TechTip: Use your Smartphone camera to catch candid shots

#TechTip: while nothing can really replace the quality of a good camera, using your smartphone will capture those candid moments

 
When most of us think back to our childhoods, many of the memories that pop up are around the holidays.  This may be due in part to the many photographs that were taken and those images tend to stick in our minds.  There will be no shortage of pictures taken this year as everyone gathers together, opening presents, preparing dinners and celebrating the holidays.
 
Good quality cameras have made significant improvements in features and size over the last decade.  Traditionally the best pictures have come from Digital SLR cameras, but smaller point and shoots have come a long way.  But while these cameras can produce some amazing pictures, they don’t tend to be with you at every moment during the holidays.  This means you could miss that great candid shot.  There is where you smartphone can save that special memory.
 
While not at the same quality as regular cameras, Smartphone cameras have also come a long way.  The average camera quality on a smartphone is about 8MP in image quality.  This is on par with your typical point and shoot camera.  The one major difference between the two is the optics.  A camera phone, even with the best optics, would have trouble rivaling a decent point and shoot camera, and most definitely can’t be compared with a Digital SLR camera.  But for the quality that you would lose, to be able to get that image for posterity is worth the trade off.
 
Nokia-Lumia-1020-with-Nokia-Pro-CameraSome phones, like the new Nokia Lumia 1020 have bridged that gap by including a 41MP sensor in the phone for stunning pictures.  Apple has also talked at great length about how good quality the iPhone’s camera is, but it doesn’t come close to the 41MP of the Nokia model.  Perhaps something to put on that Christmas wish list is a new camera phone.
 
Now that you have cameras to cover everything, where do you store all the pictures?  There are lots of online photo sharing sites like Flickr. com and Google Photo, (Formerly Picasa) plus sites like Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and many others.  Try and find one area, either online or on a computer, to store all your photographs for easy sorting later. 
 
 I use Google Photos on Google+ because it syncs up all the photos I take with my Smartphone immediately.  I also have an Eye-Fi digital storage card for my camera which also uploads my photos in real time to Google for sorting.  If you haven’t heard of Eye-Fi, you should check out their products.  Built in to your Standard SD card is a WiFi chip which connects to your wireless network and sends the pictures you take to an online storage site where you can transfer them to an online portal.  Makes it quick and easy to get your pictures and start sorting them.
 
This holiday, take lots of pictures and enjoy the company of those around you.  Who knows, many years from now, those candid camera phone shots may be some of your best memories.
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TechTip: Using 2 Factor Authentication for secure access to websites

#TechTip Use 2 factor authentication for the websites that have it. Makes it that much harder to hack & will alert you if someone tries

We continue our week of Password protection in our Tech Tips blog for the week.  As we mentioned the past few days, changing your password is important, and choosing a password that is complex enough not to be broken easily is essential to online security.  Along with that, each online login should have its own password, and you should use a password manager to keep them all secured.

Today we look at 2 Factor authentication.  Many website are starting to implement this to increase security to its users by making it difficult for someone just with a password to access your account.

What is 2 Factor Authentication?

800px-SecureID_token_newThe concept behind 2 factor authentication is that you basically have 2 passwords: Your normal password, and a separately generated password that is given to you each time you log on, or an item that you must use to access your information.  You may be most familiar with 2 factor authentication in the corporate world using secure login tokens.  When a company needs you to log into their secure computer system, you will have to enter your password, as well as a code generated in the token key.  Typically these systems have been reserved for businesses who can afford the high security, but not it is becoming made available to average users through different means.

For portals like Gmail, Google has introduced 2 factor authentication using text messages sent to your smartphone.  When you activate it and log on, a text message with a 6 digit code is sent via SMS to your mobile phone.  You then enter that number into the next screen after your password and then you are let in.  The obvious benefit to this is that even if someone gets your password, they won’t be able to access your email unless they can also intercept that text message.

Twitter as well has added additional verification as a security feature to your twitter account.  Twitter has both SMS verification as well as a feature built into the Twitter app for Android and iOS phones which require you to have your smartphone when you log into Twitter.  This ensures that anyone wishing to access your account will need both your password and your smartphone to get in.  More information on Twitters additional verification features can be found on their Support page.

PayPal has its own version of 2 factor authentication which includes either SMS or a digital token.  When you log on to your enabled Paypal account, you will be asked for a second step.  You can either have an SMS message sent to your phone, or you can get one of their authentication tokens.  They use a credit card sized token that generates a new passcode every time you press the button on the card.  It costs a few dollars to get the card, but its good security if you don’t want to use the SMS feature.

If you are concerned about access to a particular site, you can look in their help sections to see if they provide additional sign in options that will give you the extra security you need.

Tech Tip: Use different passwords for all your online portals

#TechTip: use a different password for each online portal. It will limit your exposure if 1 password is compromised
Today’s Tech Tip blog continues on our theme from yesterday.  Passwords are making it back in the news after last weeks announcement that close to 2 million passwords were stolen from major web portals.  Yesterday we talked about what you should include in your password.  Today we cover how many passwords you need.
The short answer:  Lots!
Yes, it is easy to have 1 password that you use on everything.  Makes it easy to log into sites you don’t normally access and keeps everything nice and clean.  However the more sites you have with the same password means you are opening yourself up to a greater level of exposure.  It is important, especially on popular sites like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter (basically all high profile social media sites) to maintain different passwords for each site.
If you are afraid of remembering all your passwords, you can alter each password by only a few digits and make sure to can figure out which password is for each site.  Even better is is a completely different, random password for each site.
How do I remember all my passwords if you need me to have dozens or hundreds of different passwords?
That is the topic for our next blog post on password management.  Stay tuned.

Tech Tip: Change your passwords to ensure security

#TechTip: Change your passwords often. Don’t use words found in a dictionary or easy number combinations.

Last week, news broke of a major password breach on a number of major social media websites.  Close to 2 million passwords were accessed from sites like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter.  The security breach means if your password was compromised, you may be susceptible to attack from other hackers.

It is strongly advised that you change your passwords.  Even if you don’t think you were affected, its always good to change your passwords now and then for security.  This week, we are going to bring a series of tips and blogs on why security for your password is important and offer tips on what to do.

First for this week, lets talk about the actual password you use.  Do not use names, dates, or any word that can be found in a dictionary.  Even words that are linked together can be cracked.  If its found in a dictionary, it can be cracked.  It is strongly suggested that passwords contain the following elements:

  • Upper Case letters
  • Lower Case letters
  • Numbers
  • Punctuation
  • 8 or more characters

If you include these in your password, and they are not based on any dictionary words, chances are its a secure password.  Having said that, almost any password can be hacked by a skilled hacker.  The point is not to make an uncrackable code, but to create a code that would require so much effort for a potential hacker to crack that it wouldn’t be worth their time or resources to try.

Even with good strong passwords that can’t be easily cracked, its still suggested you change your passwords often.  Your login credentials for the sites you visit are usually kept in a database somewhere.  Its those databases that hackers tend to be attracted to.  If they manage to get in and steal a file containing many passwords, then all the complexity in the world won’t help you.  Simply changing your password will avoid any issues.

 

Tech Tip: Be cautious about posting vacation plans online

#TechTip: Be careful about what you post online over the holidays. Posted travel info can attract unwanted attention to your empty house.

The holidays are a great time for getting away from the cold to sunny spots down south.  Or maybe you’re planning a trip to visit family over the holidays.  Whatever your plans are, enjoy them.  Take lots of pictures.  Tell all your friends how great your trip was (or not so great, depending!) but just make sure to tell them AFTER you get back.

Social media is a wonderful tool to share your memories with friends and family about your travels and allow them to experience what you are in real time vicariously through you.  But this has also led to a number of unsavory individuals trolling the internet finding you your house is empty, and then proceeding to make sure your house is empty before you return home.

Here are a few tips to ensure you and your home are safe:

  • Don’t post your travel plans in advance on social media.  A tweet saying “Off to Cancun for the next week” might as well say “House is empty for the next week. Take what you want”
  • Know your Social media platforms. Twitter, Instagram and many others are public so anyone can see what you post.  Facebook and Google+ allow you to restrict who sees what posts.  If you are intending to post things online, choose outlets that reduce the likelihood of criminals finding out you are away
  • Foursquare is great for checking into places, especially when away, but make sure the list of people who follow you are actual friends, and don’t post your checkins to Twitter
  • Instagram is wonderful for sharing your pictures and videos, but again it is publicly accessible.  Save the pictures on your camera or smartphone until you have returned or are on your way home.
  • Make sure you have friends or neighbours checking on your place while you are gone.
  • Put lights on timers, or for those wanting to go the extra mile, set up a home automation system that you can remotely connect to while away

Don’t start the new year having to deal with insurance companies to replace all your home contents.  Take precautions and have an enjoyable trip.

 

Tech Tip: What are Hashtags and how can they be used?

#TechTip: Hashtags make your content searchable. You can also follow conversations by searching for a hashtag comment

Everyone from news stations to popular comedians have been talking about Hashtags recently, but for someone following from the outside, you may ask yourself: What exactly is a Hashtag?

Good Question!  Put simply, a Hashtag is a word or phrase written on social media outlets that starts with the Pound or Hash sign ( # ) and makes content searchable.  Example:  #TechTip

How does that happen?  With social media, tweets and posts come at an alarming rate and sometimes make it hard to follow.  A Tweet has a very short life span.  Depending on the content, your group of followers and any retweets, a tweet can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes before it falls off the radar.  Facebook posts and other social media platforms tend to have longer life spans, but even then not by a whole lot.  What a hashtag will do when added to your post or tweet makes it easy to be searchable.  It can actually do this in two ways.

1) Tweets can be seen in real time by people who do not follow you but follow the same hashtag.  You may not know who is talking about a specific topic, but if everyone who is uses a hashtag, then a quick search will pull up the current live conversation.  For example, if you wanted to see who was talking about Canadian politics, you can search for the hashtag #CDNpoli or about a specific event in Canadian politics such as #SenateCA .

2) Tweets can be pulled up even if they were sent out a while ago.  If you search for a hashtag, even one that doesn’t have a current conversation going, you can generally find that topic searchable.

There is a third use for hashtags that is a little different.  Since anyone can make a hashtag about anything, it has become common to use hashtags as a joke or to add emotion, emphasis or sarcasm to a tweet or post.  A tweet about hashtags could include something like #Whatiswithallofthesehashtags or something other to get a point across.

Hashtags can go anywhere in a post or tweet.  The only things you need to know are that you can not have any spaces between words and there can be no other punctuation in it.  Generally you should not include more than 1 or 2 hashtags in a post or tweet, but there are some exceptions for some social media platforms like Instagram where hashtagging almost every word to make it searchable has become quite common.

There are some great articles out there if you have more questions on hashtags such as this Beginners guide to Hashtags from Mashable or directly from Twitter.

There are many popular hashtags that people can follow such as #FollowFriday which encourages people to tweet out the usernames of people you think your followers should also follow.  Since anyone can make one, feel free to have some fun making your own or use it in a Google search or Twitter search for important or fun discussions online.

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