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Another take on working from home

Lifehacker posted an interesting take on working from home: The assumption that productivity is all that matters. The point being that if productivity were all that matters, there’s a drug we can take to be more productive, just like athletes can take steroids. It’s illegal, but the drug exists. It doesn’t make taking that drug right.

It’s an interesting discussion. Part of it is also moot.Read More »Another take on working from home

How to block annoying posts on Facebook

Lifehacker came through with a gem this morning: How to block annoying political posts on Facebook. Though it’s really about filtering, so you can filter on pretty much anything with it, not just the names of political parties and this year’s candidates. Pretty much anything that people rant about on Facebook would be game for this.

It’s easy enough to just unsubscribe from certain people completely or in extreme cases, un-friend them. But this gives you a less extreme option.

Living with a past-its-prime computer

I’m playing catch-up a bit. This weekend, Lifehacker ran a guide about living with a computer that’s past its prime.

I’ve made a career of that. One of my desktop PCs at work (arguably the more important one) is old enough that I ought to be preparing to send it off to second grade. And for a few years I administered a server farm that was in a similar state. They finally started upgrading the hardware as I was walking out the door. (I might have stayed longer if they’d done that sooner.) And at home, I ran with out-of-date computer equipment for about a decade, just this summer buying something current. Buying something current is very nice, but not always practical.

So of course I’ll comment on a few of Lifehacker’s points.

Read More »Living with a past-its-prime computer

Quoting famous people accurately

If you’re going to quote people on the Internet, you might as well quote them accurately. Here are some tips for quoting famous people accurately, based on my own detective work on one of my favorite quotes.

“The problem with quotes on the Internet is that you never can know if they are genuine.” –Abraham Lincoln

The death of bin Laden prompted a couple of quotes attributed to Mark Twain and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be repeated endlessly on social networking sites. It turned out both quotes were false. Inaccurate quotes also tend to pop up in election years.

Here are some good tips to avoid spreading fake quotes the next time something really newsworthy happens. One nifty trick: A Google search, filtered by date, to see if the quote existed anywhere before the event.

“Abraham Lincoln” may be right, that you can never know for certain, but you can get a really good idea with a little bit of digging.
Read More »Quoting famous people accurately

Some security-ish short takes

Windows 7 SP1 is coming soon. Possibly as soon as this weekend.

Historically, service packs tend to get off to a bit of a rocky start, so I’m not going to be installing this right away. But since it’s so imminent, I’m not going to be installing Windows 7 on anything else yet either. I’ll probably give it a couple of weeks, then slipstream and install. Being the first on the block to install a service pack usually isn’t a good idea. Seems to me that in one Slashdot poll several years ago, given the choice between installing a service pack on the first day or watching the movie Master of Disguise, the really bad Dana Carvey movie won out. There’s a reason for that.

Microsoft Security Essentials, Take 43,291. And while we’re picking on Microsoft, my biggest beef with Microsoft Security Essentials is that it doesn’t update itself quickly enough. But you can make it check for updates as frequently as every hour. Directions are at http://lifehacker.com/5733597/change-microsoft-security-essentials-update-frequency

They cite this as a good thing to do on laptops. I completely agree. My laptop gets used just sporadically enough that it has trouble staying updated, and usually, when I use it on the road, it’s not up to date at first, and it’s when you’re using strange networks that you most want to be up to date.

Frankly I think it’s a good thing to do on your desktop too. When the signatures get updated, would you rather get the updates right away, or tomorrow? I’ll vote for right away.

When I was administering antivirus for a living, when I updated my AV server, my clients got the updates within an hour or so. Sometimes it was within a few minutes. That system wasn’t even directly connected to the Internet. So if that system needed its updates that fast, so do home PCs.

Passwords. It’s now possible to test 400,000 passwords per second using Amazon’s services, at a cost of 28 cents per minute. So, testing 24 million possible passwords costs 28 cents.

Strengthen your passwords. Going to 16 characters with two uppers, two lowers, two special characters and two umlauts is overkill, but you want to be using more than 8 characters, and use at least one number, one upper and one lowercase letter, and one special character like a punctuation mark. If your password is something like “popcorn,” well, let’s do the math. It takes one second to test 400,000 passwords, and there are arguably a million words in the English language, so cracking a simple one-word password should take a maximum of two and a half seconds and cost 3 cents.

Ways to speed up an aging laptop

Yesterday Lifehacker did a feature on laptop tweaks and upgrades, that basically came down to reinstalling the OS, adding memory, and upgrading to an SSD. All of those are good things to do of course, but there’s more you can do. I posted a response there; I’ll elaborate a bit here, where I have more room to do so.

There are tons of links here to previous content I’ve written; optimizing aging machines is a recurring theme for me. I’ve been writing on that topic for 11 years now.

Read More »Ways to speed up an aging laptop