West Chester Technology Blog

YouTube’s New Look

Google and YouTube are making some major design changes for both its mobile and desktop apps. However, the biggest change of all is an all new logo for the online video service. As you can see above, the logo ditches the red color inside the “Tube” part of the name, and places the now familiar play icon to the left side of the YouTube name. Google says the change allows the YouTube logo to work better “across a variety of devices, even on the tiniest screens”.

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Along with the revamped logo, Google is now rolling out new design features that were previously available to a limited number of users for testing purposes. The desktop app will now officially have a look based on Material Design, and will include access to a dark theme, which should make videos pop out more.

The mobile app is also rolling out new features that have been previously reported to be in testing, including a new bottom navigation bar. The update will also allow videos to fill the screen, even if the clip is formatted horizontally, vertically, or in a square shape. Users of the mobile YouTube app will also be able to speed up or slow down the playback of a video with this new update, as they already can on the desktop.

Recent YouTube mobile updates have added features such as the ability to quickly go back or go forward 10 seconds in a clip by double tapping on the video. Today, Google announced that in a future update, it will add support for quickly switching between videos. Swiping left will let users go back to their previous video, and swiping right will let them go to the next clip. There’s no word yet on when this update will be released.

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Ideas For Backing Up Your PC

If you aren’t backing up your data, you need to start right now. With data loss horror stories as common as they are, the no-data-backups lifestyle just isn’t worth the risk. Don’t wait until you lose an entire thesis paper or promotion-worthy work presentation — start backing up today.

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There are many ways to back up your computer and several data backup tools that can make the process as easy as clicking one button. Whatever works for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you make backups as long as you are making backups.

In this article, we’ll look at how to back up your computer using the three most popular cloud storage services.

Which Files Should You Back Up?

When we talk about “backing up a computer,” we don’t necessarily mean backing up the entire computer — every single file, folder, app, etc. That would be akin to cloning your hard drive, which is a more involved process that’s unnecessary for most people.

You only need to back up personal data files. Key file types include documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos and images, music, and videos. In other words, you should back up any file that you’ve personally created or acquired and want to keep.

You do NOT need to back up system files — at least not to the cloud. Windows has two built-in features called System Restore and Factory Reset: a portion of your local hard drive is dedicated to backing up system files and recovering your system from errors.

You should NOT back up apps. Apps can be several hundred MB large, so you’re better off backing up the configuration files that make the apps unique to you. If you ever need to reinstall an app, just replace the configuration files and you should be good to go in most cases.

The tricky part is that not all apps store configuration files in the same place. Some are stored directly in the app’s installed folder, others are kept in your user home folder, and still others are kept in your system’s AppData folder. It’ll be up to you to learn which files need to be backed up for each of the apps you regularly use.

Backing Up a Computer to Google Drive

In July 2017, Google released a tool called Backup and Sync that lets you pick and choose folders on your system to keep backed up to Google Drive (normally, only the Google Drive folder is kept synced). This flexibility makes it one of the best options available for cloud data backups.

The Free plan is limited to a generous 15 GB — much more than you’ll find elsewhere, and more than enough for most. Need more? You can get 100 GB for $2 per month, 1 TB for $10 per month, or 10 TB for $100 per month.

How to back up your files using Google Drive:

  1. Install the Backup and Sync utility, then launch it.
  2. Choose which folders you want to keep backed up. Add as many as you want using Choose Folder.
  3. Select which folders you also want to keep in sync on your computer. This is basically the same as Google Drive proper with a bit more flexibility.
  4. Keep the utility running and your chosen folders will stay backed up.
Backing Up a Computer to Dropbox

Even though you can use Dropbox for storing data backups, it wasn’t quite designed for it. It creates a special “Dropbox” folder and only files in that folder are synced to Dropbox’s servers. If you want to back up anything outside of this folder, it must be copied in by hand every time.

The Basic plan is free with a 2 GB limit — not enough for doing comprehensive data backups. You’ll want the Plus plan instead, which has a 1 TB limit for $9.99 per month.

How to back up your files using Dropbox:

  1. If you don’t have Dropbox, download and install it.
  2. Create and sign in with your Dropbox account.
  3. Navigate to %UserProfile%/Dropbox for your Dropbox folder. Add any file or folder to add it to your Dropbox cloud. It will automatically start syncing.
  4. Visit the Dropbox site to access files at any time.
Backing Up a Computer to OneDrive

OneDrive is similar to Dropbox in that it creates a special “OneDrive” folder and only syncs the contents of that folder to its cloud servers. The downsides are the same: if you want to back up anything outside of this folder, you have to copy it in by hand each time.

The Basic plan is free with a 5 GB limit — more than Dropbox and may be enough depending on how much you need to back up. The Storage Only plan grants 50 GB for $2 per month, or you can expand to 1 TB with an Office 365 Personal plan for $7 per month.

How to back up your files using OneDrive:

  1. If you don’t have OneDrive, install it from the Windows Store.
  2. Log in with a Microsoft account.
  3. Navigate to %UserProfile%/OneDrive for your OneDrive folder. Add any file or folder to add it to your OneDrive cloud. It will automatically start syncing.
  4. Launch the OneDrive app or use the OneDrive site to access files at any time.
A Better Way to Back Up Lots of Data

While backing up to the cloud is convenient, it has its downsides. If the storage service ever closes doors, you’ll lose your data. If your internet connection dies, you’ll be unable to access your data. The services can also change limits and prices whenever they want.

I personally recommend using a NAS device, which is like a network-connected external drive. This grants many of the benefits of cloud storage without most of the downsides.

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Facebook’s Fake News Battle Continues

In its latest attempt to fix its fake news problem, Facebook will now block Pages that spread fake news from advertising on the site. “If Pages repeatedly share stories marked as false, these repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to advertise on Facebook,” it said in a statement.

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Earlier this year, Facebook began flagging fake news posts and promoting more legitimate content over sketchy articles. It also began deprioritizing content shared by individuals who post over 50 times per day when research showed that in those cases, the shared posts often included misinformation and sensationalism. In a more direct challenge of fake news, the site recently began publishing fact checkers’ takes on articles labeled as potentially fake and making it easier to get to different articles related to any given post.

The company has already banned fake news websites from generating ad revenue on Facebook and blocked ads that link to fake news stories. It says its latest update is to take the fight against fake news a step further. “Today’s update helps to disrupt the economic incentives and curb the spread of false news, which is another step towards building a more informed community on Facebook,” it said.

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Malware Hidden in Hacked Episodes

A report from cybersecurity company Proofpoint reports that it has observed a “targeted email campaign” that is using details of leaked Game of Thrones episodes to try and spread malware to unsuspecting users.

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The company first came across an e-mail on August 10th with the subject line “Wanna see the Game of Thrones in advance?” The emails contained some general details of upcoming episodes, as well as a Microsoft Word attachment with malware hidden in it. Once downloaded, it would attempt to install a “9002” remote access Trojan (RAT). Proofpoint says that similar attacks in the past have been attributed to groups associated with the Chinese government, and that it’s possible that this attack could be coming from the same actors.

Image: Proofpoint

At the end of July, hackers stole 1.5 terabytes of data from HBO, including contact information for the show’s stars, unaired episodes and scripts, while an unrelated accident allowed a pair of episodes to leak to the internet earlier this month.

Proofpoint isn’t saying that HBO’s breaches and these attacks are connected. The hackers behind these phishing attempts are using the leaks as a way to get people to click on and accidentally install their software, relying on natural human curiosity to carry out their attack.

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Facebook Improves Your Memories

Facebook is making its Timehop-style feature, On This Day, bigger and better. This means that Facebook will show you more memories than ever, filter out bad memories likely to upset or annoy, and show you friendship milestones. All of which will be great for fans of nostalgia.

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On This Day is a nice feature that adds a touch of nostalgia to Facebook. On This Day basically reminds you what you were doing one, two, or even 10 years ago, based on what you posted on Facebook. And now Facebook is expanding its reach, and improving how the feature works.

Memories, Milestones, and Moments

First, Facebook wants to show you even more memories. So, now, it won’t just be individual memories from specific days, but rather whole collections of memories from particular months of seasons. The two examples Facebook cites are “Your January Memories” and “A Look Back At Your Summer”. Both of which offer photos and updates posted within that timeframe.

Secondly, Facebook wants to celebrate your friendship milestones. This involves you getting a pat on the back when you make a notable number of friends or have your posts liked a certain number of times. At the moment these will only be visible to you, but they will become shareable in the future. Which means Facebook is about to get gamified.

Finally, Facebook wants to help you filter out bad memories. On This Day already boasts some controls and preferences to ensure you’re happy with the memories being surfaced. However, Facebook claims it has developed new ways to filter out memories that may spark negative feelings. Which include failed relationships or people who have passed away.

Helping Ramp Your Nostalgia Up to 11

I must admit I enjoy having Facebook remind me of what I was doing on this day years ago. Memories good and bad can come flooding back. And these changes, which add more memories while helping you filter out those likely to upset you, should ramp up the nostalgia effect.

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Window 10’s Dynamic Lock

Do you ever walk away from your PC and wish you had locked it? Well if you ever do – I have a Windows 10 tip for you!

When Microsoft updated Windows 10 recently it added a new OS feature for Bluetooth-equipped devices. It’s called Dynamic Lock, and lets you control access to your PC based on how close you—and your Bluetooth-paired phone—are to it. That is, if the phone you’ve paired with your PC (it works for laptops, notebooks, tablets and desktops) is not found within radio range of your PC, Windows 10 turns off the screen and locks the PC after 30 seconds have elapsed. Many PC users will probably find this hidden security gem very useful.

Setting up Dynamic Lock

To begin, you must pair your phone with your Windows 10 PC.

To do this, open “Devices and Printers,” then click “Add a device.” Once the phone has been paired with your PC, you’ll see something like this under the “Devices” heading in this control panel widget (here, my iPhone is paired with my Dell Venue Pro 11 7139 hybrid tablet PC).

iPhone paired with Windows 10 PC

When a phone is paired with a Windows 10 PC, an entry like the “iPhone” item shown above appears in Devices and Printers.

Once pairing is complete, you can turn on Dynamic Lock by visiting Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options. Simply click the checkbox under the Dynamic Lock heading that reads “Allow Windows to detect when you’re away and automatically lock the device,” as shown in this screen snippet:

Enable Dynamic Lock

Simply click the checkbox, and you’ve enabled Dynamic Lock! From this point forward whenever you walk away from your Windows 10 PC it will automatically lock after 30 seconds!

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Microsoft Office 365 Deal Alert!

Microsoft’s Office 365 is a great deal for any family. Five members of the family get Microsoft Office 365 and each also enjoy 1TB of OneDrive space. This is usually $100 a year – which is actually a great deal but now Amazon has an even better deal.

Amazon has a one-year subscription keycard to the family-friendly Microsoft Office 365 Home edition for only $80. The normal price for a one-year subscription is $100 at Microsoft, and that’s the price it goes for at other retailers as well.

You can also get a bundle with 365 Personal for just $50, but 365 Personal is limited to just one user. Best Buy does have a bundle that can get you one year of Home for $80 but it includes some other stuff that you may or may not need. This bundle for the same price is also available.

The keycard means this is a digital product. There is no physical disc. Once you buy the product, you will download everything from office.com. Home is designed for people that need Office on more than one PC and can be used by up to 5 different users. If you go for the 365 Personal bundle at Best Buy, that’s limited to just one user on one computer, tablet and phone.

This subscription has a lot of value built right in. Not only do you get access to the five main Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote), you can also get access to certain PC-only programs like Publisher and Access. The subscription comes with 1TB of cloud storage on Microsoft OneDrive, regular updates for all your programs as long as your subscription is good, and mobile apps for working on your tablet or phone.

This deal can be used to extend a current subscription in addition to starting a new one. Office 365 works with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and other Apple products as well, like the iPad.

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Introducing Facebook 360 Photos

Since inception, Facebook users have uploaded over 70 million 360 photos. And of these 70 million 360 photos, exactly zero were taken using Facebook’s built-in camera. Starting today, that all changes. Users can now take 360 videos from the Facebook app itself, and upload them instantly for viewing on their Timeline, in albums, or Groups.

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Previously, a 360 photo required users leave Facebook’s mobile app, open a camera app on their phone, shoot the image in panorama mode, and then re-open Facebook to upload the image. It’s not exactly a prison labor camp, but for a company that strives to keep users on the platform, forcing them to leave in order to use a feature didn’t make a ton of sense.

And if you didn’t feel the Facebook god’s were shining down upon you already, we’ll see a handful of highly-anticipated new features. My favorite is the ability to add a 360 photo as your Cover Photo, but you could just as easily get all warm inside about tagging friends, or zoom.

Here’s how to use it
  1. Open the Facebook app and click ‘360 Photo’ from the top of your News Feed (near the update status icon).
  2. Press the blue button and take your panoramic image.
  3. Select your preferred starting point for the photo, and share.

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Facebook Improves Safety Check

Yesterday Facebook announced that it was updating its Safety Check feature, making it easier to find and more useful for people in dire need. It will now have its own dedicated tab with all information consolidated there.

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According to Facebook’s Disaster Response page:

There’s now a single place to go to see where Safety Check has recently been activated, get the information you need and potentially be able to help affected areas.

Safety Check isn’t perfect — sometimes it prompts people far outside the crisis area to check in.. When it originally debuted, it was for natural disasters, but has since expanded to include multiple different kinds of crises, including terror attacks.

It’s a sad state of affairs that the Facebook Safety Check needs to be more prominent because, in an age of consistent and frequent global crises, more people need it more than ever. But at least Facebook is trying to help..

Facebook will be rolling out the feature over the next few weeks.

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Avoiding EternalBlue

Have you hear about EternalBlue?

Tens of thousands of computers have been hit by two major ransomware attacks in recent months — WannaCry, which took down large parts of the NHS, and Petya/NonPetya, a suspected worm that’s still wreaking havoc across the globe.

At the center of these ransomware outbreaks is a Microsoft Windows security vulnerability called EternalBlue. To keep you up to speed on the exploit here’s everything known so far.

What is EternalBlue?

EternalBlue is the name given to a software vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The tech giant has called it EternalBlue MS17-010 and issued a security update for the flaw on March 14. The patch was issued before the WannaCry ransomware spread around the world and those who had updated early would have been protected.

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The vulnerability works by exploiting the Microsoft Server Message Block 1.0. The SMB is a network file sharing protocol and “allows applications on a computer to read and write to files and to request services” that are on the same network.

Microsoft says the security update it issued is Critical and following WannaCry it released a rare Windows XP patch after officially ending support for the software in 2014.

Can I Check to See if I Have EternalBlue?

Multiple versions of Windows are vulnerable to EternalBlue. “The severity ratings indicated for each affected software assume the potential maximum impact of the vulnerability,” Microsoft says in a statement.

The company’s security page details version of Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows RT 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2016 can all be impacted by the EternalBlue exploit.

The good news is that security group Eset has created a free tool that will check to see if the version of Windows you are running is vulnerable to EternalBlue. “The danger is not in the WannaCry ransomware itself, but in the EternalBlue exploit, which has been using the vulnerability in unpatched Microsoft systems to spread the infection to other unpatched computers,” the company explains.

How Can I Protect Against EternalBlue?

From what is known about both WannaCry and Petya, the MS17-010 vulnerability can be exploited in a number of ways. During WannaCry it was spread through emails and within Petya it is believed, although not confirmed, to have spread through a software update from a Ukrainian company.

The best way to be protected from EternalBlue is to install the Microsoft patch detailed above. This will stop the SMB protocol being exploited even if attempts are made to do so.

Other basic security advice should be followed, including not clicking on links from unknown email senders and not opening attachments where the source is dubious.

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