When Is A Page Secure 

by on January 30, 2007

Q: If I am on a site and I want to order an item but there is no lock symbol showing up in my browser is the site still secure?

A: The first thing you want to look for is the lock. The lock tells you that the page you are on is secure. A locked lock tells you that a valid certificate issued by a trusted authority secures the page. A broken lock tells you that the page is protected by either an expired certificate, is issued by a non-trusted authority, or is for a completely different website.

If the lock is completely missing then you should look at the URL and see if the URL starts with https. If the URL only has http it means that the webmaster made a mistake and did not secure the current page you are on. You should be able to contact them and let them know about the issue and they should be able to resolve it quickly.

 
 

Can Someone Decrypt My Webmail Password 

by on January 17, 2007

Q: I occasionally check my business email from my home computer via webmail. My husband is in the IT field and he has some kind of password decryption software that he obtained through a previous employer. He has told me on a few occasions that he can get in to anything with this software. Information security is very crucial in my line of work and I don’t want anyone, including my husband, to gain unauthorized access to my email. Could someone possibly access my webmail account using this type of software?

A: Lets first discuss how decrypting a password works. In order to decrypt a password you need to get the encrypted password, which is stored on the server and is used to compare the password the user types in. To decrypt the encrypted password someone would have to gain access to the server that holds the encrypted password. A person would then use software to decrypt the password.

It is very unlikely that someone would be able to gain access to the encrypted passwords on a server. Someone decrypting your password should probably be the least of your concern because if they can get your encrypted password they can probably get your email without knowing your password.

There are other ways someone could capture a password however, such as installing a key logger, which records every keystroke typed on a computer and records it in a file somewhere on the PC for later review/retrieval. There are also other nefarious tools available to the general public on the Internet. I won’t get into detail around these tools, as I don’t want to assist anyone out there to subvert security controls in place.

With determination and some know-how this is a very real possibility that someone can capture your webmail password but it is unlikely that they would actually be decrypting it. If you cannot afford to have your webmail data read by someone other than yourself then you should consider only checking your email from a secure PC. Otherwise there is always the risk someone else may have installed something to monitor your Internet behavior and gain access to your usernames and passwords.

 
 

Convert Vinyl Albums To A Digital Format 

by on January 11, 2007

An Into Tomorrow listener submitted the following question!

Q: How can I convert my analog vinyl albums to a digital format?

A: Unfortunately there is no simple way to accomplish this task since you are dealing with a purely analog medium you must manually record everything at 1X speed. This means that it will take just as long to convert the album to a digital format as it would to listen to the album.

The first step in the conversion process would be to get the source to line level and connect it to the input of your computer’s sound card. Record players use RIAA equalization (a phono preamp) to get their sound to line level. If you’ve been listening to records you already own a phono preamp. Locate the line level output on your stereo or on your stand alone phono preamp and connect it to the input on your computer’s sound card. You will probably need to use a stereo 1/8-inch to RCA cable to accomplish this.

Now that the record player is properly connected to the computer we can move onto step 2, which is to start the recording process. We will need to use a recording program to capture the sound coming into your computer. Windows has a built in sound recorder utility which can be found by going to “Start” -> “Programs” -> “Accessories” -> “Entertainment” -> “Sound recorder”. You may however wish to use another program such as “mp3 my mp3 recorder“. Most recording programs will record the sound as an uncompressed WAV file, which will be rather large but is great for burning the music to a CD. If you would like to keep these files stored on your computer you will probably want to convert the WAV file to an MP3 one of the many other compressed digital music formats.

Finally you should consider polishing up your recording some. I suggest using a wave editor of some kind. Wavepad is a pretty good free one. The idea here is to use the editor to cut out dead space at the beginning and ending of your recordings and/or split your recordings into separate files. You may also use filters in an attempt to remove some of the surface noise found in records. Please keep in mind however that you are removing audio information when you do this. I’ve found filtered recordings to sound rather dull, and that the surface noise isn’t noticeable (at least not to the point were it distracts from the music) during the actual song. Cutting out the dead air at the beginning and ending of your recordings might be all you need to achieve a high quality recording.

Waves may be recorded directly to CD. I’m not going to go into the process of converting these files to Mp3’s or other compressed formats as this information is readily available wikipedia.

 
 

My Laptop Is Running Really Slow 

by on January 5, 2007

Q: My laptop is running about 5x slower than when I purchased it 3 years ago. It gets slow especially when running a DVD or browsing multiple websites. It was top of the range when I purchased it: Pentium 4 1.8Ghz with 512Mb ram. What can I do to make it faster?

A: There are a few things you can do to increase performance on your system:

1. Go download Spybot Search and Destroy (Please note this application is free, there are some unscrupulous sites found when Googling Spybot that try and sell it to you). Install the application, run a full online update in the application then run it against your system. Remove any spyware/adware that you may have (likely lots).

2. Ensure your AntiVirus is updated to the latest revision. Run a full system scan, remove anything identified by your anti virus provider.

3. Defragment your hard drive (Right click on your C: drive letter in “My Computer” -> Select “Properties” -> Go to the “TOOLS” Tab -> Click “Defragment Now”.). This will make a very big improvement to your load time performance.

4. Go to “START” -> “RUN” and type in (without quotes) “msconfig”. Hit enter and a window should pop up. Click the STARTUP Tab and look at what is configured to run automatically when you start your computer. Remove things like the Acrobat utility and other applications that you don’t need to start every time you boot (this only serves to slow down the PC when booting, and if it’s something that isn’t used all the time it wastes memory).

5. If all of these options don’t help enough, you may want to consider upgrading the amount of RAM you have in your system. Having at least 1 gig of RAM can mitigate most performance issues on computers.

 
 

Convert An Act! 2000 Contact Database To Palm One 

by on January 3, 2007

Q: Is there an easy way to convert an Act! 2000 contact database for use on Palm One?

A: Directly from Act! Software by Sage, you can purchase a product called Act! Link for Palm OS. You can find it on their home page under the products area, or directly here:

http://www.act.com/products/mobile/links/index.cfm?WT.mc_id=PRPG_ver102_ACTlinkPL_details

It doesn’t specify if this is compatible with Act! 2000, so you may need to upgrade your database version first to the latest revision.

 
 

How Do I Install A Web Server On My Home Computer? 

by on January 2, 2007

Q: I’m interested in setting up an Internet server that I can put a website on from my home. Can you point me to a book or something that can tell me how to do it and what the approximate cost would be?

A: First to answer your question I am going to make some assumptions around your configuration since specifics were not provided:

1. You are running a Windows Operating System.

2. You have a high speed Internet connection at home.

3. You are well patched, have a firewall, and are prepared to accept the risk of running a web server on your home based PC (Note: This is something I never ever recommend, especially from a user who is new to the realm of web server set up and security).

With that being said, under the Windows operating system you have a few options. You can install Microsoft’s Personal Web Server if you are running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME or NT 4.0. It’s relatively easy to configure and use.

On Windows 2000 Pro and XP Pro you can install IIS (Internet Information Server) and I recommend that you purchase an “IIS for Dummies” book. The “Dummies” series of books are usually a safe bet when learning something new from scratch. Please note that if you are running Windows XP Home Edition you cannot install IIS on your home system.

Other alternatives are to install and run Apache, which is free (http://www.apache.org) which can run under pretty much any operating system out there (including XP Home Edition). Again, an “Apache for Dummies” book is essential for proper and secure configuration (or use the documentation on the Apache site directly for free).

Hopefully one of these options will do what you are looking for. I still recommend that you pay a hosting company for a web space, and let them worry about the backend configuration and security settings; otherwise you are putting your home PC at risk by having these ports wide open to anyone on the Internet.