Wednesday, December 5, 2012

64 ChicBuds Printed Earbuds?

They seem to get better and better. Recently we talked about spending on your cell phone, ordering items from Amazon and receiving a help desk alter.

Now, the spammers and phishers are using PayPal. The example below looks perfect. You made a payment to a Micheal Brandon for $676.48 dollars for 64 speaker and earbuds.

Wouldn't you click on the issues with payment and resolve this immediately? I would. That's what the spammers hope as well.

Thank you for continuing to stay diligent with these attacks coming in our Inbox.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Google, Math and Weather

Quickly, what does 12 + 34 - 56 * 7 / 8 equal?

Ah, the quick eye noticed that the math problem above is a link you can click on. Did you try it?


Google, the ubiquitous term for search. Do you know everything you can do with Google?

Google has even offered six 50-minute classes by a Google research scientist for those who would like to learn everything there is to know.

For now, check out some of these searches you can do on Google.

faith work: the words faith and work
faith work OR church: information about faith and work or faith and church
"faith and work": the exact phrase faith and work (notice what website comes up first :) )
dfw sfo: book flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and San Francisco International
define: letu: look up the definition of letu
weather: 75602: weather for Longview, TX

These examples and more can be found in this Google Guide by Nancy Blachman & Jerry Peek


Friday, November 2, 2012

Seeing Through New Windows, Windows 8

Windows 8 is here! Most new computers and tablets you’ll purchase (including through LETU's Dell Employee Purchase Program, coming very soon for 2012) will come with Windows 8 by default. You will be able to choose Windows 7 as an option but that is no longer the standard. The question is, then: "should you go with the latest from Microsoft, or should you stick with their tried and true?" 

What’s new with Windows 8: "Apps, Charms, and Start Screen, OH MY!"
It doesn't take more than the first startup to notice your default landing page is totally different - let's say....app-alicious. Welcome to your new Start Screen. Microsoft has taken the bold step of deep-sixing the literally iconic Start Menu that's been a mainstay over the past two decades since Windows 3.1. The Start Screen is the new full-screen replacement designed as the initial landing page for Windows where you can perform searches, launch familiar programs, and kick off Apps. Wait, Apps?

Windows 8 includes a new Windows Store that lets you install apps, much like the app store on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device. The apps you install from the store have been certified to be safe by Microsoft, so you won’t have to worry about viruses or adware getting onto your computer if you stick to the store. Apps run differently than your traditional desktop programs and are even configured in a different way.

If you've used Windows programs to any extent in the past, you probably found the default place for customizing settings in the program was under the Tools menu, usually in "Settings" or "Options." The new Apps are customized via the "Charms" bar that flies out from the right-hand side of the screen. You access this magical, cereal-peddling leprechaun bar by typing Win+C on a keyboard, moving your mouse to either the top or bottom right-hand corners of the screen, or swiping from the right edge of the screen on a touch-enabled device.





Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 

Aside from the above differences, Windows 8 is very much like Windows 7. The old, familiar Desktop with all of your treasured icons is still there once you minimize the new Start Screen. A few of us in LETU IT have been testing Windows 8 for a few months, and many of us have found it to be faster than Windows 7 once you get past the learning curve. Although we encountered some issues with older printers not working, some intermittent crashes, and a few applications that won't work, we're confident that future patches will shore up the stability and compatibility.

Windows 8 was designed with touch input in mind, though you'll find that your trusty mouse and keyboard still have a place on the desktop. As a result of the focus on touch for the user interface, you’ll notice many of Dell’s new offerings have touch screens. However, there are some caveats with the tablets you should be aware of before you buy.

Not all tablets are built the same  

One thing to watch out for when you’re buying a tablet is that some of the tablets are running Windows RT.  It looks and feels like Windows 8, but it’s different in that only Apps from the Windows Store can be installed and run on the tablet.  Your old Windows 7 or XP apps won’t work.  Dell is currently selling one Windows RT device. Here’s a comparison sheet between that device and a Windows 8 tablet:

The XPS 10 is running Windows RT, is cheaper, thinner, and lighter, and comes bundled with Microsoft Office Home and Student (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). There's currently no way to use Microsoft Outlook on Windows RT for your mail and calendar, however there are built in Mail and Calendar apps to fulfill some of the functionality. Unfortunately, your old programs like Google Chrome, Firefox, Photoshop, etc. won’t work. It’s more like your iPad than your laptop.  

So is Windows 8 right for me?

If you're buying a new tablet device, you should definitely consider Windows 8; touch-enabled devices are its home. If you're considering a new desktop or laptop and you meet the following criteria, you have a good case for getting Windows 8:
  • The hardware and software you use says, "Compatible for Windows 7 (or 8)"
  • You like being on the cutting edge
  • You don't mind learning new workflows and working through potential early-adopter technology issues 
  • You own other Windows 8 devices (PC, tablet, Windows Phone 8, or even Xbox)

That last one is a biggie since the Windows 8 ecosystem has several advantages. The Windows Store apps are certified malware-free, you can sync Apps between devices, and even App settings between devices can roam/sync. 

Should I upgrade the computer I have now? 

If you’re not planning on getting a new computer and wondering if you should upgrade, here's a rule of thumb: if your computer came with Windows 7, it will handle Windows 8. Otherwise, you're likely better off investing in a new PC.

When is LeTourneau going to upgrade my work computer to Windows 8?

As of right now we have no immediate plans to upgrade to Windows 8, mostly because we’re still working on upgrading to Windows 7. We are going to revisit upgrading to Windows 8 next summer, after it’s had a chance to get widespread use and people are getting used to it.  At that point we’ll see what value it would add to our campus workflows and consider starting an upgrade from there, provided a new Windows version won’t be available within the next 2 years. No matter what happens, rest assured LETU IT will continue to communicate the latest news.

Bonus Material

Microsoft has put together some good videos to get you started with Windows 8. If you can spare the 10 minutes, it will more than make up that time on the learning curve.

Getting to know Windows 8/RT

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh, Precious Time



" Isn't there a faster, easier way to do this?"

How many times have you asked yourself this question? I know I've asked it hundreds of times. Over the years, I have discovered many handy shortcuts in life.Things like finding a faster way to and from work, mapping out my grocery shopping, or putting frozen chicken in a bowl of water so it thaws faster.

Today, I'll share with you some handy keyboard and a couple of mouse shortcuts you can use every day to make life a little easier:
(Keep in mind, these shortcuts are for Windows users)

Ctrl + A - select all (everything in a document)
Ctrl + X - cut
Ctrl + C - copy
Ctrl + V - paste
Ctrl + Z - undo
Ctrl + Y - redo

Ctrl+B - bold
Ctrl+I - italics
Ctrl+U - underline

Ctrl + S - save (I use this one almost instinctively!)
Ctrl + F - find a word/phrase anywhere
Ctrl + D - Font styling (in Word)

Ctrl + F4 - close current window
Ctrl + Tab - Move between tabs in a browser or document
Ctrl + Backspace - delete entire previous word
Ctrl + Delete - delete entire following word
Ctrl + Shift + arrow keys - moves Lt & Rt whole words and moves Up & Down by paragraphs

Use the Alt key to see Alt + [shortcut key]'s in Word, Excel, Power Point or any other MS Office program.

Use the Backspace key to go back a page in your web browser.
Use the Space key to scroll down pages in a browser.

Use the Windows icon + tab to browse through all of your open windows.
Use the Windows icon + arrow keys to place your current window where you like it
Use the Windows icon + L to quickly lock your computer
Use the Windows icon alone to open the start menu

Mouse Shortcuts
Double-click to highlight a whole word
Triple-click to highlight a paragraph
Use the middle wheel to scroll
click the middle wheel to drag around the page
Some mouses (mice?) have more buttons that have shortcuts built-in

Have you ever wanted to select a certain area to copy as a picture, but PrntScrn is a little too much work?
Use the snipping tool to select that area and make it your own.

Finally, if there are other shortcuts you are wondering about, visit
 http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/keyboard.aspx

This is the Windows website that lists several more shortcuts that I don't use as often; but you might!

I hope you learned a little more about how move about your computer a little more efficiently and effectively today!

Have a lovely day!
Fly on the Firewall

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why can't we all get along, Apple (iOS6) and Microsoft calendars?

Update: Today, 11/1/2012, Apple announced an iOS 6.01 update that has resolved some of the Exchange meeting issues, I would encourage you to update your Apple iOS devices. (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1606)

Big day of announcements for Apple, the new iPad mini, more iMacs (desktops) and a new MacBook Pro (laptop). We will see some important announcements from Microsoft this week as well. We enjoy the productivity available from having these portable devices sync with our LETU data. We use Microsoft Exchange for our email and calendaring system. We have come to rely on this calendar to be completely accurate and sync with all of our devices.

The Exchange team released an update today (10/23/2012) that problems between iOS6 and Exchange calendars have continued to surface. 

We will continue to use these devices and wait on their programming teams to fix these inconsistencies. As fixes become available, we will apply them and notify you of updates. 

So how do we cope? Your LETU Exchange calendar should be the one you can trust. You can access this calendar through Outlook or webmail (mail.letu.edu). More information available on our FAQ here.

One practice, although frustrating, is, when you are using an Apple mobile device (iPad, iPod or iPhone), do not accept meeting requests on that device. These meetings will still show up on your calendar as tentative. We can also work with you on other settings like automatically accepting meetings. When you accept them using Outlook or webmail, they will sync correctly with your Apple device.



There is a "quick" trick for an Apple device that seems to lose calendar items. Go into your Settings, find Mail, Contacts, Calendars, find your Exchange email and turn off calendars. I'd recommend restarting your device. After you've restarted, go back to the same area and turn calendars for Exchange back on. Resyncing the calendar will clear any data corruption that shows up on your mobile device. As this corruption seems to happen over time, you may need to do this several times a year.

We are always very glad to help as we live in these exciting times of devices, companies and software learning to work well together.

Monday, October 15, 2012

WHAT, I spent that much last month on my cell phone!

(Update, 10/16/2012, added another example of this type of spam email pretending to be from Microsoft)

Maybe we should have a contest to see who can send in an email that is so good, it not only looks real, it traps you with giving your password or credit card info?

Wait, that won't work, that's what's already going on. And you should see this one (below). I'm sure we'll hear a term for this soon, but I call it System 1 spam. 

With all the amazing professors of psychology on our campus, I shouldn't even try this, but I will. You've all heard of the Selective Attention Test, right? Check it out:


How'd you do? You're mind's attention can be completely drawn away from what's going on right in front of you.

A recent book I've been reading, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a laymen's look at the dual process theory. This theory postulates that when it comes to reason, you have two "Systems", a System 1 and a System 2. Your System 1 is the automatic and unconscious reaction you have to things. System 2 is the rational or analytic part. As I'm learning, your System 1 kicks in automatically when you first encounter something. System 1 then reacts to the situation based out of habit or fear. System 2 is slower and kicks in only after your System 1 has been triggered. 

It appears our spammers around the world understand this dual process theory and are using it against us. I can only imagine if I had seen this in my Inbox, I would have panicked, there's no way I spent that much on my cell phone last week. 

The person who sent me this was easily able to combat her System 1, she doesn't use AT&T so she knew it was fake right away. However, as these spammers get better and better, please, please be careful. You don't know what's next, showing up in your Inbox.

By the way, as I'm also learning, your System 1 can be trained. What should be your first reaction to an email like this? (hint, see previous blog)

Thanks to Brenda Weatherall for catching this!



Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Didn't Order That?

Think before you Click!

So frustrating, isn't it? Our technology tools provide ways of interacting, serving one another and much more. However, so do those that want to shortcut these systems.

Recently, a spam that appears to come from Amazon, confirming your order showed up in Inboxes everywhere. You see, this particular spam was pretty good.

You are working hard, check your Inbox, and wow, there's an order confirmation from Amazon for a $742.61 44 inch LED TV. Your first impulse is, wow, I didn't order that, wish I had been able to, but I can't afford that right now. And, after those initial couple of seconds of wondering how in the world you would have mistakenly ordered something that expensive, your second impulse is to click on the item and check it out.

You click, and an Amazon looking web site pops up, you log in and, uh oh!! You're caught, and you didn't even know it. These spammers now have your Amazon account information. Beyond just getting into your Amazon account, if your like me, you have Amazon Prime, a Kindle, Amazon Streaming and just about every Amazon tool offered. This spammer now can order, read and watch movies, books, whatever, using your money!

Many online services are setting up two factor authentication. You can turn it on for Google right now.. Two factor authentication provides two different sets of authentication before you can get into a service. I'm guessing we'll see Amazon provide this soon, and when they do, I'd recommend using it.

For now, here are some precautions:

  • As hard as it is, set up different passwords for your services. This prevents one account compromise from spilling over to another. For example, we recommend you don't use your Letnet credentials for anything else but Letnet.
  • When you get an email from a service you use, FedEx, your bank, Amazon, etc., don't click on the email you get. Go to their web site outside of your email, log in and review your account and orders there. For example, in this instance, go to http://amazon.com first, don't click on the order in your email.
  • Always hover over a link in an email, if your device allows it, and check out the link before clicking. In this case, you can quickly see it's not from amazon.com.
It's a frustrating world we live in.God has called us as His servants to have dominion over what He has created. Our fallen sinful nature enters into our calling, and we continue to learn to be diligent together.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Really? Helpdesk Upgrade Alert?

Have you ever received an email with this subject, "Helpdesk Upgrade Alert"? It came from your LETU IT Department, right?

Well, let's check...

If you already suspected that it's not the LETU Help Desk, you'd be right.

The “From” line indicates it’s not an LETU.edu address (we always send from letu.edu email addresses)





The link they provide in the email is not an letu.edu address (we typically send you all IT-related links in the form of an letu.edu address)

The signature they provide at the end is generic, and non-representative of the way we personalize our signatures at LETU IT.


Nice catch. Being able to identify the elements in a suspicious email or web page will go a long way towards keeping you (and LETU) protected online.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

OUCH!

I know, what a title, OUCH! It's a monthly publication we receive from the SANS Institute, a information security training and security certification organization.

Wow, that sounds like an IT person talking. 

One of the frustrations of living with technology is that we still live in this falling world. God has called us to fill the earth and subdue it. Those that are looking for ways to abuse the technology we use are looking for even more ways of hacking, stealing and faking us out. 

This months issue of OUCH! speaks about what to do if you are hacked, a very polite way of saying, someone stole your computer information!

Check it out:  OUCH! September 2012


Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Tour of the Web: LeTourneau IT

Welcome, freshman! Welcome transfers! Welcome, returning students, faculty and staff, lawnmowers, humidity, and especially random trips to Common Grounds!

Well, maybe not the humidity. But in general, WELCOME!

As some of you know, I am the Fly on the Firewall. My job primarily consists of listening to the goings on here at LeTourneau's IT department and relaying to you the technological tips that I glean from the conversation here.

I'm a fly, and it's in my best interest to avoid the sticky web of technology I don't understand. I've had a couple of close calls, but fortunately, I knew who to contact.

However, it occurred to me that some of you may not. Maybe you've just never had a problem. Or maybe you just didn't know that there are other means of contacting LeTourneau's IT department. Or maybe you're one of those new freshman or transfers, and you don't know anything at all.

About LeTourneau's IT department, I mean. ; )

Hence, though telling you how not to make your computer go haywire is a worthy and admirable topic, I thought today I could just tell you how to contact IT when the problem is beyond you or me. No sense in allowing you to get stuck in the web just because you don't know who to contact.

If you have a problem and you aren't like me and completely horrid with technology then you might consider searching for the way out of your sticky web situation via this FAQ section (unless, of course, you're having a problem with the internet and you can't read this blog. Then you're pretty much hopeless):

http://www.letu.edu/it/faq/

Warning: mucho technological terms. But hey, I warned you that the FAQs were for people other than the technologically incompetent. The FAQs covers a lot of things: phones, blackboard, TVs, etc. And if what you're looking for doesn't seem to fit in one of the listed categories on the site, the search bar in the upper right hand corner is really handy.

Oh, and since I heard that gaming consoles is a popular question this week, so I looked it up for y'all already:


http://www.letu.edu/it/faq/article/AA-00168/0/Can-I-connect-my-gaming-console-to-the-internet-in-my-dorm-room.html

I'm such a nice person. Er, fly.

Okay, so if you're in the technologically incompetent group with me, here's how you can contact IT. See the block of information on the right? ------>

That's it.

For the technologically competent or for the incredibly bored: Visit our website.

For complete up-to-date information on the various updates IT conducts OR for emergencies prompted by large Texas rain storms: Follow us on Twitter.

For help solving technical problems: email us at support@letu.edu, call us at 1(866)TEC-LETU or (903)233-3500, or chat with us.

IT's hours of operation are: 8am-midnight, Monday through Saturday and 2pm-midnight on Sundays.


Good luck with that web!

Sincerely, The Fly
FlyOnTheFirewall@gmail.com

Thursday, August 16, 2012

If The Boot Fits: Internet Browsers

I'm Texan, y'all, and I'd really like a pair of cowboy boots. As they are outside my budget at the moment, I content myself with trying on a few pairs every once in awhile. You know, just to look around, see what I like, what styles fit me, that sort of thing.

Because not every boot fits.

A pair of boots that fits comfortably on my sister probably won't fit well on me even though we have the same shoe size. My mother prefers a certain style that I do not. My dad prefers a darker color while I prefer lighter ones. (And my husband downright refuses to try on any even though I've converted him to Texan in pretty much every other way.) Everyone's needs and preferences are perfectly met by a different boot.

Furthermore, once someone owns a pair of boots, that pair can never be used perfectly for anyone else. I discovered this whilst looking for cheap boots in consignment stores. Every pair I tried on had molded itself to the former owner's foot, and didn't quite fit me right. (Apparently, my ankles are in a really weird spot - who knew?)

IT employees are often asked what browser is the best to use. (In fact, this blog post topic is at the request of one of our readers.) There's just so many browsers, so much heated debate about it all, and so many different opinions. So everyone wants to know: which is actually the best browser?

The answer is another question: does the boot fit?

Everyone has different work requirements or personal preferences and so the browser that my boss uses might not suit you. And if you were to try my browser, the personalized attributes I have set up might cause you to dislike the browser I have through no fault of its own. No one else's personalized browser is going to fit everyone, so you need to choose for yourself the browser that fits you.

Wow, that sounded really cheesy.

Okay, to aid you in trying on some browsers, I asked my co-workers some questions, and they have kindly given me their opinions. The following is rated PG-13 for conspiracy theories, Apple violence, and technical language.

(For the record, browsers are listed in alphabetical order, so settle down, y'all.)


1) What is your favorite internet browser? Why?


Firefox:

"No favorite but I use Firefox - it loads fast, has the least number of problems. Will change [browsers] in the future if those factors change."
- Peter Austin, Technical Services Coordinator

"Firefox for the utilities (extensions) and Chrome for the speed."
- Nathan McGarvey, Programmer/Analyst


Google Chrome:

"Chrome. I have fewer intermittent problems with it compared to IE [Internet Explorer]. It has a much better auto-updater built in than Firefox, and I prefer the way it handles memory management on multiple tabs."
- Michael Davis, Assistant Director of Technical and Media Services

"Google Chrome. I like the favorites bar and the convenience of searching directly in Google quickly and conveniently, but it is a little irritating that some sites don't work well in Chrome. Doesn't happen often, but it does happen."
- Kristin Ater, Assistant Director of Programming Services

"Chrome. Very fast, clean interface, search bar and URL address input are the same. Normally uses less memory than the others and each tab's memory space is separate from the other tabs."
- Matthew Henry, Chief Information Officer


Internet Explorer:

"At the moment, Internet Explorer. It's fast, has tabbed browser windows, and is compatible with all my management applications."
- Ethan Cooper, Network Administrator

"Internet Explorer 9. Older versions of IE were awful, but the new one is fast and simple, doesn't use a lot of resources, and loads quickly. It also blocks 90% of malware that other browsers don't. If you got burned by Internet Explorer before, give IE9 a try."
- Joe Grindrod, Technical Services Senior


2) What is your favorite thing about this browser? And your least favorite thing?


Firefox:

"Multiple rows of windows with an add in. Cursor does not always open where I need it."
- Peter Austin, Technical Services Coordinator

"Extensions for web-page analysis. (For both [Firefox and Chrome].) Both still don't seem to keep-up with me all the time as I may have a hundred or more tabs open across many windows simultaneously."
- Nathan McGarvey, Programmer/Analyst


Google Chrome:

"My favorite thing is how it runs quickly and has a low memory footprint. My least favorite thing is that it sometimes won't open Microsoft SQL reports since they're designed for IE [Internet Explorer]. That's more an issue with the report than the browser though."
- Michael Davis, Assistant Director of Technical and Media Services

"Favorite: It uses my Google profile so every device I use Chrome on (including my iOS devices now) my bookmarks and settings all sync; least: it seems to use memory in a run-away fashion sometimes. For example, I have to restart it to clear up memory usage. Also, it had trouble for a long time with the Flash plug in."
- Matthew Henry, Chief Information Officer


Internet Explorer:

"My favorite feature is site pinning: you can pin any website you like to the task bar or start menu and it acts like an app on your computer. When you pin sites it unlocks new features for the site."
- Joe Grindrod, Technical Services Senior

"Most: It has a built-in RSS feed reader. Least: Not all buttons are positioned where it's most intuitive."
- Ethan Cooper, Network Administrator


3) Would you recommend this browser for general use? Why or why not?



I'm not really sure what answers I expected here, but pretty much everything I got was "Sure" and "Easy to use." Even I yawned. And you're welcome for sparing you.The only interesting thing of note was that one of our Chrome fans said she'd actually recommend Internet Explorer for the general user.


4) On a scale of 1 to 5 (loser to winner), please rank your favorite internet browser in the following categories: speed, security, easy to use, and easy to customize/personalize.

The average performance ratings of everyone's favorite browsers



5) What is your LEAST favorite internet browser? Why?


"Firefox. Possibly the most user-unfriendly browser out there. Comes with all sorts of scary pop-up warnings that make the common man/woman want to hide under their desk until the sirens stop."
- Ethan Cooper, Network Administrator

"My least favorite browser is Google Chrome, mostly because I don't trust Google. Any Google product, unless you explicitly tell it not to, will track you and send your browsing habits to Google so they can serve you ads. This includes google.com itself, so watch what you search : ) Internet Explorer 10 (not out yet but will be soon), not only doesn't track you, but also tells websites not to track you as well."
- Joe Grindrod, Technical Services Senior

"Internet Explorer. It breaks Internet standards, is slow, has large security flaws, and crashes quite consistently."
- Nathan McGarvey, Programmer/Analyst

"Safari. It's a slow, crummy Apple product."
- Michael Davis, Assistant Director of Technical and Media Services

"Don't know that I have one. I use them all: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. They all have their purposes. Chrome: general daily use. Firefox: use when Chrome doesn't work. IE [Internet Explorer]: best for banking and secure websites. Safari: best on iOS and Mac platforms, although Chrome is available now too."
- Matthew Henry, Chief Information Officer


6) On a sale of 1 to 5 (loser to winner), please rank your LEAST favorite internet browser in the following categories: speed, security, easy to use, easy to customize/personalize.

The average ratings of everyone's least favorite browsers - pretty good performance ratings for not liking them!



Go ahead. See if the boot fits. Browse the browsers.

Sincerely, The Fly
FlyOnTheFirewall@gmail.com

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Abracadabra: Creating (and remembering!) an Amazing Password

Next time you walk into your office place your purse or wallet and keys in the middle of your desk and leave it there for hours on end. Walk away. I dare you.

You wouldn't do it, would you? Why?

Well, because it's valuable. It has your identification, your credit cards, and your keys.

And yet, you just leave it underneath the desk where your feet are.

Don't give me that look. I know we all do it. At least every once in awhile. And I know you all know that it's a little on the insecure side. Especially when we visit the powder room (yes, I did just call it that) or the water cooler.

Today, I want to see if I can convince you to lock it up entirely. Or at the very least to shove it behind the trashcan where it can't be seen by the casual observer.

Actually, while your purse or wallet is a very valuable thing, I'm going to be talking about something even more valuable: your passwords.

We store pretty much everything online nowadays. Movies, relationships, calendars, contacts, creative innovations, financial information, health information, credit card information, the list goes on and on. And just think! ALL THAT is protected under one or two passwords because we are too lazy to try and remember a separate password for every account.




















Yeah, that was my face, too.

Having a different password for every account is probably the most widely known (and the most ignored) tip regarding secure passwords. However, it is not the only one. Here are the 5 most important tips to help you secure your accounts properly:

1) Make it long. A secure password is 10 characters or more and does not necessarily include numbers or symbols (though many accounts require it). The longer the password the harder it is to figure it out. For example, if I am trying to crack a four number code, all I would have to do is try each variation (in math terms it's "permutations"): 0000, 0001, 0002, etc all the way up to 9999. It might take me a long time, but it would take hardly any time at all for a computer to try them all.
However, if you have a long password - that's a lot more possible combinations of letters! And the best part is, it doesn't have to be a random collection of letters. "Thequickbrownfoxjumpedoverthelazydog" will work just as well as "qpalsodkeufjghcmgheyahsjdmwoxmfjgbxz" because they both have the same number of letters and possible combinations.
So don't stress yourself out about it. Long doesn't have to mean hard to remember. Just hard to crack.

2) Use different passwords for everything. Using the same password for multiple accounts is just not a good idea. If one account is compromised then several more will be as well. Don't do it. It's just that simple. Keep your purse locked up.
However, if you don't think you can do that. At least, shove that purse behind the trash can. Use the same password for that forum you rarely visit and that gaming site, but use unique passwords for your bank and for Amazon. What better way to invite theft than to safeguard your financial information and your credit card information with the same password?
Along similar lines, LeTourneau asks that you create a unique password for your LeTourneau account. For your sake, and for the school's.

3) Share your password with no one. Two can keep a secret. If one of them is dead.
I know we all have people we love and trust. But don't share your passwords with them. It lessens the risk overall, and they don't have to worry about keeping it secret. And if you do have to share it for some very rare reason, please remember to change it afterwards. Again: little risk, little worry.
This is, of course, the strictest form of password security protocol that institutions like LeTourneau require. You and your spouse probably share your bank password, and that's okay. Just don't share it with your sister. Or best friend.
And if you want to share your Netflix password with your sister or best friend. That's up to you.
But the less people who know, the more secure your account is.

4) Store your passwords nowhere. The best place to store your passwords is in your brain. No doubt about it.
Unfortunately, many of us are forgetful people or have far too many accounts to keep track of. And it seems that sometimes it is virtually impossible to remember all of your accounts and passwords. So IF you absolutely cannot remember all of your passwords, THEN you may store it somewhere.
(Please note: that last statement is not a license to be lazy and not try to memorize them all.)
The best way to store your passwords is under lock and key. For real. Or electronically. Keep a written copy of your passwords in a personal safe or lock box. Or you can store them on your computer in a password-protected document. DON'T keep them in an unprotected word document or sticky note.
But at the very least you're going to have to memorize at least one password or code.

5) Change your passwords often. You should, of course, change your password if you suspect it has been compromised. However, it is also a good security measure to change your password regularly.
Your account is most secure if you change the password about every 6 months. These measures should be taken with your most sensitive accounts such as your bank account or LeTu account. Some of your other accounts such as your Amazon account are probably sufficiently protected by changing your password only once a year. And that forum that you never visit anymore? It's probably okay never being changed.
If you can't remember to change it. Write it on your calendar "change passwords" and then stick to your schedule. That's all it takes. Better safe than sorry.

And just because I'm a really nice person, I'll tell you how to change your password or retrieve it at LeTourneau.

The easiest way to change your Letu account password is:
1) Log in to your desktop.
2) Hit (and hold) Ctrl+Alt+Del
3) Select "Change a password"
4) Follow the prompts.

And if you forget your password:
- If you are a student:
      1) Visit my.letu.edu
      2) Select the "Forget your Password?" tab at the top left
      3) Follow the prompts.
- If you are a faculty or staff:
      1) Call the IT helpdesk.

Oh, and by the way. You can't use "thequickbrownfoxjumpedoverthelazydog" for a password now.

Sincerely, The Fly
FlyOnTheFirewall@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brain Scans: Running the Task Manager

Twenty seconds is so much worse than two seconds. You know what I mean?

It's so annoying when the computer is technically working, but it's doing everything really slowly. And so, you don't want to take it to your handy nerd because 1) they haven't run out of cookies yet from the last time, and 2) because like I said, it's technically working. And you really don't want to admit that you got impatient over 20 seconds.

It's okay, I'm not judging. I'm completely there with you - those extra 18 seconds really are inexcusable. I also understand how frustrating it is that something as instinctive as the keep-clicking-until-it-does-something method never works. Ever.

Instead, what you have to do is close your Facebook.

WHAT?!

Goes against your instincts, right? Yeah. I know. But I'm not kidding.

Your computer has what's called a CPU. Now last time I wrote to you, I didn't know what that was. But now I know. It's a "Central Processing Unit." A very silly name. What the nerds mean to say is "Computer Brain." The CPU is the computer's brain where the computer thinks and works things through.

Now Facebook takes a lot of the brain's power. It fills our computers' brains. And when Facebook is open, the computer works slowly. Funny. I thought I was the only one.

BUT. You don't have to take my word for it. You can take a brain scan of your computer's brain. Taking a brain scan of your computer will show you exactly what your computer is thinking about. Not what it's got stored. Just what it's working on. Pretty cool, huh? Here's a picture of mine.

In the first and the last columns, you will see the names of the programs your computer is currently using. Now some of these will not look familiar to you. That's okay. I don't know what they are either.

The second column tells you which person is running which program. Sometimes, if a bunch of people use the same computer or network a specific program will be run by the computers as a whole instead of an individual person. So don't panic if this list includes a name other than your own or no name at all. Your computer is not being taken over by hostile alien computers. I promise.

In the middle, we have CPU. This tells us the percentage of brain that each program is using. As you can see, it does not add up to a hundred percent. Well, like humans computers don't use all of their brains. The unused percentage of brain is called "System Idle Process". (I don't know why they don't just call it what it is: The Nothing Box.) It can be found somewhere else. Or you could just do math and figure it out yourself.

The fourth column depicts exactly how much memory is being used to run these programs while the computer is on and the programs are open (i.e. this number does not include the documents and such you have stored on your computer). As you can see in the picture, my Firefox is currently using 131,776K ("kilobytes" - that's about 164,720 pages of a Word document). However, the only thing I'm running in the browser at the moment is this blogger. Also notice that Microsoft Outlook and Skype are using a lot of memory. This is because programs that use the internet typically need more memory to temporarily store and relay information to its user. Firefox temporarily stores the web design, data, and ads for your open web pages; Outlook is storing emails, calendars, and contacts; and Skype is storing messages, contacts, and statuses.

This is why I wasn't kidding when I said the first thing you should do is close Facebook. Just opening Facebook on my computer caused my Firefox's memory use to jump to about 170,000K (212,500 pages). It takes a lot of memory to project all those targeted ads, the stalker ticker feed, news feed, notifications, chat windows, and profiles. The news feed in particular is a real culprit, because it's basically an infinite amount of information to temporarily store and relay. The more I scrolled through the News Feed the more kilobytes of memory Facebook was using. I clicked "more stories" twice and the kilobytes used doubled to about 300,000K (375,000 pages).

Okay, so here's the scenario. Your computer is running slowly. You've closed Facebook. You've closed all those extra tabs in your browser you forgot to close down from last week. And it's still running slowly.

1) Move your mouse to the blue bar at the bottom of the screen. This bar is called a "Task Bar" because it shows all the little icons of the programs you currently have open to do your various tasks.

2) Right click, and select "Start Task Manager." Make sure the "Processes" tab is selected. OR you could just press and hold the following keys in order: Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Mind blown.

3) Click on "Memory." This will sort the programs based on how much memory it is using. If you prefer, you could also sort it by CPU (percentage of brain being used).

4) IF you recognize a program that is using too much brain power and memory and wish to stop it, then you should click on that program's row and select "End Process." For example, I don't want my computer working on Skype, so I'm going to end it. Since this process forces a complete shut down of the program without saving squat it's usually not a good idea to close a program that way. Saving and closing from the program itself is a much safer route.

Computers delegate tasks and memory based on what you're doing on the computer. So any program can fluctuate up to using as much as 80% brain power (CPU), but it usually only does so momentarily. However, any program that uses more than 20% brain power (CPU) for longer than just a few seconds could possibly pose a problem. Since ending a process is a forced shut down don't end anything unless you know for sure what it is. You can find out what program it is by Googling it or calling us, your beloved LeTourneau IT.

5) When you are done analyzing your computer's brain, be sure to select the red "X" at the top right of your task manager. It would be awful if you clicked "end process" when you thought you were clicking "ok" or "cancel". Don't be ashamed. I almost do it every time.

Blogger. End process.

Sincerely, The Fly
FlyOnTheFirewall@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Plan C: Rebooting your Computer

Computer breaks, cookies baked, geek bribed. That's all you really need to know about fixing computer problems.

Just kidding.

Unfortunately, you'll need a Plan B, because Plan A doesn't work during midterms. Not even cookies will suffice to bribe the oh-so-limited Time. (I might have been slightly sleep-deprived when I tried this.)

Also, I've discovered that breaking my computer again before the last bag of cookies is depleted limits my options for having it fixed again soon.

My Plan B was to date and marry a geek because significant others are kinda required to help you. But I understand this is not a feasible option for many of my readers.

This is just as well because even Plan B isn't always effective. Turns out that Time is still problematic. And though significant others are sweet enough to lend you their computer for that huge paper, it turns out they don't appreciate it very much when you manage to turn the entire screen black and white just by logging on - and not even the computer science majors know how to fix it. (This may or may not be a personal experience. I'm not sure I actually want to claim this one.)

However, hopefully your penchant for breaking computers isn't as bad as mine. (My husband has been known to forbid me from being in the same room while he's working on the computer.) But even if it is, there is hope. Turns out that for many things Plan C works just fine.

I noticed a trend: I'd break a computer, seek help, and the first thing they'd ask would be "Did you reboot your computer?" One day, I decided to see what this mysterious phrase meant, and the number of cookies I had to bake decreased rather dramatically after that.

Basically, "rebooting your computer" is just a fancy phrase for "turning it off and then back on again." Kinda like toggling the light switch to see if the light bulb is just playing tricks on you or if you actually have to change it out. It turns out that most of the time, the computer is just playing tricks on you.

So here's how you "reboot your computer":
Steps 2 and 3

1. "Save" and "Close" everything you have open.

2. Click the "Start Menu"

3. Select the arrow beside "Shut Down" and select "Restart"

4. Now is a good time to go get some cookies and a glass of milk. Or call your mom.
Depending on the nature of the problem, "rebooting" can take some time or hardly any time at all. But whatever you do, do NOT - however, tempting it may be - turn the computer off by unplugging it or by pressing that power button.
This is why I always find something with which to distract myself. (Yes, I was that energizer bunny kid who always went around pushing all the buttons I could find.)

5. Hopefully, when you get back from your chosen activity of distraction, your computer will be on, all fresh and ready to use again. What it's done in the meantime is turned itself off and turned back on again. And possibly did some random updating the computer claims it needs.

There is one exception. What if your computer freezes and you can't move your mouse to reboot it? Well, in that case, you'll have to do a "hard reboot." To do that all, you have to do is push and hold the power button on the CPU (I don't know what the abbreviation stands for, but that's the equipment thingy that usually has the CD drive in it) until the computer turns off. Wait a few minutes, and then turn your computer back on. This is a "hard reboot." It is ONLY to be done if you can't restart it from the Start Menu because the screen is frozen.

Yes. That's it. That's all you have to do. And you would be amazed at the number of random problems being able to reboot your own computer solves. And even if it doesn't solve it, at least, that's one less step you'll have to make when you call IT Support.

So next time your computer gives you problems, give it the boot.

Sincerely,
The Fly

FlyOnTheFirewall@gmail.com

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