder about whether or not it would be a good decision in a small business, to require your workers to have basic computer problem solving skills.  Now, obviously, no harm could come from having extra knowledge on the subject.  In fact, couldn’t it possibly allow for a business owner to not have to rely as heavily on an IT support team having workers who can identify, diagnose, and possibly even solve an issue on site without having to contact a help desk of some sort?  We could see some possibilities of having to hire less IT professionals resulting in saving money.

Now today’s article may not be exactly between the lines of this topic, but it definitely caught my eye.  Last week, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) held an event to plan federal and state investments in broadband and educational technology in schools.  The goal of the meeting was to figure out how we can use technology to help schools address longstanding educational challenges, drive innovations in teaching, learning and assessment, better prepare students for their future, and save money.

Karen Cator, who is the Director of Education Technology in the Office of the Secretary, US Dept. of Education for the Obama administration gave a brief summary of the plan, which is now open to public comment.  “If we are serious — and we are — about getting many more kids over a much higher bar, we have to transform our schools and empower teachers and students with the best possible technology of the day.  Strong state leadership to ensure meaningful use at scale is vitally important. At the same time, we see technology offering unique opportunities to invigorate and inspire teachers and students.”

As someone who has a passion for technology and plans on making his living off of it, I can only offer my best support for this idea.  The plan focuses on educating students and teachers in grades K-12 by providing classrooms with up-to-date computer technology, including broadband internet access for schools and libraries at a discounted rate, provided by the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

I feel Sue Gendron, the Commissioner of Education in Maine and the President of CCSSO said put the idea where it needs to be. “Technology in education cannot be assumed or it just won’t happen. In Maine, we aligned our educational goals with the technology — tools, training, access, and infrastructure — necessary to accomplish those goals. We set a minimum threshold for spending on educational technology and threaded together state and federal dollars to make it happen.”

Let me know what you guys think.  Do you think we should focus spending on other areas?  Is this an important issue, especially with where we stand with technology today?

Thanks for reading, all, and don’t forget the quiz on blackboard!  Here’s the link to the article.

-Mike

March 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

03/15/2010: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

The rising buzzword in the Internet community, nowadays, is VoIP phone. What does it mean? How does it affect your life or business?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and that means a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone. Other terms frequently encountered and synonymous with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, and broadband phone.

VoIP services convert your voice into a digital signal that travels over the Internet. If you are calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination. VoIP can allow you to make a call directly from a computer, a special VoIP phone, or a traditional phone connected to a special adapter. In addition, wireless “hot spots” in locations such as airports, parks, and cafes allow you to connect to the Internet and may enable you to use VoIP service wirelessly.

Equipment Needed

The broadband (high speed Internet) connection is the major equipment required for VoIP to work. All VoIP services require your broadband Internet connection to be active. A computer, adaptor, or specialized phone is required.

Charges Associated

Some VoIP providers charge for a long distance call to a number outside your calling area, similar to existing, traditional wireline telephone service. Other VoIP providers permit you to call anywhere at a flat rate for a fixed number of minutes or some even provide these services for free.

VoIP Advantages

There are two major reasons to use VoIP: Lower Cost  and Increased Functionality

In the most extreme case, users see VoIP phone calls (even international) as FREE. While there is a cost for their Internet service, using VoIP over this service may not involve any extra charges, so the users view the calls as free. There are a number of services that have sprung up to facilitate this type of “free” VOIP call. Examples are: Free World Dialup and Skype

VoIP makes some things easy that are difficult or even  impossible with traditional phone networks.

  • Incoming phone calls are automatically routed to your VoIP phone wherever you plug it into the network. Take your VoIP phone with you on a trip, and anywhere you connect it to the Internet, you can receive your incoming calls.
  • Call center agents using VoIP phones can easily work from anywhere with a good Internet connection.

VoIP Disadvantages

If you’re considering replacing your traditional telephone service with VoIP, there are some possible differences:

  • Some VoIP services don’t work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power.
  • Not all VoIP services connect directly to emergency services through 9-1-1.
  • VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance/white page listings.

Now, let’s take a look at this video provided by SigVoice Corp.

Thanks for reading ~

Don’t forget to take the quiz on Blackboard.

Sandeep

March 15, 2010 at 2:45 am Leave a comment

Password Strength And You: Are You Secure?

For my article this week, rather than finding something cool to write about, I decided to write about something that I feel is really important that most people don’t really consider. So, with that said, I hope you guys find this interesting and I would really appreciate any feedback in the form of comments!

If you’re anything like me, you probably use the exact same password for nearly everything. This isn’t the best idea because if someone obtains your password for one site, they can use it for all the other places too. However, I don’t even use a different password for every website I go to because that would be completely impractical. So, instead of having separate passwords for your personal email, work email, school email, AIM, etc. you can make sure you use one very strong password.

But, what makes a password strong? Well, to understand that, you’ll first have to understand how hackers break passwords. There are a few ways to do it. By far, the most common way to break passwords is with a technique known as “Social Engineering.” loginboxThere are several ways that hackers try to “Socially Engineer” passwords. With the amount of information people publicly post on the internet, it is easy for hackers to guess passwords. An example of this would be the “secret question” that many websites will use to help you re-obtain your password if you lose/forget it. An example of a secret question would be “where did you go to high school?” or “what is your pet’s name?” Both of these questions and others like them can be answered fairly easily if your Facebook profile is publicly accessible. So, make sure you lock down your Facebook profile to make it harder for hackers to find out this sort of information!

A common method is through deception. A hacker may send an email where they claim to be an administrator from the site that you use that password for. A common name for this technique is called “Phishing.” In a Phishing scam, the hacker will send an email that appears to be legitimate, and often times it will ask the recipient to reply to the email with their username and password under the pretense that they need to verify the account. It is for this reason that you will see “we will never ask you for your username or password” in official emails from websites. The real administrators do not need to get this information from you through email so if you ever receive an email that asks for your password to anything, be suspicious because it’s probably fake.

Another common technique for hackers is actually just a form of guessing. Called “Brute Forcing“, the hacker will use a program that just starts guessing passwords in the hope that it will get it right. Many websites offer a safeguard against Brute Forcing in the form of a maximum attempts limit. If you’ve ever been locked out of a website for a certain amount of time due to guessing your password wrong too many times, you’ve experienced a maximum attempts limit. However, if the website does not use any sort of Brute Force protection, the hacker can set up the program to simply go through the dictionary, because many users will use single words for their passwords. A dictionary-based attack can obtain your password in a matter of minutes, which is why it is important to have a strong password! According to PC Magazine, the most common passwords are:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. qwerty
  4. abc123
  5. letmein
  6. monkey
  7. myspace 1
  8. password 1
  9. blink182
  10. [user’s first name]

All of these passwords are incredibly weak. Most websites will have some minimum requirements for password strength. This is why you generally have to have a minimum of 6 characters for your password. The longer a password is, the tougher it is to break. However, did you know that passwords are usually case-sensitive?

Let’s pretend that your password is “guitar”. “guitar” would be a very weak password because, as you learned earlier, a dictionary-based Brute Force attack could crack that password in a matter of a few minutes. To improve that password without having to remember anything extra, you could simply capitalize the first letter. By replacing “guitar” with “Guitar”, you’ve improved the strength of your password tremendously. That’s not the only thing you can do though. Let’s say your birthday is March 21st, 1987. A good password then could be “Guitar32187”. The combination here of a capital first letter and numbers makes it nearly impossible for a hacker to crack using the Brute Force method. However, for one last added bit of security, I recommend you add some sort of punctuation mark to the end of the password. An easy one to remember is “!”. It’s like you’re shouting your password at the computer. So, then your password would be “Guitar32187!”

So, are you using a weak password? If you are, you should really consider making a few small modifications to the password to make it stronger. If you click here you will find a password strength tester. It will give a rather complicated break-down of why your password is secure or insecure and provide a score for the password. It’s a good way to measure if what you are using is adequate. Our first example, “guitar” only gets an 8% for security. By changing it to “Guitar” the score is upped to %22. By changing it to “Guitar32187”, the score is changed to 93% and by adding that final punctuation mark (!) to the password, its strength is improved to 100%.

So, how secure are you? If you found any of this helpful, I appreciate any feedback! Don’t forget to take your quiz, either!

March 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm 1 comment


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