What do I do if the file I need is on my home computer and I’m not home?

In this day of multiple computers, there usually comes a time when you need a file or to look at an e-mail when you are away from home only to realize that it’s on your home computer.  Or, you may be visiting a friend when you remember an e-mail you had meant to send and you need to access your e-mail program. When that happens to me, I turn to my remote desktop software LogMeIn, which allows me to access my home computer to find those files or send that e-mail just as if I were at home.

Remote desktop software, such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC, installs on the computer you want to connect to and then allows you to connect from any internet connection. They are very secure so the connection is locked up with security (you’ll need to be careful when using an internet connection on a public computer since you don’t know what kind of malware is on it). I have been using LogMeIn myself for several years and have been very happy with it.

LogMeIn offers a free version for remote access which is a fine version if you want to run programs or check e-mail on your home computer. If you need to do more, like transfer files, print or share your share files with someone else, you can upgrade to the Pro version for $69.95/year compared to GoToMyPC which goes for $179.40/year. What does one do that the other doesn’t? Nothing really. Some say GoToMyPC is faster but I haven’t really noticed a difference, at least none that would entice me to pay the extra cost.  And, for most people, the free version of LogMeIn will work just fine.

So, when I need that file and it’s at home and I’m not, I just connect to my computer and get it, by using LogMeIn.


How valuable is your data?

I know, deep question…Some of it is critical, those digital pictures you’ve always intended to print but never got around to. Those emails from family and friends that you’ve saved forever (a topic for another day). Those documents you created and saved. Let’s think worst case. What would happen if disaster struck? Your hard drive dies, or your computer gets stolen, or a natural disaster strikes. How would you feel if all of that data were to go away and never come back? If that strikes a little fear to the heart, you need to consider a backup solution.

There are several ways of going about backing up your data. One way is to get an external hard drive and use the backup software that came with your drive or operating system. That’s a step in the right direction, but isn’t always the best solution. What if there was a fire or flooding. That hard drive would go down with the computer.

What else is there? There’s on-line backup and storage. The benefits of this is that the backup is off-site and secure. It’s accessible from any internet connection so you can restore your data from anyplace, and some programs allow you to share files with others. There is a difference between on-line backups and on-line storage. On-line backup programs like Mozy and Carbonite do a great job of backing up in realtime, meaning they wait for the computer to go idle and then they look for any files that have been added or changed and back them up for you, automatically.  The downside is that they’ll only keep a deleted file for 30 days, so if you accidentally delete a file and don’t notice it, after 30 days, it’ll no longer be available to you offsite.  These programs run about $50-$60 a year. A storage site, such as Dropbox allows you to upload files to online folders and pretty much keep them online forever. Some of these programs will have you install some desktop software to your computer so you can drag and drop files or folders in a nice Explorer type environment and schedule automatic and regular backups.

Most online backup/storage sites will give you free storage space and/or allow you to try their services for a limited time for free. Realize also that the first full backup to any of these programs will take some time, even days to complete. Future backup will be much quicker as it will only be backing up new or changed files.

If you are the type of person who would like to setup automatic, background backups, or if you would like some storage to save files to and that allows you to share certain files with others, there is a solution for you. Regardless, the need for backup is critical, so check one of these out, sign up and use it.

Desktop Searching

Have you ever needed to find something in an email or in a file on your computer and could only remember a word or two it contained? You couldn’t remember the file name or where it came from. What would you do? I’ll tell you what I do. I use a program that has indexed all of my documents, music and emails and with one click will search through all of them very quickly to find the items that match what I’m looking for.

There are two free desktop search programs that I would recommend. The first is by Copernic and can be downloaded at http://www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/home/download.html. I’ve been using this program for searching for several years and really enjoy its speed and accuracy. It indexes in the background whenever the computer is idle so it’s very up-to-date with it’s index.

The other program is from Google and can be downloaded at http://desktop.google.com/. The latest version has been streamlined quite a bit, which is good because the prior versions have been pretty bloated with extra things that really aren’t necessary. Of course, the Google program is much better at searching the internet than Copernic.

Either one will find documents, files, music, emails based on searching even a single word contained within the item. They are both extremely fast, due to having everything already indexed. My preference is the Copernic program but I haven’t really worked much with the new Google version, which just recently was released. I’m using that one on my laptop so if my preference changes, I’ll let you know.

For a time-saver, when you just can’t remember the whens and wheres, a desktop search works wonders and I’d really recommend you have one.

Top 5 Internet Do’s and Dont’s – From Trend Micro Consumer Newsletter | Security Tips, Tricks, and Updates September 2008

Top 5 Internet Do’s and Don’ts

Technology is evolving all the time, and so are Internet threats. It can be hard to keep track of how to cope with these challenges when things change so quickly. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of 5 basic principles to help you keep surfing safely—now and in the future.


1. Do install a firewall. There are two kinds of firewalls: hardware and software. Most wireless Internet routers also work as firewalls, but you should also have a software firewall for more comprehensive protection.

2. Do install antivirus protection and update your antivirus software regularly. Just having antivirus software is not enough. Virus definitions change all the time, so it’s important to do regular system scans and updates to make sure your protection is current and working.

3. Do shop on secure websites and avoid ones that aren’t secure. You can tell if a site is secure by checking the URL: https:// means it’s secure; http:// means that somebody could “eavesdrop” on your shopping session. You can also look for a padlock icon in the lower part of your browser window. Do not give out your credit card number over an insecure connection.


4. Don’t click randomly on links. If you get an email from a suspicious sender encouraging you to “Click here,” figure out where “here” goes first. When you mouse over the link, you should be able to see the URL it connects to at the bottom of your browser. You can also right-click on the link to copy it, and then paste it into a Notepad or Word document to see what it is. And if you’re ever in doubt about a link—don’t click it.

5. Don’t forward chain emails. Many chain emails are sent by professional spammers who use the chain to harvest working addresses. Once you forward on a chain email, the spammer has confirmation that you exist—and you’ll get a lot more unwanted mail where that came from.


Is Your Wireless Network Open to the World?

If you have wireless access at home, and many people do these days, are you sure that you’re not sharing that access with the neighbors? If you haven’t setup the security in your router, you just may be.

Wireless routers come from the factory with a login name and password to allow you to access and setup the router. This password is the same password for every router sent out by that manufacturer, and is often times just the word “password”.  It is surprising the amount of people who never change the entry password.  If an individual gains access to your network, they will try the manufacturer password to enter the router. If they are successful, they can change settings, open back doors, etc. So the first thing you should do is to find the location in your router software where you change the default password, and do so.

The next thing you should do, and this will protect your wireless network from outsiders, is to setup the SSID name and password. The SSID name is the identifying name that shows up when you look for wireless connections on your pc. It identifies you. If you don’t have it password protected, it will show up as unlocked. This allows any of your neighbors to use your internet connection, or anyone driving down the street to stop and use your connection on their laptops. By setting up with a password, you will prevent that from happening, and prevent your home network as well. There are WEP passwords and WPA passwords. If you have the option, choose the WPA as it’s much stronger but if you have older equipment then you may only have the WEP option. Either way, use one. With WEP, you also can choose between 64 bit and 128 bit security. 128 bit is much stronger than 64. Keep in mind that you’ll need to enter that password on any computer connecting to the network, but you only have to do so once.

Protect your network. It’s an easy thing to do.

Sitting here looking at my desk…

I have 2 cell phones, a land phone, a bluetooth headset, an iPod Nano, a Creative Labs MP3 player and a Palm Organizer all plugged in and charging. I’m listening to internet radio, commercial free where I can build my own stations of songs I like and remove the songs I don’t like from the songs that play so that at the end of the day, I’ve got a station that plays nothing but songs I like. When I want to watch something on TV, I pick up the remote that came with my computer and play TV on the second monitor I have attached to my pc. When I want to call a friend overseas, I open a program and dial that friend over the internet and we connect, for free. Oh, and I click on the video button and we can both see each other, for free.  The audio and video are quite good considering.

The point of all of this? Not so many years ago, none of this was possible. It’s amazing how far we’ve come with technology. Granted, I work in technology so it would make sense that I’d have so many “things” but still, wow. The children of today take these things for granted. They’ve never lived in a world that didn’t have these things.  It’s not uncommon to see a teen with a cell phone against one ear and an iPod plugged into the other. To punish a teenager today, you take their cell phone away. They go through withdrawals. Blackberry PDA’s are called Crackberries because so many are addicted to them. But not me. I can give them up…Well, sometimes.

I’d like to hear what “toys” you have that you especially like. Please comment.

More Chrome, or should I say Less Chrome?

Just wanted to send an update on Google Chrome. It’s okay, it’s lightweight, it’s quick, but it’s not ready to replace the established browsers. Since it’s still in beta, I can understand some of the limitations, but it’s not compatible with several websites and doesn’t have the add-ins that will make it so. For now, I’ll stick with Firefox and keep checking Chrome as it matures. The more I use the new Firefox, the more I really like it. Check it out.

Internet Security – What is it and why do I need it?

Did you know that most computer viruses don’t come from email anymore? They come from infected websites. And, they’re not just viruses but botnets and trojan horses. What is all this stuff? A botnet is a piece of software that is placed on your computer that has instructions to do various things like send out viruses and other bots. Sometimes they even have instructions to record your keystrokes and send them back to the originator. Those keystrokes contain your passwords to certain sites. A trojan horse is a program that offers to install a useful item, like a menu bar, and then as part of the install it puts viruses or botnets on your computer. Another thing they could do is to open backdoors to your computer to allow entry at some future point for someone to put a bot or keyboard recorder on your computer.

This all said, it is critical that you have an anti-virus program and a firewall on your computer. Yes, browsers are getting better with their security (see the Firefox article) but people creating the malware are continually working on ways to get around the security. When looking for an antivirus program, look for one that has both antivirus protection and a firewall built in. Don’t trust the Windows Firewall that is installed with your operating system. If you don’t have a firewall, a good free firewall is COMODO Firewall (http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/). Another one is Zone Alarm (http://www.zonealarm.com/store/content/catalog/products/zonealarm_free_firewall.jsp). When you install a firewall, you’ll have to teach it what programs to allow to connect to the internet so for the first few days, you’ll be getting popups asking.

As for anti-virus software, the best ones you’ll have to pay for, and there are a couple of free ones that are pretty good. AVG (http://free.avg.com/) and Avast (http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html) will give you good virus protection. Whatever anti-virus program you use, make sure that it is set to automatically download updates. There are thousands of new malware items released each month so it’s critical that your computer is protected.

Firefox Bookmark Links

Someone asked me how to create links to frequently used websites in Firefox. Firefox has the search engine links to the right of the address bar, and though you can add additional links, you are somewhat limited to what they offer. However, you can create icons to frequently used sites on the menu bar and this video will show you how.

Software Support Plans – Are they worth it?

I had someone ask me the other day if they should bother purchasing the annual software support plan if they never call the vendor for support. It’s a good questions since the support plan isn’t cheap. Unlike insurance for your car or house, where it’ll be replaced or repaired if something happens, software support plans cover tech support and software upgrades. If you don’t ever call for support, and are happy with your software the way it is, then what’s the problem with letting the plan lapse? For the most part, there isn’t a problem with it. Many people keep their laptops and software running for several years and are fine. However, then MIcrosoft introduces a new operating system, and your laptop breaks so you are forced to purchase a new laptop, with the new operating system on it, and your old software won’t run on the new setup. What then? When you call the vendor and request a version of the software that will run with the new setup, they’ll let you know that you need to pay for the years you let the contract go before you can get the new upgrade. In this, I’m referring to the CAT vendors, not necessarily other software vendors, though for the most part, with other software vendors you don’t have to purchase support plans, you can pay for the calls as you need them and even pay for the upgrades at a greatly reduced cost of the regular program. CAT vendors are different though. Their market is much smaller than the general public, since they are in a niche market, so once they sell their software, they don’t have a lot of people going in daily to purchase more software. What the contract price allows the vendor to do is to pay it’s programmers to make the software work better and more efficiently. Without the money from the users, it’s much harder for the vendor to make improvements, which ultimately makes your job easier. I know it’s hard to justify the cost of the plan when you’re writing that check, but in the long run, by improving the software and making upgrades available to you, it will help you in the end. Besides, you’re going to have to pay the cost the next time you need to upgrade your hardware/software.