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Posted on Oct 1, 2014 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 16 – Back to school again and could Windows 9 land this month?

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 16

Welcome to the September 2014 TWT Newsletter

Another summer draws to a close. For children and students all around the world, it’s time to say goodbye to lazy sunny days and get back to study. As usual for September we’ll be including some great tips to help students of all ages get the most value from their home PCs. It looks like Microsoft may be about to drop a Windows 9 shaped bombshell on us too, with rumours abound that a public preview of the OS will soon be available.

In  this months issue:-

What’s new at
Windows 9 public preview incoming (maybe)!
Back to school software – Save money and study better!
Tip of the Month – Move windows like a pro with these handy keyboard shortcuts
Free Utility of the Month – TeamViewer

Windows Store App of the Month –
Flashcards Pro
Celebrity pictures leaked as iCloud hacked  – Is it time to shun the cloud?


What’s new at

August was a bumper month for new content. We started a new series on using the excellent free virtual machine software VMware Player. We also looked at a superb free antivirus solution and a great free password manager.


picture VMware Player – 4 Tutorials

VMware Player is a superb way to keep Windows XP around without actually having to keep an old rickety XP box set up in your home or office. In these tutorials we show you how easy it is to run Windows XP in VMware Player, just like it was another app on your computer! You can view these tutorials by clicking this link.


picture Are virtual machines for me?

If you’re not familiar with the term “Virtual Machine” or are wondering if a virtual machine is a good solution for your particular Windows XP compatibility issues, check out this article which explains the concept of the virtual machine in plain English. We look at the strengths and limitations of a virtual machine and discuss the available VM software currently on the market. You can read the article here.


picture Avast Antivirus – 3 Tutorials

Last month we ran an article criticising the lack of security and stability testing in antivirus software. One company that is at least trying to stay on top of this issue is Avast, who run their own “bug bounty” program to encourage end-users to find and report bugs and security vulnerabilities. If you use Avast antivirus or are considering trying it, check out our tutorials here.


picture KeePass – 4 Tutorials

If you are still re-using the same password for all your websites then learning how to use a password manager can seriously improve your online security. KeePass is a great, free password manager that stores your passwords locally on your PC in an encrypted vault. Check out our tutorials and get started with this program today. View the first tutorial here.


Windows 9 public preview incoming (maybe)!

Feels like we only just got finished with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft are gearing up to launch another update, this time a whole new version of the flagship OS. As is the way with technology journalism on the modern internet, it is hard to separate rumour from concrete fact, so please take anything you read about Windows 9 with a pinch of salt, unless it’s explicitly confirmed by Microsoft themselves.

Firstly and perhaps most excitingly is the rumour that Microsoft will release a public preview of Windows 9 towards the end of the month. Several of the larger technology websites are all claiming a September 30th release date for the first public preview. This will give enthusiasts the chance to try the new operating system for free before the release date. As always, we only recommend doing this if you have a spare PC or you are confident enough to install it to a secondary hard drive or storage device. We’ll be jumping onto the preview as soon as it is available, ready to update our tutorials for those of you planning to take the plunge.

As for the rest of the details, it’s actually very difficult to pin down concrete facts. It seems very likely that the Start menu will make an official return. If the various leaked screenshots are to be believed, the new Start menu will look somewhat like the old, Windows 7 one, but with a few live tiles over on the right hand side. This should work really well for most users, though no doubt there will be alternatives for those who preferred the old layout. Could this start menu, pictured on the left, be the new Windows 9 Start menu?

Many sites are reporting that modern or tile applications will run in a window on Windows 9 (similar to the way they can now when using Stardock Softwares ModernMix application). Some sites are going as far as to claim that it won’t be possible to access the touch screen interface at all when running Windows 9 on a traditional keyboard and mouse PC. If this is the case, it will be interesting to see how Windows 9 functions on machines that can convert between tablet and laptop form factors. Rumours also point to the desktop being dropped entirely on Windows RT tablets, meaning no more instances of being thrown back to the desktop to change an obscure setting or feature.

What else is due to change? The charms bar, those little icons that appear on the sides of your screen in Windows 8, is apparently being removed entirely. Virtual desktops, a feature that allows you to switch between several different desktops on the same machine, is also likely to be included. This feature has been present on Apple and Linux computers for some time now, but only available via third party tools on Windows.

How much will the new operating system cost? Again all we have to go on are rumours. Some sites are suggesting the upgrade could be either free or very affordable for Windows 8 users, while other sites have suggested Microsoft will offer some “great incentives” for those users who are stubbornly sticking to Windows XP.

Next month we’ll have a better idea of how much of this is actually concrete fact, especially if Microsoft release the preview version as expected. Windows 8 really wasn’t as bad as many people made out, especially after a few tweaks. If Windows 9 builds on the strengths of Windows 8 and addresses the shortcomings then we should be in for a really super new version of the operating system.


Back to school software – Save money and study better!

Whether it’s with a hurrah and an enthusiastic dash for the first school bus, or with a reluctant sigh and a dragged satchel, September means back to school for most children and students around the world. For many students this also means homework assignments and learning to get the most out of your PC and other technology in your home will make those assignments, projects and extra curricular activities a lot easier. Here are our top-tips for new and returning students this year.

Consider OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Office, but choose carefully! – Most students are going to want a word processing package to type up those homework assignments. There are two main choices, either OpenOffice or Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is the obvious choice since it’s completely free, while Microsoft office starts at around £80/$100 if you shop around. You might be tempted to get whatever the computer labs at your school/college/university happen to be running, but remember that it’s easy to open documents written in Microsoft Word into OpenOffice Writer too. Furthermore, you can save documents in OpenOffice in a format that is compatible with Microsoft office. If you do decide to do this, be sure to practise saving documents in OpenOffice Writer and then opening them into Microsoft Word, there’s nothing worse than turning up to campus and not being able to open your assignment! Remember, although Microsoft Office isn’t free, you can get a free one-month trial (including a trial of the new online version of Office, Office 365) by visiting this page. To download OpenOffice, visit this page.

Transporting your work – Transporting work to and from campus has never been easier. You can use a USB storage device or in many cases you can use one of the cloud-based storage facilities such as Dropbox or OneDrive. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. One big disadvantage of USB devices is that they are easy to lose. However, schools and colleges often have strict restrictions on what websites and services can be accessed, so you should check with your school or colleges IT department before you rely on a cloud storage service for transporting your homework.

Copy your timetable! – If you or a family member is just starting middle school or high school, one of the big things to get used to is the different classes. In many countries, children will have the same teacher up until middle or high school starts, then it’s all change each lesson as they move from classroom to classroom. Encourage your child to make a copy of their timetable onto the computer. Not only is this is a good way to learn some basic techniques on a spreadsheet package such as Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc, but it means that the young student will always be able to create a backup copy of their timetable rather than have to rely on memory or asking other students should the original one be lost.

Take notes and never lose them – Particularly if you are moving on from high school to university, you will need to do much more self study and personal learning. Learning to organise study notes from the web and other sources is essential. Fortunately, thanks to services like Evernote, this is extremely easy in the modern world. Clip all your study notes and references into an Evernote notebook and it is automatically backed up to the cloud. Every student should also have a Diigo account, which allows you to save and annotate bookmarks on the web. In further education particularly, plagiarism is a serious offence and could get you thrown off of your course, so make sure you save ALL your references when working on an assignment or paper.

You can find out more about Evernote here and more about Diigo here.

Use reminders! – It’s very easy to forget homework or other commitments when you first move into higher education. University students should take full advantage of their smartphones and services like Google Calendar, which allow you to easily access your calendar on your smartphone, tablet or PC. For students in high or middle school, going with an ‘old-school’ approach might be a better idea. Most teachers don’t appreciate mobile/cellular telephone use in class and expensive phones can be lost, stolen or damaged by other students, if they are even allowed in school at all! Get yourself a pocket homework diary and make a backup of the reminders into your computer or tablet when you get home.

Finally, we’d like to wish all students good luck with their studies this autumn/winter term, study hard but don’t forget to enjoy yourselves too.


Tip of the Month – Move windows like a pro with these handy keyboard shortcuts

More experienced Windows 7 and 8 users should be familiar with ‘snapping’, a neat little feature that makes organising Windows on your desktop that bit easier. If you’re not familiar with the technique, check out this tutorial if you are using Windows 7. or this tutorial if you are using Windows 8.

What we didn’t show in those tutorials however, were the special keyboard shortcuts for snapping. If you hold down the Windows key on your keyboard (either the left or the right Windows key) and while holding down the key, press one of the arrow keys, you can activate the snap features automatically. Try out any of the keys listed below:-

Windows Key + Left Arrow – Snap current window to the left side of screen or unsnap window that is snapped to right side of screen.

Windows Key + Right Arrow – Snap current window to the right side of screen or unsnap window that is snapped to left side of screen

Windows Key + Up Arrow – Maximize current window.

Windows Key + Down Arrow – Minimize current window or restore maximized window.

Sometimes you may ‘lose’ a window on your desktop, the program might appear on the taskbar but the programs window may not be visible even when you click the taskbar icon. By using these shortcuts you can often find the window again.


Free Utility of the Month – TeamViewer

Do you ever need to give technical support to your friends and family, or do you wish your son/daughter/other computer literate relative lived a little closer so they could help you more frequently? If so, you might want to try out TeamViewer. TeamViewer allows another computer on the internet to take control of your keyboard and mouse temporarily, allowing a remotely located family member to administer technical support without actually having to make the drive over. The software features full encryption and users can only ever take control of your PC with your express permission. For more details, check out the TeamViewer website here.


Windows Store App of the Month – Flashcards Pro

Since this is our back to school issue, it seemed like a good idea to feature a handy application for students and school children. If you need to revise for a test, you may have used or considered using Flash cards. Flash cards are a set of cards bearing information, typically a question on one side and an answer on the other. These cards can be used for efficient self-testing ready for your big exam. Many students find them a very effective way of revising for a test.

Rather than get busy with scissors and cardboard, why not use a computerised Flashcard program? If you have a Windows 8 PC, grab yourself a copy of Flashcard Pro from the app store and you can create your own cards or browse and download thousands of sets that other users have created.

Find out more about Flashcard Pro or download yourself a copy by visiting this link.


Celebrity pictures leaked as iCloud hacked  – Is it time to shun the cloud?

Another month, another security breach. This time, popular cloud storage device iCloud, used mainly on Apple devices, was hacked. Amongst the data that was stolen were several pictures of popular celebrities in revealing states of dress. Some, the celebrities in question claim, were deleted several years ago. It just takes one mistake in computer code to create a bug and just one devious hacker to find and exploit it. This latest breach highlights the dangers of putting your personal information into cloud storage services. While your data sits on the internet it is vulnerable to hackers or simply mistakes on behalf of the company that is holding it. Again, it comes down to the old security versus convenience. It’s incredibly convenient to copy your data onto the internet so that you can access it anywhere, but of course this comes at a penalty to the security of the data. If you need the convenience of the cloud but you’re worried about being the next hacking victim, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

Be selective with your cloud files:- While some cloud backup services offer to back up your entire PC, think carefully before you do this. It’s more sensible to store only the files you need in the cloud and exclude anything particularly private or sensitive. This doesn’t just mean risqué pictures, documents containing personal information, such as your name, social security number or especially log-on details or credit card numbers. This applies to all the cloud connected services you use. Don’t store sensitive information in services like Evernote or Onenote. Never send anything in an e-mail you wouldn’t want a third party to read.

Careful what you post! – While you might have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using a service like OneDrive or iDrive, you can have no such expectations when using a service like Facebook or Twitter. Posting that video of Dad dancing in his new Christmas underwear might seem funny, but what about when the video makes its way to Dad’s boss? Think before you post, even if you have your Facebook or Twitter accounts set to friends only, it’s very easy for information like this to leak out.

Double down on encryption – If you need to store sensitive data in the cloud, it makes sense to use a service with strong encryption, such as SpiderOak. Even so, this means trusting that the cloud storage company has implemented their encryption correctly. You could always encrypt your data before you upload it. Tools like Veracrypt and the now discontinued Truecrypt allow you to create encrypted containers for your files. These containers are impossible (or at least extremely difficult) to unlock without the correct passphrase, so even if a hacker did steal them from your cloud storage, he or she would most likely not be able to do anything with them. Of course, this extra security comes at a penalty to convenience. Not only will you need to learn to use either Truecrypt or Veracrypt, you will also need to have access to it wherever you access your files. If Truecrypt/Veracrypt isn’t available on a device (such as a smart phone) you won’t be able to access your files there. You can learn how to use Truecrypt or Veracrypt by watching our Truecrypt tutorials here.

Consider offline password managers – We’re always encouraging our readers to switch to a password manager, but we’re starting to think that an online password manager such as LastPass might be a bad idea. Consider using a password manager that stores your passwords locally, rather than in the cloud. Roboform and Keepass are two password managers that do this.

Removable storage is cheap – use it! – For particularly sensitive files, shunning cloud based storage services might not be a bad idea at all. Buy one or more USB hard drives and simply use those for backup instead. To protect your files, consider storing one backup at a friends house (use Truecrypt/Veracrypt to secure the data from prying eyes if necessary). The biggest disadvantage of this system is, of course, that organising regular backups is more difficult.

That concludes our newsletter for September. 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 October 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 and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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