About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

August 16, 2011

Security in the Cloud

I was talking to my friend and realtor, Chris Rooker of Kline May Realty, about security of documents in the "Cloud".  I presented him with a thought that I voice often and that is, at this point in time, I do not put anything confidential online; including in my emails and online storage.  Never do I have my social security number, debit card number, bank usernames or passwords online anywhere.

A very basic definition of the cloud is (when talking computers and technology) the place where companies deliver many services online..  In other words the service is on a server somewhere in cyberspace and not on your local hard drive.  You can access these services from your computer. 

Some of the services include fully developed applications like Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail and even fun things like Pandora.  There are also many cloud storage services, for instance, DropBox (my favorite, Windows Life Mesh, Amazon S3, etc. 

There are a tremendous number of cloud services to choose from.  The list grows daily – probably by the minute.  Some of these services are free while others are not.  

One concern I have is where your information stored. I mean where geographically, as in what country?  What if your important data is stored on a junk (not one of the best available) server somewhere in a war-torn country where the costs are much less expensive?  Then what if that country has a military coup or is destroyed by some other country?  How do you get your data and/or what are the new guys doing with your information?

Next, what if the company that has your information goes bankrupt or is sold to someone else?  You would hope that proper provision has been made for continuous service, but what if it hasn’t?

Here is one last thought for you to lay awake at night and consider.  Where is one of the weakest links in any security?  It would be people, plain and simple.  More than likely your password is safe and won’t be compromised by people in the company servicing your online data but that isn’t my people concern.  Think about the "uncrackable safe" scenario for a bank.  Banks want to advertise their vault as one that no one, not even the locksmith can get into.  This gives their customers a great feeling of security.  But think about this…if even a locksmith can’t get into it, what happens during an emergency or some foul-up?   How can they get their money out?   It could be locked up forever.  So there has to be someone with the ability to get into that safe through a "back door".

The same thing is true for cloud storage.  Even though it may be ultimately and inscrutably secure, someone has to be able to get to the data on the servers in case of an emergency. This could quite possibly be their most dissatisfied and disgruntled employee.  Think about that for a minute.

April 5, 2011

Windows Live Essentials

Last week I mentioned that Family Safety is one of the applications you get if you choose to install Windows Live Essentials (WLE). Here is a very short description of all the apps which come with a full installation of WLE. If any of them sound appealing try it, if not ignore them.

First go to “,” scroll down the page and click, “Windows Live Essentials” then you will be taken to the main page. Here you will see each of the applications available and a short blurb on each.

Explore Windows Live Essentials

Messenger is Microsoft’s “chat” or messaging client which is used to send text messages in real-time to other people who are online. They can be online via either their computers or phones.

Live Photo Gallery allows you to edit photos, share those photos, and even movies, online. I wrote an article for Microsoft last year about using Photo Gallery to create panoramas at

Movie Maker is a neat little app that will let you take your digital pictures and turn them into a movie with music, sound effects, and transitions. You can also do a little movie editing and publish them online. I have used this along with other programs to create a couple of YouTube videos. Search there for “dblclx” to find them.

Next is Live Mesh which I have written about several times over the past three years. It provides “cloud” storage and auto-backup capabilities for your files.

Live Writer is a program mainly for bloggers and there is Family Safety, both of which I have covered in detail over the past several months.

Live Mail is the replacement program for Outlook Express. It is a good application for email. I highly recommend it if you don’t have Outlook or Thunderbird already in place for your personal email access.

The last four parts of Live Essentials are really just add-ons for other programs. First is Messenger Companion, which adds a couple of extra features to Messenger’s chat program. The most appealing one gives you the ability to add comments directly from within Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE). I am not an online “chatter” so I have not really used this other than to test for a short period. The second add-on is Bing Bar which adds a toolbar to MSIE for searching, checking your email, etcetera while surfing the web.

Finally, the last two are Outlook Connector Pack and Silverlight. The connector pack allows you to add, email accounts and Messenger to the full version of Outlook. Silverlight is an add-on which allows special video, audio and/or interactivity to be run on your MSIE browser. Silverlight is worthwhile if you go to a site requiring it. However, so far it isn’t widely accepted throughout the net-world.

Note: When you start the install for WLE select the link that says, “Choose the programs you want to install.” You can then select ANY of the above applications. If you choose the other link you will install all of the applications on your system.

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