Chuck Gray

The Sad State of Passwords

image of random password

Here’s the hard truth: your password, well, it’s no good.  Does it include a word found in the dictionary, a name, a date, or even numbers that look like letters (e=3, I-1, o=0, etc.)?  Yup, no good.  Do you use the same password for some or even all your websites?  Tsk, tsk.  The practice of password cracking has never been easier thanks to a number of landfall events for hackers, namely the release into the public of numerous huge password databases from hacked websites and the development of more advanced and specialized tools. What’s worse, the security of your password isn’t always wholly dependent on you but on the websites you use.  I know it’s hard; you have trouble remembering your passwords, etc., and I’m sorry, but in today’s world those excuses just aren’t acceptable.  Practicing good password hygiene isn’t a suggestion if you want to survive online, it is now a requirement.  Please read on!

Escaping Adobe Reader

PDF logo

You wouldn’t know it by the state of things, but Adobe Reader isn’t the end-all, be-all of PDF.  Standing for "Portable Document Format," PDF is a file format used to maintain the uniform appearance of a document no matter what type of hardware or software is being used to view it.  You will see it used frequently for government documents such as IRS and court forms, job applications, ebooks and more since it looks the same everywhere.  Adobe may have created the PDF format, but they made it a free-for-all file format in 2008, resulting in software for reading and creating PDFs that rival Adobe’s own.  

You might be asking yourself ,“Why would I want to switch from Acrobat Reader?”  Over the years Adobe Reader (once known as Acrobat Reader) has become a horribly bloated program that takes entirely too much space on your hard drive and, in my opinion, an unacceptable amount of RAM to use.  It’s slow to load and slower to use.  Furthermore, Adobe is constantly releasing updates for the program; it seems like every other time I turn on my Windows 7 computer there’s a notification for an Adobe Reader update, and I’m growing tired of it.  

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

book cover for pirate cinema by cory doctorow

Leave it to Cory Doctorow, author, blogger, and technology activist-extraordinaire, to weave a story that successfully blends coming-of-age woes, homelessness, national politics, copyright law, cooking, gadgetry, love, overcoming homophobia, civil disobedience, film-making, mashups, public speaking, the judicial system, beer and coffee brewing, cryptography, and oh so, so much more into a wonderfully geeky, heart-wrenching, page-turning bang-up novel that people of all ages should read.  This book is full of such big, exquisite ideas to learn about that you’ll be Googling your fingers off through the entire story and I mean that in the best way possible.  You will learn reading Pirate Cinema and you will love this as much as you love the characters. 

The Hidden Cost of Freemium

free-to-play logo image

Free.  Everybody likes free.  I mean, what’s not to like about free?  It’s free!  Free, free, free - use the word often enough, however, and it begins to lose its meaning.  “Free special offer (some rules and restrictions apply)!” “Free entree (with purchase of equal or greater value entree)!” “Free ski trip (after we badger you into investing in a timeshare over the course of an eight-hour 'seminar')!”  Free just isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is this more evident than the world of electronic games.  Users are steeped in phrases like “free-to-play” and “freemium” to a degree that free really does start to sound like a four-letter-word.  Free they say?  Nonsense, we say.  Let’s take a look.

Welcome to the New Tech Answers!

picture of modern computers

Technology can be frustrating, confusing, and downright irritating to some.  For others, it’s the reason to get up in the morning.  Whatever your stance, you can count on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library as one of the region’s prime sources of technology assistance.  With our Training on Demand classes and our eBook help, you can get a lot of bang for your no-buck!  We help with learning PC, Internet, Email, and other beginners topics including Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, and even Access.  We can explain to you the ups and downs of the different eReaders and their respective eBook stores, not to mention how to use those devices with our free eBooks!  And now we’re gearing up to offer you even more technical content on Librarypoint with our revamped Tech Answers page!

Job Help at the Library

help wanted advertisements

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library should definitely be your first stop if you’re searching for a new job.  Few institutions provide the level of service and number of quality resources we do and fewer still for free.  From books to databases to personalized help, the library is the premier source of job-help services.  

An Open Letter to eBook Publishers & Retailers: How and Why to Fix eBooks

frowny face

Dear eBook Retailers & Publishers, 

The eBook world has fallen into an even sorrier state with Amazon's announcement that its new Kindle Fires will feature unwanted advertisements right out of the box (though Amazon caved pretty quickly on offering users a way to buy out the ads).  I read that, then I re-read my last blog post reviewing different aspects of eBook retailers: four pages worth of trying to make sense of the eBook landscape and that was after some serious condensing.  I brooded for a moment, then said to myself, "eBooks are a big, stinky mess!"  

I keep hoping and praying that the eBook situation will get better, but aside from Tor's announcement that their eBooks will no longer be copy-protected, things are getting worse.  There are too many different eBook stores using too many different file and copy-protection standards, methods for transferring eBooks, and too many types of hardware, many tied to a single retailer.  So to the eBook powers-that-be: I'm done being coy and hoping that you'll come to these conclusions on your own.  Here's what you need to do!

Your Guide to eBook Retailers

ebook readers

The holiday shopping season is looming which means it’s time for a new round of eReaders to be introduced from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and maybe, just maybe, Apple, and there will be several months of us giving them our money.  But before you buy, read on to find out exactly what you’re getting into, in terms of both hardware and retailer.

Web Site Builders

Web Design

When the Web was still new, it was necessary to know how to code in order to create a Web page.  Languages like HTML, CSS, Javascript and more were the tools in your utility belt to build a Web presence.  The truly savvy could (and can) do most of this with nothing more than a plain text editor, though most people turned to programs like Dreamweaver to more easily and quickly assemble entire sites.  Then you had to choose your Web hosting service.  Then you had to FTP your pages to the hosting service. . . it was an involved process.  I haven’t done any professional Web design in close to a decade so I couldn’t tell you what the pros are up to these days, but I’ll tell you what I tell all my training-on-demand students: who cares?  Use a Web site builder service to streamline the process. It will save you time, grief, brain power, and probably some money!

Avoiding Sneakware

I see it all the time: PCs choking on gobs of uninvited software to the point where they barely function.  They may be Web browser toolbars or antivirus utilities or programs that promise to speed up your computer, when in fact they do exactly the opposite.  It enrages me to see programs like these on my customers’ computers because I know that they did not knowingly install these programs--these programs waltzed in with another that the customer did want.  This sort of software is referred to as “sneakware.” Here are some strategies to prevent this from happening to you!