All about Podcasts

In this weeks blog post I wanted to talk about something near and dear to my heart; Podcasts. I currently have about 20 hours of podcasts queued up and ready to listen to. In fact, I need to start picking some of them to let go of so I can get through them at a faster rate, unfortunately I’m missing out on the newest information as those go to the bottom of my queue. So what actually are podcasts and why should you care? Well, Dictionary.com succinctly defines them as “a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer”. The great thing about these podcasts is that you can find them on just about every possible topic or theme you can think of; from gardening and sustainability to movie reviews and tech podcasts.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-recordering-microphone-55800/

I wanted to cover this topic because I feel that not enough people know about them, and I find that a shame because they can be super informative and fun while also providing something other than music to listen to. Not that I have anything against music mind you, but when I’m walking my dogs, or doing the dishes, I now get to choose to listen to music (via Spotify) or catch up on my latest podcasts. I don’t always have time to sit down and read the newspaper or even a good book, but I have plenty of activities that are well suited to having one or both earbuds in whilst my phone is in my pocket.

So what types of Podcasts do I listen to? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, a few of them are tech-related podcasts, others are on permaculture and sustainability, I have two that are D&D (Duengon and Dragons) role-playing related, one or two on privacy and security, and even a few on preparedness as well. My wife and I also use an app provided by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation abc.net.au) called ‘ABC Listen’ which contains all of the articles they air on the ABC radio stations PLUS exclusive podcast only shows as well. They cover a vast array of topics ranging from health and art to indigenous issues and politics (and so much more). The way it typically works is that you find a podcast that interests you via a podcast catching app, you can then ‘subscribe’ to that podcast and download the most recent episodes to listen to. Downloading them means that you can listen to them on the go, without having to utilise your mobile data.

Alright, enough of me gushing about them, how can you get started? I use my phone mostly, but if you’d like to try some out first, you can access them through your web browser as well. Here’s a link to one that I encourage all of my computer students to check out, it’s a 5 part series titled ‘The Privacy Paradox’ <<https://project.wnyc.org/privacy-paradox/>&gt; When you navigate to that link, you will need to look for and click on “Day 1 What Your Phone Knows” and then select the [Listen] button. I hope you find it informative and thought-provoking.

As I mentioned, I mostly use my phone to download and listen to my podcasts. The process differs depending on what mobile device you have i.e Android and iOS (some apps are available on both). While I don’t own an iPhone, included in the linked document, I have provided some suggestions of apps for those who do. As an Android user, I like to use an app called ‘Podcast Addict’ and there are detailed instructions on how to use it in said linked document. To install the app, simply open the Google Play store on your phone (it’s where you go to find, download and install any new apps) and search for ‘Podcast Addict.’ Once installed, you can click on the plus (+) icon to add a “subscription”. Initially there will be some suggested podcasts listed for you to consider, but you can also click the magnifying glass icon at the top of the page and search for something.

One that I think everyone would benefit from is the T.W.I.T (This Week In Technology) podcast, which talks about all of the IT news for the past week. They actually have an entire network of shows, but I’d recommenced starting out with just that one and see where you go from there. You can find them through that search function we talked about or on their site; www.twit.tv but they also call Podcasts ‘Netcasts’ instead, but don’t get confused by that, it’s just another name for them.

There are some useful settings that I also cover in the linked document that will allow your subscribed podcasts to automatically download new episodes (but only when connected to WiFi) and have them added to your queue for your listening ease. Another setting will even delete them from your device when you have finished listening to them. This helps to automate your podcast experience, making sure you don’t miss out on new episodes but also making sure your phone doesn’t get bogged down with downloaded episodes after they’ve been listened to.

That’s all for now, I’d like to do a follow-up blog about podcasts once everyone has had a chance to check them out. Also, please do let me know in the comments or via email if you’re having any issues that I may be able to help with. I wouldn’t want people to struggle using podcasts, only to give up on them without first giving them a go.

Let me know in the comments how you go setting this up OR if you already listen to podcasts, which ones would you recommend?

Keep learning, and I’ll catch you all again soon.

Warm Regards,

Paul

**UPDATE** I forgot to add the file I mentioned. Please find below a guide to different podcast apps and ‘PodcastAddict’ which is my app of choice.

Digital Hygiene [Part 2] – FREE PC Protection

It’s that time here in Australia, the middle of Autumn (some call it Fall) and in particular the southern part of Australia, it’s getting darn cold. Like, tops of 12 to 15 c (53 to 59 f) during the day kind of cold. With that comes the dreaded flu season, several people here in Australia have already become very sick and some have even died from it. My family and I have all had our flu shots, but even before that I’ve been a little under the weather. This is a very sombre way to start a blog, I know, but it also opens up to a good way to talk about today’s topic; protecting your computer from viruses and other malicious software (referred to as Malware). Now, as you might have started to guess, I like to see what I can do on the cheap, or even better, for free.

So let’s get started, what do you need to know about the kind of viruses that computers need to be worried about vs. the kind of viruses we deal with, and, what can some of these nasties actually do to your computer? Well, firstly a computer virus and a virus that we could catch are very similar, for example, both types of viruses ‘infect’ your system and then multiply, both will make you feel unwell and potentially cause you harm if not treated. Also, both could potentially cause issues performing normal work activities or daily duties (if you need your computer to do your job, and it’s not working…). The final two comparisons that I’ll draw are that a virus enters your system via either a vulnerability or by a mistake and that both are somewhat preventable (easier to prevent on a computer actually)

Those last two points may be a bit confusing, so let’s look at them just briefly in a bit more detail. The way that a human virus enters your system is usually by some sort of contact contamination, whether you touched a door handle that was contaminated and then scratched your nose, or you have a cut on your skin and something got in that way, a virus is something that gets in that you did not want in. Computer viruses usually get into your computer by a vulnerability or flaw in an existing program or by the user clicking on something they were unaware was infected. Human viruses can be prevented (to some degree) by having good hygiene, wearing protective gear and having a strong immunity. Computer viruses can be prevented by having good digital hygiene, for example, having software to detect threats and browser plugins to warn you about bad sites, and finally, having good situational awareness when surfing the web.

OK, enough of the gross talk about human viruses, you may be feeling a bit icky by now, but just imagine how your computer will feel if you let it get sick. The good news is that you can protect yourself from the majority of threats with a few easy to use, and free programs. These are programs that I have thoroughly vetted and used myself on a daily basis for extended periods. They are the programs I recommend to my clients, students and family members alike. I name dropped the two main programs that I use in the previous Digital Hygiene post, they are ‘Avast Antivirus’ and ‘Malwarebytes’ and when used together, you’ll have broad-spectrum protection against nasties from getting into your PC. Let’s take a look at each of these, cover what they can do and then I’m going to provide some form of a downloadable guide to installing software, I’ll also publish my complete list of recommended software.

One final reminder before we proceed; it’s important to remember how these companies are able to provide free software to us. In the case of the two following programs (and all of the ones I recommend) they both have a ‘Premium’ tier which you can pay in either a monthly/yearly subscription or once off fee, which unlocks more features. This premium tier of uses pays for the free users, with the tradeoff being that us free users will get occasional offers and ads for their paid versions. It’s a lot like watching YouTube or free-to-air TV where you sit through ads which pay for the programming. I don’t begrudge this method as everyone needs to make a living somehow and I’d rather they be up front doing it. This method, in my opinion provides a better alternative rather than selling off your details and data to third parties to make their living (*cough* Google *cough*)

Avast Antivirus

In their own words,Avast describes themselves as;

“… one of the largest security companies in the world using next-gen technologies to fight cyber attacks in real time. We differ from other next-gen companies in that we have an immense cloud-based machine learning engine that receives a constant stream of data from our hundreds of millions of users, which facilitates learning at unprecedented speeds and makes our artificial intelligence engine smarter and faster than anyone else’s”. – Source Avast website

Sounds good to me. What they’re saying is that their products are very smart and really fast at protecting against new threats as they come out. And believe me, new threats are coming out at an hourly rate sometimes. I run Avast every 3-5 days just as a precaution, they also recently added a feature that will, when activated, check your system for software that is out of date and then offer to update it for you. Great stuff, gold star for that one Avast. This is important because, as mentioned before, malicious software can sometimes get into your computer via a vulnerability in an outdated piece of software. I’ll also run Avast on client and family owned USB and HDD (Hard Disk Drives) before accessing the contents. This is as simple as right clicking on the attached drive and selecting ‘Scan selected item for viruses’.

Malwarebytes

In their own words, Malwarebytes talks about its two main streams (being Home and Business) on their website:

”Home – Malwarebytes For Windows;

Comprehensive security that blocks malware and hackers. It protects you from threats that a traditional antivirus isn’t smart enough to stop. Check out our Mac, Mobile, and Chromebook cybersecurity.  

Business – Malwarebytes For Business

Trusted by more than 60,000 businesses as the go-to cybersecurity solution that provides comprehensive endpoint protection, detection, and remediation”.

Also very cool. I like how they mention that they protect against things that a conventional antivirus software might miss. This is the ‘broad spectrum’ coverage I mentioned earlier in this post. Both programs serve a similar purpose and having both means that it’s less likely something will be missed.

Now the last thing we need to talk about is also one of the most important things. Situational awareness! This means being aware of threats and knowing what to do about them. Some suggestions include;

– NOT clicking on links in an email unless you’re certain they come from a reputable source

– In fact, DON’T even open emails from people that you don’t know or an email that you weren’t expecting

– Check that the email address looks valid as well; support345673@ebiy.com is not going to be legitimate

– DON’T download random software from an unverified or untrusted sources (see link below for my ‘Downloading Software Guide’)

– Even .PDF’s and .DOCX files can contain code that can be harmful (the ones I provide are safe, I’ve made them myself and stand behind them all), so don’t download and open files from random people

– You’ve (not) won! Sorry, but you haven’t won an amazing prize, a new iPad or wad of cash. Scammers are out every day finding new ways to separate people from their hard earned cash, don’t be one of them. See also, the file below on ‘Preventing Phone Fraud’ which I have created from the source material <<here>> Although it specifically talks about phone fraud, the delivery method can change but the scams follow familiar beats.

I think that’s more than enough for today, you’re probably ready to throw your computer out the window and cover yourselves in hand sanitizer after this fun look at viruses. But don’t fret, put in place these three things; Antivirus, Anti-malware and some good sense, and everything will be OK. I have a lot more about Digital Hygiene to come in future posts, next time we’ll cover the next most important thing to keep yourself safe online; Password Managers.

Comment down below with your experiences of viruses AND if you like my attached documents, please do let me know. I’m very proud of every document and blog post I write and I hope to continue to make them better and better.

Thanks for stopping by to have a read. See you all next time.

Warm Regards,

Paul

P.S Below you will see download links to two PDF files. These have been created by me for your viewing pleasure. Simply click the [Download] button to grab yourself a copy.

WPS Office, The Free Alternative

It’s that time again, public service announcement time! I’m quite enjoying sharing with you some of my favourite free programs. It’s amazing what you can achieve with free software, oh, I forgot to mention that I found an acronym for this kind of software, FOSS (Free Open Source Software) cool eh? There is also FLOSS with the extra ‘L’ standing for ‘Libre’ which means ‘With very few limitations on distribution or improvement’ but I like FOSS I think.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WPS_office_logo.png

So what is today’s piece of FOSS goodness? Kingsoft WPS Office; it’s a free or inexpensive alternative to Microsoft Office. Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room though, I’m going on about ‘free’ this and ‘free’ that but I also just said ‘inexpensive’ as well. It’s always important to consider how a company can financially support itself whilst providing software for nothing? In the case of WPS Office, the answer is that they provide a Premium and Professional paid versions version of their software. Both of these are very reasonable prices, especially when compared to Microsoft Office.

WPS Office
Premium
WPS Office
Professional
Microsoft Office 365 HomeMicrosoft Office 365 PersonalMicrosoft
Office
Student
$9.99 / 3 Months$29.99/Yr
For 9
devices
$79.99/lifetime(3 yrs services)
For 1 PC
$13/ mth$129/ yr
for 6
People
$10/ mth
$99/yr pr
1 Person
$199/ one-time
1 Person Only
includes; Word, Excel and PowerPoint

So here’s the nuts and bolts of the price comparison above; Microsoft Office 365 (Home and Personal) both have 6 programs; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher) whilst the Student version only has; Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In comparison, WPS has also got 3 main pieces of software to it; Writer (replacement for Word), Presenter (replacement for PowerPoint) and Spreadsheets (replacement for Excel.) This is also where we get the ‘WPS’ from, the first letter of each product. In my humble opinion, these three programs are more than enough to complete almost all of the most common ‘Office type’ functions you will ever need. As I mentioned in my previous post (https://hobstarblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/21/moving-to-linux-part-3my-checklist/), there are also free alternatives to Publisher if that is something you need.

Enough of the boring stuff, what makes WPS good enough to consider switching to? For me, there are several factors that I have come to love, in particular, in it’s most recent update it can even do a thing that Microsoft’s version doesn’t do. Here are some of the Highlights;

– It can open any of the Microsoft alternative files. So you can switch straight from (or even between) Microsoft and WPS, the file types are exactly the same, e.g, MS Word saves Word files as a .docx type of files, Writer from WPS does the same. WPS does have it’s own file types, but I’ve never had the need to use them. In fact, it’s really handy to be able to work in WPS at home and then take my files to work and still be able to use them there, even though I can’t use WPS at work.

– The interface is almost identical. WPS products have the same ribbon and tab layout that was made popular by Microsoft. It is a little bit different in places, I liken it to switching between cars made by different manufacturers; sometime the controls might be in a different spot, but it’s still there. This does mean that there will be a period of adjustment when switching to WPS, but that also brings us to the next point…

– ‘Click to find commands’ search box in the top right corner of the WPS will help you locate any command you can’t manually locate. This idea has been lifted directly from MS Office which has the same feature.

– The interface can be customized much more in WPS. I do like that in MS Office that you can change the theme to ‘Dark Grey’ but WPS takes this idea and amps it up to 11. There are different themes that allow for dark, light or colourful, but there is also an ‘Eye Protection Mode’ which makes the working area have a light green tinge to it, good for your eyes apparently. I like it, so I usually leave it on.

– The last one, for now, is the option to engage ‘All-in-One Mode’ which makes your Office environment more like a web browser. You can have different Word files open in the same window and switch between them by clicking on tabs at the top of the window, or, you can have different types of files open in each tab, Word in one, PowerPoint in another, Excel there too and even .PDF files. Oh did I forget to mention that? It can easily handle your PDF files as well. The paid version also does some nifty Word to PDF and PDF to Word tricks that might be useful for some people.

So now the big question, how does it handle compared to MS Office? I feel like that question has already been answered by me talking about how closely it resembles MS Office and in how it can handle any of the major file types you will likely need to use. But I must say that it’s quicker to load, faster at opening files, switching between tabs is seamless and anything I need to do in Word, Excel and PowerPoint I can achieve in WPS. The learning curve is minimal and there are robustly built-in features to help you find anything that is not listed obviously.

The only downsides I’ve found so far are that on very rare occasions you will be presented with an ad, but only ever for the premium version. I’ve also had instances where a document created in Writer is opened in MS Word and the page numbers don’t line up. Now, what does that mean? I create long user guide and books for my students when training, and these books are numbered with tables of contents. It can cause confusion for my students when I create my work at home, take it to work and print it on a work computer and then not have the page numbers line up. I think this has something to do with either; line spacing, page brakes or margins. I’ll be looking into this more and will post an update when I have a solid answer.

So, final thoughts. WPS Office meets all of my needs for every possible combination of tasks that I need to be completed for my day-to-day use and for my work documents. Best of all, you don’t even need to completely commit to using WPS, when you install it you will be asked if you want to use it as your ‘default program to open Microsoft Office files’ and you can just say ‘no.’ Then you can open WPS from the icon(s) it will place on your desktop, and try it out. In truth, I will need to be keeping Microsoft Office because I train people on how to use it. But perhaps, I can start to train people in using WPS and in how it differs slightly from the former.

I don’t use MS Publisher much at the moment, so I’ll have to do a post on the alternatives to Publisher later after having a play around with a few of them. Keep an eye out for that one.

We’ve come to the end of what I have to say about WPS Office for now. I can stop ‘fanboy’ing about it, although it’s hard because I really do like this free alternative to Microsoft Office. If you decided to download it, or are already running it or another free alternative, I’d love to hear about it down in the comments.

Until next time, never stop learning.

Warm Regards,

Paul

MOVING to LINUX [Part 3] – “MY Checklist”

Welcome back everyone, I’m excited about today’s post because it’s forcing me to stop procrastinating and get myself moving to Linux. Well, procrastinate LESS at least. Today I wanted to go over the first draft of my own personal list of things that I am going to need to consider before I move to Linux. This is not a step to take lightly and I MUST stress this very strongly; this is not going to be for everyone. I’m thrilled to have you all here with me as I take this journey, but you don’t need to follow in my footprints in order to follow me.

Once again, just quickly, the reasons I’m moving to Linux are;

– It’s free (cost) and open source (code is viewable)

– It’s very secure (many people don’t install anti-virus programme even) and does not report back on your activities (Windows 10 does)

– It doesn’t force updated on you (you need to seek them out)

– It’s a challenge for me, a new set of experiences

– Windows 10 is just not for me. For many reasons, see previous blog post for some of the main point

Now, the thing to remember with Linux is that things are different. Some things are done in a different way compared to doing it on a PC, for example; software can be downloaded and installed by typing a command in the ‘terminal’ (a place to enter text commands to get your system to do stuff) and although that sounds daunting, it’s just a different way to do something. For those out there sweating nervously about the idea of doing it this way, it’s OK! Many software providers are providing download-able install packages with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) identical to the more familiar Windows way of doing things.

There are also some software packages that are not easily installed in Linux, a few of these include Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Don’t run for the hills just yet if you can’t imagine a world with Microsoft Office and Adobe, there are some REALLY good alternatives that are once again free and open source. We will go into those a bit later in this blog post, but also keep in mind that you CAN run these programs if you absolutely can’t live without them (but they will be a few versions behind the latest.)

The next big thing to consider is “what is your purpose/ need for your computer?” Here are a few suggestions if you’re not sure what I mean;

1) Browse the internet, type up a letter in Word and print stuff
2) Heavy MS Office user, need Excel and PowerPoint, lots of emails
3) Gamer, use controllers, latest video card and other hardware
4) Graphic design, image manipulation
5) Audio recording and editing
6) Video editing, large files and computer intensive processes

Do any of these sound like you? I sit somewhere in the middle of the Venn Diagram of all of those descriptions I think. I do a bit of this and a bit of that. For work stuff, I lean heavily on word processing, image editing, and soon, video editing as well. It’s important to know before we start making a checklist of what our workflows (the sequence we do our tasks and what programs we need to complete them) are. One big advantage that I will have when moving to Linux is that I have already moved to a lot of free, open source software whilst still on Windows. Mostly because free is the best price and I can’t always afford to pay hundreds of dollars a hear for the software subscription. Best of all,  the free software I use already has Linux versions.

At this point we are not looking at which distribution (which flavour of Linux) we will be choosing, that might be party decided by the checklist. This can come about because some distros might support a particular piece of vital software but another might not. I’m not 100% sure yet, please remember that I am also new to Linux. For now, let’s have a look at the first few items on the checklist in relation to those type of users, and talk about the alternatives. The list I make is by no means exhaustive and I am not an expert. There might be better options, and my choices will not be for everyone. If you disagree with my choices or know of a better one, please let me know down in the comments.

1) Browse the internet, type up a letter in Word and print stuff

Internet browsers; pretty much the same as PC. I recommend and use ‘Brave’, for easy privacy and security. Firefox is a good choice for the more technical users

Word; There are two well know names in free and open source Office replacements, they are ’OpenOffice’ and ‘LibreOffice.’ I have used both and did not enjoy the experience, however, I have heard the LibreOffice interface has had an overhaul, so I should check it out again. The one I settled on is ‘Kingston WPS Office’ and I’ll be doing a whole blog post on this over very soon

Printing; one of the things Linux users speak a bit about is the struggle of getting drivers to work. Drivers are pieces of software that allows your hardware to work on your operating system, e.g. how your computer can talk to your printer, or your computer to receive input from a mouse. I’ve not yet had experience with this so we will be checking back on this matter later.

2) Heavy MS Office user, need Excel and PowerPoint, lots of emails

Office; WPS once again covers all of these needs. If you need a Publisher replacement, LibreOffice Draw might be one I need to check out. If you use an email client like Thunderbird, there is already a Linux version, or, there are once created just for Linux, but some work better on one or the other of the two main distributions streams. Let’s not worry too much about this one for now. And for me, I use web-based mail (like Gmail and Yahoo, but I don’t use either of these) so I just need a browser.

3) A gamer might use a controller, latest video card and other hardware

Now we get to some interestingly different stuff. From my research and deep dives into the topic on YouTube, gaming on Linux has been a difficult activity to achieve for quite some time. The aforementioned issue with drivers has plagued the Linux community for years. Many having to make a range of changes to their systems to get their favourite game to work. This is actually one of Linux’s strengths; the ability to change your systems, something that is not easily done on Windows, and even harder in the Apple ecosystem. Lately though, a lot of work has been done to make gaming on Linux easier, including a program called ‘Wine’ which helps to run Windows application on Linux, but also, game developers are making their games compatible with Linux. Massive game providers like ‘Steam’ make versions of games specific to run on Linux as well. I have not delved into this at all yet so I might be miss-speaking, put a pin in this one and we’ll see later on.

4) Graphic design, image manipulation

The common favourites of graphic designers and content creators Adobes PhotoShop and Illustrator are two of the biggest names in the business but can cost a lot of money. US$20.99/mo or AUD$29.99/mo for just one of them (source: https://www.adobe.com/au/creativecloud/plans.html) but I never had enough need to buy these products. I’ve only ever done fairly simple image manipulation and creations, and the programs I’ve found and used are already free and run on Linux, bonus! I use ‘Krita’ for image creation and ‘GIMP’ for image manipulation. Not much more to say about this, for now, full blog posts on all of these soon.

5) Audio recording and editing

When making YouTube videos or recordings of just your voice, there are a few things you need. Apart from a good microphone and a decent camera (depending on your needs) you’ll need some software. ‘Audacity’ is great for recording and editing audio/ voice and OBS make a good screen capture program. My current PC is slowly dying of old age, and OBS is not running well. I can use another program called ‘iSpring Free Cam 8’ which is very lightweight, but it occasionally crashes and has other issues. I’m hoping to be building a new computer soon.

6) Video editing, large files and computer intensive processes

 Editing videos can be quite intensive on your computer, it’s intensive on the RAM and CPU, so that is something to take into consideration. For editing software, I am currently using a feature-packed program called ‘HitFilm Express 2017’ but I have not started to look for a replacement yet. I have heard that ‘Kdenlive’ is very good and lightweight on your computer’s hardware. Time will tell.

There are no doubt other things that I have missed. There are also things I have no need for at the moment, for example, I’ve not started to get into computer coding (something I’d like to get into) so I don’t know what I’d need for that. There are also a few other “nice to have” program that I will need to check to see if Linux versions exist, or if there are Linux alternatives available. Let me know in the comments what things you’d need to be sure was supported or available if you went to Linux.

I’m going to provide a link to a Word document that you can download, it has spaces to type and make notes about the type of programs you currently use and spaces for you to start researching some of these alternatives. If you use the checklist, let me know what you think.

Thanks again for stopping by. I hope to see you all again soon.

Warm Regards,

Paul

More about apps and phones

Welcome back everyone, part two here today about apps on your mobile phone and some things that will be useful to know about your phone its self. Last week we talked about the three to check with new apps (Age rating, star rating and requested permissions) as well as checking who made the app, we also looked at the process of downloading an app and checking the permissions. Did you guys and gals install Brave? If so let me know in the comments down below what you thought about having it on your phone as well as your home PC.

So, the first thing about apps I wanted to talk to you today about was some useful troubleshooting tips. If you have an app that is freezing and now working, you can use the long press mentioned in the previous post (press and hold the icon on your phone’s desktop) and use the (i) ‘app info’ button,  and then click the [Force stop] button followed by the [OK] button to confirm this action, which will close the app. Then open the app again and you should be good to go. If you find things on your phone are still unresponsive, try turning your phone off then on again, you’d be surprised how many tech issues can be solved with the old, “have you tried turning it off and on again?”

The next tip is a simple one, don’t have too many apps installed on your phone. Well, this might be easier said than done, as I look at my 43 apps I have installed. Some of the apps on your phone come pre-installed and are either hard or impossible to remove, and there is usually no need to do so. The best way to keep your app count down is to make sure each app you install serves a purpose, and if your app is a game, then consider removing ones you don’t play anymore. I do have some apps that I call my ‘Just in case apps’ which are ones I like to have in case of emergency but I don’t use on a daily basis. For the interested, these include; Survival Manual, Unit Converter, myRemedy, The Art of War and BOM (Bureau Of Meteorology)

Finally, this one will improve your battery life and potentially save you money as well. Turn your Wi-Fi off when you leave your house. We have a saying at my house, I say it, and so do my kids; “Wi-Fi off.” Nice and simple to remember right? The reason behind this is two-fold; first is that your phone will continuously try and look for a new Wi-Fi signal to connect to, and seeing as how even most free Wi-Fi locations require a password, all this will do is drain your battery and. The second reason to turn it off is,  whilst it is trying to connect to every Wi-Fi you pass it also leave your digital fingerprints on everything you pass. This is not a big deal for most people, but if you are someone who values your privacy, you should care about this one. Some shops within shopping centres are able to track, if your Wi-Fi is turned on, where you go in-store and how long you stand in any one location. They do not know specifically who you are, but the next time you come it to said shop, it will be able to pick you out of the crowd.

Image Source

As a bonus point, it is advisable to NEVER connect to public Wi-Fi if you can help it. Unless you are running a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which we will cover in a future blog. Public Wi-Fi has too many potential attack surfaces that a bad actor might be able to leverage to gain access to your device and/or details. It’s like licking the handrail on an escalator, a great way to get sick.

Let me know down in the comments what’s your best mobile tip! There is a lot that we have not covered yet, I just wanted to get a start on this for everyone.

Also, thanks for being patient with the shorter post and delay in getting it out this week, I’ve been getting busy with a few projects recently. I’m hoping that either the next blog or the one after we will be getting back into Linux. Enough procrastinate, let’s get this moving. 😉

Warm Regards,

Paul

All about Apps

We all have one, some of us have more than one. These days it seems hard to imagine NOT having one. I am, of course, talking about mobile phones. Whether it’s just to be able to contact friends and family members, or to listen to music and podcasts (I love podcasts, and yes, I’ll be doing a blog about them soon too) or to take photos and videos, today’s mobile phones are so much more than just a phone that the name almost doesn’t fit. They have become soo much more than just a mobile means of making a call, they should be called a mobile media platform.

Today I wanted to talk about ‘apps’ short for ‘applications’ which is the software package you can (in this instance) install on a mobile phone. Technically, the programs you install on your computer could also be called an app as well, but we usually call those ‘programs.’

Lets quickly list some of the things you can do with these modern marvels before we continue;

– Make and receive calls and text messages via the mobile phone tower network OR via a connection to the Internet (either WiFi or Mobile Data, more on that later)

– Take high-quality photos and movies, in particular on the more recent generations of phones, the quality is almost mind-blowing. Some of Google’s latest phones (Pixel 3) perform computational possessing to make your photos look their best.

– Record audio by its self turns your phone into a Dictaphone, useful for recording meetings or mental notes.

– Listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts, all of which fall into the audio category, many new phones have boosted internals designed to give audiophiles (lovers of sound quality) something to appreciate.

There are a few more that I could, and probably some I’m not even aware of, but I think that the list serves as a good starting point. A lot of these features are built into the phones we use these days, but we have Steve Jobs to thank for many of the modern innovation of mobile devices, because, on January 9, 2007, he announced the original iPhone. Up until this point people had carried a phone (flip phone style probably) and a digital camera and an MP3 player, and this was normal. But the iPhone had all of these and more.

Since then, the rise of the smartphone has been steep and fast. There are many companies producing them but only two main systems that run on them. Apple (who own iPhone) have their own operating system for their phones (iOS) whereas Google provides the Android operating system for any of the phone makers to modify and add to their phones. This means that you can ONLY get iOS on an Apple phone from Apple, but Android is found on pretty much every other phone, whether it’s LG, Samsung, Google, Nokia, and so on.

Although most of the features we discussed come ready to use out of the box, you will also often need to install an ‘application’ or ‘app’ for short, to get the most from your phone. For the rest of this post, we will be focusing on Android phones, mostly because that is what I own and use, and I’ve not had much exposure to Apple phones, having never owned one. I feel that it would be disingenuous
to speak about the Apple Store and Apple apps if I’ve not used them before.

Before we start installing apps on our Android phones though, we should talk about some of the things that can go wrong. As we mentioned, smartphones are essentially computers, more powerful than the computers that put humans on the moon and therefore are susceptible to the same problems as personal computers. The potentially scary thing about phones though is the fact that they are also able to track your monuments with GPS and have built-in microphones and cameras. If your phone was compromised with a bad app, you would be exposing a lot of personals information.

So with that in mind, what do we need to look out for when we are thinking of adding a new app to our phones? Here is my list, it’s one my kids have to go through and discuss with me before they add anything new to their phones or tablets;

1)What is it rated? This is more an issue for under 18’s, many apps are not kid or work friendly, whether through violence or other adult content

2)How many stars and how many reviews? This is an indicator of what people think about the app, these numbers can be skewed with a bit of effort for bad actors, but it’s good to look at. 5 stars are the maximum, but it would suspicion for an app to have a full 5 stars. Look for apps with higher than 3.5, in my book anyway, this helps to ensure an app is of at least adequate quality. Also check how many reviews it has if an app is 4 stars but only 10 people have rated it, this should raise suspicion

3)What permissions does it ask for? Some apps WILL need permission to access certain features on your phone to work. Example; a Flashlight app will need access to your camera in order to turn your flashlight on, but does NOT need access to your location or contacts. Never give ‘contact’ permission for an app, this is a great way to expose all of the people you have entered on your phone to a random third-party (the app maker.) Note: You phone has a built-in flashlight feature if you dig around in the setting you should find it.

Those are the big three, it can also be useful to know who the ‘publisher’ of the app is, for example, if you are downloading the Brave browser for Android, it should be by ‘Brave Software.’ It’s not always easy to know who the publisher should be, but if you know, it’s worth noting.

So let’s go get an app! On your android phone, you’ll need to open the ‘Play Store’ app. You’ll be shown a screen similar to the one below. Your recommended apps will look different to mine, if you know what you are looking for you can use the search box at the top, or have a look in the different categories of; Home, Games, Movies & TV, Books and Music. For this example let’s install Brave browser. We spoke about Brave in a previous blog post, and how it is a privacy-focused browser for your home computer. Well, you can also get it for your mobile device as well, cool! Search the Google App store for ‘Brave’ and look for the orange lion head icon. Note: it’s best if you can be connected to your home WiFi as some mobile plans do not allow for large amounts of data downloads.

Screenshot from my phone

Screenshot from my phone

Click on the icon, review the first two things we talked about the age rating and stars (ages 3+ and 4.3 stars, with over 100k reviews) looks good, right? Simply click the [Install] button, wait for it to finish, an icon will be placed on your phone’s home screen, but don’t click on it to just yet. Something that I like to do it double check what permissions an app already has or might be about out to ask for. ‘Long-press’ on the ‘Brave’ icon on your phone’s home screen. A ‘long-press’ can be achieved by folding your finger down on an app for about 1-2 full seconds when you do so, a menu should come up. IF it does not, you might have either not help it long enough or you might have moved your finder, just take your finger off and try again.


Screenshot from my phone

Once your long-press has worked, touch the (i) information button, this opened up the “behind the scene” screen for the app. Here you can see things like who made it, what version it is and, for our needs, display a button called [Permissions], touch this once to see what permissions it has listed, which once are on and which ones are off. For the example of Brave, we want to turn off ‘Camera, Microphone, Storage and Your Location. NOTE: Storage might be needed to download thing through Brave, but you will be prompted to do so if needed. Additionally, if you were to want to use a website that for some unforeseen reason wanted to record your voice or take a photo, you would need to enable the microphone or camera respectively. Consider turning it back off when it’s no longer needed.

It’s a great idea to follow these steps to do a checkup on all of your apps. Before you are aware of these setting, it’s common to just allow everything when you install an app, often they will ask for more than they need to run. This is done, most of the time, in order to collect information on you and sell it on to third-parties.

Finally, what about a few app suggestions from me? Well apart from Brave, I love an app called “Automatic Call Recorder” by ‘Appliqato’ which will record incoming and outgoing calls and save them to your phone. I tried a few apps like this but none of them was as good as this one. For the permissions; Contacts can be off, but it will need permission to use your Microphone (to record your voice), Storage (to save the files) and Telephone (to record what the other person is saying.) I’m not going to be going into the legalities of recording phone conversations, that’s for you to check up on. I use it mostly to check facts, dates and people’s email address when they tell me them over the phone (no need for pen and paper)

A fun game you can get is “Board Games” by ‘minkusoft’ which has a collection of classic board games including Chinese checkers, Backgammon, Snakes and ladders and a few more. This one does not ask for any permission at all, nice!

Finally, if you are looking for an app that turns your phone into a scientific device, accessing some of your phone interesting internal hardware sensors, you might find “phyphox” by ‘RWTH Aachen University’ to be of interest. You can get data from internal sensors in your phones such as the magnetometer, barometer, accelerometer and light sensor to name just a few. Depending on your usage, you might need to turn on one or more of the three permission settings, Microphone, Storage and Location, but I leave them off until I need it.

That’s all for now everyone. I hope you found this post educational. Let me know down in the comments if you need clarification on any of the points covered, or if you have your own app suggestion to share. Make sure you say why you like/ use the app you recommend.

Advanced tips and tricks to come in the post next week. So keep an eye out for part 2.

Warm Regards,

Paul

Digital Hygiene [Part 1] – “Can I borrow your toothbrush?”

Your mother always told you to brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wash behind your ears. This is all part of good personal hygiene. You learn this as a kid and then it just becomes part of your daily routine when you get older. Today’s blog post is going to be about a different type of hygiene, digital hygiene. Much in the same way that personal hygiene can keep you clean and safe, digital hygiene ensures that you keep your online presence virus-free.


Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels

Digital hygiene is, in my opinion, one of the three pillars of a safe online life. The other two pillars are Security and Privacy. There is much overlap between these three pillars, but we can talk about that in later posts as this will be the start of a multi-part series.

Yes, I know, we are already doing a multi-part series on moving to Linux. But we can do more than one at once I think. Plus, these topics run nicely with the ideals and philosophies of the open source software what makes Linux great.

In the same sense that personal hygiene is made up of multiple things, e.g. brushing your teeth, showering regularly, washing your clothes, etc, so too does digital hygiene require multiple approaches.

But of course the question might be why bother? In the same way that you won’t win many friends with bad personal hygiene and have significantly higher potential for getting sick, with digital hygiene, your whole online life can become infected with some pretty bad stuff.

So what makes up the different parts of digital hygiene?

1) Treat your password like a toothbrush. Which means you should; a) Pick a good one, b) Change it regularly and c) Never share it. The next blog post on this topic will be all about passwords, how to pick a good one, and how to remember it.

2) Keep your personal life personal. Far to often people air all of their dirty laundries online and are surprised when the wind blows back their way. Always remember; “What goes online, stays online.”

3) Careful what you click. This goes for links to pages, as well as emails and their attachments. If the email is not from someone you know, delete it! If it is from someone you know but the message is uncharacteristic of them, don’t click on any links or download any attachments

4) Practice situational awareness. Be critical of everything, Don’t trust that snake oil salesman, or banner ad claiming you’ve won the lottery. If you didn’t enter a raffle, you haven’t won a prize.

5) Two-Factor-Authentication for your accounts. For important things like emails and social media, look for 2FA (Two-Factor-Authentication). This requires an extra step to verify that you are, in fact, you trying to login.

6) Stay up to date. Update your internet browser and all programs to prevent bad actors from exploiting vulnerabilities that have been fixed. IF you get a flu shot, you’re much less likely to catch it. Same goes for your computer.

7) Look at the URLs (Universal Resource Locator – that’s the website address up in the address bar of your browser) to have ‘httpS’ not just ‘http’ because the difference is the ‘S’ stands for secure. It’s a secure connection between you and the server that’s hosting the page you’re viewing.

8) Two is one and one is none. That’s an old saying which means that one backup is worthless if you lose it. Having multiple backups of important information is, well, important.

9) Work/ life separation. Don’t do personal things on your work PC and be careful doing work at home. Your work is most likely able to track anything you do online, visiting *ahem* questionable sites is not recommended. If you bring your work home, and your home computer is infected with malware of some sort, your work data could be stolen or infected.

10) Don’t install what you don’t need/know. It can be tempting to download ‘Ace Windows Cleaner Pro 2000’ which promises to clean up your computer for free, but most of the time what you get is a PUP (Potential Unwanted Program) and if you’re unlucky, you’ll get a PHA (Potentially Harmful Application.) Don’t install software unless you have done your research and understand the risks.

11) Lastly, DO install some good software. There are many free programs that can be installed to help keep you safe and clean as a whistle. We will be going over these in a future blog post, but if you need this right now, check out ‘Avast‘ free antivirus and ‘Malwarebytes‘ anti-malware. Those two are about 80% of what you’ll need.

I know this might seem like a LOT to take in, that’s OK, we’ll be going over each point in more details. Perhaps one or two topics per blog post? Please also let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a short course on Digital Hygiene and I’ll see about making one for everyone to learn from and keep as a way to refresh yourselves on the upcoming topics.

Thanks for reading my post, I hope you brush your teeth and think about digital life in a different light.

Warm Regards,

Paul

P.S. ‘Ace Windows Cleaner Pro 2000’ is a made-up product name. Although, it is totally the kind of program my father is known to install on occasion. Sorry Dad, had to call you out there. 😛

MOVING to LINUX [Part 2] – “Why I’m moving to Linux”

So in the previous blog post about Moving to Linux, we talked a bit about Microsoft’s Operating System called Windows. And although it was subtitled “Why, what’s wrong with Windows?” I don’t feel that I completely covered the reasons why I’m personally not moving to Windows 10 in January of next year; which is when they stop commercial support for Windows 7. I wanted to just quickly touch on the key reasons why I’m moving away from Microsoft as it will become a good framing point for the continuation of this series.

1) Forced Updates

Microsoft has come under a lot of fire recently for the way in which they are forcing their users to be on the latest ‘build’ or ‘version’ of their Windows 10 Operating System. When Windows 10 is ready to update, it will, regardless of what your doing or might be about to do. I heard an amusing story about a couple who were reading their wedding vows from Windows 10 tablets and when the minister said; “If there is anyone here who has reasons these two should not be wed, speak now….” their tablets both decided to start doing an update and effectively locking them out. This is a funny story, but imagine that you’re about to give a presentation to a large potential new client or trying to do your taxes online or something else that you would not want to be interrupted. Not fun.

Now, in Microsoft’s defence, they are starting to implement a change in this area, allowing using to delay the update for one week, up to about 4 times I believe. Please also note that this is NOT a recommendation to NOT update your OS or other software. You should definitely keep your system up to date, but you should be able to choose when this happens.

2) Dodgy Updates

A few of the recent Windows 10 updates actually caused some major issues for its users. The one that comes to mind for me was where users found that their ‘My Documents’ folders had been deleted. Gone, not coming back. This only happened to people who had mapped their default My Documents to a different location, but there were enough people doing this that Microsoft had to roll back that update, which actually took them a while to admit.

A quick reminder; in the IT world there is an old saying, “You always have one less backup than you need” or “Two is one and one is none.” We’ll be talking about backups in a near future post, so keep an eye out for that one.

3) Data collection

The more I learn about computers, and in particular, the big companies that are controlling data online, the less comfortable I become about who has my data and what they do with it. The five biggest companies (in terms of active users) are; Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Yahoo (source: https://datafloq.com/read/what-data-do-the-five-largest-tech-companies-colle/427). You might notice that Microsoft does not make it into the top 5, mainly because they do not monetise their collected data like some of the other listed companies do.

There were reported stories of families using Windows 10 when it first came out and the parents unexpectedly received a report at the end of the first month of usage, reporting on all of the sites their children had been visiting. This actually ousted some kids who were not yet ‘out of the closet’ sexuality wise and caused a lot of heartaches. This feature is still around but can be disabled, by the parents, Source 1: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/08/26/this-terrifying-new-windows-10-feature-could-out-kids-to-their-parents/

Source 2: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12441/microsoft-account-see-child-device-activity

My main issues with companies collecting my data are;

* They don’t seem to be able to treat it with respect or look after it. How many data breaches have you seen in the news recently?

* Intellectual Property (or IP for short) can become contestable when it exists on someone’s server.

* Data stored on someone’s server could be breached and original works or sensitive data could be stolen or copied.

* Data is traded and sold between companies, it’s how you can end up with a ton of spam when signing up for a service with your email address.

I think we should do a blog post soon on data breaches, it might be part of a ‘Digital Hygiene’ series I think. The above reasons are why I have taken all of my ‘work files’ (in my case, training documents) offline and now store them on my computer and a few backups. This is not the solutions that will work for everyone one, but it’s the one that makes me feel most comfortable. We will cover this in a lot more detail in coming posts, as well as how to sign up for services without getting spam.

The other big thing that I’ve become interested in is the ‘Open Source’ movement. Wikipedia describes, in part, open source as “… a term denoting that a product includes permission to use its source code, design documents, or content….” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source

Which I find to be a good definition. It means that if a programmer wanted to look ‘under the hood’ of a piece of software, and it was open source, they could. If enough programmers do this they can all collectivity agree that a particular piece of software is not hiding any malicious code or code that redirects your details to a 3rd part service. It also enables people new to programming the opportunity to see how other people have made their program work, which we support because we all love learning here in this community!

The term is also often synonymous with free software, but not all free software is open sourced and not all open sourced software is free. I don’t want to get bogged down in that discussion, as it would take a good few pages to go in-depth on this issue. We can, for the most part, think of open source as a friendlier system with less to hide and most often, cares more about helping you keep your data private and belonging to you.

Which finally brings us to Linux! Linux is an OS which is built on something called Unix. Unix isn’t free but is designed to be super stable for businesses to use. In particular, most Internet servers are running it, so you rely on it without even know it. Linux was created as a free (open source and free to use) and has several different types which are referred to as ‘distros’ (short for distribution.) We will be looking at a few different distros in posts to come soon, especially some which have been created to make it easier to move from Windows.

Don’t get scared about looking into distros either. A lot of them can be run from a USB flash drive to test them out. If you like them, you can also boot them alongside Windows until you get comfortable enough with them to switch, if you so choose to do so.

I think that’s enough for everyone today, a heap of information to think about there. It’s a lot to take in really, congrats if you made it this far.

Let me know in the comments down below if you are comfortable with how big companies collect and use your data, a lot of people are.

Next week’s post is going to be the first in a series about ‘Computer Hygiene and then I think we might switch between that and ‘Moving to Linux,’ what does everyone think about that? Let me know if that will be annoying or confusing.

Warm Regards,

Paul

P.S, sorry, no fancy images this time. 😛

How to be Brave

Today I wanted to do more of a public service announcement than a blog, it’s about a new browser that has found to be incredibly easy to use for new people, but also contains advanced options for more experienced users. Most importantly it’s a browser that respects and helps to protect your privacy as well as your security.

Before I reveal the name of this amazing browser, let’s first talk about what a web browser actually is. A web browser is a piece of software that runs on the operating system and allows you to interface with the internet. That still sounds a bit complex let’s break that down a bit further. I’m going to have a video up soon in my YouTube page soon, link here, where I will be talking about software in general. I’ll also be putting up another video soon that talks about the internet and web browsers in more detail. For now, we can just think of the Internet as ‘that cloud’ people always draw and they talk about the internet and your browser is the way that you connect to that cloud.

A portion of the internet, visualized, with a browser window

When you start using Windows, which is sort of the default operating system for most computers, you will also have a default browser called Internet Explorer installed on it. This is the one that Microsoft would like you to use however is the one probably least used globally. Some of the popular choices that people like to install are; Google’s Chrome browser, Mozilla’s Firefox browser and Apple’s Safari browser. There are also quite a few different flavours of these browsers that you can get that are built on one of the aforementioned ones.

Source: https://password-managers.bestreviews.net/files/six-web-browsers.png

The one that I’m going to recommend is actually built on Google Chrome, and it is called Brave.

Source: https://www.digifloor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/brave-browser.jpg

The first question you might have is “Well why would I use brave instead of Google Chrome?” the simple answer is that Brave is designed to block all of the “nasties” straight out of the box. So that means when you install it, you’re already set up ready to go to for safe browsing. Brave’s inbuilt protection feature is called “Shields” and by default all of “your shield are up” and you are protected against ads and trackers, it ensures that your connection is encrypted and that you blocks third-party cookies. There are two advanced options for even more protection, you can turn off scripts and third-party device recognition. Once again there’s a lot of jargon words in there that break down a few of those to discuss why each of them is things that are good to have blocked.;

1) Ads and Trackers

When you load a site (news sites are good for this one) you will be shown a whole lot of ads as well as the content you are expecting to see (on http://www.cnbc.com Brave blocks 23 ads and trackers)

2) Connection is Encrypted

This option will ensure that you have an encrypted connection between your computer and the server showing you the page. VERY important for any page you enter your personal information on.

3) Blocks Third-Party Cookies

A cookie is a little file a website stores on your computer so that when you come back to that site it can remember what you were doing last. They are also the thing you now have to acknowledge on almost every site when you visit it thanks to the GDPR (more on this in a future post)

Advanced Options Below

4) Turn off Scripts

A powerful option that can ‘break’ a lot of features on the Internet. If you are using this option and the site you are going to does not work, simply turn it back off again.

5) Third-Party Device Recognition

This helps to prevent websites from ‘fingerprinting’ you and tracking you with this identifiable print.

I like to set cookies to ‘blocked’ and ‘scripts’ to ‘blocked’ as well. Then, if a site is not working for me I turn them back to ‘allowed’ but you certainly don’t have to take these extra steps.

If you are a more experienced user and you have a few plugins/ extensions that you use, as long as they were designed to work in Chrome, they will also work here. One that I always add is called ‘Cookies AutoDelete’ which, as the name suggests, deletes cookies when you close a tab. This works well if you decided to allow Third-Party Cookies back in the Shield settings. It just makes sure that no little bits of information are left floating around.

Sounds good? You can grab Brave from their site, here, and while you’re there, have a read about their philosophies and features.

Although Brave is my ‘Daily Driver’ I still use a few other browsers for other uses. In fact, Firefox has some really advanced security features that I will showcase in another post at a later date. The point of Brave is that it is ready to go out of the box and easy to use.

That’s all for today folks. Let me know in the comment section if you already use Brave, or would consider switching to it. Or, if you’re not sure what browser you have, post that as a comment and we can see if we can work it out together.

Warm Regards,

Paul

MOVING to LINUX [Part 1] – “Why, what’s wrong with Windows?”

Prologue;

David Tenant was MY Doctor. For anyone who’s not a Dr Who fan, I apologise, that last sentence won’t make any sense. But for those who do know a bit of Dr Who, this was all to say that Windows 7 was MY Windows. But sadly Microsoft will be stopping support for Windows 7 as of January 2020. This blog post will look at my history with Windows Operating Systems, the future of Windows, what people should do about it, and what I’m personally going to be doing.

Windows 7 is the operating system which I have spent the most time using, and the one I still use to this day (Q2 2019), and, sadly to say, it is the last version of Windows I intend to be using as my ‘daily driver’ (or, ‘computer I use every day to do my work and play games.’) That’s right folks, I’m NOT going to be going to Windows 10. Now at this point, you might be asking yourself “What the heck is he on about? What’s the difference between Windows 7 and 10?” or “What happened to 8 and 9“ and “Why do I need to know or care?” all very good questions that we WILL answer in this blog post.

My history with Windows;

But first… let me take you back to my childhood. I grew up on computers before they had the shiny click-to-do interfaces we have come to know and love (there are actually called GUI’s Graphical User Interface.) When I started to learn how to use a computer it was all controlled by typing commands into a ‘command line’ which is a method still commonly used in Linux operating systems, more about them soon.

Image 1 – My Computer

Fast forward to 1990(ish) and the first version of Windows that my Father installed on our home computer was 3.1 and it was amazing. It was the first GUI that I had used and it was such an advancement (to me anyway) that it was hard to go back. However, in those days we still had to open the Command Prompt to do some tasks, it was still easier sometimes.


Image 2 & 3 – Windows 3.1 start screen and Interface, Source: Microsoft


End of 2001 saw the release of Windows XP, the operating system I’ve spent the second most amount of time with, gets installed on my Fathers computer. By this time, I’ve just completed my Diploma of Information Technology and I’ve gotten good at using computers. Looking back I can’t believe that XP came out at the same time I finished my Diploma.

Image 4 – Windows XP interface, Source: Wikipedia

Windows XP served me very well until Windows 7 arrived in 2009. Eight years of long and consistent reliably saw XP as one of the most stable operating systems to date. I guess I call Windows 7 MY Windows because it’s also the one that I taught my partner and kids to use, even if they don’t have the same connection to Windows as I do, my wife says she remembers using Windows 3.1 when I showed her the images above. But, all good things must come to an end…

Image 5 – Windows 7 Interface, Source: Wikipedia

As of January 14th 2020, software giant Microsoft will be stopping its support for Windows 7. Support will continue for businesses running Windows 7 however they will be charged incrementally larger amount each year, for each computer they have running Windows 7. The idea for Microsoft is that they want to get everyone to move to the newest version to Windows 10 so that they can move forward without having to support old versions of the operating system, which makes good business sense.

Image 5 – The Windows 10 interface. Source: Wikipedia

The future of Windows;

So what does this mean to the average person using Windows 7? It means that as of January next year a decision will need to be made. “Do I upgrade to Windows 10, or continue with Windows 7 but run the risk of having security vulnerabilities being discovered that won’t be fixed?” For most people, I would have to say that upgrading to Windows 10 is the easiest and safest option, and it’s the option that Microsoft is hoping most people will be doing. The problem is is that there are still just under half of all computers running a Windows-based operating system, running an older version of Windows, so Windows; XP, 7 or 8.1. Windows 10 is allegedly that last version that Microsoft intends to release, so all other updates will be to this version.

As I mentioned in my prologue, I won’t be moving to Windows 10. I’m looking at moving instead to something called Linux! When I originally wrote this blog post, I included quite a bit of information about what Linux is and why I’m choosing it over Windows, but it was getting way too long. So I decided to split it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces. For this blog post, I’ll just finish up by summing up what steps people will need to think about taking before January 2020.

Solutions;

First off, I don’t recommend you stay on Windows 7, you will be too vulnerable and I can almost guarantee we will see problems for the people that do stay on it before the end of 2020. So your options are;

  1. If you own a properly licensed copy of Windows 7 then there is a relatively easy way to upgrade to Windows 10, possibly for free. This is dependent on if your computer hardware is fast enough to be able to run this new version of Windows; however, it seems that it runs quite well on computers that are a few years old.
  2. If you were to purchase a new computer it will have Windows 10 already installed on it.
  3. Another option is to outright buy a copy of the new Windows 10 and install it on your computer. Note: at the time of writing this, it looks like you can expect to pay about $139AUS or $195USD for a single, personal use copy of Windows 10. Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/cart?cid=Windows10
  4. Stop using Microsoft Windows all together, but that will be covered in another blog post as I said.

If you are not sure what version of Windows you are running and you would like to make sure, please email me; hobstar@protonmail.com with the subject; “Blog Post #3 – What’s my Windows?” and I can walk you through how to find out.

Take away message;

Don’t freak out! There is still time to work this out, whether it’s to upgrade, or buy that new computer you’ve been thinking of getting, we can work this out. Let me know down in the comments of this post what you are planning on doing.

One last thing, I’m excited to introduce a new page to the site, a collection of buzz words and terms that you see in these post along with a brief description to explain them. I plan on updating it often so do stop by and see what new bits of lingo you can pick up. https://hobstarblog.wordpress.com/glossary/


Thanks again to everyone for reading.
Warm Regards,
Paul

P.S. I forgot to talk about Microsoft’s odd numbering system. So Windows had a version 1, 2 before 3, but I never used those. XP then went to 7 and they release a version called 8 which was updated to 8.1 (which is how you will see it listed) but we don’t speak about this one… it was not widely like. With 8.1, they tried to make a hybrid version that would work on desktop and tablets, and it was not a good experience. And finally, they skipped 9 all together, perhaps trying to distance them selves form the tragedy that was 8.1. 😛