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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Computer Basics: How To Get better At Computers Without Learning a Thing

I've been giving people computer help for a long time now – over thirteen years as a professional, and for years before that, I was the "computer genius" (their words, not mine) everybody came to when they got stuck.

I've been paying attention to all those people over the years, and I've noticed something; for most people, the biggest problem they have with computers is actually very simple, and it's something they have total control over – their mental attitude.

I consider myself really lucky because I was born at a unique time. I'm just old enough to not only remember the first home computers, but also remember clearly what it was like before anyone had one in their home.

I think I was around ten years old when I first sat down in front of a computer. The first thing I thought was how cool it was, and how much fun I was going to have using it.

I dove right in and started played around with it, just seeing what I could do, and I wasn't intimidated by the fact that I didn't yet understand computer basics.

Back then, I only had a couple of friends with computers (it was still rare in the 80s) – they must have gotten really tired of the way I hogged their computer for hours at a time, every time I came over!

Finally, a few years later, my parents bought me my own computer, and I sat down and taught myself the basics of how to use it.

Now it's really common with people even just a few years older than me to think that they'll never be any good at computers because they didn't grow up with them. They think because they didn't get to learn computer basics as a kid, that it's hopeless.

Even people my age feel that way a lot!

I happened to be lucky enough to go to a junior high school that had two computers (which was a lot at the time!), and was lucky enough to have a couple of friends who owned them too. So I got exposed to them earlier than a lot of people my age.

But think about it: I was I born with some natural talent at computers?

No, of course not.

I didn't know a thing about them back then. And you know what? I made a lot of mistakes when I first learned to use them!

But I learned from those mistakes.

I've thought about this a lot over the years, and really, I think the biggest single advantage I ever had, was that I was able to really imagine all the ways I could have fun using the computer – and because I was just playing around with it, because I was enjoying the process of learning, it made it easy.

I bet there's something in your life you really enjoy a lot. Could be football, basketball, or some other sport; it could be restoring vintage cars, cooking, or collecting stamps.

It could be any of a hundred other things – the number of things people are passionate about is just as many as there are people.

But chances are, there's at least one thing in your life that you get really excited about, and really enjoy. And whatever it is, I bet you know a lot about it, and probably could talk about it for hours.

And I bet you never thought learning about this was something hard or intimidating. And in fact, you probably think it's pretty easy, and fun!

Just imagine for a minute what it'd be like to feel the same way about using a computer.

I know some of you reading this are thinking "yeah, right." But understand, I'm not asking you if you could suddenly find the computer easy. I'm just asking you to just *imagine* what it'd be like if computers were fun and easy for you.

Just pretend.

Because one of the most important things you can learn, that will really help learn computer basics, and even master your computer, is not memorizing technical computer terms like what the difference is between memory and a hard drive (although if you don't know this, you can find a plain English explanation in the computer basics articles section of my web site) or anything else like that.

One of the biggest things you can do to help yourself get better at computers is to simply change the way you feel about them.

And that can be just as easy as using your imagination, and pretending you already find them easy, and that they're fun to use.

Because when you can learn to experience even just a little of what you feel when you're enjoying your favorite hobby, you'll be surprised how much easier it is to skyrocket your computer skills.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Friday, February 15, 2008

Computer Worm & Virus: A Definition and Important Information To Understand

It seems these days you can't go more than a week or two at most without hearing about a new worm or virus spreading on the internet. While you probably have a general idea what they are, you may wonder where they come from and what the difference between a virus and a worm is.

Both viruses and worms are very similar, for the most part. They are malicious pieces of software which cause a variety of problems for computer users including: causing your computer to constantly restart so it's impossible to use, emailing your personal documents to strangers, erasing your documents or your entire hard drive, or even using your computer to send spam.

The main difference between a virus and a worm is that a virus requires a person to run it for it to cause problems, while a worm spreads and causes damage without human intervention. So in other words, for your computer to be infected by a virus, you generally need to do something, like open and run an attachment to an email, while with worms your computer can be infected even if you don't do a thing.

Many viruses and worms take advantage of the frequent security holes discovered in many Microsoft programs and operating systems (Windows). Microsoft regularly releases patches to fix these holes, but many users don't know about them or don't know how to apply the patches, which leaves them vulnerable, and the patches can take weeks or months to come out.

For example, in 2003 a group of people discovered a vulnerability in Windows which worked as follows: one computer would send a special request to a second computer over and over and over, thousands of times in a second. Now the second computer was supposed to ignore those requests because they weren't coming from an authorized computer.

However, due to a bug (or programming error) in some versions of Windows, if enough requests happened fast enough, the second computer would essentially throw its hands up in the air and say "whatever you say next, I'll do!" and whatever instruction that computer was given next, it did it.

So all someone had to do was write a worm which would make those thousands of requests, the vulnerable computer would say "tell me what to do" and the worm would say "install me," and the infected computer would go on and do it to the next computer, which would do it to the next one, over and over and over, causing the worm to cascade accross the world, infecting thousands of computers in minutes.

Microsoft, recognizing the problem, created a software "patch" which sealed the security hole. A month after the patch was released, someone created and released the MSBlaster worm. Because millions of Windows users hadn't installed the patch, their computers got infected, and suddenly they found they couldn't use their PCs for more than five minutes without the machine restarting.

People who used Macintosh computers, and other computers not running Windows had a natural immunity to this and most other worms and viruses. There are well over 100,000 known viruses and worms for Windows, and fewer than 70 (yes, only seventy) for Macintosh, by comparison. In fact, those Mac viruses only affect very old Macs, and there is just one virus that runs on current Macintosh computers (ones running OS X) and that virus isn't considered a real threat because of the built-in security of OS X.

If you run Windows, as you must realize by now, it is absolutely essential for you to keep your computer patched with the latest security patches as soon as they come out -- although to be fair, Macintosh users should also install any security patches for their OS, for just because there aren't any viruses for OS X, it doesn't mean it's impossible for one to be written!

Beyond that, it is an incredibly bad idea to run a computer without having current, up-to-date antivirus program such as Norton Antivirus installed and running on the computer. When I say current and up-to-date, I mean that there is essentially a list of viruses that gets updated as often as every day. If your computer's antivirus software doesn't have the current list, it can't protect you against viruses and worms. So if you have a three year old copy of McAffee antivirus, you are not safe.

Even if you have a 1 month out of date copy, you're still not safe!

Then there's the question of whether you're even using the right antivirus program in the first place! In 2006, tests revealed that the top three most popular antivirus programs -- Norton, McAfee, and Trend Micro, had a staggering 80% failure rate at detecting the latest threats!

It seems that the virus and worm writers are using those three programs to check to see if the programs find the new virus. If the programs detect it, the virus writer keeps working on the virus until it gets through undetected. And then he releases it "into the wild," where it infects all the PCs using those three programs.

The best option right now seems to be a program called Kaspersky, which consistently ranks as the best antivirus program to use, with a success rate of 99.6% at protecting your computer!

Protecting your computer from viruses, worms, and the many other threats can seem complicated and time consuming to a lot of people. But don't make the mistake of ignoring the problem; protect yourself, or you could end up regretting it.

If you need a little help, take a look at my Safe and Easy Web & Email CDs that come as part of the bundle of CDs I have for Windows computers. They lay it all out, step by step, so you can easily protect yourself and avoid problems.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Computer Maintenance Tips To Avoid Problems

Computers can develop problems for a variety of reasons, and it can sometimes be hard to isolate the cause.

Problems come in two general types: hardware and software. Hardware refers to a physical part of your computer, including the keyboard, the hard drive, and the motherboard. Software refers to programs and documents stored on your computer, including the operating system (such as Windows or the Mac OS), Microsoft Word documents, images, etc.

Software problems can be caused by a variety of things, including a hard drive that is beginning to fail, power fluctuations that happen while files are being saved, viruses, or from not shutting your computer down properly.

Hardware problems can’t be caused by software; they tend to happen over time, or because of something like power fluctuations, or excessive heat or moisture. It’s essential to protect your machine with a surge suppressor, or better yet, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

A surge suppressor protects your computer and peripherals from a sudden surge in electricity, sometimes caused by an electrical storm, or because of fluctuations in voltage from the power grid.

These power surges can come through either your power or your phone outlets, so if you have your computer connected to the phone line (if you use dial-up internet access for example), any surge suppressor you use should protect both power and phone lines. There are also surge suppressors which protect your cable line instead of the phone line, for those who use cable internet access like Time Warner's RoadRunner.

If you live on the Big Island of Hawaii like I do, you know we experience a lot of brownouts, and even complete blackouts are common in a lot of areas.

While a surge suppressor is a must-have no matter where you live, it's better to use a UPS (which stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply, and has nothing to do with the shipping company) to protect your computer if you live in a place with unstable power like we have here.

A UPS contains both a surge suppressor and a large backup battery that immediately takes over if the power level drops. This protects the computer from the damage done by brownouts and can even keep your computer running for up to 20 minutes if the power goes out completely, allowing you to save your work and shut down safely.

This 20 minutes can make the difference between losing hours, days, or even months of work (if the computer turns off while you're working on a project, you can lose not just what you're working on now, but everything in the file).

If you live near the ocean or in a very humid area, rust and corrosion are a very big problem; keeping your computer in an air conditioned room will help.

Regardless of where you live and whether or not you have a surge suppressor or UPS, you should make regular backups of your important files onto disks that aren't damaged by moisture, such as CDs and DVDs.

Floppy disks and Zip disks, on the other hand, are both made of similar materials to videotapes, all of which can be ruined by mold. If you have important files on floppy or Zip disk, you should look into transferring the files to CD or DVD.

In the mean time, keeping the disks in a sealed tupperware container with desiccant packs (the same stuff that comes in vitamin bottles) can help keep them working longer.

Symptoms of a sick computer can range from occasional crashes or slow operation, to a computer that won’t turn on. The thing is, a hardware problem can start out very minor, but can get worse over time.

A common mistake people make is ignoring or overlooking problems until they get too big to fix — in the case of a bad hard drive, this can mean you can lose all of your files. This is why it’s so crucial to back your files up regularly.

Don't make the mistake so many people do: make a habit of backing up regularly before you lose important files. So many people learn the hard way; I hate having to tell people that all of their many hours of work are completely lost.

I know what it's like to lose files, too -- I'm not just a computer guy, I'm also a writer. Most of my early writing is lost forever because I didn't back up my first computer many years ago (hey, everybody was a rookie once!).

Don't let this happen to you with the valuable pictures, music, letters, emails, schoolwork, customer files, or whatever other irreplaceable files you may have on your computer.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Friday, January 25, 2008

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 4

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 4

In this article I'll continue with tip #7, which really is two good tips in one:

Internet Safety Tip #7) Use a strong password, and don't use the same one for everything

This is classic blunder I see people making over and over again: they use a really simple password, and they use the same password for everything.

Passwords are like keys: they unlock your email, your bank account, your computers' files, etc. just the same way a key unlocks your post office box, your home, etc.

Would you use the same key to lock your home, your car, your post office box, a safety deposit box, and everything else you need to lock up to keep safe or private? I would hope not.

Yet this is exactly what people do every day with their passwords. Don't make this mistake yourself, because obviously, if someone gets just one of your passwords, they have the key to your entire electronic life -- which can be a lot these days!

The other part of this is choosing *strong* passwords.

What do I mean by that?

A weak password is a regular word that can be found in the dictionary, your name, your phone number, your child or pet's name, and so on.

I remember one time about 11 or 12 years ago I was working on a laptop at the computer store where I worked.

I turned it on, and the owner had wisely set a password that made it impossible to even start the computer up without it.

I turned the laptop on and was surprised to find a screen with the owner's name and address printed on it (so it could be returned if lost) and right below this I was supposed to type in a password.

I was surprised because password locking your computer wasn't very common back then, and the owner hadn't bothered to tell me that there was a password on the computer when she brought it in, so I figured I was going to have to call her up and maybe play phone tag to try to get the password.

On a hunch, I typed in the first thing that came to mind -- her name, which as you recall, was printed right there on the screen.

Guess what? I got right in. My very first guess, and I had complete access to her computer!

Of course, I'm honest and was trying to help her with her computer, so no harm done in this case, but I hope you can see how it could've been a big problem for her if her laptop had been stolen and someone wanted to steal her personal information off it.

A strong password is nothing like a regular word; it should be at *least* six "characters" long, and should be not just letters but a mix of letters and numbers. And even better, it should have other symbols mixed in, and should be a mix of capital and lower case letters.

So "1ye6Ab9uua4b" is a very strong password, while "janet" is not.

Now if you're thinking "well, who would try to guess my password? Why would they target me?" then you're making another common mistake.

These days, computer attacks aren't (usually) targeted -- criminals use computer programs, sometimes running on dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of computers under their control to try to break into thousands or even tens of thousands of computers or more, all at the same time.

Imagine a burglar who could make a thousand copies of himself and try to break into every house in a town at once. All it needs is one unlocked door or one with a flimsy lock (bad password) and it's all over for the victim.

So protect yourself at home and on the Internet with a strong password, and use a different one for everything.

If you have to, keep a cheat sheet with your passwords, but don't leave it taped to your monitor or "hidden" under the keyboard, especially if people can get into the room where the computer is.

Now these tips go beyond the Internet, really, since it's now common to have passwords for our computers (although most people make the mistake of never setting a password for their computer in the first place!)

I go into the importance of a password on my "5 Common and Costly Computer Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them Yourself" CD which comes free as one of the amazing ** 10 free bonus CDs ** (an $885.41 value) that I throw in for FREE when you order my easy video computer training CDs off my website right now.

Another one of the CDs you'll get shows you step-by-step how to add a password to your computer to keep your privacy and important files safe. You'd be surprised how many computers I see get messed up by guests just trying to be "helpful", let alone what could happen if someone was trying to snoop around on purpose.

Protect yourself, learn computer basics, and make the computer easier and more fun at the same time by ordering my easy lesson CDs before the price goes up in early February.

You can do this by going to my website. Just click on to

http://www.worthgodwin.com/windows-computer-how-to-training/

If you have a Windows PC (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.).
Or Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/apple-mac-os-x-how-to-training/


I'll continue with more of the 10 tips about how to use the Internet safely in a separate article.

until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, you'll get 8 easy CDs, plus another TEN (10) free bonus CDs if you go and place an order right now. And the price goes up soon!

The links to my site again are...

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/windows-computer-how-to-training/

or Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/apple-mac-os-x-how-to-training/

Labels: , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 3

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 3

This article continues my list of 10 good tips about how to use the Internet safely.

In the previous article, I talked about the importance of having a good firewall installed, as well as the right antivirus program (and to make sure that it's "activated" and actually protecting your computer).

So let's go on to the next item in our list:


Tip #5) Don't install software at random, especially if it's advertised in a pop-up ad

This is an important one.

It's a pretty common experience for people to be browsing around when a window pops up out of nowhere inviting you to install a piece of software. You might also see a similar ad that appears as a banner on a webpage.

There are a lot of variations, but the general gist is that they try to entice you into downloading and installing some program that you really shouldn't be installing.

One very common way of doing this is by either immediately warning you that your computer is infected with something, or by asking you if you want a free scan, and then saying the computer is infected.

Either way, they try to dupe you into installing software. The software you install is usually some form of "malware" (a general term that includes malicious software like spyware and adware) designed to steal information off your computer, or to hijack your computer in some way.

In other cases it may not infect your computer per se, but it claims the computer is infected and says the only way to clean it up is by paying for the program.

This used to be something that was only a worry for Windows users, but as I was writing this I learned that people have just started seeing similar popup ads for a program called MacSweeper, which works just like the programs I just described.

This would make the very first program like this for the Mac, and unfortunately, I'm sure it won't be the last.

So generally distrust anything that tries to get you to install a program, especially if it's in a popup ad, or any ad on a "questionable" site such as adult sites, sites for downloading movies or music illegally, etc.

If you see something that seems like it might be legit, remember you can always type in the exact name into Google or another search engine and see what the results are. Chances are, if it's a shady program, you'll see lots of pages warning you about it!


Tip #6) Use a router, don't just connect directly to cable or DSL

This one's pretty simple. If you're on a "broadband" (fast) connection to the Internet, like DSL or cable, then you should avoid plugging your computer directly into the cable modem or DSL modem.

Instead, you want to get a router.

A router is a device that is designed to plug into your Internet connection and share it among one or more computers. A variety of companies make them, including Apple, Netgear, and Linksys.

If you're concerned about wireless security and one of your neighbors or someone parked on the street trying to get into your computer, you can always buy a non-wireless router.

The reason it's a good idea to get a router is because all routers contain a hardware firewall (as opposed to the software firewall I mentioned in the previous article in this series).

This adds an extra layer of protection between your computer and the Internet, which keeps it safer.

If you do get one of the wireless routers, which are more common these days, then do make sure you turn on the wireless security -- without it, anyone within range can use your Internet connection and often can even get into your files!

Most routers these days come with software that helps you turn on this security, but if you need to, get help from someone who knows what they're doing to set it up right.

If you're on the Big Island, feel free to contact me and set up an appointment for me to come out and set yours up for you and give your computer a checkup to make sure you're safe.
I'll continue with more of the 10 tips about how to use the Internet safely in a separate article.

until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. As you may know, I've put together a special package of *18* of my easy lesson CDs -- with a value of over $1,593.74! -- for a very low price that will be going up soon.

This bundle of CDs is absolutely the easiest and most affordable way to learn to make your computer safer and easier, and to help you feel more confident and natural using your Apple Mac or Windows PC.

Just go now to one of the following addresses, depending on whether you use a Apple Mac or a Windows PC.

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/windows-computer-how-to-training/

or Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/apple-mac-os-x-how-to-training/

Labels: , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

10 good tips about how to use the internet safely

10 good tips about how to use the internet safely - Part 1

In this article I want to go over the first of 10 good tips for how to use the Internet safely -- there's a lot to cover, so I'm going to break it up into multiple articles.

Before I go on, let me just clarify that the Internet includes *both* web pages, and email, as well as other things such as instant messaging (chat programs like iChat, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, etc.) and so on.

Many people think the Internet just means web pages, so I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page (excuse the pun) before I went on and gave you these 10 good tips about how to use the Internet safely.

These tips are not meant to cover every possible Internet safety & security tip, but they cover a lot of the most important things.

You'll find that if you have my special report audio CD "5 Common & Costly Computer Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them Yourself" that there is some overlap between this article and the important information on that CD, but I've found that not only is it helpful to repeat important information, but you always get more out of it the more ways you learn it: i.e. reading it, vs. hearing it, vs. watching it.

So here are the first few of 10 good tips about how to use the Internet safely:

Tip #1) Use the right web browser.

This is a huge blunder that unfortunately most people are still making! A web browser is, of course, the program you use to view web pages. Examples include Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple's Safari.

The vast majority of people out there are using Internet Explorer (the blue 'E' icon) to go to web sites. This is a very bad idea!

Microsoft is the same company that makes Windows, and they include Internet Explorer with every copy of Windows -- this is the reason most people use Internet Explorer, NOT because it's the best option.

One of the single best things you can do to increase your Internet security if you use Windows is to stop using Internet Explorer -- go to Mozilla.com and download their free web browser Firefox.

No program is perfect, and it doesn't guarantee your Internet safety, but it is a big help. Internet Explorer is full of bugs and security holes that can make it possible to get your computer infected just by visiting a website!

Mac users should also stop using Internet Explorer if they're still using it, but this is more to do with the fact that IE hasn't been updated for the Mac for several years, and so it just doesn't work with a lot of modern web pages anymore.

If you have an Apple Mac, then either use Safari (which comes on all Macs made in the last few years) or if you have an older Mac and can't get Safari, you should download Mozilla Firefox for Mac from Mozilla.com (it's free).


Tip #2) Install security patches & updates

This is a very important one which, fortunately, happens pretty automatically on most computers made in the last few years.

If you use Windows, the security updates or "patches" (think patching a hole in a program like patching a tire to fix it) come as "Windows Updates" which on most PCs running Windows XP or Windows Vista, get downloaded and installed automatically these days.

You may see a little "word bubble" like a word bubble in a cartoon or comic book pop up from the system tray (the group of icons to the left of the clock on the bottom of your computer screen) from time to time on your computer that says updates are available to install.

You should make sure to install these right away when they come out. These updates (at least the security ones) are being released because there is a specific threat to your computer which needs to be taken care of.

Click the bubble and follow the prompts to install the updates, then restart the computer when it asks you to.

If you have an Apple Mac, then these security updates are called "Software Updates". Most Macs are set up to automatically check for new updates every week or so, and then it prompts you to install them if they're available.

Unfortunately, many people don't bother, or they have their computer set up so it doesn't check for them. Don't do this!

When there's an update, you should install them to better protect your computer. Just click through the prompts, and enter your computer's password when it asks, then restart when it says to.

If you don't see a window appear every so often that's called Software Update, then you can check for them manually by going to the Apple menu and clicking "Software Update..."

This is getting kind of long, so I'll continue with more of the 10 tips about how to use the Internet safely in separate articles I'll post later.

And by the way, I realize that reading something is not as easy as seeing it done, which is one of the ideas behind my easy video computer training CDs.

If you'd like to *see* step-by-step how to protect yourself by doing the things I talk about in this article, plus get dozens and dozens of more quick, easy lessons that make your computer safer and easier to use, then you might want to click one of the links below to find out more...

All you have to do is click one of the following links, depending on whether you use a Apple Mac or a Windows PC.

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

until next time, enjoy,
Worth Godwin

P.S. Those links again are:

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

Labels: , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Study reveals more than half of computer users who think they are protected against online threats are dead wrong

Back in December, Verizon published a study they'd had done, surveying how protected people thought they were on the Internet, versus how well protected they actually were.

The results were disturbing -- it seems 92% of people thought they were safe, but in fact, 59% were actually vulnerable to a variety of threats!

Now understand something -- a lot of people have a very narrow view of "safe" and "not safe" and tend to think that if they don't order stuff online, that they're OK no matter what.

This is not the case.

First off, ordering from a reputable website is not really very risky in itself -- in fact, there's a very valid argument for the idea that it's actually a lot *safer* than ordering from an 800 number, or handing your credit card over to a server at a restaurant!

Why is that? Well, in the examples of a restaurant or an 800 number, you're usually giving your credit card number over to someone you don't know, who could easily write the number down and use it for themselves.

I've also heard of more than one case where someone working at a restaurant used their cell phone camera to take a quick picture of the front of a card to steal the number!

But of course, when you're ordering from a website, in most cases no person ever even *sees* your credit card number, and I've never heard of a greedy or dishonest machine.

So the risks they were talking about in the study really have very little to do with ordering stuff off the Web.

One of the biggest problems reported in the study is that a *lot* of people either have no antivirus software on their computer, or it's there, but no longer working.

You see, many computers come with a "trial version" of a program that works for 3 months, then if you don't pay to activate it, it stops protecting you. Or people buy the protection once, then it runs out after a year, and again they're not protected.

If you've listened to my special report audio CD "5 Common & Costly Computer Mistakes and How To Avoid Making Them Yourself" then you know all about this.

If you don't have this CD, it comes for free as one of the *eight free bonus easy computer lesson CDs* you can get for just the price of a single visit from a consultant (but only if you take advantage of my special offer before the end of January 5th).

What you also know if you've listened to my "5 Mistakes" special report, which they didn't even mention in this study, is that the antivirus programs most people are using have an up to 80% *failure rate* at detecting and removing the latest viruses and worms!

So even if you *do* have current antivirus software (such as McAfee, Trend Micro, or Norton) then you're *not* really that well protected from viruses and worms!

Again, if you've listened to my "5 Mistakes" special report, you know this, and know I recommend a very good program called Kaspersky to use instead.

Now Mac users have a lot less to worry about, at least at this point, when it comes to threats like viruses and worms, but there are still a lot of potential threats out there that can affect your computer, your privacy, and your security if you don't know about them no matter whether you use one of Apple's Macs, or a Windows PC.

A few of the ways your computer might not be as secure as it should be include:
- not having your computer (Apple Mac or Windows PC) firewall program turned on (not to mention using the *right* firewall program),
- not getting your security updates done
- not backing up your computer correctly
- having your account settings wrong
- and a lot more than I can cover in this email, or in a dozen more like it

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well if that's true, then a video (movie) is worth a million. That's why I created my easy video computer training CDs -- with the video lessons, I can *show* you the steps and make it easy to follow in a way that's just not possible by email or in a book!

As you might know, I'm running a special for the next few days to celebrate the New Year (not to mention the anniversary of my computer lesson CDs, which I started a second business and began developing 2 years ago this month)

If you want to easily make your computer safer and easier to use, then you really should stop by my website and at least see what I'm offering here.

And remember, like all of my CDs, they come with a full 1-year, 12 month, 365 day no-hassle money back guarantee: return them any time in that year for a full refund. You sure won't get that if you hire a consultant!

All you have to do is go to one of the following addresses, depending on whether you use a Apple Mac or a Windows PC.

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

before the price goes back up!

You'll be glad you did.

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, this special price and special package of CDs are only available to get so much for so little for a couple more days!

P.P.S. Those addresses again are:

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Monday, December 31, 2007

How to choose when buying a computer - is asking "what is the most popular computer" the right question?

How to choose when buying a computer - is asking "what is the most popular computer" the right question?

(Note: this article was written and sent out to subscribers to my free computer lessons email newsletter on December 12th, 2007)

Around this time of year, it's common for people to be looking into buying a new computer as a gift or to replace the aging one they're using.

I thought I'd write an article to give a few tips on how to chose when buying a computer.

First off, I've found that a lot of people start thinking about this by asking "what is the most popular computer?" and letting the answer to that decide the question for them. Well, this isn't necessarily the best idea.

Just because something is popular doesn't necessarily mean it's the best -- for example, fast food restaurants are popular places to go, but I think we all know they don't serve the best food in the world.

Here's the thing to remember when thinking about how to chose when buying a computer -- you should generally avoid the big brand names.

Yes, this might surprise you, but in my opinion, it's usually not a good idea to buy from one of the big brand name companies (there's one exception that I'll get to in a minute).

Here's why: dollar for dollar, you're generally going to get a worse deal than if you go with a reputable "generic" or "white box" store.

A lot of people have low price as the first thing on their list when they're trying to figure out how to chose when buying a computer. So they go with a cheap brand name and spend a few hundred dollars on it, and they think they're getting a good deal.

But what they don't realize is that it's common for a lot of the big brand companies to sell very out-of-date computers in their lower price ranges, and from what I've heard, they also often sell computers with parts they know are bad!

I'm not kidding about this -- most of the big computer companies out there, when they sell their least expensive computers, are trying to unload old inventory that's been collecting dust on their shelves for a long time.

They sell it to you as if it's new, and maybe it is in the sense of never purchased before, but it's hardly new in terms of the technology.

And the more disturbing part of this is that from what I've heard, those computers often have parts in them that are *known* to be bad parts!

You see, when a chip manufacturer like Intel makes a computer processor (the "brain" of the computer), they test it to make sure it works.

Makes sense, right?

But inevitably, many of them fail these tests. Now you'd think these bad parts would be thrown away, but no -- from what I've heard, what happens is they still sell them to the big computer companies at a discount, and those companies put them into their computers anyway.

What you can do with a bad processor a lot of the time is set it to run slower, and while it may not be running at full speed, it works well enough to pass the tests.

But the parts are still bad! Sure, they may work OK for a while (maybe just long enough to make it through the warranty period) but they have more little "glitches" and end up breaking down sooner.

So if you can find a reputable local company that sells computers they assemble themselves, you'll get a well built computer for a lot less because you're not paying for the brand name.

I can't help you find a local store like that everywhere, but those of you reading this who live here on the Big Island of Hawaii can go to Falcon Computers in Kona or Falcon Computers in Waimea.

A family-owned store like that is the only place I'd buy a Windows PC, personally.

So earlier I mentioned there was an exception among the big brand names -- if you've been reading my newsletter for a while, or know me, you might have already guessed which one it is -- Apple.

Apple is the only big brand name computer I personally would buy (I'm writing this on a MacBook Pro). I do this partially because I've used a lot of different types of computers over the years, and really don't enjoy using Windows much.

But I also do this because Apple doesn't deliberately put bad processors in their computers, or try to sell out-of-date computers as new. Some people complain that Apple's Macs are overpriced, but that's actually not the case -- when compared apples to apples (excuse the pun) they tend to be in the same price range as a Dell or HP of the same general specs.

So bottom line is, here's how to chose when you're buying a computer: if you want to stick with Windows, then support a local business and go to a good store that puts your computer together for you from parts.

And make sure you ask them to put Windows XP on it, not Windows Vista (for reasons I've covered in a previous 3-part article about the problems with Windows Vista).

Or get away from Windows and switch to a Mac.

Either way, you're getting a better deal.

Hope that makes sense and helps with your decisions on how to chose when buying a computer.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. And if you're looking to learn to use your computer -- new or old -- you should take a look at my easy video computer lessons for Apple Mac or for Windows. They come on CD, are quick and easy to use, and come with a full 1-year iron-clad money back guarantee.

More information is available by clicking one of the following links:

If you have an Apple Mac computer (iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) then click this link to get easy Mac lessons

or if you have a Windows PC, then click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Computer Security Tip: Is Your Computer A Zombie?

A virus with more power than all of the greatest supercomputers in the world put together, and it could be on your computer now

Here's a scary thought.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about the "Storm Worm" that has been flooding everybody's inboxes with fake "ecard" and "greeting card" messages that try to lure you to a malicious website so it can infect your computer.

Well the problem is far worse than I ever imagined.

According to recent reports, the Storm Worm is currently infecting as many as TEN MILLION computers around the world.

These computers are infected so that they can be slaved together into what is called a "zombie net". If this makes you picture a scene from a horror movie, with thousands of the living dead shuffling after a helpless victim, in a way, you're not far off.

Zombie nets, also known as "botnets" are computers just like any other, but they've been infected with a virus that makes the computers remote controlled by some unknown person or group of people.

In most cases, these zombies can be infected without the computer's user having any idea it's happening, and the computer can remain infected for weeks or months!

And yes, if you are using Windows, it's very possible your computer could be infected right now and you'd have no idea.

If you're using a Mac (Apple), since there are currently NO worms or viruses that infect the Mac OS, you're safe. But you should keep reading because I'm about to reveal a tip that can help protect you in the future if there ever is a virus or worm for Mac.

The tip I'm going to share in a moment also can help protect Windows AND Mac users from common scam emails like phishing scams.

So these Zombie Nets are used by criminals to launch attacks on web sites, steal information, and other criminal activity.

So yes, that means that if your PC is infected, you are (in a way) aiding in committing crimes. Fortunately, you're not going to be arrested, but you should do what you can to protect yourself anyway.

The more we fight back against these criminals, the safer we all are!

The way it stands, whoever is behind the Storm Worm -- and authorities don't know who it is, or if they do, they're not letting on -- has a vast army of computers at their command. The army is so powerful, that as I mentioned before, they can out-think the world's greatest supercomputers!

The way that the Storm Worm emails try to trick you into infecting your computer keeps changing -- they're doing this to make it hard for people like me to tip you off and protect you.

The most recent ways they've been luring people in is by claiming that there is a video of you on YouTube.com, or by sending out fake "registration details" emails.

The registration details welcome you as a new member of a service you've never heard of or signed up for, and want you to log in and update your login information.

This is very similar to the common "phishing scams" which try to trick you into giving away personal information through fake emails from places like eBay, PayPal, or others. The only difference is they're trying to get a program (virus or worm) onto your computer instead of getting you to type in personal information like passwords or social security numbers.

Here's a tip to recognize most or all of these scam emails and Storm Worm emails.

Take a look at the bottom edge of the window you're reading this article in (this should work for those of you reading this in a regular email program or if you're reading it on a web page). You should see an area (probably just a solid color with no information in it right now) called the "status bar".

If the window just stops with no bottom border a few millimeters tall, then look in the View menu above and look for a menu option called status bar. If it's not checked, click on it to activate the status bar. If you accidentally turn it off, just go back to the View menu and click the option again.

Now that it's turned on (if it wasn't already) take a look at it again and put your mouse pointer over the following link:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/

You should see the address http://www.worthgodwin.com/
appear on the status bar. It matches what the address above says, because this is a legitimate email.

(Note: if you're a Mac user running the Mac OS X Mail program -- the one with the postage stamp icon -- then this may not show up on a status bar, but a little "tool tip" that appears hovering over the link itself)

A scam email or Storm Worm email would normally show a weird address on the status bar that just has numbers in it, like 27.98.143.21 or something like that. Numbers separated by dots.

When you see something like that, where the status bar shows just a bunch of numbers instead of a real address, 99% of the time you should avoid clicking on the link.

until next time, stay safe, have fun, and enjoy,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why you're taking a gamble when you ignore error messages and odd computer behavior

A lot of people take big risks with their computers without even knowing it every day.

In a sense they're playing with fire.

Let me give you some advice that I hope you take to heart: if you start getting unusual error messages on your computer, don't ignore them.

Especially pay attention if you keep getting them frequently or regularly.

Also pay attention to other unusual behavior, like it shutting off or restarting suddenly, or odd noises -- especially clicking or ticking types of noises coming from inside the computer.

Let me tell you a story about a client of mine -- a vet office here on the island -- who made this mistake.

They'd been a client of mine for a couple of years or more, and a while ago I'd set them up with a system (the same one I recommend on my "5 Computer Mistakes" CD that you can get for free from my web site or as part of my soon-to-expire $27 deal) to back up their computer.

They were backing up regularly, just like I tell people to, so you'd think they'd be protected. But unfortunately they ignored a problem to the point where it even defeated the backup system I'd set up for them.

They kept getting weird error messages when they opened certain programs. It happened every single time, for weeks on end, but they never let me know about it or did anything about it at all.

Eventually, it got worse, and they finally called me up and one Monday I drove up to help them out, not realizing the full extent of the problem over the phone.

I ended up spending three hours up there working on it, ran out of time, and had to leave with the system -- one that was absolutely critical to their business -- "mostly" working. Which was the best I could do because of how bad the problem had gotten and because I'd run out of time.

So I went back on Thursday, the next time I was able to open up in my schedule.

I ended up there for another SIX hours, plus my travel time.

It basically took TWELVE HOURS -- at $75 an hour -- to get everything completely cleaned up.

And even though I hate laying blame, I had to tell them it was pretty much their fault because they'd ignored the problem for so long -- the problem was a bad hard drive that corrupted many files, plus several side issues that weren't directly related to the bad hard drive.

You see, if hadn't ignored the error messages they were getting, and had gotten their system looked at right away, the files wouldn't have been corrupted.

If they'd gotten their system looked at fairly quickly -- even not right away -- they wouldn't have backed up all of their files, including the corrupted ones, onto their backup hard drive, destroying all the good copies that were there.

If I had been able to go and look at the computer and use a good backup copy to "restore" from, I would've been there about an hour or an hour and a half or so, and then they would've been all set.

So if your computer is acting up, giving you weird error messages, running really slowly -- and it happened suddenly, or it gradually started to happen, get it looked at before it's too late.

It's a gamble you don't want to take.

until next time,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Something that's *not* a gamble is taking advantage of my offer to get $525.00 worth of easy computer lessons for just $27... if you act right away.

It's not a gamble because I've put a year and a half of hard work (plus over a dozen years' teaching experience) into making my system really work, and really easy. And I've backed it up with a full one-year guarantee, so you can only win if you grab it before the price goes up.

I'm also going to be including lessons in my Gold Club monthly CDs (2 months, or 4 Gold Club CDs are included in the $27) that make it easy for you to "troubleshoot" common problems. So you can avoid sitting forever on hold to find out it was something you could've fixed in 5 minutes if you'd known how, or know if it really is time to take the computer into the shop for a repair.

So go and read more, check out the testimonials, see all the details of what you'll get by going now to:

www.WorthGodwin.com

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What A Firewall is and Why You Must Use One

As you may know, a firewall is a protective barrier for your computer, which acts to shield it from threats on your local network and the internet. It's kind of like a security system for your house. Where I live in Hawaii, many of us leave our doors unlocked all the time, and never have a problem.

Unfortunately this is a really bad idea on the internet – when your computer is online (which if you have high speed internet like DSL or cable, is all the time) it's as if the entire world is next door to your "house," so unfortunately you have to act as if your neighbors are all criminals, since someone in Nigeria can get to your computer just as easily as someone in Captain Cook, Hawaii.

Your network or internet connection (an internet connection is also a type of network connection, it just connects you to the world instead of one or more computers in your home or office) is actually split up into what are called "ports" -- imagine a house with many many windows, some open, some closed -- many ports have a specific purpose, like port 25 which is usually used for sending email.

What a firewall does is seal off all the ports that aren't needed, just leaving open the ports you need to send and receive email, browse the web, and so on.

If the other ports are left open, that increases the ways a person or a program (such as a worm) can just stroll right in, just like if you leave the doors or windows open in your house.

If you have a router (which is a device used to share a DSL or cable connection with more than one computer, or to make your internet connection wireless) then there should be a firewall in the router. This is what's known as a hardware firewall (since it's part of a piece of equipment), as opposed to a software firewall, which is a program on your computer.

Some people assume that having a router with a firewall is enough to protect your computer, but while it will help, you really need to have a software firewall too.

Windows XP & Vista, as well as Mac OS 10.2 and higher both have a software firewall built into them. Earlier versions of Windows and the Mac OS do not. If you have Windows XP with service pack 2 installed, or Windows Vista, then the firewall is almost definitely on.


Different kinds of software firewalls.

There are two general types of software firewall: you can think of them as "active" and "passive" firewalls.

In other words, a passive firewall just sort of sits there, and blocks the needed ports to keep things out and that's about it. An active firewall on the other hand, does the same thing, but also sort of sits up and pays attention to what's going on inside your computer, and gives you control over what programs can get out.

So if you have a piece of spyware on your computer that's trying to "phone home" to report in on what information it's collected about you, the active firewall can block it to protect you. And the byproduct of this is you're safer.

Both the Windows XP and Mac OS X firewalls are passive.

This is a lot less of a risk for the Mac, since there are no malicious programs infecting those systems (at time I'm recording this, there are a small number of programs like this written for Mac, but they're not circulating or infecting computers). You definitely need a firewall on a Mac to protect from outside attacks, but a passive one, at least for now, is enough.

On a Windows machine, a passive firewall is not enough, since there are thousands of malicious programs including worms, trojans, and spyware which, if they're on your computer, will try to sneak information out of your computer.

So if you're just using a passive firewall like the Windows firewall, you can fall victim of so-called malware without even realizing it.

You see, what happens is this; a piece of malware will get onto your system and usually does one of three things: either it invites more malware in, opens a "back door" for someone to come in and snoop around, or it collects information about you and sends it out to persons unknown.

An active firewall will let you control what programs can get out to the internet, not just what can get in, which is very important.

To go back to our security system metaphor, if you have a passive firewall it's kind of like locking your doors and windows -- it does make it much harder for someone to break into your house or office from outside.

Unfortunately, the thieves are really smart, so they sneak someone inside when you're not paying attention and that person hides himself somewhere and then opens a door or window to let his buddies in, or rifles through your belongings and hands them through the window to someone outside.

If you have an active firewall, it's like a security guard is constantly patrolling inside the building, and only allows you or people you trust to use the doors and windows. If a stranger has gotten in, he's held until you can decide if he's OK or not, or his hands are tied so he can't steal anything.

Does that make sense?

So what do you need to do?

Well, if you're running any computer, you absolutely must have a firewall or you run the risk of someone hacking into your computer, or allowing a malicious program in. Macs are safe enough with a passive firewall, but because of the thousands of worms, viruses, spyware, etc. a Windows machine is still very vulnerable without an active firewall.
Link
Windows users have a lot of options, like buying Norton Internet Security, (which includes not just Norton Antivirus but also Norton Personal Firewall), or using Zone Lab's ZoneAlarm.

One option I recommend is ZoneAlarm – even the free version is a really great product, and can protect your computer very well.

A better option is Kaspersky Internet Security, which aside from being arguably the very best antivirus programs around, also has a good firewall program built in.

Do not rely on the Windows firewall as it does not give you enough protection. Keep in mind active firewall programs do need some configuration to block and allow the right programs.

The firewall program usually asks you if you want to allow or block a program (and you can usually allow it or block it once or always) the first time a program tries to connect to the internet.

If it's something like Outlook, Firefox, or any other legit program that needs to connect to the internet, you want to allow it. If you're not sure if a program is legit, the firewall usually tells you the name of the program it's asking you about, so you can type it into Google and look it up.

Chances are, if you see a lot of search results talking about viruses or adware, then you should probably block it and try to get it cleaned up.

Setting the firewall program up the right way can be a little tricky, especially for a lot of more basic computer users, which is why I make it easy in my video course on easy and safe internet. I show you how to install the free version of Zonealarm, and exactly how to use it, step by step.

Mac users who want a little more security than the built-in
OS X firewall program provides, can check out a program called Little Snitch. This is an active firewall program, like Zonealarm. The demo version of Little Snitch is a free download, which works on a trial basis.

Using a firewall is a vital part of keeping your computer, and all the files on it, secure. Don't make the mistake of running your computer without one.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.