April 10, 2014

Heartbleed and the Password Monster

This week we have seen exactly how something bad can happen to our virtual world and better yet, how annoying it is to try and get information.

Brian Krebs has had a couple of excellent, easy to follow articles:


One of the things not mentioned and that you can do in addition to checking sites and changing passwords is get yourself a password manager.  I am going to list a few here, check them out.  Everyone has one they prefer for various reasons.  (my preference is 1Password).  They all work, some are more automatic than others. All of them make it easier for you to have better passwords and change them easily.  

The Freebies: 

Password Safe - this one has been around for ages and continues to be developed in open source.  It works great on Windows desktops.  If that is all you need, this one will do it for you.  Check out the fun video under the Quickstart guide link.  

KeePass - I have not used this one, but a number of people like it. Also Windows based like PW Safe above. No cool video, but it will likely do the same job. 

RoboForm - many people love this one. It's more polished than the other two and it works on all platforms. Windows, Mac, tablets, phones.  Very nice for a free platform.  The password database resides on their servers.  Some people are okay with this others not so comfortable. It depends on you're personality when it comes to this. 


LastPass - this is another online based system.  The freemium model means you can get their basic services on your computer for free.  If you want to go with mobile devices too, then you have to pay them. It's not terribly expensive, they do charge per year.   They also hold secure notes among other things.  I haven't used it, but I know people who love it. Ironically, they were hit with the Heartbleed bug although they have fixed their servers.

Pay for:

1Password - I have been using this for several years now and love it. Yes, it's pay for.  It does not run on Windows tablets so if that is important to you, then this is not the one to use.  

They started as a Mac application and it works beautifully on all apple products.  Your options are to have the database on your computer, on dropbox, or (if you are on apple) on icloud.  I have used it via dropbox to sync to my Windows 7, Mac, iphone, and ipad.  It will also sync to android devices.  

I like the flexibility of where the database will reside.  I also like the features of secure notes, software license folder, credit card folder, personal identity folder (to fill in forms on websites).

I'm sure there are others out there, but among these, you should be able to find something that fits your needs and works for you.  

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April 06, 2014

Side Bar... hmmmm

It looks as though my sidebar has disappeared.  Not sure what's going on, but I shall drop a note to Pixy and see if he can fix it.  

Ah - looks like I had some spam that was causing problems. Oh well.  Such is life. 

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March 28, 2014

The end of XP

As you may or may not know, support for Windows XP ends April 8th.  That's coming up in about 10 days.  If you are running XP (yes you have a very old machine) then be prepared.  After the last update, there will be a spate of exploits sent out. 

I know there are people who can not (financially) move on to other machines so here are a few things you can try to keep the wolves at bay - so to speak. 

1. Get either Chrome or Firefox as a browser.  Don't argue with me that you love IE - doesn't matter. It is already a mess with holes in it. It will only get worse after support ends.  And don't tell me one of the above is better than the other... that doesn't matter either. What matters is they are both current browsers and both are continuing to update patches even if they run on old XP.

2. Put Ad Block Plus on your browser of choice.  When you go to the site, it determines the browser and will show you the plugin you need to apply.  Use it!  There will be malicious software being served up as ads on all kinds of sites - even so called "safe" sites. This includes the big ones like CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN etc.  This plugin will stop those ads from getting to you instead of you trying to clean up after them.  I know there are people trying to support their site via ads.  But you can't afford the price at the moment. One bad ad served by one site could brick your computer... how much does it help if you have no working computer?  BTW - on some of the news sites,  this plugin will keep videos from running.  Sorry about that. They are jerks about it and want to sell ads, even if you put your machine at risk.  Walk away. 

3. Add Web of Trust to the browser too.  It's not 100% fool proof, but they make an effort to scan for malware on sites and mark them.  If you hit a "red" site even by accident, it brings up a page to stop you before you go there.  Go read why it's marked as "red".  Most times it is because of malware.  Political sites are a bit iffy as opponents will mark the site "red" based on content.  But do check FIRST.  Don't assume a site is marked as bad simply because of content, WoT will tell you why if you take a moment to go look. 

4. If you download mail to your machine, get an antivirus program and run it (if you don't have one as yet).  Avast has a decently rated free program.  As with all AV - this will protect against old stuff not new, but there is still plenty of the old stuff wafting about the net. 

5.  Don't skip the last set of patches.  Get them all.  

6. Try to stay behind a good firewall like a home router if at all possible.  Don't connect to public networks with no decent firewall. 

7.  Last but not least. For those with enough tech savvy and some adventurous spirit, get a thumb drive and grab a copy of  Ubuntu Linux.  They have made things very easy and it might be exactly what you need to get you through until you can get a new machine with an updated OS. 

Good luck. 

**** UPDATE  Also Office 2003 support is ending too!  If you use this version of Office, you may want to either upgrade if you can or look at the free tools available.  They aren't as good, but they are up to date and patched.  There is Open Office   or Libre Office  along with Thunderbird for mail.  Look at Google for your calendar too.  These might help a bit if you can't afford Office 365. 

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March 09, 2014

More Travel Fun

Last weekend I was on the road again.  Had to hit the office to do some work (which led to an entire week of fixing things and thus no time to blog about the trip) then seeing the kids, and of course the annual Oscar party which is always a delight.

As per usual  I tried to take notes while in the zoos known colloquially as airports.   Enjoy.


Amazing how many people show up late to the airport and depend on the kindness of strangers to let them cut the line.

Seriously Logan... One security lane open?  One??? *sigh*

Tried to get food. Sadly lunch is not available until. 11am. Will have to wait 30 min. Don't want breakfast.

Power outlet fun at Logan.

Lady next to me is loudly complaining about being stuck in the middle seat. Not sure what anyone is supposed to do about it.  Her husband keeps saying he’ll be happy to trade seats with her. Then she says "No No you already sat in the middle seat on the flight out, it’s my turn”. Okay then… time to shut up about it.  

Nice not having the harping about turning off electronics before take off.

My heavens the woman next to me is antsy. I thought I had a hard time sitting still!!! She also takes up quite a bit of room. If she was taller I would have had an elbow in my face a moment ago.  

Chicago totally cloud covered. No pics. Oh well.  

Return trip

Car rental return... man with the white winter coat.  I am all admiration! Whenever I try to wear white I get it dirty immediately.  Not only are you wearing a long white winter coat... it is clean.  I bow to you!

No seats at the wine bar but I outwitted them and had a glass of wine at Chili’s.

Boarding went well. This can not go unpunished. A small mechanical issue has delayed the flight. So far 10 min late. Not bad... Yet.

And we luck out - only a 20 minute delay.  Excellent.

Arrived Logan.  Have to say, it was worth it to pay slightly more for my seats so I could get on and off the plane easier.  Can’t afford first class, but early boarding, that I can do.

Totally oblivious man waiting for his ride. Dumps bags in middle of door walkway. Proceeds to leave them as he wanders around talking on his cell. Keeps walking past door sensor. Open, close, open, close… let’s bring in LOTS of cold air. Finally his ride arrives and he dithers back and forth over which bags go where while the car blocks the bus lane. Good job all around dude!

Slowest shuttle bus driver… ever. I suppose the guy is being careful, but wow.  

And back to car.  It’s there, it starts.  All is good.  

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February 18, 2014

And speaking of Brian Krebs

I always cringe when people start talking about connecting any of their stuff to the internet through their firewall.  It's just asking for trouble. 

Brian Krebs asks, Is it time to harden your hardware?

If you are lost when reading the opening remarks about the routers, scroll on down to the light switches... then read about the problems with Network Attached Storage (NAS).  These things are becoming very popular. 

Heck I have a hard time making people understand that their Operating Systems need to be kept up to date.  Trying to make them understand that other machines need updating too?  Whew...

The problem with the hardware listed here, it's all being touted as making your life easier.  Plug it in, fire it up, voilà  you are online and able to access your house systems from afar. 

Except maybe someone else can do this too... and maybe you don't want them to. 

It's a problem.  How much security are you willing to trade off for the ability to turn your lights on and off when you aren't home? 

OTOH this is probably one of the funniest commercials I've seen with the theme.  I wouldn't use the service, but I giggle whenever I watch it.

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February 17, 2014

A great read

The NY Times does a story on a reporter I admire very much. And they do an excellent job of it.

Brian Krebs profiled by the NY Times

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February 05, 2014

And here we go again

The Winter Olympics start this week (in case you missed that bit of news). And just like the London Summer Olympics, NBC is going for the tape delay.

Behind schedule: why is NBC tape-delaying the Olympics again?

So they can do this:

"I think you’re coming down to the stories of the athletes."

That's right, it's not about the sporting event.  It's not about what they actually DO in Sochi - it's all about the "stories of the athletes". 

They will show 5 minutes of  the sport itself and 55 minutes of commercials, instant replays, and "stories about the athlete".  You'll get a chance to hear all the breathless talking heads tell us how wonderful these athletes are.  You'll find out all about their training schedules, what they eat, how much they sleep, technical details about their gear, and how much high school stuff they missed just to get to the Olympics.  You'll even get to relive past victories and even a few defeats.  

You won't get to see this competition, but that's a minor detail. 

Competition is hard to televise.  One never knows what might happen. It's not scripted.  It has surprises. It might even be... boring.  The talking heads wouldn't get enough airtime, they might have to *gasp* work!  We can't have that now can we.  Of course not.

They "could" take the time to create several specials leading up to the Olympics.  Talk about the various athletes, their backgrounds, their training, all of that BEFORE the games start.  But then they would have to show you the games...  

Guess I'll be watching the online streaming.  *sigh*  Hope I can airplay it to my television. 

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February 04, 2014

Flash Flash Flash - Bug

Big bad bug out there... please check your computers and apply the Adobe Flash update just released today. Brian Krebs is on it as usual. Check his article for links and what to watch out for.


Thank you!

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February 03, 2014

Super Bowl Flyover

If you were watching Fox as the Super Bowl was getting under way, you might have noticed the 2 second shot of blackness that was supposed to be Army Apaches and Chinooks doing the flyover.  They didn't even rate a vocal shout out from Joe Buck or Troy Aikman both of whom were too busy with other things to notice. 

But now you can see the entire flyover as seen from inside one of the Chinooks from the 101st Airborne.  Enjoy. 

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January 29, 2014

House Projects Galore

I was commenting to someone the other day that Home Improvement projects are for saps.  This is why my husband and I tend to wait as long as we can stand it before wading in and fixing things.  Well, this is the year we start fixing stuff. Heaven help us.

The thing that kicked it all off was our old hot water heater dying a sudden and very wet death... leaking all over the floor and onto the carpets death. Since we had to get it replaced fast (I don't like living without hot water available) and the carpets suffered from that whole "wet dog" smell thing, we decided the flooring would need to be replaced.  But... the furnace was getting up in years as was the a/c.  Before putting in something nice on the floor, it was time to get those things taken care of first.  And so the adventure begins...

We had a new furnace install started at the end of November. It was supposed to include a heat pump/ac unit, but that never got installed before the really cold weather hit.  Now we have to wait until it warms up. Oh joy.   The good part, they have got the furnace itself installed, so the big item has been carted through.  The heat pump/ac unit sits outside. 

The problem is, the way our house was built. 

They finished the basement.  This is usually considered to be a selling point until you realize they finished off all the bits where one needs access to fix things or add new things.  *sigh*  Contractors will shrug and say "we'll just drill a hole through the foundation"...  Ummm... NO!  Double NO in that they always want to do this under the porch where it's nearly impossible to get at and who knows what bugs and small animals live there that will just love access to the house.  GAH!

To get round this problem, we had to rip stuff down. Since October a closet and the bathroom in the basement have had only partial ceilings.  Had to pull parts down so we could run a new coolant line for the a/c not to mention a new air intake for the heater.  They started the install very late because the guy giving us estimates, etc was just slow (the entire process having started in September).  

Jump to today and I have an electrician here trying to get the air intake fan to work correctly.  I figured it was a matter of simple wiring as to why it wasn't working correctly (it only comes on with the hot water heater not with the regular furnace).  But no... the entire process took 3 hours!  Wow.

And because we like to moosh everything together (thus making life far more interesting than normal), in about a week and a half we will be having new floors installed in the basement.  The old hideous carpet - that will be gone.  A thing of the past. 

While carpet is nice and warm in a basement, it does not play well with dampness or bugs, both of which like basements.  Our basement isn't particularly damp, but we did have the unexpected flood from the hot water heater. Add to that, we live in a forest and forests have bugs... even when you spray to keep them out. You can see where this is going. 

Then, of course. we had to pick out what we wanted on the floor.  This was also easier said than done.  Many options are cut out simply because it can't be installed below grade.  Then there is color matching because, damn if I want to paint baseboards!  Hopefully we picked the right thing.  The boxes were delivered yesterday.  We moved half the boxes last night and will move the other half tonight from the garage to the basement (they need time to acclimate).  We have already started moving our stuff so the work can begin.  They can move the larger furniture from one side to the other, but 7 book cases needed to be emptied, a table brought upstairs, the television will be moved over the weekend, etc etc.

It's amazing how much stuff can be fit into 2 rooms.  While I know it will soon be moved back to those rooms, during "construction" we would like to be able to move around in the rest of the house without tripping over too much stuff.  Thus we have a logistics puzzle.  The extra week before installation is good. We have more time to work it out.

So where are we to date?  We have holes in the ceiling in 2 rooms, we have 5 book cases worth of books and stuff moved out and distributed upstairs, and we finally have a working fan for furnace air intake.   Still 2 more bookshelves to empty, 2 file cabinets to empty and move upstairs and last of all the television and components (that will be the real fun part).

Once the new floors are in, there may even be pictures.  Old and new so you can contrast and compare.  I have a sneaking suspicion I will like the bamboo far better than the current golf green carpet in my office. We shall see.

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