A+ R A-

The Tech Report

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

E-mail Print PDF

Thanksgiving is coming soon, and with it comes what is most likely the best day of the year to buy electronics: Black Friday. With midnight or early morning sales that are beyond incredible, if you intend to buy any sort of electronics in the coming months, Black Friday is almost certainly the time to do it. For the next two or three weeks, this series is going to give a few tips for computer related purchases during the holiday season.

Laptops sell like hotcakes during these sales. If you look at any Black Friday ad involving electronics you are sure to find all sorts of amazing deals. However, if you don’t know what the technical specifications of a laptop mean, shopping for the right one can be daunting.

One of the most important things to know when buying a laptop is that the terms “Netbook” and “Notebook” are not referring to the same thing.

A “Notebook” is just another term for a laptop computer, while a “Netbook” is a smaller and simpler laptop. Netbooks are used almost solely for browsing the Internet. While they can run other programs, Netbooks are not as powerful as traditional laptops, nor do they have as much memory.

Because of this, they are significantly cheaper than a normal laptop computer.

Netbooks, and laptops like them, make it a very bad idea to simply buy the cheapest laptop you can find when shopping. If all you need in a laptop is something that you can check your e-mail and other websites on, then a Netbook is perfect, but keep in mind a Netbook just won’t give as much performance as a normal laptop. If you’re looking for something that works about as well as a desktop, a Netbook is definitely not what you’re looking for.

While shopping, you’ll see ads that list system features, along with what they can be expected to do. If you’re shopping for something more powerful than a Netbook, like a gaming or media center laptop, look for an ad that lists those features. Don’t just look at the price and get the cheapest laptop because unless you’re looking for something simple like a Netbook, you are probably going to be disappointed in what you bought.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

E-mail Print PDF

Although some people are used to dealing with a never-ending stream of computer troubles, for the most part they are relatively stable machines.

Any complications you might have are for the most part minor, and while in some cases they may not be easily fixed, the computer is still usable. Sometimes, however, there can be much larger complications which can result in partial or complete loss of data. There is a simple way to minimize the negative effects of this scenario, simply keep backups.

Let me say this right off the bat: you should always have a backup of any important files. If losing a file would cause you a great deal of inconvenience, there is no reason to take the risk of a single copy of that file being lost. A backup is not the file on the same computer the original file is on with a different name. All this will accomplish is that you will lose two files instead of one if you lose the data on that computer (if you have multiple hard drives this isn’t as much as an issue, but there’s still a possibility something could happen to the computer as a whole instead of just the hard drive).

Instead of keeping the backup file in the same space as the original, put the file onto a CD or flash drive. As long as you take proper care of the storage item, there is almost no chance of losing the information stored on it. With this, if you lose the original file on your computer for whatever reason, you can just put the storage item into your computer and get the backup file. Make sure that whatever caused you to lose the original data is fixed, or you might end up having to do this a second time, or the storage item might even be corrupted.

Alternatively, you can host any important files online. There are various services online that allow users free file storage (there are size limits, but for text documents or pictures there shouldn't be a problem). Some of them, such as Dropbox, offer additional services such as detecting changes made to your original file and saving them to the backup stored online, as well as a revision history that lets you access any previous versions of the file. Simply e-mailing the file to yourself and saving the email will ensure that a backup of the file exists somewhere you can easily access it.

So what should you backup?

Obviously, important files are first priority, but I would recommend backing up anything that you would miss if it were gone.

For the most part, programs on your computer can be reinstalled, so losing them isn’t as big a crisis as losing your photo album. It’s all about making your worst-case scenario as bearable as possible. Instead of being out of luck should you lose the entirety of your data, do everything you can to make it just an inconvenience instead of a catastrophe.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

E-mail Print PDF

Two weeks ago I talked about how to make sure your e-mails get to the exact people you want to receive them, and today I’m going to touch on that subject once again. Specifically, I’m going to talk about key features that are often misused, along with a few words on e-mail etiquette.

Mass e-mails are a common occurrence, it is regular for a group of people to communicate through one e-mail sent to all members of the group.

However, after receiving a large mass e-mail with several names in the CC: field, you may have to send a reply back to the person who sent the e-mail in the first place. When doing this, there are two options, “Reply” and “Reply All”. It is important to chose the correct option.

“Reply” does just what it sounds like, it will send a reply to only the person who sent the e-mail to you in the first place, AKA the person in the “From:” field of the e-mail you are replying to. If you only want this person to see the e-mail, and not all of the other people who were in the CC: field of the original email, use Reply.

Reply All”, on the other hand, is the opposite. If you use Reply All, your reply will be sent to not just the original sender of the e-mail, but also every single address in the CC: field of the e-mail being replied to (If the original e-mail had names in the BCC: field, Reply All will not send the e-mail to them, since you don’t know the addresses). More often than not, this is not intended. Make sure that when replying to a mass email, you chose the proper option between Reply and Reply All, depending on who you want to receive the reply.

On the subject of mass e-mail, I’d like to mention one of the messages that everyone hates getting: chain letters. For those who have never heard of them, a chain letter is an e-mail that requests to be forwarded to everyone you know. Typically, they will promise something positive or threaten something negative based on whether or not you forward it to your contacts.

Normally the actual content of the chain letter is meaningless, it can be something like an urban legend or a list of random facts or a political statement. The point is, you should not forward these under any circumstances.

Not forwarding chain letters isn’t a security issue as much as a courtesy issue. Nobody likes an Inbox cluttered with spam and other nonsense. By forwarding the chain letter you are just contributing to that clutter, and doing it to your friends and family.

The real power of chain letters is that even if only a few people continue to forward them, they will continue to propagate. Do what you can on your end, and delete chain letters as soon as you get them.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

E-mail Print PDF

In today’s world, e-mail is a very powerful tool. It lets you stay in practically instant contact with friends and family, and is a vital part of any successful business.

The use of e-mail is widespread, from people who only use it for social reasons, to employees keeping coworkers up to date, to people who only use it very occasionally to contact specific individuals.

Regardless of how someone uses email (but especially if that usage involves mass e-mails to several groups of people at once) the time should be taken to learn the proper methods of sending e-mail. When you compose an e-mail, there are three fields that allow you to dictate who receives the message: the “To:” field, the “CC:” field, and the “BCC” field.

Knowing which field to use at which time can prevent e-mail mistakes that may put an e-mail (or an e-mail address) into the wrong person’s hands.

First, the ‘To:’ field. This is the main place to put the address of the people you want to receive the e-mail. Any addresses that are put in this field will get the message once you hit send. Note that I said “addresses”, as in you can have more than one name in the To: field. This can be useful, if you have to send an e-mail to five different people, you only have to send one message to five addresses instead of five separate messages.

What you need to be aware of, however, is that any name put into the To: field can be seen by anyone who receives the email.

If X, Y, and Z are all in To:, then when X opens your message he can see you also sent it to Y and Z. This may not be a problem, but it is possible that you want to keep the addresses of Y and Z a secret from X. Even if you yourself don’t care about secrecy; X, Y, or Z might not want their e-mail addresses known to anyone aside from you. If this is the case, you cannot put the three addresses in the To: field.

‘CC:’ (for carbon copy) is very similar to To:. In effect, they do essentially the same thing; CC: will make and send a copy of the e-mail sent to the addresses in To:. Since they do the same thing, the same problems with e-mail address privacy still exist. To that end, there is ‘BCC:’. The “B” in BCC: stands for blind, as in anyone who receives the email is blind to any address that was in the BCC: field. Following the previous example, if you send an e-mail putting A in the To: field and X Y and Z in the BCC: field, A will only see his own e-mail address, and X Y and Z will only see their own address. To ensure the privacy of the recipients of a mass e-mail, you should put any addresses in the BCC: field as opposed to putting them all in the To: or CC: field.

Entering the right addresses in the right fields will keep the e-mail addresses of those you are messaging private when they need to be, preventing any awkward situations.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com.

Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR Bourns College of Engineering

Tech Talk With Greg Bailey

E-mail Print PDF

Earlier this week, one of my online accounts was compromised. I still have no idea how it happened, or if there’s anything I could have done to prevent it. While there probably was some way I could have kept the account more secure, the only surefire, no-fail way to keep Internet accounts safe is to not have any accounts at all. The only way to make absolutely sure your computer is never infected with malware is to never connect to the Internet. That being said, this article will talk about what to do when the worst happens: when someone has gained access to your account. When the account is first compromised; it is rarely obvious.

More often than not you might not even realize it immediately. You might start noticing some suspicious activity on the account, or a friend might tell you that the account has been in use while you weren’t on it. Slowly, the confusion from the odd situation involving your account becomes fear when you realize just what’s going on. Once you know the account has been taken over, the first thing to do is take just a moment to calm down. The next few minutes could potentially be very important, especially if you happen to catch the intrusion swiftly. Take the time to collect yourself... but don’t take too long.

Do not waste any time at all in taking action. This seems at odds with the first step, but there is a difference between spending time calming tense nerves that could cause mistakes and spending time doing something that can wait until later. The next hour could make a huge difference, and you should be focused on limiting damage to the compromised account.

The steps you take to recover your account depend on a few things. First, can you still logon to the account, even though it has been compromised? If so, you should change the password immediately. Make sure the new password is very strong, use random numbers and letters.

If you cannot log-in to the account, the password has most likely been changed already. In this situation, the next step is to recover your password. Go to the log-in screen and find the “Forgot Password” option. The website should send your password to the e-mail associated with the account (check your spam folder if you don’t see it in your inbox). The processes for each website differ, but as long as the e-mail used with account hasn’t also been compromised, this should let you log-in to the account, where you can change the password.

If you don’t get the e-mail from the website after using the Forgot Password option, then it is possible that they have changed the e-mail address to one of their e-mail accounts (most websites will send the old e-mail a message when this happens, so keep an eye on your inbox). In this case, there is nothing you can immediately do to get control of your account back. Contact the people in charge of the website, and notify them of the situation.

The website most likely has a set procedure for compromised account recovery, find it in their help section and follow it. Be prepared to give information on the account that only the original owner should know.

Once you’ve either regained control of the account or are waiting to hear back from the website, there are a few other steps to take.

You should quickly notify friends and family that you are not in control of the account. The compromised account may be used to scam people you know; they should be put on guard until you have the account back.

After you’ve done this, there are a few simple things you can do to tighten the security on your computer. Make sure your web browser has been fully updated, since an older version could have vulnerabilities that have since been fixed. Run whatever antivirus software you have, you may have picked up malware recently and not known it.

Keep in mind that while it’s possible that your account information was phished or obtained through malware, it is also possible that it was just guessed through a brute force method. Methods like that are why it is crucial to have strong passwords; the stronger the password, the weaker such an attack is in comparison.

But remember, there is no way to reduce the chances of being compromised to nothing, so if it does happen just keep a cool head and act effectively and efficiently.

This article is the tenth in a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@gmail.com.

Page 6 of 18