August 17, 2007

Be kind to your laptop

Take a little time to take care of your laptop or PC. There are a number of simple things you can do to minimize problems, protect your information and let your laptop continue to do all that you want it to do and keep all your information safe. Your laptop is your faithful companion but needs to be protected from a variety of threats...

1. Perform basic computer safety maintenance
Before you surf the Web, you should take steps to help improve the computer's security:
Use an Internet firewall.
Keep your computer operating software up to date.
Install anti-virus software.
Install anti-spyware software.
Keep anti-virus and anti-spyware definitions up to date.

2. Don't open files and email attachments from strangers

E-mail and instant messaging (IM) can bring viruses and worms to your computer if you aren't careful about opening attachments and files. Most e-mail viruses are spread when a person opens an infected file or attachment. Never open a file attached to an e-mail or delivered by instant messenger unless you trust the sender and you are expecting the file.

3. Fight spam and online scams
Use built-in or add-on e-mail filtering software to intercept junk messages sent to your mail box. Filtering programs use lists of known senders or key phrases to determine which incoming messages to delete or divert to a quarantine folder. You can even create a list of trusted email addresses for the programs to check to avoid deleting email from friends.

Phishing is a popular technique of using email to bait you into entering personal information that can allow the sender to steal credit card numbers, passwords, account information, or other personal data. Con artists send a variety of fraudulent e-mail messages, appearing to come from trusted sources like bank or credit card companies, to lead the recipient into entering personal information. Never enter personal information like your social security number, credit card numbers or logins and passwords unless you are using a trusted, secure website where you are required to enter them to connect to your account or place an order. Make sure a banking or ordering website is secure by checking to see characters like "https://www.websitename..." on the address line at the top the browser window when you are about to enter sensitive information.

4. Protect yourself from spyware
If your Web browser has been taken over by pop-up ads, or there are new toolbars on your browser screen that you didn't intentionally install, your computer may have been infected by a spyware program. Spyware is malicious software that collects personal information from your computer without letting you know it is being collected. Many times spyware can be installed without your knowledge if you download music or file-sharing programs, free games from un-trusted websites, or other software from suspicious websites.

Install and run up-to-date antispyware software to locate and remove spyware and protect against further infections and protect your computer.

5. Take precautions when using wireless connections
Many school and college campuses provide wireless networks so you can connect to campus networks to use library websites, access campus services and class information and to connect to the internet. Such wireless networks are convenient, but do come with some potential security risks.

Consider a few minumum precautions:
Don't connect to unprotected wireless networks—it is possible for someone to monitor your Internet usage and even record your login and password information and other sensitive information. If you do not know if a network is secure - ask!
If you choose to connect to an unprotected wireless network, don't visit a website that requires a password unless the website is encrypted. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for a "lock" symbol in the lower-right corner of your browser window.
If you are not surfing the Internet or sending e-mail, but are using your computer near a public wireless network, disable your wireless connection to prevent intrusion to your computer from others. If you're using an external plug-in WiFi card you can simply unplug it. If you're using an internal WiFi card, right-click the connection icon in the lower portion of your laptop screen and click "Disable" to temporarily turn off wireless access.

6. Password protect your computer—and lock it

Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your computer from criminals, pranksters, or a careless roommate. If you don't use a password to log on to your computer, anyone can walk up and access it and look through your information or use the computer to connect to services you use. A password should be at least 8 characters long, and should include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols that make it difficult to guess by an unscrupulous user. And... don't share your password with anyone!

7. Back up your files and data
One of the most important things you need to do is to make backup copies of your files and data. This is one of the first things a you should learn to do, but often does not get done until all of your data has been lost during a crash or disk failure.

Stories of computer users losing all their records and documents because they did not backup work are commonplace. Even after living through a computer failure many won't take time to backup vital information and will unfortunately have the same problem again and again.

8. Pretect your computer from extreme heat or cold
Laptops are vulnerable to temperature extremes and should be used under normal conditions that are comfortable to you. Don't leave them in the trunk of a car during hot or cold times. Excessive heat can destroy the display or damage other internal components. Leaving one in cold, damp places can cause internal moisture condensation and short or damage components. Don't place one in precarious situations where it could fall off a table or slide off a bed. Laptops are tested rigorously and are built to be mobile, but they are still easily broken or damaged from significant shock from a fall.

9. Keep your laptop with you or lock it up when you are not around
Laptops are a popular item for thieves that want to sell them or take them to gain access to account logins and other personal information you might have stored in them. If you leave an area after using your laptop and don't have a friend that can keep an eye it, take it with you.

When traveling, keep your computer with you at all times. If you sit down to take a break, socialize or do anything that does not involve your computer, keep the carry bag strap over your shoulder or in your hand. Laptops are an easy target for someone passing by and one can be picked up in a heartbeat and gone forever.

July 15, 2007

Wii is great for rehabilitation

Not only is the Wii game system a great source for entertainment but it is becoming a therapeutic aid helping with patient rehabilitation. WakeMed hospitals in North Carolina has begun to use the Wii to help with patient therapy. "Patients become vested in it, and when they're vested it has a lot more meaning," says Karen Ambrose, a physical therapist at the hospital. "If you can get them to want to do it," she says of the often grueling process of physical rehabilitation, "they'll do it."

One of the problems in getting rehab patients to become more involved in recovery is getting them to buy in to physical therapy. After that they can move forward in their recovery process.

According to the recent News and Observer report, the first hospital thought to have used the Wii for rehab is the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. But WakeMed's Recreational Therapy Department heard about it from their person that delivers wheelchairs - he mentioned that "he had a Wii and thought the movement aspect might translate well to rehab".

News and Observer
July 12, 2007
Joe Miller, Staff Writer

The therapeutic Wii
Nintendo game system helps patients rehabilitate after injury or illness

It took a car accident and the onset of Parkinson's disease, but 68-year-old Nathan Woodlief may finally have a chance at beating his grandson at video games.
"He laughs at me," Woodlief says of the response his woeful performance elicits.

Junior may not be laughing, though, when Gramps returns from the hospital empowered by the device that nursed him back to health: the Nintendo Wii.

Wii? Oui.

The video game that couldn't stay on store shelves at Christmas is fast earning a second life as a useful tool in helping victims of debilitating diseases and accidents get back on their feet. Read more...

July 9, 2007

Are we becoming addicted to the internet and gadgets?

An interesting debate topic is brewing as to whether the internet and gadgets have become addictive. Certainly at times it seems some folks may be of this persuasion but there is no real proof this is a problem - at least for now...

An interesting article posted July 3, 2007, on CNN discusses this question.

The article suggests gadget and internet addiction "could be said to be part of a serious current debate -- the debate over whether technology addiction, and especially Internet addiction, is a real mental disorder". The article further states "At its annual conference last month, members of the American Medical Association considered a proposal to label excessive video and online game playing as an addiction, but decided to table it until further study".
CNN Online
July 3, 2007
Jonathan Mandell

Are gadgets, and the internet, actually addictive?

CNN - When the users of BlackBerries could not send or receive e-mails for 11 hours in April because of a glitch in the system, hospital administrator Paul Levy pronounced it a "national disaster" because of all the BlackBerry "addicts" forced into withdrawal.

Writing in his blog, Levy -- the president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts -- proclaimed himself proud of the swift actions of his hospital.

"We set up our crisis center ... staffed by our Psychiatry Department," Levy wrote. "Cases of withdrawal were handled ... with a minimal use of antidepressant drugs." The one downside, he wrote, were the "damaged walls and broken windows" because of the "many devices ... vigorously thrown."

Levy was joking. There was no activity in his hospital as a result of the BlackBerry blackout, other than some whining from BlackBerry-obsessed colleagues.

But his satire could be said to be part of a serious current debate -- Read more...

April 24, 2007

PC Magazine NoteWhen 2

As a past user of real 3M PostIt Notes and the PostIt Notes software I didn't think there would be a better substitute any time soon. Then I found PC Magazine's NoteWhen 2 software. The magazine offers Other utilities for adding functionality, managing and monitoring your PC, etc., all available for a minimal price or within the annual subscription fee of $19.97 on the annual utility signup page.

The program is a little like using real PostIt Notes but is software based and sits on your PC's desktop. Whenever you want to create a new note just click on the icon on the bottom taskbar area and then type in the new note. The new note pops up on your screen set to the same size and color as the previous note. You can then change various settings for the new note or go with how it was created. You can change the note color, size (it stretches), font and position on the screen. The program remembers settings as you make them and new notes will be similar until you change the settings again.

PC Magazine's annual utility membership is a steal and you get unlimited access for all utilities released during that year. Usually any one of them is worth the cost of the annual membership.

Give it a try! You will find the utilities provide some of the missing features you might wish for and will find they almost always provide a very useful add-on to your library of PC tools.

March 21, 2007

Proposed new search engine - making internet searches more precise

Jimmy Wales, the person that brought you Wikipedia, is talking about building a new internet search engine. The idea is to create a search engine "whose output is continually refined by user participation, just as Wikipedia theoretically gets better as users spot and correct errors".

If you haven't looked at Wikipedia, it's an internet based dynamic encyclopedia that allows users world wide to add and refine content in real time and theoretically gets better continuously. You can find most any topic in Wikipedia and generally the information is on target and kept up to date by the user base. It is self policed by the users and content that is unclear or erroneous gets corrected by the user base.

Read the article on the proposed new search engine...
News and Observer
March 21, 2007
Paul Gilster

Making searches more precise

Jimmy Wales, the man responsible for the Wikipedia collaborative encyclopedia, is talking about building a better search engine.

Wales' company, Wikia (, uses many of Wikipedia's user-involved techniques to host publishing sites on a wide range of topics. What he seems to have in mind is a search engine whose output is continually refined by user participation, just as Wikipedia theoretically gets better as users spot and correct errors.

Just how this will play out is unclear, because Wikipedia remains controversial. Unlike the Encyclopedia Britannica, which draws on the work of experts, Wikipedia is open to contributions from anyone on the Net. Read more...