Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR

To All Web Bytes Readers:

I pray for ~
  • Good health, plenty of joy, and the mind set to be productive in whatever you do as well as your loved ones in 2009 and beyond
  • That you continue to read Web Bytes, make comments, suggest topics and recommend it to others
  • Lastly, for God to give me the ability to publish the type of blog topics that would be of interest and of value to you, thereby, keeping you coming back for more Web Bytes.

In His Service,
AvaByGrace
www.webbytesblog.blogspot.com


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GoalsOnTrack Update 12/31/2008

Officially, a new version of GoalsOnTrack has been launched today just in time for 2009 goal setting. I started to use the prior version about two days ago so it will be difficult for me to write a knowledgeable comparison blog post. I am currently working on setting my 2009 goals and pray to have that completed before the end of the day, if not, will continue tomorrow. Remember, you cannot just set goals and forget about them, they have to be reviewed to see your progression and adjusted if necessary.

Once again, if anyone has used GoalsOnTrack or is planning on using it to stay on track with 2009 goals please let us know how this application is working for you.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


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Monday, December 29, 2008

GoalsOnTrack

The motivation for writing this installment of Web Bytes was the premise of setting goals for 2009 and to stay on target.

GoalsOnTrack is a free web-based application fashioned on the Getting Things Done (GTD) software created by David Allen to keep on track the goals set. The GoalsOnTrack application was created by Vancouver IT Services, Inc. and has a couple tabs on the top of the application which easily directs the user – Dashboard, Goals & Tasks, Notes, Progress and Timesheet. The main features of the application is Getting things done, See real progress, Track your time and Keep a journal accomplished through the aforementioned tabs which are explored below.
  • Dashboard - Shows an overview of all goals with progression bars and percentages as showing on track, lagging, ahead, behind or if goals have met ~ all very colorful. After the Active Goals are listed Today’s Tasks with the number of tasks to be accomplished today, Overdue Tasks with the amount, Upcoming Tasks also with the amount and Latest Activity listed by the time the activity was created in descending order. All tasks have the time tracker feature (discussed shortly) so it can be started when the task is started. On the right hand corner of the Dashboard there is a checklist of all the things need to be done to accomplish goals every day through the ‘Today’s Checklist’. The un-checked items show what is left to be done for the day; next is ‘How to get started’ which has links to define your goals, add tasks to support your goals, complete tasks and tract time, review progress and time usage; and finally is a section on ‘How to use the time tracker’ showing the total time spent on each task calculated in 15-minute increments. All overdue tasks are pin pointed.

  • Goals & Tasks – This tab show goals in order of entry or can be reset to the order of preference. Under the goals are listed the tasks needed to be accomplished today, tomorrow and later if tasks were listed for each group when created to move forward on accomplishing the goals. There is also an option to add more tasks if this becomes necessary in accomplishing the goal. Completed tasks and how long it took to complete the tasks are listed directly under this. There is also a log of the tasks you have accomplished over the past week. Additionally, you can define your goals by categories such as long-term and short-term etc.

  • Notes – This tab allows for the keeping of a journal on all goals and annotate whatever is consider necessary for attaining these goals. This is done on the order of a blog entry, giving date and time of the posting with the choice to edit or delete the post. There is an archiving feature on the right hand side of the page keeping tabs on older entries by month and year. Above this feature is the selection for posting a new entry to the journal.

  • Progress – This tab gives a detail progress grid of each goal. The grid categories are today, this week, this month and overall showing the percentage and the number of tasks completed from the total number necessary to reach the goal. There is a trend indicator comparing these accomplishments with yesterday, last week and last month. Additionally, an overall feature shows each goal’s status such as falling behind or on track etc. At the bottom of this page there is a link to customize the progress report to the date range as necessary. The right hand area shows the status notes and an explanation of the color codes.

  • Timesheet – Lastly, Timesheet records the time spent on goals broken down in to goal categories and tags, if tags are used.

I just sign up for an account and am currently using this application to see how it works and if it is an application I will continue to use. If you have used GoalsOnTrack and would like to enlighten us on your experience, please share. The “Useful Links” below are for general questions and answers the developers anticipated and a blog to help users gain insight into the workings of this application and any enhancements to the application. If you cannot find the answer/solution to your problem, you can also email support at http://www.goalsontrack.com/index/support. I thought this was a timely article since so many of us set goals for the upcoming year and never follow through so this is one of many options that will allow us to stay on track.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

Useful Links
General FAQs:
http://www.goalsontrack.com/index/help

Blog address:
http://goalsontrack.wordpress.com/about/




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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

To My Wonderful Webbytes Family;
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY, HEALTHY, PRODUCTIVE AND PROSPEROUS 2009.

~Have you set your goals for 2009 yet?

Enjoy!

In His Service,
Ava
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Google's Chrome

Chrome is a new open source browser from Google developed for today’s Web and beyond, embodying speed, stability and security as well as a clean, simple and efficient user interface. It is currently only available for Windows XP and Windows Vista giving the users of these operating systems one more choice in this realm of software we cannot live without to access the Internet. Chrome was officially released 12/11/08 for Windows; Mac and Linux versions are currently being developed. My curiosity got peeked due to problems with two of the three browsers I am currently using and Google’s claim of Chrome’s sophisticated technology enabling for faster, safer and easier web experience. In Google’s write up on Chrome its speed is ascertained from a JavaScript engine, V8, built specifically for Chrome, it also spoke of the use of components from Apple’s WebKit (an open source application that provides the foundation for building a browser) and Mozilla’s Firefox, to help with its development. Accordingly, Google will make Chrome’s code also open source.

Chrome’s features enable you to browse the Web or perform a search in the same box – one box for everything; save or bookmark your favorite Web pages; open the Web in tabs – each Web page has its own environment isolated from the others allowing what is happening in one tab not to affect what is happening in the others, demonstrating the stability and security of Chrome; get to your most visited Websites and searches – this is done via New Tab Page; and download files in a simpler way allowing for more options . Additional features allow you to create shortcuts for your Web applications – called Application Shortcuts; browse the Web without saving information – called Incognito Mode (this feature is also available in IE 8 beta); manage your browsing history; and Isolate misbehaving tabs – called crash control which is accessible by opening the task manager, again demonstrating the stability of Chrome.

Google’s Chrome support page has a “Getting Started Section”, a “Troubleshooting Section” which offers support for “Installation Issues”, “Website Issues”, “Known Issues” etc. There is also a Help Forum where you can ask questions and answer them as well once you feel comfortable enough to lend your expertise to the group. Additionally there is a Help Center, Known Issues Pages and Posting Tips that should be seek prior to engaging the Forum. Lots of support!

Currently my browser of choice is Mozilla Firefox and I have downloaded Chrome for use in conjunction with this and the other browsers over the course of the next few weeks and let you know my experience. The “Reviews” links below give some insight into Chrome’s features and what the reviewers liked and disliked. The MSNBC link compares IE 8 Beta and Chrome. If any of you have used Chrome, I welcome your input.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

Reviews:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2329923,00.asp
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26519075/

References/Informational/Comic Links:
http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/topic.py?topic=14658
http://www.google.com/support/chrome/?hl=en
http://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/small_00.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/webkit



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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alert - Patch and Update

Microsoft today released a patch for zero-day vulnerability affecting Internet Explorer (IE) 5 through 8 Beta 2. This patch is meant to protect against malware being downloaded unto your computer if a malicious site is visited without your knowledge or from a legitimate site that has been infected. This problem stems from the browser’s flaw in data binding function which leaves a hole in the memory space that can be access remotely. See link below for more information from Microsoft on this patch.
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms08-078.mspx

Firefox security updates are ready for download for 3.0.5 http://getfirefox.com/ and 2.0.019 http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/all-older.html on Windows, Mac and Linux. This update is the final one for Firefox 2 as Mozilla is not planning any future security and stability updates for this version. Therefore the protection for phishing will also be discontinued in Firefox 2.0 as Mozilla would like users to update to Firefox 3. This would allow resources to be concentrated on Firefox 3 and future versions. See links below for a list of changes and more information Firefox 3.0.5 Release Notes and the Firefox 2.0.0.19 Release Notes.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


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Sunday, December 14, 2008

1st Manager

I recently came across a Web 2.0 application called 1st Manager which is a digital workspace developed for and managed by 1stManagerInc. It is cost-free and of course installation-free as it is an online solution for project management and team collaboration. No matter the geographic location of the person working with you on your projects in 1st Manager, everyone is always in touch and updated.

1st Manager has three product categories with varying levels of service ranging from free to $499 US per month with three product categories. More details on pricing can be seen at www.1stmanager.com/products.aspx. Currently, all the accounts are non-expiring and it takes very little time to create projects, assign tasks and send notification to the people involved.

This write up focused on the Hosted Solution product category with the free account level of service. The features of this free service are: 400 KB file storage space; you can work on six simultaneous projects; use 50 tasks; engage six users and six clients; utilize two project templates; the browser is SSL enabled (128 bit encryption); email notification as selected by the project administrator; charts and reporting; export all your data (Excel, PDF, CSV, Text, iCal); access via sub-domain (www.yournname.1stmanager.com). This level of service is for small teams working on simple projects and can also be used to test 1st Manager enhancements before upgrading if you have one of the paid levels of service.

For a complete assessment of this product visit www.1stmanager.com and click on the live demo link for a very detailed look at this Web 2.0 application using the demo account. Through the demo account you see a sample of an account and how it can be used to accomplish tasks. You get a touch and feel for the application and will be able to decide if it is a good fit for your use.

Anyone using 1st Manager and would care to let us know your experience please email me or share via the comment feature below.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


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Monday, December 8, 2008

HAPPY 40TH BIRTHDAY!

The PC mouse turned 40 this week. Some information gives 12/8/1968 as the exact date and others 12/9/1969. The Stanford sites gives 12/9/1968 as the date the mouse made its debut at the Fall Joint Computer Conference held at the Convention Center in San Francisco. It was invented by Douglas C. Engelbart and his team at the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA and presented to the public during a 90-minute live presentation at the above mentioned conference. The mouse was originally made from a block of wood on wheels with a long cord (tail). For more information visit the Stanford site at http://sloan.stanford.edu/MouseSite/1968Demo.html. You can also visit the link below to read an article in The Telegraph by Claudine Beaumont published on 12/1/08. The article shows a photo of Mr. Engelbart and all the various versions of the mouse. Can you imagine computing as you know it today without the mouse? Share your thoughts. Happy birthday again!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/technologynews/3538800/Computer-mouse-celebrates-40th-birthday.html

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Verdiem's Edison

Green is said to be the new black referencing computers and the greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide) from their use (Wingfield, 2007). Gartner, the leading technology research and advisory company reported personal computers (PCs) are responsible for 40% of the carbon dioxide associated with information technology and telecommunications (Lohr, 2008). This does not include printers and other PC peripherals. The US Department of Energy estimated that 40% of electricity is wasted on electronics that are turned off but plugged in and the biggest culprit is the PC. As previously mentioned in “Saving Energy, Saving Time” October 1, 2008 blog post, get into the habit of turning off your computer when not in use and unplug completely or use a power switch to switch off all equipment at once when finished for the day.

To aid in reducing computer energy consumption Verdiem, a Seattle based company that has made energy saving software (Surveyor) for companies to manage their power consumption enterprise-wide has used this resourcefulness to bring comparable software to the consumer ~ Edison. This is free software that calculates and reduces energy usage. Edison is available at the present time only for Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems and can be downloaded via numerous sites including verdiuem.com, microsoft.com/environment and climatesaverscomputing.org. Kevin Klustner, Verdiem’s CEO, stated that overtime they will address the use of power management for Macs.

After downloading and registering the software you can customize the settings via the consumer-friendly interface to put your PC into energy-saving mode. Edison does not shut down the PC it merely places it into a suspended state which saves on energy consumption. You can customize Edison’s settings to define your work and nonworking hours. First set your schedule by clicking on the Schedule tab. For the traditional work week select Monday through Friday or if you work more on weekends, select Saturday and Sunday or evening hours. Then select the Work Time tab, and set your PC energy management controls setting by sliding the slide bar to save more or save less depending on your work time. The Work Power Settings allow you to turn off the display (monitor) and power down the hard drive prior to the actual suspension if you so desire. Once you have chosen your settings Edison will calculate what the effect will be on your PC right underneath by estimated savings in money, energy and the amount of CO2 not emitted into the environment. Here you can also localize the setting of the rate for electricity by inputting the rate you pay in your area as Edison’s default is the national average. Next, click on the Non-Work Time tab where you can save more since your usage will be limited. See Edison’s demo link below for a quick visual overview.

Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI), a nonprofit group of eco-conscious consumers, business and conservation organization, has set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emission from computers by 54 billion tons, the equivalent output of 11 million cars annually, by 2010 according to Lorie Wigle, president of this group. This goal includes all computer usage (consumer, corporate including data centers), but as mentioned previously, the PC contributes quite hefty to this equation. Eco-conscious consumers can aid in this endeavor by including Edison as a tool to help reduce computer energy consumption. We will keep an eye on Edison to see how things are going and I am interested in your feedback if you have been using Edison or your PC power management system and if not, your thoughts are still welcome. For a list of CSCI’s members visit their Web site at http://www.climatesaverscomputing.org/about/member-directory/

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

Edison Demo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCEiD77x4B0&eurl=http://blog.enterpriseitplanet.com/green/blog/2008/08/verdiems-edison-free-energy-saving-software-for-windows-xp-vista.html&feature=player_embedded


References:
Lohr, Steven. (2008 August 6). An Energy Diet for Power-Hungry Household PCs.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/06/technology/06green.html?_r=2&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

Wingfield, Brian. (2007 September 26). Green: The New Black.
http://:www.forbes.com/2007/09/26/computers-carbon-emissions-tech-cx_bw_0926dell.html


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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

I did not get a chance to post this week, but during this wonderful holiday week I would like to say thank you to all who have been reading my blog since I started writing and also to those who have contributed either by way of comment, email, and phone or in person. To you, I am really grateful you have given me a chance to share my passion with you and I pray you continue to give me the platform and allow me to come along with you on your journey for knowledge and let us enjoy learning together. ~Thank you!

In His Service,
AvaByGrace
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

JING

I was asked a question today about the Jing Project by a friend of mine (Hi Karen). I knew of it but had never used it so I decided to do some research since it is an application that more than likely I would be using in the very near future. With that said, I also thought it may be of value to the Web Byte community so here it is ~ a very brief overview of Jing, my first Jing video and the links for you to pursue the topic further.

Jing is a free downloadable software by TechSmith (the world’s leading provider of screen capture and recording software for individual and professional use) available in Mac and PC formats. It was included in the 100 Best Products of 2008 in the September issue of PCWorld, so for the price it’s not a lightweight. The concept behind the project is to be always ready to capture and share images and videos from your desktop – anything you can see on your screen you can share with anyone as an image or a video. According to the information on the Jing site, it is designed to capture, annotate and share. You can snap a picture of anything on your desktop; record video of what you do or what you see; and upload it to share via emails, IMs or blogs. As mentioned previously, Jing is currently a free application and includes a complimentary Screencast.com account (Screencast.com is a TechSmith’s media hosting solution that securely host your Jing content) with 2 GB of storage and 2 GB of transfer bandwidth per month. The video length is limited to five (5) minutes and I think that is quite enough to show someone a simple process.

As I anticipated using this application to show others how to do tasks on their computers since this is a question I get asked quite often…how do I do…?, I decided to download Jing and see how it works first handed. The download process took about 6 minutes, at the end you are asked to create a Screencast.com account which entails providing an email address where they can notify you if necessary and creating a password and screen name. With Jing you can capture the steps to complete a task on your desktop and create a link for sharing on Screencast.com, embed the code, save on Flickr (with a Flickr account), use the FTP (file transfer protocol) or save it to your hard drive. These selections make your project available for others to see via your blog, Web site, email or IM. Since sharing information via blogs is one of Jing’s usages, I decided to create a video of formatting a document, create a link on Screencast.com so it would be available for you to see. Sometimes it is easier to see things done rather than listen to or read the instructions. If anyone has used Jing, we would be interested to know in what capacity and your experience with it.

Since this is just a brief overview of Jing, please visit the links below pertaining to the project for more detailed information.

As always, email me with your topics and lets have a good time learning together!

My Video:
Formatting a Document-11/22/08

Here are some links to the project:
Home page http://www.jingproject.com/
FAQs http://www.jingproject.com/faq.asp#q1
Jing blog http:/blog.jingproject.com/



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Friday, November 14, 2008

Microsoft Live@Edu Initiative

While researching information on Microsoft Office Live Workspace (OLW) I came across some information that would be of value to students and teachers that read Web Bytes. After a brief write up there is a link to Microsoft Live@Edu immediately below which will give you further information to pass on to the school administrators (Free for K-12 and higher education).

Basically in a nutshell, Microsoft Live@Edu initiative allows students and faculty access to a 5 GB size Hotmail inbox or 10 GB Exchange Labs inbox, 5 GB password protected online storage space, shared calendars, blogging tools, and access to these services on a mobile phone all at no cost to the school or student, OLW and Microsoft SkyDrive (For document storage), Microsoft SharedView Beta (Share your desktop with 15 others), Windows Live Spaces (Set up an area for group projects, campus clubs or personal pages), Windows Live Messenger (Chat, share folders and send messages), Windows Live Alerts (Receive SMS alerts on mobile phone)and Mobile (Live@edu services are available through your mobile phone). This has been around since 2005 but has only been incorporated with OLW since the last quarter of 2007 (Nagel, 2008).

In addition to the above, there is a layout of different deployment options enabling you to choose the one that best suit your needs or fit into your organizational scheme. This is just a brief overview and does not scratch the surface. I recommend anyone interested in this initiative visit the link immediately below for more information and read through all the information provided by the top links as well as the ones in the body of the page. Based on what I saw visiting the site it is a real plus for the academic community and I intend to share this information with those I know working in this community.

http://get.liveatedu.com/Education/Connect/

I hope this information was of help to you and pass it on to others who may be interested in this application. Email the link to this post for easy navigation to the article and let me know if you or anyone you know decide to give it a try.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


Reference
Nagel, D. (March 4, 2008). Microsoft Expands Office Live Workspace Beta Worldwide. Application Development Trends. http://www.javareport.com/article.aspx?id=22159


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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Microsoft Office Live Workspace

This is another one of Microsoft’s Live Office applications in its Beta (still being refined) stage. OLW allows the saving of documents on the Web enabling the user access from anywhere with an Internet connection, a Web browser, a Windows Live ID and a valid email inbox. You can use it for work, school, and home. I personally use my workspace to work between my desktop and laptop as well as collaborate on projects with schoolmates. Recently I set up the application for my two business partners, allowing us the freedom to collaborate on projects while being geographically separated. With this type of freedom, the possibilities are limitless in collaborative work.

OLW is a Web-base application as in Cloud Computing (See Web Byte entry 11/8/08 on Cloud Computing). As previously mentioned, accessing it allows the user to share documents and files, work from home on documents that were previously placed in the workspace and/or create new ones for the office, school or personal projects, organize files, create lists, and notes by project or assignment. The administrator of the workspace (you) have the ability to share the screen with others and work together on documents in real time via Microsoft SharedView beta integration which is a small downloadable (more on this later). You can set permission to control who can view or edit the documents and manage all changes in a single online copy of a document which eliminates the need for emails going back and forth; gather feedback on ideas and projects; share agendas, minutes, handouts, and presentations; organize a study group and work on assignments; share class notes and schedules; keep track of test and grades; plan events and show accountability; work on budgets, directions, etc. This is just a few of the numerous tasks that can be coordinated via OLW. No downloads are required to use OLW, storage for each workspace as of now is 500 MB and 25 MB the size of the largest file. Oh, by the way, did I mention that OLW is free at the present time.

To help you get started with all the various tasks listed above, OLW have pre-fabricated templates with the types of workspace you want to set up. The types of templates now available are Class workspace, Essay workspace, Event Workspace, Household Workspace, Job Search Workspace, Meeting Workspace, School Workspace, Sports Team Workspace, Travel Workspace and of course a Blank Workspace enabling you to create whatever type of workspace you need. OLW keeps track of every version of a document which allows you to revert back to a previous version if the need arise. There are also “How to Videos” within the application that will help you accomplish a given tasks.

To extend the functionality of OLW, it works well with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook office productivity software. You can synchronize tasks, events and contacts with Outlook 2003 and 2007, export any workspace list to Excel, Open and save files directly from Office XP, 2003 or 2007, save documents to your workspace directly from Word on your PC. I read in PC World (Spanbauer, 2008) that documents can also be edited in comparable applications such as OpenOffice.org (see Web Byte entry for 10/20/08 on this free downloadable software). Office Live Updates are available from within the OLW application if you have the MS Office programs listed above installed on your PC. Microsoft SharedView, mentioned previously, allows up to 15 people in different locations to share your screen and collaborate in real time.

There is a lot of help available with OLW in addition to what is within the application. On the screen within Microsoft Office Live Workspace to download SharedView are tips on using this application as well as links on working smarter and faster, make SharedView work for you, learn how to use SharedView and a User Assistance Homepage with links to Release Notes, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Table of Content with Scenarios, Hot Topics, Session Management, Sharing Applications and Handouts, Using Options Dialog and Suggested Reading. There is also a Community section where users can help each other or share ideas, get the latest news, forums to ask questions and get help; a blog where product news, insight and tips are available and an Examples section showing how people are using OLW.

I noticed MS Access was not part of the Office productivity software mentioned that work well with OLW. With all this help and access to people actually working on this project, I see where an avid user of Access can, just maybe, make a suggestion that if possible, MS Access be integrated into OLW in the next version

Base on the amount of space, the maximum size of a file and the number of people who can collaborate on a project, I feel this application is best suited for smaller projects with low volume interaction. But I like it and it has and continues to sever my needs quite well. Matter of fact, I think I’ll send this link to my Pastor (just started a new church) and we can use this application for planning our upcoming projects and events.

I hope this information was of help to you and pass it on to others or send them an email with the link to this post that would navigate them directly to this article.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

Helpful Links
Microsoft Office Live Workspace Links
http://workspace.officelive.com/

User Assistance Homepage
http://connect.microsoft.com/content/content.aspx?ContentID=6382&SiteID=94


SharedView
http://www.connect.microsoft.com/content/content.aspx?ContentID=6415&SiteID=94


Workspace FAQ and Office Web Applications
http://workspace.officelive.com/FAQ


References
Microsoft Office Live Workspace
http://workspace.officelive.com/

Spanbauer, S (March 24, 2008). Hands On: Microsoft Office Live Workspace. PC World
http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/143519/hands_on_microsoft_office_live_workspace.html



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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

HAPPY VETERANS DAY

YOU HAVE EARNED IT!

ENJOY THE SHOW

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Monday, November 10, 2008

OpenOffice.org Update

I don’t know if you checked out the OpenOffice.org site and tried out the free office productivity suite available, however, the software download has reached a milestone and is doing really well. In light of this, below is information from an email I received today from the Marketing Project Co-lead, Florian Effenberger. The email mentions some of the recent download activity after its Beijing Conference which was held last month.

Subject: OpenOffice.org Achieves Ten Million Downloads at the End of its Beijing Conference

Early on Sunday morning, the OpenOffice.org Community passed the ten million downloads mark for the latest version of its software, just four weeks after the launch on October 13th. The week also marked the first time the OpenOffice.org Annual Conference has been held outside Europe.

November 10, 2008 -- Early on Sunday 9th, the OpenOffice.org Community achieved an historic milestone, when the ten millionth person clicked on the "Download OpenOffice.org" button since the Community announced version 3.0, just four weeks ago. The week also saw the first time the OpenOffice.org Annual Conference has been held outside Europe, with over four hundred people attending the Conference in Beijing, China from Wednesday to Friday.

John McCreesh, Marketing Project Lead, explained the importance of the two events. "Since the launch of OpenOffice.org 3.0, we have had a verifiable record of downloads from central website. We were delighted to hit a million downloads in the first two days. Four weeks later, we have hit ten million, and we are still seeing an amazing 250,000 - 350,000 downloads a day. For a community with no advertising budget, this is an astonishing level of product awareness around the world. Add to this the success of our Beijing Conference, and there can be no doubt that OpenOffice.org is now genuinely a global phenomenon."

What makes the statistics impressive is that they only record downloads via the OpenOffice.org website, and exclude for example large numbers of Linux users who generally download software from their own distributor. There are estimated to be eight million users of Ubuntu Linux alone, the majority of whom rely on OpenOffice.org for their office software. In addition, many users obtain OpenOffice.org via other mirrors, peer-to-peer networks, CDs, or other media. The total number of OpenOffice.org users worldwide is not known, but the Community believes it is well on track to reach its declared target of a 40% market share worldwide by 2010.

Finally, even with this level of market acceptance, the Community is not complacent. The OpenOffice.org Bug Bounty Programme is still open, offering cash prizes of up to 500 Euro to new developers who help fix bugs reported by users. This is part of ongoing activity to encourage additional developers, which has already resulted in a record number of contributors working on the 3.0 release.

For more information visit http://www.openoffice.org/editorial/ displaying links to articles, interviews, blogs, newsletters, etc. or the marketing site at http://marketing.openoffice.org/

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!



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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cloud Computing, the Latest Fad or is It Here to Stay?

Cloud computing apparently is the latest buzz words in the technology industry. Simply put, it involves software and storage being on a server on the Internet as opposed to being on one’s individual computer, hence the term “cloud computing”. As long as you are connected to the Internet and have enough bandwidth for what you are trying to access, you can access the information from anywhere in the world and work on it. Your information is stored elsewhere and can be on a server or multiple servers on the Internet. Cloud computing makes it easier to work any where without trying to remember to walk with whatever device you use to transport your files; having to remember to transfer the information itself onto the devices and can reduce the cost of buying hardware. Your information will be available on the server when you purchase a new computer, eliminating the need to transfer your old files to the new computer. Backing up files and/or paying for this service can also be a thing of the past.

Sounds too good to be true! All the big tech companies (Microsoft, IBM, Google, etc.) are involved in some way in cloud computing. Various aspect of this technology is currently in existence today, mainly with companies, but some aspects of it can be seen in Web-based products that we use right now such as email accounts, workspaces like Microsoft Workspaces and Huddle Workspaces (a LinkedIn Beta Application) or even Microsoft Office Live as seen in my previous blog entry has workspaces.

Conversely, security and privacy may be issues to consider when choosing a provider for this service as well as the terms of the contract. Another issue can be related to reduction in front end or client side repair work since most of the repairs would be handled backend or server side, which may affect the small computer repair service. As this topic evolves in future years, look closely and see how the industry giants will handle these and other aspects of cloud computing.

This Tid Bit is just to keep abreast of what’s new in the industry. This is a great time for new trends in technology and cloud computing is quite an interesting topic, one to keep our eyes on.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!



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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Microsoft Office Live Small Business

I originally started this article for a business social network that I am a member of. Since I felt this topic is applicable to individuals, home base businesses, social groups and clubs, it’s in my home computing blog.

An option for the small business owner with limited financial resources and desiring a Web presence with a little extra is Microsoft Office live Small Business (http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/ ). This suite of Web-base tools offered with different features can meet this need through its basic option. The feature to have a custom domain name with private registration is available free for the first year and after this promotional period it is $14.95 a year. This includes up to 100 branded email accounts which conveys a professional image online.

Creating the site requires no coding and the mechanisms for this are the Site Designer and Page Editor tabs. Site Designer allows for a selection of professional looking theme templates, 25 to be exact, ranging from Accounting to Travel & Leisure and includes a choice for a custom theme image. There is also help features available on each page that are task-specific. Page Editor has Microsoft’s familiar toolbar options for editing your pages. If you are familiar with HTML, there is an HTML module that lets you insert your own code or widget code to allow the addition of Skype buttons, blog feeds, slideshows, YouTube, social networks etc.

Based on my experience with Office Live Small Business, it is a viable option for a business trying to create a Web presence whose budgetary constraints do not allow funding for this expenditure. As business finances improve and business requirements in this area expand, upgrades are available with additional features to meet the growing needs of the business.

Free Features:
Web Site – Includes easy-to-use Web site design and management tools, traffic reports, and 500 MB storage space

Custom Domain – Help customers find you online -.com, .org, .net, .info (free for first year) and up to 100 company-branded email accounts 5 GB of storage


Contact Manager – Management of sales opportunities, contact information, and tracking interaction with customers

Business Applications-
  • Document Manager – Store and share company documents in a central location for easy access and version control
  • Workspaces – Collaborate and share information in a password-protected environment that you control
  • Project Manager – Plan, assign and monitor projects and tasks associated with them

Support - Around the clock support, FAQs, Comment Message boards and online Resource Center for advice and how-to articles

Additional Features:
E-Commerce – With Store Manager you can sell your products on your Web site as well as on eBay, provide a shopping cart with the theme of your Web site showing a seamless integration, accept credit card payments, confirm purchases via email and generate invoices

E-mail Marketing – Send professional-looking newsletters, promotions, new product announcement and product and company updates

Search Marketing – AdManager allows you to advertise on popular search engines, target people who are already searching for the product and/or service that you offer, targets advertising in geographical areas you specify

And More - Additional storage, domain names, email accounts and business users can be added

For further clarity, visit the Small Business Office Live link above and get full details of the features as well as view a demo video

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!



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Friday, October 31, 2008

Spybot Search & Destroy

As promised, sooner than I thought, here is my write up on Spybot Search & Destroy. I first learned about this software from a dear friend of mine (Hi Toni) and it really is amazing. This fantastic freeware by Safe-Networking Limited is used for protecting your computer. The protection is from spyware and other kinds of malware, short for malicious software, which refers to software design to cause damage to computers. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, dishonest adware, etc. are included in this catch-all word.

There are two operating modes available with Spybot S&D. The first one is the easy mode option which has basic features for the new user. The second is the advanced mode for those who want more control over the features available. The features link below will take you to the features page on the Web to allow you to make a more informed decision.

Part of the support of this product includes a tutorial that walks the user through the download, installation and first scan process. It also instructs you on how to do a scan, interpret the results of the scan, and make a decision on the exceptions, how to remove the threats found and information about the Resident, which are three different types of protection (Immunize, Helper, and Tea Timer) that Spybot S&D offers. Though I feel it would be redundant to go into detail here on these types of protection since they are specifically detailed in the tutorial, Tea Timer warrants additional mention. Tea Timer is always running in the background and if an attempt is made to change critical registry files, it will notify you and give you options to deal with the threat.

In addition to the download of this freeware, there is a wealth of information for the user on the site. If you decide to download Spybot S&D, please take the time to read the tutorial and some of the information about other security issues. There is also information on other products developed by the same group.

I currently use Spybot S&D in addition to the anti-spyware feature that came with my security suite so this write up is from personal experience. As mentioned in my article “Home Computing Security”, more than one anti-spyware system is better protection for your computer. I thank the people at Safe-Networking for making this type of software available in freeware format to those who cannot afford to purchase this type of protection. In addition to my testimony, there are write ups in PC World and PC Mag.com on the efficiency of this software. Finally, as it is freeware, there is the ability to donate to the cause of keeping the software up-to-date against the bombardment of new threats.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

Helpful Links
Home: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/home/index.html
Overview: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/spybotsd/index.html
Features: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/features/index.html


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Automatic Maintenance

We have covered this topic previously, but to make things easier we are going to automate some tasks through programs like Windows Live OneCare, McAfee Total Protection Suite or through a preventive maintenance plan.

Windows Live OneCare is a service that helps protect your computer by always working in the background and in conjunction with Microsoft Update for up-to-date changes. The protection consists of anti-virus and spyware, firewall, online Id theft protection, performance tune up, multi-pc management (up to three (3)) and data back up and restore. Once a problem is found, it will automatically show you how to take care of the problem and all this is done through a one-click solution. This is a paid service, with a 90-day trial and a $49.95 purchase price for the year. To find out more about this service, visit Windows Live OneCare at this link http://onecare.live.com/standard/en-us/default.htm

McAfee Total Protection Suite 2009 also runs in the background to protect your computer without slowing it down. The features consist of anti-virus, spyware, spam and phishing, two-way firewall, advanced Web site safety rating, identity protection, parental control, data backup, and Quickclear to safely remove junk files that take up space in your hard drive and slows down your computer. As with other software of this caliber, automatic updates and upgrades are automatically sent to your computer via the Internet. The cost of this service is $69.99 a year for three (3) computers and $129.99 for a two-year subscription. To find out more about this service, visit McAfee at this link http://us.mcafee.com/root/Package.asp?pkgid=275

A free alternative in conjunction with your Windows firewall, automatic updates, anti-virus and free spyware such as SpybotS&D* is to set up an automatic preventive maintenance plan through Windows Scheduler Task Wizard. This plan will clean up your hard disk of temporary files (Disk Cleanup) preferably on a weekly basis; Rearrange the hard disk (Defragmenter), preferably on a monthly basis; and check your hard disk for errors on a weekly basis. As mentioned before, this is free so all it cost is the time to set up the automation. Let’s get started!

The following are the steps necessary to set up these tasks to run automatically:
1. Set Disk Cleanup to run automatically
  • On the start menu, click Control Panel
  • In Control Pane, double-click Scheduled Task
  • Double-click Add Scheduled Task
  • The Scheduled Task Wizard opens
  • Click Next
  • A list of programs are shown, scroll down to Disk Cleanup
  • Click Next
  • Select a time and day you know you won’t be using your computer
  • Click Next
  • Enter your username and password – this is the name and password used to sign on to your computer
  • Click Next
  • You will see “You have successfully scheduled the following task…”
  • Click Finish to add the task to our Windows Schedule

2. Set Disk Defragmenter to run automatically
  • Repeat the above steps except you cannot select this task from the list but you have to click on Browse. Go to windows\system 32 and select defrag.exe
  • Click Open
  • Continue to schedule the frequency, time and date to start the task and select month since this is for a monthly schedule and select 1 day
  • Click Next
  • Enter your username and password
  • Click Next
  • You’ll see the successfully schedule disk defragment screen
  • Click Finish

3. Set your hard drive to be automatically check for errors
  • Repeat the same steps for Disk Defragment except select chkdsk.exe
  • Select weekly for frequency
  • Follow the remaining steps as noted above

Take the time to choose automating your maintenance process for a proactive instead of a reactive approach to your computer maintenance. In addition, take advantage of your Windows Help and Support Center to keep abreast of what is new on the security scene via Windows. I hope this information is of help to you and will allow you to take steps necessary to keep your computer running at its peak.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

*Will do a write up on Spybot Search & Destroy at a later date.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Memory Lane

Feel like taking a trip down memory lane? Techspot.com has a weekend open forum
(http://www.techspot.com/news/32195-weekend-open-forum-what-was-your-first-computer.html ) where you can write your answer to the question: What was Your First Computer? You can also read about others’ experiences as well. There is some interesting stuff there and I’m sure it will only get better with your addition. Enjoy!

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Alert

Microsoft released an urgent security update yesterday for all supported versions of Windows. The alert is for vulnerability in Microsoft Windows which could spread to your computer without your knowledge via the Internet. This vulnerability will allow code to be executed on your computer remotely.

The vulnerability is deemed critical (**A vulnerability whose exploitation could allow the propagation of an Internet worm without user action) on Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003 and important (**A vulnerability whose exploitation could result in compromise of the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of users data, or of the integrity or availability of processing resources) on Windows Vista and Server 2008.

Please visit Microsoft's Web site for more information on this vulnerability in Microsoft Windows if applicable:

http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/updates/bulletins/200810_oob.mspx


**The definitions for “critical” and “important” are from a November 2002 Microsoft bulletin http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/rating.mspx


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What to Look For When Purchasing a Laptop

For the person on the go who needs access to a computer, this is a reasonable question to ask one’s self. Most computer users are familiar with the features of a desktop, but lack experience with laptops. For me, I have always purchase my computers directly from the company, customizing to my specifications. For some, purchasing directly from the local store may be their preference which will enable them to test drive before purchasing. With the later you lose the ability to customize when you purchase off the shelf. In either case, you can always include store visits as part of your research project to actually test drive what is available and see what features you like in a laptop. I don’t think the brand matters because you can have a bad or good experience with any manufacturer’s product unless research specifically shows a trend on the negative side. The key is to do thorough research prior to making any major or unfamiliar purchase.

Below is a list of what I looked at when I purchased my laptop and you should consider this in conjunction with your usage. If any of you have other areas to consider or additional input, please share.

Battery usage –How many hours does the battery last? They last between 6 to 12 hours and your choice is dependant on the type of work you will be doing. Make sure the manufacture specifies the standard battery usage life

Monitor – make sure it is large enough for you since this feature cannot be upgraded. Yes, you can attach a monitor but, after all, your are purchasing this for portability

Operating system (OS) – Windows or Apple are the popular available choices and more than likely you would purchase the OS you are use to using with your desktop

Drives – Make sure the types of drive(s) you will be using or need are included (**see drive options below). A lot to consider as they all don’t do the same thing (see below). If you are still using a floppy drive, this is not a standard feature with newer computers so you would have to specifically add this feature

Ports – Make sure you have at least 2 USB ports, multiple USB ports adaptors can be purchased separately if the need arise, Ethernet or PCMIA port

Hard Drive – Always get the maximum size hard drive because this is where all your files reside

RAM (Random Access Memory) –The more memory the more efficient the laptop will be especially in handling large files. Determine if the memory can be upgraded or has it been optimized

Modem – Determine if it is an internal modem or PC Card. Wireless capability is important otherwise what is the sense of having the portability and not the availability of the Internet? Laptops usually come with an internal wireless card or a PCMIA card may be purchase – I purchased the Linksys wireless-G for my first laptop as it did not come with an internal connection. There are other brands available

Processor – Pentium II and III are sufficient for the typical user’s needs. For the more avid game player Pentium IV and Pentium with MMX (suppose to increase performance…lightning speed) would be more appropriate.

Sound Card – Most standard sound cards will suit the typical person’s needs. The typical laptop requires external speakers or headphones to enjoy the full affect of the sound. Advance sound cards can be purchase to increase sound quality for games and programs that require this

Weight – The lighter the laptop the easier it is to carry making this an important consideration in the purchasing decision

Video Card – Produces the visual output from your computer. Games and graphic programs depends the most on the video card’s ability to support their software. The video card along with the monitor determines the quality of what you see so it is a very important aspect of the purchase decision.

Software – See if the suite of software you want is included i.e. MS Office or whatever your preference. Is it the full version or trial? Make sure the copies are legal with the certificates included---Genuine Windows! Also see blog entry on OpenOffice as an alternative

Peripherals – Research these devices prior to purchasing as it may be more costly in the long run or may not meet your needs. (Printers, cameras, scanners, PC cards, etc.)

Used Laptop – Compare the cost of the used laptop to the cost of a new one. Look for the same features as when purchasing a new one

Service – What type is offered? On/off site; local authorized service centers; is international service available if purchased in a different country than where you live?

Manufacturer’s support – 24/7 support; contact options

Manufacturer’s warranty – the length of the warranty time should be at least one (1) year.

To ascertain a more in depth understanding of the preceding features, various articles are available on each individual feature. The purchase of a laptop computer is a big decision, therefore, take the time to research it thoroughly and test drive the available models to get a feel for what you like and don’t like. If what you want is available off the shelf, go for it!

As always, email me with your topics and comments, but more importantly let’s have a good time learning together!

**Drive Options:
• DVD-RW and +RW – you can burn and re-write DVDs multiple times
• DVD – you can watch DVDs and listen to CDs
• DVD –R and +R – you can burn a DVD only once
• CD – you can listen to CDs
• CD-RW and +RW – you can re-burn music on the same CD
• CD-R and +R – you can record music to a CD only once

References:
Computer Hope
WYFF Technology
Love to Know


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Monday, October 20, 2008

OpenOffice

This is the first of a two-part series on OpenOffice which is an open source office application suite consisting of six basic components. The second part will be written after I have used the software. The development of this suite was aimed at reducing Microsoft Office dominating the market by providing an alternative for users that is good quality and free to users for any purpose (domestic, commercial, educational, public administration) -- it is free of any license fees. As you can see via the components descriptions below, these applications were designed to work similar to those available in Microsoft Office. Openoffice.org is the formal name for these applications which was originally released in 2000 and is primarily sponsored by Sun Microsystems.

The following are components of OpenOffice.org 3 (After reading various articles, my understanding of these components’ similarity to MS Office are listed in parenthesis):

Writer – This is a word processing and HTML editor. (Word)

Calc – is a spreadsheet. (Excel)

Impress – is a presentations program. (PowerPoint)

Draw – is a graphics editor. (Publisher)

Base – is a database application. (Access)

Math – is an equation editor (articles say this is similar to MS Equation Editor- I have not used this feature in MS Office)

For additional information on OpenOffice, visit the official site at http://www.openoffice.org/ There is a lot of information on this site including links to articles, blogs, testimonials, monthly newsletter, awards, projects, how you can get involve in the project as well as downloading of the suite.

If any of you have used OpenOffice, I welcome your input. For those of you who have not used it yet and decided to after reading this article please let me know your thoughts.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!


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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saving Energy, Saving Time

To do our part to help protect the environment through home computing, we can change how we use our equipment as well as the decisions we make on new purchases. Some tips and/or reminders to help in this endeavor are:

• Turn off your computer when not in use. Better yet, unplug it! Try using a power strip to switch off all equipment at once when you are finish using them or that will turn off automatically. There continue to be a drainage of power since most devices consume electricity even when in their turned off state.

• If possible, use a laptop or upgrade to one instead of a desktop since the former uses less energy. According to Cool Citizen by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), laptops use about 15w compared to a typical desktop’s 140w. This 19 page brief gives households numerous ways to do their part to save energy. If you have the time, give it a read http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Climate/C02-12_CoolCitizensBrief.pdf

• When purchasing new equipment look for the Energy Star label to also enhance your goal of saving energy. Enabling the sleep mode on your desktop and monitor will drastically contribute to your conservation effort. Check out Energy Star instructions on how to enable the power management system on your particular operating system (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.showResults&output=xml_no_dtd&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&q=power+management+system).

• Use a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitor if possible or make this your next monitor replacement purchase for your current Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). This will save you money in your electricity bill as the LCD uses less power than the CRT.

• Use recycled computer paper

• Refill ink cartridges

• Recycling your old computer and other equipment can also add to your effort in helping to protect the environment. Many manufacturers and retailers offer take back programs or sponsor recycling events as well as city sanitation departments. If still usable, donate to a charitable organization. SNAP (Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership http://www.fortgreenesnap.org/ ) is one such organization I recently learned about. It is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of improving the quality of life in Fort Greene and the surrounding communities. I also found a very helpful article titled “Ten Tips for Donating a Computer" at http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/hardware/archives/page9675.cfm

• Recycle disks. Ideas and instructions for the crafty at heart can be found at http://www.instructables.com/id/Floppy-Disk-Bag/

• for bags, binders, wallet, note pads, pen holder and also at http://www.gearlog.com/2006/10/a_practical_use_for_floppies_t.php

Let’s do our part to help ensure a cleaner environment for future generations.

As always, email me with your topics and let’s have a good time learning together!

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tid Bit

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) – IT security awareness for short. This campaign started in 2003 and according to a press release from Homeland Security October 1, 2008 it is design to educate all citizens, key public and private sector partners on cyber threats and how to safeguard against these threats.

In this same press release the following tips were listed for staying safe online (Press Secretary. 2008):
  • Install anti-virus software, a firewall, and anti-spyware software to your computer, and update as necessary.
  • Create strong passwords on your electronic devices and change them often. Never record your password or provide it to someone else.
  • Back up important files.
  • Ignore suspicious e-mail and never click on links asking for personal information.
  • Only open attachments if you’re expecting them and know what they contain.
If you have been following this blog or Gracious Times Newsletter, the above tips should be quite familiar to you as it reiterates the tips given in previous blog postings and newsletter editions.

Interested in further information on this topic? Visit the links listed below for an expansion on this info and a few games along the way.

http://www.dhs.gov/xprevprot/programs/gc_1158611596104.shtm (tells how you can contribute to cyber awareness, who they partner with to get the word out as well as the events schedule to promote cyber awareness this month)

http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/structure/editorial_0839.shtm (all about the National Cyber Security Division)

http://www.us-cert.gov/ (this site gives a security tip of the day)

http://www.onguardonline.gov/ (has interactive quizzes to test you cyber smarts, videos about online safety and tips for computer security)

http://www.staysafeonline.info/ (online safety tips)

As always, email me with your topics and let's have a good time learning together!


Reference:
Homeland Security, Office of the Press Secretary. (2008, October 1). Fact Sheet: National Cyber Security Awareness Month: http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1222952298056.shtm


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Monday, October 6, 2008

Home Computing Security

In past issues of Gracious Times Newsletter, I stressed the importance of safety online and steps to take to help prevent or minimize identity theft. In this article I will continue in this vein of thought but deal with programs on your computer to help with safety. While at a sister’s (Sister in Christ) home over the weekend, the topic for this issue’s Web Byte came to me as her computer was totally unprotected and vulnerable to attacks after the expiration of her anti-virus software suite. My sister did not know about a computer firewall or its need to be operable. Because of this, here is this month’s Web Byte.

Home Computing Security
As an underwriter I learned a firewall was a physical device that stopped or slowed down a fire from spreading to other buildings. A computer firewall operates in the same fashion. It is software or hardware that verifies information coming from the Internet or a network to your computer and in some cases information leaving your computer and prevents or permits it through based on the selected settings of the firewall. Only one firewall software program can be protecting a computer at a time. The firewall that is included software from the factory is turned off while third-party firewall software is running. Once this third-party software is turned off, either because of contract expiration or manually, the computer is no longer protected. To again protect your computer with the Windows firewall software, you need to turn this feature on again. This can be easily done by accessing your Control Panel. Click on Start, then Control Panel, and select the Security Center icon. This action would show the firewall as being off and have a note stating “Windows does not detect a firewall”. Next you would click on the recommendations in the same box with the firewall option. When the Recommendation window opens you would click “enable now”, click Okay and the Recommendation window will close placing you back on the Security Center screen. This action will display a message “Windows firewall was successfully turned on”, click Close. Your firewall will once again be operable. You can also go to the Windows Firewall icon and turn it on there. While in the Security Center, there is also a resource box with topics to educate you on security. Additionally, there is a link to keep you abreast on what’s new to protect your computer.

The firewall alone is not complete protection. Nothing can protect your computer 100 % if it is connected to the Internet or a network. Matter of fact, in a knowledge base article by Microsoft (Microsoft, 2006) and National Cyber Alert System (2007) it states what Windows firewall software would not protect against are viruses and spyware. Based on this, you still need anti-virus and spyware programs. In addition to the security suite I have running on my computer I also use a free downloadable program that scans my computer for spyware which works quite well. Of course, like any other housekeeping task you have to run these programs periodically for them to do their job.

Added protection is gleaned from the firewall hardware feature in wire or wireless routers used in home networking and the broadband gateways from cable and DSN modems. If at all possible set up a hardware firewall also…two layers of protection is better than one.

Regular maintenance of your computer includes running the utilities on your computer such as disk defragment (this may take several hours) and disk cleanup as well as setting your computer to either receive automatic updates for any changes to the operating system and office programs or visit the update center often. Also, deleting files and programs no longer used, disconnect unused network connections, backup important files and folders and strong passwords (see useful links below). These housekeeping tasks will help you minimize computer vulnerability and increase usability of your computer. While in the Control Panel, you can schedule the disk defragment and disk cleanup utilities to run automatically through the “Scheduled Tasks” folder.

I pray this information was of interest and help to you and again, please send computing topics that you would like to see written about in Web Bytes to webbytesblog@yahoo.com. For those interested in more information on this topic, see “Useful links” below.

Thank you for your patronage and I look forward to receiving topics to research that titillate and illuminate all my readers as a whole, instead of me in particular. Thanks again, folks!


Some Useful Links on the Topic
www.firewallguide.com
www.freebyte.com
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/networking/security/winfirewall.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/firewall/faq.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/maintain/default.mspx
http://computer.howstuffworks.com/firewall.htm (This article is a little more technical)
http://www.cert.org/homeusers/HomeComputerSecurity/#6 (Strong Password)

References
Microsoft (August 15, 2006). Using Windows Firewall. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/networking/security/winfirewall.mspx

National Cyber Alert. (February 28, 2007). Cyber Security Tip – ST04-004 Understanding Firewalls. http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST04-004.html



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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mind-Boggling

It is unbelievable how one person’s tragedy becomes another person’s opportunity. While researching a topic for this issue’s Web Bytes, I came across mentioned of phishing (pronounced fishing) scams to exploit the massacre at Virginia Tech (VT). This is base on the increased number of domain names recently registered associated with the shootings at VT (Kaplan, 2007). One needs to be extremely security conscious, not only in light of this, but as part of your normal everyday Internet interaction. Phishing emails appear to be from a legitimate Web site. This being the premise of the scheme, the unsuspecting recipient click on the links in the email which takes them to a bogus site that mimics a reputable company. Divulging private information on this site – in this case one that appears to be associated with the VT tragedy - most likely would be used to steal your identity. This is just the latest scheme to take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities during a tragedy. Prior to this it was a spike in the number of Tropical Storm-Ernesto related domains and before that it was an increase in fraudulent Web sites asking for donations to help the victims of Katrina (Kaplan, 2006).

We are sure there are legitimate fund raising sites to help the victims and families of disasters and would not want to divert from this goal. The purpose of this Web Byte is to call your attention to how people are always scheming to take advantage of one’s generous nature. In general, one must be security minded while dealing with unsolicited emails and in particular, be more diligent in light on this information.

For readers who did not read our previous issues dealing with Phishing and Pharming (pronounced farming), please visit the following Web sites for more information on these two topics:

PHISHING
Federal Citizens Information Center at http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/scams/sc5180.htm

5 Steps to Keep From Being Victimized by Phishing Scams
http://netsecurity.about.com/od/secureyouremail/a/aa061404.htm

How Not to Get Hooked By a the ‘Phishing’ Scam http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt127.pdf

IDENTITY THEFT
Identity Theft and Credit Monitoring Services
www.identityprotection101.com/monitor_credit

PHARMING
National Internet Fraud Watch
http://www.fraud.org/welcome.htm
http://www.fraud.org/internet/inttip/inttip.htm

To report suspicious email to the US Federal Trade Commission, visit their Web site at www.ftc.gov (The old email address listed in our Phishing article has been phased out).

As always, if you are interested in reading Web Bytes on a particular topic, please email your request to webbytesblog@yahoo.com

References:
Kaplan, D. (2006, August 29). Hike in Ernesto-related Domains could be a Sign of Scams. http://www.scmagazine.com/us/news/article/589743/hike-ernesto-related-domains-sign-scams/

Kaplan, D. (2007, April 18). Virginia tech massacre may spawn phishing scams. SC Magazine US. http://www.scmagazine.com/us/news/article/651531/virginia-tech-massacre-may-spawn-phishing-scams/




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Pharming

The July/August issue of Gracious Times Newsletter featured Phishing (pronounced fishing) as the first Web Byte. As mentioned in that article, Pharming (pronounced farming) will be the Web Byte topic in this issue.

Pharming is a new twist to an old scam. It redirects Internet users, as many as possible, from the sites they intended to visit to bogus ones. These bogus sites usually look like the legitimate site the user intended to visit. The object of the redirection is to capture the user’s login name and password and to use this information for financial gain.

Pharming out scams phishing in that is involves a large group of users being redirected to bogus sites at the same time. This is DSN (domain system name) poisoning. The DSN translates web and email addresses (www.gracefortoday.org) into numerical strings known as the IP address (206.35.11.133) for the Internet. If these strings are poisoned, the IP address associated with it will cause users to be redirected.

As previously mentioned, pharming has been around for quite sometime, but the increase in incidences is cause for concern. The popularity of Internet banking, online shopping and electronic paying of bills have created more opportunity for criminals to capture personal information (credit card and bank account information as well as login information) than previously.

The issue of concern is the user thinks he/she is at the legitimate site as the bogus site looks like the legitimate site. There is no indication on the user’s computer screen that he/she is not on the site typed in the browser and personal information is divulged which will be used by criminals. Additionally, the user’s other transactions for the legitimate site can also be redirected if the pharming works.

Experts say improved browser security to prevent address spoofing or crypto plug-in which verify the digital certificates of sites can help combat pharming. If browsers would authenticate websites’ identities — display the true physical location of a website’s host, users may not be too quick to enter their personal information into a site located out of the area of operation for businesses they are contacting.

As mentioned in the previous article, more information on this and other Web security issues can be accessed at the Federal Citizens Information Center at http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/scams/sc5180.htm or call 1-888-873-3256.


The National Internet Fraud Watch
http://www.fraud.org/welcome.htm
http://www.fraud.org/internet/inttip/inttip.htm


If you are interested in reading Web Bytes on a particular topic, please email your request to webbytesblog@yahoo.com

Information for this article was gathered from various sources including Wired News (wirednews .com) “Pharming Out-Scams Phishing” by Michele Delio and The Register (theregister.com.uk) “Phishing Morphs into Pharming by John Leyden.



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Phishing

Phishing (pronounced fishing) is an attempt to get unsuspecting victims to divulge personal, confidential information under the guise of a legitimate request. This has been around for a long time via telephone, in person or through regular mail. In addition, several computer viruses have been used in an effort to silently capture information from infected machines. This article will discuss email phishing.

Whether through traditional means or email the bottom line is the same—be very careful providing your personal information.
• The scam begins when you receive a legitimate looking email from a reputable company. The links in the email would take you to bogus site that mimics the real reputable company. If you provide your personal information on this bogus site, you are most likely giving it directly to someone who will use it to steal your identity.
• Sometimes the email actually claims you may be a victim of identity theft if you don’t confirm your information.
• Another thing to notice is most phishing scams originate internationally and written by people who are not fluent in English ---misspelled words, incomplete sentences, awkward phrases and the like.
• In some instances the automatic downloading of images are turned off.

If you suspect that an email may be a phishing scam, you can view the service code of an HTML email message to see where a link actually goes (click on the View menu and then on page source on the drop down list).

If there is a link in the email, do not click on it, copy and paste the link to your address bar. You can still get tricked by URLs that look legitimate but have one or two letters switched.

Remember!
1. No legitimate company would ask you to provide personal information to them in this manger
2. View source Code of a HTML email message to determine where the link actually takes you
3. Be wary of emails that contain misspelled words, incomplete sentences, and awkward phrases
4. Don’t give your personal information to anyone unless you trust them and have initiated this contact yourself via a telephone number or address that you know to be valid.

To learn more about phishing visit the Federal Citizens Information Center at http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/scams/sc5180.htm or call 1-888-873-3256. To learn more about identity theft visit www.identityprotection101.com/monitor_credit. To track down suspicious IP addresses or host, try a free online service such as samspade.org. You can send suspicious email to the US Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or you can click the “Report Spam” (or similar) button on your email program.


If you are a victim of phishing:

1. Report it to your financial institution
2. Put a fraud alert on your credit report
3. Keep a close watch on your mail and your accounts…if statements stop or if you see unusual activity, call your financial institution immediately.


The Federal Trade Commission provides useful resources:

How Not to Get Hooked By the Phishing Scam
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt127.pdf

How Not to Get Hooked by a ‘Phishing’ Scam
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt127.pdf

Next article will be on Pharming (pronounced farming).
Information for this article was gathered from various sources including American Express Company and Justin Pritchard “Your Guide to Banking/Loans”.



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