Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How To Print From Your Iphone or IPad To Favorite Printer?

When the Iphone first arrived, IOS was very basic and Apple didn't make any provision for printing. I guess they thought no one would want to print from such a small device. Users gradually started clamoring for a better method than emailing a document to themselves, and printing it from a Mac or PC. When the Ipad arrived printing became a necessity. Printer manufactures started responding with Apps and hardware capable of excepting a print queue from an IOS device. The latest versions of IOS support printing from most Apps, via the Sharing Extension - the little icon with the square and arrow. So, let's take a look at a few different ways that you can get that Ipad or IPhone to give you a nice clean hard copy.


  1. Buy a wireless printer that supports AirPrint - Apple's IOS printing protocol. All IOS versions, greater than 4.2 support AirPrint. In addition, most modern printers, from the major manufactures, support it, as well. Keep in mind that your Iphone or IPad needs to be on the same LAN (local area network) as the printer. The printer can be connected via cable (Ethernet), or via WIFI.
  2. Suppose you have an excellent printer that you have used for many years and you like it. But, it doesn't support AirPrint. You don't want to buy a new printer. What should you do? Luckily, you have two good options.

  • You can Install and run a printer server (software) on your Mac or Windows PC. Any printer connected to the computer will be available to the Ipad or IPhone for printing. Once again, this assumes that the computer (Mac or Windows) is connected to the local network. In this scenario, the printer can even be connected via USB, to the computer. There are some disadvantages. The computer needs to be powered on, and running whenever you print, and you will have to install and maintain the print server software. This works out fine for some users because they leave their desktop computer on. Or perhaps they have some type Server - like a media server, that runs 24/7. There are several excellent software solutions. On the Windows platform - O'Print and Presto (formerly called Fingerprint 2) work well. On Mac - check out Printopia.
  • Instead of using a software based print server you can pick up a hardware device. In my opinion, this is the best solution for those that want to use their older, existing printers. I like the XPrintServer by Lantronix. It is easy to setup, simple to use and it works great with almost any printer. Just attach it to your Network and it does the rest. The home unit supports 8 - USB printers and up to 2 network printers. It retails for around $100, but you can often find one for $75. You might be thinking that it would be cheaper to buy a new printer. Yes, new ink jet printers are cheap, but the cost of ink refills, is not. Many users have an old workhorse, like a HP Laserjet printer, that is very inexpensive (per page) to operate. From this viewpoint, a $75 XPrintServer may be a bargain.

Monday, March 30, 2015

How To Avoid Phishing And Social Engineering Attacks On The Internet

We often talk about all of the security precautions that we need to take in order to safely navigate the Internet. Using Anti-virus software, updating your Operating System, applying the latest versions of Java and flash, etc. will all help keep you safe and secure. None of these, however, will protect you from a well executed Phishing or Social Engineering attack.

What is a Social Engineering Attack? This type of attack is non-technical. Social engineering is the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information. The types of information these "bad guys" are seeking can vary, but when individuals are targeted the criminals are usually trying to trick you into giving them your passwords or bank information. They often breach your computer to secretly install malicious software that will give them access to your information, as well as, control over your computer. It is much easier to trick someone into providing a password than it is to "hack" it - particularly if it is a complex one. The weakest link in any security is always a trusting individual. Suppose you get an email from a friend. If a "bad guy" manages to hack or socially engineer one person’s email password, they now have access to that person’s contact list. Since, many people use one password everywhere (a bad practice), they probably have access to that person’s social networking (Facebook) contacts, as well. Once the "bad guy" has that account under their control, he/she can now send fraudulent email to all of the person’s contacts or leave messages on their friend’s social pages.

The email may contain a link or a picture that you feel compelled to click because you think it came from a friend. Once you click, a payload of malware is installed on your device, giving the sender control of your computer.

What is a Phishing Attack? Phishing is a another form of social engineering. Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization. For example, an attacker may send email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information - often suggesting that there is a problem. Many of these requests look authentic and official, but closer inspection often reveals misspelled words. When users respond with the requested information, attackers then use it to gain access to their account. Phishing also comes in the form of fraudulent Charity Organizations or Impersonation of a legitimate group. These most often occur when natural disasters are in the news.

How can you avoid being duped?

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls or emails from individuals asking personal information. If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, verify his or her identity with the company, directly. Do not answer the email and hang up on the caller.
  • Don't send sensitive information over the Internet unless you know that the website is secure. Look for the https in your browser's address bar. Beware of open public WIFI - these are never secure.
  • Look closely at the URL (address) of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or have different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net vs. .org).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, check it online or by calling the company directly. Do not use the contact info in the email. Check them out using the Anti-Phishing Working Group (http://www.antiphishing.org).
  • Delete all requests for financial information or passwords. These are all scams.
  • If you receive email from a foreign lottery or sweepstakes, money from an unknown relative, or requests to transfer funds from a foreign country, it is a scam.
  • Ignore requests for help. Legitimate companies and organizations do not contact you to provide help. If you did not specifically request assistance from the sender, consider any offer of help, a scam. Similarly, if you receive an email request for help from a charity or organization that you don't have a relationship with, delete it.

If you feel that you have been exploited, consider reporting the attack to the police, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.gov/).

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

You've Heard All About Apple Pay - Here's How To Use It

You have seen the ads about Apple's new payment system - Apple Pay, but have you tried it out? Do you have the correct combination of hardware and software. Let's take a look.

Currently, to make a payment in a supported retail store, you will need an IPhone 6 or Iphone 6 plus running at least IOS 8.1. Why not Iphone 5, 5s and 5c? Apple Pay uses NFC (Near Field Communication) and the Iphone 5 series does not have a NFC radio built in. In addition, the 5 and 5c don't have Touch ID - the fingerprint reader that is needed for authentication. For purchasing within an App, over the Internet, the IPad Air 2 and Ipad Mini 3 can also be used with Apple Pay. Iphone 5x users may feel as if Apple has "thrown them under a bus", but they still have a chance, since Apple Pay will work with the upcoming (April 2015) Apple Watch. An Apple Watch (since it has NFC), paired to an IPhone 5 will be able to make purchases using Apple Pay.

 

 

All of the major National Banks and Credit Card Companies support Apple Pay. In addition, we see more Community Banks and Credit Unions joining the ranks every month. What about "brick and mortar" retailers? This list is also growing, as they update their POS systems to accommodate the new technology. Babies ‘R’ Us, Bi-Lo, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Bloomingdale’s, Champs Sports, The Disney Store, Foot Locker, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Nike, Office Depot, Panera Bread, Sports Authority, Staples, Subway, Toys ‘R’ US, Walgreens, Whole Foods and Winn-Dixie have joined the fold. Of course, many shoppers purchase online. Apple Pay is also well supported in this venue, via in-App purchases from many online retailers - Target, Priceline, OpenTable, Staples, Starbucks, Uber to name a few.

Ok, so how do you use Apple Pay. First, you need to link a credit or debit card to you Apple Pay Account. If you already have a card linked to your Apple ID for making iTunes and App Store purchases, you can just continue using that card with Apple Pay. You can also add a different card, if you prefer. Launch the Passbook App on your IPhone and tap the plus sign in the top right corner. You’ll then be prompted to add a credit or debit card to use with Apple Pay. Follow the entry fields on the next screen. You can also take a picture of your card with your iPhone, to add the account if you find that easier. Whether you’re using the card already linked to your Apple ID or adding a new one - follow the setup process. It includes verifying your card, granting Apple Pay access, and then storing it in the Passbook App. You will also need to verify the card with its security code.

The card linked to your Apple ID will be listed as your default Apple Pay card, but you can change that by going to Settings > Passbook & Apple Pay and updating your default information.

Now let's use Apple Pay. When you go to a store that supports Apple Pay, you’ll hold your iPhone up to a wireless payment terminal near the cash register, and then use Touch ID to verify your purchase. You don't need to actually touch the terminal, and you don’t even need to wake up your iPhone or launch Passbook—your phone will wake up automatically when it gets in range of the terminal. It will initiate the payment process - waiting for you to use Touch ID to authenticate the transaction. The payment is completely anonymous and very secure. The retailer does not have your name nor does it have you credit card number - only a token. Think about it - if the retailer is Hacked (like we have seen so often) your credit card and identity is safe. They don't have any of your information to leak, because your transaction was anonymous. Recent news accounts have raised questions about Apple Pay security, but it is not the consumers security in question, it is the Banks. "Bad guys" have purchased stolen credit card data (some from the big retail Hacks - Target etc.) and used this data to add cards to Apple Pay. Unfortunately, the banks verified the data and Apple Pay was used to make fraudulent purchases. Obviously, the banks never canceled some of the previously stolen credit cards and then verified them as valid. Apple Pay, from a consumer point of view, is very secure, but the banks will need to improve their verification process.

If you purchase something through an online store or App on your IPhone 6, IPad Air 2, or IPad mini 3, you simply use Touch ID to complete the purchase. Remember the IPad Air 2 and Ipad Mini 3 do not have NFC.

So, if you have an IPhone 6 you may want to give it try. If not, there's always an Apple Watch, in April.

 

 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Do You Use Facebook? Learn How To Secure Your Account

The last time I checked, Facebook reportedly had 1.4 billion users worldwide - an astounding number. This represents almost 20% of the Global population. It dwarfs any of the other Social Networks, although China's QQ instant messaging network has half as many active users. Twitter checks in, down the line, with less than 300 million. So, Facebook has become an advertisers dream - with all of those potential eyes. Unfortunately, it has also become a hackers playground. Have you lost control of your Facebook account? Have you been hacked? Here are a few simple tips that will help you lock down your account.

 
  1. You must have a good password. Choose a password that is not used on any other account. Make it 12 characters or more. Random Numbers, letters, symbols, upper & lowercase. Use mnemonics to help you remember your password or get a Password Manager.
  2. Don't display your email address in your Profile. Go into your Profile>Personal Information and set your email so that it is visable to, Only You.
  3. If you use a mobile phone, go into your account settings and Confirm your number. Set it so that you are the only one that can see it - visibility "Only Me". This will come in handy if you have to reset your password or if you decide to use second factor authentication (below).
  4. Turn on Secure Browsing (https) this will encrypt your credentials when you are logging into Facebook. To turn this on go to Account Settings->Security-> Secure Browsing->Edit->Browse Facebook on a secure connection->Save Changes.
  5. Turn on login notifications so you will be alerted if someone logs into your Account from a new device. Go to Settings > Security> Login Alerts >Edit > Enter the details (for SMS or Email) and save the changes. You will now receive a SMS/Email, each time you or someone else logs in to your Facebook account from a new device or Browser. You can indicate that a specific device is "trusted" to avoid extraneous notifications.
  6. Be cautious when using your FB account on open WIFI hotspots (coffee shops, hotels, etc.) - these are "fair game" for hackers. Make sure that the FB address in your browser starts with HTTPS - indicating that you have a secure connection. Use a VPN if possible.
  7. Don't become Friends with people you do not know. These are mostly spammers or hackers who would like to gain access to your personal information.
  8. Be aware of the Social Engineering Attacks - someone impersonating Facebook trying to get your credentials. This can occur within Facebook or you may receive an email with a link taking you to a fake FB site. Don't click on the link and delete the email.
  9. If you MUST login to FB on a public computer (one that you do not own) turn on Incognito in the Browser to prevent the computer for storing you login information.
  10. Finally, if you want to take FB security to another level, you can enable 2nd factor authentication on your Facebook Account. Be advised that additional security always comes with less convenience and this step can be cumbersome. So, how does it work. We generally have 3 methods of authentication. "What You Know" (login & password), "What You Have" (mobile phone or tablet), "What You Are" (biometrics, fingerprint, eye scan). Facebook's implementation of 2nd factor Authentication is called Login Approvals. When you attempt to login to your account from a New Browser you will have to supply the 1st factor - (login credentials) and 2nd factor - (a unique code from your mobile device). Generally, a "bad guy" would need to know your login credentials and, in addition, have possession of your mobile device, to gain access to your account. Obviously, this is much more secure, but a little less convenient for you - the account owner. Fortunately, you can indicate that specific Browsers and computers are "trusted" to prevent redundant authentications. The 2nd factor codes can be generated by the receipt of a text message (SMS) or via a Facebook Mobile App. Second Factor Authentication (Login Approvals) can be setup within the Security Settings on your Facebook Account.

What do you do if your Facebook account has already been compromised? First, try to login and change your password. If you cannot gain access go to http://www.facebook.com/hacked/ and follow the directions to try and recover your account.

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is Your Android Smartphone Constantly Interrupting You? Learn How To Engage Do Not Disturb.

Smartphones are handy, but they can also become obnoxious with all of the notifications and constant interruptions. Apple improved this quite a bit with their introduction of the Do Not Disturb feature for the Iphone & IPad. Unfortunately, it has not been as easy on the Android Platform. In fact, prior to Android 5.0 (Lollipop), it was challenging to figure out how to completely silence your Android Smartphone. Since, most users are still on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), we will look at that version first.

To silence your Android Smartphone version 4.x:

  1. Experienced users may find this simple, but it is not obvious. Just press and hold the volume-down button until the vibrate icon appears (vibrate mode), then press it one more time.
  2. The Silent icon will appear in the notification area, and your phone will be totally quiet until you hold the volume-up button.

Android 5.x is much more flexible with it's Do Not Disturb mode:

 
  1. Launch the Settings app then select Sounds & Notification from the list of options. Just below the sliders for various volume levels you will see Interruptions, tap on it.
  2. You can choose specific types of notifications and alerts, while others remained silenced when your device is in Priority mode. Interruptions can use your favorite contacts to determine who can get through to you.
  3. At the bottom of the Interruptions setting screen you can schedule a Do Not Disturb time - perhaps when you are sleeping. This is where you schedule your phone to go into Priority mode automatically.
  4. Similar to Android 4.x, you can change modes by pressing either the volume up or down button on your device. Just below the volume slider you will find three options: None - nothing alerts, Priority and All - everything comes through.

 

 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How To Create A Full Backup Image Clone Of Your Mac OSX

Data backups are great and everyone should backing up regularly. Unfortunately, this practice is often insufficient. If your hard drive crashes or your Operating System becomes corrupt, you are faced with an arduous task. Reinstalling your OS X and all of your applications is no fun.

Recently, we posted a tip on how to Clone your Windows Computer and many have asked about the Mac. The procedure for Cloning your Mac is very similar, we just need a different application. Keep in mind that the Clone generates an exact duplicate (snapshot) of your computer at a given point in time. As with Windows you will need backup media. I recommend an external USB hard drive - at least as large as the drive in your Mac.

Next you will want to pick up a copy of SuperDuper, by Shirt Pocket Software. It is an excellent free application, which is well supported and easy to use. They offer a premium version that costs around $28 dollars, which adds a Smart Update feature. To me, this is well worth the investment.

 
Simply install and follow the directions to make your bootable backup image. Create a new one every month so that your Clone will be relatively up to date. The next time that hard drive crashes, plugin that external drive, restore your clone and you're back in business.

 

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How To Use SIRI On Your Iphone/IPad To Get Your Stock Market Info

There are hundreds of Apps in Apple's Store that will assist you in monitoring your stock portfolio via your IPhone and/or Ipad. You can even add stock ticker symbols to the notification screen. Have you ever considered using your personal assistant - SIRI? You may want to give it a try. With the correct prompts, Siri will provide detailed stock market data - prices, highs, lows, dividends, and more.

 

Just "long press" the Home Button to summon SIRI and ask a question. Here are a few examples.

  1. What is the price of Apple? You can also use the ticker symbol (AAPL), but it may be less understandable for some stocks.
  2. What is the Dow Jones today?
  3. What did Apple close at?
  4. What is the dividend for Apple?
  5. 52 week high for AAPL? Use the ticker symbol for this one.
  6. What did Apple close at?

I doubt that SIRI will replace some of the great Iphone Apps like Bloomberg, but it works remarkably well for quick Market info.

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How To Help Protect Your Windows Browser From Website Exploits

 

There are thousands of websites that are infected with malware. Often they are the ones that you would least expect. Major retail sites, blogs, news sites, churches, Schools etc., are all candidates. The scripts that are placed on these sites are designed to exploit your computer via a "drive by" attack. All you have to do is visit the site and the script looks for vulnerabilities in your Browser, as well as, the included addons and plugins. When it finds a "hole", it drops it's payload and you are compromised.

Of course, if you have everything patched and up to date (browser, Flash, Java, etc.) you would generally be protected. Unfortunately, most PCs don't fall into this category. "Drive By" infections have become very prevalent and they are capable of delivering some of the most virulent strains - Cryptolocker and other forms of Ransomware. So, what can you do? There is a simple, Free application from the folks at Malwarebytes - which we highly recommend. It is called Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit. There is a free version and a Premium selection that protects additional applications. The free version shields your Browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Opera) and it's associated Java plugin from many of these "zero day" exploits. It runs unobtrusively along with your normal anti-virus application - it does not replace it. Other than the tray icon, you will not even notice that it is running, unless it blocks a malicious attempt. Independent tests have confirmed that it is effective and safe. You may want to add Anti-Exploit to your security arsenal.

 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Is Netflix Flaky On Your Apple TV? Here's How To Test Your Internet Bandwidth.

Do you have audio or video problems while watching a show on Netflix via your Apple TV? Perhaps the video pauses or buffers waiting for data. Is the problem with your Apple TV, router or your Internet connection? Are you connecting via WiFi or Ethernet? No matter how fast your WiFi is, a wired connection will generally be better. It takes quite a bit of bandwidth to stream HIgh Definition Video. There is a handy little test that you can perform that will access your Netflix connection to your Apple TV.

Netflix provides some general guidelines concerning the speed of your Internet connection under specific scenarios.

  • For any streaming, you’ll need a minimum of 0.5 megabits per second (500Kbps), but Netflix recommends 1.5 Mbps (1500Kbps).
  • For DVD quality, you will need 3.0 Mbps (3000Kbps).
  • For HD quality, you will need 5.0 Mbps (5000Kbps).
  • For Super HD and 3D quality, you’ll need around 7.0-12.0 Mbps (7000-12000Kbps).

 

Armed with this information, you are ready to run the test. Open Netflix on your Apple TV and search for the following Video "Example Short 23.976". Select "Play" and once the stream loads, a real-time reading of your bandwidth will then be displayed on the screen. Let it continue to play for a few minutes and your reading will be more accurate. This will show you exactly how fast you’re getting data from Netflix, and at what resolution.

If the speed is less than you expect, and you are using wifi, try connecting you Apple TV directly - via Ethernet and rerun the test.

Hopefully, this will provide the information you need to improve your Netflix video Stream.


 

 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How To Create A Full Backup Image Clone In Windows 8.1

We have often talked about the benefits of using the 321 backup rule for computer data. THREE backup sets of your documents and data. TWO of them on different media (dvd, disconnected external Hard Drive etc.). ONE off site (Cloud Storage, Family Member, Office etc.). This will protect your most valuable data from Malware and catastrophic events - fire, tornado, earthquake etc.

It is also a good idea to have a full clone image of your Windows Computer. Sometimes referred to as a Bare Metal Backup. This is an exact replica for your Computer at a specific point in time. It includes all data, Applications and settings - a perfect clone. Restoring this image, returns your computer to the exact state it was in, when the image was made. Why would you want this? How long it would take you to reinstall Windows and all of your software & settings, in the event of a hard drive failure? It is not a matter of if your drive will fail - only when.

 

 

Third party vendors have offered Cloning software for many years. Some will remember the "original cloner", it was called Ghost. When Microsoft introduced Windows 7 they included a basic "built in" Cloning solution, and it has been very successful. With the release of Windows 8, the Cloning option continues, although it is somewhat hidden. So, here's how you can Clone your Windows 8.1 computer. Keep in mind that the cloned image, is a snapshotin time, so you will need to create a new image periodically. The following instructions are for Windows 8.1 although you can easily create an image in Windows 7, as well.

  1. Go to the Windows 8.1 Tile Desktop, click on the search Icon (upper right) and Type "File History". Select File History.
  2. After it loads, look down at the lower left and you will see System Image Backup. When you click on this you will need to select a location for your backup. The simplest method is to backup to an external USB hard drive. Depending upon your computer specs, the backup may take several hours. If you are asked about making a Recovery DVD, you may want to do that, as well - although it is not necessary for Windows 8.1.
  3. Ok now that you have a backup image let's look at restoring. Attach the external drive that contains the backup. Go to PC Settings>Update and Recovery>Recovery and click the Restart Now button under Advanced Startup. Your PC will restart.
  4. At the "Choose an Option screen", select Troubleshoot.
  5. At Troubleshoot, select Advanced Options and choose System Image Recovery. Your PC will restart again.
  6. At the System Image Recovery screen, select your user name and then type your password when prompted.
  7. The "Image Your Computer" wizard will begin. Select the System Image that you want to restore. Click Next and follow the instructions to restore your PC. When the process is complete, your PC will be restored the state it was in, on the day that you made the Backup Image. Any changes that you have made since that date, will have to be replicated.

 

 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How To Easily Remove "Red Eye" From Your IPhone Photos

Apple's Iphone has always had an excellent camera. The lastest version (Iphone 6 & 6 plus), has received rave reviews from the Tech press. As good as it is, the Iphone camera is not exempt from that bane of all amateur photographers - "Red Eye". You snap that perfect shot of your child only to later discover, those bright red pupils. There are many third party Photo Editing applications that will solve this problem, but they can be inconvenient. Particularly if you are planning on immediately sharing the photo with friends or family.

 

 

Fortunately, your Iphone/IPad provides a quick & easy fix.

  1. Open the Photos App and click on the photo that you want to correct.
  2. Click on the Edit button at the top.
  3. At the bottom, click on the little eye icon with a slash through it - this is the red eye removal tool button.
  4. Select each Eye in the photo, separately, by tapping.
  5. When finished, click on Apply to save your changes.

 

 

Friday, March 20, 2015

How To Protect Your Android Based Smartphone Or Tablet From Malware

Thirty years ago the development of computer malware was confined to mischievous college students and other creative individuals. The malware was very limited - spread mostly by floppy disk. Today Cyber Crime is an International Multi-Million Dollar Business, and the tricks of the trade are spread worldwide via the Internet.

Viruses, Trojans, Malware and Ransomware etc. have always targeted specific operating systems. Windows based computers have generally been a much bigger problem than Macs. For many years Malware infection on a Mac was considered impossible. We now know that it is most certainly possible, just not as likely. Why is this? Is OS X a more secure operating system? Perhaps, but the most likely reason is quantity. The number of OS X based Macs is minuscule compared to the installed base of Windows machines. So, if you are out to make money, you spend your time creating Malware to infect Windows.

Fast forward to the present where mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous. The Iphone is one of the most popular smartphones, however, the number of IPhones, worldwide, pales in comparison to the number of Android based devices. Once again the most prolific, is the target. IPhones (running a closed OS) are very secure and the Apple App Store is carefully curated. Until recently, the Google Play store has not had a similar watchdog. Consequently, Android (a more open OS) has been a hugh target. This does not mean that you should dump your Android device and opt for IOS. There are many compelling reasons why you might choose Android, but you should take precautions.

So, here are a few simple security tips, for those that love their Android based device.

 

 
  1. Get your Apps from a legitimate App Store - Google Play, Amazon, Samsung, etc. The apps in these repositories are much more likely to be malware free.
  2. Checkout the reviews and do a little "homework" before installing "sideloading" an App from an unknown vendor or developer.
  3. Stay away from pirated apps.
  4. While it is not always possible to run the latest version of Android on your device, update your device as soon as the new build becomes available.
  5. Install an antivirus app. The Google Play Store is replete with excellent choices from many of the major vendors - Avast, Bit Defender, AVG, Sophos, TrendMicro, Lookout, TrustGo and Malwarebytes to name a few. Many offer a free version - and that may be entirely sufficient for your needs. I like Bit Defender. It is free, simple, clean, effective and unobtrusive. Give it a try.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Text Messages Can "Fill Up" Your Iphone. Learn How To Automatically Delete Them

We don't usually think about SMS (text) messages consuming a large amount of space on our mobile devices. While they are mostly composed of simple text, they also include MM (multimedia components) - pictures, audio and video. The latter can be quite large and eat up much of the capacity of your device.

Fortunately, you can tell your Iphone/IPad to periodically delete these files preventing an "overflow". The automatic deletion only works if you are running IOS 8 or greater. IOS 7 requires you to delete manually - which is much more cumbersome.

To delete Automatically - IOS 8 or greater:

  1. Open the Settings app in iOS and go to "Messages".
  2. Scroll down in the Message settings until you see "Keep Messages" and click.
  3. Select the desired option: 30 Days, 1 Year, or Forever (the present setting).


To delete Manually - IOS 7

  1. Open the Settings app in IOS and go to "Messages".
  2. Long-Press the message you wish to delete.
  3. Click on More from the pop-up menu.
  4. The message will be selected (blue circle with check mark).
  5. Select additional messages to delete, if you want.
  6. Tap the trash can icon at the bottom left to remove the selected message(s).

 

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How To Make Your Home WIFI Router More Secure

Almost everyone who uses the Internet, from Home, has some type of WIFI router. In fact, if you have a Broadband Internet connection you should be using a router rather than connecting your computer to a cable or DSL modem, directly. A router provides a basic level of security by placing a barrier between you and the open Internet. WIFI routers are ubiquitous and they have become a commodity item. They are generally cheap and manufactures rarely bother upgrading the firmware to keep them safe and secure. After a few years they expect the user to just purchase a new one. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. How old is your router? How secure is it? Do you login to secure websites (Banks, Retail, etc.)? Have your login credentials been compromised? Here are a few tips that will help in securing your router and ultimately your privacy, security and identity.

 

 
  1. All home routers are slightly different. You should know how to login to the Web based Interface (from a browser) to check the settings in the router. Most routers have default credentials that the manufacture uses for accessing the interface. You generally have to enter a numerical IP address into your browser (ex. 192.168.1.1) and enter a username and password. If you don't know the IP address or credentials for your router you can find the defaults on the manufacturers website. Of course if you or someone else setup your router, the credentials could have been changed.
  2. Once you login to the router you will see a somewhat bewildering array of information, but you won't have to worry about most of it. When you make a change you will have to save the setting each time.
  3. Change the name of you router. If it has the manufactures name ( ex. Linksys) call it something else.
  4. Change the administrative password - the one that you logged in with. When you do this you will have login again with the new password.
  5. Change the Wifi SSID name. Keep in mind that when you do this you will need to re-login to Wifi on all of your wireless computers and devices.
  6. If most of your wifi computers and devices are fairly new, you should be using WPA2 for your security setting in WIFI. Your password for Wifi should be a good one. 12 or more characters (letters, numbers, symbols, upper and lowercase). Again, if you change your password here you will also have to change it on all of your wireless computers and devices.
  7. Look for and turn off WPS (Wifi protected setup) - this protocol is inherently insecure.
  8. Look for and turn off UPnP, unless you specifically know that you need it. In most cases you don't.
  9. Look for Remote Management and make sure it is turned off.
  10. If your router has a guest Network - turn it off unless you need it. If so, make sure it has a good password.
  11. Do not use Cloud Based router management.
  12. Update the firmware on your router. This is a little more involved, but not too complex and it will provide you with the latest security patches. You will need to check your routers Status tab to find the version number of your present firmware. You will also need to know the model number and version of your router - routers with the same model number come in different versions. Armed with this info you can go to the manufactures website and download an UPDATED firmware - if there is one. Make sure the firmware matches your router, exactly. Once this is downloaded, return to the Router setup interface, find the update firmware section, and it will allow you to upload the new firmware to your router. The update process takes as much as 5 minutes and then the router will reboot. You can then login and see if you have the new version.
  13. If your router is 4 or 5 years old, it is time to purchase a new one and run through the items above.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Leaving Soon But Your Iphone/IPad Battery is Low? Charge It Quickly With This Tip

Everyone who carries a Smartphone has faced this dilemma. You are getting ready to go out for most of the day and your Iphone or IPad is showing a very low battery. You don't have an hour to wait for it to fully charge. Sure you can grab your cord and charger, but that's not going to help if you can't locate an AC plug. So, here's a tip:

 

 

Go into Settings>General and turn on Airplane Mode. This will shutdown the power hungry Cellular & WIFI radios, and your device will charge in half the time. Give it a try the next time you need "full tank".

 

 

Monday, March 16, 2015

How to Add the Date to the Menu Bar On Mac OS X

Do you find yourself opening iCal whenever you need to check the date? Fortunately, there is a better way. Just add the date to the OS X Menu Bar.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Go to the "Date & Time" and then choose the "Clock" tab.
  3. Click the box next to "Show Date".
  4. Done.

 

 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Two Free Applications That Every Microsoft Windows User Should Use

There are many excellent Windows applications that are completely free. Most offer, companion, paid versions that boast additional features, but the free renditions are often perfectly adequate. Such is the case with the two applications every Windows user should have. Both of these gems have been around for many years and I have used them on literally hundreds of PCs.

 
  1. CCleaner by Piriform - Billed as a PC Optimizer and Cleaner, but is does quite a bit more. One click deletes numerous unused files - temporary Internet Files, History, Cookies, download history, form history, Windows temp files, Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Log files, Clipboard, DNS Cache, Error Reporting, Memory Dumps and jump lists. Advertisers and websites track your behavior online with cookies that stay on your computer. CCleaner erases your browser's (including all of the popular browsers) search history and cookies, so your internet browsing stays private and your local identity remains anonymous. Run it once a week to remove the junk and keep your PC clean.
  2. Malwarebytes by Malwarebytes Corporation - One of the best applications available for removing Malware. The free version of Malwarebytes is not a full anti-malware package. It DOES NOT run in the background protecting your PC from infection. You will continue to need traditional antivirus software for that type of protection. There is a paid version that does run in the background, but I don't recommend it as a primary antivirus package. It is, however, one of the best at REMOVING malware, spyware and adware from an infected computer. Download the free version, install and update the definitions. You may be surprised at what it finds.
 

 

 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Five Quick and Easy Iphone/IPad Keyboard Tips

IOS has many hidden Keyboard tricks that will make you more productive. Here are a few that you may not know. If you have already mastered these, pass them on to other users.

 
  1. When you're typing web address, just hold down the "." at the bottom of your keyboard, and a menu will pop up showing a list of web suffixes (.com, .net, .edu, etc.).
  2. Hidden beneath the characters of the iOS keyboard you will find a plethora of letters and symbols only available with a Long-Press. For example Long-Pressing the forward slash key reveals a back slash, while Long-Pressing the numeral 0 lets you insert a degree symbol.
  3. If you type a certain phrase or sentence frequently, you can set a shortcut for it, which when you type, gets automatically expanded to the full thing. Instead of typing "I will call you later" you type iwc. You can make up as many as you want. Setting shortcuts is simple. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts and you should see a few shortcuts already added. To add more, tap on the "+" icon on the top right. In the phrase field, type the expanded text, and type the shortcut in the field below.
  4. Quickly start a new sentence. The IOS keyboard lets you add a period and start a new sentence by simply double-tapping the space bar. This feature is normally enabled by default. If not, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > "." Shortcut and turn the feature on.
  5. You can also type characters with accent marks. For example - å or á or ã. Just Long-Press the letter you want and the possible accents will appear. Slide your finger to the appropriate choice and release.


Friday, March 13, 2015

How To Protect Your Android Smartphone In Case You Lose It

Everyone has heard about Apple's "Find my Iphone" feature, but what if your "daily driver" is an Android based smartphone? Fortunately, Google offers a similar, free, feature and everyone should be using it.

You might lose your phone or it may be stolen - either way Android Device Manager is what you need. It's simple to setup and easy to use.

 

Go to the Google Play Store, download and install the Android Device Manager App. It tracks down your gadget with the GPS, so you can locate it. If you simply lost your phone, you can make it to ring or display a message on the lock screen. In addition, if your phone was unlocked you can lock it remotely with a new password. In the worst case (stolen) , you can erase your device - destroying all of you personal information.

 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How To Move To A Mac & Still Run You Favorite Windows Programs & Apps

Many IOS users love their Iphone & IPad, but continue to use a Windows PC. Some do this by choice and others because they need specific applications that are only available on the Microsoft Windows Platform. In the early years, this situation was prevalent because of the widespread use of Microsoft Office. When Apple launched Office for Mac in 1989, it was bare bones, but now it is polished and quite usable in most situations. But there are many other reasons that you might want to step into the Apple - Mac world. Fortunately, all of the new Macs have Intel Processors and they are capable of running Windows - just fine.

 

There are many different ways to accomplish this task - some will not cost you a penny. The free methods work fine, but are generally less convenient. I prefer the paid options that are easy to use and much more flexible. Of course, you will need a licensed copy of Windows 7, 8 etc. for any of these options.

  1. Boot Camp - Comes as part of the Mac OS X operating system - free. Install Boot Camp on your Mac and then install Windows on a separate Partition. When you fire up your Mac you will have a boot option to start OS X or Windows. You can only use one at a time.
  2. VirtualBox - This free option lets you run Windows in a Virtual Environment along with Mac OS X - side by side. The CPU and memory resources are allocated between the two Operating systems. Works well, but more difficult to setup and use than the paid options below.
  3. Parallels Desktop & VMware Fusion - same as Virtual Box, but easy to install, simple and intuitive to use. Both allow you to run Mac OS X and Windows at the same time. Windows can be run within a Single Window or in Full Screen mode. Just click an icon on your Mac's Desktop and the Windows OS (7, 8 etc.) will boot and start normally. My choice, VMware Fusion, runs Windows and all of my software with ease. Keep in mind that you are splitting the computer's hardware resources between two Operating Systems, so you will need a relatively modern Mac. Running both will also require more power than usual, so your MacBook's battery will discharge at almost twice the rate. I have found that Windows 7 & 8 run fine with a 2 GB memory allocation. Parallels & VMware will cost you around $80.

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Does Your IPhone/IPad Battery Run Down Too Fast? Check Out These Easy Fixes

Battery technology improves, a little, each year, but smartphones and tables are power hungry devices. Every year we see a new display pushing a higher resolution than the previous model. In addition, they are frequently larger and it takes more power to light all of those pixels. The lithium batteries found in modern devices are very efficient, on average, but individual usage patterns vary considerably. Rogue Apps can also degrade the performance. So, if your IPhone/Ipad is "dying" too soon, check out these tips.

 
  1. First check to see if you have an app(s) that is sapping an inordinate amount of juice. You can check which ones are causing the most trouble by going to Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage. You’ll see a list of the apps that have used the most battery over the past 24 hours. There is also an option to check which ones have been the top users over a longer period of time.
  2. Turn off Notifications for apps that you don't need.
  3. Turn off Location Services for apps that you don't need.
  4. Check your Screen Brightness setting - Auto may be the best for general use.
  5. Go to General>Background App Refresh and shutdown Background activity for Apps that you don't need.
  6. Turn off WIFI when you are not in range of a hotspot. Constantly attempting to connect to WIfI will run the battery down very quickly. The same is true for poor Cellular connections. If you have a poor LTE connection, switch to 4G.
  7. If you don't care about dynamic backgrounds and parallax, '3D' effects - turn them off. Pick a static image or a favorite photo in Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness, then choose 'Wallpaper' and turn on 'Reduce Motion' in Settings > General > Accessibility.
  8. If you are "Fetching" your email - lower the frequency. Checking 3 email accounts every 5 minutes can use a lot of battery over 8 hours.
  9. Whenever you have a charger available - use it. Lithium batteries are not prone to the "Memory Effect" that was the norm in older Ni-Cad batteries.

 

 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Install and Update Free PC Software Quickly & Safely

There are many, excellent, free software packages for your Windows PC. Things like Google Chrome, AVG & Avast Antivirus, Malwarebytes, Skype, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Audacity, Spotify, 7-Zip, Picassa, Evernote and LibreOffice, to name a few. You buy a new PC and now you must spend hours installing all of these gems. Or perhaps you already use many of these, but you need to keep them updated. In either case, it can be an overwhelming challenge - particularly when you must perform a "Custom Install" to prevent receiving a load of "Bloatware". Since, the software is free it may be bundled with something that you don't want.

 

So, here is the tip. Use Ninite and all of these issues will evaporate. Simply, pick the software you want, download the installer, click and you are done. Sit back while Ninite installs each program - automatically., removing all Bloatware, on the fly. Use the same installer to update your software at a later date. Simple, safe, quick and easy.

 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to prevent those excess data charges on your Android Smartphone

Have you ever received an excess data charge on your monthly cellular bill? You can easily prevent this unwelcome surprise on your Android (4.0 and above) smartphone.
Go to Settings > Data Usage. Check the "Set Mobile Data Limit" Option.

Adjust the red horizontal bar to set your Data cap, the maximum amount of data allotted per month. Adjust the orange horizontal bar to set a warning when you've passed a chosen threshold, so you don't reach your data cap.



The two vertical bars show your specific data usage for times in the monthly cycle.

Of course, the tracked data usage of your smartphone may vary slightly from your carrier’s tracking.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How to easily add symbols & numbers when Typing messages on your IPhone/IPad.

There are many hidden tricks in Apple's IOS and anything that speeds up typing is always welcome. You may not know that it's actually easier than you thought to add symbols to your messages when typing on your IPhone or IPad. Instead of tapping once on the 123 button and then again on the ABC button when you're done, you can tap and hold the 123 button, then slide your finger to select the symbol you want to insert. Once it's been added, your keyboard will automatically revert back to the letters keyboard, saving you that extra step.

 

 

 

Friday, March 6, 2015

How To Secure Those Files You Are Storing In the Cloud

Storing files in Cloud Services (Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, etc.) is convenient, free and generally safe. You have access to your files from most any device, and across almost all platforms - IOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Linux. Of course, you do need Internet access and you may have to pay a fee if you require large amounts of storage space.

The biggest concern for many people is security and privacy. Most Cloud Services encrypt your data as it passes from your computer or device to the storage facility (Https). Generally, they also encrypt the data while it is stored. This is probably more than sufficient for most of your files, but there is a flaw. The respective service, (Dropbox for example) holds the encryption key. A rogue employee could, therefore, gain access to you data. It certainly would not be good PR for one of the services, and it may not be likely - but nefarious activities do take place.


So, if you have data that you want to store - for your eyes only, totally private and secure, you will need to encrypt that data prior to syncing it to the Cloud Service. There are many ways to do this, but some methods are tedious and complex. One simple solution (that works across all platforms) is called Boxcryptor. They offer a free version and a paid version that provides additional options. There is also an older version called Boxcryptor Classic that is ideal for most purposes. All versions use, state of the art AES-256, for encryption and the free selection may be all you will ever need.

 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to protect your PC from one of the biggest threats - Ransomware

PC malware has always been a problem, but lately we have seen an exponential increase in the number and severity of infections. It has become a huge and very lucrative business. One of the most profitable strains has been given a very appropriate moniker - Ransomware. Specific variants like Cryptolocker and Cryptowall have spread across the Internet and they have become very difficult to avoid.

Ransomware is a generic term, but most infections involve Trojan Malware that locks your computer or encrypts files and then demands money - promising a key or password upon payment. The encryption methods are very effective and your data (documents, pictures, videos, etc.) will be irretrievable. In addition, there is no guarantee that you will receive your data - even if you pay the ransom. So what can you do? Here are a few tips:

  1. Turn off Flash and Java in your web browser (IE, Chrome, Firefox). Chrome will allow you to setup "click to play" in case you need Flash or Java for a specific site.
  2. Use your PC as a "normal user" rather than as a user with "Administrative Rights." This can be a little inconvenient if you routinely install software, but it will mitigate many issues.
  3. Do not click on links in email - even if you recognize or know the person that sent the message.
  4. Always have active anti-malware software running and keep it up to date.
  5. Keep your PC patched by running all Windows security updates.
  6. Change your computer Policies with CryptoPrevent - free from FoolishIT.
  7. Last and most important of all - always backup your important documents and files. An online or network backup is a good idea, but it may not be sufficient. Some of the Crypto variants can encrypt your backup files on Network Shares and Live Cloud services. So, you should also have a backup on a disconnected device - like a portable USB drive.

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

New PC or Old - It's time to get rid of that Bloatware

New Windows based PCs are almost always loaded with "Bloatware" - often called "Crapware". These nefarious gems, slow down your computer, take up space and in rare cases break secure communications across the Internet. Recently, Lenovo was called out for the later, when Superfish and Komodia adware broke https - Secure Communications when browsing. So, why do PC Hardware manufactures load a new PC with software that you don't need? Money. PC sales operate on very low margins and every penny counts.

 

You can buy a PC without the junk - Microsoft Signature PCs are "crapware free", but you may have to pay a little more. The other alternative is to remove all of the "Bloatware" manually, but it can be a laborious task. So, here is the tip. Grab a free copy of Revo Uninstaller or Decrap. Revo will discover and let you uninstall one at a time. Decrap is more automated and will allow you to select by Manufacture. Both do a great job with identification, but you should always monitor and make sure that they don't remove something that want to keep.