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Posted on Mar 13, 2014 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 10 – Computing myths busted, XP retires

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 10

Welcome to the March 2014 TWT Newsletter

10 “Next Generation” newsletters already and we are rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of our new modern site design. This month we take a look at some popular computing myths, a way to secure your webcam conversations and finally say goodbye to Windows XP.

In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Fact or fiction? Six computing myths explored
Tip of the Month – Alt tab those applications!
Free Utility of the Month – Foxit Reader
Windows Store app of the Month – File Brick
Is it time to reconsider your webcam/voip software?
The Final Curtain Call for Windows XP

 

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

In February we updated our tutorials for the popular Acronis True Image backup suite. We also added a tutorial for our advanced users on using the Registry Editor tool.

 

picture Using the Registry Editor

Occasionally when troubleshooting your PC or a specific program, you will be called upon to edit the registry. Perhaps you are following a troubleshooting guide published by Microsoft, or need to change some keys in order to get a legacy program working. Whatever the reason, you should always exercise caution when editing the registry. Learn how to use the Registry Editor (regedit) safely and effectively on your Windows PC with this easy guide.

 

picture Acronis True Image 2014 – 5 Tutorials

Acronis True Image has been updated yet again. The 2014 update improves the programs cloud backup capabilities and makes the software even easier to use. In our five new tutorials, we’ll go through installing the software, making backups and creating and testing recovery discs. View the first tutorial here.

 

Fact or Fiction? Six computing myths explored

April fools day is looming and round this time of year we all need to be on our guard for fake news and other pranks all designed to make us look silly. Separating fact from fiction in the technology world isn’t always easy. Here are 6 often quoted ‘facts’ about computing that many so-called experts will often tell you, but is there any truth to these so called facts or are they better saved for an April fools?

Microsoft is killing the Windows desktop – When Microsoft introduced Windows 8, they introduced a whole new user interface. This new interface, which Microsoft like to call the “Modern UI” is the companies latest attempt to break into the tablet PC market. As well as being met with confusion from many users, many more took this new interface to mean that Microsoft were trying to kill the traditional Windows desktop and that Windows 8 was the beginning of the end for Windows as we know it.

Is there any truth to this? Probably not. Microsoft has a huge market share in business computing, where workers still typically work at a desk or at least with a laptop. The home computer market may be diversifying, with tablets taking some of the market share from laptops, but despite PC sales slowing, there are still millions of machines sold every year and many more millions in regular use in homes around the world. In among all the Windows 8 controversy, the fact that Microsoft introduced several improvements to the Desktop in Windows 8, including an overhaul of File Explorer and improved multi-monitor support seems to get forgotten.

For the foreseeable future, the Windows desktop is entirely safe.

Windows is inherently insecure – This is a popular one that self-declared computer experts often like to tell you, Windows gets all the viruses because it’s insecure, Microsoft are ‘hopeless’ at security, so on and so forth, but is there any truth to this?

Back in the Windows XP days, there was a grain of truth to this statement (and yes, that applies to those of you still stubbornly sticking to Windows XP). Windows XP prioritised convenience and backwards compatibility over security. Virtually all Windows XP users ran as administrators as it was too inconvenient to do otherwise. When running like this, it is very easy for malware to propagate as there are no security mechanisms to stop it copying itself wherever it likes.

With Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced User Account Control and locked down the operating system. Programs now need permission to perform administrative tasks. Similar mechanisms were already in place in operating systems like Linux and OSX (Apple Mac). Some PC security experts believe that UAC is even more secure than these mechanisms, as it is hardened against malware hijacking the prompts and automatically answering for the user, though this is of course fiercely debated by many Macintosh and Linux enthusiasts.

Microsoft has made huge strides in improving security over the last ten years. Back in 2002, they launched their “Trustworthy Computing” initiative, which saw the company completely review how it handled security while building programs and updating Windows. Secunia, a company that analyses application vulnerability, notes that Microsoft has two-thirds of the software in the top 50 list on the average PC, but only 24 percent of the vulnerabilities. This should serve as a reminder to us all to keep all the software on our PCs up to date, not just Windows itself.

Internet Explorer is a bad/insecure browser – Internet Explorer doesn’t get a lot of love from the more techy people among us. Most of the bad feelings go back to earlier versions, such as 6, 7 and 8. Internet Explorer 6 in particular was notorious for poor website compatibility, security issues and generally being a thorn in the side of every web developer. Things got slowly better over the years and the current versions of Internet Explorer are fast, standards compliant and among the most secure in the browser industry. Whichever browser you use, remember to keep it up to date as well as periodically check for updates to any plugins you use.

Tablets are better because they cannot get viruses –  Sweeping statements like this often factor into peoples buying decisions, but the truth of the matter is a little more complicated.

Firstly, technically speaking any modern computing device capable of running multiple apps could get a virus. Platforms like iOS (found on the iPad) are extremely difficult to infect because of two factors. Firstly, applications can only be loaded onto an iPad via Apple’s own app store. Secondly, there are many restrictions on what apps can do on the iPad. No iOS app is allowed to change networking settings, for instance.

Windows 8 tablets have similar restrictions, though these only apply to modern or tile applications. Android tablets are more flexible with what is allowed and this has made them more vulnerable to malware. Attacks on Android devices are becoming much more commonplace and this is a trend that most security researches expect to continue.

It’s an unfortunate truth that there is always a trade off between security, convenience and flexibility. On Windows, anyone can write a program and distribute it through their website or any way they choose. The choice of software for the Windows desktop is far greater than is available on tablets because of this fact. This also means there are more vectors for malware to creep onto a Windows system, but for most users that’s a trade off they are willing to live with.

Windows experts always disable UAC – Since the dawn of Windows Vista there have been self-proclaimed Windows experts who think they know better than Microsoft. These experts will tell you that UAC is just for protecting novice users, and that expert users can safely disable it.

This is false. We talked above about how Microsoft improved security in Windows Vista by more effectively locking down the system. By completely disabling UAC, you revert your modern version of windows back to the same levels of security in Windows XP, which have proved woefully inadequate.

You should clean your computers registry – Even today there are many Windows users that advocate the use of registry cleaning software. We regularly get offers from software companies that want us to promote their registry cleaners. Our answer is always “no”, to find out why, see our article here.

Tip of the Month – Alt tab those applications!

This is possibly the oldest Windows tip ever, but we’ve not covered it since launching the new newsletter so, there may be a few of you that still don’t know about it. When working with multiple apps, to quickly cycle through them, press and hold the control key, then press and release the Tab key. A small app-switcher window will appear on the screen. Keep pressing tab until you select the application you want.

Lesser known but still useful is the control and tab shortcut. In most applications, you can press Ctrl and Tab to cycle through an application’s windows (or through a Web browser’s tabs).

 

Free Utility of the Month – Foxit Reader

PDF files are becoming more common in this digital age. Many consumer electronic devices ship with only a basic getting started guide and instructions on how to download the PDF version of the manual online. To open these PDF files you will need a PDF viewer, only Windows 8 ships with a viewer so users on all other versions of Windows will need to download one. Many Windows 8 users may prefer to download a viewer too, since the Microsoft supplied one is optimised for touch screens.

On Windows, the two most popular reading utilities for PDF files have always been Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader. Foxit Reader is known for being fast and lightweight and makes for a good alternative to the official Adobe Reader. You can check out the program by visiting the Foxit homepage here.

 

Windows Store App of the Month – File Brick

One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is the way it seems to be two operating systems stitched together. On the one hand there’s the desktop, for keyboard and mouse users, then there are the tiles for touch screen users. When you’re using your device in touch mode, having to jump back to the desktop to manage files can be awkward to say the least.

File Brick can help with this problem. You can think of this app as a version of File Explorer for the tile interface. Common file operations like copy and cut are made much easier for touch users. You can browse local drives and network drives and view pictures and videos all without leaving the app. The program even has OneDrive (Skydrive), Google Drive, Facebook and Youtube integration. Find out more about the program here.

 

Is it time to reconsider your webcam/voip software?

The disturbing revelations in the Edward Snowden leaks just seem to get more and more shocking. Now, it has been revealed, governments in America and the United Kingdom ran secret programs that intercepted webcam data from users on the Yahoo chat network. This wasn’t limited to suspects, but instead was a blanket surveillance operation that indiscriminately collected data in bulk. Even more shockingly, many of the images collected were described as “pornographic” in nature.

Yahoo is the latest network to have been compromised by the seemingly out of control government intelligence agencies. The popular Skype internet telephone and webcam service has long been known to be vulnerable to this kind of snooping.

Luckily there are things you can do to fight back. The situation is not hopeless, remember that Snowden himself said that encryption actually works, if used correctly. One of the best things you can do is switch over to open source alternatives. If you want to chat privately, try Jitsi. Jitsi uses open, standard encryption to secure your webcam sessions as they travel across the web. Jitsi works on all desktop platforms, with the first mobile versions due later this year.

We evaluated Jitsi in our 2013 multi-protocol instant messaging showdown. While we loved its webcam features, we weren’t so impressed with its general instant messaging capabilities. Several new versions have launched since then however, and we re-tested it for this newsletter. Sadly we still experienced a high number of messages getting lost in transmission when using the Yahoo service, though the webcam service was flawless.

We highly recommend everyone switch over to Jitsi for their webcam and VOIP needs. Built from the ground up for privacy and security, Jitsi is exactly the kind of app more of us should be using.

 

The final curtain call for Windows XP

It has been a long road, but Windows XP finally gets retired on the 8th April, 2014. After this time, users will receive no new updates to the operating system, including the all important security updates. We’ve discussed at length why staying on Windows XP after the cut-off date is a bad idea, so if you still haven’t upgraded, make it a priority this month to get things sorted.

As for the XP content on the site, we have no immediate plans to remove it, though we won’t be adding any more tutorials specifically for Windows XP users. We have one XP machine left at TWT HQ (that dual boots Windows XP and Windows 8) that we’re keeping for some older games software. While we don’t intend to use XP installation for anything else, we will report if our sole remaining XP installation suffers any sudden hack attacks over the next few months.

Although XP is often remembered for its lack of security, it’s also going to be remembered for what it did right. It was the first consumer version of Windows with proper memory protection, If you remember the Windows 98 days, you remember how you could be surfing the internet and suddenly up pops the blue screen of death. Thanks to how XP introduced protected memory, the whole blue screen scenario happened far less frequently in XP. The operating system also had excellent multimedia support and established itself as the de-facto OS for gamers and enthusiasts.

So lets all raise a glass to Windows XP. Almost 12 years is an absolute eternity for any technology product, so we salute you and wish you a happy retirement!

That concludes our newsletter for March. On behalf of the team here at TWT, I’d like to say thank you to all our readers, new and old for your continued support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th April 2014 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not 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 Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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