Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick Tip - Strong Passwords

     When making a new account, you may find yourself wondering if you've created a secure enough password.  There's a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when constructing a secure but easy to remember password and they include:
     1 - Always include at least three types of symbols, the most proficient and easy to remember combination being numbers, capital, and than lower case letters.  Although lower and capital are both letters, they are different sets of symbols, and therefore greatly increase the amount of brute force necessary to crack a password.
     2 - Make small rules and guidelines for making passwords so that you can change them on the fly, as well as keeping multiple passwords in relative environments.  For instance, use one letter and a meaningful word that's capitalized, now try thinking of a few different combinations of this, and you quickly have at least three secure passwords that are easy to remember.  example: 1Poodle, Poodle1, 1Poodle1
     3 - Don't get overly complex with your passwords!  At first it may seam to be a good idea to make your bank account password 14 characters long with 4 numbers and 2 capitals, but in the end you never want to pick something you could have a hard time remembering; it will get you stuck in a bind.
     There you go, its just that simple, and always remember to keep your security tight, because even a secure password doesn't assure safety.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Customizing Windows - Personalizing the Welcome Screen

Today I'm gonna cover a simple yet striking way to customize windows to your fit your own personality.
     Here we have examples of the default Welcome screen for windows 7 and XP, pretty bland and ordinary.  For a lot of Windows users, this screen is something that you see on a regular basis, and I know from personal experience that the default gets old really fast.  As someone who takes great pride in their PC, and utilizes the lock function quite frequently, a customWelcome screen not only looks impressive to an uncommon user trying to gain access,  it also creates a more welcoming and unique experience when you logon.  Theres nothing like coming home from a hard days work to turn on your flatscreen and see a warm familiar Welcome Screen waiting for you to type in your password. 
     Over the years I have tested out a few different programs for customizing the Welcome screen, but by far the best one comes from our old friends at Stardock.  You may or may not be familiar with Stardock, but as you will quickly discover Stardock is a software company that specializes in making windows easier to customize to meet your needs and style.  Personally I find most of their software (such as WindowBlinds) to be over priced and usually overly taxing on the computers hardware, however a lot of people with high end computers have no problem shelling out some money to make their user interface nice and shiny, but well go over their full range of products in another article.  Today we are focusing on one of their Freewares which I have been using for years called LogonStudio.  Both the XP and 7 versions are freely available for download Here.

   Here we have some examples of LogonStudio running on both XP and 7.  They both run locally, which means that once they are extracted, no install should be necessary (however using the Vista/7 version, be sure to right click the .exe and run it as an administrator.)  Both are fairly easy to use, although the XP version has many more options for customization, and therefore can take a minute to figure out how to get it right where you want it.  Still, most people don't realize that customizing the Welcome screen background is no harder than finding a picture you like with the proper resolution, and hitting apply; hopefully Microsoft will wise up and build this feature right into Windows 8.

Now here we have some prime examples on the dramatic change in style one can make simply by using  LogonStudio.  I hope you found this post informative; it really surprises me how many people have no clue how easy it is to personalize your Welcome Screen, and I really hope that this post helps people become more comfortable with their PC.  After all the P does stand for Personal, so make it yours.   Thanks again for reading, and next time, I have a rough idea of my next post, but it won't be ready for a day or two.  Don't forget to subscribe if you like my posts.