Hi all, it’s been a while and I hope you’ve all been doing well. I’ve been keeping very busy with life and work. One of my jobs is teaching at the Melton South Community Centre where I teach a variety of classes, one of these is “How to get your Business Online.” One of my students was having issues with someone he was using to create the logo/ business card so I offered to take a look. I had him sorted out in under 60 minutes, taking the existing design and re-working it to fix the problems he could not get the company to do. Well, that sparked my interest.
The other thing that we worked out, at the END of his process with these logo creators is that you were expected to pay a subscription fee to own the images. I really borked at that concept and as such, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and offer reasonably priced logo/ branding options to all my clients. For those of you who know me in person, you would know that I like to be upfront about costs and outline costs upfront. It’s been a core foundational principle for all of my computer work and it continues here in my logo designs.
As part of this new venture, I’ve also been teaching myself some new skills. I’m learning how to use Inkscape (a free and open-source alternative to Photoshop) and a few other programs. Additionally, I’m learning to code in HTML5 (used for making a variety of things, especially your own websites) so that I will soon be able to build websites for clients as well. I’ve found working with WordPress and other like services to be an overall frustrating process and it’s time to take things to the next level.
A special shout out to Logos By Nick on YouTube for his excellent tutorials and Master Class for helping me bolster my skills. It never ceases to amaze me the things you can teach yourself online for free or for very little. Bring Your Own Laptop has also been an invaluable source of information and tutorials on a wide range of topics, including the aforementioned HTML5.
Starting this Thursday, online from the comfort of your home, “MS Office for the Workplace” Djerriwarrh Community & Education Services https://djerriwarrh.org.au/courses/ms-office-for-the-workplace/FREE for ACFE eligible people. Super flexible learning. All materials have additionally been recorded. Live Zoom sessions. Great training materials.
My god, what have I done? Can you guess from the title image for this post what I had to do?… Install Windows XP! This was a real throw back for me, being the OS (Operating System) that I used for almost as long as the now also defunct Windows 7, it was a real flash back situation.
That’s my second Douglas Adams refrence I’ve used on my site, can you find the other one?
With January 2020 now coming to an end, Microsoft has ceased support for Windows 7… well, kind of. There have been some very serious vunrabilities that Microsoft had to patch and send out for XP, 7, 8.1 and 10, so if you haven’t run an update recently, GO DO IT RIGHT NOW! Yes, even though we have passed the cut off date for Windows 7 support, the existing patches are still available, they just won’t be releasing any new patches (we’ll see about that).
If you are running Windows 7 and want to update your pc click the [Start] button on the bottom left of your desktop, type “Windows Update” and click on the first result.
NOTE: DON’T click on “Windows Update Anytime” unless you want to be automatically upgraded to Windows 10. This will also only work if you have a valid/licenced copy of Windows 7 or 8.1.
I did a thing! I removed Windows 10 from my main laptop and installed Linux! I wanted to use this blog post to talk a bit about the process and my experiences with making this big step. I’d also like to mention that I’ve documented it on my YouTube Channel, so if you’d like to see the process in more detail (and with moving pictures) check it out here https://youtu.be/-wUC-_b4OtM
I don’t want to rehash everything I covered in my video, but I did want to talk about some of my reflections based on my experiences installing Linux, to that end, I’d recommend watching the video first. Else, keep on reading.
Let me start off by stating it was difficult to record the process and I unfortunately don’t have a dedicated studio or recording area. I did however manage to record the audio with my Blue Snowball microphone that my very good friend David gifted me some time ago. This required that I have the laptop set up, my microphone in front of my face and my phone on a mount that was less than ideal (I had to wedge it under my keyboard). This did mean that the video quality was left wanting but as I often say “You gotta work with what ya got.”
I can’t guarantee that I’ll always have a pun for my title, but by golly, I’ll sure as heck try to 😉 Also, sorry about missing out last week on having a blog post, I’ve been getting a bit behind. My workload has been increasing, which leaves me with less time for the things I enjoy, like writing these blogs. One of the things that I got to do whilst being so busy, was to do some programming for a friend (for our purposes we shall refer to them as Q).
Q is a nurse and they have been tasked with updating a whole lot of Preference Cards (in their profession they’re referred to as FAD cards). Surgeons utilise these FAD cards to list what types of instruments and other supplies they require for a particular type of operation or procedure they may perform. Q’s job is to update all of the existing FAD cards with new information, which has been written on printed copies of said cards. Reviewing the work they had ahead of them, I advised that “I think I can make you something that will make your job easier, are you interested?”, (Q was understandably apprehensive but interested).
I sat down with Q and went over what type of information would be pertinent and what was their requirements. For example;
“I don’t have anything to hide, so why should I care what happens to my information?” That’s a question I’ve heard from many people, often phrased in different ways, but the sentiment is the same. It’s a very good question and one which needs more attention in this modern digital age. All too often we hear of companies being compromised as a result of varying methods e.g. neglectful ignorance or hacking. We entrust these companies with our data while often being nieve of how it’s kept safe or the risk it poses to us.
The case for privacy that I make is that we have a right to privacy, you could ask the counter questions; “Do you close the door to the toilet when you use it? Do you have curtains in your bedroom that you close? Do you walk around calling out your credit card numbers? Do you ever look to see if someone is following you when yo walk to your car?”. While some of these questions can get a bit silly, most people of course you protect these kinds of things. We of course DO close the toilet doors, and our curtains, and I certainly check what’s going on around me, and we do these things to protect our privacy and our physical well-being, but why do we care less about our digital identities?
Is it that we don’t think that this ‘online’ information is not valuable to others, or that it’s not important to us? There have been too many stories of identity theft where the victims details were easily obtained online from a breached database or simply from them posting enough information about themselves online that made them an easy target. The number one way for people to get your details online is called phishing (pronounced ‘fishing’), it’s where the unsuspecting victim clicks on a link, opens an attachment, fills in an insecure form or provides sensitive details to people posing as a credible source e.g. your bank, ATO etc.
According to the Australian Government site “Scam Watch”, for the whole 2018 year, Australians lost a reported “$107,001,471” to scams. 100 MILLION DOLLARS. I don’t intend to to cause mass panic or overreaction, but I will point out that these people may have been very private and secure people, phishing and ‘spear phishing’ (a more targeted approach based on know preferences) can happen to anyone, but the more of your details are out in the open on the Internet, the easier or more thoroughly you can be targeted. I’m going to do the next whole blog for Digital Hygiene just on Scams, we recently talked about ‘Situational Awareness’ and ‘scams’ in a previous blog titled “Digital Hygiene [Part 2] – FREE PC Protection”, but it’s becoming so frequent that it warrants more attention.
So what are the threats to your privacy? The big one is that your information is valuable to companies whom depend on monitising advertising, but the problem is that they seldom respect you privacy. Many apps you may install on your phone will often ask for more permissions that they require. Don’t give your flashlight app access to your contacts, as an example, very few apps require access to things like your contacts and location. IF you grant access to you contacts, according to some of their terms and services, you’ve just given them permission to make a copy of all your contacts’ details. Did you know that?
Large companies that hold onto our data are tempting targets for ‘black hat hackers’. A ‘hacker’ is someone that likes to probe code, a ‘black hat’ refers to someone doing this for illegal purposes. We only need to cast our minds back to the recent Marriott Hotel data breach where their ‘Starwood guest reservation’ database was exposed, allowing the bad actors responisble access to up to 500 million people’s private data. This included; people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, gender, Starwood loyalty program account information, and reservation information. For some, they also stole payment card numbers and expiration dates. Marriott says the payment card numbers were encrypted, but it does not yet know if the hackers also stole the information needed to decrypt them. Source: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/12/marriott-data-breach
This is but one in a recent string of nasty data breaches not just across America but across the globe, it just so happens that a lot of the larger companies are based in America. Adding woe to their problems, several cities and states across the US are facing increased cyberattacks from advanced Malware and in particular ‘Ransomware’ (which locks files and demands payments to unlock them again) with some councils yielding to demands, paying upwards of $500,000 to get their files back. A lot of this could have been avoided, in my opinion, had more funding been allocated to the local IT security department of each area, and, if staff in governmental facilities had been better trained in preventing attacks. More info on the US cyberattacks; https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/how-to-stop-cyberattacks-crushing-cities-across-the-us/ar-AADKNus
So what can we do to protect ourselves from these big companies either missuing or misshandeling our data? Well that’s getting harder and harder to do, but here are a few things that I recommend everyone look into to in order to be more private and secure online:
Password Managers (look up LastPass, I’ve mentioned it in a previous blog post and will be making a video on using it soon) see also “Digital Hygiene [Part 3] – P@$$w0rds (passwords)”
Use a different username and password for every site! (sounds hard, but use LastPass and a mail forwarder so you don’t have to give out your actual email address to everyone)
Email forwarder (you tell it your actual email address and it gives you the abaility to make up email address on the fly. E.g. make “Stuff4Me” your account then you can enter “John@stuff4me.33mail.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” and it will still get to your proper email account) See http://www.33mail.com to see get started
Use a good Internet browser (I like Brave, but Firefox is also good, Chrome is getting too heavy with cookies for my liking)
Give out less info! (Don’t give apps access they don’t need, think about what info you give out. My wife hates it when she goes to pick up pizzas I’ve ordered and having to give the name ‘Roberto’ or ‘Mr. Scnachez’ because I’ve not given out my real name.
Keep learning. As mentioned back in ‘All about Podcasts’ I mentioned a podcast that I recommended the ‘The Privacy Paradox’ podcast. It’s 5 part series that talks the paradox of wanting to live in a more connected world but also wanting to keep some parts of our lives private. I felt that it is a ‘must listen to’ for all people living in a digital world. Have a listen then pay it forward. Get your mother or father to listen to it, get your friends to have a listen too.
This all might seem like too much to be bothered with, but I feel that it’s worth fighting for. The right for privacy stems from a need to protect one’s own identity, whether it’s your name, postal address or your email and phone number. We don’t know when the next data breach will be or what bad things could be done with our data, so try and keep your private information… well, private.
Thanks for reading, I know there was some more technical stuff near the end there, I’m planning more blog posts and videos on these topics soon. I’ve not had a chance to get much done lately, but I’m hoping this will change soon.
Tell me in the comments if you think my privacy protection measures are too extreme, or not extreme enough. Would you believe that you can get to a whole new level if that’s something you want to do?
It has begun! I have started to use Linux on my laptop for both work purposes and for play. I’m running a distribution or “distro” form of Linux called Mint and I must say, I AM impressed. It’s designed to feel a lot like Windows and does just about everything I need an operating system to do. It handles my main programs (see “MY Checklist”) and it does so with lighting fast response time. Considering my laptop is quite old and not very powerful; (Windows 7 64-Bit, Intel core i5, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 700GB HDD), this was a pleasant surprise.
I wanted to cover in this post how I got Linux installed on my laptop as well as talking about another useful feature that most (if not all) distros allow you to do, which is Dual Booting. Simply put, you can have more than one operating system installed on a computer or laptop at any one time and you can choose which one to boot from (the process involved when you first turn on your computer). So in my case, my laptop was already running Windows 7 and I was able to add Linux Mint as a bootable operating system (OS). When I turn my laptop on, during the boot process, I’m presented with a list of different OS’s I want to use. By default it will load Mint if I don’t select anything after a few seconds, else I can choose to boot into a ‘safe mode’ of Linux or good old Windows.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge and install an additional operating system, there’s an alternative and some may say even easier way to try Linux out with a ‘Bootable USB stick” that can be plugged into your computer and booted from. You may be wondering why someone would want such a thing? There’s a few good reasons to create one of these bootable USBs, here are a few of the most common ones;
Install or upgrade a disto of Linux
Test a distro without touching your PC configuration
Boot into Linux on a borrowed machine or from an internet cafe
Use tools installed by default on the USB stick to repair or fix a broken configuration
As a supplier of tech support, being able to boot a troublesome PC into Linux is a cool idea. There are distros designed specifically to help fix computers, they come preloaded with diagnostic and repair utilities. But for today’s purposes, we are talking about testing a distro and most importantly without touching you PC’s existing configuration.
There is a little bit of a technical difficulty level required to do this, so if you read the next part and it sounds too hard, or, if you have no desire to try Linux and you’re just reading this out of interest, don’t worry. This is not going to be for everyone, and that’s ok, rather it’s something I’m interested in and enjoy sharing my process with all of you good people. Here is a brief list of what is required to continue and then I’ll be linking to an article.
List of things you need to proceed (related links below);
A USB flash drive that has at least 2GB of storage, 4GB preferred but NOT over 8GB.
Some computers can’t boot from a USB that is bigger than 8GB, if it’s an 8GB stick, that’s fine, but not more than that.
NOTE: Make sure that there is nothing on your USB, as part of this process, creating the boot-able Linux disk it will erase everything on it.
A program called Rufus that created the bootable USB (see link below).
An ‘iso image’ (a single file that’s a perfect representation of an entire CD or DVD).
Knowing the right key to press when booting your computer (not always required, but good to know.
And that’s it! It’s not a lot but some of the steps might be too much for some of you readers out there. But like I said, that’s OK too.
Here are the required and useful links for anyone who would like to continue on with testing out Linux.
Second; Instructions for creating a Boot-able USB (<- Click me) with Rufus
Third; A location to get Linux Mint (<- Click me) as an iso image. Then choose “Cinnamon” and the“64-bit” option. NOTE: If you are running really old hardware, you might need the 32-bit version instead. You can find out by following the instructions here ( <- Click me ) ANOTHER NOTE: Cinnamon is one of four main different desktop ‘skins’ or ‘theme’ but it’s also the least hardware intensive, and it most visually resembles Windows 7 and 8, which are the two main reasons why I have picked it for this example. This can be changed later.
Fourth; Which key you might need to press if your computer does not boot (<- Click me) to the finished USB automatically
Bonus: An alternative set of instructions that does a beautify job of providing step-by-step instructions for making your own boot-able Ubuntu (<- Click me), if you know what this distro
I hope to be able to do a video on this process soon. Sometimes it’s much easier to see it being done than trying to follow written instructions. I’ll also be posting soon about my experiences running Linux Mint, so keep an eye out for that.