Password perils

Thinking of what to write about is the hardest part of doing a regular column and columnists live in fear and trembling of sitting down and finding that there is no inspiration left in the tank.

I was having a minor attack of that when I got down to write this and so I was very pleased to find something interesting almost right away. I often visit www.cnet.com to catch up on the latest technology and computer news but this time I noticed that it has a section called Tips & Tricks.

You access it from the link bar at the top of the page and it seems to contain all manner of tutorials and online courses on a number of subjects including Car Tech, Home Entertainment and, even, adding bling to your cellphone ring.

One section is devoted to Microsoft Office and another to Windows Vista, which may prove itself pretty useful when you are finally parted from Windows XP and realise that you don’t know what the hell is going on in Vista.

There is also a section on Digital Photography with all sorts of useful stuff like how to choose a digital camera and how to fix your photos once you’ve taken them. You can sign up for the available online courses which look as though they would ease some of the pain from your learning curve.

The CNet Learning Hubs, as they call them, are free and there is a class leader on hand to answer any questions that occur while you’re working through the lessons. Her name is Helen Bradley and even though you likely won’t get instant answers, you can post your question for her to answer later.

She also runs her own website at www.projectwoman.com which she uses to publish a tip of the day, usually on Microsoft Office or some aspect of digital imagery. There are plenty of useful things on her pages and some, like using Excel to find out how many days you’ve been alive, are fun too.

One very useful little program I discovered by reading through her site is Steganos LockNote which neatly solves one of my ongoing computer problems. I must now have dozens of passwords and usernames and I have yet to find some way to store so that they’re instantly available, but safe from prying eyes.

LockNote is a tiny program which starts out at about 300kb in size and can be used to store usernames and passwords, or any other text that you want to keep private. When you double-click it for the first time, it opens up a window that looks for all the world like Windows Notepad.

You can type any information into the window and, when you save the file, it asks you for a password and encrypts your data using AES 256-bit encryption. You can retrieve your information by double-clicking LockNote and typing in your password.

Nothing is installed on your computer and the data and the program are contained in a single file, making it easy to take the whole thing along with you on disc or a flash drive. Very handy, but the downside is that you can kiss goodbye to all your data if you ever forget your LockNote password.

LockNote is free and you can get it by going to www.steganos.com and clicking on Home & Home Office Products.

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