Why you need to change your password!

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Why you should change your password

Last month I attended a workshop about cyber safety. The presenter, Dave L. Rutz, is actually a Computer Forensic Analyst. As he enlightened us about how computer passwords are crack it really started to make me think. There are three main ways that a hacker will try to figure out your passwords. The first method is known as the Dictionary Attack. The computer will go through the dictionary one word at a time until it figures out your password. This is the easiest password to hack. You may think that you have an awesome password by using something complex like “underfunded”, if you look in the dictionary there are 113 words in the English dictionary that contain the word “fun” verses “fund” there are 56 words verses 8 words that start with “funde”… you can see how quickly the “Dictionary Attack” can work. The second, and more difficult to hack, is known as the “Brute Force Attack”. This method works by trying to figure out one letter at a time. This can take some. The final method that we talked about is a combination of both Dictionary Attack and Brute Force Attack. Again while you think that you have a strong and powerful password like “juglandaceous” there are actually 3 words in the English dictionary that start with “junl” and 41 words that start with “jug”.

Now that we know how easy it will be to hack your current passwords how can we make a strong password you might ask. First you might want to renew your current passwords if you  either haven’t changed them in a while and/or you think you current password has been compromised. Next make your password complex by having it at least 8 characters, use upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols. To avoid being hacked using the dictionary attack you will want to change your password to a “passphrase”. These are more difficult to crack. A passphrase might look like this “Tp4tci2s4U2g!” = “The password for this computer is too strong for you to guess!“. Notice the uniqueness of the password/passphrase, the caps / lower case, numbers, and symbols. Finally, make your passwords/passphrases unique. DO NOT use the same password for every account and DO NOT have your passwords relate to anything personal about you, such as your children’s names, address, zip codes, birthdays, car, favorite color. Thing about it, you post that kind of personal information about yourself on your social media pages all the time. If you have a hard time coming up with a password you can use this site to help you: http://www.onlinepasswordgenerator.com.

Of course while you are taking the time to come up with strong passwords you do not want to write them down on a sticky or shared media. If you put them in a file make sure your document is password protected or use a reputable password management software. When asked NEVER use the “Save Password” option on your computer. If you want to check and see how secure your password is you might want to check out: http://howsecureismypassword.net.

Happy computing!!!

** UPDATE **

Here’s a great article about “The Big Password Mistakes That Hackers Are Hoping That You’ll Make

Another great password checker: http://blog.kaspersky.com/password-check/

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Social Media: Monitoring of your brand

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What is branding? When it comes to branding we tend to think about the different companies. We think about what they produce, what their customer service is like, the quality of the product etc. If you think about it in the simplest terms,”Branding It is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. The brand could be a large company, it could be a small “mom & pop” LLC, or it could be you as an individual. As a teacher I always tell my students that YOUR brand is YOU. I remind them that what they do in their professional / personal lives, both physically and virtually (such as social media) can affect your present and your future. Monitoring YOUR brand is so important now! Before people might say something about your to their friends via word of mouth but now we have social media. In a simple click, a person can share their opinion / experiences with the whole world. For example, I personally had a wonderful experience at Starbuck on afternoon. I was so impressed that I sent a tweet out to both Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles about how impressed I was with this employee. I normally don’t send out those kinds of tweets but this person blew me away with her professionalism and overall attitude. I had to share! Within minutes I had a reply from Starbucks. I felt as if I had a personally connection with the company. I also had a not very pleasant experience with a different company. I tweeted that company with my observations and again, within minutes I had not only a reply but the company started following me on Twitter. Of course, I wonder, as my concerns or kudos really being address with the higher ups or is this some sort of bot doing the replies. The answer is, I’m not sure. But as a consumer, I admit, it makes me feel good that someone seems to be paying attention to my concerns and kudos.

Now, let’s think of this as an individual (or a a teacher, in my case) instead of a large company, there are people (students / parents / etc.) out there right now who might be talking about you as a person, an employee, a teacher, a staff, your class, the school or school system that you teach at, etc. Why not see what they are saying and use that opportunity to educate, motivate, and inspire. To go back to old western movies, let’s head them off at the pass. Let’s connect with people and address their concerns and pass along those kudos. Let’s make them feel as if they are apart of the community and the solution.

To read more about “Social Media Monitoring: Your Biggest Missed Opportunity?” you should check out this article published by HootSuite: http://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-monitoring-your-biggest-missed-opportunity/

Microsoft Office Specialist…. NINJA!!!!

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Today I had the opportunity to take the 2007 Microsoft Office Specialist Test for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Amazingly enough you really can’t find a study guide for the 2007 test at all. There are tons of guides for 2010 and 2013. Needless to say I had to wing it. I thought I would have done better at the Excel test than I did but I will say in my defense there about 30+ people in the room with me along with 2 children acting like they were cats. The ran around the room making cat noises! Anyways, I did well on the test but not enough to pass that one. I went on to the Word test and blew that one out of the water. That being said I’m not sure what the average score is on that test but I think making a 100% in 4 of the 6 areas isn’t too shabby! I admit, I expected the Word test to be a bit more difficult than it was. Not one question on mail merging, etc. After Word I moved on to PowerPoint. I didn’t do as well as I did on the Word test but I did score enough to pass that one as well. Finally, I tried to test on Outlook. Did you notice that I used the word “tried”. The computer crashed 4 times and was not able to take that test. I actually thought I might have done well as that test as well. Maybe next time. With these two test under my belt I’m crossing off my “knowledge/software to be certified in” bucket list! Next stop… the Georgia Business Education GACE! I only have 14 days until that test. Wish me luck!!!

Why don’t my colors not look right when I print?

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I’ve had a couple of people ask me lately about color…..

Have you ever asked yourself “Why do my colors not look right when I print?”

The simple answer is that with our current printing technologies we can’t print ALL the colors.

If you look at the color gamut above:
·         Visible Color Spectrum
o   Are the colors you can see

·         RGB Color Gamut
o   Are the colors you can see on your computer screen / TV / projector / ect

·         Pantone Color Gamut
o   These are special colors / inks that we order

·         CMYK Color Gamut
o   The area is the only area that we can print with current printing technology
o   Small, I know :/

So the question still remains…. what do you do? Well there are a couple things, first understand that you might not be able to print everything that you want to but chances are you can find a printable color that is close enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Second, if you are printing a photo you can try using a photo printer. Instead of only printing with 4 colors (CMYK) you can print with many colors. I have a Canon wide format photo printer and it has 12 different ink cartridges!

With knowledge is power! Happy printing!

Why are “they” so afraid of technology?

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I often find myself asking this question over and over again, “Why are people so scared of technology?” I don’t know about you all but this is a problem that I run into daily.  Don’t get me wrong, some people I know really love it and will embrace it, but others… my only guess is that they think they are going to break the computer / technology. As a high school teacher I push the topic of “emerging technologies” almost daily in class. The image above is one that I took in class of a student’s notes that they wrote out, photographed, and then imported into their Evernote account for review. The students, for the most part, seem to understand of working smarter and harder.  Some students have embraced the idea of using the technology as a tool, while other students… well, let’s just say their idea of using technology is playing games on the computers or scrolling through Twitter and other social media sites. This might be hard to believe but I have students who don’t know how to put paper in a printer. I know it sounds crazy since “all kids are into technology” but I have to tell you that is just not true. On the other side I see teachers day in and day out expect these kids to be way more advanced then they are but the teachers themselves are too scared to use the technology themselves. The other day a teacher was telling me how difficult it was getting photos from students and I mentioned the use of hashtags on Twitter. As some of you may know, high school aged kids are not using Facebook as much as you think. They have moved over to other social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. I wanted to remind the teacher that he could just request the students to hashtag their photos and then the teacher could just grab them offline. The teacher actually placed his fingers over his ears and said “This is too much. I’m not listening!” If you are familiar with hashtags you know how easy this task would be. If you are not, do me a favor and try this one thing for me:

  1. review the following twitter page: https://twitter.com/hashtags  (you do not have to have a twitter account to view)
  2. review the following WikiHow page: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Hashtags-With-Twitter
  3. If you have a twitter account try going to: http://www.twitterfall.com/ and doing a search on a hashtag. This is really awesome to do if you participating in something and/or watching something… For example I found it to be fun and interesting during the NBA Draft!

Back to the topic at hand. Why are people so afraid of technology? I have people ask me all the time about technology related questions. They always wonder how I know some much stuff about stuff. I’m honest with them and tell them that I searched for it on the internet. I have no idea why your computer keeps booting up in safe mode but after about two clicks and 5 minutes on the internet I found a forum and fixed your problem.

Is the answer as simple as the question? Are people afraid of technology because they are just simply afraid? Do they really think they are going to break the internet?  Do they think that one wrong click will give them the blue screen of death?

I guess for me, I like to take the Thomas A. Edison approach on things…. When asked about failing so many times when trying to invent the lightbulb he replied with…. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Sometimes, not all the time, failure can be an excellent learning tool. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in “YOLO” like my students believe. I know there are consequences to our successes and failures in life. With technology, I say, go ahead, give it a try… and if something breaks… there is someone out there who might be able to fix it… hopefully that person will be you!

My Fitbit

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My Fitbit

How awesome is this little dodad! If you have not seen nor heard of the “fitbit” (www.fitbit.com) and you are interested in living a happier and healthier life you really should take a look. I was inspired to purchase one after my sister-in-law received one as a Christmas gift this year. After she asked me if I had seen one before, in which I had not, I went in search on the web for more information. Of course I hit the usual spots such as Google, YouTube, and of course fitbit.com. The more I learned about this little magical dodad I thought I would give it a try. I tell you what, it is like having a personal trainer. You really start to look at things a little differently. Instead of driving your car from here to there you decide to walk just so that you can hit your 10,000 step goal for the day. This little tool makes you look at life a little differently. For those of you who know me or have read any of my blog posts you know that I am a person who loves data! This little piece of plastic gives me data from the number of steps I take, to how many floors I’ve climbed, to how many times I woke up during the night! Of course this might not be for everyone but for me, I think it is amazing!

With my fitbit in hand I know that I will see a happier and healthier me! Best of luck with your goals in life and I hope to see a happier and healthier you in the days, weeks, months, and years to come!

p.s. I’ve heard that if you don’t write down your goals and make them known to others that you goals are no more than wishes…. something to think about! Say it loud and say it proud!

The Holiday Season Is Upon Us…

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Family BINGO night!

As we gather this week to celebrate our holiday traditions by spending time with friends and family we may find ourselves by playing with new gadgets and taking photos to remember the events that have taken place. My family gathered last night to play a tradition game of family BINGO. For those of you who are not familiar with my family we have what’s called “Larson Rules” for any and all games that we play. As we like to say… “either you are in or out” and you better play to win!

To illustrate this our competition nature that my family posses here’s a quick story that I was told when I was very small. You see my mother was about 8+ months pregnant with me and of course my family decided to play a little friendly “game” of volleyball. Wanting to win, my grandfather jumped up and spiked the ball on my very pregnant mother. Not to worry, she was fine, and I believe that I was fine… or at least I still think I’m fine 36 years years later. Thinking back on our family traditions some might think we they are a little weird and quirky but they are still our traditions. And remember to practice like you play and play like you practice!

I am curious as to what kind of new gadgets and bit of technologies that we will get this year! I know that at this point I would love the Samsung Galaxy S3 but I don’t think that is going to happen. My phone provider is Verizon and if you haven’t heard yet if you buy a new phone and/or upgrade your plan you are going to lose your unlimited data. I for one cannot lose my unlimited data! I personally don’t use too much but I don’t like the idea of being limited to only 2 GIGS a month! Long story longer… if I want a Galaxy S3 and want to keep my unlimited data I have to purchase the phone at the full price of $699 and add it to my plan. Not to worry, I’m not going to pay $699 for a phone, I’m going in search of finding one that someone else purchased at full price but then figured out that the Android OS is “too complicated” to learn. LOL. I have actually heard that before. I still don’t understand how the Android OS is too complicated but to each their own and who am I to judge! I wish you all the best I can’t want to see what kind of new gadgets you get this year!