Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Protecting Children online

This is very thorough.  It was sent to me today by someone who read my last blog entry on protecting children online.

Here is a link to the full article.

The article has helpful summaries on each section with actionable items for the parent/teacher. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


GDPR.  General Data Protection Regulation.

You probably noticed a flurry of emails relating to data protection before the cut off date of 25th May.  Each were worded slightly differently.  Some urged you to reply or fill in a form, and others assumed that by reading the information you were being given, that you consented to hearing from that company or organization.  Some pleaded with you and offered freebies for staying on the mailing list.  It really was both overwhelming and annoying. 

It was however a good chance to clear up any unwanted marketing emails from your inbox and to give a clear indication about what information you allowed companies to hold about you and how you wanted to be contacted by them.

What was it all about and why does it matter?    There is now so much data gathered about us by the websites we visit.   Things were getting out of control and our data wasn’t securely protected enough, or private enough, and it was being accidentally or deliberately leaked, so something had to be done.  The legislation is very far reaching, and on the whole a good thing, to bring data protection into the 21st Century.

We should all now be more secure.  But what data are we talking about?  This is the sort of thing.

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Photo
  • IP address- eg your computer’s address
  • Location data
  • Online behaviour (cookies)
  • Profiling and analytics data
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political opinions
  • Trade union membership
  • Sexual orientation
  • Health information
  • Biometric data
  • Genetic data

So when companies gather information about you, or you fill in a form and give data, they now have to protect it carefully and only collect what is strictly necessary. 

The type of data must also be carefully stored and if possible encrypted so others can’t gain access to it.

GDPR also applies to small businesses like mine.   I do keep records of clients – for example name, address and phone number.  I ensure this is securely stored and never send out mailshots or other marketing information.  If there are clients of mine who I have seen in the past who are unhappy for me to keep their information on file, I would urge you to be in touch.  There are quite a few people for whom I don’t have email addresses and was unable to contact about the new regulations. 

I keep the information so that I can recognize that I have seen people in the past, and can therefore offer a better service.  When people need technical help, I need to give details to Gordon, my technical helper but always ask for permission to do this.  He keeps details on file, and we are both very careful with the data we store.

The legislation and fines are aimed at large organisations and a bit of a minefield for small traders.  We can only do our best in the circumstances to interpret the new laws, and comply with the new demands.  We would like to reassure you that we have your data protection in mind and only keep what is strictly necessary.

Just so that you know…you now have the now have the right to:
  • information about the processing of your personal data;
  • obtain access to the personal data held about you;
  • ask for incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete personal data to be corrected;
  • request that personal data be erased when it’s no longer needed or if processing it is unlawful;
  • object to the processing of your personal data for marketing purposes or on grounds relating to your particular situation;
  • and much more!
Hope that gives you peace of mind.  Happy Computing.

Thursday, 1 March 2018


 If you forget your password it’s quite a big job to reset it, requiring you to click “Forgotten Password”, then check your email for a link, click on a link, make a new password and remember what it is.    Sometimes I find myself doing this for clients on every site they use For example:  BBC, Amazon, M & S, Sainsbury, Easyjet, Apple ID etc

If you forget your passwords to common sites, you will find that you spend all your time resetting the password and getting frustrated rather than enjoying your time online.  So write down all your passwords in a little book.   Each site you log onto should have a different password.  If you change your password, write down the new password and the date you changed it!  It is perfectly safe to do this, as most hacking happens online.  It would be rare for an intruder to find your password book and use it.

If you have an Apple device you will have an Apple ID (your email) and a password.  It is vital that you know what these two are and why they are important.  They are required when you want to download an App, buy music, log into the iCloud, use Facetime or iMessage.  It’s what keeps your Apple device working so don’t lose it or forget that it’s needed.

On Windows you will have a Microsoft account, which is linked to Outlook mail and also Skype.  It’s a total palaver if you forget your password.  Write it down!

You need a password to set up your email.  You won’t need to use it unless you need to set up an email on another device, but you still need to know it a password exists in your email account.

New users are often helped in store or at home to get their technology all set up and working.  In so many cases however in all the excitement, the use of ID and passwords are not sufficiently explained. 

Just a note that a passcode lock which you use to unlock the device is not your password.  The passcode lock can be alphanumeric, a 6 digit or 4 digit number, a pattern, a fingerprint or face recognition.  The passcode can be set to be required immediately or after a period of time that you can decide.  You don’t need to add a passcode for your device if you don’t want to.   If you travel with your device you should use a passcode to protect your data.

For novice users, the passcode can cause frustration and difficulty, so I advise putting it on after the user is a bit more accustomed to using the technology.

If you have more than one device, your ID and password are used to keep them all talking to each other and syncing.  If you move house or change your phone number, don’t forget to update your information in the settings.

Best practice is never to share your ID or password with others, even family members.  It works best if you have your own and you are in charge.

You will also need to learn to make memorable passwords.  Strong passwords use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.  8 digits is a good length for a password.

If you have locked yourself out of your iPad or laptop because you have forgotten your password or passcode, you are not alone.  However don’t be defeated and leave your technology unused.  I see this happen so often and it’s such a shame.  Seek help and learn to love your technology.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

New Year’s resolutions

Hope that you have all had a great Christmas and New Year.   It’s so refreshing to take a break from work, technology and screens to see friends and family.  Technology seems to have encroached a lot in my life, and I have begun wondering if it’s always a good thing.

Our family are great fans of board games and jigsaw puzzles.  It is a relaxing way to spend time together.  There is also nothing better than a winter walk, all wrapped up against the cold.   I have always preferred to read a book rather than watch TV.  My best memories don’t involve a screen or computer.  It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy my job!  The best bit about what I do is meeting and helping people.  Face to face interaction is so important in our lives.

In a world where everyone seems busier, and people multitask all the time for example texting while walking; I wonder if it’s good for you to be so glued to a screen, whatever size it is.  When I see couples having dinner in a restaurant and both of them are engaged with their mobile phones, and scarcely talking, or people almost being run over because they are so unaware of their surroundings.  It makes me think about technology and it’s impact on our lives.  Perhaps it is not always a good thing.

A few times recently I have left my phone at home, albeit accidentally, when going out.  I didn’t miss having it, and there was nothing momentous that needed my attention when I returned.  I felt that I could focus more on the moment without a phone to distract me. 

If you were looking for a new Year’s resolution, and hadn’t thought about what you could do differently this year, you could try having time away from a screen.  Leave your phone behind at times, or turn it to silent.  Maybe even turn off the Wi-Fi at home for a period of time or have a day off technology every week.  It’s worth a thought.

Another good resolution would be to do some housekeeping on your devices.  It is a really common problem to run out of storage on phone, tablet and computer because they contain too much stuff.   It is pretty boring, but you can clean them up by deleting anything you don’t need.  We take so many photos on our phones, and they take up a lot of space, so that would be the first thing I would suggest that you attend to.  Make sure that they are backed up, wherever you keep your photos, but don’t keep so many on your phone.  Move them to a cloud based storage area, onto a computer or external drive.  You can also clean up any apps that you aren’t using.

Deleting old emails is another way of clearing space on your devices.  On laptops you can also clear out any documents you no longer need, delete your downloads, remove any programmes you aren’t using and empty your bin.

Many of my clients are stressed out by their technology because they don’t feel in control of it.  I hope that I can make a difference by demystifying what they see, explaining it, so that they can relax and feel more confident with what they are doing.  There are many shortcuts that can be put in place to make the experience less troublesome.  Passwords cause more problems than anything else.  My last suggestion for a new year’s resolution is to ensure that all passwords are written down in a safe place.  The most important ones are the password to unlock your device, the one for your email, and if you are an Apple user, your Apple ID.

Wishing you all a happy new year and stress free computing.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Podcasts, Radio Player and Audible

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you could take advantage of using it to listen to any radio show from anywhere in the UK or further afield.   Radio playing Apps are free, and you can save a shortcut to your favourite show and listen using Wi-Fi.  So you no longer need a radio.  The sound quality is excellent, and it’s easy to use.

You can catch up on your favourite BBC radio shows with the iPlayer radio app.  This is useful if you have missed something special or were busy at the time, or only got to listen to part of the show.

Podcasts are downloadable radio shows on any subject.  First you need to download the Podcast App, and then you can subscribe to any radio show that is available as a podcast.  You will be spoiled for choice.  The programmes download onto your device, and really don’t take up much room.  Unlike iPlayer programmes, they don’t expire.  You can set up your device to delete programmes once they have been listened to, so you don’t clog up your storage space, and you can re-download them if you want to listen again.

If you are a fan of BBC Radio 4’s “The Archers” for instance, you can subscribe to a daily podcast or the weekly omnibus, so you can ensure you don’t miss out on the events in Ambridge and it means you can listen whenever is convenient, and not just at the set times of 14.02 and 19.02.

One of my favourite shows is Desert Island Discs, and you can not only listen to the ones in the current series, but go back to the very start of the programmes and listen to all the archived ones from 70 years ago as well. 

There are podcasts on every subject, from Science, History, Comedy, Technology, and all are free. 

In my opinion, some services are worth paying for however.  Amazon’s Audible subscription is one of those.  As ever you need an app, which you can download for free, but you need to pay monthly for the service if you want to download a book per month.  It’s £7.99 per month to do this, and you can try it out for a month first for free.

Most audio books are expensive, costing over £20 or £30, so it’s very good value.  The books are read by trained voice actors and really bring the story to life.  You can listen to the story any time, both at home, or while driving. 

If you have a Kindle, you can spend a little extra on your book to enable Whispersync, which will read your book to you.  This means you can alternate between reading or listening to the book, according to what you are doing.
You can switch from reading to listening within the Fire Tablet or Kindle app. Or you can switch between reading on one device and listening on another. For example, you can read on your tablet and then listen on your smartphone, and, thanks to Whispersync for Voice, you'll never lose your place. 

There is so much audio output for you to enjoy, and if you find your house is too quiet, or you are ill or have a long journey or want to be distracted from your everyday life; there is plenty to listen to, either live, on a podcast or through an app on subscription.  So don’t miss out on what’s happening on the radio just because the programme is on at a time that doesn’t suit.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Back to school

It's amazing that it's already 1st September, and children are going back to school.
Now is a time to learn new things and start afresh. 
Consider Open University, buying some new equipment or starting a project like a photobook so you can give a gift made by yourself at Christmas or design yourself a Christmas card.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Is Mrs PC a real person?

Some people seem to be under the impression that Mrs PC isn’t a real person.  I would like to set the record straight.  I am real, and a woman too!  As it’s summer and many of you are in holiday mode, my thoughts for this month’s article were to shed some light on what I get up to at work and in my spare time, and what kind of person I am rather than focus on my usual topics.

You may imagine that I am geeky and remain indoors in front of a screen as my preference, looking pale and unhealthy, however you couldn’t be more wrong.  Of course I do use a lot of technology in my life and love it (most of the time).   Life without my iPhone, podcasts and iPlayer would be unthinkable.  Teaching IT means that I have to be indoors when I am working, but I am a very outdoorsy person in my spare time. 

I have a very inquiring mind and enjoy learning new skills.  One of the benefits of my job is that it keeps me up to date with technology.  What I like most is when my students teach me something new, or they discover something we are both looking for during a lesson moments before I see it.  I also love new gadgets and learning how to use them. 

My job brings me into contact with all sorts of people at all kinds of different stages in their lives and with wonderful interests or jobs from ages around 40-90+.  I am a very sociable person so I enjoy meeting new students and forging friendships over time with those who see me regularly.

I am married, and my husband and I have been together for over 25 years- expect you are now calculating my age!  We have 2 children who are grown up but haven’t quite left home yet.  We all enjoy spending time together as a family and share a love of the outdoors and walking with our dogs.  When the children outgrew bucket and spade holidays in Devon, we started to visit the Yorkshire Dales, and continue to enjoy our holidays there every year.  Our favourite Dale is Swaledale.  There is no mobile phone signal and it is a true escape from city life.

I spend a fair amount of time training for my hobbies of skiing and mountaineering. In training I run, cycle and go to the gym as well as hill walk.  I have to be fit to do the type of skiing I love.  It is called ski touring.  It is a form of backcountry or off piste skiing.  The skis used are normal width, but super lightweight with special bindings, which allow the heel to rise for walking uphill, but clip into the boots for a secure ride downhill.  Climbing skins are used for uphill skiing, and detached for the downhill.  They allow you to glide forward but stop you from running back downhill.  The huge advantage of this kind of skiing is that you can go anywhere.  You don’t need a ski resort or lift, and can enjoy the silence and beauty of the mountains as well as wonderful powder skiing if you are lucky.  My family don’t share my passion for ski touring or mountaineering!

When on any trip or outing, I take lots of photographs, and have always enjoyed photography.  My goal after every trip is to create something from the photographs, such as a photobook or a short movie with photos and videos and a soundtrack.  To my shame, many of these projects are unfinished or not even started, and my desk is quite often littered in paperwork to catch up on.  I could really do with a clone of Mrs PC to come along and help me.  If you know anyone, do please ask them to get in touch!

Happy summer holidays.  Enjoy your technology, and have fun with it.