Protect yourself from password amnesia

james-bond Passwords used to be something used only by spies in on-screen thrillers and children in their games. But it’s a fact the more time we spend online with computers and other interactive devices, the more passwords are becoming indispensable. And, with every year that goes by, my ageing brain finds it harder to remember them all.

There are three ways to deal with this problem. The first way might be slightly counter-intuitive and very low-tech, but, as we suggested in the last post, just write your passwords down somewhere and keep them safe. Although if it’s a PIN or something that relates to a bank account be VERY careful.

The second way is the one I use, really because it’s so simple and is built in to my computer’s operating system. I’m afraid it’s only available for Mac users though as it uses Safari’s password management system and iCloud Keychain. Here’s how it works:

Next time you go to set up a new online account, say for Amazon, when you get to the password box, Safari will suggest a password for you:Safari password

You can choose to accept that one, or you can choose your own. Either way, Safari will remember if for you, as long as you hit the ‘Save Password’ button that pops up.Save password

Now, the brilliant thing is the next time you go to that site, Safari will automatically fill in your password for you. And, if for some reason it doesn’t, there is an easy way to retrieve that long, complicated password:

In the top menu bar, click on Safari -> Preferences -> Passwords. In the search window in the top right corner of this box, type in the name of the site (Amazon for example) and up will come your login name (usually your email address) and the password shown as **********. Password reminderTo reveal the password, check the box in the bottom left that says ‘show password for selected sites’ and voila!

The last reason I love this method is because if you have your Apple ID set up on all your iDevices, your passwords will sync across your iPhone and your iPad, which is a fantastic time saver and frees up your memory for the good stuff.

The third, and probably most robust way to remember passwords and keep them secure is to get a password manager.

PasswordKeeperThis is an excellent way not only to avoid the wasted hours spent trying to remember that clever, ‘unforgettable’ password you set up for your Ocado account, but it also goes a long way to protect you against hackers.  If you use the same password on lots of websites, the risks to your security increase dramatically. A breach at one site could expose all of your accounts. If that password is a lame one like “123456” or “password,” a hacker could get into your account just by guessing. The problem is, avoiding same passwords and lame passwords is really hard—too hard for most of us to manage without help. But the solution is simple—install a password manager and change all of your passwords so every single one is different, and every single one is long and hard to crack. Of course, if a major hack attack does expose thousands or millions of email accounts, including yours, there’s nothing you can do except change your password pronto. But a password manager will change all your logins to crazy-tough passwords like G2#iywoYXq$2T34d or %N!46vY758WEr#*8. And because the password manager remembers the passwords for you, all you need to do is remember one password to access all the rest.

There are lots of different password managers to choose from, so we’re just suggesting three here. All of these can be used for free, although more features (like syncing across all your devices) can be obtained for a small annual fee (around £10). Be sure to read the small print before you sign up – some offer the product for free but limit the number of passwords you can store – up to around 15. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need a lot more than that.

  1. LP-LogoLastPass 3.0  has been around for a while, and is still a great, completely free password manager. It has a breadth of features not found in the competition.
  1. Powerful biometric authentication is the star feature in 1U Password Manager. If that sounds lik1Ue techno-babble, it essentially means that the app scans your face and/ or fingerprint to check that it really is you logging on, and the rest works like magic. The password manager itself is pretty basic though, and it could use some user-interface work. But it’s worth a look, if just to marvel at the technology.
  1. DashlaneI’ve really saved the best ’till last. With secure sharing, an emergency contacts feature that passes on your data if something happens to you, and automated password changing, the full programme of Dashlane is not free, but remains one of our top picks for password managers. And even the free version works on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac.

So, no more weak password worries or time wasted searching for forgotten passwords. Please get in touch if you have any questions, queries or comments.

 

 

 

 

Rewarding bad banking behaviour

Dilbert_Bank_PhishingToday’s controversy over whether banks should compensate fraud victims who have failed to protect themselves properly online raises some interesting issues. (read more here) Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Met Police, has said that the public are ‘being rewarded’ for bad behaviour with regards to online security, and need incentives to update anti-virus software and create stronger passwords. He suggested that lax online security is akin to leaving your front door open and then bleating when your house gets burgled.

In answer to his comments, various interest groups have responded by saying it should be up to the banks and the police to protect people from online fraud. The consumer group Which? has said the banks have been slow to step up security measures, whilst Saga suggested that keeping up with banking scams can be a full time job for individuals and so reducing them should be a priority for the banks.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the arguments, you should always keep your online banking as secure as possible. There are two key ways to do this:

  • use a strong password, including upper and lower case letters, numbers and other characters (e.g. * or !), and change it regularly – once or twice a year if you can. Don’t use the same password for all your online accounts and if you must keep a record of passwords, write them in a notebook and tuck it away somewhere – no-one can hack into your desk drawer.
  • make sure your anti-virus software is up to date – this could be already built in to your computer or it could be a third party software such as Avast or McAfee. Find more about this subject here

If you use a banking app on your phone this will have at least two layers of security to prevent hacking; we had some input from Nick, one of our Tipsters, about his online banking; he has two accounts, one personal with Nationwide and a business one with Barclays:

Nationwide app“I registered for online banking with both banks.  The process takes a while and is different with both banks, but it’s not difficult.  I also downloaded apps from both banks and registered them on my iPhone.  Both banks give you a card reader which means to set up new arrangements, payments for example, you need to use a debit card with your computer.  Both banks need two levels of security – a passcode and a unique user number supplied by the bank.

“But I have to say I am very happy with the service.  In fact, it’s revolutionised banking for me.  Apart from paying in cheques, I now never have to go to the bank or phone them or even bother storing paper bank statements.  I very rarely use my computer for banking now.  It’s all done on my phone.  I can check balances easily – Nationwide will allow you a quick balance check without even logging into the app which is really useful.  And of course, like most people my iPhone is locked behind a passcode.  Although even if it wasn’t, the only thing anyone could access would be my balance.  To open the full app on your phone, Barclays needs a five number code and Nationwide asks for three random numbers from a six number code.

“With both apps you can make payments to people or companies you have already registered and you can view your regular outgoing payments – standing orders and direct debits – and adjust or cancel them.  I’ve found it hugely useful and time saving.  It allows me to be in touch with my finances whenever I want.

contactless payment“And with contactless payments I find I’m rarely even using cash!  So no more standing at cashpoints either.”

The banks want us to use online banking because it’s cheaper and more profitable for them, so it’s in their interest to make it safe and secure for us.

On balance I tend to agree with Which? and Saga, but the chief constable does have a point, and why take the risk? If you need a few more pointers about staying safe online, you could always ask a Tipster to help you out.

 

Weak wi-fi woes

wifi-home-networkIt can be so disappointing – after a long day, you’re looking forward to catching up with the episode of The Night Manager you missed last week, only to find that you can’t get a wi-fi signal in the room you’ve set up as your TV snug at the top of the house.

We get a lot of requests for help to improve wi-fi signals at home – home networks can get quite congested with kids streaming things on their iPads, gaming and home-working, not to mention the tall houses in London that mean routers can struggle to push signals to the furthest reaches of your home. So, what to do about it? Is it possible to boost a weak wi-fi at home? Of course it is. And as with all things technical, there are many options – some simple, some needing a bit more effort and cash.

Here’s a few things you can try yourself.

Move, it, baby!

router

While routers are hardly eye candy, they shouldn’t be tucked behind cabinets or sofas. For the best wi-fi signal, routers should be placed in open spaces, where there are no obstructions or walls. If the router has antennae they should be positioned vertically. The higher and more central the router is located in the home, the better its coverage will be. And bear in mind wi-fi isn’t keen to compete with other electronic devices – particularly microwaves and cordless phones. And the signal will be weakened by thick walls, steel beams, washing machines and other low-tech realities of life. There are routers that are developing curved wi-fi signals, but let’s not go there yet!

Channel hopping

You may find in compact London that there are dozens of other wi-fi networks crowding your precious signal, so it might be worth changing the channel on your router to find one less crowded. This should give you a better chance to catch up with that episode of The Night Manager whilst the kids are battling online monsters on their iPads.

Power (line) to the people

wireless_home_2010Search Amazon for ‘wi-fi booster’ and you’ll find dozens of items for sale, starting around the £20 mark. And probably the easiest of these gems to use are power line adapters. We particularly like the Devolo wifi range – they’re a bit more expensive but super-easy to set up. These clever little devices use the household wiring of your home to send the broadband signal around the house. Plug one into a socket near your router. Attach said router to the power-line adapter with an ethernet cable. Plug another power-line adaptor into a plug socket in your office eyrie and bob’s your uncle. Almost.

Of course, if you can’t fix woeful wi-fi yourself, just give us a quick call. Umair joined us as a Tipster in January; he’s our network expert, tempting your wi-fi signal to the very furthest corners of your house. He’s getting quite excited about the new curved wi-fi signals too!

 

 

All I want for Christmas…

Money-Gift-PoundsAs Christmas approaches, the pile of gift catalogues on my desk grows as I search for interesting and exciting presents for everyone on my list. However most of my nieces and nephews, being tricky teens, just ask for money, which on the one hand is nice and easy, but on the other, a little bit dull. I tend to feel that even a gift voucher shows a little more thought.

FlybikeSome quick research into the UK gift voucher market revealed that I’m not alone in that thought, with the total spend on vouchers in 2013 reaching £5 billion – that’s about the same size as the perfume market. It’s not just ‘book tokens’ anymore – I’ve bought Westfield vouchers, Comedy Club vouchers, or the hot favourite for my dare-devil nephew, a voucher to take you for a day ‘fly-biking’ – it looks awesome!

I find the hardest group to buy gifts for are the older generation who seem to have everything they could possibly want or need. Last year the siblings clubbed together to buy an iPad for my father, but he hardly uses it – mostly because he is a bit scared of pressing the wrong button and deleting everything! VoucherWith that in mind, Fingertips has come up with the perfect solution – we’ve launched our own gift vouchers. They make an ideal present for a friend or family member who needs a bit of a guiding hand with their home technology. You can buy vouchers for one, two or three hours with a Tipster, by which time even the most low-tech person will be able to send emails, download apps to their iPad, or catch up with Strictly on the BBC iPlayer. Order yours by calling us on 020 8994 7773, or come to find us at the Chiswick PopUp tomorrow at the Barley Mow Centre in Chiswick.

Please note that we can only make home visits to customers in London, so if your Mum lives in Scotland or Southampton, I’m afraid we won’t be able to help her.

Time to upgrade your Windows

windows 10You’ve been so brave, gritting your teeth and just getting on with it, but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel; you just need to wait until the end of July and then life will be so much clearer …I’m talking of course about the perils of working with Windows 8 for the last 3 years, and the forthcoming launch of Windows 10 on July 29th.

For most of us, the launch of a new operating system is often a bit like a game of ‘spot the difference’. But when Windows 8 came along it was like learning a completely new language, with many of the functions I was used to on my computer seeming to be completely hidden. Gradually I’ve found out how it works, but that doesn’t mean I like it. So the good news is that the new operating system reflects the style of Windows 7 and one of the best things is that it incorporates that old favourite – a Start menu!

There are lots of good new features of Windows 10, so I’ve picked out a handful to give you a flavour.

Start menu
1. The Start menu is back – from here you can find the controls for turning your PC off (it sounds obvious but it was one of the hardest things to find with Windows 8), your most used apps, settings and File Explorer. The Start menu also features ‘live tiles’ which look  like Windows 8 – this means you can see what is happening in your most used apps, things like news updates, weather, calendar and mail.

Action center
2. There are no more ‘Charms’ (phew!) but instead you’ve got an Action Center. This is where you can switch your bluetooth or wifi on or off, switch on airplane mode amongst other things; if you’ve got an iPhone, it’s like the Control Centre.

edge13. New internet browser – Internet Explorer is being replaced with Microsoft Edge and according to the reviews it’s much easier to use and faster to load pages. I also like the way they have kept the logo very similar to the old one, so that it’s easy to find. You’ll be able to move your favourite and bookmarked sites to Edge when you upgrade.

Cortana1

4. Cortana – this is like Siri on Apple products – it’s a virtual assistant that can help you find things, either on your computer or on the wider web. For example, you can type in ‘what will the weather be like today’ or ‘show me an Indian restaurant in Chiswick’ and up will come various answers. You can also use Cortana by speaking to your phone, tablet or computer.

multitasking5. Multi-tasking is much easier – if you’re working in a few different apps at once, you can now have up to 4 apps showing on your desktop at once, which means much less flipping from one to another.

If you’re currently running Windows 8, 8.1 or Windows 7 you can upgrade for free within the first 12 months after launch. If you have an older version of Windows you will need to pay for it (we think this will be around £80) and do a ‘clean install’ – if you don’t know what that means, give us a call and we’ll help!

In one review I read, the new operating system was aptly described like this: “If Windows 8 was the steepest learning curve imaginable, Windows 10 is like meeting a great friend you once knew – it’s just they’ve bought some new clothes of which you really do approve.”

One final note of warning – operating systems take a long time to develop and once they launch there will be more updates all the time, to iron out little glitches. As we wrote here  a year or so ago, it’s sometimes worth waiting a month or two before diving in to a new upgrade, just to make sure you get the version with the fewest bugs.

A new site for Chiswick

11.5.cI’ve been a Chiswick resident for nearly 20 years now, and I’m quite smug about how great it is. I love all the fantastic restaurants and independent shops, the lovely parks, Chiswick House and of course the river, but it’s really the people who make Chiswick so great, famous, infamous or otherwise.

So I was thrilled to discover The Chiswick Calendar (our co-sponsors at the recent Bedford Park Festival) and to meet the editor Bridget Osborne. I asked her to tell me a bit about the website so that I could pass it on to all my lovely Chiswickian customers (apologies to those of you who don’t live here – you can still visit!) Here’s what Bridget told me:

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 15.22.28

The Chiswick Calendar home page

Chiswick is a vibrant and beautiful place to live. The Chiswick Calendar is an events / listings website which will tell you what’s going on in the area on a daily basis. With a different beautiful photograph of Chiswick featured on the home page each day, you can use it as a computer desk diary as well as a resource to find out everything, from where to find live jazz in the area to what to do with children in school holidays.

Our video features celebrate Chiswick life: its inhabitants, institutions and enterprises. We regularly preview new plays on at the Tabard theatre and report on cultural events like the Bedford Park Festival and Artists At Home weekend, talking to the people who make Chiswick such an interesting place to live.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 15.45.16

What do you think of it so far?

We also put on our own events. In ‘What do you think of it so far?’ on Monday 13 July at the Tabard theatre, two celebrated political journalists who live locally – Peter Oborne and Julia Langdon – discuss the new government. Next month come and meet local authors at Waterstones on Monday 10 August, and learn how to use your camera better on a photography walk round Chiswick with professional photographer Dan Clarke on Sunday16 August, or come and meet us at the Chiswick Book Festival in September.

The Chiswick Calendar is a small team of creative people whose skills include documentary film making and website design. Bridget worked for many years as a BBC TV and radio journalist, and her team can also produce short videos for a website, helping you to tell a story about your business or project. 

Chiswick houseIf you’re a local resident and you’d like to have your photos of Chiswick featured on the home page of The Chiswick Calendar, just send them in to the site (click here) and you could join the ranks of famous Chiswick residents (even if it’s just for a day).

The joys of YouTube

You Tube logoI read recently that people upload 100 hours of video to YouTube every minute, and that if you tried to watch every video currently on there, (assuming no new videos are uploaded while you are watching) it would take you 60,000 years!  So it’s no wonder you can lose yourself for hours onSneezing panda YouTube,  watching anything from the latest movie trailers, music videos or just laughing at funny animals – this is one of my all time favourites (click on the panda picture) – be sure to have the sound turned on.

But YouTube can be really useful if you don’t know where else to look for help with something (I learnt how to re-grout my shower from a lady on YouTube) and that includes help with your home IT. Lots of people post tutorials that are designed to solve your IT issues, but they can be of variable quality and sometimes you Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.59.38can end up more confused than when you started. Also, with so many videos on YouTube, you can spend hours searching for precisely the information you need and never quite find it.

So this blog post is really just a shameless plug for the new Fingertips promotional video, that talks about some of the ways we can help with your cropped-small-helpdesk-finger1.jpghome technology. You can watch it here, or on the home page of our website. Please let me know what you think of it, or just send on your favourite YouTube videos for us to enjoy.

Heads in the Cloud

10.10.3Last week Apple released a new update to their current ‘Yosemite’ operating system – it’s rather catchily named ‘ten point ten point 3’ or 10.10.3. For those of you who aren’t clear what an operating system does, it’s the software that runs your computer, and every so often the manufacturers send out updates to improve (hopefully) the way you can use your device.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 16.57.40Apart from a few ‘back office’ updates that help with stability and security on your computer, this operating system (OS) update is mostly focused on the Photos application, which in theory replaces iPhoto as the best way for Mac users to organise, edit and share their photos – more on that in a minute. There has also been a lot in the tech press about the addition of around 300 new ’emoji’ characters  which allow you to choose a skin tone for the various smiley face-type icons. To access the emoji, just press the combination of cmd+ctrl+space in any text entry field (i.e. a document or a text, or indeed a blog post). Find the emoji you want to use and click on it to show the variants. Sadly though, as one reader pointed out, there is still no red-head option.

photos_iconAs I mentioned, the major part of this update is the release of Photos. At first glance it won’t look that different from iPhoto, but there are some clever new ways in which Photos now works to synchronise your images across all your devices.


Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.57.541. Organisation – the new Photos app works in a way that you might be familiar with if you have photos on your iPhone or iPad – the pictures are organised according to the time and location they were taken, to create ‘Moments’. By zooming in or out with one click, you can have a yearly overview of all your photos (as above). You can also view your photos according to the type of image – panorama, photo bursts or even movies – and as before, you can create your own albums easily.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 18.01.282. Editing – according to Apple, the new app allows more detailed editing than iPhoto did; for most of us, the ‘enhance’ button will be enough to automatically adjust exposure problems and make the colours look better, but if you want to make more specific adjustments you can use the simple sliders for colour, light and black and white, as well as fun filters, cropping, red-eye removal and other retouch options.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.17.053. Sharing – if you want to post the latest baby photos on Facebook or quickly send a picture of your new shoes in a text message, just use the sharing button in the top right of the Photos app. This isn’t really new, but the thing that Apple are most excited about is the iCloud Photo Sharing option, that is linked to …

4. …iCloud Photo Library – this is a new feature from Apple that brilliantly syncs all your pictures across all your iThings. Once you switch on iCloud Photo Library (in Settings), your photos will be uploaded to your iCloud account, and any photo taken on any device will be automatically saved to the library and available to view on all your other Apple devices.Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.55.19

The biggest advantage of this new way of storing photos is that you don’t have to take up precious storage space on your computer, phone or iPad; iCloud Photo Library automatically stores the original, high resolution images in the cloud, and you can access the pictures on your phone or iPad wherever you are.  The downside (inevitably) is that you need to pay for the storage space if your photo library is bigger than the 5GB you get free (I’ve got about 13,000 photos which is around 40MB). You don’t have to switch on this feature – you can store the photos on your computer as before, but of course there is a trade off in terms of being able to access them anywhere.

Here’s my usual health warning – before you update your OS, make sure you have everything on your computer backed up. 99.5 times out of 100 everything will be fine but once in a while, a software update can cause things to go a little haywire, so it’s a good idea to be safe. Once you have completed the update, you’ll find your existing iPhoto library transfers seamlessly across to the new Photos app, and you can start having fun with your pictures again 😃

A trip down memory lane

Old betterWhat do you buy as a birthday present for an elderly parent who has everything? On my travels through the options – a personalized jigsaw puzzle, a heart-shaped perfume atomizer, putting their name to a star – I was spectacularly uninspired. But then a friend suggested a brilliant idea – a personal memoir, put together by a company called Lifescape memoirs.

The idea behind this is that everyone has a story to tell; you don’t have to be famous or rich to have had an interesting life, nor do you need to have achieved great things. For your family and friends, the moments that make up everyday life, the challenges of ‘normal’ living, can be just as fascinating. I know I formed a whole new opinion of my mother after finding out some of her earlier memories….

So I had a chat with Graham Booth, who runs Lifescape, and asked him how it works.

4-mum-spread_med_hr“A personal memoir is one of the most valuable legacies that anyone can pass on to their family, but it can be so difficult to know how to begin. So we’ve found a way to help people organise their memories and put them together in a beautiful book, complete with photos.

“We give each person a guide that explains the process, and an iPod on which to record their life story. It may seem daunting at first, but once they find their voice, it is an incredibly rewarding experience for the narrator.

“Once the recordings are received, we transcribe and edit them, split it all into chapters and add in any scanned photos. The book is printed and bound, having agreed on a design and materials.

whife_smaller_med“We print 10 copies of the book, which would usually be around 120 pages, and it’s illustrated with your own photos, in a custom-designed hard back cover.

Graham can also help to create the memoir by doing a series of interviews with the ‘narrator’, to give them more guidance about what to talk about and keep them on the right track. Here’s a link to the website if you want to get in touch or find out more. www.lifescapememoirs.co.uk

Happy 2On the subject of birthdays, Fingertips is two years old this week. We’ve got some way to go before we’ll be producing a memoir, but I’m very proud to have made it this far!

Black Friday, Cyber Monday…

BFCMApparently it’s Black Friday tomorrow and Cyber Monday on Monday….

If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry – it’s much better than the names suggest.

Those of you from across the pond will know that Black Friday originated in America – it’s the day after Thanksgiving, the day when people traditionally start to think about their Christmas shopping. So back in the 1930s and 40s some high street shops began to offer great deals to encourage customers to buy early.BLack Friday queue

According to the BBC, the term Black Friday was originally coined as a reference to a New York Stock Market crash in 1869, but came into use as a national term with its current meaning in America in the 1990s.

It’s a bit of an odd name, with its connotations of disaster, for a day that spells such opportunity for bargain hunters, but despite efforts to change it to Big Friday in the 1960s, the name has stuck. And Black Friday is undoubtedly the biggest shopping day of the year in the US.sale

Now, mainly thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, Black Friday is big in the UK too and there are some amazing deals to be had, many in the world of electricals.

Cyber MondayCyber Monday began as an online version of Black Friday, but as Black Friday is online too, the whole weekend has become a bargain bonanza.

This year, UK analysts are expecting sales on Black Friday to be the highest ever, with Visa predicting an increase in spending of 22% on last year, as customers are expected to spend £6,000 per second on their cards tomorrow.

CartoonMany offers have started online already (Amazon), others begin at 00.01am tomorrow (Apple) and many stores will open early in the morning (John Lewis, PC World, Asda all open at 8am), while others are opening at midnight tonight (Game, Argos).

It’s also worth noting that the biggest retailers will ship internationally, so with the weak dollar and deeper discounts in the US, you may find the best deals are on American sites.

So set your alarm, dust off your credit card and bag some bargains. Beware of getting carried away – there are still 4 weeks to go!Trolleys