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Posted on Jun 23, 2014 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 13 – Summer fun and the great Truecrypt mystery

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 13

Welcome to the June 2014 TWT Newsletter

Summertime is here again in the UK, which means a few days of sun and a lot of days of rain, unfortunately. Still, all those rainy days keep us inside and plugging away on new content, so that means more great tutorials for you!

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In  this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com
It’s summertime again! Make the most of it with your Windows PC
Tip of the Month – Backspace and Delete, do you know the difference?
Free Utility of the Month – BetterDesktopTool
Windows Store App of the Month – AppSwitch
Top Encryption tool Truecrypt comes to an abrupt end

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

Last month we did a little reorganising, starting a new section on troubleshooting compatibility and also took a look at the venerable Start Menu.

 

picture Troubleshooting compatibility

It can be frustrating to get your shiny new computer, only to find that a well loved old game or utility simply won’t run any more. Sometimes, older software can be persuaded to run by using various compatibility tools. Some of these tools are built into Windows itself, while others need to be downloaded separately. The tutorials on this page will discuss how to best use these tools to fight the compatibility gremlins.

Remember if you play older games on your new PC, you can find tutorals on how to get lots of old games working again at Play-Old-PC-Games.com.

 

picture Celebrating the Start Menu

The Start Menu returns to Windows this year, but are you getting the most out of the Start menu on your PC? Most users simply click, search and launch the program they want. There’s nothing wrong with this method of course, but getting a deeper understanding of the Start menu and how it works can make you more productive. See this page to learn more about your Start Menu

 

picture Manually adding programs to the Start Menu

Have you ever downloaded a program that didn’t come with a proper installer? Lots of software written by hobbyist programmers comes in a simple zip file, requiring the user to manually extract and run the contents. If you have software like this, it’s easy to add it to your Start menu if you need to, this video will show you how.

 

picture Reorganising the Start menu

If you can’t remember the name of a program, you can browse the Start menu manually by clicking on “All programs”. Over time however, this section of the Start menu becomes quite cluttered, making it difficult to find anything. In this video, we’ll show you how you can reorganise and de-clutter it.

 

It’s summertime again! Make the most of it with your Windows PC

As I write this article, the skies are grey overhead and it doesn’t feel much like summer, but for most of us in a northern hemisphere of the world, it’s time to enjoy longer days and more sunshine (or at least, hope for some sunshine). Back when I was a youngster, my mum would often tell me to leave the computer and go play outside, but these days most PCs aren’t restricted to a desk and can come and help make your summer more fun! Here’s a few ways that you can brighten up your summer with your PC.

Music music music! – If you are a long-time subscriber to our newsletter, you probably know that we’ve run articles like this before and every year we point out how your PC makes a great media player. Of course that’s still true. You can make playlists in Windows Media Player suitable for your summer events, then hook your PC to a portable stereo and enjoy some great tunes at the family cook out or on that camping trip (just don’t play your tunes too loud and annoy the neighbours/fellow campers!).

That’s not the only way to play music on your PC though. If you have an internet connection available, have you tried the various streaming music services that are now available? Windows 8 users in most countries can use the Radio feature in the Music app to stream hours of free music a month. It’s easy to get started, simply open the Music app (it comes free with all Windows 8 PCs) and click on “Listen to Artist Radio”. You can then enter the name of your favourite artist and listen to music from them and other artists in the same genre.

If you don’t have Windows 8, there are free streaming services that work on other versions of Windows too. The ever popular Spotify service provides ad-supported streaming and is a fantastic way to check out new and popular music for free. Visit the Spotify homepage to learn more.

Be a picture sharing pro – Summer is all about making memories and we all love to snap some pictures while we’re enjoying the season. Once you have taken your pictures you will want to share at least some of them with your friends and family. You could upload them to Facebook or Twitter, but what if your aunt Sarah doesn’t have a Facebook account? The best solution is to use a service like Flickr. Flickr is a free photo hosting service. When you upload a photo to flickr, you can then send anyone anywhere a simple web link so they can view the photo. If you like to share on Facebook or Twitter, you can configure your Flickr account to automatically share your uploads there too, while your friends who don’t do the whole ‘social network thing’ can still see your photos via e-mail or messenger.

If you have an Android or iPhone device you can also use the official Flickr app to send any photos you take instantly to your Flickr account. While there isn’t an official Flickr app for Windows devices just yet, you can still use third party programs such as Flickrific.

Make the outdoors more fun – If you have children or teenagers who are reluctant to leave their gadgets behind and go out and make the most of the summer months, why not use your PC to make outside more exciting? Kids love to play treasure hunt, so why not use your PC to help turn your back garden into a treasure island? You can use the free word processor OpenOffice.org Writer and a suitably piratical looking font to type out clues, or use this handy treasure map maker to design a cool looking map. Once your young pirates find the treasure, let them have a go at making clues or a map themselves.

For older kids or teenagers, how about a treasure hunt of a different kind? Turn a regular old walk in the countryside into an exciting treasure hunt with Geocaching. This is a fun outdoor activity where participants use GPS enabled devices, such as a mobile phones or tablet to locate geocaches, hidden containers located all around the world. All kinds of software for Geocachers is available on Windows and mobile devices. To find out more or to find if there are caches located near you, visit Geocaching.com.

So as you can see, there are lots of ways your Windows PC can help you get the most out of your summer. If you have your own ideas or stories of how your PC helped you enjoy the summer more, do let us know. You can contact us here, or of course in our forum.

 

Tip of the Month – Backspace and Delete, do you know the difference?

It’s a simple little tip this month, but mastering the keyboard is an important skill if you want to get the most out of your computer. Have you ever noticed that there are two delete keys on your keyboard? The backspace key is usually at the top right of the main bank of keys, and is labelled with a big arrow pointing to the left. The ‘Del’ key is usually to the right of return on a full sized keyboard. What is the difference between the two? Pressing backspace will delete the character you have just written, while the ‘Del’ key will delete the character in front of the cursor, which is useful if you’re editing text.

So there you have it, the next time you are editing an e-mail or other important text, and you realise you made a mistake, don’t delete chunks of information, simply click with your mouse where you want to make an edit and use the ‘Backspace’ or the ‘Del’ key to alter the text accordingly!

 

Free Utility of the Month – BetterDesktopTool

Windows, Mac or Linux, which is better. Windows of course! Truth be told there are advantages and disadvantages to each operating system. We love the power of the command line in Linux and OSX, but the multimedia and gaming power of Windows can’t be beaten.

The nice thing about open operating systems is that if there’s a feature you like that’s missing, you can usually add it with third party software. Take virtual desktops for instance, this feature allows you to have several desktops that you switch between. You can work on one project on one desktop and then switch to another to configure a media player or watch a video, for instance. While this feature isn’t built into Windows, it can easily be added with third party software, and that’s where BetterDesktopTool, this months free utility, comes in.

Not only does BetterDesktopTool give you virtual desktops, but also an Expose feature just like on the Macintosh. This is a kind of peek feature that automatically shows all your open windows at the click of a button, great for heavy multitaskers.

Check out BetterDesktopTool and download yourself a copy here.

 

Windows App Store App of the Month – AppSwitch

Switching from an iOS or Android device to a more powerful Windows tablet, or just want to find that favourite app from your iPhone to use on your WIndows PC too? While Windows 8 can’t boast as many fantastic touch-friendly apps as iOS just yet, there are still lots of great programs to be discovered. Using AppSwitch, you can search for iOS and Android software and if the app is not available in Windows, AppSwitch will give you several alternatives to try instead.

Check out AppSwitch here and start discovering those alternative apps now.

 

Top Encryption tool Truecrypt comes to an abrupt end

It was trusted by millions of users around the world, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but late last month the website for the popular free and open source encryption program Truecrypt was abruptly and unexpectedly replaced with a single page explaining how the software may not be safe and that users should migrate to another solution.

We’ve always recommended Truecrypt for anyone looking to secure the data on their PCs, so it came as a bit of a shock when the product was abruptly shut down. Initially we suspected that the website may have been hijacked but that no longer seems to be the case. Others believe that a sinister government agency managed to shut down the software. This might be the most exciting conspiracy theory but it is unlikely. Truecrypt is of course entirely legal to use in most countries, so had the NSA somehow managed to shutter the project it seems likely that someone involved with it somewhere would have leaked details of this to the press.

In fact, the most likely explanation is the most simple one. The developers simply ran out of steam. Truecrypt works great for the most part, but we’ve been waiting on proper Windows 8 support for several years now. What’s more, installing the full computer encryption component often doesn’t work on new PCs because of their more modern “unified extensible firmware interface“, basically improved low-level software that helps modern PCs power on more quickly. Perhaps the developers simply decided they didn’t have the time or funding to continue with the project.

Whatever the reasons, there’s really no need to panic. The warning messages shown on the Truecrypt homepage might look frightening, but all they really mean is that no further development is going to take place. Truecrypt did not become insecure overnight, in fact, a recent security audit on the software and its source (programming code) has thus far found no serious security vulnerabilities. While Edward Snowden might be concerned that his extensive NSA files might not be as secure as he hoped, the truth is most of us don’t live such dramatic lives as spies and whistleblowers. Truecrypt is still perfectly adequate for protecting the data on your laptop against physical theft, provided you take precautions such as not leaving your laptop lying around unlocked, of course!

Longer term, of course, this news is more worrying. Many people used Truecrypt because it was free and, once installed at least, very easy to use. Now that the free option has disappeared, we can’t help thinking many users will simply shrug their shoulders and carry on without encrypting their computers in the future. While alternatives to Truecrypt do exist, they are often prohibitively expensive.SecurStar’s Drivecrypt Plus Pack, the only product we could find with all the advanced encryption features Truecrypt offered, costs around $100 just for one PC. Protecting an entire family’s laptops and desktops at these prices is simply going to be out of the budget of most people.

Perhaps all is not lost however, the recently opened truecrypt.ch suggests that saving the project might be possible, if not in its current form then in the form of a new program under a new development team. We’re hopeful that this effort will be a success, as it benefits everyone if these kinds of tools are free and accessible to anyone who wants to use them and not just those with deep pockets.

That concludes our newsletter for June. 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 July 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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