Want to learn a new foreign language? A new programming language? Our continuing education has gone online. From online videos and real-time translations to mobile apps, technology is helping us learn new things in many new ways. Learning French: Old school and new school Recently, I signed up to study French through the local chapter of the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA, an organization that brings the French language and francophile culture to an American public. The organization (site) provides French-language classes all over the world. Learning another tongue is best done in an organized, structured fashioned. Adult schools, regional alliances, and other learning resources such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (site) let you interact with instructors, ensuring that you understand the subtleties of another language. But being a confirmed geek, I could not help but look for online education resources to supplement the formal learning process. What I found ranged from Web-based help with pronunciation to translation services such as those offered by Google. TV and radio broadcasts can also help with language learning, and there are even mobile apps that help fill any down time when you’re on the road. Surprisingly, Google Translate (site) proved an effective … Read More
Our love of digital devices has a cost: vampire energy consumption — the electricity used when a device is not in use. Here are ways to measure how much AC power our gadgets soak up and how to put them on a power diet. Getting a handle on our home power budget More than ever before, we live in an electric world. Those heavy wires that run into our homes and businesses now power almost everything. Clean clothes and unspoiled food aside, without alternating current (AC), there’d be no digital life — no PCs, no phones, no Internet, no HBO, no cat videos, and so on. (I’m sure there are times when many of us feel we’d be better off without those things.) Electrical energy obviously makes our lives better, but it also has consequences — both monetary and environmental. Bluntly put, the less we use, the better for everyone. The monthly power bill clearly states how much electricity we consume, but it won’t tell us how much is wasted. Compared to the typical refrigerator and clothes dryer, our tech gadgets would seem to consume relatively little energy. But taken together, our monitors, printers, phone rechargers, entertainment systems, tablets, routers, … Read More
When wiping old hard drives isn’t possible, use these simple, no-cost methods to snoop-proof the drive’s data. Plus: Windows access for Linux-formatted drives, a severe Windows-kernel crash, and a Win7/8 tool for removing tons of obsolete Windows Update files. No-tech/low-tech drive-disposal options Reader M.L. needs to dispose of a pair of old hard drives that contain sensitive information. He’s looking for an alternative to the usual data-wipe methods. “Dear Fred: I have a very old, very dead desktop PC that contains tax records. The PC doesn’t even turn on any more. “I removed both hard drives and can now dispose of the PC. But what should I do with the hard drives to protect my privacy? “I’m not sure if the drives even spin. I use a laptop now, so I have no way to connect desktop-type drives to it. I’m looking for a very simple, non-techie solution. Can you help?” If you knew the drives worked, you could purchase a drive-connector kit to hook up the old desktop-type drives to your laptop. You could then use drive-wiping software. But buying the connector kit and then finding out the drives don’t work would be a waste of money. Moreover, that … Read More
Sounds mythic, doesn’t it? But the faller from the sky, lander in the pigpen, and survivor of the attentions of the resident hog isn’t a person (or Greek demigod) but a camera. Thanks to the farmer who found the camera eight months after it landed, we can see the camera’s adventure — it was already running before someone dropped it. We don’t see its eight months of exile in the pigpen. That’s probably just as well. Click below or go to the original YouTube video. Post your thoughts about this story in the WS Columns forum. …This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Lounge members are discussing the Bash/Shellshock threat with a good measure of anxiety. The focus of the conversation is, of course, increasing our understanding of the bug so we might better protect our computer systems and devices. Contribute to the exchange of information in the Security & Scams forum. The following links are this week’s most interesting Lounge threads, including several new questions for which you might have answers: Office Applications General Productivity Need documentation for Microsoft Communicator 2007 R2 Word Processing Word 2013: Table-of-authorities difficulties Spreadsheets UserForm chart from data sheet
At a much-anticipated event held in San Francisco, Microsoft vice president Terry Myerson unveiled the official Technical Preview of the next Windows. The presentation packed several surprises, not least of which is the new operating system’s name: Windows 10. Depending on how you look at it, either Windows 10 is such a leap forward that there just couldn’t be a Version 9, or Microsoft is making a not-so-subtle attempt to distance itself from Windows 8. Joining Myerson on stage, Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore rousingly demo’ed some of Windows 10’s new features. (You can see the entire presentation on YouTube.) Keep in mind that this release is the Windows Technical Preview — it represents the final product but is certainly far from complete. If you want to do your own preview, sign up for the Windows Insider Program (site) and you, too, can try this early version of Windows 10. Here’s what you’ll find: A new Start menu: This change from Windows 8 is an obvious no-brainer. No one was going to accept Windows 10 without a real Start menu; Microsoft got that message loud and clear from its customers. In the new Start menu, the left half looks much like … Read More
<p class=”summary”>A Linux/Unix-based vulnerability, Shellshock, has an impact that reaches far beyond one operating system.</p> <p class=”summaryPlain”>As with Heartbleed, Windows users can’t ignore this threat. But the most difficult aspect of this outbreak is determining which devices are actually vulnerable.</p> <h2>A vulnerability in the Bash Linux/Unix shell</h2> <p>Your PC might be pure Windows, but chances are high that you have devices in your home running on Unix or Linux. I know I do — my Western Digital My Cloud networked backup drive, routers, Kindles, iPhones, and iPads all run some form of Unix/Linux. (Worse still, Unix and Linux are core operating systems on many enterprise-computing and storage systems.)</p> <p>Those non-Windows devices were relatively safe from malware — until now. As has been widely reported, the GNU Project’s Bourne Again Shell (Bash; <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bash_%28Unix_shell%29″>more info</a>) was found to be vulnerable. Bash is a text-based, command-line utility or Unix shell used by numerous versions of the Linux/Unix operating systems.</p> This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.