Friday, February 22, 2013

Considerations when using synchronization services

After I was already home for my very extended Presidents' Day weekend last Thursday (2/14), I got a call from the office. My hard drive was going to be imaged because I was tangentially involved with a project that was being audited. I was not to touch my computer until the following Tuesday! Nothing like a call like that to make one rethink one's notions about privacy.

It is no longer uncommon for employees to use their office computers and Internet access for personal business. My institution's policy can be read as taking personal use as a given and limiting what is allowed rather than assuming it is forbidden except for carefully defined circumstances. ("Managers have the authority to limit the personal use of institutional systems. Such personal use cannot involve access to confidential data, interfere with work responsibilities, or place an undue burden on institutional systems.") Still, the computers themselves belong to the institution and the institution is free to do whatever it wants with them.

My first reaction was, "Go ahead." There's no porn or classified documents, but...but I would have liked the opportunity to scrub passwords from my browser, even though the browser itself is password protected. The notion of having to change every password was a real killer. I probably did not have to change them, but whenever there's even the possibility that a password is compromised, I change it.

And then it hit me...Dropbox! I'd been using Dropbox to simplify my life by keeping my active work files synchronized between my home and office computers. BUT, I'd also been using it to keep my home desktop and laptop synchronized, so a lot of personal information had found its way onto my office computer. There was my will, personal family correspondence, a lot of gospel music and lyrics, photos from last Christmas season,...

As it turned out, all that was needed was an image of the folder containing information about the project under review, but it was enough to make me truly realize and plan for how much work I'd have if the entire drive had been imaged. Dropbox could no longer be used to handle both my business and personal files. The obvious solution seemed to be to add another service so that one could be used to synchronize business files while the other synchronized personal files.

And so, the search began...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sensitive trackpad whose cursor jumps apparently at random under Windows? A solution!

I like my latest Win 7 notebook--i7 processor, 500 GB hard drive. Its Windows score is 4.7, but that's because of the graphics subscore. The processor's subscore is 7.1! I really, really like it...except for the reason I wished I'd never gotten it--the trackpad! I couldn't type a sentence without the cursor jumping all over the place, placing words inside of other words and generally messing everything up. The trackpad is so sensitive that the slightest brush, no matter how light, registered as a tap. I suppose I might have been able to solve things by turning off the feature that registers a tap on the trackpad as a press of the left mouse button, but I've used that feature on every other netbook and notebook without incident. I didn't want to stop using it now.

Salvation came in the form of the free utility Touchpad Blocker, which turns off the trackpad for a set period of time between 0.1 and 3 seconds after a keyboard key is pressed. One of the program's options is to have a bell ring each time the trackpad is stopped. I left it on as an experiment, but I finally turned it off because of how often it was ringing.

The bottom line is that Touchpad Blocker turned this notebook into what it should have been in the first place.