The dangers of social networking

Awkward questions for you.  Have you ever had your Facebook, Twitter or MySpace accounts hacked? How did that happen.  Did they guess your password? Now consider if only one of your accounts has been hacked.  Are you using the same password on other sites?  How long will it be before the others are hacked too?  How will you know?  What if you use the same password on your bank account?  Doesn't bear thinking about, does it?
So what password have you used?  Is it easy to guess?  Surprise yourself.  Enter "Common passwords" into Google (click on the link - it's there for you) and see if you've ever used a password that is in the top 500.  Apparently 1 in 9 of you will use a password from this list.  So there is a good chance that out of pure luck, a hacker will be able to hack

Mending the washing machine

It's not good, in the run up to Christmas, to hear a bang from the washing machine and for it to stop with a flashing 'Rinses' light.  Our venerable Miele Novotronic W865 did this to us recently and the thought of paying out for a new one on top of the other household bills in December did not appeal at all.
So what to do?  We first rang Miele customer support.  No problem, they say.  Call out £98 for the first hour plus parts plus VAT.  Nice.  Then they say we can sign up, for £200, to a 12-month warranty and have it repaired.  Nicer.  But then they said that my machine was too old (it wasn't - the girl had mistakenly interpreted the warranty).  Still too expensive though.
What next?  Out comes the laptop and off we go(ogle). Interestingly I found this thread on DIYnot eventually which seemed to match my symptoms.  Looking at the potential cost of parts (under £5) it was well worth attempting the repair myself - even if that didn't fix things - so I ordered a fuse and a relay and fitted them both to the controller board (the fit took less than 15mins) and we now have a working machine.  And I now have a happy wife.

Running X-windows ... on Windows.

I run a number of computers from an old Compaq Evo N410C as a netbook, through to a new Dell Studio 15 laptop with all the bells and whistles.  I also run different operating systems - mainly Windows and Ubuntu ( ).  The problem is, I often have files and projects scattered across the various computers depending on when and where I use them.  Therefore I want to be able to hop from computer to computer to get to the files I need pretty well from anywhere - even from my Android phone.

So what to do?  The usual approach people take is to use some type of remote desktop application - such as VNC or RDP.  This is easy enough, but overlays one desktop (the remote one) on another (the local one)  On a laptop this makes it dfficult to work between the two screens and is sometimes slow to update - not to mention awkward to share information between the remote and local machines. 
Better by far is to be able to run the application on the target machine but have the output displayed on the screen in front of you.  Impossible?  Not if you use linux.  Unix and Linux machines have been able to run software on a remote machine like this for almost twenty years.

This is what you do to run linux apps on a linux PC but have the windows viewable on a Windows PC or laptop:

Updates are available - press OK to download and install.....

There is nothing more annoying for PC users than the pop-up window - usually just after turning the computer on - that insists that 'updates are available' and almost forces you to update there and then. All you wanted to do was quickly check your email or browse for something on the 'net and you're held up by yet another update. If it's not Windows, it's Adobe, or Java. Or worse, your Anti-virus software.

As these update independently, it seems to me to happen almost every time you turn the computer on, and if you use more than one - say a laptop and a desktop - you know that you're going to get twice the hold-up - once on the desktop and once again on the Laptop the next time you turn it on.

Can I ask Microsoft to implement a standard update 'core' program that is part of the security centre on Windows and publish an API to every developer for Windows? My suggestion is that such a program should be used by developers who can then drive their updates through this core and we poor users can then schedule all updates to take place at a convenient time to us - not at the whim of each developer.

Ubuntu manages it. Mandriva manages it. Red Hat manages it. Why not Windows?

After all, aren't we supposed to be in control of 'our' computers?

New laptop and a Nasty Scare...

I've recently bought a Dell Studio 15 and, while very pleased with the laptop, the performance and the speed, I was rather taken aback when I updated the BIOS. It hung. Indeed it broke! The term used on the Internet forums is that I 'bricked it' or made my laptop into something with all the usefullness of a house brick.
It was a deceptively easy thing to do. I simply popped my Dell service tag into the Dell web site on and downloaded the BIOS file that was recommended for my machine from the Dell website. I downloaded the file to my laptop, followed the installation instructions which were:
  1. Click Download Now to download the latest BIOS file.
    The File Download window appears.
  2. Click Save to save the file on your desktop. The file downloads to your desktop.
  3. Click Close if the Download Complete window appears.
    The file icon appears on your desktop and is titled the same as the downloaded BIOS update file.
  4. Double-click the file icon on the desktop and follow the instructions on the screen.
Even the software itself had further instructions - basically make sure the laptop was on the power supply and that all other applications were closed and your work saved. Then press OK. Easy.
Now before I go further, I should tell you that I have been updating the BIOS on computers since the now very old PC-AT - PC's that were based on the Intel 286 processor running at a staggering 12MHz.  I'll also add that I had never had a problem with a BIOS update before.  Not ever.  Until now...  What happened?

googlemail to gmail - it doesn't work

Heads up to all Android users (like me).
Don't be tempted to change your Google account from an account to an account even if google advise you to. If you do, it will break your accounts on your phone like Talk, Market and so on. It is likely that you may have to factory-reset your phone to fix this.
At the moment, the resolution for this is a factory reset of your phone or restoring your account back to, so be warned before modifying your account!