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Getting Along With Your Computer

Good news, bad news

Windows 8.1.1 is less painful than previous versions of Windows 8. Heartbleed is kind of a nosebleed.

 

Yes, you should change your passwords

First the bad news. Heartbleed, a bug in encryption software, hit hard last week. This flaw allowed passwords and more to be revealed on websites using a type of software called Open SSL. Open SSL is what is supposed to keep you safe when you visit a website with https in the address. Who uses that? Apparently roughly 60% of the world’s secure websites. Banks, e-commerce sites, and notably the Canada Revenue Agency.

Here is a list of sites known to be affected: http://globalnews.ca/news/1265980/heartbleed-bug-whats-affected-and-what-passwords-you-need-to-change/. If a site you’re wondering about isn’t listed, it might still be affected. You can use this handy tool from LastPass to check: https://lastpass.com/heartbleed/ .

Here’s a video explaining what happened in plain English: http://www.heavy.com/tech/2014/04/watch-video-heartbleed-security-flaw-explained-simple/. Here is an informative and more technical explanation: http://heartbleed.com/.

What can you do? Well, you can change your passwords now that most of the affected sites have been patched. We can’t change the past (kind of like in real life) so if your information has already been revealed there’s nothing you can do about that. But you can protect yourself now and into the future by changing your passwords. And by not using the same password again and again.

You can see how long it would take to crack your passwords here: https://howsecureismypassword.net/, and learn how to create strong passwords here: http://www.webroot.com/us/en/home/resources/tips/getting-started/beginners-how-do-i-create-a-strong-password.

Don’t forget to keep track of these passwords. Use a program like LastPass (https://lastpass.com/), Roboform (http://www.roboform.com/), KeePass (http://keepass.info/), or 1Password (https://agilebits.com/onepassword). Or keep them safe and organized in a notebook, spreadsheet, or series of tattoos (Maybe not tattoos if you plan to change passwords often). But whatever you do, keep track of them.

 

And now the good news!

Windows 8.1 users will be glad to see Windows Updates rolling out, as the relatively huge update this month takes your Windows 8.1 to 8.1.1.

“So what?” I am almost certain I can hear you say.

Well. There’s still no true Start Menu or Start Menu Button. There’s a button where Start used to be, and it’s easy to turn off the computer from there if you know how to right-click.

But the other updates all contribute to making Windows 8.1 look and feel a lot more like something you could get work done with and less like Disneyland. Microsoft put a power off button and a search box right on the Start screen where they are easy to find. And now even the apps have a title bar and an X in the top right corner, making it easier to close apps. It’s now possible --- and easy --- to pin apps to the task bar along with programs, and the taskbar is available on the Start Screen as well as on the Desktop.

If you are using Windows 8.1, I recommend the update. I strongly recommend doing a complete file backup and also making an image of your hard drive(s) first. A description of that process is here: http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-create-system-image-windows-81-file-history.htm.

If you are still using Windows 8, now would be a good time to upgrade to Windows 8.1, again after doing a complete backup and imaging the drive(s). See this article for an overview of the process: http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-create-recovery-discs-or-usb-keys-windows-8.htm. When you move from Windows 8 to 8.1, you are actually installing a brand new operating system. That upgrade will render any Recovery Partition you had before the upgrade completely useless, and if something goes wrong during the upgrade (or even later) you won’t be able to do a factory restore. An image will save you.

In Windows 8.1, you’ll get the update to 8.1.1 as part of your regular Windows Updates once all the prerequisite updates are installed. It’s an “Important” update, so you’ll have to select it and click on Install. It won’t sneak up on you and do it on its own. Do the backups and imaging, and apply the update. It will make Windows 8 a lot easier to use.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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What’s on your mind?

Three common questions (and answers) from readers: What’s the deal with a Microsoft Account? Can I fix the type size in my browser? How do I print in Windows 8?

 

What is a Microsoft Account and why should I care?

A Microsoft Account is an email address and password that you use to sign in to a Windows 8 computer, and to access certain Microsoft services even when you’re not on a Windows 8 PC. Microsoft provides this video explanation: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-in-what-is-microsoft-account.

A Microsoft Account is what used to be called a “Live ID” and you might already have one. If you use a Live ID in Windows Live Mail, that’s your Microsoft Account. If you have an Xbox you probably have a Microsoft ID. If you have a hotmail email address, an outlook.com address, a live.com or live.ca address, that’s your Microsoft Account. Did you ever get around to merging your old Messenger accounts with Skype? You have a Microsoft Account.

Your Microsoft Account gives you access to the Store app. You can’t even download free apps from the Store without a Microsoft Account. You need it for Office and OneDrive (used to be SkyDrive).

If you’re setting up a new Windows 8 computer, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Microsoft Account. If you don’t have one, you can create one. Check this page for instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-up-create-account-how. You can create a brand new address for this or you can just use one that you already have. Fill out the form completely and as accurately as you can, and do not lose your password. Write down your password. Do not lose it. You’ll thank me for this advice some time in the future!


How do I make the print in my browser bigger? Or smaller?

This comes up from time to time, and the email is almost equally divided between people who want to make the browser content bigger and those who want to make it smaller. If your Firefox or Internet Explorer isn’t displaying things just right, that is easy to fix.

The procedure is almost the same in either browser. Click on “View” (If you don’t see the menu bar with “View” on it, press the Alt key one time. That will display the menu bar. THEN click on “View”.) Next, click on “Zoom” and depending on which browser you’re using you’ll see how to make things bigger or smaller by zooming in or out.

 

How the heck do I print something in Windows 8?

Windows 8 apps fill the entire screen. On purpose. There is no little bar or square you can click on to resize the window. That’s how Microsoft intended it to be, and it takes some getting used to.

So when a customer opened up a PDF document in the Reader app that’s built into Windows 8, it filled the whole screen. “How do I print this,” she asked, and I admit to being stumped for a minute.

It turns out there are several ways. What I actually did was use the keyboard shortcut that has instructed Windows to print since Windows 95 (or maybe earlier than that): Ctrl + P. Holding down the CTRL and the P keys at the same time opened the printer dialog, and we printed her document.

Another way is to move the mouse cursor to the upper or lower right corner of the screen (both work) and display the Charms bar. Select Devices, click on the printer and you’re ready to print.

Later I found out the pressing the Windows Key and the K at the same time will also display Devices.

There you have it.

Bonus tip: To bring you the screen shot, I had to learn how to take a screen shot in Windows 8. Hold down the Windows Key and the E. The screen will dim for a second, and your picture will be saved in a folder called Screen Shots in your Pictures. That’s kind of cool.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Say goodbye to Windows XP

It was a great little operating system, but it’s been overtaken by events.

 

 

Turn out the lights, the party’s over

Like it or not, Microsoft ends all support for windows XP (and Office 2003) April 8, 2014. We can complain, we can curse, we can wave our hands in the air, we can sign online petitions. It doesn’t matter. Microsoft will not support a 12-year old operating system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_XP) any more.

That doesn’t mean your machine will quit working on April 9. That DOES mean no more updates, including security updates and patches. For more about that see this column: http://rlis.com/columns/column441.htm or search the phrase “XP end of support” in your favourite search engine.

Computers being sold now in stores run Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. You can still find Windows 7 computers out there, but you have to look for them. You can have one built for you, or you can purchase through the Dell or HP websites. You’ll generally find these machines in the Business section and they will be more expensive than the regular computers.

Microsoft plans to provide extended support for Windows 7 until 2020 and for Vista, the forgotten operating system, until 2017. If you’re running either of those operating systems make sure you are up to date on the Service Packs. There’s no support for either system unless all the Service Packs have been applied.


When the going gets rough, just shop with somebody tough

I have a netbook that I really love, but it’s running Windows XP and I had to replace it. I bought a faster, lighter, prettier netbook running Windows 8.1. If you’re in the market for a new computer, here’s a link to a previous column with tips about shopping for a computer: http://rlis.com/columns/column420.htm.

And while we’re at it, here are some things to know if you’re shopping for a computer with Windows 8.1 on it.

Windows 8/8.1 is made for a touch screen. It’s nice with a touch screen, but it does not REQUIRE a touch screen. You can use a mouse and keyboard.

Windows 8/8.1 does not have a Start Menu. That is jarring, and it is inconvenient. In my opinion, that was a really bad idea. But it is not the end of the world. You don’t need a Start Menu if you work in the new 8/8.1 environment. In 8.1, just start typing the name of the thing you want anywhere on the Start Screen and you’ll get search results.

If you like the familiar Desktop environment better, you can get inexpensive or free programs like Start8 or ClassicShell that will put a Start Menu back on the Desktop for you, and let you customize it in ways that are impossible in, for instance, Windows XP. See the first item in this column for more: http://rlis.com/columns/column431.htm. And, if you don’t use a Start Menu now because your Desktop is littered with icons and that’s how you get to things, you can litter the Windows 8/8.1 with those icons too, AND when you stop to think about it, the new Start Screen is just like having a Desktop full of icons, except these are bigger and some of them flash.


Are you using Windows 8 or 8.1? Do you have a touch screen? What do you like or dislike about the touch screen experience?

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Help for two nagging problems

Two really weird problems cropped up again and again these last three weeks. These solutions might save you some aggravation. They might even make you look like a genius when you solve your friend or relative’s problem!

 

Help! Mon clavier me rend fou!

I’ve heard from at least ten people in the last few weeks whose keyboards have taken leave of their senses. Usually the question goes like this:

When I want a question mark this is what I get ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ. As you can see, if I hit the apostrophe I get this èèèè.

The cause: Your keyboard is speaking French. This can be a real problem if you’re trying to enter a password.

This can happen if you chose the “Canadian Multilingual Standard” keyboard when you set up Windows. But if you only ever type in English, you don’t ever need to switch to the French layout. We can fix that, but that’s only half the solution.

Start by deciding if you are ever going to need a different keyboard layout than English. If not, we can specify the US keyboard and delete the ones we don’t need. If you actually need a French keyboard just implement the second part of the solution.

For older versions of Windows:

  • Click on Start | Control Panel
  • Click on Clock, Language and Region (In XP, Region and Language)
  • Click on Language | Details | Change keyboards
  • Add the US keyboard and save it as default
  • While you’re there, click on Language Bar, then on Hidden
  • OK your way out

Now your keyboard will be set up just for English, the Language Bar will be hidden so you don’t accidentally change your language there.

But wait, there’s more. The other thing that causes problems is the default key combination to toggle between languages in Windows is CTRL+ Left SHIFT. Touch typists, especially touch typists using a laptop, can easily strike those keys accidentally. Suddenly you’re typing en français.

To fix that, disable that CTRL + Left SHIFT key combination. Again, in older versions of Windows, get to that same Region and Language area. But this time:

  • Click on the Keyboards and Languages tab
  • Click on Change Keyboards
  • Click on Advanced Key Settings | Between Input languages | Change key Sequence
  • Change both to Not Assigned
  • OK your way out

Et voilà!

In Windows 8 and 8.1, it’s a little different. When you add a language, a keyboard is added at the same time. To get to those settings:

  • Press the WinKey + X
  • Click on Control Panel | Clock, Language, and Region | Language
  • Remove any unwanted languages (!)
  • Click on Advanced settings
  • Scroll down to Switching input methods
  • Click on Change language bar hot keys | Advanced Key Settings |Change Key Sequence
  • Change both sides to Not Assigned
  • OK your way out


Help! Windows Live Mail keeps insisting I sign in!

Windows Live Mail has interesting quirks. If you have a Windows Live ID/Microsoft Account (from Hotmail, Livemail, Outlook.com, etc.) you can use that Live ID from within Windows Live Mail to access online photo albums among other things. To do that, just click on the “Sign In” icon at the far right of the Home tab.

But what if you just don’t want to be signed in? Windows Live Mail will continue to prompt you until you tell it to stop doing that! Here’s how:

  • Open Windows Live Mail
  • Click on the little down-facing triangle in the top left corner of the program
  • Click on Options
  • Click on Mail
  • Click on Connection
  • Click on Stop signing in
  • Click on OK

Close and reopen your Windows Live Mail, and you should not see that irritating prompt any more. You can still sign in with your Live ID any time you want by clicking the Sign In button, but there will be no more nagging.

Got a nagging problem? Send email to [email protected] and I’ll try to help.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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About the author...

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Computer Care Kelowna, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication; personal computer training and management; digital image management; music transfer; and website design, hosting and management.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions website at www.rlis.com.







The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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