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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, August 18, 2013

The editors of this newsletter will be taking vacation for the next several weeks. We wish everyone a happy and safe Labor Day!

In this Issue:
Special Feature: Stay On Top of the Latest Online Fraud Alerts with These Six Websites
Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: How to Use Disposable Email Addresses at Your Web Site
Special Series: Using the Windows 8 Start Screen
This Week's Topic: Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime is Ending and What to Do
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Messages
Websites of Interest: Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Be Happier; Go Pet Friendly; Labor Day; Rosh Hashanah

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Special Feature: Stay On Top of the Latest Online Fraud Alerts with These Six Websites

By Tim Brookes of makeuseof.com

Online fraud, scams and phishing emails are bound to instill a sense of dread in all of us, so when it comes to protecting yourself online it’s important not to simply rely on software to keep everything in check.

As a general rule of thumb: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is – and this advice is well worth remembering. For extra peace of mind you can also do your own research and investigate the current threats yourself. The more prepared you are, the easier you’ll be able to spot a scam and steer clear – so without further ado here are some resources to keep you, your friends and family wise to online fraud.

USA.gov – Consumer Frauds and Scams

Probably the best governmental resource for US citizens concerned about fraud, this section of the country’s main online political portal contains a bounty of information about scams in the wild. There is plenty of in-depth, easy-to-understand information on a huge variety of schemes designed to trick and steal.

News is provided courtesy of other sources at the foot the page, and while more regular updates would be nice, the service is a fantastic resource for anyone concerned that they have been hit with fraud. Detailed descriptions of known scams will also help you identify potential dishonesty.

LooksToGoodToBeTrue.com

The aptly named LooksToGoodToBeTrue.com tracks known scams and reports the findings in their Action Centre. The website comes recommended by several government portals (including USA.gov above) and contains more advice for those concerned about fraud.

On a very human level is the Victim Stories section which invites victims of fraud to share their experiences in the hope of raising awareness. The website also has a File A Complaint section which provides the links to several US government department including the FBI-run Internet Crime Complaint Centre.


ActionFraud (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/)

ActionFraud is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, and contains plenty of information that resonates not just in the UK but all over the world. If it’s alerts you’re after then the News & Alerts section contains a run-down of the latest known threats.

As well as news, the rest of the site serves as a useful portal for anyone who has been hit by or is concerned about the dangers of online scams. As well as being able to report the fraud, victims can find out information about what to do next, who to contact and future prevention.

MillerSmiles.co.uk

Despite being a UK-based site, MillerSmiles is a definitive resource for phishing and email scams wherever you are in the world. As well as the latest reports of known scams the website conducts a weekly analysis of all reports submitted.

It is possible to subscribe to alerts via RSS, submit your own scams and search the database of past incidents. The website also organizes threats by company, so if you have received a dodgy looking email from your bank, PayPal or email provider it’s easy to check it against the list.

ScamWatch.gov.au

The final resource on this list comes all the way from Australasia and is a joint effort between the governments of Australia and New Zealand. The ScamWatch Radar keeps track of known threats down-under and it is even possible to subscribe via email for alerts in your inbox.

The rest of the site is packed with helpful advice regarding every kind of scam you can think of, and there is an area to report local scams.

Conclusion

Even if the sites on this list aren’t specific to your locale they can still help identify known scams, phishing attempts and other fraudulent correspondence. If you do receive a suspicious email requesting personal or financial information then alarm bells should always ring. Your bank won’t ask for that information in an email, and if they do then you should always contact a local branch first. Bargains at unbelievable prices usually aren’t bargains and if you use online dating sites then never hand over money to someone you hardly know, no matter how nice they seem to be.

Good luck out there, it’s a big bad Internet!

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Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: How to Use Disposable Email Addresses at Your Web Site

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.

Using disposable email addresses in forms on the Web and for mailing lists is a great way to stop spam.

With a little effort, you can even use them on your home page, too, and allow legitimate mail from unknown senders while keeping out spam.

Use Disposable Email Addresses at Your Web Site

Use a disposable email address in the mailto: links on your site instead of your real one. Depending on the mail that comes in, you take two different sets of actions:

* If a stranger sends you a legitimate email that you welcome, she gets her own special disposable email address. Create a new disposable email address and send a reply including the information that any further emails should only be sent to the new, dedicated disposable email address. Make sure you also set the Reply-to: header to that new disposable address.

* If spam arrives at the disposable email address posted on your home page, disable the address immediately and replace it with a new disposable email address. This will stop all further spam sent to the old disposable address, but it will not hamper mail from all the welcome senders since they already have their own dedicated disposable email address.

In our next edition: Don't Use Your Primary Email Address to Sign Up for Anything

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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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Today's Topic: Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime is Ending and What to Do

By Tina Sieber of makeuseof.com

Every one of us owns precious files like personal documents, photos, videos, or audio files, and we typically store them on hard drives. Few people realize that most electronic storage devices, including hard drives, have a rather limited lifetime when compared to the ancient ways of storing information, such as stone, papyrus, paper, or old school records. The average lifetime of a stationary hard drive today is around 5 – 10 years, depending on the type and manufacturer, and it rapidly declines if the drive is subject to strong variations in temperature, humidity, and motion as in not being stationary.

Since a majority of people today own laptops and external hard drives, which get dragged around quite a bit, a realistic hard drive lifetime is probably around 3 – 5 years. This is an extremely short time to reliably store important data. In the best of cases, hard drives fail gradually, giving you the chance to react, get a copy of your data, and replace the storage device before facing a fatal failure. There are a host of signs that hint to a gradual failure of your hard drive. If you are unsure how much life is left on your hard drive, read this article to find out what signs may reveal an approaching failure.

1. Slowing Down Computer, Frequent Freezes, Blue Screen of Death

These are very unspecific signs that can be caused by a million different things. However, regardless of what the issue behind these symptoms is, it is recommended that you immediately make a backup. If these problems occur after a fresh installation or in Windows Safe Mode, it is almost certain that it is due to bad hardware, and possibly a failing hard drive.

2. Corrupted Data

If you’re beginning to find files that fail to open and are corrupted even though they saved without errors or if files suddenly disappear, you should get worried. While again this could be due to a multitude of issues, it is also a typical sign for a gradual hard drive failure.

3. Accumulation of Bad Sectors

Bad sectors are areas of the hard drive that do not maintain data integrity. They are automatically masked by the operating system and thus hard to identify, especially if large amounts of the disk are currently in use. If you actually run into bad sectors, however, that certainly is a bad sign.

You can run a manual disk check to identify errors that Windows has not spotted, yet. In Windows 7, click on Start and then Computer. Right-click on the disk or partition you wish to check (Usually C:). Select Properties. In the window that opens switch to the Tools tab and click Check now. In the Checking Disk window place a checkmark next to Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for an attempt recovery of bad sectors.

4. Strange Sounds

When you hear strange noises coming from your hard drive, it may be too late already. A repetitive sound also known as the click of death is caused by the head as it is trying to write data and recovers from errors in doing so. Grinding or screeching noises indicate that parts of the hardware, for example the bearings or spindle motor, are failing.

I Think My Hard Drive Is Failing, What Shall I Do?

So you are worried that a hard drive failure is just around the corner? The truth is, even if you are not worried, it is! The only thing you can do is always keep backups of your data on a second hard drive. The likelihood that both drives will fail simultaneously are very rare. An exception would be natural disasters like floods or fires. For these cases, I recommend to keep a copy of your most important data in a different physical location, for example at work or with a friend, or possibly on a remote server, for example by using an online backup solution.

Conclusion

Do not rely on signs or software to tell you whether you have a failing hard drive. It is more likely than not that it will fail unexpectedly and without any warning signs whatsoever. Rather than trying to forecast something that is even less predictable than the weather, you should rely on backups.

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Special Feature: iPad Basics - Messages

From gcflearnfree.org

The Messages app does a bit more than your average instant messaging service. With its built-in iMessage feature, you can use it to send unlimited texts, photos, videos, and more to other Apple users—all for free. It's even free for mobile devices, as long as you stick to Wi-Fi instead of data.

If you have more than one Apple device, Messages is great for texting and chatting no matter where you are. For example, the mobile version is perfect for sending quick messages, while the desktop version is ideal for having longer conversations (when you have access to a full-size keyboard).

Have More Than One Apple Device?

Use your Apple ID to sync the Messages app. Just sign into the app using the same Apple ID on each device, and you'll be able to send and receive messages anywhere. If you have an iPhone, your Apple ID should be connected to your device already.

Messages for iPhone
It's important to note that the iPhone version of the app is a little different from the others. That's because it does double-duty—both as your iMessage client, and as your regular text messaging client. In other words, it's the same app you'll use anytime you want to text someone, whether they have an Apple device, or different type of phone (for example, Android, Windows, or a basic cell phone).

The app will default to iMessage—and the conversation will be blue—if the person on the other end has an Apple device. If they don't, the conversation will be green, and the message will be sent as a regular text.

Check your cell phone plan to find out if text and data charges apply. Texts sent via iMessage won't count towards your limit, but regular texts will.

To Set Up Messages:
Setting up the Messages app is fairly straightforward (in fact, on the iPhone, it should be set up already). In this example, we'll demonstrate the process using the Mac version.

Open the Messages app.

Follow the instructions to sign in with your Apple ID. Remember, your Apple ID is what's going to allow your messages to sync across devices if you have more than one.

The app will confirm the email address that's connected your Apple ID. Click Finish to continue.

You'll be taken to the Messages app, where you can start sending and receiving messages right away.

 

In our next edition: Getting to Know Messages

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Websites of Interest:

Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Be Happier
http://tinyurl.com/l8aslb5

Go Pet Friendly
The story of GoPetFriendly.com
http://gopetfriendlyblog.com/about-us/

Labor Day
For the history of this holiday, how it came about and what it means, take a look at the Department of Labor’s website:
http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm

For celebrations and traditions, visit the Holiday Spot website:
http://www.theholidayspot.com/laborday/

Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 4. Learn all about the holiday at this website.
http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday2.htm