Ask Rick 151 30/04/11
Our daughter’s laptop was stolen from her room
at university just before Christmas. We have now replaced it, but the police
have shown her how easy it is to break into her room. Have you any suggestions
how we might best prevent it happening again? If we spray-painted her name on
the front would that damage it in any way?
There’s a lot she can do but securing your
daughter’s room is obviously the first job, and it’s worth her talking to the
University authorities about fitting stronger locks. Always keep the laptop out
of sight when the room is unoccupied, better still, store it in a lockable
cabinet or a small room safe, which sell from around £40. If her room is broken
into a simple movement alarm with a loud siren should deter most opportunist
Most laptops are fitted with a Kensington Lock
security socket or ‘K Slot’. This is for a locking device, attached to a steel
cable that’s tethered to an immovable object like a radiator, pipework or a
heavy desk. They are not infallible though, and the lock can be broken by brute
strength but doing so may destroy the laptop, or cause so much damage that’s
it’s practically worthless.
There are a number of laptop security
applications available. They won’t prevent her laptop being stolen, but they
can help in its recovery, scupper attempts to sell it, and protect the data
stored on it. However, start by setting a BIOS password (see the manual for
details) and this prevents it from booting. A good place to start with the
software is a freeware program called Prey (http://goo.gl/zntAY).
It’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android operating systems and when
remotely triggered it locks down the PC, silently sends an email or SMS with
information that can be used to track its whereabouts and if it has a webcam it
includes an image of the user. Also have a look at LAlarm (http://goo.gl/2EseB, another free program; this
one is activated if the mains cable or a USB drive is removed and as soon as
it’s connected to the Internet it sends an email alert and uses the webcam to
capture an image. Spray painting the lid has only a minor deterrent effect as replacement
case parts are readily available for most models.
Occasionally, when I need to destroy a
redundant CD, I resort to a few whacks with a hammer. I have just read that a
CD can be completely written off with a couple of seconds in a microwave oven.
Is this so and is it safe?
John Hart, by email
Microwaving a CD will destroy the disc’s
reflective metallic layer but it can also cause arcing inside the oven, which
may damage it or shorten its life. It could also release toxic gasses, which
you really wouldn’t want anywhere near your food. If you need to destroy discs
on a regular basis I suggest getting one of those document shredders with a
built in disc muncher. Your hammer method is fine for the odd CD, otherwise you
can snip them up with scissors or pruning shears. If you are feeling strong
snapping or bending them is very effective and quite satisfying, though it can
be a bit messy as some discs shatter, so it’s a good idea to wear gloves and
eye protection. Coarse sandpaper, electric drills and grinders make short work
of any disc and recordable types will degrade if left in strong sunlight. If
you hang them up in the garden on a piece string they make good bird scarers,
whilst they’re being erased.
I've started to receive a series of disturbing
emails where the text is all over the place and each line begins with one, two
or three chevrons pointing into the page. It's very annoying, so what can I do
to alert senders that there may something wrong with their email setup?
E.D.Coote, by email
Also known as arrows, Thorns, Spikes and
Greater-Thans, those chevrons indicate text that has been forwarded from a
previous email, or emails. It happens by default in most email programs but I
agree it can get a bit untidy, especially if the message in question has been
doing the rounds. If you want to stop it occurring on messages sent from your
PC, and advise others, if they are using popular email programs like Outlook
Express, Windows Mail etc., go to Tools > Options > Send. Under Mail
Sending Format click Plain Text Settings and deselect ‘Indent original text
with ‘>’ when replying or forwarding’.
You can’t remove the arrows from a received
message but you can copy and paste the text into a word processor then use the
Search and Replace facility to remove the arrows and save it as a text file or
a new message. Otherwise you can use one of a number of freeware utilities that
do the job automatically on copied and pasted text. Try EmailStripper (http://goo.gl/tW7rq)
or Strip Mail (http://goo.gl/nVqVk).
Crammed with Spam
I have not used my email for a very long time
and when I tried to recently there was just one message in it that said my
mailbox was ‘full and over its allowed capacity…, incoming messages can no
longer be received, and are being returned to the sender’. This is the one and
only mail that there is in the inbox and all other boxes are empty. Can you
Lynne Harris, by email
The mailbox referred to in the message is not
on your computer, but on your Internet service provider’s (ISP) mail server.
This is where your incoming emails are stored until you download them onto your
PC, after which they are deleted from the mail server. Since you haven’t been
accessing your mailbox it is probably full of Spam. Your ISP’s support
department should be able to empty it for you, or you may be able to do it
yourself by accessing it through a webmail service like www.mail2web.com.
© R. Maybury 2011 2103