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It's Not Easy Being Green

This morning, we decided it was time to move some of the growing pile of unused or unusable electronic "stuff" out of our basement. Being conscientious types, we wanted to dispose of these things properly. I looked on the province's website, to see where to take it. They sent me to the Carp Road Waste Management location.

So, we loaded up the car, and off we went. At the Carp Road location, we first went to the building labelled "eWaste" and then went to the office. We were told they don't do that any more. They suggested we take our "stuff" to Future Shop.

At Future Shop, we struck out again. It seems that, although they sell big TV's, they won't take back anything bigger then a 27" screen. They gave us the name of a place in Bell's Corners.

This time, I called before I set out. The employee there was polite, cheerful, and helpful. He had heard the story before about the run around people get, trying to do the right thing. We will be back, I am sure.

So, if you need to drop off electronic waste, this is the place: Twenty-Twelve Electronics Recycling in Bell's Corners.

And you won't find them on the woefully outdated province's website!

Kate   Jun 26, 2014

Disaster Planning

Recent news stories have us thinking about disaster planning, around here. We start with simple things: cat box, dog leash, car keys, passports . Do we know where they are, can we get to them in a hurry, if we need to?

Then we start looking at our computer data. Everyone knows that we should do backups, but we forget to do them, or we don't do them regularly. If your computer files are critical to your business, and anything happens to them, you can be in big trouble. If all your photos are stored on your computer, you might be devastated to lose them.

There are three rules to remember about backups.

1. Scheduled: If the program you use to do backups doesn't allow you to automate your backups, then set up a reminder on your Google Calendar, or use some other appointment software to remind you to do it. I use the calendar function in Thunderbird. If you use Outlook or a Blackberry, get it to remind you to make backups.

2. Redundant: If at all possible, you should have your backups in two places. You can have 2 portable hard drives. You can also do a periodic backup onto DVD's, as well as a portable hard drive.

3. Off Site: In the case of fire or theft, it is a good idea to store one backup somewhere other then in your house or office. If you have 2 portable hard drives, store one at the home of a trusted friend or relative. Offer to store their backups at your house, in exchange. Store your office backups at home and the home backups at the office. You can also store your backups "in the cloud" (a third party remote server). Just check to make sure that the servers are in Canada, so they are not subject to US regulations. Also, be warned that if these companies have a disaster of their own (like bankruptcy or flooding), your data will be lost or unavailable.

None of us like to think about bad things happening. However, it is wise to take a bit of time to plan for a big disaster. It can really save you when a little disaster (like a bad hard drive) occurs.

So why am I writing this, instead of Ed?
Well, he has a little problem: the other day he updated his operating system to a newer version, and it didn't go very well. He is currently busy recreating his system from the backups!

Kate   Jul 9, 2013

Do You Know Where Your Password Is ?

We've recently gotten spam email from a friend, which seem to come from her webmail account, using her contact list. You might be wondering how this was done.

The immediate fear is always that the home computer was hacked, but this was even easier -- her webmail password was easily guessed. Passwords like "secret123" are just too easy and succumb quickly to robot attacks. Yahoo webmail (and therefore Rogers webmail) seems to be a popular target for the robots. Once the robot finds one, the robot's owner can log in and send out a lot of "Look at this Russian Niagara Site" email.

In July, an electronic break-in at a Yahoo game site netted thieves 400000 user email addresses and passwords. There were 55555 unique passwords. The popular passwords included qwerty, abc123, welcome, password and (most popular) 123456. Don't use these.

Similar break-ins at other sites have given similar content. From the break-ins, the thieves acquire lists of user names (often email addresses) and lists of passwords. Even while my friend's email address was not on the list, each break-in gives the hacker community a list of email addresses, and a list of popular passwords that can be added to their try-a-password robots.

You might say "My email password isn't very important" but this isn't really true. This is often where you've told the bank's computer to send email after you click "I forgot my password" on their web site.

So what can you do about it?
Google search for hints with "Better Passwords"
or read my short list of suggestions: Choosing Better Passwords

Ed   Mar 12, 2013

Funny Money

Okay, I know I am somewhat low tech, and EVERYONE is using the latest and greatest. My computer is elderly, my cell phone isn't web-enabled and I still watch my TV on a piece of equipment that looks like a cube, instead of a flat screen. However, last week, a really funny thing happened.

I was in a store, buying about $16 in merchandise. I reached into my wallet to hand the clerk a twenty dollar bill, and he handed me the keypad and told me to put it into the slot at the bottom!

I was trying to figure out what exactly he was expecting me to do, when he finally figured out that I was holding cash in my hand, not a plastic card. I guess I was the only person through the store that day, that used cash.

Kate   Oct 13, 2012

Listen to Your Car (or Water Heater)

I had my car in recently to get the brake noise fixed, and also mentioned that I was hearing a "clunk" noise from the front end while driving down our not-very-bumpy street. The brake noise was the caliper slides in need of cleaning and lubrication. The "clunk" was from a stabiliser bar with worn-out bushings.
Fixing these when they were just noises was much cheaper than the last time -- when the brake calipers quietly seized up and destroyed the rotors.

During a visit to a friend's house, I said "Um, your (rental, gas) water heater is making a funny noise." It sounded like the barbecue does on a windy day, when the wind is blowing the flames out, and the burner is re-igniting down its length. I thought "That can't be good."
The gas company was quick to provide a new one.

The moral of the story is that we should all listen for changes in the normal sounds from our machines. It could be a life saver.

Ed   Jan 21, 2012

Tis the Season

Everyone is busy during the weeks approaching Christmas. This makes it a really good time for people who would like to scam you, because you might not be paying close attention.

For example, I have been buying books lately, from Amazon, and sending them as gifts (why not get Amazon to pay the postage). I got an email the other day, saying that someone had sent me an Amazon gift card for $250. How exciting, just what I would want! But, just a minute...when I hovered my cursor over the link to the "gift card" it was going to take me somewhere very different from Amazon. Sadly, I deleted the email, and went on with my day.

I guess if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Check this link for more seasonal scams:

Kate   Dec 10, 2011

Phone Call from "The Windows Support Center"

The phone rings in the late afternoon. Someone on the other end of the phone tells me that he is calling from "The Windows Support Center". He says that my computer has been sending them messages, and that he can fix it for me.

When I ask him to repeat where he is calling from, he gets flustered, and hangs up. I thought nothing of it (except that it was probably a scam) until I heard about others getting these calls. In one case, someone paid the caller $500, while not really sure what they were paying for.
I checked online and found this item on the Microsoft webpage:
More recently, the Ottawa Citizen carried a story about it, saying the calls now account for 70 per cent of all fraud complaints in Canada.

My first instinct was right, and I hope yours is too. Microsoft will not call you to tell you your computer is sending them messages. Think about it. How would they get your phone number? It has been said that you should never do business with someone who calls you. If they were really good, they probably wouldn't have time to call you.


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Page last modified Thu Jun 26 22:01:16 2014.