About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

February 21, 2012

May 17, 2011

File Encryption

I have had many emails over time about security of thumb drives.  For instance, I sometimes think about what would happen if I accidentally left my thumb drive lying around somewhere. The finder could open my private files on that drive.

That used to be a concern, but for many years I have been using a great free application called TrueCrypt.  There are probably thousands of other file encryption applications out there but I believe this is one of the better ones.  Also, TrueCrypt meets one of my favorite criteria. It is free.


Before I start telling you what this application will do I will warn you of a few things.  It is very, very good at what it does.  It is not one of the easiest programs to set up.  You may have to read a bit to learn how to use it; however, it will be worth the effort.

Once TrueCrypt is set up you will need a password to access the encrypted files on the drive.  This can include external and internal hard drives as well as thumb drives.

One interesting feature is that you can create an encrypted “container”.  The container is set up on a drive somewhere and when opened you may place as many files as will fit in it.  The size of a container is determined by you when it is created. The neat thing is that you may copy this container to any other location and use it as a container there.  For instance, you could copy your important files to this container (it actually acts like a folder) and transport it to another computer via email, thumb drive, etc.  When you take it to the new computer you copy it to that system, open the container and presto-change-o there are your files in a new place.  If you encrypt the entire thumb drive or a portion of your hard drive you can’t move it from place to place.

Also, remember… to use this on a portable drive you must have TrueCrypt running on that computer.  Hmm, what do you do if TrueCrypt is not on the computer you are trying to use?  No problem! When you set up the drive you can install TrueCrypt on that portable device so you may run it from there when using someone else’s computer.

If you have a need to encrypt your files I highly recommend TrueCrypt.  Also, you don’t need to contact me for specifics. There are many ways to set it up and their site is full of helpful information. If you give it a try let me know what you think.

February 15, 2011

Power of the Broom, Part 4


did not think we would be talking about Ubuntu for yet another week but here we are. I suppose this will be the last one but you folks are the drivers, I am just the tour guide. Keep those emails coming!

Several readers have been reading about Ubuntu and doing some studying. Great job! They have read about being able to install Ubuntu on a USB Thumb Drive and run the system from that drive. Roger wanted to know how it worked and asked if it would be worth getting a thumb drive to try.

imageFirst off, I could not survive in the IT/Tech world without a good portable drive so yes, get one. I have seen them online for about $20 for a 16 GB drive. To give you an idea, the first one I bought years ago was $40 for 512 MB so you currently get much more storage for half the price.

Next, there is a program available for Pen Drives, (same thing- different wording) that says it will enable you to install any Linux operating system on a pen/thumb drive. You are supposed to be able to fully run the “portable” operating system off of the drive, even without a hard drive.

Not to be a party-pooper but I tried installing two different Linux systems on my thumb drive twice and they both failed to function as advertised. I also tried them on different computers and neither would work. Both had different errors. Could it have been my install, possibly? That could be the case, but twice in a row? Tom from Harrisonburg tried, too, and he was only successful when he installed the 64-bit version, which my computer can’t use. Hmm, this apparently needs more research and development.

Now how about booting Ubuntu from a CD? I have done this many times without any problems. So for a CD driven Operating System I say, “Success!” Keep in mind that you cannot write any data to the CD. This means that you will have to save any files you create to your hard drive or a thumb drive. Also, be forewarned, if you make any changes to the OS, like setting your homepage on the Ubuntu Firefox browser it will disappear the next time you start it up.

OK, I believe I am now finished with writing about Ubuntu for a while; however, I will continue using it on my notebook.

SNAGHTML5fafb0One final thought. I have had many readers over the years ask me to create some training videos. I have always put it off with, “Good idea, I will do that one day.” Well that day arrived. I have added a couple of simple, “How to” videos on YouTube. Go to “” and let me know what you think. These are just experimental at this point as I am still learning how it is done.

January 18, 2011

January 11, 2011

2010’s Links in Review

Years ago I started a column about sites mentioned in the column from the previous year. It usually runs the first couple of columns in the New Year. By-the-way, as hard as it is for me to believe, today starts my tenth year writing, “Double Click.” Thanks to all of you readers who read it and write me each week! The year in review column was a lark on my part; however, I found that many of you enjoyed it, so here it is for 2010. Have fun remembering, discovering, or rediscovering all the info! If you prefer to click on links and not type all of these, visit the site and click away.

If the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them with, “” which is mentioned below. All of these sites should be free (or have a free version) unless marked “nf”.

Without further ado…here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

Next week we will visit part 2 of last year’s links.

January 26, 2010

Portable Programs

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:33 am

Several of you continued the USB line of thought from the last column and mentioned portable applications.  I thought I had written about these years ago.  However, after a search of over 750 columns I’ve written I realized that I had not mentioned them, so here we go.

A quick definition is needed here for what portable applications are and how are they used.

A portable application is a “stand alone” program that does not need to be installed on a computer’s hard drive.  When you install a regular program there are files that are written all over your computer.  For instance, many entries may be made in your windows’ registry file along with other folders somewhere else.  A portable application is installed in one main folder and no other entries are written anywhere else on the system.  This is like a step back in time.  In the DOS days and the originating days of windows all programs were installed like this; however, things are now different.

The first and predominate portable applications site is called, appropriately enough, “Portable Apps“.  If you go there you can install the basic program on your USB stick and it will provide a lot of good “little” programs.  It creates a menu system so that when you plug your USB stick in it will pop up and you can run your portable applications from there.

There are three different Portable Apps from which to choose.  The differences are in size and  what programs you get with each one.  The first choice, “Platform Only” will only install the basic program.  I don’t find this one to be very useful.  It  is only 1.3MB in size but it doesn’t do much to help you out.

The other two installs are called “Suite Lite” and “Suite Standard”.  These two are respectivelyimage 150MB and 355MB in size.  The minimum recommended sizes for your USB device is 256MB and 512MB, again depending on which version you choose.

Each of the larger versions include most of the Mozilla apps like the FireFox browser, Thunderbird email, a messaging program, an antivirus program and several other apps.  The difference between the two is that the larger version includes Open Office Portable version.  That is an excellent substitute for Microsoft Office on a budget…it is free as are all of these apps.  You can look for other portable programs online too.

Why would you want to install these or a USB stick?  You go to a friend’s house and want to do some work on your newspaper column or your personal budget.  You can perform everything you need to on your USB stick after plugging it into their computer.  None of your information is left behind on their computer since you have used your portable “system” to do your work and store your files.  You can check your email, surf the web, etc. without leaving behind any of your private information on someone else’s system.

It provides a good use for your USB thumb drive other than using it for storage only.  There are other portable app sites online – Google for them.  Even so; “Portable Apps” is the first, and in my opinion the best.

January 19, 2010

You Can be a Spy Too!

Thanks to all of you who sent in the kind comments about the year in review columns for 2009(#1 & #2).  It is good to know that you are using them, liked the repeat of specific sites and that you are continuing to enjoy the column on a regular basis.  So, “Thanks!”

Today I wanted to talk about a very interesting free application that I stumbled upon this week and  the website where I found it.  Everything USB is an interesting site that has…well OK, you guessed it, lots of information about USB devices.  USB stands for “universal serial bus” and is the interface (plug) between your computer, most thumb drives/memory sticks and an array of other items that plug into your computer like camera cables, etc. with the little rectangular interface.  Take a look around there and you may find some interesting info.

One of the things that I found and have tried out for a week or so is called, “Predator“.  The Predator site says, “PREDATOR protects your PC with a USB flash drive” which is exactly what it does.

This is the Yego drive that Ron usesI know you have seen spy movies where they have to plug a device into a computer to unlock  it.  They don’t use the regular username and password we actually use.  Be aware that the majority of movies spotlighting computer use show them doing things computers in the real world don’t do at all.

With Predator installed on your computer you have entered the movie zone.  Once Predator is installed, you just plug in your thumb drive and get almost immediate access to your computer.  When you walk away from your computer just pull the stick out and drop it in your pocket.  Once, your USB device is out of the computer your monitor goes black and locks.

When you come back to your computer, plug in your device and it unlocks for you to use.

This program also requires you to set a Predator password just in case you lose your drive and can’t get into the computer.  If that is the case you simply press the enter key three times and it asks for the password.  You get three tries to enter the correct one.  If you fail it will lock down for 5 minutes and you won’t be able to try again during that time.  Neat little security trick if your friends at work try to get into your computer.

An interesting Predator feature is that it creates a log which you can read.  If anyone tries to log into your computer while you are gone it tells you what they tried and how it failed.  For instance, when you get back and check the log you could see if someone tried to get into your system with the wrong password, etc.  Check the site’s link above for more details.

Is this better than a username and password?  Nope, but it sure is cool.

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