The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 071 23/02/08


Beat the Spooks

The Daily Telegraph recently carried a report about governmental and other agencies being empowered to read our emails. This is concerning and while I have nothing I need to hide I find that the idea offensive that others could trawl through my private correspondence.


Is it possible to practically and economically set up an encryption system whereby my private correspondents and I only can read our emails?

David Evans, by email



I think it is important to say straight away that no one ever said the Internet was private. Sending an email is like sending a postcard and irrespective of any Government or Security Services monitoring your messages, they pass through scores of publicly and privately owned computers and network connections where they can be read.


Encryption is one solution but it requires both parties to have the appropriate software and access keys. There are plenty of systems to choose from but none of them are impregnable to those with sufficient time and resources but one that gives the spooks a lot of trouble is PGP or Pretty Good Privacy. It’s so good the US Government classified it as munitions and tried to restrict its distribution. 


However, the big problem with encryption is that it suggests to anyone monitoring your communications that you have something to hide and therefore worthy of further investigation.


The most elegant solution is steganography, where an encrypted message is hidden inside an innocent-looking email attachment, which could be a document or image, so even if it is intercepted it arouses no suspicion Have a look at Boot Camp 474 (http://tinyurl.com/2tyjye) for more details.



Wasteful Keyboard?

My keyboard will not turn off when the computer is shutdown and I have to pull out the mains plug to turn it off. The shop where I bought the PC from say it is okay but others I have asked disagree; any views on this please?

Phil Stead, by email


It is not a fault and these days it is quite common for the mouse and keyboard to remain powered up. This is to allow the PC to be put into a sleep or hibernation mode, and spring back to life when a key is pressed (or the mouse moved). It is also used by keyboards that support on/standby functions. The power consumed by this function is in the order of a few milliwatts and it adds just a few pence to your annual electricity bill, even so you might want to turn it off. This may be possible through the computer’s BIOS setup program but you would have to refer to the manual or manufacturer’s support website for details.




What’s A Podcast?

Being an oldie I am often baffled modern gadgets. My latest problem is how to make use of Podcasts, which the BBC is constantly telling us to do.

Ian Bare, by email


A Podcast is an audio recording that has been compressed into an mp3 audio file; this makes it smaller and easier to send over the Internet. Once you have downloaded the file you can listen to it on your PC or transfer it to a personal digital audio player even a digital radio, providing can read mp3 files and has a suitable PC connection or a USB/memory card socket.



XP to Vista

I have treated myself to a nice new laptop and am in the horrendous process of transferring files and programs from the old to the new. I anticipate taking several weeks with some hair tearing along the way, but one problem had me totally stumped.  Is there a way that I can transfer my email archives from my old XP computer to my new Vista PC?  Short of printing out the lot (and there are rather a lot) I haven't found a way to do it. I'm getting on in years and tend to have 'senior moments' - so I need very simple instructions otherwise I tend to get tied up in knots.

Kath Edwardson, by email


Several weeks? I think you should be able to do the whole job in less than a morning, Vista, like XP before it has a built in utility for copying files and settings from PC to another. It’s called Windows Easy Transfer and you can get started by typing ‘easy’ in Search on the Start menu, or go to Start > Programs > System Tools. You start by deciding which transfer method you want to use (cable, network, external drive etc.) then you copy a small program to a CD or flash drive and run it on your XP computer. You will then be asked to decide what files folders and settings you want to move (including all of your email accounts and messages). The files are then copied from the old PC to the new one, how long it takes depends on the method used and how many files you have to move but it shouldn’t take for than a few hours. If you just want to concentrate on your Outlook Express email files than have a look at Boot Camp 490 (http://tinyurl.com/yrjos8)





© R. Maybury 2008 0502


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