Welcome to the May 19, 2013 issue of
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|TODAY'S TOPIC: WIN8 WHINERS||
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After about a six-month hiatus, I'm again writing a new edition of CompuNerds-Net News. One week ago I received the Asus VivoBook ultrabook that I had ordered for my birthday. As you can see, it's about 2" less in width and length than the 15" Toshiba notebook we bought in Russia almost seven years ago. The 14" HP notebook I bought 3 years ago burned out its processor chip last fall, so I was thrown back to using the Toshiba. My new Asus VivoBook is 1/2" thin and weighs just 2.9 pounds, about 1/3 the weight of the Toshiba. But the big difference is its new Windows 8 Operating System. Many articles have appeared on the Web, whining about the new touch-based tile interface, and that the beloved Start button is missing. It seems some people simply can't adjust to change... although they likely have a smartphone or tablet with a touch-based interface!
The VivoBook boots up very quickly, in about 15 seconds. Some pricier models have ramdisks, so they boot up in under 10 seconds, like a smartphone or tablet. Windows 8 is designed to act that way... like a smartphone or tablet. When you open the lid after letting the computer sleep, it instantly goes to the boot-up screen that shows the clock, day, date and how many new email messages you have. The default boot-up screen was a color sketch of Seattle, but I changed it to a view of a distant galaxy in outer space taken from the Hubble telescope, as you see here. This Windows 8 PC, being an ultrabook, has no built-in optical drive, so I bought an Asus external CD/DVD-RW drive for $29.95 that plugs into two USB ports - one port for the signal and the other port for power. The computer recognized the optical drive right away. The only catch with an external drive is that you must remember to logically unmount it before you unplug it from the USB ports. But with so much digital stuff - music, movies and photos - available on the Internet nowadays I won't be using the optical drive much, so why carry one around in my PC?
When you click on or touch the boot-up screen, the login screen appears where you can either use the touchscreen keyboard or a physical keyboard (if your device has one) to enter your password. To set up a new user account, you use your name and Microsoft Outlook, Live Mail or Hotmail address, thus your email password becomes your PC password (just like a Google phone, tablet or Chromebook computer): there's no need to remember a different password. This means you'll need to create a Microsoft email account if you don't have one already. A Microsoft email account gives you access to Microsoft Office Web apps and 7Gb of SkyDrive storage for free. When you login, with no long wait for your account and programs to load, you're taken immediately and directly to...
...the new Windows 8 start screen. Panic! "Where's my precious Start button and my menu? Where's the Desktop? I want my blankey! Whaa! Boo-hoo-hoo!" OK, you can stop bawling and whining for your security blanket like a toddler: all the buttons you need are still here, but just arranged a little differently. When you slide your finger or hold down the left mouse button and move the pointer to the left on the screen more tiles that represent apps (programs in old-speak) appear. There are lots of new apps: don't be afraid, try them - you'll like them! When you swipe from the right side of the screen, a row of buttons appears on the right side: click on the "search" magnifying glass icon to see a full list of your apps; the "share" circle icon to share photos, videos and music; the "devices" icon for attached devices; or on the "settings" gear icon for the power button, your wireless settings, the volume, brightness, notifications and keyboard settings. If you just can't live without your old Start button though, wait until Fall when the free Windows 8.1 upgrade comes out to get your first Windows 8 PC with a Start button and the option to login directly to the Desktop.
Here's the "missing" Desktop: to get here, simply click the lower-left tile on the Start screen labeled "desktop." There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Back home again! You can set up your Desktop just like it was in Windows 7, install your favorite programs here as I've done, choose some pretty, rotating background pictures (I like the awesome New Zealand landscapes!), pin your most-used programs to the Taskbar, etc. Icons for the programs you install appear on the Desktop, and will also show up as tiles on the new Windows 8 Start screen. It took me just a few hours to copy my files from the old Toshiba PC to my new Asus VivoBook and install my old programs. You run and close them just the same as under Windows 7, in contrast to the new Windows 8 apps that you close by sliding your finger or mouse down to the bottom of the screen.
When using the new Windows 8 apps from the Start screen, swipe from the left side of the screen to see your most recent open app or older Windows 7 program. If you're using the Desktop, you can press Alt+Tab or click on an icon on the Taskbar to switch between both the new apps and old programs, Overall, I'm very pleased with my new Asus VivoBook. I can take my time getting used to the new tile-and-touch interface while I use my old faithful programs on the Desktop. The Asus 11.6" screen, the same size as our Chromebook screen, is quite adequate for my vision: if a font seems too small, I can spread my fingers apart on the screen or mousepad, or press Ctrl and the + key to increase font size. The dimensions are 7.9" by 11.9" which makes it very easy to carry around. Battery life is about 5 hours, depending on your power usage settings. It's time to quit bashing Microsoft, and start bashing Apple and Google! Each company has its own style of interface, and its own ecosystem of apps you can buy from their "company store." They want you to buy all your devices, programs and apps from one company so they'll all play nicely together. So your old Windows programs won't run on an Android device or Chromebook and your Mac programs won't run on an iPad tablet, but your old Windows programs will run on a Windows 8 tablet. I think Microsoft has done an excellent job of integrating everything under one roof.
The Security Blurb:
Windows 8 has built-in the "Windows Defender" anti-virus and firewall software and firewall that installs as your default protection (you can, of course, install different anti-virus and firewall programs). Running Windows Defender when you first start up your new Windows 8 PC and connect to the Internet means you're relatively more secure right away. But it also means any vulnerabilities that hackers might find in Windows Defender will be exploited on more PCs because most Windows 8 computers will simply continue using Windows Defender.
Also, the previous security hole in Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows has finally been plugged that would let someone boot a PC using a Linux DVD or flash drive: now devices built for Windows 8 will only boot into Windows because the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) "safe boot" firmware replaces the old Basic Input-Output System (BIOS) firmware. When an older Windows PC would boot with Linux, the Windows partition on the hard drive was wide open - Windows logins and passwords became irrelevant. Now with Windows 8 you can't boot into Linux at all, unless you first boot into Windows and turn off UEFI.
Think you're secure now? Think again! Check out the article "Our Internet Surveillance State" from Bruce Schneier's April 2013 Crypto-Gram:
I'm going to start with three data points.
One: Some of the Chinese military hackers who were implicated in a broad set of attacks against the U.S. government and corporations were identified because they accessed Facebook from the same network infrastructure they used to carry out their attacks.
Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSec hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up.
And three: Paula Broadwell, who had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network. Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she e-mailed him. The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels -- and hers was the common name.
The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.
Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking Broadwell's identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.
Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your purchasing habits offline. And there's more. There's location data from your cell phone, there's a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs.
This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.
Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters.
There are simply too many ways to be tracked. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, web browsers, social networking sites, search engines: these have become necessities, and it's fanciful to expect people to simply refuse to use them just because they don't like the spying, especially since the full extent of such spying is deliberately hidden from us and there are few alternatives being marketed by companies that don't spy.
This isn't something the free market can fix. We consumers have no choice in the matter. All the major companies that provide us with Internet services are interested in tracking us. Visit a website and it will almost certainly know who you are; there are lots of ways to be tracked without cookies. Cell phone companies routinely undo the web's privacy protection. One experiment at Carnegie Mellon took real-time videos of students on campus and was able to identify one-third of them by comparing their photos with publicly available tagged Facebook photos.
Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, you've permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you're using. Monsegur slipped up once, and the FBI got him. If the director of the CIA can't maintain his privacy on the Internet, we've got no hope.
In today's world, governments and corporations are working together to keep things that way. Governments are happy to use the data corporations collect -- occasionally demanding that they collect more and save it longer -- to spy on us. And corporations are happy to buy data from governments. Together the powerful spy on the powerless, and they're not going to give up their positions of power, despite what the people want."
The goal of our CN.Net-News is to share information that we think you'll find helpful as you wrestle with that little monster on your desk or at your side, your computer. And we aim to present this information from a Christian worldview. Thanks for your time!
"Dr. Bob the CompuNerd"
Robert D hoskEN
See the "nerd" in my name? (It helps if you're a little dyslexic!)
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