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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, April 27, 2014

In this Issue:
Special Feature: How to Protect Yourself from Online Fraud and Identity Theft
Special Series: Using the Windows 8 Start Screen
Special Feature: Intro to the Mac - Mac OS X Mavericks - Working with Finder
This Week's Topic: Speed Up a Slow Computer – Optimize Display Settings
Special Feature: iPad Basics – Privacy
Websites of Interest: May Day; The Wirecutter; Warbler Calls; Science News for Kids

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Special Feature: How to Protect Yourself from Online Fraud and Identity Theft

By Alan Henry of lifehacker.com/

Here are some tips to stay safe.

Learn to Identify Phishing and Spear Phishing Attempts

Phishing attacks cast a net wide with generic offers and promises in the hope of luring you into providing personal information before you realize there's a problem. Spear phishing are targeted attacks to try and get additional information from individuals who may be at risk because their account at another organization may have been hacked, their employer suffered a data breach, or some other information is already available about them. In both cases, the most beneficial skill you can learn is a healthy sense of internet skepticism.

As always, give out the minimum amount of information when required and nothing more when asked by companies or businesses that present you with forms to fill out, and never give out information—even if the requester is legit—unless you understand why they need the information and what they'll do with it. Any reputable organization will be able to answer your questions. Trust your instincts, and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware Suspicious Emails and Attachments

It should be common knowledge at this stage, but you should never open attachments from untrusted sources, and even if you get one from a trusted source, you should pay attention to the file extension of the attachment before downloading and opening it. If you get an official-looking email from your bank, credit union, or another company you do business with telling you to log in and review your account, be careful. Even if it's legit, it's always safer to visit the business' web site by typing in the URL instead of clicking the link in the email.

Most companies will never email you to say you need to "verify your account information" and beg you to click a link in the message. If your email client supports it, you can hover your mouse over the link in the suspicious email to see where it really leads. Odds are it's not actually your bank's web site. Don't click, and visit your bank's web site manually or call them instead. Remember email addresses can be very easily spoofed, so even if you get a note from a name or business you trust, it could be spoofed and the URL could lead you to an unexpected location.

Keep Your Anti-Malware Software Up-To-Date

Even though viruses and trojans don't make headlines as often as they used to doesn't mean you can get away without some anti-malware software installed on your system. Once installed, it's equally important to keep it up to date. Out of date antivirus and anti-malware suites are effectively useless. Besides, with options like Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows and ClamXAV for Mac out there that are free, light on system resources, and both scan and update in the background without your help, there's no reason not to have something installed. If your school, office, or ISP offers an anti-malware package to you for free, make use of it.

Use HTTPS Everywhere (Or At Least Everywhere You Can)

While it's not foolproof, making sure you're connected to as many of your favorite sites over SSL is the best way to make sure you're actually talking to the site you think you're talking to, and to make sure your communications with that site are encrypted. You can use the previously mentioned HTTPS Everywhere extension for Firefox to force hundreds of sites to HTTPS, enable HTTPS on Facebook, do the same at Twitter, and check to make sure to look for the lock or the green box next to the URL in your browser's address bar to make sure the version of the site you're on is secure. If it's not, try the site address with https:// in front of it to see if it works.

Use Strong, Secure Passwords, and Different Ones On Different Sites

Good password management is a topic we've covered several times but if you're still using the same password on multiple sites or you're still using a dictionary word or your dog's name as your password, there's no time like now to make the change to a strong password that uses letters, numbers, caps, and special characters if possible. Still, even though you have a good strong password it's worthless if you use it on multiple sites and one of them is compromised. Use a service like Keepass, LastPass or another similar password manager to create, keep, and manage multiple strong passwords for all of the sites and services you use on the internet.

Be Skeptical, Be Informed, and Be Careful

That sense of internet skepticism we mentioned earlier will serve you well in many regards. It may be more inconvenient to pick up the phone and call a business that just emailed you asking for your credit card number to process a payment than it is to just reply and email it to them, but speaking as someone who used to work in corporate IT, we paid close attention when our network monitors noticed outbound emails with credit card numbers in them. Don't do it—if we could see it, others can as well. When someone asks you for something that just doesn't seem right, set it aside until you can clear up why they need the information.

If you get a message promising something—anything from a multi-million dollar cut from a foreign prince's international investments to a discount code to your favorite online retailer just for filling out a survey—learn to second-guess the offers and promotions you see on the internet and double-check their sources. Often a quick Google search for the sender or the general gist of the message with the word "scam" at the end will reveal what's really going on.

 

In our next newsletter: How to Protect Yourself from Fraud and Identity Theft Offline

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Special Series: Using the Windows 8 Start Screen

From bleepingcomputer.com

The Start Screen is a very simple interface to navigate. When you first install Windows 8, your start screen will be comprised of various Apps designed for the Start Screen as well as programs that you can launch from the classic Windows desktop. Each of these programs or Apps are represented as a tile. These tiles can be configured to display as a small square or a rectangle. If the title is set to be the square, then it will just act as a program launcher when you click it. If you make the tile into the rectangle, though, then this tile will display real-time information, if available, from the application directly onto the start screen.

To configure the characteristics of a particular tile, you can hold down a particular tile with your finger or right-click on it with your mouse. Once you do that, the tile will become checked and a new panel will be displayed at the bottom of the Start screen where you can change various characteristics. These characteristics include pinning or unpinning the tile, the size of the tile, and various advanced characteristics such as running the program as an Administrator. An example of this panel can be seen below.

The Start screen also has numerous pages, where each page contain different tiles. Therefore if you run out of room on one page, then you can simply start adding tiles to other pages. To organize your tiles based on how often you use them, or by a particular category, you can move the tiles between groups or pages and even create brand new groups of tiles. Information on how to do this can be found in upcoming editions of this newsletter.

In our next edition: Personalize the Start Screen

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Special Feature: Intro to the Mac - Mac OS X Mavericks - Working with Finder

From gcflearnfree.org

Working with Finder

If you use a Mac, you'll use Finder any time you want to navigate to a file. You'll also be able to control how your files are displayed, making it easier to find what you need.

The Finder Window

To start navigating, you'll first need to open a Finder window. There are two main ways to do this:

Double-click any folder on the desktop.
or
Click the Finder icon on the Dock.

The Finder window is divided into three main parts: The contents of the current folder; the Sidebar, which you can use to choose a location; and the Toolbar, where you can customize the way the contents are displayed.

Your Home Folder

In the Finder sidebar, you will see shortcuts to folders that have names like Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures. These folders are part of your account's home folder. To keep your files organized, you may want to use these folders instead of putting everything on the desktop. If you don't see all of these folders in the sidebar, you can open your home folder to view them.

To Open Your Home Folder:

Make sure that you are in Finder (the left side of the menu bar should say "Finder").
In the menu bar, click Go and select Home.
Your home folder will open in a Finder window.

 

In our next newsletter: Finder Tabs

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Today's Topic: Speed Up a Slow Computer – Optimize Display Settings

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:
http://computerkindergarten.com/021311.html

Optimize Display Settings

Windows uses many resources to show visual items. You can disable some of these effects. Your display may not look as good, but you should to get more speed out of your computer.

Windows XP:

Click the Start button and open Control Panel
Open System and click the Advanced tab at the top.
Click the Performance tab at the top and then click Settings.
If it is not already selected, click the circle to the left of Custom. This will allow you to enable or disable any of the settings listed below. To disable, click the checkbox to the left of the setting. If a box does not have a checkmark in it, it is already disabled.

All items except the following, can be disabled:

- Show shadows under menus
- Show shadows under mouse pointer
- Show translucent selection rectangle
- Use drop shadows for icons labels on the desktop
- Use visual styles on windows and buttons

Click the OK button and close any open windows.

It is recommended that you disable one or two of these features and then use your computer for a while. With only one or two disabled, you may not see an increase in speed, but you will be able to tell whether you like the look of the display or not.

Windows Vista / 7:

Click the Start Orb (the circle with the Windows logo, bottom left).
Open Control Panel.
Click Classic View on the left.
Open System.
Click Advanced system settings on the left.
The System Properties window will open. Click the Advanced tab at the top.
In the Performance area, click the Settings button.
If it is not already selected, click the circle to the left of Custom. This will allow you to enable or disable any of the settings listed below. To disable, click the checkbox to the left of the setting. If a box does not have a checkmark in it, it is already disabled.

All items except the following can be disabled:

- Show shadows under menus
- Show shadows under mouse pointer
- Show translucent selection rectangle
- Use drop shadows for icons labels on the desktop
- Use visual styles on windows and buttons

Click the OK button and close any open windows.

It is recommended that you disable one or two of these features and then use your computer for a while. With only one or two disabled, you may not see an increase in speed, but you will be able to tell whether you like the look of the display or not.

In our next edition, Detect and Repair Disk Errors

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Special Feature: iPad Basics – Privacy

From gcflearnfree.org

Third-party apps sometimes request access to your personal information—not necessarily for suspicious reasons, but to improve your experience with your iPad in some way. For example, an app might request access to your Twitter account to make it easier for you to share things with your friends. Another app might request access to Contacts to help you connect with the people you know.

You can manage these settings and more under Privacy. Apps usually ask permission before accessing this information, but it can't hurt to check your current settings if you're concerned about sharing too much personal information.

To Manage Your Privacy Settings:

Tap the Settings icon on your Home screen.
Tap Privacy in the left pane.
Tap an item to view which apps (if any) have requested access to the information. Your options include Contacts, Calendars, and more. You can also manage your settings for Location Services.
Use the ON or OFF controls to enable or disable access.

 

More About Location Services

Location Services is an optional setting that, when turned on, uses Wi-Fi and/or your cellular signal to determine your current location. This data can be used by different apps in many different ways.

For example, Maps can use your location data to give you directions from point A to point B. Camera can use it to tag your photos and videos to identify where they were taken (sometimes called geotagging). Apps like Twitter and Facebook can also use this data to share your whereabouts with your friends.

When Apple collects this data, it's not done in a way that personally identifies you. However, if you have any third-party apps on your iPad, it's important that you review their terms of service as well as their privacy policy. That way, you know how they may or may not be using your information.

To see which apps are using your location data, visit Location Services under Privacy. You can turn each app ON or OFF depending on your personal preferences. You can also turn off Location Services all together.

In our next edition:
Syncing with iCloud

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Websites of Interest:

May Day
Learn about the history and customs of this day.
http://www.theholidayspot.com/mayday/index.htm

The Wirecutter
Don’t buy a computer or gadget without checking here first.
http://thewirecutter.com/

Warbler Calls
A nice site for bird watchers to see beautiful pictures of interesting birds.
http://studio.me/warblercalls/

Science News for Kids
Understand and appreciate science and the vital role it plays in human advancement.
https://student.societyforscience.org/sciencenews-students