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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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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