Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Cloud Computing Resources

Cloud Computing is the natural evolution of the Web as envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee, its founder, using many technologies, starting with peer-to-peer networking as he first conceived Web interconnection, to today's  increasingly web-based computer.  Click links below for more...

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing Short and Sweet - with more good information about computing securely

A Short (Free Downloadable) Book on Cloud Computing - more technical about the cloud concept

For iPad, just download and drag the downloaded pdf  file to iTunes Books, then select for transfer; for Kindle EMail as described at right; or just download and click on the file to read on your computer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Working with users, I am never at a loss for subjects for new posts, and will welcome comments on this one: Security.

At the outset, let me say I don't even trust the so-called experts, and conspiracy theorists, on security.    If there were that many true experts on security, we would have few failures.    So, what to do!   Simple:


That might not be entirely possible, but it is a good objective for computers and everything else.   The big exposures are credit cards,  Social Security numbers, and the like, and not computers per se.     Shopping in stores is where you need to be careful.

However, as always with changes and with what is new, there are always new fears.   Also, it is not just us seniors who resist change.   Yet changes are making things a lot better for all of us.     If you work individually with users, as I do, you have experienced the need for newer simpler and safer systems and have seen them develop.

The "cloud" is really just a new name for internet, but with programs and data in a safer place than your home computer connected to internet,  especially wirelessly.     Rapidly adopting cloud computing: Microsoft, Apple, Walmart, EMI Industries, (music), Sony, Amazon, Intel, oh, and IBM---you get the idea!!

To be considered protected, data from one user must be segregated from that of another, it must be stored securely at rest and it must be able to more securely from place place.    Newly cloud providers have systems in place to prevent against data leaks or access.   These safeties too often did not exist heretofore.

I believe cloud computing to be a great resource to improve security.   Cloud computers minimize the threat from viruses, keep data more safely, eliminate failure to update, and are free from crashes.     With data in the "cloud", in fewer places,exposure to risk is also minimized.     I keep backup data in more than one place, though.     Suffice it to say that if the cloud computer I am using quits, it is of little concern to me---I just go to another one: all my stuff is there.   I cannot think of why anyone would want to hack into it.

The latest cloud computer apps, which use the web page for an application in the cloud, can be a great step ahead in security.   The new Kindle app is a wonder.     It is in one place, and not on your computer at all.    Way to go, Amazon!!    Better that program and data be in one well-policed central place where quickly updated than exposed to millions of computers.

We all have our money in a bank computer if not under our bed.    Our bank account is just numbers in some computer somewhere.   You can, however, keep accessibility limited.    You should keep paper records somewhere, such as a safe deposit box. I therefore use computers for transactions in a very limited way.     Obviously, it is nearly impossible not to use them nowadays, especially if you are not so mobile.

In theory there is always a loophole somewhere for security, however remote.     There are ways to protect further, thru tunneling and VPN.   You could run a complete virtual operating In system like EyeOS, and so on.    You could route thru a second router.   You could use a Linux computer.   By all means, use these measures if you are concerned.    BUT, wherever possible, just



Why the Cloud is Safer - (Click) - by Simon Crosby, (taught at Cambridge University, England before going into the private sector)

Even Safer with a new dedicated "cloud computer" - (Click).

Safer with an older computer:

Some old tried and true rules for safer computing from Leo Laporte:

1. Don’t open email attachments; even if it’s from someone you know. If you do get something from someone you know, make sure that they really sent it to you. Email attachments are the number one way viruses and trojan horses get into your email. You might also want to turn off HTML email in Outlook and other programs. HTML emails are just as dangerous as rogue web sites, and can spread infections just by previewing them.
2. Don’t click links in email. That link could lead you to a phishing site, or the link may lead you to install malicious software. Copy and paste links into your browser, or type them in by hand instead. Another reason to disable HTML email – the HTML hides the real destination of that seemingly innocuous link.
3. Don’t download files from places you aren’t absolutely sure are safe. Stick with the well known sites. Teeneagers who use filesharing software like BitTorrent, Azureus, Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster, and Limewire, often unwittingly download spyware and trojans. If you must, quarantine all downloads then scan them a few days later with an updated anti-virus.
4. Update your OS regularly! Turn on automatic updates in OS X and Windows. Apply all critical updates immediately. Criminals often create hacks within 24 hours of Microsoft’s patches (these are called zero day exploits), so you need to protect yourself the day the patches appear.
5. Use a firewall. The best firewall is a hardware router – the kind you use to share an internet connection. Even if they’re not billed as firewalls, they are, and they’re quite effective. I also recommend turning on your operating system’s firewall – even if you have a router – but I don’t recommend third-party software firewalls. They cause more problems than they solve.
6. Never run as an administrator in any operating system. Administrators have way too many priveleges that malicious people/code can take advantage of. Run as a limited user as much as possible. Windows Vista, Linux, and Mac OSX allow you to run a majority of features, but with some additional safety, as a limited user.
...and from Microsoft, if you are paranoid... - (Click)

...and a video on security from Google... - (Click)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Google Cloud

  Google is not only by far the most universal search engine---it is the magic door to the internet “cloud” and its wonders.   None of the wonders costs us anything.

Gmail, first of all, is the EMail service most people nowadays use.   For seniors, it is important because it is the easiest to use:  See how here:

Once you have it, the Gmail login and password open up the magic door, though not all Google “apps” even require that.

The necessity of setting up the GMail account puts off some seniors who want to keep their old Email address.     The idea, though, is to go ahead and sign up and keep your old Email until ready to use GMail for its Email benefits.      Mail can be forwarded to Gmail without changing your old Email address!

Gmail searches your past Email and keeps it in folders.   Old mail is never lost.

When you do change to Gmail later, just  Email your new address from the old one in a single  group mailing to everybody and make sure your critical Email partners, such as your doctor, confirm it.     First, make sure that all your contacts are up to date.

What else does Google then do?

Even without GMail, the Google Chrome browser is now dominant.    The browser, remember, is your window to internet, like IE Explorer, but better.   Chrome offers voice searching of Google, and  Chrome also searches as you type and offers suggestions along the way to save typing.   If you need a microphone, they can be found on Amazon for as little as $5.

Chrome offers a simplified screen.   Bookmarks or favorites appear across the top of the screen for easy access to all favorite and commonly used sites.   Tabs also appear above them across the screen to make it easy to go back without losing your place.

Within Chrome, Google Voice can be added to make and receive phone calls in Gmail, also send and receive text messages. 
Though you need to wait in line for it, Google+ offers a more rational alternative to FaceBook.    It is growing quickly.

More basic, Google offers Picasa, the easiest photo organizer and editor.    When signed up, all photos are automatically organized.   Clicking on a photo makes touchup simple.    Picasa is known for its polish and simplicity.

A single click can send your photos for safekeeping on the web.   From there they are accessible with slide shows, anywhere, including HDTV sets with AppleTV, TIVO, etc.

As if the Picasa photo editor were not enough, Google also offers Piknik. a superb professional photo editor Google bought for the purpose.

If you are changing computers, Picasa Web is the place to put your photos during the changeover and also a safe place to keep a backup of them.

Another major Google app is the “cloud” word processor, Google Docs.    Documents are kept there safely and shared or accessed from anywhere, also important when changing computers or working from somewhere else than your home computer.    Documents can be kept in  MSWord format.     Spreadsheets may also be done, and presentations.    

Music is kept on Google Music beta, a new service and another place accessible everywhere, desirable when changing computers.

Google’s “Web Store” offers mostly free bookmarks and apps accessible from Chrome browser home screens, with icons for easy use.   Tiny bookmarklets can also be added to Chrome without taking much space.    One bookmarks hold all my “cloud items”.   One bookmark is to eHow website (for help in how to do things), and, another to YouTube (for “how to” videos and music).

Another bookmark holds a folder for all accounts such as doctors, finances, etc.  Still another, quick ways to send a web page, Gmail, or notes to Evernotes, my indexed and searchable notebook).  Others bring up CNN, Amazon, Google calendar.

Google calendar keeps your appointments for access when you need it, and for sharing with others such as on smartphones, where Google contacts from GMail may also be shared.

Google Reader sifts through media to assemble items of special interest in one place, up to date.   It also gives easy access to radio and video podcasts (recorded broadcasts).

Google Books brings up a place to search and read books directly on the webpage, online and onscreen, without further ado.   Kindle has just recently opened up a similar “cloud website”.    Google News brings news with one click.

How paid for?   You already paid for them in advertising for almost anything you buy.   For years advertising supported media, and it is no different with computer media.   Free.