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Friday, July 19, 2013


Online Privacy - Simple Steps Everyone Should Take

In light of the whole NSA scandal all over the news lately, we're getting a lot of questions about what can be done to maintain some semblance of online privacy.  That's a question that really has no easy answer.  Unless you're some sort of hermit that never goes online, is not on any kind of social media, or doesn't have an email address or cell phone, there are any number of ways you can be tracked.  Sorry, game over, big brother wins.

The best you can do is maintain some best practices that'll at least keep those looking to do you harm out, and that's what I'll outline here.  If you're up to no good, this isn't a Hacking 101 course, but there are no shortage of those elsewhere online.  If you're trying to keep honest people honest, and cybercriminals looking for low hanging fruit at bay, follow these simple steps and you can at least rest assured that when you do get hacked, it wasn't because of something stupid you did.

Good online privacy, for the average person, starts and ends with your passwords.  Yes, I said passwords, plural.  For those of you with one password for everything, you've got to know better.  Here's why:  if you've got one password for everything, associated with one email address for which you also use the password, all an identity thief has to do is gain access to that one password and they've got the keys to your entire kingdom.  You're especially vulnerable if you've only got one password for the big 4: GMail, PayPal, Amazon, and Ebay.  If you're using the same email address and password for all those, you should just save some time, walk up to the first shady looking individual you find, and hand over your keys and wallet.

So what should you do?  First, start with unique passwords for your email, online shopping, cloud storage and other online accounts like social media and online boards you need to register for.  Many less well known sites have weak security and your passwords possibly stored in clear text.  Translation: they get hacked, you get hacked!  Solution:  Use a SPAM email account and different password than one of your old standbys for them.  As for passwords, make them impossible for a random dictionary brute-force attack to guess.  NO SIMPLE DICTIONARY WORDS.  That make sense?  Go for a over 8 characters with some complexity such as at least one non-alphanumeric character, one number, one upper and one lowercase character.

So to summarize:
  1. Use a separate email for your online accounts
  2. Make your online account passwords unique and complex.
That's going to resolve nearly 99.9% of your online privacy concerns.  So unless you're up to shenanigans, this should keep you fairly well protected.  Oh yeah, and anything but Internet Explorer.  Just take my word for it on that one.

As Always,

I'm not a Geek.  I'm your friend.  And I'm here to help.

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Friday, July 5, 2013


Make Higher Resolution YOUR Resolution : A Primer on the Many Faces of HD

Look at that beautiful picture!  That all anyone wants to think when they look at their computer screen, isn't it?  But what most people don't think about is what screen resolution they're actually running - HD is HD right?  Well, not exactly.

Let me preface this by saying I'm a fiend for resolution.  I love having a huge screen with lots of desktop real estate.  What does that mean exactly?  Well I'm glad you asked.  Resolution is generally measured in horizontal and vertical pixels.  The most common resolution you're likely familiar with is the Full HD 1080P resolution which is 1920x1080.  Not following me?  Take a look at this handy diagram:

See that big old number in the top right?  That's the 4K you've been hearing about lately - and it's like having four 1080P screens in one!  Wait, that doesn't get you all worked up?  Maybe I need to break it down for you a little further.

If you're got a run-of-the-mill 13-15" PC laptop, you're probably running 720P resolution.  Plenty good for the occasional bit of web surfing, Microsoft wording, and an occasional youtube video.  Bigger and higher-end laptops have resolutions slightly higher.  The 15" Macbook Pro runs at 1440x900, some better PC's give you 1600x900, and the really good ones can get you to full HD.  With Desktop monitors, anything over 20" today will get you 1080P, with 1600x900 on the smaller screens.  These are generally true, but for the resolution hungry like myself, there's a lot to get excited about these days.

Apple, with its Retina Display Macbook Pro's has given folks a Quad HD 2560x1440 resolution (and even higher on the 15" model).  Their 27" Cinema Displays have come standard with QHD for a few years now.  But lately, the PC brands have been getting on board as well.  Some really nice QHD Monitors have come in below $600 where they were all in the $1,000 range this time a year ago.  Even some PC laptops are coming with QHD resolution in the coming months.  Good luck trying to run 2560x1440 on a 15" screen, but hey, it's there if you want.

And . . . 

Next up 4K.  So there are some screens out there already.  And some really powerful video cards capable of supporting 4K resolutions.  And even a couple of 4K monitors available in the $2,000 range.  But, it's too soon.  It hasn't been standardized and will likely change from what's currently available.  The sweet thing though - it's like having four 1080P screens in one.  So if you're working on a big money trading floor, chances are you've got a few of these to watch the tickers on.  Otherwise, you'd do well to wait.

So what does all of this REALLY mean?  Well, for those of you who want to work on large graphics, spreadsheets, or just want to see tons of Google result, your time is here and getting more affordable by the day.  For you average folks who enjoy the pretty pictures on the screen - it's a pretty good time for you too!

As always,

I'm not a Geek.  I'm your friend.  And I'm here to help.

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