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Posted on Sep 3, 2017 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 51 – More devices, more security problems? Windows 10 upgrade woes and more

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 51

Welcome to the August 2017 TWT Newsletter

Summer is in full swing and what better way to make summer go with a bang than using your PC for organising your photos, checking and updating social media and rocking out to your tunes? If you’ve been working with your PC and your smartphone lately, this months newsletter has some great tips on how you can keep your own little IT eco-system more secure.

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In this months issue:-

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

Security tips for the multi-device age
Tip of the Month – Check your computers RAM
Free Utility of the Month – Lightworks
Windows Store App of the Month – Crossy Road
The pains of planned obsolescence – Is there a devious Microsoft plan to sell more PCs?

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

We’ve started overhauling our tutorials relating to antivirus software and added a useful tutorial for Windows 10’s built in antivirus, Windows Defender.

picture Windows Defender Video Tutorial

In this video tutorial, we will look at how to access and configure the Windows Defender settings in the Windows 10 creators update. We will also demonstrate how to run a manual virus scan. Click here to see the tutorial.

 

 

Security tips for the multi-device age

You may read on some web pages (usually those promoting mobile phones) that we now live in the “Post PC” age, where desktop and laptop computers just aren’t needed any more. Of course this is nonsense, writers, artists, musicians, engineers and millions of other creative professionals aren’t going to trade in their PCs any time soon. The truth is, we live in a multi-device age, where most people carry a pocket computer (smartphone) and many people have at least one other device too.

In this brave new eco-system, your devices don’t work in isolation but are connected via the cloud, or in other words, through somebody else’s computer on the internet. We’ve talked before in the TWT newsletter about how your devices can work better together with a few handy apps, but this time we want to talk about security. Working with multiple devices brings new security risks that savvy users should be wary of.

Cloud – Convenient for you, convenient for hackers – When we all worked on a single device, all the data we worked with was on that one device. Now, when we’re used to using two or more smart devices, we want all our data synchronised and conveniently available, no matter if we’re out and about and using our phones, or home using our PCs. The most convenient way to do this is via the cloud, of course. The cloud really means “someone else’s computer on the internet”. Upload from one device, download to as many devices as you need.

Of course, this means trusting whomever is running the computer or computers up there in the cloud. Trusting that they themselves will respect your privacy and trusting that they have secured their system against hackers. As we’ve seen countless times in the past, it only takes one little mistake or oversight for data stored in the cloud to be leaked or compromised.

You may think that having your family holiday photos stolen by a hacker is annoying but hardly the end of the world, but think carefully about what else you may store in the cloud. If you use a note-taking service like Evernote or OneNote, remember your notes are backed up to the cloud. We’ve heard tales of teachers storing the names and contact numbers of their students in such services, this is not very sensible at all and could even cost them their careers if the information was stolen.

If you need to copy sensitive information between your phone and your PC, there are alternatives to the cloud. Use a USB cable to copy your data or to backup your phone to your PC. On most Android devices, you can store files directly to your device using the USB cable. On iOS devices, the particular app you want to use must support this feature, see this link for more information.

Password management – Are you using long passwords on all your websites, or better still a password manager? If so, good for you! Now, are you using a 4 digit pin to unlock your phone? Most people use a weak password to unlock their phone because it’s too inconvenient to tap out a long password on a tiny touch screen, yet more and more of us do online banking, shopping and other security sensitive tasks on our mobile device. If you’re still using just a 4 digit pin to unlock your phone, consider changing to a full password. If that’s too inconvenient, consider using a PIN and another form of authentication, modern phones will allow you to use a thumb print or other biometrics to unlock your phone. Use the biometrics in conjunction with a PIN for full security.

If that’s all still too much hassle, consider simply saving the sensitive stuff for when you’re back at your PC and you can type in your full passwords and use your password manager easily. You can always browse on your phone, then go to the PC to finish the purchase. Apps like Pushbullet make it easy to send web pages between your phone and your PC.

Two factor authentication – Using your phone to beef up your security – Two factor authentication is when you use two different security “factors” to log into a website or other secure service. To help protect bank accounts, many banks issue their customers with authenticator devices. To log in using one of these, you use a regular username and password and a code generated by the device. The code changes each time, meaning it cannot be stolen and re-used.

Your mobile phone can also be used for this purpose. Many websites now support the Google Authenticator app, this generates the same kind of one-time pass code that can be used along with your regular password to access your account. Other sites will send you a SMS text message containing the access code. If you use sites that do this, beware of having your mobile phone number stolen. If you notice your phone is not able to connect to the network any more, in places where you normally get service no problem, contact your operator using a land-line immediately.

Plan for the worst! – Losing your mobile phone is a bit of a nightmare, so be prepared if it happens! Take regular backups to your PC and consider using anti-theft software. On the iPhone, you can use Apple’s “Find my iPhone” service. On Android, the service is called “Find my Device”. You can read more about these services here.

If you lose your phone and have two-factor authentication set up using your old phone number, you can usually get your number transferred to a new phone by talking to your mobile phone operator.

As you can see, moving into the multi-device future brings a whole new set of security risks, but with a bit of common sense, you can mitigate the dangers and use your devices safely in tandem with each other.

Tip of the Month – Check your computers RAM

Windows 10 is unlike any version of Windows that came before, in that it keeps evolving and changing. Unlike phones, which seem to be forced into obsolescence every couple of years, the modern desktop PC has reached a point where even ten year old machines can still perform adequately for many common computing tasks.

While your faithful old PC may have stood still, Windows has kept growing and because of this, you might find that your computer is a little short of memory. If applications take a long time to start up, apps or the start menu are slow to open or your computer feels sluggish, a memory upgrade might help.

To check how much memory is in your Windows 10 PC, type in the Cortana search bar “view ram info”, then click the icon that appears. On the window that then appears, look for “Installed RAM”. If you have 2.0GB or less, a RAM upgrade may benefit your system and won’t break the bank, typically costing around £30/$35 or 30 Euros. Check with your local IT expert or computer store for more information and to determine if you can upgrade your PC.

Free Utility of the Month – Lightworks

It’s amazing that an affordable, modern PC can perform tasks that would have required an ultra high-end machine a few years ago. If you want to edit video on your PC you might imagine that you need an expensive PC and expensive software, but for basic editing any reasonable spec PC will do. As for the software, why not check out Lightworks? Lightworks is an entirely free video editing solution, far from being basic, the program is seriously powerful and will meet the needs of any amateur videographer quite easily.

While it’s not the easiest program to learn, there are lots of tutorials online to help you get started, so don’t be afraid to give it a go. Grab your free copy of Lightworks by clicking here.

Windows store app of the month – Crossy Road

Why did the chicken cross the road? To entertain the computer game player of course! Crossy Road is a game that has been popular on mobile devices for years. Now you can play it on your big screen PC too. In the game, you simply guide a chicken (other hapless creatures are available as you progress) across busy roads, railway tracks and rivers. The object is simply to get as far as possible.

It’s a fun game to play in competition with your friends, and even better when you can all watch on a big screen monitor or TV. Protip – use the computers keyboard (either the arrow keys or the WASD keys) to move your chicken with the greatest efficiency.

Get yourself a copy of Crossy Road for free by clicking here.

The pains of planned obsolescence – Is there a devious Microsoft plan to sell more PCs?

Recently, Apple announced another major upgrade to iOS, their popular iPhone and iPad operating system. iOS 11, due later this year, plans to switch to an entirely 64 bit architecture, breaking compatibility with many older apps. The new OS has a bunch of exciting new features and promises to be faster than ever, it also won’t work on iPhone 5 or earlier, starting the slow slide to obsolescence for millions of otherwise perfectly usable devices. While these devices won’t become obsolete overnight, they will most likely receive only security updates for a time, before being phased out completely.

This rightly angered a large number of people who find their older iOS devices perfectly capable of running all the apps they needed and performing the tasks they required of a smartphone. The iPhone 5c only came out in late 2013, giving it around four years of life as a fully supported device.

Of course, Apple will argue that this phasing out of old hardware is necessary to keep their devices on the cutting edge of technology, though most would agree it is equally to do with selling more phones. If we take a look at the PC market, Windows 10 runs quite happily on PCs that are nearly a decade old. These old faithful machines are still more than capable of performing basic computing tasks like web surfing, word processing or sorting and backing up photographs.

It’s no secret that manufacturers would like to sell more PCs. Not only are PCs lasting longer than ever before, many computing tasks that people would have previously done with a PC are now being done on cheaper tablet or smartphone devices. Because of this, PC sales have been on a downward trend for several years. It’s no surprise then that alarm bells started to sound when owners of Clover Trail based PCs found out they couldn’t upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, due to their older machines no longer being supported.

Normally, once Windows is installed on a PC, it continues to receive updates until that version of Windows is retired. Windows 10 is doing things differently, of course and rather than be replaced with Windows 11 in a few years, it is more likely that Windows 10 will simply keep growing and evolving instead. The reason given for the lack of support of this particular architecture was due to issues with the graphics processing unit (video chip).

On the one hand it seems understandable, given that Microsoft has a huge task supporting all possible PC hardware, that eventually some systems will be retired from mainstream support. On the other hand, it is worrying if this leads to a situation where hardware is phased out very quickly, as is the case in the smartphone market.

Microsoft did assure users that these neglected PCs would still continue to receive security updates until 2023, meaning they can still be used safely online until then. This gives these PCs the same kind of support life-cycle as they would have received on Windows 7 had they been launched at that time.

Can we conclude then that this turn of events is part of some nefarious plan to speed PCs towards obsolescence? We think that’s unlikely, the affected chips do have an unusual kind of graphics processor. Because of this it may well have been necessary for Microsoft to spend a lot of development time producing driver software that would only be used by a small number of customers. Still, this situation leaves questions unanswered. What happens when a new update to Windows 10 breaks compatibility with an older printer, scanner or even an unusual but business critical piece of hardware? Can we always be assured that, given this situation, it will be possible to keep a version of Windows 10 that will at least continue to receive security updates? So far we don’t have an answer to that question.

That concludes our newsletter for August. 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 and (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere at least) enjoy the rest of your summer! The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th September 2017 for 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 Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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