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Posted on Oct 4, 2018 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 64 – Back to school again and security risks from smart devices

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 64

Hi, welcome to the September 2018 TWT Newsletter

September again and that means for many students and teachers it is back to the classrooms for another school, college or university semester. If you or someone in your family is going back to the classroom this Fall/Autumn, then they should enjoy our updated back to school tips for Windows users this month. We also take a little look at the new world of “internet of things”, what could possibly go wrong connecting your fridge and your cooker to the internet?

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In this months issue:-

Back to school again – Our tips for students using Windows
Tip of the Month – Access your Router
Free Utility of the Month – Rain Wallpaper
Windows Store app of the Month – Readit
The Internet of Things – When was the last time you patched your.. fridge?


Back to school again – Our tips for students using Windows

The Windows PC remains the best and most flexible option for people wanting to get serious work done and that of course includes students. More flexible than a Chromebook and with better serious software support than a Mac or iPad, a Windows PC is the device to have on campus.

That was true back when I was studying at university in the late nineties and it’s true today, but so much else has changed since then, and since we ran our first back to school article in our September 2007 newsletter.

Make the most of the cloud – “cloud” computing, or making use of other computers on the internet, is something that any student should get their heads around. At its most basic level, the Cloud gives you access to file storage wherever you have an internet connection. Services like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox allow you to sign in anywhere and access your files, no need to carry around an easy to lose USB stick any more.

There’s much more to the cloud than file storage however. If you’re heading off to higher education in particular, you will need to become competent at note taking. If you still prefer to handwrite your notes, that’s fine of course, if you can keep them organised, but how about taking advantage of a service like OneNote? OneNote is a notebook that synchronises using the cloud. Take notes on your laptop in a lecture, including images and even drawings if you have a touch screen, and they are automatically backed up and available to you anywhere. Don’t have your laptop with you but still need to make a note, that’s not a problem! Simply take out your smartphone and access your notebook through the cloud. Clip any information you need and then go back and edit and review it on the comfort of your laptop.

The internet is a huge resource for students but you will need to learn to organise your online research too. Way back in our first ever student tips issue in September 2007 we recommended a relatively new service called “Diigo”. Diigo is a cloud bookmarking service that makes it possible to save web pages and notes to the cloud and access them wherever you go. Research websites in the computer lab at university then get those same websites again when you get home to your student accommodation, or even call them up on your phone while you’re enjoying a coffee with your peers after your lecture. You can use tags and descriptions to sort and file your bookmarked sites. Diigo is one of those hidden gems of the internet that everyone should use but so few people actually do. Don’t rely on memory and constant repeated Google searches to find the websites critical to your assignments, get Diigo today. A basic account is free, click here to find out more.

Document scanner – For the ultimate in student swag – Do your lecturers still give paper handouts? Do you find that handwriting notes suits you better than trying to type? If so you could invest in a fancy document scanner. These great little devices work like reverse printers, load in papers at the top, hit scan and in a few seconds a PDF document will appear on your PC. You can store the PDF securely on your computer, or in the cloud or clip it to your OneNote notebook.

A word of warning before you invest a considerable sum into one of these devices. While document scanners can convert printed papers to text, which can then be searched, copied and pasted, they can’t usually convert hand-written notes back to text, which means if you need to search your hand-written notes you’re going to have to do so manually.

Student software – Make the most of free – As a student you should be able to find a lot of great software for free, and we’re not talking about breaking the law here either. For writing essays and other productivity work, the modern student is spoilt for choice. The popular free office package LibreOffice has everything you need to start typing up those assignments on any Windows PC. What’s more, Microsoft now offer a free version of the Office suite for students. This even comes with access to Office 365, a service that allows you to work on your documents from any computer with a web browser, and that also backs up your work automatically to the cloud. 

Which of these choices you use is up to you. LibreOffice remains free even after you graduate, while Office requires a monthly subscription for all its functionality once you become a post-grad. To find out more about LibreOffice, click here. For Microsoft Office student edition, click here.

Before we wrap up, we should give our standard warning about storing data in the cloud. Anything you store in the cloud is potentially more vulnerable to hackers. While it’s not going to be the end of the world if someone steals your lecture notes, it could be a different matter if  you store information like your social security number or student loan details, so keep in mind the added security risks associated with cloud computing.


Free Utility of the Month – Rain Wallpaper

Some programs are practical, while some are just fun, Rain Wallpaper definitely falls into the latter category. Rather than a static wallpaper, Rain Wallpaper lets you have an animated video as your desktop background. Snow scenes, tranquil summer breezes, spring drizzle or whatever floats your boat, procrastination just got more beautiful.

To find out more or download your copy of Rain Wallpaper, click here.


Tip of the Month – Access Your Router

You may know the password to your router, as per the sticker on the back of it, but how do you access the device and change the default password, or check for an important security update? Here’s how to access your router from any Windows PC.

First of all, open a Command Prompt window by searching for “cmd” on the start menu and clicking the icon that appears.

In the black window that appears, type “ipconfig” (without the quotation marks) and press Enter.

One or more network interfaces will then be listed in the window. This information might look intimidating but you only need one snippet of it. Look for the “default gateway” number, ignore any entries that are blank, as there should only be one.

Open a web browser and type the default gateway number you discovered (e.g into the address bar and press enter. Make sure to enter it at the address bar at the top, not into a Google/Bing etc search.

You should now be presented with a log on screen and be able to log into your router and check for updates or change settings.


Windows store app of the month – Readit

Do you use the internet discussion service Reddit? If not, you can skip this one. If you do, you know that Reddit is like one massive message board for every topic conceivable. If you need your daily dose of anything from Game of Thrones discussion to IT support, Reddit could be the go-to place for you.

Now, reading Reddit on your Windows tablet just got easier thanks to Readit, a handy Windows 10 store app specially designed to make browsing and posting on the site easier and more comfortable. Boasting a customisable interface, fast loading speeds and full support for both touch and mouse use, this fancy little app could even be your go-to way of reading Reddit at your desk, just don’t let your boss catch you!

To find out more about the app or to download a copy, visit the Windows store page here.


Internet of things – When was the last time you patched your.. fridge?

When the internet came to our homes, at first it was just your PC that connected to the web and kept you in touch with the world. It wasn’t long before spyware, viruses and malware became part and parcel of the internet experience and mitigating and avoiding them became an essential skill. As time went by, computer security got better and infections less common, though they still remain a risk.

A few years later, phones and tablets and portable devices joined, or even in some cases replaced, the PC as the de-facto internet enabled device in the home. With these devices came new security problems, particularly on the Android platform. While modern PCs had the resources to run security and antivirus software, early phones had limited resources and could be compromised easily. Gradually, things started to improve as the manufacturers upped their game.

Now, the modern trend is for almost everything in your home to connect to the internet. Your lights can be smart, and controlled by your phone while you’re away. Your fridge can inform you by e-mail if there’s a problem with the temperature. Your cooker can be remotely controlled by phone to get the dinner on while you’re commuting home from work, or to turn it down again if you miss your train. There’s even a toaster that can burn the latest tweets into your morning slice (no, actually we made that up).

Each of these small connected devices runs a little computer inside, that may not even be as powerful as the hulking Windows 98 box you used a couple of decades ago. Just like any other computer, these devices have security vulnerabilities. Particularly vulnerable are the cheaper, often Chinese made devices that may not get regular updates from the manufacturers. Sometimes these devices have a hard coded default password, which cannot be changed, making them a particularly easy target.

The idea of your cooker or fridge being hacked remotely may sound a little far fetched, but security researchers are already considering the threat and the implications. Recently, for instance, researchers at the University of Princeton published a research paper which imagined a network of compromised smart devices being used to attack the national grid. Meanwhile, the Hakai “botnet” (collection of compromised devices all working together under the control of a hacker) is real and has been used to cause mischief by targeting vulnerable internet routers and unpatched Realtek smart devices.

Remember when shopping for smart devices, consider their security. You might not have anything of importance stored on a smart light bulb, but a compromised smart device on your network can be a doorway in for a hacker who can then pivot onto other more valuable devices. Shop for reputable brands and avoid the bargains from AliExpress. Alternatively, you could stick with the old “dumb” devices that have served us well for all these years. After all, Google, Microsoft and other big data companies know an awful lot about us already, without potentially letting them in on the contents of our fridges and what time we turn the lights out at night.

That concludes the newsletter for September. On behalf of everyone here at Top-Windows-Tutorials, I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th October 2018 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows 7,  Windows 8 or Windows 10. 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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