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. 😛

Three things to remember when undertaking training

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/

I wanted to take a moment to be frank. In my years as a trainer there are a few things that I’ve encountered that really frustrate me. I wanted to take this opportunity to get a few of these off my chest, but before I do I just want to let everyone know reading this that it Isn’t a reflection on my past or current students. These have all come from my own observations while teaching and from stories my students have shared during class time.

Number one: “I just want to ask a stupid question….” is something I’ve heard nearly every time that I’ve commenced a new course. Consistently, at least one or two people believe that the question they’ve been keeping inside is one that they feel is “stupid” and that the answer is something they should already know. Let me try and squash this once and for all; when there is a genuine desire for knowledge, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Period.

If you’re paying enough attention to me when I’m teaching and that sparks a question, I can almost guarantee that someone else in the class has that same question but may feel silly or too shy to ask. It may also mean that I’ve taken your assumed knowledge for granted, meaning that I need to add something to my training or think of a better way to explain a concept or topic. As a trainer, I’m continuously striving to improve my student’s knowledge and understanding and I relish in the opportunity to answer your questions. I find it’s often the trickier questions are better, as it pushes me to learn more and grow my own knowledge.

Number two: similar to the first point, “I’m stupid because I don’t know ‘X’…” where ‘X’ is either ‘computers’ or some other technology. People are far too harsh on themselves when it comes to not knowing everything. I’d like to share a little story about my mechanic; one day when I went to collect my car, he had the hood up and was explaining to me what work he had done on it. I chatted a bit about my work saying that my hands didn’t get as dirty as his did, he replied with “… yeah, but I’m stupid because I don’t know how to use computers.” This comment stuck me and I replied with “I don’t know anything about what goes on under here…” as I gesture to the stuff under my car’s bonnet “… but that doesn’t make me stupid.

My point is; everyone’s good at something and no one is good at everything. When you come to class to learn about computers, or perhaps take one of my online courses, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because you have a want or a need to better yourself.

Number three: this one is a bit harder to define because it’s based on experiences that students have shared with me over time, but I guess that I can relate it back to when I was in high school, and my ‘trainers’ were the ‘teachers’ of my classes. This is related to my first two point and might be the root of some of these gripes actually. It’s the “you should already know this” or “I can’t be bothered to teach you more than is minimally required” mentalities that some ‘educators’ seem to have.

As a trainer, it’s my job to impart my knowledge onto my students and to train them to get better at using computers. It is not to belittle or demean my students for not knowing something. It really butters my biscuits when I hear people who have had negative experiences with learning when the problem was to do with the trainer. I LOVE training people how to use computers, and the most rewarding part of the experience for me is when I see the confidence gained by my students in using the programs and hardware we’ve been working on.

The other thing that feeds my soul as a trainer is the wonderful comments I receive as feedback at the end of the courses I teach. Here are a few snippets of feedback that I have collected that I wanted to share, names have been removed but I have permission to use them;

… I feel much more confident about applying for jobs now and through your teaching methods, have rediscovered the joy of learning…” -J

Paul is an extraordinary teacher, he is very informative… My computer skills have improved a great deal and I’m not scared to use and navigate my way around the computer…” -H

Using what I learnt in class will improve and shorten my work load… Thanks you soooo much Paul, I have really enjoyed the course…” -N

I don’t share this just to toot my own horn (but it sure does make me feel good) but to help remind myself that the way I teach, my philosophies and principles, are reflected in my students and in their learning outcomes.

I am encouraged by the feedback and know that I am a good teacher and that I am on the right path to achieve my ultimate goal, which is; “To provide training for everyone”, and I really do mean everyone. I have learnt that the people that I enjoy training most are the ones that don’t think they can be taught or that think they are too old, or can’t learn because English is not their first or even second language. You are my people, and I hope to create the best online and in person training that I can personally create. That is my goal, my aim, my mission statement.

Thanks to everyone who has made it this far in my rant, I can stop being frank now and return to being Paul. 😛

I felt that I needed to get these things off my chest, but I’ll never stop enforcing these ideals to my current and future students. I believe it’s soo import for everyone considering about learning something new to keep in mind the things I’m going to summarise now;

  1. There is no such thing as a stupid question!” If you feel like your question is “Stupid” and you going to include that when you ask it, try just changing it to “I just want to know something…?” or “One question I have is….?
  2. You are NOT stupid because you don’t know something!” We are all her on this planet to, hopefully, become better people. This is a noble pursuit and should not be sneered at.
  3. Your trainer/ teacher/ instructor/ etc, is there to teach you, if they are not able to teach you, that’s their failing, not yours.” I think that’s a good way to sum up my third gripe listed above, I honestly don’t want to bad mouth other trainers but to just makes me mad when I hear those type of  stories from my students. I had frustrations when I was a kid being taught things by my father, but that a topic for another time. 🙂

Leave a comment below of a positive or negative training experience you’ve had in the past.

That all folks! Thanks again for reading this long ramble from me. I’m going to do my best to continue getting these out every Monday so stay tuned.

Warm Regards,

Paul

The Journey Begins

The first post! Hard to begin so I’ll just start typing. I plan to use this blog to chronicle my progress as an IT Trainer, IT enthusiast and IT tinkerer.

Some of the exciting things you can keep an eye out for here include;

  1. Me getting better at blogging
  2. My journey towards using exclusively free and open source software for all of my computing needs (more on this is a future post)
  3. Deep dives into the ways in which we can stay more secure and private online; something I’m passionate about
  4. Looking at using Raspberry Pi for fun and useful projects (more on what that means soon)

I’ll have a lot more to say soon and I plan to start releasing a weekly blog post every Monday so please do check back again soon. Please also leave a reply down below this post if you have things that you would like me to talk about, or technology you’d like demystified.

~ Paul