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Leo's Answers #224 – March 30, 2010

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A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

Hello!

Do you have a question for me? Don’t hit reply! Head instead for the Ask Leo! home page and search the site first – seriously, around half the questions people ask are already answered there. You can also browse the archives, past newsletters and more. (The “ask a question” form is temporarily disabled while I’m on vacation. More on that below.)

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*** New Articles

How does screen resolution work?

I’ve not received this exact question, but rather I get a lot of questions relating to screen resolution and why things don’t work as expected. I also get questions where changing the screen resolution is one possible answer, but explaining why gets … complicated.

Screen resolution seems like a very simple thing, and most of the time it is.

The problem is sometimes it’s not. And it’s not in a way that let’s me say “smaller is actually bigger” with a straight face.

Yes, making things smaller can make things bigger.

Told ya it’d be complicated.

Continue reading: How does screen resolution work?
http://ask-leo.com/C4245

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Why can’t I get the volume louder in Windows Vista and Windows 7?

I use Windows Vista and my volume is set to 100 % but the volume is low. This is with all applications. My driver is up to date and all speakers are working normally according to all my checks. I can remember when my volume would run you out of the room but recently it dropped down to almost a whisper. It is annoying especially when playing music. What can I do to get my volume back up and down to 45 – 50%?

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Volume control has always been a tad confusing, even back in XP.

I’m not sure if the changes in Vista (inherited by Windows 7) made things better or worse, but it’s still somewhat confusing.

As I sit here listening to music, I can count no less that four volume controls that the music passes through before it reaches my ears.

Continue reading: Why can’t I get the volume louder in Windows Vista and Windows 7?
http://ask-leo.com/C4242

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What’s the difference between an ad and your recommendation?

For some this’ll seem both obvious, and somewhat odd that I’d be addressing it at all.

For others, however, there’s an extremely important lesson here that I’ve come to the conclusion needs some serious clarification.

And it’s not just about what happens here at Ask Leo!, but rather how you view the content you see everywhere on the internet.

You need to recognize advertisements.

Continue reading: What’s the difference between an ad and your recommendation?
http://ask-leo.com/C4240

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Does having a password on my Windows login keep me secure?

I use Windows 7 on two desktops and a laptop. Up until now, I have never bothered using a password when logging on. But recently, I was cautioned to use a Windows Logon password when I bought the laptop. The shop where I purchased it said this was for security, in case someone took it. They also said the use of a password on my home PCs would prevent malware from being automatically installed should I inadvertently download something. Is this true? I ask because a year ago, I tried to close a pop under ad using the red X button and unknowingly installed malware. I now use Task Manager for such operations, but the bad guys keep changing what they do, so that solution may someday no longer work.

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I’ll put it this way: the security provided by a Windows login password is highly overrated.

It doesn’t protect you from many of the things that you’ve mentioned, and it’s pretty darned easy to circumvent.

Yes, I use a password on my Windows 7 machines, but not for security reasons. I use one because it’s required to make something I use frequently to work.

You should probably have one too, but just be aware of what it gets you, and especially what it doesn’t.

Continue reading: Does having a password on my Windows login keep me secure?
http://ask-leo.com/C4231

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Why am I getting spam with my email address but with a different name?

Spammers try to use many, many techniques to try to fool you into opening and reading their message.

One of the most common is playing around with the email addresses to which they send their spam.

I’ll review the most common approaches, and theorize a little bit as to where they come from and why they might be used.

Continue reading: Why am I getting spam with my email address but with a different name?
http://ask-leo.com/C4230

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*** Comments

Will not using the keyboard fool key loggers?

Fred Husby writes:

I have been using the copy/paste method for years. Mow I am using the excellent tool Lastpass. (Can be used as freeware too) I don’t think any “screen- or keylogger” has any chance to capture any information that I don’t want to share

That’s an extremely dangerous assumption. Just because I only talked about screen capture, doesn’t mean that other things couldn’t be monitored and captured by spyware or activity monitors. Capturing the techniques used by LastPass or RoboForm or other tools of that nature would actually be pretty easy for sufficiently sophisticated malware to do.

-Leo

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Will not using the keyboard fool key loggers?

Ben writes:

From what I have read here, there is no safe way to use a computer. Just today I scanned with trend micro and found nothing yet a window appears from Vista defender (whatever that is) stating that they found 25 problems including a keystroke one and an unknown software is trying to take control over my system. Now I am afraid to log into roboform to get to my emails and money accounts.

It’s easy to think that, isn’t it? And yet – there are so many ways that people could break into our house, or steal our wallets, or any number of bad things, and it doesn’t happen to most of us. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s likely. My concern here is that I don’t want people to make false assumptions about what is safe, and then go on to assume that otherwise risky behavior is safe. We all need to know what’s possible so that we can take reasonable and practical steps to stay safe.

As for me, I use my computer every day in spite of all the things that could go wrong. I take practical precautions, and get on with my work.

-Leo

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Does getting porn spam mean that you’ve been surfing porn sites?

D.S. Ullman writes:

Another source of spam is posting your email on an open forum.