Leo’s Answers #274 – March 15, 2011

A Weekly Newsletter From
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Leo Notenboom

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*** New Articles

Can I protect my data from deletion?

In several posts, you had recommended TrueCrypt as a form of encryption. But my issue is that, even with encryption, your sensitive data will not be safe on the computer. Any person who has tried several times to crack the TrueCrypt volume could simply delete the file on disk, as TrueCrypt saves volumes as files on the disk. Is there any method of protecting sensitive (TrueCrypted) files on the computer from deletion?

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No.

Encrypting your data, as I'm sure you realize, protects it from being seen by people that shouldn't see it, but it does nothing at all to prevent that data from being erased.

In fact, it's nearly impossible to prevent someone with malicious intent from deleting data. Heck, it's impossible to prevent accidental deletion.

We might make it more difficult, but certainly not impossible.

Continue reading: Can I protect my data from deletion?
http://ask-leo.com/C4763

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How often should I defragment my hard disk?

How many times in a week is it good to defragment and run my anti-virus? Mostly, I run both one to two times in a week.

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My most common answer is that it depends.

It depends on several things, including your machine, how you use it and how much you do. As it turns out, even the version of Windows plays a part.

I'll give you a few guidelines.

Continue reading: How often should I defragment my hard disk?
http://ask-leo.com/C4762

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How do I avoid needing a password after standby or hibernation?

After I published How do I login to Windows automatically? a couple of weeks ago, I received several emails telling me that it didn't work - that a password was still required after turning the computer back on after hibernation or standby.

The problem is that those aren't login scenarios. When you're in standby or hibernation, you're already logged in.

For security purposes, each of those features simply requires you to provide your password again before they'll let you back in. It may feel like a login, but in reality, it's unrelated to logging in to your computer.

Let's make your computer a little less secure by turning that requirement off.

Continue reading: How do I avoid needing a password after standby or hibernation?
http://ask-leo.com/C4761

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Should I Install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

I've heard that Windows 7 SP1 is out. Is it safe to install? Should I?

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Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is now available.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you should just immediately install it, though.

Windows 7 SP1 isn't really all that exciting. The point of SP1 is simply to roll-up bug fixes and patches made so far. It probably also includes some less critical bug fixes that haven't yet made it out to the average Windows 7 machine.

It shouldn't significantly impact your machine's operation - well, other than making it more stable and secure.

I emphasize "shouldn't" because it comes with a small amount of risk, as do all major updates. I have heard of a very small number of people who are having problems with it.

You can probably guess how I'll suggest you start.

Continue reading: Should I Install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?
http://ask-leo.com/C4371

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Retaining your social media connections

I spoke very briefly at a recent meet-up, sharing a "top tip" for social media usage for non-profits. "Very briefly" was indeed very brief, so I'll expand a little on the topic here.

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There are many opinions on the topic, I'm sure, but as I look at how people are using social media, two words come to mind when I think of what it takes to be successful.

Consistency and relevancy.

The good news is that this is true for businesses, non-profits, and just about anyone that wants to have an engaged social media following.

Even better is that, while I'll focus on social media, my tips apply equally well to all forms of an organization's communication.

Followers are hard won, whether they be Twitter followers, Facebook fans, newsletter subscribers or blog readers. While you'll always look for ways to attract followers, the more common and often overlooked challenge is how to keep and engage the ones you have.

Continue reading: Retaining your social media connections
http://ask-leo.com/C4760

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*** Comments

Will computers ever be malware and bug free?

Glenn P. writes:

Leo, you wrote:

"What most people fail to grasp is the incredible complexity behind most of our computer systems... Make it less complex? Well, that means making it do less, be capable of less, and be less functional."

Surely the ultimate in "less capable, less functional" in computers today must be the Commodore-64. Believe it or not, there is still a fairly large hobby group who still uses this ancient thing (I use a C128 myself, in "C64" mode). It has NO multitasking, NO graphical interface whatsoever (anyone remember DOS?), operates at only 1Hz (no, that's not 1Ghz! I said 1Hz!), runs on BASIC v2.0, and has only (and I quote) "38911 BASIC Bytes Free" for programming use. Drop your jaws, folks: this thing is limited. Even primitive. And I love it.

Here's the thing, though. I had programmed a little routine years ago to determine whether a program written to a disk drive was locked or unlocked. It worked flawlessly, and I considered it absolutely reliable.

Until...

Until, years later, new third-party, aftermarket disk-drives came out! These produced directories which looked right, but which in technical detail didn't precisely conform to the Commodore standard, and in consequence my little program would sometimes misinterpret a locked file as being unlocked! That could have been disastrous!

I was forced to rewrite the entire algorithm to account for the change.

MORAL: Even in so-called "simple" computer systems, unexpected bugs are bound to arise and updates are bound to become necessary from time to time!

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What computer should I get?

J. Servis writes:

Hello Leo, Very informative article. Like you say, everyones needs are different, & I get this question all the time, and tell each person the same thing. When looking for a laptop/notebook in particular, do your research first. Look at the adds from the big box stores, then Google the model numbers for forums and further input. This will give some idea of the pro/cons on inexpensive vs. more expensive. Then take into further account what purpose you will be using the machine for. The worst thing you could do is walk uninformed into the local big box store, ie Staples, Best Buy, Office Max, etc. They may mean well, but the help is mostly uninformed & just want to sell you something. The more expensive the better! You CAN get very good deals at such places, but know beforehand what you want, shop for the best price, & go in and buy it. I myself have an H.P.Pavillion dv7 Loaded, laptop. It's huge, it's heavy, but it's what i need. I've had it going on 2 years now with not so much as a hiccup. In use 8 to 10 hours a day. As far as my home base desk top, Dell XPS 400 that's been tweeked so much it's pretty much just a Dell case. But for a desktop I'd have to recommend Dell. Thanks for letting me ramble! John.

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Posted via a question:

Hi Leo, I am just getting familiar with your wonderful newsletter. I am mature and have been going thru many of the issues mentioned for a long time. I am writing because you ask anyone who had been hacked in email to let you know the story. Here it is. First of all I got some messages from neighbors and friends asking what my problem was as they received an email out of character for me from my address. On checking, I found they had received an email, with (No Subject) showing on the subject line. Most of my issues were then providing these contacts of mine an url for some sort of advertising. Some one had hacked the Yahoo server, and found there way into my account giving them access to my contacts, and then sending things to the contacts. This happened twice, and so I checked as best I could and found these folks were using a program to decipher passwords on the mail accounts on the server. To this time I had not had a problem with passwords, so was happy with what I had. But now after some discussion with Yahoo, I have completely changed my attitude and all my passwords. You should advise all folks with Web mail of any kind, especially the Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. to use a very strong password. It should include lower case and uppercase letters. numbers and special characters. My recommendation is a minimum of three of each category, and not necessarily consecutive. For Instance. 280&*JIU+ei45 would be a strong password. I have not had a hack in almost a year now since changing my passwords. No why does this work, the hackers attack the server, and only have so much time with each account to try to decipher passwords. The programs used might actually make 10 to 20000 iterations trying to connect, but then will move on. So by strengthening your password it truly makes a difference, as they need much more time to decipher, and can't linger on the server that long. I hope this wasn't too long winded, but it has helped me survive. Ken Baker

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What secret questions should I use?

Mark J writes:

To protect against forgetting passwords, I have a file with all of my passwords and answers to security questions which is protected by a master password. Important: don't forget that password!

That's a pretty reasonable solution, and appropriate warning. I do that, in part at least, using an Excel spreadsheet kept on an encrypted TrueCrypt volume. Master passwords are also typically how tools like Roboform control access to the information they save for you.

-Leo

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One of the frequent complaints about Acrobat Reader is that it can be quite slow to load as it loads and processes modules that 99% of users never need to read a simple PDF file.

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There are a couple of small caveats...

Continue reading...

Foxit Reader - A Faster Free PDF Reader
http://ask-leo.com/C3431

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Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I've found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles

Unfortunately this has been a common vector for malware for some time. Windows 7 makes it somewhat better by disabling things like autorun, but still...

I found a USB thumbdrive, plugged it in and now my system won't work. What happened?

One day I found a USB thumbdrive and I plugged into my computer. After that I couldn't do most of the stuff on my computer, I couldn't open Help and support center, run MSN, Yahoo messenger, other installed programs, system restore, Internet Explorer. Do I have malware or something of that sort?

Yes, I'll bet you do.

I wanted to address this question because it's not all that obvious to most people that plugging in an unknown USB device can be dangerous, to say the least.

And it's one of the reasons I almost always turn off "autoplay".

Continue reading...
I found a USB thumbdrive, plugged it in and now my system won't work. What happened?
http://ask-leo.com/C3319

*** Thoughts and Comments

You may note I'm my own advertiser this week. In fact, if you read the ad carefully, you'll see that it has news of a real-life paper version of my first book, Maintaining Windows XP - A Practical Guide. That's simply due to popular demand. I actually hadn't planned on creating one, but then I started to get requests.

I looked into print-on-demand services, and this week I got my first proof copy. I'm very pleased with the results, and hope to have news on availability in the next week or two.

If you are interested in PDF version of the book - download or CD-ROM - don't forget to use the newsletter subscriber discount code. That's published below, but only in the emailed version of the newsletter.

There's not much that can be said about the events in Japan this last week that others haven't already said much more eloquently than I could.

I show that there are roughly 130 subscribers to this newsletter who are in Japan. I hope that you, your family, friends and loved ones are all well and safe. As others have said "we are all Japanese" and share what can only be a small fraction of the pain of what you're going through.

From my point elsewhere on that same Pacific Ring of Fire I know that it could as easily have happened here. In fact, "they" keep telling us that someday it most likely will.

I'd encourage all who are of a mind to do so to make a donation of some sort to one of the many reputible easthquake/disaster relief agencies. Unfortunately these events also bring out the scammers in droves, so please take the extra step to give only to organizations you know will use your money wisely, or use a site like Charity Navigator for some excellent guidelines and additional information to help you evaluate charities to which you'd want to direct your donations.

And yes, I did, and as the magnitude of what has happened becomes ever clearer, I will again.

Thanks.

'till next week...

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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