Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't Throw that Hard Drive Out!

Let's say you are throwing out a computer. You throw it in the trash, and that's all, right? Not necessarily. What if someone trash picks it?

Let's say you instead sell that computer to someone. Did you wipe everything off the hard drive? And when I say "wipe it off", I don't mean "delete" - there are ways to recover information that isn't visible through Windows (or Macintosh, or Linux, for that matter).

How about your work computer? What happens to it when you are done with it? The company probably takes good care to protect any private information on there, right?

The state of Kansas (yes, the state government) sold some computers at a surplus auction that included lots of data that could be used for all sorts of evil purposes - credit card numbers, social security lists, and other materials.

I wonder if our IT department cleans our computers before they do the bi-annual surplus sale at the school? Hmmm...

Link to story

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cool Technology: Virtual Keyboards

Want to know what amazes me? (You're here, so I assume the answer is yes).

The rate at which technology changes. I spend a lot of time trying to keep up with everything and it's difficult for me. This will forever be remembered as "the summer of Office 2007", for example.

As a lot of what I do involves software training, I don't always have as much time to focus on computer hardware innovations. However, this is one I really would like to check out personally. A virtual keyboard. Really.

A virtual keyboard picture from

How does it work? It projects an image of a keyboard on to ANY flat surface, and you would then type directly on that flat surface. So, for example, you could plug this in to a Palm Pilot or something and have a full keyboard that just projects on to a flat surface, such as a table. For a business traveler, this is definitely a better option than carrying around a full keyboard.

Check the full description out!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hacking from the TV Studio

One of the issues with the Internet and email specifically is that when you have an electronic record of things, it becomes much easier to get access to that information and use it against someone.

This is the case recently in Philadelphia, where a male news anchor got access to his female co-anchor's email accounts and leaked negative information about her to the press.

Why does this remind me of the movie Anchorman all of a sudden?

So, in this case, there was proof enough to charge the male anchor with "intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization" - and he's lost his job as well.

The interesting part is that the female co-anchor was fired in December because she had a run-in or two with the law.

Suddenly I feel like our local news anchors are boring.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Awards Scams

Back in the mid 1990's, I ran a Web site that had some decent traffic. I used to get a lot of emails from people who wanted to give it awards. A lot of times, however, these people just wanted me to post a link to their Web site so they could steal some of my traffic.

The same thing still seems to be happening, not only with Web sites, but also with software. For example, this programmer created a program that did not run, and used a service to submit it to a bunch of software download sites. Can you believe 23 of them gave it a five star rating? Remember, this is a program that did not run or do anything!

Link to article

I suppose the part that scares me the most is how sites display banners that say "Hacker Proof", or programs display ads on their Web site that say 100% spyware free. Most home users do not know the difference between a McAfee certification and some no-name site that isn't worth anything.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

PRISM Handouts

I wanted to make this information more available to all my PRISM workshop attendees from the last two days by bringing this to the top (hi, all!).

Here are the handouts, slightly updated, available for viewing and download. Don't be shy, tell your friends!

PowerPoint 2003/2004 Tips & Tricks

Google Tips & Tricks

What not to do in PowerPoint (Archives)

I know I've posted this before, but it is something I am showing workshop participants and I wanted to make it available.

Don McMillan does a comedy routine about what not to do in PowerPoint. I had never heard of him, but I definitely am amused by this routine!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flash searches through Google

One of the problems with designing a full Web site in the program Adobe Flash is that, since it is an animation, Google and other search engines do not pick it up as text. Therefore, if you designed a well done Web site in Flash, Google would not find your Web site. If you are a business, you especially want people to visit your site, so this is a bad thing.

Adobe is teaming up with the search engines to help them to find this information now, much like information can be found in files such as PDF (also by Adobe), Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, etc.

Another side effect of this is that law enforcement may now be able to more easily find information in Flash files, which have long been a way people "hide" links on Web sites. Criminals beware!

Link to article

Thanks to Sue for the heads up!
PS: Sue - did you share this with Joe? I am sure he'd be interested.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Online To-Do List

Personally, I use Yahoo calendar to keep track of my "to do" list. However, there are a lot of limitations.

One of my friends swears by a free site called Remember the Milk. They will let you set up a calendar, but also do more advanced things like map directly to locations, and get reminders over cell phones, email, or instant messenger programs. It also works and directly synchronizes with Google, the iPhone, Blackberry devices, and Twitter.

If you are not all that organized, it might be worth trying out!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Good Deal Alert @ Staples: Week of 7/5/08

It's time to stock up for school already!

Staples has some excellent deals this week. The following items are one penny. Yes, 1 cent.
8 pack of pencils
2 pocket folders
Purell hand sanitizer

They also have nice folders for 25 cents and some highlighters free after rebate.

The 1 cent deals are only good until Wednesday 7/9/08.

link to ad

Good bye, Windows XP

In what will mark the beginning of the end of Windows XP, Microsoft stopped selling that version of their operating system as of July 1.

There are some loopholes here, but the main point is that Microsoft is going to stop the main PC manufacturers (Dell, HP, etc) from selling new machines with XP on them, as soon as their current inventory of machines with XP is gone. This is not a very popular decision, especially given how slowly the Windows Vista operating system has been deployed.

Of course, if your computer already has it, this really doesn't affect YOU, only people buying new PCs. Also keep in mind that XP will likely be available on sites such as Ebay for a long time.

Of course, Microsoft's argument is that as they phase XP out, they can now afford to focus more on the Windows Vista user base, and therefore will be able to better support everyone.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


When I think about computer output, there are a few things I think of - printing something, viewing something, and listening on speakers.

A Japanese company is testing a smell download protocol that would allow cell phones to download smells.

I can already see what fun hackers are going to have with this!

Link to Article

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How the Mayans did math

Education is always a very interesting topic to me, of course. Why do we learn things the way we do? Because that's how people in the generation before us learned them, in general. Sometimes you wonder, how were things done way back?

For example, how was math taught many years ago? Here's how the Mayans did it. It's really interesting and I am still trying to wrap my head around it at the moment.

Thanks to Catalina for the heads up!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Porn and the Military

A correspondent for the Washington Post is reporting that there is a growing problem in Iraq - soldiers purchase DVD movies ... um, of adult nature ... from local markets (souks), and many times get a little extra, in the form of a virus or some other software with bad intentions bundled in there.

Although I got a little chuckle out of this, this could present a legitimately serious security risk for the military in Iraq, especially if these viruses get on to secure computers.

Read on...