What can I do to improve the security of my digital information?

On Monday, March 13 at approximately 10:30 AM CST, I will be appearing on KFUO Radio’s Faith and Family program to discuss home computer security with host Andy Bates. One of the questions he’s planning to ask: “What can I do to improve the security of my digital information?”

This, fortunately, may be the easiest question to answer and the easiest step to implement.

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Does HTTPS matter? Yes. Here’s why.

Does HTTPS matter? Yes. Here’s why.

“Does HTTPS matter?” a friend of a friend asked. “I heard it does. Is that still true?” Yes, yes, and yes. Here’s why.

HTTP connections are unencrypted. HTTPS connections are encrypted. You can tell when you’re using HTTPS because the URLs start with https:// instead of http://, and your location bar will have a lock in it. Encryption is good.

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Estate sale tips for buyers

I talked earlier this week about garage sales, but what about estate sale tips for buyers? The overall strategy is similar, but there are definitely tips that apply specifically to estate sales.

So what is an estate sale? Imagine an oversized garage sale. Essentially, the family is liquidating everything in the house. Of course you find a lot of the same things you’d find at a garage sale, but at a good estate sale, there will be high-dollar items too.

So, without further ado, here are my 18 hard-won estate sale tips for buyers.

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Lionel 1033 transformer troubleshooting

As I’ve written before, Lionel 1033 transformers are well regarded because they’re reasonably high wattage (90 watts), very readily available, relatively inexpensive and pretty dependable. They really only have one design flaw: the circuit breaker.

The circuit breaker in my 1033 went bad a couple of years ago. I finally got around to replacing it.

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Bestselling SSDs

I have recommended a lot of SSDs over the years, and it seems like at least once a month someone asks me what SSDs I recommend right now.

So I’m going to present a list, and make an effort to keep it reasonably current. This list is somewhat curated; if there’s a drive that’s selling well but people are having a lousy experience with it, I’m leaving it off. I won’t name names but there is one of those this month. I may tweak the statistics with time, but for now I’m reporting capacity, expected price, where to buy it, and random write speed, which is what these drives are worst at. Any of these drives can open a 2-gig hibernation file in less than four seconds; it’s when they’re at their worst that you notice the difference between them, if there is any.

Let me get a disclaimer out of the way: Some of the links I present are affiliate links. You’re welcome to buy a drive anywhere you like, but if you buy from one of these links, I may make a small commission. That helps pay to keep this site up. Not everyone is up front about things like this, so I want to try to be open.

Let’s get on with the bestselling drives of December 2015.

Samsung 850 EVO series

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Estimated Price: $68/$79/$153/$348/$728
Random write speed: 46.5 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This drive gives a good combination of value and performance. Samsung has been pricing these aggressively, and it shows in the sales figures. With this series, it’s possible to get a reasonably high-performance drive at any capacity that an enthusiast is likely to be interested in. Samsung makes both its controllers and its memory, which gives them an advantage when it comes to tuning its drives for performance, and gives them some cost advantages as well.

Kingston V300 series

Capacity: 120/240/480/960 GB
Estimated Price: $45/$75/$145/$400
Random write speed: 28.4 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

Sometimes the 120GB version of this drive goes on sale for $40, and in that case, this is the biggest bargain on this list. These drives are budget drives in every way, but no conventional hard drive can touch them for performance, When these drives sell for the same price as the Sandisk SSD Plus, they’re not as compelling, but when they sell for 10% less, they seem to sell like crazy. The next time one of these goes on sale, I’m likely to get one.

Sandisk Ultra II series

Capacity: 120/240/480/960 GB
Estimated Price: $55/$80/$143/$248
Random write speed: 38.7 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Sandisk’s middle of the road drive, which offers a good combination of value, performance, and capacity. While not as fast as Samsung’s drives, it’s not as expensive either. Sandisk makes its own memory chips in a joint venture with Toshiba, which gives them the same advantages as other first-tier manufacturers when it comes to picking out the best chips. Sandisk hasn’t been making SSDs as long as most of these other companies, so they’ve been fairly aggressive with pricing to get a piece of the market.

Samsung 850 Pro series

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Estimated Price: $91/$134/$229/$434/$880
Random write speed: 47.6 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

At some capacities this drive is quite a bit more expensive than the 850 EVO, but that could just be a pricing anomaly. These drives are worth considering if you find a good price on them, but don’t pay a heavy premium for it over another performance drive. Under the best conditions it will outperform other drives, but under a more typical workload you don’t get much more speed than you would from an 850 EVO.

Crucial MX200 series

Capacity: 250GB/500GB/1TB
Price: $80/$150/$330
Random write speed: 39 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Crucial’s higher performance drive, but when it comes to random writes, which is where you’re more likely to notice the performance, it’s no better than the BX100 or BX200. Crucial seems to be the king of middle-of-the-road drives right now, which isn’t necessarily a bad place to be.

Intel 535 series

Capacity: 120/180/240/360/480GB
Price: $60/$108/$110/$190/$190
Random write speed: 39 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

Intel makes an appearance on this list. Sometimes it seems hard to remember that Intel still makes SSDs, but this drive is a good performer at a competitive price, and Intel offers some capacities that nobody else is offering right now, although the pricing on the odd capacities like 180 and 360 GB can be even more odd. I’m not sure who would pay $190 for 360 GB when they can get 480 GB for about the same price.

Crucial BX100 series

Capacity: 120GB/250GB/500GB/1TB
Estimated Price: $65/$85/$165/$400
Random write speed: 40 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Crucial’s budget drive. This line is being phased out, but there must still be some in the channel. If you can get a good price on one of these it’s well worth considering, especially for an upgrade for a machine with SATA2 where you won’t notice its limitations anyway. But make sure you don’t accidentally end up paying a premium for this drive over its newer and faster successor, the BX200.

Crucial BX200 series

Capacity: 240GB/480GB/1TB
Price: $65/$130/$300
Random write speed: 41 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

The BX200 is Crucial’s new budget drive. It offers better write speeds than the BX100 did, so if the price is close, this is the better drive to get.

Sandisk SSD Plus series

Capacity: 120 and 240 GB
Price: $45/$70
Random write speed: 34 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Sandisk’s budget line, and is currently very aggressively priced. If you want a drive made by a company that makes its own chips, which isn’t a bad idea, this is the least expensive option on this list. Much like the Kingston drives, these are good drives for upgraders who want to extend a system’s usable lifespan without spending much. An enthusiast building a new, high-performance system may want to spend a little more for a higher-performing drive.

Samsung 850 EVO M.2 series

Capacity: 120/240/500 GB
Price: $70/$90/$180
Random write speed: 46.5 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This drive features the M.2 connector, and as such, under the best conditions will outperform the other drives on this list. The caveat is that not all systems have an M.2 connector, so this drive isn’t an option for many upgraders. But if you have an M.2 connector, it’s a shame not to use it.

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