30 March, 2007

Amber interviews Professor Andrew Clement on the subject of Net Neutrality

In Amber McArthur's new position at CityTV, she has produced a lot of interesting material including her blog, Inside Popnology. Here she interviews Andrew Clement, Professor of Information Studies at the University of Toronto on the subject of Net Neutrality.

Non-technical are not secure

From my home, I can pickup several wireless signals, with about half unsecured. I have been using one of these connections, instead of paying Comcast's high prices. While connecting my desktop with my laptop (to transfer some files), I noticed from the laptop that I could see this neighbors computer.

I decided, what the heck, I'll click on it and see if it is open. Well, I got challenged (which you would think is good), but I tried Windows XP default password for the Admin account and I got in. I suspect more people do not understand that they are not secure than being ignorant that they should be secure. Because people are assuming they are secure, their systems get left open to make easy access without any real hacker tools.

If you're reading this, and are not sure about your computer security, I highly suggest you check your system out or have a technical friend help. Check the following:
  • If you have wireless, at a minimum use WPA. You may also consider MAC ID filtering.
  • Your router can work as an incoming firewall, but if you let others on your internal network, you might also consider a software firewall such as Zone Alarm. It also does double-duty as an out-bound firewall, which can block requests from your PC to the Internet.
  • As mentioned above, you should not keep the default password for the WinXP Admin account. It is very easy to access the user manager (User Accounts) from the Windows Control Panel and make a change.
  • Configure your computer to automatically download updates from Microsoft. (See the Security Center in the Control Panel.)
  • And of course, have a virus protection program, use Firefox for browsing, and use Thunderbird for your email.
Have you made sure your network and computer secure?

24 March, 2007

Add additional options to your Boot Menu

Do you ever get frustrated by having to always press F8 when you want to boot into Safe Mode or the Command Prompt? With a simple modification to your boot.ini, you can add those options to the boot menu.

Here's a typical boot.ini (located at c:\):
[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Media Center Edition" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
C:\CMDCONS\BOOTSECT.DAT="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons
This boot.ini will prompt with:
  • Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Microsoft Windows Recovery Console
Add the following three lines under [operating systems] to get Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, and Safe Mode with the Command Prompt:
  1. multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Safe Mode" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect /safeboot:minimal
  2. multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Safe Mode with Network" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect /safeboot:network
  3. multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Command Prompt" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect /safeboot:minimal(alternateshell)
If you want your boot to log its activities, add the switch /bootlog at the end of the line. You can find the generated log t c:\ntbtlog.txt.
If you want the to display the drivers as they are loaded, add the switch /sos at the end of the line.
You can find all the possible switch options on Microsoft's website.
When completed, save your new boot.ini, reboot, and you will have these new boot options.

22 March, 2007

Manage your digital photos with Picasa

I recently was on vacation and was reminded how much I like Google's Picasa to manage my digital photos. Each night as I returned from my activities, I inserted my memory card into my laptop, launched Picasa, and had it load my new photos into a folder unique for that day. Occasionally I took a few additional sunset photos, and common to camera memory cards, when loading I ended up with duplicate file names. Picasa handles this for me by automatically renaming the new files as they were saved to my laptop.

Once the photos were on my laptop, it was very easy to take care of basic photo editing -- perfect for most of us non-Photoshop experts. For example, removing red-eye is simple; I can also sharpen photos; and of course rotation is a single click. Once my edits are complete, Picasa will save my original, so that I can always go back to it later.

Once I finished my edits, I viewed all the photos from the day using the slide show feature. And when I was happy with what I saw, it was a simple click and login (using my Gmail and Blogger account) to post my pictures on the web for viewing by friends and family.

That just scratched the surface of the power of Picasa. Even if you use expert photo editing software such as Photoshop, Picasa is a no-brainer for managing all your photos. If you haven't tried Picasa, I highly encourage you to give it a try.