Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, February 3, 2013
In this Issue:
Special Feature: Scammers Dump Flooded Cars on Unsuspecting Buyers
Special Series: Windows 8 Tips, Tricks and Secrets
This Week's Topic: Speed Up a Slow Computer – Turn Off Auto Start Programs - MSCONFIG
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Apple ID
Websites of Interest: February is Black History Month; Super Bowl; The Super Bowl Teams; Super Bowl Recipes; Puppy Bowl
Special Feature: Scammers Dump Flooded Cars on Unsuspecting Buyers
By Audri Lanford of scambusters.org
The devastating impact of winter storms like Hurricane Sandy includes a torrent of flooded cars offered for sale by unscrupulous dealers and individuals. Sandy alone accounted for 230,000 flood damaged cars and although many of them are either totaled or openly sold as salvaged vehicles, others keep their dark secret until it's too late.
In this week's issue, we'll tell you how to spot flooded cars. So if you're buying a car during the next few months, especially a newer vehicle being offered at a bargain price, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to check that it's not flood-damaged.
Here are five key things you should do:
1. Check the Records
This scam is not only happening in flood-hit areas, for one very important reason: flooded cars classified as totaled have to be retitled and then listed as damaged, but not necessarily if the new title is issued in a different state. However, checking the title and insurance record is still the first step you should take whenever you buy a used vehicle, especially online or from a dealer or individual you don't know.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) VINCheck, set up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, maintains a database of totaled and damaged vehicles. You should find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on a plate beneath the bottom of the windshield on the driver's side. Check this number against NICB's records.
2. Ask Questions
Honest dealers should tell you upfront if the vehicle has been flood-damaged, even if it wasn't written off by the insurer. Others might not directly deceive you. That is, they won't lie but they may not tell you unless you ask. So ask.
Request information about the vehicle's history; ask to see copies of any maintenance and repair records; and specifically ask if it has been damaged or affected by floods. If the seller doesn't appear to know anything or if they're evasive, take that as a red flag. They may genuinely know little about the vehicle -- but that's all the more reason why you should.
3. Inspect the Vehicle
Put all your senses to work to check for warnings signs of potential trouble.
One of the most obvious signs is, of course, rust. First, look underneath the car and inside the wheel wells. But dishonest sellers likely will do their best to disguise rust or clean it up in these places. So you have to look for the spots they probably will have missed. For example: underneath the carpeting and screws in parts of the car that wouldn't normally be submerged, such as in the console.
Likewise, mud and grit will possibly have been steam-cleaned away. But you still may be able to spot it in the trunk or in door panels, or in less accessible parts of the engine compartment such as in the alternator and behind wiring harnesses.
You should also check the wiring for signs of corrosion, water in the well below the spare tire, and look for bubbles in the paintwork.
Under the hood, check the consistency of the oil. If it looks milky, it likely has water mixed in with it.
In the cabin, look for items that seem to have been replaced when you wouldn't expect them to be -- like new carpet in older cars or cheap, non-standard audio equipment in newer autos.
Don't forget to use your nose as well as your eyes. Does the inside smell damp or musty, especially in the trunk?
The scent of a powerful deodorant might be another red flag. If there's an air-freshener, remove it, open the widows and run the air blower for a few minutes; then close the windows, shut-off the blower... and sniff!
Use your fingers too. Do the carpets and upholstery feel damp? They may have been freshly shampooed-- but if it's a newer vehicle, why?
4. Take it for a Spin
You should always, of course, test drive any vehicle you're thinking of buying.
When you suspect possible flood damage, you will likely hear more squeaks and squeals than normal. Brakes might also be noisy and not as responsive as they should be. And stuttering engines or intermittent electrical faults are a dead giveaway.
5. Get an Expert Opinion
If you have any doubts whatsoever about the car's history or you're not up to carrying out the rigorous checks yourself, get a professional to look it over. Make sure the expert removes the wheels and checks the brakes. Yes, all of this will cost you, but, in the longer run, it could also save you money and, more importantly, save lives.
Like all disasters, storms and hurricanes are a scammer's delight. Mostly, we tend to think of the immediate impact on the people who get hit, but flooded cars offer proof the scammers have all of us in their sights, wherever we are.
Special Series: Windows 8 Tips, Tricks and Secrets
By Mike Williams and Matt Hanson of techradar.com and bleepingcomputer.com
Windows 8 is here, and if you're used to previous versions of Windows then you're going to notice that quite a bit has changed. In fact, Windows has seen the biggest changes since the jump from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95.
Out goes the Start menu, in comes the new touch-oriented Start screen, new apps, new interface conventions - even experienced PC users may be left feeling a little lost.
Don't despair, though, help is at hand with our Windows 8 tutorial. We've been investigating every part of Windows 8, uncovering many of its most important tips and tricks, so read our guide and you'll soon be equipped to get the most out of Microsoft's latest release.
The Lock Screen
Windows 8 opens on its lock screen, which looks pretty but unfortunately displays no clues about what to do next.
It's all very straightforward, though. Just tap the space bar, spin the mouse wheel or swipe upwards on a touch screen to reveal a regular login screen with the user name you created during installation. Enter your password to begin.
The Start Screen
Windows 8 comes with a new user interface called the Windows Start Screen that is the first thing you see when you login. This is the main interface that Windows 8 users use to launch applications, search for files, and browse the web.
This Start screen contains tiles that represent different programs that you can launch by clicking on the title.
One of the features of this new interface is that the tiles themselves are able to show you real-time information directly on the Start screen. This will allow you to use the Start screen not only as a way to start an application, but also as a way to quickly see data such as the weather, e-mail information, new RSS feed articles, etc. For example, the weather tile will not only allow you to launch the main Weather application, but will also display your actual weather conditions directly on the Windows 8 Start screen.
Programs that are designed for the Start Screen interface are called Apps . These Apps are designed to work with the Start Screen so that you can share information with other Apps, synchronize them with other computers, and easily be deployed via the Windows Store.
In our next newsletter: Windows 8: Basic Navigation
Many of us these days depend on the World Wide Web to bring the world’s information to our fingertips, and put us in touch with people and events across the globe instantaneously.
These powerful online experiences are possible thanks to an open web that can be accessed by anyone through a web browser, on any Internet-connected device in the world.
But how do our browsers and the web actually work? How has the World Wide Web evolved into what we know and love today? And what do we need to know to navigate the web safely and efficiently?
“20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web” is a short guide for anyone who’s curious about the basics of browsers and the web. Here’s what you’ll find here:
First we’ll look at the Internet, the very backbone that allows the web to exist. We’ll also take a look at how the web is used today, through cloud computing and web apps.
Finally, we’ll look ahead to the exciting innovations in browsers and web technologies that we believe will give us all even faster and more immersive online experiences in the future.
Life as citizens of the web can be liberating and empowering, but also deserves some self-education. Just as we’d want to know various basic facts as citizens of our physical neighborhoods -- water safety, key services, local businesses -- it’s increasingly important to understand a similar set of information about our online lives. That’s the spirit in which we wrote this guide. Many of the examples used to illustrate the features and functionality of the browser often refer back to Chrome, the open-source browser that we know well. We hope you find this guide as enjoyable to read as we did to create.
The Google Chrome Team
Web pages are written in HTML, the web programming language that tells web browsers how to structure and present content on a web page. In other words, HTML provides the basic building blocks for the web. And for a long time, those building blocks were pretty simple and static: lines of text, links and images.
Today, we expect to be able to do things like play online chess or seamlessly scroll around a map of our neighborhood, without waiting for the entire page to reload for every chess move or every map scroll.
Web pages have also become more expressive with the introduction of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS gives programmers an easy, efficient way to define a web page’s layout and beautify the page with design elements like colors, rounded corners, gradients, and animation.
Today’s web has evolved from the ongoing efforts of all the technologists, thinkers, coders and organizations who create these web technologies and ensure that they’re supported in web browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome. This interaction between web technologies and browsers has made the web an open and friendly construction platform for web developers, who then bring to life many useful and fun web applications that we use daily.
In our next edition: HTML5
Today's Topic: Speed Up a Slow Computer – Turn Off Auto Start Programs - MSCONFIG
As your Windows computer ages, its speed can decrease. You will notice an increase in response time when you give commands to open programs, files or folders, use the Internet and other tasks. There are several things you can do to speed up your computer.
In our ongoing series, Speed Up a Slow Computer, we will present articles discussing some of the steps you can take to speed up your slow computer.
Important: Before making any changes to your system, always create a Restore Point. If anything goes wrong with the changes you make, this will allow you to revert back to a point when the computer was operating correctly. Please visit our Newsletter Archives to read our article, All About Restore Points:
Turn Off Auto Start Programs - MSCONFIG
Every program that is open and running slows the computer down. The more programs that are running, the slower the computer will go. When you turn your computer on, many hidden programs start up and run in the background. Some of these programs are essential, but most are not. Turning off some of these hidden programs can significantly increase your computer's performance and reliability.
Windows has a special tool called the Microsoft System Configuration Utility or MSCONFIG. It is designed to help troubleshoot computer problems but can also be used to find and turn off some of the hidden programs that are not needed.
To open MSCONFIG:
In XP, click the Start button and click Run. Type msconfig in the Open box. Click the OK button.
In Vista / 7, click the Start Orb. Click in the Start Search box and type msconfig. MSCONFIG will appear in the search results, at the top of the menu. Click to open it. Vista will ask for permission to continue; click to agree.
This will open the Microsoft System Configuration Utility. Click the Startup tab at the top of the window.
The items in the list you now see are programs that open every time you turn on your computer. Some startup programs are essential; many are not. The nonessential programs can be turned off by clicking the box to the left of the item name. Once clicked, the checkmark will be removed.
To determine which items can be turned off and which must be left on, visit this website:
At this site, most items in the startup list can be researched.
In the System Configuration window, note the Command column to the right of the item name column. The entry in this column will be used to research whether that item can be turned off or should be left on.
Increase the size of the Command column. To do so, point to the vertical line between the Command and the Location column headings. The mouse pointer will change into a plus sign. When you see the plus sign, hold down the left mouse button and drag the line to the right. This will increase the size of the column. Increase the size of the column so that each entry is completely displayed.
A typical entry in that column will look something like this:
igfxtray.exe is the filename and the part that will be researched at the sysinfo.org website.
In your System Configuration window, write down the filename of one of the items you would like to research. Make sure you write it down exactly as it appears. Go to the sysinfo.org website. Scroll down to the Search box, click in it and then type the filename you wrote down. Click the Search button.
If the website has information about the startup item, a description will be displayed. The status column will display one of these codes:
Y - Normally leave to run at start-up
N - Not required or not recommended - typically infrequently used tasks that can be started manually if necessary
U - User's choice - depends whether a user deems it necessary
X - Definitely not required - typically viruses, spyware, adware and "resource hogs"
? - Unknown
If a Y is displayed next to your item, leave it as is. If any of the other codes are noted, the item can be turned off. In the System Configuration window, click the box to the left of the item to remove the check mark.
This process can be done for each item in the System Configuration window. After you have finished, click the OK button and then click Restart to restart the computer. When the computer restarts, a window will open where you will confirm selective startup. Click to not show the window in the future.
Note: It is recommended to turn off only one or two items at a time, and then use the computer to make sure everything is working fine. If problems do occur, the items that were turned off can simply be turned on again. To do so, open the System Configuration window and click to turn on the item.
In our next edition, learn how to speed up your computer by disabling unnecessary services.
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Apple ID
So what's an Apple ID? If you've already turned on your iPad, you know that it's part of the setup process. But what else does it do?
In short, an Apple ID is a simple username and password. It doesn't cost any money to create one, but it's a very important part of the iPad experience. Not only is it your identity on your device; it's also your gateway to other Apple services like the App Store, iCloud, select built-in apps, and much, much more. The more you use your iPad, the more you'll understand how prevalent the Apple ID is.
If you don't have an Apple ID yet, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to create one when you set up your device. You can also sign up online.
Creating an Apple ID
If you've ever bought music from the iTunes Store, or if you've bought an iOS device, you were probably asked to create an Apple ID. The Apple ID is an account that you can use to access all of Apple's services. You can use it to buy music, TV shows, and apps from the iTunes Store, or you can buy apps for your Mac from the Mac App Store (if you have OS X Lion or Snow Leopard). You'll also need an Apple ID in order to use iCloud.
If you don't have an Apple ID, you can follow the steps below to set it up.
To Create an Apple ID:
Go to the My Apple ID page and click Create an Apple ID.
Type your email address. This will be used as your Apple ID. You will also need to choose a password.
Continue filling out the form with your security question, name, address and other info.
If you do not want to receive emails from Apple, uncheck the check boxes under Contact Preferences.
Click Create Apple ID. Apple will then send you a verification email. You will need to sign in to your email and follow the directions in the verification email to complete your registration.
Providing Payment Information
When you create an Apple ID with a web browser, it won't ask for any payment information. That's because many Apple services (such as iCloud) do not require payment. However, when you sign in to the iTunes Store or the Mac App Store, you will be asked to review your account information. You will then need to provide a credit card number and billing address.
You can also create an Apple ID in iTunes or the Mac App Store by going to Store > Create Account. When you do this, you will need to provide your payment information during the registration process.
In our next edition:
Operating Your Device
Websites of Interest:
February is Black History Month
This website celebrates Black History Month with biographies, reference links, a civil rights timeline, and much more.
Visit the official site of Superbowl XLVII.
The Super Bowl Teams
Super Bowl Recipes
For dog lovers, instead of the Super Bowl