Top Story

What you need to know now about Windows 8

Few Microsoft publicity efforts have ever drawn as much attention as last week’s 20-minute Windows 8 sneak preview.

If you’ve heard that Windows 8 is for the dogs or that it will look like a phone, you haven’t heard the whole story.

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Re-examining Dropbox and its alternatives

Recent revelations about privacy concerns with Dropbox have led many people — including me — to think about changing my practices regarding online file-storage and -synchronization providers.

If you use Dropbox or some other cloud storage and sync program, let me explain what you do — and don’t — need to be concerned about. And what you can do to sleep better at night.

Michael Lasky wrote about Dropbox in his October 28, 2010, Top Story, Dropbox: File synching and sharing made easy. Dropbox lets you drag and drop files into a special folder on your Windows desktop. The dropped files then magically appear on all other PCs, laptops, phones, and iPads that use the Dropbox service and are set up to share the folder you have. It has good password-based security and fine file-sharing options.

We here at Windows Secrets use Dropbox all the time, both as individuals and as a group. As Michael said, “Every once in a while some product — or service in this case — comes along that we soon find we can’t live without. Dropbox, an online file-backup, -sharing, and -synchronization service, fits that category.”

I personally like Dropbox so much I recommended it in my January 27 Top Story, Seven simple steps for setting up Windows 7.

That’s why I was very concerned when reports started surfacing a few weeks ago about possible privacy problems with Dropbox.

Setting up Dropbox from a privacy point of view

To understand the problems that have caused all the concern, you need to understand how Dropbox works.

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Mobile privacy: lots of Big Brothers, little clarity

What do you call software that collects and sends information about you to its developers, advertisers, and others? On a desktop, we’re likely to name it spyware.

But on a cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device we call it an app — never realizing that it might be operating much like spyware.

As difficult as the issues surrounding privacy on a desktop computer can be, they’re virtually child’s play compared to the issues that arise with mobile devices — which, at the very least, must identify themselves to gain access to public Wi-Fi or cellular networks. Cellular devices do this through a unique identification number attached to every voice call or data request — an ID that networks store as long as your device is turned on, whether it’s in use or not.

The closest equivalents in the desktop space are tracking cookies, which we have the freedom to delete. “With mobile device identifiers, there’s no ability to delete or opt out,” says Ashkan Soltani, an online privacy consultant who recently testified (PDF file) about mobile privacy issues before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

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Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 2

After the first article of this three-part series appeared, many of you wrote to ask: do I really not need this software?

It’s true: if you’ve moved up to Windows 7, there are all sorts of software that you just don’t need. Stop following outdated advice and get with the system!

In my previous installment, I wrote that Windows 7 owners don’t need to pay for any of these important apps:

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Build a complete Windows 7 safety net

Every copy of Windows 7 includes a complete suite of backup tools. The suite contains everything you need to back up (and restore) your entire system.

What’s more, after you’ve set up your initial backup, future backups happen automatically.

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Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 1

If you’ve moved to Windows 7, there’s a raft of software — entire categories of software — that you simply don’t need.

Why pay for it?

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Office 365 offers value, but it’s not Office

Trick question: when is Office not Office? When it’s Office 365, of course.

On Monday, Microsoft revealed its latest beta version of Office 365. For some small businesses — even some individuals — it may be worth the price.

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Keep your data safe while on the road

Sure, you’ve put in all the right data-security tools at your office, but how about when you or your employees are outside the firewall?

Keeping your business data safe while working outside the office requires extra vigilance; here are some tips that will help.

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Get wired performance from your Wi-Fi network

Although the Wi-Fi arms race isn’t going to let up any time soon, wireless can never be as fast and reliable as wires.

So why fight it? Get the best of both worlds with a hybrid Wi-Fi and powerline network, perfect for streaming high-def video.

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LizaMoon infection: a blow-by-blow account

A nasty piece of malware known as LizaMoon has hijacked links on millions of websites in the past weeks, including some normally safe iTunes and Google links.

Fortunately, LizaMoon is easy to avoid if you know what to look for.

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