“qwerty”, “monkey”, and “abc123”. These are the 4th, 5th, and 6th most-used passwords of 2011, according to a study [http://splashdata.com/splashid/worst-passwords/index.htm] released by password management software company Splashdata. Also on the list are classics like “123456” and, of course, “password”. It should be obvious to just about anyone that passwords like these are not especially good ones, so why do people keep using them? The mere fact that a password is present is no guarantee of security. Hackers and those wishing to gain unauthorized access to a system have any number of tools at their disposal to help them discover and thus bypass passwords. This does not mean that placing password protection in the way is futile, however. The better the password, the longer it will take for hackers to go through or around it.
So what makes a good password? Cracking passwords is a matter of time, and the time depends on how many characters the program doing the cracking is required to guess. Consider a password with nothing but lowercase letters (a bad idea, but one that will be covered later). There are 26 letters, and thus 26 possibilities for each character. A one-character password thus has 26 possibilities, and for every character past that, the number of potential passwords is increased by 26. A password with five characters has over eleven million possible combinations. Keep in mind, however, that it is a computer doing the cracking in most cases, a machine capable of performing millions of calculations in seconds. That five character, lowercase letters only password would be broken in mere moments by a dedicated hacker. But now consider adding a single uppercase letter in place of a lowercase one. This doubles the number of potential values per character, so that the time-to-crack is increased by a factor of thirty. Adding numbers to the mix triples that time. Then we have what are known as “special characters”, the set including things like punctuation, brackets, symbols, and the like. Since there are tons of these characters, and no pattern to guess which one might be inserted where, the resulting delay in cracking is huge. Special characters can make any password vastly harder to break.
Up to this point, we’ve been discussing a mere five character password, but now we come to one of the most important points: length. Even when using only lowercase letters, increasing the length of the password by one letter multiplies the field of potential passwords by 26. A long password, even without variation in the characters, is much harder to crack by brute force. There are other types of password crackers to worry about, however. The dictionary cracker, for instance, runs through a dictionary stored in its memory and tries every word. Using “elephant” as your password might befuddle a brute force cracker, but the dictionary hacker would figure you out in no time at all. Don’t try to play around with substituting numbers for letters in common words (“passw0rd”) either, as hackers have long since grown wise to this trick and programmed their tools to check for such substitutions; the same goes abbreviations (“trustno1”) and common character sequences (“123456”, “abcde”) . Nonsense passwords, or those which have meaning only to you, are better choices; you won’t find “18kaff?kaff!92cake” in any dictionary, and a brute-force cracker would take months, if not years, to bypass it.
The last point of importance is less about passwords and more about how you use them. While it might be tempting to come up with one good password and use it for all your important business, keep in mind that not all websites are equal in terms of security. If a single site turns out to be less trustworthy than you thought, and hackers gain access to their databases, your password could be handed to them on a silver platter, potentially allowing them access to any accounts, like your facebook or email, using the same password. If you’re really concerned about security, it’s best to change your passwords every few months, ensuring that even if someone got access to old account records, their information would be obsolete and useless.
There are more Android tablets coming out every day, and I have been lucky enough to own a number of them. From my first Archos 5 internet tablet, to the Gtablet I have had since last November, to my latest, the Motorola XOOM, Android is poised to take a huge chunk of the tablet market away from Apple. Not that the iPad is worthless, it has its place. The iPad is a wonder of fine design and it definitely sets the mark in some areas for what others should strive for. Of course it is overpriced and limited in some critical areas, which is why Android is going to be able to whack away at Apple’s current domination of the tablet market.
I love how you can easily tether the Gtable and Xoom to an Android phone. With the gtablet, it is as easy as Rooting (or installing a pre-rooted custom ROM) and then running one of the better tether apps - my personal favs are wifi-tether and barnacle( see Viewsonic G-Tablet Wireless tether to Droid 1 via Barnacle video). The XOOM is even better as it has native Bluetooth tethering and I can easily tether it to my DroidX phone and use the Droids data plan (the XOOM does not have to be rooted to do this either!).
The thing I really like the most about the Android devices is the amazing community of developers and helpers that it has spawned. There are numerous forums devoted to making these devices better with custom ROMS and tips and tricks to get them running great! The people are amazing and so helpful. My favorite site is xda-developers.com, which has an incredible number of amazing people who thankfully post a great collection of How-to’s for a huge number of Android devices. Want to know how to Root your Xoom? Want to know how to flash a custom ROM to your Gtablet? Want to learn how to tether your Xoom or tether your Gtablet? xda-developers has how-to’s for every one of those topics. I myself have made a bunch of video tutorials on how to do things on the gtablet and the XOOM, but almost everything I have learned has started with things I read on xda-developers.com. Super thanks to everyone there! Android Rocks!
For a bunch of my tutorials, head over to my site: http://pensacolacomputers.com
Verizon is releasing the iPhone and many people here in Pensacola are getting ready to jump on the bandwagon, but it always pays to do a bit of research, and also it might be a good idea to wait to see what the first crop of adopters have to say about it. Some things to consider:
While Verizon rocks when it comes to coverage areas and voice service quality mostly, it’s data speeds are not quite as good as ATT in most areas, and much slower in some areas. Plus, there are some hardware/network differences between ATT and Verizon, such as the fact that you can’t talk and do web on Verizon’s network (I personally never cared about this feature, but some people do). Not that I am a fan of ATT, I personally think their service and customer service leaves much to be desired. If you have an iPhone on ATT and use it mostly for phone calls, then Verizon might be a better choice, but then again, if you use it mostly for phone calls, why have an iPhone?
If you use your iPhone on ATT for what an iPhone is for mostly (data, web, etc) then you will more than likely be disappointed on Verizon. If you are currently on Verizon and are getting an iPhone because you want to do the things an iPhone can do, then you really might want to take a look at some of the new Android based phones which have really improved in this past year. In my opinion, you can get a lot more better free apps on Android than on iPhone. Sure there are more iPhone apps, but a lot of them are crap and way overpriced. Plus remember that every iPhone app you buy, 30% of the profit goes right to Steve Jobs and Apple, whereas Android software developers profit much more from the hard work they put into their apps. Another consideration is that it is so much easier to customize and tweak an Android phone and benefit from the huge community of open source software people who are constantly developing custom ROM’s and tweaks for Android phones (for free). With Android it is also much easier to do things like tether your laptop/tablet without having to fork out additional monthly fees
Another big consideration, it won’t be too much longer until the next iPhone comes out, if you buy one now, you will be basically stuck with it for the next 2 years which would be a drag considering the iPhone 5 is supposed to be released in a few months. If you absolutely must have an iPhone for whatever reason it would be prudent to wait until the next generation on Verizon, or better yet, get an Android phone today and see what you can do on it
If you do get an iPhone on Verizon, be sure to read all the fine print as they have been changing their plans and offerings in regards to data and such a lot lately!
Google has recently released a new feature to their Gmail service which allows US users the ability to make free calls (local and long distance within the US and Canada) right from their computer using a new interface built into Gmail – the service is promised to be free at least until the end of this year. To use this new service you must have a Gmail account, a speaker/mic hooked up to your computer (built in on laptops also works), and you have to install a small plugin which is available here: http://www.google.com/chat/voice/
To use the service from within Gmail, first make sure your speakers or headphones are on at a good volume and that your mic is on and set properly. Then from within Gmail, within the chat box you should see a “Call phone” icon and text – click that to bring up the call window where you can enter the number you wish to call (make sure to dial the area code first).
In testing out this feature, I found that calls where crisp and clear, suprisingly clear actually considering I was using a headset mic. When you call someone, the number you are calling from shows as 760-705-8888 which is no good for return calls. However, if you are logged into Google Voice, Gmail calling will display your Google voice number which may be used to call back. At least for the time being (while the calls remain free) this is a great service.
This feature is still being rolled out to Gmail users and if you are in the US and don’t see it in your Gmail chat box, it should appear their soon. It does appear that this feature is not yet enabled for Google apps users that use a custom domain name for their Gmail, but hopefully this feature will come soon. Free phone calls are always a good, and at least for the rest of this year we can take advantage of it through Gmail.
Office 2010 officially came out last month to the public, and it is now appearing on many new computers as well as being installed by home users and businesses as an upgrade. When Office 2007 came out, many people hesitated to upgrade from Office 2003 due to the change in the user interface and cost, however for those who are still using Office 2003, now may be a good time to consider taking the plunge and going with Office 2010. There are quite a few revamped and new features in Office 2010 that really do increase the value, as well as make it more productive and easier to use. Both business and home users can find new features that help them do things better and faster, and while moving from Office 2003 to 2010 may take a bit of getting used to, it seems more than worth it. Also, for the most part, if your computer can run Office 2007 or Office 2003, it should be able to run Office 2010. For the tech specs, see here: http://blogs.technet.com/b/office2010/archive/2010/01/22/office-2010-system-requirements.aspx
** Note to the tech people at Office Depot on Fairfield Drive here in Pensacola: Office 2010 will run on Windows XP, you just need to have service pack 3 installed (if you aren’t sure about the specs, then just read the Office 2010 box before you tell people that their computer won’t run Office 2010!)
Here are some of my favorite new and improved features in Office 2010:
While upgrading to new software will take a bit of getting used to, I have found that the new and improved features in Office 2010 really help productivity and make a number of previously ‘hard to do’ tasks so much easier. As computers, the internet, and how we interact with technology changes, so must our software, and Office 2010 seems like a good step towards the future.
If you are interested in checking out more new features, or getting a free trial of Microsoft Office 2010, visit here: http://www.microsoft.com/office/make-it-great/en-us/for-home#demo
If you are a student and would like a fantastic deal from Microsoft on Office 2010, check out the Offers page at Pensacola Computers for details
While Motorola Droid users are patiently waiting for Verizon to push out the latest Android 2.2 which includes such wonderful things as the ability to use Flash Player 10.1 for mobile, tethering, faster web browsing and general faster experience overall, the web is now ablaze with an apparently ‘official’ version of Android 2.2 for the Motorala droid direct from Google, with accompanying instructions on how to install it yourself. I successfully installed this on my Droid this morning, and then installed the Flash 10.1 player. I am including the instructions and links I used, however be warned “This procedure should only be attempted with the knowledge that if you mess it up, it could mess up your phone beyond repair“. I personally had no problems doing this, but that doesn’t mean it will be successful for everyone, or that there isn’t a risk of bricking your phone if you mess something up on the way. Following is the instruction set I used with the website sources I got them from:
“You can download the new update from Google’s servers here (42mb). Instructions for updating are similar to past Android OS releases from Google: Re-name the downloaded .zip file to “update.zip” (without quotes), and place it in the root directory of the SD card. Turn off the phone, and reboot while holding the “x” key on the keyboard. When a screen with an exclamation point appears, press the “volume-up” and “camera” buttons simultaneously to select from available boot options. Select “Apply update.zip” from the list using the D-pad.
The update will be applied, and then return to the boot screen where you can now safely select the “Reboot” option from the list. The first boot after updating will take longer than normal, so give it some time and leave it plugged in to a power source for the duration. Enjoy Froyo!”
Once you have done this and gotten 2.2 up and running you will need to install Flash 10.1 – now I searched myself to find the easiest way to install it, but it seems that trying to get it direct from Adobe.com isn’t supported yet for some reason on this build, however I did find instructions and a download that worked for me here: http://blog.laptopmag.com/how-to-installing-android-2-2-froyo-onto-the-motorola-droid **NOTE: only follow the instructions related to installing Flash as I have outlined below:
Download Android Mate. Before you can install Flash, download the Android Mate application from the Android Market 0 it is a free app
Download Flash. Download the Flask .apk file. (click here) – Note: this download comes as a Zip file, I just changed the extension to .apk before copying it to the Droid in the next step
Connect the Droid. Connect the Droid to the computer , and enable the USB file transfer mode. Place the Flash .apk file on the root of the microSD card.
Launch Android Mate. Open Droid Mate, then locate and launch the “adobeflash3.apk” file. This will install Flash 10.1 (beta 3) on the Droid
Remember, use this procedure at your own risk. While it worked fine for me, it is still not ‘officially supported’ by Verizon – Unlike many of the ‘cooked’ ROMS floating around out there, this one appears to be more ‘official’ as it comes direct from Google itself.
Most people who have watched TV or listened to the radio have heard the ads touting the amazing incredible website that will help fix everything wrong with your computer and help your slow system to immediately speed up and run like it was brand new – well all I can say, is beware! I have had the unfortunate users of such software come to me with computers that wouldn’t boot to Windows, or that were freezing up and crashing all the time after using this software. While it is certainly true that spyware/malware/viruses can slow down your system, and removing them will certainly help the performance, using these ‘fix all’ software solutions can often cause more problems than they fix – as a matter of fact, the free ‘diagnosis’ they offer has nothing to do with finding spyware, malware, or viruses.
One thing I find very interesting is the disclaimer in the Terms of Service on doublemyspeed.com: “ANY MATERIAL DOWNLOADED OR OTHERWISE OBTAINED THROUGH THE USE OF THE WEBSITES IS DONE AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND YOU WILL BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM OR LOSS OF DATA THAT RESULTS FROM THE DOWNLOAD OF ANY SUCH MATERIAL” In other words, if you use their software and it hoses your system, too bad, they did warn you after all. The other bit I find interesting is this part: “CyberDefender EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT OF PROPRIETARY RIGHTS. WITHOUT LIMITATION, CYBERDEFENDER AND THE PROTECTED PARTIES MAKE NO WARRANTY THAT THE WEBSITES OR ANY SOFTWARE DISTRIBUTED THEREFROM WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, THAT THEY WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED, TIMELY, SECURE, OR ERROR-FREE, THAT THE RESULTS OBTAINED FROM THE USE OF THE WEBSITES WILL BE ACCURATE OR RELIABLE” – so basically, they won’t provide any kind of warranty for their product, and they certainly don’t claim that their software or results it gives you will be secure, error free, accurate, or reliable. So then tell me, why in the world would I ever spend money on their product????
One of the worst things is their Registry Cleaner which can definitely cause irrepairable damage to your system if it removes the wrong things from the registry. Granted, back in the days of Windows 95/98, a lot of registry errors could have a significant performance impact on your system, however in today’s world of high RAM and multi-core processors, registry errors of the kind that this software usually fixes have a negligible impact on most systems, and the risk of the software removing a critical registry entry is too great to justify the results.
The truth is, many machines just need a simple cleanup of malware/spyware, and some tweaking of startup programs to run better. Then of course there is the fact that your old Windows XP machine with 256MB of RAM will NEVER be able to keep up on the internet of today due to the much increased demands. Remember, Windows XP is about 10 years old, and when it was released the internet was pretty much all text based. Today the internet is multi-media rich with all kinds of add-ons running – Java, Toolbars, Browser helpers, etc. and older computers just don’t have the hardware or software to keep up.
Basically what this website does is con you into running a pretty much worthless registry scanner that will of course show massive errors on your system (which in reality may or may not be errors, and even if they are errors they have a negligible impact on your systems performance if any impact at all) – then if you decide you want to fix these inconsequential errors, you will be taken to a website where they want you to spend $39.98 for a basicaly worthless product, then they want you to buy their CyberDefender antimalware/antivirus software for $29.95, and then of course ad $14.97 for a cd with a copy of your software (you can burn your own CD for about 25 cents). All in all, it is just another company trying to make a quick profit off of anyone who believes their overhyped ads. My opinion: the software is a total waste of money, and you take a risk of totally messing up your machine by using it – not to mention, trying to exit out of the ‘free scan’ software just leads to pop-ups and opens their web page, and you have to confirm multiple times just to uninstall the software! Stay away from this product!!
Of course, this is just my opinion, take it for what it’s worth, but there is no way I would ever recommend this software to anyone – EVER!
For links to Free Software such as Malwarebytes, Spybot S&D, and AVG Free that can help you keep your computer malware and virus free and keep it running faster, visit the Tech Support page at PensacolaComputers.com
Yesterday, Microsoft released Office 2010 to its partners and developers via MSDN and Technet, and it will soon be hitting the retail shelves for public consumption. This is looking to be the best version of Office ever with quite a few new and exciting features! Office 2010 bring more collaboration features which allow multiple users to edit documents simultaneously and a new cloud based offshoot – docs.com which is Microsofts shoot back at Google Docs (currently docs.com is in ‘beta’ and is available to Facebook users).
Some of the new features that I really like in Office 2010: The ribbon is now much more consistent in all Office Programs – including Outlook (this will certainly cause some confusion for longtime Outlook users, but in my opinion the ribbon is much more efficient once you get used to it), PowerPoint has some very cool new features including some great tools for integrating photos and videos into presentations, and an improved ability to publish to the web, or share through Windows Live spaces (expect more family albums to be shared this way in the future!). Microsoft is also planning on introducing a Free ‘lite’ version of Office which will replace the current ‘Works’ suite that is preinstalled on many new computers.
For more information on Office 2010 from Microsoft, visit: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/2010office/Default.aspx
Stay tuned for a complete review and some tutorials on how to use the new features. For support, help, or questions on Office 2010, visit: Pensacola Computers at: http://pensacolacomputers.com
This past week, Facebook has once again been the target of a massive malware attack, this time through a huge emailing campaign that sent out millions of fake emails that read “Because of the measure taken to provide safety to our clients, your password has been changed. You can find your new password in the attached document.” – Of course, the attachment is malware that includes password stealing Trojans, downloaders and scareware fake antivirus software. Opening the attachment is of course on of the big no-no’s in computer security – you should never ever open an attachment unless you specifically know the person and that they have told you that they were sending you an attachment. Facebook continues to be one of the highest used vectors for the spread of malware, and a lot of the danger comes from the inadequate security measures that Facebook takes in regards to its users.
Also this week, the cybercriminals have targeted college basketball fans and celebrity gossip watchers (specifically the Jesse James/Sandra Bullock story). These criminals have very slickly optimized their malware infested webpages for the search engines. Security biggee Mcafee reported that 5 out of the first 10 hot searches on Google Trends were sites that had been hacked to serve malware. Most of these sites are not dangerours to systems that are protected, however there are many people who do not keep their antivirus/antispyware software up to date and are vulnerable.
The greatest defense to all of these things is of course to not visit such sites – however that is not always practical. Keeping up to date security software, and never EVER downloading software without knowing the source, and never EVER opening attachments in emails without first verifying the source and content are important practices to follow. Remember, if you get a pop-up saying to update your Flash player, or Quicktime or anything else, Do NOT allow it to install anything – instead go to the source of the software, ie: Adobe.com for Flash, or Apple for quicktime etc.
Here in Pensacola, approx 60% of the computers I have had to clean malware and viruses off of got infected from Facebook, so for users of this popular social networking site, I advise extra caution. One of the easiest ways to get infected on Facebook is from a friend who has had their account hacked (usually because of using an easy to guess password – make sure to always use a complex password on such sites!). One an account is hacked, the hackers send out messages to all the friends on the persons lists, usually with links to infected websites, so be careful even of messages from friends!
For links to great free and paid for antivirus and antispyware, visit Pensacola Computers.Com Tech Support page
I have spoken to quite a few people recently who have purchased new computer’s, and it seems that many have been somewhat surprised to find that their brand new computer just doesn’t perform as they thought it would. Today, the major retailers are really pushing the entry-level low priced computers, and their advertisements focus on things like hard drive capacity and battery life. Unfortunately, most of these computers come with bargain CPU’s and just aren’t made for any kind of multitasking or even mid-range computer usage.
Sempron, Celeron, Atom, Neo – these are all names of Processors (CPU’s) that are designed to be low power usage (which equates to long battery life in laptops), but they are also low in performance. These processors will balk at multitasking (when you have multiple programs or windows open), and are very slow compared to the newer and much faster multi-core high performance processors which can be found in the mid to higher end computers at prices that really are not that much higher.
Many people tell me that they want a computer that is simply for web browsing, so they don’t need a performance computer. While a computer that is ‘simply’ for web browsing certainly does not need to be a top of the line gaming type machine, many people do not realize that simple web browsing today is much more demanding on a computer than it was even a couple of years ago. Many web sites today rely on multiple technologies to serve up their web pages. When you visit a website, you are not only using the browser, but you are often using many browser plugins (separate programs) such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, Java, Quicktime, and others that help deliver the rich media content that we are fast become used to. In order to be able to effectively deliver all this content, you need a processor that is capable of handling it, as well as a good amount of memory (RAM).
So if you are considering a new computer, be aware that the small amount you may save going for the ‘bargain’ machines, will soon be lost in frustration and wasted time. Personally, I would stick with the newer Core 2 Duo/Quad processors, or the brand new i3, i5, and i7 processors for the best experience.
Here in Pensacola Florida, you can often find the best local deals at stores like Best Buy and Office Depot, however the best ‘advertised’ deals (cheapest) are often not the best deals for you. Despite what the seemingly knowing salesperson may say, (never listen to them), you really want a computer that isn’t going to end up frustrating you. The best thing to do is to do a bit of research first and go to the store already knowing what you want.Also, be aware that the retail stores are counting on you wasting money on things like their ‘optimization’ services and security software which is pretty much worthless crap, and the optimization is usually just simple things like removing the trial garbage software and doing the first set of Windows Updates (something you can do for yourself, and should do anyhow, that takes only a few minutes). There is also a newer practice of bundling security software and other things into the base price of the computer (stay away from Nortons, Mcafee etc). Always ask what the price of the computer is Without all the extra garbage!