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Posted on Sep 11, 2008 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter, Issue #016 –, – Back to school again!


A warm welcome to the September 2008 TWT newsletter. Summer has come and past again and students of all ages are getting ready to start back at school, some enthusiastically, some reluctantly!

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In this months issue:-

1) What’s new at
2) Back to School Hardware! The Best PC Gadgets for the New Term
3) Tip of the Month – Safely Ejecting USB devices
4) Free Utility of the Month – VLC Media Player
5) More Data Losses in the UK – Don’t Get Caught Out!

What’s new at

This month was all about skins, themes and customizations. We brought you no less than 14 great articles on how to spruce up your boring desktop and we haven’t finished yet! Go check out our
guide to using Windows skins and themes.

Back to School Hardware – The Best PC Gadgets for the New Term

last September’s newsletter

we told you about the best software for working on your school, college or university projects. This time around, we’ll take a look at some of the best hardware that students can use to improve their productivity.

USB Flash drives (pen drives)

If you are still using floppy disks, get with the modern age! USB flash drives are here and here to stay. There is simply no easier way to transport large documents to and from campus to home. There are literally hundreds of different brands of USB drives and they are sold in most good computer stores or stationary stores. Basic USB flash drives, with a massive 1 gigabyte capacity, can be purchased for $10/£6/E8. This kind of capacity will be ample for most users, but students who need to work with larger graphic or video files may wish to spend a little more on a higher capacity stick.

More expensive flash drives come in a wide range of colours, designs and boast additional features. Some, like the

include sophisticated encryption, perhaps the UK government and its contractors should get some of these?

USB Flash card/Media Reader/Writer

These great little devices
(like the one on sale here

) are perfect for getting pictures off of digital cameras, or swapping files between portable devices like PDA’s. In most cases, they will connect to a spare USB port on your computer, then accept memory cards from cameras, phones and other mobile devices, allowing you to transfer files easily and without draining your batteries.


It seems like such a simple suggestion, but the humble pair of headphones is a great addition to any laptop or desktop computer that is used in a communal environment. Rather than adding to the noise of your surroundings, keep your computers sound, or your music, on a personal level as you work on your assignment. Reasonable quality headphones are so cheap you can afford to have several pairs, one for your school/college bag and one for leaving near the PC at home, for example.

VOIP (Voice Over IP) Headsets

Busy families with teenagers who are always chatting might be interested to know that you can add an extra phone for free, by using your internet connection. Services like

give you a telephone over the internet and even support conference calls, great for chatting to friends about school projects, or anything else that might be on your mind!

There are hundreds of different VOIP headsets available, we recommend going for one that is branded as being Skype compatible as this is the most commonly used internet telephone service.


Don’t forget to stock up on ink and paper! Younger children in particular have voracious appetites for ink for their colourful school projects. Most types of ink can be purchased more cheaply online than from the high street, so shop around. The same holds true for most types of media. Blank CD’s and DVD’s are useful for students who need to submit project work in this format. They can also be used for backup. If you don’t have a backup strategy yet, plan one NOW with the help of our

backup guides.

Tip of the Month – Safely Ejecting USB Devices

Windows has never had a great track record with removable media. How could we forget the lockups and blue error screens that often occurred with Windows 98 if you removed a CD-ROM at the wrong time? Worse still, is Windows handling of USB flash drives. You might think you have finished saving your files, and remove your device, only to find later that the file you thought had been saved successfully is now corrupted.

To prevent this from happening, when you have finished using your USB device, open “My Computer” (or “Computer” in Vista) and locate the drive that you are using. Right click on it and choose “eject”. If Windows says the drive is still in use, be sure you closed all documents and windows that are open on your USB device and try again. Once Windows “ejects” the device (no, it won’t actually physically pop out of your USB slot) it can be removed, safe in the knowledge that your data is not corrupted.

Free Utility of the Month – VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is a powerful and flexible media player that can play a huge range of formats, including DVD’s, and all for free. If you’ve got just one or two multimedia files that you simply can’t get Windows Media Player to play correctly, give VLC a try. Also, if your version of Windows Media Player does not support DVD playback, you can use VLC instead.
You can download VLC from here.

Need help using VLC?
Check out our tutorials here.

More Data Losses in the UK – Don’t Get Caught Out!

Another month and another data breach from the UK government. This time an external contractor managed to lose a USB flash drive containing the
details of all the prisoners in the UK.

Although the data was originally encrypted, the contractor copied it onto a USB flash drive, which didn’t include any encryption at all.

We can all learn a valuable lesson from this, even if we are not responsible for such important and sensitive data. If you have encrypted your private data on your PC, if you make backup copies (and you should ALWAYS make backup copies of valuable data) then unless you take steps to protect that data too, it could just as easily be lost or stolen. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” so the saying goes and that applies to computer security and encryption too.

Truecrypt can
create encrypted container files on all kinds of removable media

or you can buy USB flash drives with encryption built in, such as the

If you regularly work with sensitive data in the office, it might be time to have a word with your IT department and ask them what safeguards they have in place. Don’t let important, private data that you are responsible for become lost and compromised due to an ignorant blunder!

That’s all for another month. We hope that you enjoyed our newsletter, if you didn’t then please let us know why, you can
contact us by visiting this page.

If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy! Until next month, keep checking and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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