Our last post was about WordPress usernames vs. names that are publicly displayed in various places on your site. Whatever you do, don’t reveal your username and, more importantly, don’t leave the username set to ‘admin’.
Today, we’re moving on to two plugins that really lock down your WordPress site. One, Wordfence, is something we’ve written about before. Check that out here:
Wordfence aims to lock out intruders, anyone who uses the wrong username and/or password. It can also lock you out of your own site but that is easily corrected. This photo will give you an idea of how often WordFence steps into action on this site:
This list of countries is not complete, Israel should be on the list but isn’t. We were surprised that hackers from Israel would be attacking this site but anything is possible, right?
The various options that Wordfence offers are too complex and detailed to explain here. Check out their site, read about the premium option (we don’t think it’s worth it) and install it from your WordPress dashboard. You’ll be glad you did.
The second plugin that we use on this site is Google Authenticator. Again, this is a free plugin, one that locks your WordPress site down if the correct code isn’t entered. Install it on your WordPress site from your dashboard then install the app on your mobile device, it’s available for Android, iPhone and Blackberry. Once the plugin is activated, you’ll see a code like this on your phone:
There is a time limit on the app, not on your website. It the clock is close to the top, let it go past 12 and enter the new code.
With these two plugins, you can pretty much relax in the knowledge that your WordPress site is secure and safe from hacking. Good luck!
Google Chrome’s autofill is a useful tool, very handy when you’re completing forms online. Everything works well until you move. According to your computer, you’re still at your old address. Whoops! Here’s how to change that. It’s not as intuitive as you might think.
1. In any window in Chrome, look for the three horizontal lines in the top right corner. Click on that icon and this menu will open.
2. Choose Settings. In the next window, choose Show Advanced Settings.
3. This will open up another section at the bottom of the current window. Scroll down until you find Passwords and forms. On that line you’ll see Manage Autofill settings.
4. Click on that and this window will pop open:
5. Fill in your new address and you’re Done. Click it and Chrome will now show your current address.
TIP: You will see a spot for Credit cards but we do not suggest entering that information in Chrome. If you want a website to remember your c/c info, that’s up to you but we don’t think you should let Chrome save that.
Thanks for reading! Comments and questions are welcome. Use the form below or Like our Facebook page.
This may be the most important post in our series on emergency preparedness. Why? Because what we want you to prepare for happens to more people every year than the type of cataclysmic disasters we have previously described. It’s also the toughest one to write because we’ve seen the impact that losing everything has on someone. Take our word for it, you’ll want to read this post carefully and ask yourself if you’re prepared.
Every year in every country in the world, people are forced to leave their homes immediately. In some areas the reason could be war or some form of political instability. Here in North America we’re faced with natural gas leaks, train wrecks, floods, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Sometimes we have time to prepare, sometimes we don’t. Flooding alone can affect huge areas of Canada and the United States. Flash fires such as those in California and British Columbia can destroy whole neighborhoods. How can you prepare for such a crisis? By making sure you’ve got all of your eggs in one basket, that’s how. Let’s get going.
1. What’s important to you?
Make a list of things that would be devastating for you to lose. Consider jewelry, family photos, small antiques, historical documents; those things that are spread out all over your home, most of which you take for granted. Include passports, birth certificates, deeds, insurance policies, keys to safety deposit boxes, forms of identification and so on. We suggest making a list because we’re pretty sure you haven’t thought about many of these things for a long time. We are also sure that they are the first things you’d think about if, god forbid, your home vanishes in a flood or some other natural disaster. Don’t forget your banking information.
2. Make a record of everything that’s on paper.
For this you’ll need a scanner. We’ve had experience with HP and Epson models, all were under $200.00 and all had the ability to scan both photographs and negatives. Before making your purchase, consider the size of your family negatives. If you’ve got some from the early part of the last century or before, you should look for one that can scan a 4×5 neg or, in rare cases, 8x10s negatives. If you have boxes of slides, think about a model that will scan multiple negatives or slides at once. Here’s a shot of our Epson V500 Photo:
You might not consider family memories all that important until you lose them. We’re suggesting that your photos and documents are very important. Using a scanner to digitize as many of these items as you can ensures that that you and your family will have a past, something your children can reflect on and appreciate later on. Scanners these days are almost automatic. They’re dead simple to use, sometimes slow, but once you get going on your ‘save everything’ project, you’ll be whizzing along quite quickly.
3. Your own safety deposit box.
Once you get everything scanned, you’ll have a folder or folders full of digital information. If you’ve set the scanner to record its images in the jpg format, your life history won’t take up much room at all. Where to put it all? Well, storage is cheap these days. We would recommend putting your scanned images on several flash drives, one per family member, as well as on an external 2.5″ hard drive, either an SSD or a standard drive. Flash drives are small and rugged but more easily misplaced. A 2.5″ hard drive will hold far more material but they’re also light, reasonably durable and will slip into a coat pocket or purse.
In all cases, you’re probably better to lock the storage medium with a password. Most external hard drives will do that for you but the flash drives might not. The password could be your family name, your pet’s name or your street address, something that everyone will remember. These portable safety deposit boxes aren’t for everyday use so you don’t have to worry too much about them getting into the wrong hands because only you will know what’s on them. Here’s a cool flash drive idea that we found:
4. Keep your safety box safe.
When you have your stuff together, there are other considerations. Who gets a copy of everything? Every family member? Not the youngest? Not the oldest? Whoever needs a copy of your important information should get their own flash drive, stored somewhere that is easy to access, specially when they’re in a hurry. If you’re evacuated because of a fire or explosion, you have to be able to grab the storage device quickly. Put lots of thought into where these drives live in your home.
5. If you’ve got a bit more time…
In the examples above, you’re preparing for immediate evacuation. Basically it’s grab and run. If you have a bit more time and some extra room, it’s good to take some of the original documents with you; passports, bank books, extra credit cards that you don’t use all the time, things like that. A small case with a strap would suffice for all of this, something you can swing over your shoulder. The problem that this creates is one of security where you store these items. You’ll want them all in the same place but not somewhere which is too obvious. Why? If they are in plain site, a burglar would be interested in snatching them too. You can either hide them carefully or disguise them as something else. The fact that you’ve got everything in one place is good for emergencies but not so good if a thief breaks in.
You might want to consider a home safe, something that is heavy but secure against theft and fire. A key lock is quicker should you have to access the safe when you’re in a rush but less secure than a combination lock. Some of the newer safes use a fingerprint scanner for extra security but we’ve found them slow and very frustrating when you’re in a rush. Here’s a safe built into a coffee table, very in-your-face if you’re a thief but who would know what it is except you?
We’ve given you the basics here, see what tricks and hidey-holes you can find on your own. Maybe we’ve forgotten some important information. Comment below or Like our Facebook page and comment there. Here’s the link:
Ask anyone what the biggest problem in the world is and the answer will be communication. In an emergency situation, communication is vitally important. Picture yourself in someone else’s shoes, maybe in Hurricane Katrina, the Boston Marathon bombing or a train/plane crash. How would you get people to notice you? How would you notify your family that you’re either OK or injured and in need of help?
In many disasters or emergency situations, family members can’t get in touch with each other. Relieving that stress might just be easier than you think. In this post we’re going to give you some tips on making yourself heard when bad things happen.
1. Walkie Talkies:
You might have had a cheap set of these as a child. The ones we are talking about here are very different, they’re certainly not toys. With ranges that vary from ten miles to about eighteen miles, the modern two-way transmitters are perfect for emergency use, ideal for situations where cell phone service isn’t available or non-existent, let’s say in or after a hurricane, tornado or flood.
There are many different brands of walkie talkies but you can research which units would best serve you. Unlike a cell phone, you can’t talk directly to another person unless they are on the same channel as you. Additionally, communication isn’t private. Anyone on the same channel who is in range can hear what you say. You can see how this might cause problems. Because of this we suggest the use of codes, nicknames, special phrases, things like that. While there may be dozens of people trying to reach relatives with similar names as your family, we doubt that there would be many named Batman95 or WonderWoman327. Messages can be simple words or codes. Many of the two-way communicators that we’ve seen can send beeps which would allow you to use Morse code or something similar to get someone’s attention.
Prices range from around $20.00 to just under $50.00 for two devices. The more expensive ones have better and more varied features, of course but even the basic ones have a decent range. We’re confident that you can see the usefulness of walkie talkies even in non-emergency situations. A vacation with two cars, boating, camping, hiking, etc. could be enhanced if you could communicate with family and friends without worrying about cell phone coverage or roaming. Here’s one set that we found which came highly recommended:
2. Satellite Phones:
The ultimate emergency communication device doesn’t come cheap. Not only are the units themselves expensive, ranging from just under $300.00 to well over $1,000.00, but they require some type of subscription service for anything other than S.O.S. messages. Most people probably only need one unit since satellite phones have the ability to send text messages to cellphones or make voice calls to landlines/cellphones. When you consider the roaming charges you could incur when you travel to a foreign country, a monthly subscription plan plus the phone itself might just be the lower cost solution.
These phones are fully independent of cellphone towers. The signal they generate actually bounces off satellites that are in a geostationary orbit over the earth. Aside from being expensive, satellite phones seem to be fairly difficult to program. You would want to spend a lot of time getting acquainted with the one you buy before you find yourself in a situation where you need to use it.
Although satellite phones are able to receive voice calls, those calls can be very expensive, depending on the company and plan you use. Keep that in mind. We’re suggesting one of these devices for safety’s sake, not instead of a cellphone. It should be obvious that if you’re thinking of setting off on a cross-country hike or a mountain climbing expedition, you should take a satellite phone with you.
What does a satellite phone look like? Pretty much like a walkie talkie but with a much longer antenna. The unit shown below has its antenna in the down position. It would have to be fully extended when in use:
3. Codes and Secret Writing
OK, not secret writing but something like Morse code could potentially come in handy in different situations. Even though this code is over a hundred years old, it is still used today, using only two things, dots and dashes, in much the same way that our computers use zeroes and ones. A dot is the short note, dahs or dashes are the longer ones. The duration of these two signals varies with each user. As a matter of fact, in WWII telegraph users were able to recognize the timing patterns of other users with which they communicated frequently. In some cases, this led to the discovery of spies who were pretending to be someone else. Additionally, if a telegraph operator was being coerced into sending signals against their will, they were able to change the cadence of the dots and dashes, thus letting the other party know that they were in trouble.
We’re not saying that you have to become proficient in Morse code but simply knowing the universal distress call, SOS, might come in handy at some point in your life. You don’t need electricity for this code, rapping on the wall will work just as well. Flashlights, car horns, walkie talkie buzzers, etc. can be used to send “… _ _ _ …” (three dots, three dashes, three dots). Any emergency personnel anywhere in the world will recognize this as an SOS signal.
A quick check with the Play Store came up with many free apps that you can use to learn rudimentary Morse code. Yes it’s letter by letter only but we’re quite sure that text short codes would come through loud and clear on Morse code just as they do in text messages. “OMG SOS” is one that comes to mind. (Joking, of course.)
The second part of this section that might be worth learning is the NATO phonetic alphabet. You’ve all heard it in movies, we’re sure of that. Instead of spelling a word to someone over the phone this way, “B for bear, E for Edwin, etc.”, your message would sound much better if you used the NATO phonetic alphabet. Each letter has a matching word that is virtually impossible to interpret as something else. Brian, for instance, would be Bravo, Romeo, India, Alfa, November. There are only twenty six letters, right? It’s not that difficult. In a situation where you have a limited amount of time to get a message out, this alphabet eliminates the need of dreaming up a word that starts with Q as well as preventing your message from being misinterpreted. “Did she say Queen or Clean?” Quebec is the word used for Q so there isn’t much of a chance of that being misheard.
Finally, if all we’ve done is make you think about what you would do in an emergency situation, we’re happy. Bad things happen to good people, every week, every day. How you react and how quickly you react can sometimes make a huge difference. Our next post will continue in the same vein, so stay tuned. Questions, comments and experiences are all welcome. Use the form below to comment or, better yet, Like our Facebook page and contact us there. Here is the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook.
Be prepared. The Boy Scouts have been telling us this for years. In the next series of posts, we’re going to help you do just that. These days, a great many things are out of our control, primarily the weather but also certain other incidents have forced us to be concerned about local or regional disasters that might occur. Just so you understand, we’re not talking about the survivalist mentality here, just tips that you should consider…just in case.
We’re going to present different scenarios, some of which have already occurred in different parts of the world. None of them are so far-fetched that they are beyond the realm of possibility, even though they may only have a remote chance of happening to you. If you travel around the world on a regular basis, however, you might want to take note of some of our tips.
Before we begin, please note that we not affiliated in any way with any of the products listed here. Do not take our product mentions as recommendations. We are showing you types of products, not brands that we endorse.
Hi-tech/Tech Stuff You Might Need
1. These items are listed in no order of importance…except the first one. Wherever you are, whatever happens, you cannot live without water. Although science will serve up varying times that humans can live without water, differing from three days up to around eight days, you will die from lack of H2O far quicker than you will die from lack of food. Additionally, without water to sustain you, the search for food will become much more difficult.
This product, the Lifesaver 4000UF Bottle, seems to fill the bill when you are faced with making your own potable water. It’s not cheap, we’ve never seen them under $100.00 but that’s a small price to pay for your own life and the lives of your relatives/friends. Here’s a link to the company site: Livesaver Systems. This is how it looks:
This product is handy if you are backpacking or biking near where you live or out in the boonies in a foreign country. Finding water is not all that difficult. Finding potable drinking water is. Strap this on your pack and you’ll never be thirsty.
2. Your cell phone’s battery can only last a few days, if you have kept it fully charged that is. Assuming that you’re in an extended situation where you absolutely need contact with the outside world, you need what’s known as an external rechargeable battery. For about $50.00, you can pick up something like this:
In natural disasters, electricity is often the first thing to be affected. During the ice storm’s aftermath here in Toronto last December, any shopping mall that had electricity was a mecca for people who needed to charge their phones. The product shown above has a 12,000mAh capacity, good enough for at least four charges on a normal smartphone. It’s not light, mind you, but it holds its charge for a very long time. Why is that important? Because it means you can charge it when your power is on, let’s say every six months, then pop it in a drawer for use when disaster hits. There are smaller units, of course, some that fit easily in your pocket for a quick charge when you’re out for the day. Large or small, these are perfect for gifts. Think about keeping one in your car. Note: Some of the chargers double as a flashlight. Look for one that does more than one thing.
3. Where in the world are you? Yes, your smartphone might have GPS but if there is no cell service or WiFi, how will you know where you are. Knowing where you are means you can communicate your location to anyone who might be looking for you. Whether you’re in the middle of an ocean or a rain forest, you need a dedicated handheld GPS unit to know where you are and/or to find your way back to safety. There are several big names in this area, Garmin and Magellan are popular, plus smaller, perhaps less reliable names that do more or less the same thing. Regardless, most of the units are priced less than a good pair of track shoes. If you’re an adventurer, there’s no reason not to have one. Here’s a shot of a Garmin GPS from Amazon that sells for around $100.00:
A compass can tell you which direction is which, of course, so keeping one of these in your travel pack is good too. Whatever you decide to carry with you, make sure you know how it works. A compass isn’t quite as simple to use as it seems, specially when you are scared and alone in the woods or in an empty, unknown city. Keep in mind that a compass made for the northern hemisphere might not work in the southern half of the globe. Why? Because a compass needle is weighted on the south end, for us northerners, or on the north end, for people south of the equator. Read up on it, it’s very interesting.
4. If there is no electricity, how will you know what’s going on? In natural disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes or tornadoes, even radio stations can be affected. What broadcast system isn’t? Something called shortwave radio. Besides being fun, shortwave radios can be a link to the outside world when you’re trapped or isolated from the rest of the world. The fun part is being able to listen to broadcasts from other countries, often in languages you don’t understand. The reassuring part of shortwave comes from the fact that it does not require anything more than a source of power, think batteries, and an antenna. Look around your neighborhood and you just might see one or two houses with a very tall, straight antenna. This signifies that someone in the house is a ham radio operator. The antenna sends out a signal that can be picked up thousands of miles away, unaffected by the curvature of the earth. Radios that can receive shortwave broadcasts are relatively cheap, almost always under $100.00, can have multiple power supplies; solar, lithium, crank or alkaline battery, and almost always receive AM/FM bands too. Your local government broadcasts on an emergency band during extreme civil emergencies. You can check out what band they use or simply pick up a radio that receives them all. Here’s a unit from our local electronics chain, one that has four power sources:
That’s it for this post. We hope this series gets you thinking about things like, “What if?” What if we had to evacuate our home in an hour? What if there is a flood? What if there is a devastating hurricane tomorrow? All of these situations have occurred recently, not in some far corner of the Third World but right here in North America. Some of you may have experienced the type of thing we’re writing about. We’d love to hear from you if that’s the case. If we haven’t mentioned something that you think is important by the end of the series, please let us know in a comment below. Alternatively, you could simply Like our Facebook page and make a comment there. Here is the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook
Thanks for reading!
a little bit of hi-tech, a little bit of common sense and a lot of fun