Use guest networks to secure IoT “smart” devices

A neighbor asked me about a recommendation Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte made a couple of weeks ago about securing your IoT household “smart” devices, like doorbells, thermostats, televisions, and anything else that wasn’t traditionally computerized, by putting it on a guest network.

The short answer is yes, it’s something you should do. It doesn’t make them perfectly safe, but it’s the best you can do, so you should. But I would do it a bit differently from Gibson–I think the ideal setup has two guest networks.

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Advantages and disadvantages of Windows 3.0

I hear the question from time to time what the advantages and disadvantages of Windows 3.0 were. Windows 3.0, released in May 1990, is generally considered the first usable version of Windows. The oft-repeated advice to always wait for Microsoft’s version 3 is a direct reference to Windows 3.0 that still gets repeated today, frequently.

Although Windows 3.0 is clumsy by today’s standards, in 1990 it had the right combination of everything to take the world by storm.

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HP Compaq 6910p upgrades

I spent some time exploring HP Compaq 6910p upgrades because used HP Compaq 6910p laptops are dirt cheap these days. I picked one up for $75 as an alternative to a Black Friday cheapie.

If you look for one yourself, either look for one with a valid Windows 7 or Windows 10 license on it, or get one at a deep enough discount to make it worth your while.

Here’s what I did to turn an outmoded laptop from 2008 into something better than what I could have bought on Black Friday.

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Here’s a better laptop than the typical Black Friday specials

If you want a better laptop than the typical Black Friday special, I found just the thing: this Dell Latitude E6420 laptop from Newegg, for $225 (the price is good through Sunday, Nov. 22). It has several things going for it: it comes with Windows 7 Professional, so you can upgrade to Windows 10 when you want and you’ll get the better, more-feature-filled, easier-to-secure Professional version; you can upgrade the memory to 8 GB of RAM, and it comes with a 128GB SATA SSD, so you can drop in a bigger, faster SSD at a later date.

Note: When Newegg sells out of these, which happens occasionally, they’re fairly easy to find on Ebay, though some come with conventional hard drives rather than SSDs.

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Another reason to block fonts at the proxy

Last week Apple released a bunch of patches up and down its product line. One of the vulnerabilities it fixed in OS X was a vulnerability in its font parser.

In the past you could mitigate vulnerabilities like this by only installing fonts from trusted sources, but since it’s now possible for web pages to transmit fonts along with other content, there’s a limitless number of untrusted fonts out there in the world.

Since it may take a while for all of the major operating systems to shake out all of the problems in their font subsystems, that’s the reason I’ve recommended filtering fonts at the proxy.

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Need a Commodore motherboard? Believe it or not you’re in luck

Individual Computers is working on, of all things, a replacement Amiga motherboard that will fit in an Amiga 500 or Amiga 1200 case.

The board will use the AGA chipset that the Amiga 1200 used, but the board will be built using a modern process, modern materials, and as many other modern components as possible.

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‘PC Does What?’ seems doomed to fail

A coalition of Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, and Microsoft are trying to figure out how to reverse the downward trend of PC sales, and what they came up with was a marketing campaign called “PC Does What?”

The problem is it’s not 1995 anymore, and it’s going to take more than a marketing campaign to change that.

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DD-WRT needs to be saved, but I won’t bet on it happening

A college classmate asked me if there’s anything to the stories that DD-WRT might potentially get locked out due to new FCC regulations.

Unfortunately the answer is yes, there may be something to it.

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Cleaning a PC when fdisk-format-reinstall isn’t an option

There are any number of pie-in-the-sky pundits who will tell you when a computer starts to get slow, to format the hard drive, reinstall Windows, and go on your merry way.

Unfortunately it’s not always realistic. I don’t clean up PCs all that often anymore, but here’s what I do when I need to.

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