January 24, 2014

My how time flies

Ten years ago today I wrote my very first blog post over at typepad. 

Thirty years ago today the Macintosh computer was introduced to the world. 

There is no connection. 

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January 17, 2014

Hackers and breaches and credit cards - Oh My!

Well, it's a new year and another story of a big data breach. The more things change...


;">Update: Breach exposes data on 110 million customers, Target now says


As long as there is something to steal, people will try to steal it and periodically they will be successful.  Sometimes they will be wildly successful. 


Most people read about these things and their thoughts immediately turn to "OMG they have my credit card info! They're going to charge stuff!". While this is true, there are other things you will need to keep in mind.  Let’s consider the data that was taken.  Credit  and debit card numbers yes, but also, full name, address, email, and phone info too. This may be far more of a problem than the credit card numbers.  


It’s not possible to cover every bad thing that might happen from a data breach in one post (or even several posts) so let’s look at the most likely results and how you can keep from becoming a victim after the fact. 


With all that identifying data, it becomes very easy to target people with phishing emails and even phone calls.  The chances of a direct snail mail campaign are small, but possible.  With snail mail the cost is high and there are very specific laws that come into play that aren’t there for email, but please extrapolate anything said about emails and phone calls to include snail mail.   


Sadly, suspicion is your friend no matter the method of contact.  If someone walked up to your door and knocked, or stopped you on the street, then asked for your credit card info or login information for your bank, would you tell them?  Right now I’m going with - No!!! Please tell me you wouldn’t give this information out to a random person you don’t know!  


Phishing email has gotten very good over the last few years.  It can be nearly impossible for people to detect whether or not an email dropping into their inbox is from the place it says it’s from.  While there are still huge numbers of badly worded and misspelled phishing emails that can easily be spotted, the real problem are emails that are so good you believe it is legitimate. 


Because the information stolen is most of what a company would use to identify you, the bad guys can now create even more plausible emails and phone calls.  They know the correct name associated with an email. They know the correct address and phone number.  The end result is, the approach looks legitimate and you believe them because they have this information already.  


So, what to do?  Here are things to keep in mind. 


Never trust a person or business who contacts you directly asking for information. Do not open email attachments.  Do not click links to respond. Do not ever reply to an email asking you to fill out a form and return it. And please please don't tell me you would only do this if the email is from someone you know.  Don't. Period. 


Let me say that again.  Never give out information to anyone if you did not contact them first and were waiting for a response. 


But how about a little extra information so you can see why you should be careful.  


First of all, do not place all your trust in anti-virus software. It is useful for catching older stuff, but it won’t catch everything all the time and it won’t catch anything that is new and hasn’t had virus signatures created - I don’t care who makes it or what their claims are. It also will not catch an email that just asks you to fill out information and return it... that isn't a virus.  As always, you are responsible for what you click or delete or what information you give out. Think about it carefully.


Let’s start with email. Phishing emails are sent out by the millions. At some point in time, they are going to hit your inbox and look real.  It may say "we have tracking information about your UPS order please open the attached file” or "your bank account will be frozen unless you respond to this email, please open the attached file”. Or "this is an emergency, please click this link to go to our site and update your login information”. 


It may appear to come from your particular bank.  It may even appear to be a store you shop at regularly.  And you think, I need to check this out. After all, it couldn’t be the bad guys,  "how would they KNOW I just ordered something to ship via UPS???” , "how would they KNOW I use this bank???" The short answer is, they don’t (unless someone is stalking you and that’s a whole ’nother conversation).  So many of these are sent out on a daily basis, they will eventually contact a number of people who believe it applies to them simply because of timing. The variations on these emails are endless. Therefore, view all these requests with skepticism. The delete button is your friend.  


Another tack they take is to call and tell you they are from Microsoft, your ISP, a tech company, or some anti-virus company and there has been a virus detected on your system, could you please let them connect to your computer and they will clean it up.  Maybe they say they are from your bank and they need to confirm your information or you won’t be able to access your money.  (a bank threatening to take away money access is an easy way to scare people) 


No no no!!!!  Hang up.  Do not even talk to these people, don’t be polite, just end the call.   Here’s a hint… Microsoft has billions of copies of their operating system out in the world, they don’t call their customers.  EVER.  Never EVER.  Remember this.  Anti-virus companies don’t call either.  The idea is, you contact them if there is a problem. They never contact you asking to get on your system. If your bank really calls you, they will not ask you to give them your account number (if they do, find a different bank immediately!).  


If you are sincerely worried about your bank account.  Call your bank directly from a phone number on your statement, not from a number given to you by someone you don’t know. Better yet, go see them in person.  Don’t trust caller id as this can easily be spoofed by bad guys and be made to say anything they want. 


I have had my credit card companies call me because of likely fraud on my card.  They are generally automated calls.  I listen to them on my voicemail, then I call the 800 number on my card (not the one left on the voicemail).  These have all been genuine, but I do the calling to a valid number to make sure I know exactly who I’m talking to.  


And these are just a few things you can do to keep yourself somewhat safer out there in the Wild Wild Internet. 


Questions?  It's hard to fit everything into a post, so I very likely missed something. 


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December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

As always I am delighted to be around to see the old year out and the new year in.  


Here's to a wonderful 2014!

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December 29, 2013

Rambling between the holidays

Hope everyone had a great Christmas.  I have been partially injured and while not quite sidelined, not up to par.  


In my love of symmetry, I have a forward displaced right shoulder (the head of the humerus is slightly pushed forward for some unfathomable reason).  And a left ingrown toenail that needed to be fixed.  

The shoulder has caused quite a bit of arm pain when rotating my arm in certain directions.  I kept thinking I had pulled something but it wasn't getting better.  So I am now getting some PT for it that seems to be helping.  Slow but sure. 

The toenail required a bit of doctor intervention.  After several weeks of soaking and TLC it was not improving.  Got that attended to the day after Christmas.  Have to wear my old shoes or slippers in the house and wear my mukluks when out walking (even though it's not nearly cold enough for them).  It is, like the shoulder, healing up slowly but surely. 

I shall call this the "slow Christmas".  I had wanted to do a number of things while my husband had time off.  But we're just taking some slow time and not doing much of anything.  Not a bad way to go I suppose.

Everyone have a lovely New Year, party safe, be careful driving, and have fun.  Once the arm is better I have some plans for the upcoming year.  Not going to say anything yet... in case nothing comes of it, don't want to say I'll do something then not do it. 

Hope to be back before so much time has elapsed with some other exciting posts because I know the people who still stop by are looking for all that excitement here.  

Now off to stretch the arm.  The fun never ends. 

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December 14, 2013

More Mac App Stuff

My last post had the apps I use every day.  Today's post is about  those apps that get used less often by me but may also be something you'd need in your own life. 


Popclip - is a cute little app that makes copy/paste work a bit differently and easier.  I use it for the basic copy/paste, but also to quickly send text to Evernote.  There are other actions that can be added to the list.  You can try it for free, so check it out.  I forgot about this when I was making the list for the other post, I use it often during the day and it's so easy - I don't even remember it's there! 
 

PDF Pen or PDF Pen Pro - If you have to work on many a PDF, you should really look into Smile's choices.  As an added bonus, they make a PDF editor for the iPad too which can come in very handy as it will sync over iCloud to your Mac.  Preview does some basic PDF editing, so if all you need to do is add some text to a document and sign it, that may work for you.  But if you ever need more, PDF Pen would be the first choice.  

I will say right now, my PDF editing skilz are really bad.  I use them so seldom, I always have to figure it out every time.  I did run across one document that I couldn't get to work in PDF Pen (it might well have been my fault for not knowing the tool and how it works).  It was a doc that was using some sort of specialized fields that would add up - seems it would work in Adobe, but I couldn't get it to work in PDF Pen.  If you need a PDF editor or creator, it's way way way less expensive than Adobe and uses far less of your computer resources. 

Scrivener - this is the most awesome tool ever if you need to create a written project of any kind.  It does so much it's hard to know where to start (they even have Windows version now).  For one thing, I would take this over the current version of Pages - period.  You can import all kinds of documents edit, export them, and (unlike the hamstrung version of Pages that is not quite ready for prime time) it just works.  You can try before you buy.  Check out the website for all the ways you can use this.  Best bit of money for a writing tool you could ever spend.  

Cobook - I got this a while back.  I like the interface better than the Contacts.  It is free for use on the iPhone/ipad, but you do have to pay for the Mac version.  Whether it has features you want or not, would be up to you.  I have found it a bit sticky when trying to sync to my i-devices.  Cobook automatically adds stuff to your Contacts on the Mac, but I have found I need to open Contacts over on my i-devices, sync them, then they appear in cobook over there.  I do like the fact that I can send out contact info very easily via my iPhone.  Have a look, see if it appeals.  If you have an iPhone/ipad try the free versions first (the Mac app store doesn't allow free trials  which is annoying).

Speaking of contact info, Evernote just added an updated feature on iPhones/ipads to process and format business card info.  If you are constantly receiving business cards, this may be of interest to you.  They also added a presentation mode so you can pull together fast presentations then use Evernote as the presenting platform (premium user feature).  Check it out.  

Evernote also has Skitch which is free. It allows you to mark up photos among other things so you can easily show someone something via a photo rather than a long winded email. 

Last of all I have to say, that while Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are okay for basic uses, if you need advanced features like... oh say being able to see a document that includes tables... these should NOT be your number one choice.  If you have the old versions, they are up to the task, but if you only have the brand new versions, do not rely on them!  I found out the hard way that the new Pages is a really really dumbed down version of the old one.  I realize Apple has an agenda and the functionality will return eventually, but right now, it sucks pond water.  

For now when it comes to documents, Scrivener will be my app of choice.  I don't get many spreadsheets or I would have to go with the Windows tools on the Mac.  There is no real substitute now that they have dumbed down Numbers too.  For presentation, I would go with Evernote unless you have to do something really fancy.    

This is just a heads up to let anyone who has just moved to Mac know that iWork tools may be "free" but right now that doesn't get you much.  I expect them to improve them over the next year like they did with Final Cut X, but you may not have a year to wait to get somethings done.  Better to know there might be a problem and plan on how to get round it. 

I think this covers most things. If something else occurs I will add another post.  

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December 11, 2013

My little Mac world

After Allan's comment in my last post (he just got a new macbook - woohoo!). I thought I would run through the stuff I have on my mac that I find essential.  Without these apps, my mac would be far less fun to use. (do remember I collected all of these a bit at a time not all at once!)  


First I will repeat what I said in my comment...  

Learn the keyboard shortcuts!  It will save soooooo much time if you don't have to use the mouse all the time.  Over at Mac Geek Gab on the last podcast, they posted a link to a keyboard cheat sheet.  When I was figuring this stuff out, I had to go search for the ones I wanted. Wish I had found this about 4 years ago! 

Next - go check out Don McAllister's Screencasts Online.  Don does a fantastic job, you can try it out before committing to it, and he is the world's nicest guy ever (yes I have met him in person!).   He has an entire series on Mavericks, so if you have upgraded, go have a look!

I hope everyone has some sort of backup application. I use Crashplan, but there are many out there. If you are not backing up your data, you will lose it.  So figure out a way either with a pay for service, a backup drive, several free services over the net... whatever you have to do - find something that will keep a copy of stuff you don't want to lose. 

Now on to the essential apps: I couldn't decide which one of the first two should be 1 and ended up saying they both are... 

1a.  Alfred.  If you do nothing else, go check out Don McAllister's screen casts on Alfred.  It simply makes your mac fantastic.  Seriously fantastic.  A few keystrokes and voilà! You can do anything.  

1b. Busycal - you can get this in the mac app store.  Apple's calendar really sucks wet socks. Seriously.  I hate it.  I originally bought this because I could change the fonts so I could see my entries. It is fantastic.  

2. Mail tags - Mail Act-on  for use with Mail.app.  Yes, I use mail.app and these things make it work for me.  They are working on the next release (which I will have to pay for - but I will because I love them so much I don't want to live without them). 

3. Omnifocus - this one is not for everyone just because of the price.  I have it on all my devices (yes I forked over the cash for it - it was so worth it to help me get my projects together and keep things going).  I know there are other things that are "free" (although you do get what you pay for!) and other todo type apps have wandered onto the scene, but I have been using this for about 4 years now and I love it. 

4. Evernote - it keeps everything (except maybe tax returns LOL).  I can copy/paste, drag/drop, email, web clip, scan - stuff I want to keep.  It's fantastic and it can be free (without all the features, but still very very good).  They even make it easy to get the premium for a month, do some of the high end feature stuff, then drop the premium, but you still keep the stuff you've done.  Pretty cool. And they have a fun podcast too.
 
5. 1Password - If you don't have a password manager, you have huge trouble waiting to happen.  Not only does this store passwords, it fills out forms, stores credit card info, stores secure notes, stores software licenses.  Don't wander onto the web without it. It is awesome.  

6. Text Expander - this saves so much typing time even for seemingly minor things. Some key strokes are so much easier than others... create a snippet.  Some words I always spell wrong... create a snippet.  Some emails I send over and over - create a snippet.  Endless uses.  

7. Command Q - if you use the keyboard like I do, you will manage far too often to Quit an application rather than close a window (CMD+Q  and CMD+W are right next to each other on the keyboard). This app does one thing and one thing only - makes it necessary to hold the Q on CMD+Q for a few extra seconds so you don't accidentally close something you want to keep open.  

8 iStat Menus - gives you lots of extra info on how your mac is behaving, right on your menu bar.  Especially on my old mac, I used it all the time to keep track of when I was over taxing the memory and cpu.  On my new one it's not so essential, but I'm so used to using it, I moved it over. 

9. Hazel - if you have routine stuff that is annoying to do you can usually create a rule in Hazel to get it done.  Empty the trash on a regular basis, move files out of the download folder, there are many things it's nice to automate and Hazel makes it easy.  

10. F.lux - this is a freebee and it's lovely.  As night falls, flux will adapt the screen color to be easier on your eyes and brain. Get it. You'll be happy you did.  

11. Dropbox - this is nice for moving files around works beautifully.  I only use the free 2GB it gives me, but it has come in handy more than once. When I had a Windows machine, I used to let 1Password live there, but now that I only have a mac, I moved 1PW to iCloud.  

12. Bartender - last but not least.  It seems every app has stuff that wants to live in the menu bar - to the point, you just can't see all of it especially on a small laptop.  Bartender to the rescue!  It cleans things up and keeps the ones you don't want to see all the time, out of sight. 

I think that's enough for now.  Have a look at these. There may be some you want to use yourself, others may not be for you at all.  But if you don't look, you'll never know. 

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December 08, 2013

Speediness

My new Macbook finally finally arrived on Friday.  It took about a month because I didn't get an "off the shelf" model and for some reason, it's taking extra time to build special orders.  Oh well.

Must say I LOVE it.  It's very very fast.  All the apps open immediately, a reboot takes all of 20 seconds (shut down back to login screen).  Thank heaven!  My poor old iMac is so slow, it takes about 30 seconds just to open an app.  *sigh*

This is my first Mac laptop so some things are different than the desktop variety.  For one, I have enabled FileVault so if I have it with me when I'm out and about and someone steals it, they will have to get the files decrypted before they can do anything with it.  Gives me a little extra time to use the "find my mac" and erase everything.   Then there is the whole battery management thing. 

So far so good.  Now maybe I'll feel like getting more stuff done since I don't have to spend half my time waiting for the computer to respond to any request. 

My iMac?   I'm using that pretty much exclusively with Remote Desktop to my office stuff.  Great screen, stable connection.  All in all it's a win-win.  



I'm still fiddling with it. 

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November 22, 2013

A little joyfulness

This video is from last year, but I only just saw it and it makes me happy.  Beautifully done.  Turn up the volume, this is 5 minutes well spent.




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November 13, 2013

Of Computers and Spam

My poor old iMac.  It's getting elderly.  Every time they update the OS, it gets slower.  Poor sad little thing.  There's not enough memory for it to work well.  I think a new machine is in my near future, especially as the screen popped and went black a couple nights ago.  I shut it down for the night, when I booted it up, it worked fine... but still. 

In the meantime, since we had the problem with the spam filter stopping people from commenting, I've been getting spam comments at the rate of 2 or 3 a day. 

Today they have figured out it's open season.  I just delete 3 pages of spam comments.  That's over the last few hours.  Good lord.

I've been busy with some other stuff outside of social media fun and games.  Sadly, I've had no ambition to blog once I get done with all the real life stuff.   Or I'm tired of waiting for this machine to catch up with me... not sure which. 

Anyhow, hopefully, more soon. 

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October 30, 2013

Mavericks

With all the updates being posted to applications on my iMac, I have noticed it getting slower and slower (and it was already slow to begin with).  This happened when they started updating Snow Leopard apps for the move to Lion, which means this was not unexpected.

Last night I bit the bullet and installed Mavericks, hoping it would help with some of the memory management issues.

So far it's been pretty messy.  Apple totally hosed up the Gmail interface in the Mail.app.  I am plugging away at things and I hope once all the dust settles and everything is indexed, it will work again.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I ponder doing a fresh install of Mavericks rather than an upgrade...  not sure I have the time to spend messing with such a project.  The in-place update has taken longer to slog through than expected.  But it may be necessary if things continue to run so slow.

Stay tuned.

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