Category Archives: (Hopefully) Helpful Hint

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Creating Hard-to-Crack Passwords

Thievery and hacking never go away, and tech nerds like us always advise coming up with “strong,” hard-to-guess password for your computer or other accounts. But many people don’t exactly know what exactly constitutes a strong password. Fortunately, you can get some password-creation advice on your computer — right there in the control panel where you go to change your password in the first place. Isn’t that convenient?

In Windows, just go to the Start menu to Control Panel to User Accounts and Family Safety to User Accounts. Click on Change Your Password. This opens up the box where you type in your old and new passwords. If you need some help with the strong stuff, look closer. Right in the box is a link called “How to create a strong password” (circled below). Click there for advice. Microsoft also has a site that checks the strength of your chosen password.

On a Mac, just pop open the System Preferences box from the Dock or Apple menu and click on the Users & Groups icon. Make sure your user account is selected on the left side of the box and then click the Change Password button. Here, you also get the familiar Old Password/New Password box, but look on the New Password line. As circled below, there’s a key icon there. Click that icon to call up the Mac OS X Password Assistant, which offers a strength indicator and can even generate strong passwords for you so you don’t have to burn the brain cells thinking them up yourself.

There. You now have no excuse for still using password as your password. It’s time to show your strength!


(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Search Me

Unless you’ve got a photographic memory and meticulous organizational habits, you’ve probably had to dig around on your computer at some point for an elusive file that you can’t immediately locate. Although the beloved Sherlock utility has been retired, Mac OS X users have the Finder’s Command-F keyboard shortcut to dig around for matching files with keywords, but there’s also the handy Spotlight feature waiting right up in the top right corner of the screen under the magnifying-glass icon. (Spotlight search also lives within Apple’s iOS software as well.)

On the PC side of the street, Windows users can use the trusty Search box on the Start menu or in library windows to uncover files and folders. The sleuthing fun doesn’t stop there: check out Microsoft’s advanced search tips, including the natural language search setting for finding files in regular English. (Hopefully, this natural language thing will catch on.)

Now, if only there were similar tools for finding missing socks and car keys.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: PDF Files on Hand

Want to stash those important documents, receipts, confirmation numbers or other files on your phone before you go someplace? Here’s how.

Step One: Convert File to PDF 

On the Mac, you can quickly make a PDF out of a Web page, email message or other document just by pressing Command-P. Yes, this is the Print box, but in the bottom corner is a button marked PDF. Click on that to se a menu of options, including Save as PDF.

On Windows, there several options that let you make PDFs out of Web pages and other documents. Cute PDF Writer, the browser add-on Web2PDF or even with the Google Chrome browser.

Step Two: Move the PDF File to Your Phone

There are a number of ways to transfer the PDF files from the computer to the phone. You can email the PDFs as attachments and open them on the handset. (Just make sure you don’t have personal information in the documents that you may not want to email openly.)

Just open the message, select the attachment icon and save it in a PDF-ready app like iBooks  or the mobile version of Adobe Reader X for iOS or Android. There are a ton of third-party PDF apps out there, like EverNote, GoodReader or PDF Expert.

If you want to avoid emailing, you can also sync PDF files to an iPhone through iTunes. You can also copy files from the computer to an Android phone with a file manager app (Kaiser Pedro likes Astro File Manager).

So the next time you need to refer to these documents you’ve saved, you don’t need to dig through your email app or struggle with one bar of signal strength. The files are right there — ready and waiting on your phone.