Ask Leo! #457 – Manure? Yes, manure. Are background updates akin to malware,? Backing up LastPass and more…

*** Featured

Stop spreading manure

Once again, there's been another brouhaha. This time, it's over reports that Google blatantly admits that you should have no expectation of privacy whatsoever when using their services. The internet went crazy. Many sources seemed to say, "How outrageous! We told you so! Google is evil!" Mainstream news outlets picked up stories from smaller publishers and they all seemed to confirm the entire, sordid mess.

Except the internet was wrong. Manure, to use a polite term, was being spread far and wide fast.

And that's where things get complicated.

Continue Reading: Stop spreading manure

How do I back up Lastpass?

For a long time, I've recommended password managers like Roboform and Lastpass to help readers keep track of the passwords for all of their online accounts. Besides offering an incredible level of convenience, these tools also give you a greater level of security because they make it practical to use truly long and complex passwords and generate different ones on every site.

But, as with all things relating to security, there are risks.

For example, what happens if you forget your LastPass master password? Master passwords cannot be recovered. While there are a couple of options to hopefully regain access to your password vault, the worst-case scenario is that you lose the vault and everything in it, forever.

Not to keep beating the same old drum, but the best solution is very simple.

Back up.

Continue Reading: How do I back up Lastpass?

*** Answercast

Answercast #120 - Hacked backups, sharing wifi, external monitors, viewing two email accounts and more...

Need to view two email accounts, plug in three monitors or run multiple computers on a motel's wifi? Wonder if backups can be hacked or why malware is hard to remove? Is auto-play driving you nuts? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

Listen Now!
(Includes the raw transcript on which the articles below were based.)

Are silent background updates a good thing?
In my opinion, background updates are awesome. I love that Chrome is always up to date without my ever even having to think about it. Let's look at why.

Continue reading: Are silent background updates a good thing?

How can I view two different email accounts at once in a browser?
From multiple browsers to native support, there are a few ways to have multiple browser-based email accounts open at once. I'll review the most common.

Continue reading: How can I view two different email accounts at once in a browser?

Can I add more than one external monitor to my machine?
Depending on the hardware ports that you have on that laptop, you should be able to simply plug in a monitor. I'll show you your options.

Continue reading: Can I add more than one external monitor to my machine?

Is there a way to determine which browser tab is playing sound?
Websites that automatically play sound are evil, pure and simple. And there is only one way to quickly get rid of the intrusive sounds.

Continue reading: Is there a way to determine which browser tab is playing sound?

Can backups of email be hacked?
Not just email, but any information that is anywhere on "the cloud" is subject to backups. That means there is a copy somewhere. Is this a problem?

Continue reading: Can backups of email be hacked?

Can I use an external keyboard with my laptop?
Go ahead. Plug it in... unless your keyboard is not USB. In that case, you may have a problem.

Continue reading: Can I use an external keyboard with my laptop?

Why doesn't malware appear in the Add/Remove Programs list?
Malware not showing up in the Add/Remove Programs list doesn't surprise me at all. After all, malware's success is based on its ability to hide from you!

Continue reading: Why doesn't malware appear in the Add/Remove Programs list?

How can I share a single WiFi connection across multiple devices?
I have a rant about hotels that nickel and dime you on an internet connection. Fortunately, there might be something that you can do about it.

Continue reading: How can I share a single WiFi connection across multiple devices?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week


The term Zero-day is typically used in conjunction with terms such as "vulnerability" or "exploit".

A zero-day exploit refers to a vulnerability discovered in software, for which:

  • there is no available remedy – end users have no way to fix or "patch" the vulnerability
  • there is known malware actively exploiting that vulnerability to infect, damage or otherwise compromise computers on which the vulnerable software is running

"Zero-day" refers to the amount of time that the software authors have to fix the issue: zero – ideally it needs to be resolved immediately.

Any vulnerability that is first discovered by virtue of encountering malware in the wild that exploits it can be considered zero-day. This is contrasted with vulnerabilities discovered by researchers and others for which patches are made available before malware exploiting it is found.

Word o' the Week features a computer term or acronym taken from the Ask Leo! Glossary. If there's a word you're not sure of and would like to see defined, click here to let me know.

*** Featured Reader Comments

Does defragging too much harm my hard disk?

Sam writes:

PC World Magazine has periodically mentioned that they have done benchmark tests showing that defragging HDD's gain very little, if any, increase in speed. When I pose the question asking for evidence of speed improvement, all I've ever gotten in response is "it's only logical that it would," and "it seems faster to me after I do" - - I can't argue with either response, but neither of them are evidence of speed improvement.

Defragging in Windows 7 (and later)

Reid writes:

Since more and more systems are built using solid state drives (especially laptops), is Windows intelligent enough to exclude them from its scheduled defrag process? Or is this one of those items that we need to go in and disable?

Leo writes:

Excellent timing, as I just tested this. I swapped out a hard drive in a machine, replacing it with an SSD. The command used by the scheduled task - "defrag -c" - appears to skip SSDs. Where it used to defrag C: the hard disk, it no longer tries to defrag C: the SSD.

Stop spreading manure

Dale Hall writes:

Then what are your views on PRISM and NSA spying? Are these falsehoods as well ?

Leo writes:

Again, it's not as simple as "true" or "false". Everyone wants it to be either true ("OMG! The government is spying on everyone!") or false ("What a pile of paranoia!"). The reality is somewhere in between. I believe that many if not most of the news reports are significantly overblown, mostly for sensationalism and various agendas, political and otherwise. Is there some truth to it? Almost certainly. But I don't lay awake at night worrying about the government spying on me.

*** Thoughts and Comments

Congratulations to the first five winners!

The first five winners have been selected in the Ask Leo! 10th Anniversary Drawing!. Congratulations to Charlie A., Ceclia V., Brian T. and to two others who have yet to reply to my email telling them that they've won!

If your first name is Billie or Travis check your spam folder. Smile I know we all get "you've won!" notifications (aka spam) all the time, so I tried to word things in as non-spammy a way as possible, but still...

There's still time to enter! Visit the Ask Leo! 10th Anniversary Drawing! page and enter now.

With the first five having been selected we move to the second phase where I'll be selecting a winner once a week for the next five weeks. One entry per email address, of course, so if you haven't entered be sure to do so now.

Giving away stuff is fun! I may have to do it again, perhaps sooner than my 20th anniversary.

Leo A. Notenboom
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Posted: August 20, 2013 in: 2013
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.