Replace A Laptop With A Tablet?

This is something that gets brought up in the technology press all the time.  Can I take the challenge to replace my work computer, usually a laptop, with a tablet, and be just as productive?

At this point, the answer appears to be no in most cases.  

Tablets are really great at a couple of things; if you need a quick way to check your email, look something up on the Internet, or view a document, a tablet is the a simple way to do all of these. If you need to display a picture or group of pictures, grab that slate. Even the occasional slide show or presentation, with the right support equipment, a tablet is a workable solution.

But, when it comes time to actually create something, that's where tablets lag behind. Can you create some documents with a tablet? Sure. But, if you have anything of any length to type, the on-screen keyboards really don't cut it. Even the bluetooth ones that come in covers leave something to be desired.  And, if you need to do anything with numbers, nothing beats a full-size keyboard with a number pad. Tablets can't do that.

Has anyone made an exception to these "rules?" We can find a couple, but by the time you get the high-powered tablet, add the special keyboard and docking station, you've spent as much as, or more than you would have on a really good laptop.

Of course, this will all change; technology continues to improve. And, as new technologies become available, like true dictation software, as the Siris and Cortanas become more refined, we may be able to truly command all functions of the device with our voices. But we're not there yet.

Password Managers

Passwords.

Everybody hates 'em. Everybody needs 'em. The need for them is getting close to "death or taxes" status.

Because the bad guys are breaking into everything these days; banks, email servers, retail giants (Target, anyone? A name just a little too appropriate?). If you do anything anywhere online, you need to use passwords. And so, we hate them even more. So what are we to do? That's where password managers come in.

The idea behind these gems is that you only have to remember one really good password, and all the rest are kept inside the software.  They have ways to hook into your browsers, so that when you visit a web site, they can fill in the information for you. They can even create ridiculously hard and long passwords that you will never type, because they will do the work for you, automatically filling it in at your command.

I like them; I use one of them all the time. There are several different ones out there, and most appear to do a good job. One that has been around for a very long time is RoboForm. They have a free version, and a purchased version that will work across all your devices.

The one I use, called LastPass, has pretty much the same bullet-point list of features, and I have the paid version, and use it on my phone as well as my computers (yes, I have multiple computers).

Another highly rated program is called KeePass, which is part of a movement called Free and Open Source Software (or FOSS. What's a tech article without an acronym in it somewhere?). This means that it is free to download and use.

And there are others.  They do the same thing, but get to what they do with different interfaces and different settings, so what works for me may not work for you.

I won't bore you with the installation process. Whether you start from a phone or tablet (the installer is available in whichever app store is available on your mobile device), the process is very simple.  Install the software, create a login with a password, and then begin using it. For me, when I log into a web site, I am given low-key clues (asterisks at the right end of the input fields) to use the program. Clicking on one of those brings up a password generator, and the opportunity to type in the user name there. Hit save, and the fields are filled in for me, and I don't have to remember it any more! And, if I check the AutoFill box when setting it up, the next time I navigate to that site, it's all filled in for me; no typing, or, more often in my case, mis-typing user names and passwords.

If I need to look one up, or the password gets out of sync (I haven't found a perfect system yet), it is very easy to get into the vault, and view and change user names and passwords, or delete them if I need to. And, I can add secure notes, group them, sort them, search them... all the features we expect when handling a list like this. I use mine every day, a good part of my day.

Check out a couple of these, and see which one will fit your bill, because you will find one that works for you, and you will be ecstatically happy using your computer. Well, maybe just a little less frustrated.

Malware Is On The Rise

Malicious Software, or Malware, is one of the major banes of my existence. As I work with clients and co-workers and friends, I am constantly dealing with, and removing, these programs. They're evil, and the people who create them are evil.

And they keep getting better at it. It used to be that it was the hacker trying to make a name for him- or herself, creating an attack that would give them notoriety in their own circle, and even the world. But it has morphed into a multi-billion-dollar industry now, and so is attracting people into a more business-like atmosphere, and is able to draw top (if unscrupulous) talent.

But the means by which they attack hasn't changed a lot. Let's take the example of a particularly nasty version called CryptoWall. This attack, once it gets into your computer, as fast as it can go, encrypts all of your Word documents, spreadsheets, pictures, PDFs—any data of this type becomes encrypted. The wonderful thing about encryption is that no one can read encrypted data until it is decrypted, for which you will need the encryption key. But you don't have it.

CryptoWall then drops a file in every directory it encrypted, and your desktop too, that will lead to a web page similar to the photo above, where you can pay to have them send you the key (hopefully). No money, no key. And you're not getting your files back. Unless you were a good boy or girl and have a backup of all your important files. You are backing up, yes?

So, how does one get this nasty infection? The ones I have seen came in from a seemingly normal email; a Fedex notice of something being shipped, or you have an electronic fax to download, or a copy of an invoice is available. Just click here!

And away it goes, merrily making your files impossible to open. Most all of the good virus scanners will now catch this infection, but it cannot undo what it has encrypted to that point. After all, you OK'd the program to run; then the scanners caught it. And, it's pretty simple to remove; no major effort is necessary to remove it. But by that time, it's already too late.

So, to deal with this denizen of the Internet deeps, have a good anti-virus, have good backups, and don't open emails you don't expect, or that come from folks you don't know.