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KELLNER: New Year’s resolution: Back up, run off phishers

- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

It's still early enough — isn't it? — to offer some computing resolutions for the new year? Here goes:

1. I'm going to make backup effortless and automatic. You've heard that song before, but it's now possible to do on Windows and Mac platforms, as well as Linux, I'm told. Mac is easiest with Time Machine, but Windows isn't far behind, particularly in Vista. On one of the Linux pages at About.com (http://tinyurl.com/5qg2cv), I counted nearly 20 solutions.

Regardless of how you do it, your data is just too important to leave unprotected. I can't say that often enough.

2. I'm going to keep an eagle eye on my identity. This isn't narcissism; it's just common sense. Having been a near-victim of a "phishing" scam, I want to make sure things are clean. That means being careful with all e-mail requests for any information/confirmation of my online accounts, banking and what have you. LifeLock.com is perhaps the industry leader in ID-theft protection; it stepped up to help when I was attacked.

ConsumerReports.org, the eponymous Web site of the famed consumer magazine, offers a bunch of tips on protecting your identity, many at little or no cost. You can find the report at http://tinyurl.com/5vlvut, but an advantage of a service such as LifeLock is that it does the work for you.

3. I'm going to keep my software up to date, on all my machines. This can be a somewhat-automated task: Computer makers and applications software publishers (Microsoft and Adobe being among the better ones in the latter category) are providing ways to automatically check for updates on a regular basis. The patches or upgrades download and install quickly via broadband, and you're good to go.

Keeping software up to date - especially Web applications such as browsers and e-mail clients - is another good way to avoid hackers, "phishers" and other nefarious types. It also might save your data from loss if the patch fixes an important flaw.

4. I'm going to learn more about creating better Web pages. My personal Web site, address omitted to avoid further embarrassment, needs refreshing, but 2008 sped right by without a chance for me to do the work. That'll change this year, I hope.

I've had fun with iWeb, the Apple Inc. application for Web page design, but I'm planning to return to RapidWeaver (http://www.realmacsoftware.com) and see how the 2008-released version 4 has improved. RapidWeaver has a loyal fan base, and the program is easy to learn and easy to use.

Of course, Adobe's Dreamweaver is perhaps the industry standard - on Macs and Windows PCs - for professional Web design, and it, too, had a new version appear in 2008. Dreamweaver's user base is huge, and deservedly so. 5. I'm also going to do more with my photography this year. There's more than enough software available - Adobe's Photoshop Elements, for Windows and Mac; Apple's iPhoto, to name just two - that it should be easy and possible to do a lot in terms of enlargements for my office, calendars for friends, or who knows what else? In my view, a key feature of digital photography is being able to share it easily. Whether it's Google's Picasa or Yahoo's Flickr or Apple's MobileMe service, you can upload and share photos with everyone.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.