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This page documents random thoughts, observations, hardware and software reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s


Index of Postings

  26 Feb   -   Yahoo user accounts compromised new!
  30 Jan   -   SSD price watch new!
  29 Jan   -   PowerPoint 2013 too wide? new!
  14 Feb   -   Project '13 article published new!
  1 Jan   -   support for Office 2013 new!

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26 Feb 2013 - Yahoo user accounts compromised new!

Yahoo users are having some trouble, lately. It seems that a vulnerability was exposed by the developers at Yahoo (the reflected cross-site scripting or XSS bug) and, despite cautions by security organisations, they have been slow (or incomplete) at patching. In the meantime, more and more Yahoo users are seeing their accounts compromised.

A few things may need to happen or be in place for an account compromise to take place:

  • an unpatched exploit on the Yahoo system
  • users receive a spam e-mail message with a suspicious link
  • users click on a suspicious link
  • users respond to a phishing page
  • users have a weak password

Symptoms are varied but may include the following:

  • friends and family receive suspicious e-mails from the owner
  • the message has the user alias in the subject line
  • the user alias is at the end of the message near a date time stamp
  • there is a long, suspicious link in the message body
  • the link is not described or referred to
  • failed or rejected messages in the owner's inbox
  • altered account settings

Fortunately, this particular attack is not too aggressive and for many the fix is easy and fast.

  • change the password
  • use a "strong" password
  • do not use the same password as other public services
  • change the challenge-response questions
  • verify the alternate e-mail address is correct
  • check for suspicious forward-to addresses
  • monitor activity

Make it a point of changing passwords on public services on a periodic basis. Maybe once a quarter, once a month. Corporate users typically change their passwords monthly.

Choosing a good password is important. All too often people use extremely simple passwords which are easy for hackers to break and break quickly. A strong password, while not necessarily impervious, is better than a single common English word, or a sequence of letters or numbers. Here are some suggestions for making a stronger password:

  • use a long string, 8 or 10 or more characters
  • use two words with numbers in the middle, e.g. milk57wishes
  • include symbols such as exclamation (!) or percent (%)
  • make some letters uppercase

There are lots of additional suggestions for strengthening a password...

The more sensitive the content, the stronger your password should be.

See the Yahoo Help page on account hacking for more information, tips, suggestions, etc..

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14 Feb 2013 - Project '13 article published new!

Wrote a quick preview / review of Project 2013 for Front Runner Training. It was published in the electronic newsletter today.

We have been invited to regularly write for their client newsletter.

Front Runner is a computer software training company in North York. They are highly-regarded for their expertise in Adobe products. We deliver courses for them periodically.

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30 Jan 2013 - SSD price watch new!

The Tiger Direct (Canada) e-flyer today showed a 256 GB OCZ solid state drive on sale for $150.

These are getting to sizes or capacities equivalent to hard disks in entry level laptops and netbooks.

It may be time soon to switch from platters to chips...

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29 Jan 2013 - PowerPoint 2013 too wide? new!

Noticed that the default slide size (or rather, ratio) in PowerPoint 2013 is 16:9. That seems a little aggressive, no? Probably 80 or 90% of projectors out there, in conference rooms, in training centres, in lecture halls, in auditoriums are old and aren't going to be changed any time soon and are 4:3.

It's easy to change in PowerPoint 2013:

  1. [Click] the DESIGN tab.
  2. In the Customize group, [Click] Slide Size menu.
  3. Choose Standard (4:3).
  4. A dialog will appear regarding scaling. Choose the preferred option:
    • To truncate or chop off the left and right edges of the slide, [click] the Maximize button.
    • To ensure all content is still visible, reducing the size of objects, [click] the Ensure Fit button.
  5. Review the existing content.

As bluewave says, in their 2009 (!) article, this should be on the "top of your list" before you do a lot of development on a new slide deck. Otherwise, you'll be in for a big surprise...

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1 Jan 2013 - support for Office 2013 new!

We're getting up to speed on the Microsoft Office 2013 versions. We're ready to teach on Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Project, and Visio 2013.

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This page was last updated on 26 February 2013.
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