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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, August 11, 2013

In this Issue:
Special Feature: How to Block Spam Text Messages on Your Cell Phone
Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: How Long, Complicated Email Addresses Beat Spammers
Special Series: The Windows 8 Charms Bar
This Week's Topic: What Should I Do to My Computer Before I Sell It?
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Siri and Voice Dictation
Websites of Interest: Fast Recipes; Medical Animation Library; Perseids Meteor Showers


Special Feature: How to Block Spam Text Messages on Your Cell Phone

By Paul Horowitz of osxdaily.com/

Having been inundated with spam text messages and SMS lately on my iPhone, I went looking for a solution to put an end to it all. Though it’s not as simple as it should be, there is a way to block virtually all spam texts from ever reaching your phone, and it actually works. To do so we’ll have to go through the respective cellular carrier you use, but to understand why this proposed solution it’s helpful to understand the problem a bit more.

How Text Spam Works

Almost all text spammers use tons of mass generated phone numbers and user names on free services like Yahoo Messenger to bulk send texts outward. This is why text spam usually arrives from an address like “141008000″ or some other nonexistent number that can’t receive texts back - because it’s not coming from a real phone number, but instead some free web-based or messenger service.

They then spam out to thousands of randomly guessed phone numbers that are attached to an email address for a cellular provider, like [random-phone-number]@[carrier-texting-email-domain] – this will look something like 5551112222@txt.att.net. Any email sent to that address will then arrive to that phone number as an SMS message.

What the spammer then does is increment the numbers upward, meaning the next spam message will be sent to the phone number at 5551112223@txt.att.net and the next to 5551112224@txt.att.net and so on. This is all done automatically, and since the numbers and usernames sending out the spam messages are also randomly generated in bulk, it’s almost impossible to gather a list of them to put into the same type of block list that we can use to block phone numbers, and even if you did add them since they use so many different services it would hardly matter anyway.

Knowing and understanding all of this, to block text spam you’ll need to go through your cell carrier provider and disable the email texting feature, thereby preventing your phones email address from being able to receive texts (If you didn’t even know that your phone number had an email address attached to it for receiving text messages, well you’re not alone there either, but it’s a fairly old feature that doesn’t get much use these days now that services like iMessages and WhatsApp are so commonly used).

Enough talk, let’s get blocking!

Note that all of these options are account-wide, meaning if you and your family share a cell account, it will work to block spam for all numbers associated with that account.

Blocking Text Spam with AT&T

I have AT&T so we’ll cover blocking text spammers through there first:

Go to http://mymessages.wireless.att.com and set up the account for your number if you haven’t done so yet – this is different than your standard AT&T account
Once logged in, go to Preferences > Blocking Options
Under “Email Delivery Control” check boxes for both “Block all text messages sent to you as email” and “Block all multimedia messages sent to you as email”
Next, under “Mobile number control” toggle the menu to “BLOCK” to prevent all incoming messages from YOURPHONENUMBER@txt.att.net from ever coming to your phone
Click “Submit” at the bottom to save the preferences

Optionally, you can send direct “Allow Lists” and “Block Lists” in the same menu, but again because the spammers are using random free services and domains, it’s very hard to track these directly and trying to create a block list is fruitless. On the other hand, if someone you want to communicate with actually does send you texts as emails, go ahead and add them to the allowed list.

Log out and enjoy your new text-spam free iPhone on AT&T!

Blocking Spam Texts on Verizon

Go to http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/myverizonlp/ and login to your Verizon account (register if you haven’t yet)
Go to Preferences and Text Messaging, then go to Text Blocking
Adjust settings to block from BOTH the web and from email

Block Text Spam on T-Mobile & Sprint

Borrowing information from the same NYTimes article:

Log in to sprint.com account, go to Text Messaging > Settings & Preferences > Text Messaging Options and disable email sending

In depth instructions can be found on T-Mobile Support
Log into the T-Mobile account and go to Communication Tools
Disable text messages sent from email


Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: How Long, Complicated Email Addresses Beat Spammers

Spam, spam and spam. How to avoid spam, how to filter spam, and how to complain about spam are the items on this menu of junk mail fighting tips. With the help of Heinz Tschabitscher of about.com, we are presenting an ongoing series of tips and tricks that you can use to minimize the amount of junk mail that you will receive in your email inbox.

If you post your email address to the net, chances are it will fall in the hands of spammers. But even if you never expose your address to a place where spammers may collect it, you will probably get spam. That's because spammers apply another technique to find email addresses, too. They simply guess. Given a domain name, spamware will send mails to all kinds of (likely) user names at that address, from aaaronb@ to zzziddyw@.

You can escape this attack of brute force like you can (try to) escape somebody guessing for your password. Try to make your address as difficult to guess as possible when selecting your user name.

Long, Complicated Email Addresses Beat Spammers

To beat spammers, use a

* long email address
* consisting of more than one word
* and, preferably, word segments as well as
* numbers and
* an underscore.

In our next edition: How to Use Disposable Email Addresses at Your Web Site


Special Series: The Windows 8 Charms Bar

By Ron Schenone of lockergnome.com

Charms is what Microsoft calls the method that it has chosen to handle the traditional features that were once handled by the Start menu. To access them, you place your mouse in the upper or lower left corner of the screen. This, in turn, will display the available Charms — a feature that I found quite easy to learn.

Below is a listing of the Charms and what each Charm does, courtesy of Microsoft.

Here’s what you can do with them:

Search. Search for anything. You can search just the app you’re in (like finding a specific message in Mail), search another app (look up something on the Internet), or you can search your entire PC (for an app, setting, or file).

Share. Share files and info with people you know or send info to another app, without leaving the app you’re in. You can email photos to your mom, update your Facebook status, or send a link to your note-taking app.

Start. Get to your Start screen. Or if you’re already on Start, you can use this charm to go back to the last app you were in.

Devices. Use all of the devices that are connected to your PC, both wired and wireless. You can print from an app, sync with your phone, or stream your latest home movie to your TV.

Settings. Change settings for apps and your PC. You’ll find settings, help, and info for the app you’re in, plus common PC settings — network connection, volume, brightness, notifications, power, and keyboard. These PC settings are the same no matter where you are in Windows, but the app settings are different in every app. You can also change settings for your PC when you select Change PC settings. It’s where you change your lock screen picture, manage notifications, and more.

In our next edition: Using the Windows Start screen


Today's Topic: What Should I Do to My Computer Before I Sell It?

By Thorin Klosowski of lifehacker.com

Question: I know I should securely wipe my hard drive before I sell it, but is there anything else I should do before I put it up on eBay? I want to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Selling (or giving away) an old computer is often a little scary. You likely invested a lot of hours into using your computer, and it's packed full of all your personal stuff. You also want to make sure it's in tip-top running condition before you sell it off so you can get the most money. Here's what you need to do.

Back Up All Your Files

The first thing you want to do is make sure you back up everything you need. How you do this really depends on what you have on your computer. If you just need to hold onto a few files, Dropbox (or any cloud storage service) will do the trick. Alternately, you can easily back up your data to an external hard drive.


How to Back Up Your Computer to an External Drive:

Deauthorize Any Software

Next, deauthorize any digital software or files you have. This includes programs like the Adobe Creative Suite, Amazon's Kindle Apps, and files you download from online stores like iTunes.

Clean it Up

Finally, clean up the computer and make it as nice as possible before you sell it. Not only will it likely sell for more if it looks good, it might also run a little smoother. As we've talked about before, you should do a few simple things: wipe down the computer, clean out the keyboard, clean the screen, and pop it open to clean out dust from the inside. This makes the computer a lot more aesthetically appealing, and that makes it easier to sell.

Once your computer is cleaned up and it's looking as good as new, take some great pictures of your computer, and then sell it online at the right time to make the most money.


Special Feature: iPad Basics - Siri and Voice Dictation

From gcflearnfree.org

Why type your emails when your device can do it for you? If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch with Siri enabled, you can use voice dictation to compose emails instead of relying on the keyboard. This can be especially useful if you need to type a long email in a hurry.

To use voice dictation in the Mail app, open the app, start a new email, tap in the text area of the email, and then tap the microphone icon on your keyboard. Then say your message out loud, and Siri will try to transcribe it for you.

Alternatively, you can ask Siri to perform the whole task for you, from start to finish. For example, press the Home button and then say, "Email Frank. Let me know if you want to get together next week."

Follow Siri’s prompts, and it will not only transcribe your message; it will also use the Mail app to send it—all without any extra effort from you.


In our next edition: Messages


Websites of Interest:

Fast Recipes
Quick and easy; a collection of thousands of recipes from around the world

Medical Animation Library
From Penn Medicine, this site has informative, health-related videos on just about every medical topic.

Perseids Meteor Showers
The next meteor shower is the Perseids on the nights of August 11 and 12. Learn all about meteor showers here at this site.

Note: according to patch.com, these state parks will remain open overnight for meteor viewing. Admission is free.
Jones Beach State Park - West End II
Gov. Alfred E. Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park - Field 3
Montauk Point State Park - Upper Parking Lot
Robert Moses State Park – Field 2
Officials suggest that you dress appropriately, bring bug spray and a chair that reclines. Binoculars are not necessary. Look towards the northeast and enjoy the celestial show.