Are Silent Background Updates a Good Thing?

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I have a little philosophical question: what’s the difference between Google Chrome silently updating in the background without me ever giving it explicit permission to do so, and malware updating itself in much the same way and getting new commands to wreak havoc? In fact, I believe Google Earth also updates itself with no explicit permission. At some point, it suddenly showed up in my frequently used programs as a new program even though I already had it. If there’s a clause in the User Agreement that says they can, it becomes a legal issue where the question is whether they can just change the Agreement after a user agrees to a different version of it.

Well, I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to address legal issues. But I bet the agreement probably contains terminology to give them permission to do silent updates.

It’s one of those things about legalese: lawyers can always interpret it in a way that allows them to say you agreed.

The concern I have with your question is that you seem to be very distrustful of these silent updates and consider them akin to malware.

I strongly disagree.

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Can I Add More than One External Monitor to My Machine?

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I own an Acer Aspire 5750 with an Intel HD graphics 3000. I’m currently using it with one external monitor and the laptop monitor. Can I add a second external monitor and have all three monitors working at the same time? The operating system is Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit with 8 GB of memory. I’ve done some searching without success. I’ve sent a request to Acer about a month ago. So far, no answer from them.

I can think of several different ways to add a second external monitor. Not all of them will work on your laptop – that depends on your machine’s capabilities – but some will.

Let’s look at your options.

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Can I Use an External Keyboard with My Laptop?

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I just got a new Lenovo laptop and I’m having the darnedest time typing on it. I’m upgrading from a PC. I used to use this wonderful Windows ergonomic keyboard, which I loved and cherished. I had no issues or problems and I knew where everything was. With all of these newly built laptops now, I’m forced to keep my palms straight and elbows in. I can’t stand it. I constantly miss keys, touching the middle pad thingy. I’m constantly misspelling words, going back and backspacing words because I’ve hit the Enter key instead of the Shift key, cursing like mad. I’m going insane. Is there any way that I can just plug my old ergonomic keyboard back into the USB port, slap cardboard over the laptop keyboard, and go about my regular carefree life? Please say there’s a way!

I feel your pain. My dissatisfaction with the keyboard on my Microsoft Surface prevents me from using it more. It’s not a bad keyboard. I’m sure that it works well for most people. It’s just not particularly suited for my large hands and fat fingers.

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Why Doesn’t Malware Appear in the Add/Remove Programs List?

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I have a page that somehow embedded itself with a corrupt software program that I downloaded from an American university. I understand that this thing is a parasitic browser that provides a route to viral contamination. With the help of Norton, I eventually managed to remove it. Why is there no indication in the Control Panel for removal? Using “search” brought out the offending program, but it did not allow me to delete it. What advice can you give for tracking an unwanted and intrusive browser? The normal Norton 360 failed to protect my laptop, but thanks to one of their online agents, after an exhaustive analysis of the registry, it was removed with a more powerful scan made available by them.

What you’re dealing with is a form of malware. It may not be the malware per se; meaning that it’s not doing anything specifically bad itself, but it’s a vector for malware. It installs itself on your machine, so malware can download without your permission or interaction.

I’ll talk about the malware in a moment. First, let’s talk about the Add/Remove Programs list.

Read moreWhy Doesn’t Malware Appear in the Add/Remove Programs List?

Can Backups of Email Be Hacked?

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Hi, Leo. I’m an engineer in the UK. I’m interested in email security and I’ve read your stuff on email interception. I want to discuss an aspect of this (the backup of email servers) and get your view. Most articles that I come across suggest that intercepting email in transit or in flight over the wire as opposed to radio is hard to do for a hacker. It’s the end points that the hacker is most likely to attack, but my worry is that even in transit, an email is likely to pass through an intermediate email server and those servers are likely to be backed up with a backup possibly being stored off the network. Once this backup has been made, the security of the information content can then be a time independent risk. Such a backup could be read or copied who knows when in the future by who knows who. How much of a threat would you consider these backups to be?

You raise a very good point and it applies to more than just email. This is a very often-overlooked aspect of both email and more general cloud security.

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Is There a Way to Determine which Browser Tab is Playing Sound?

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When I load several tabs, I have no audio sounds at all at first. Then, I suddenly get strange music. How can I trace this audio’s source (short of shutting off tabs one at a time to locate it)? I tried using Task Manager, but I find nothing there. Can you throw any light on this dilemma for me?

If you go to a web page and it starts playing audio without you pushing the Play button, that’s auto play1. It plays audio or video automatically, without you requesting it.

In my opinion, this type of auto play is evil. There are so many reasons why it shouldn’t be used, from startling the user to waking up the baby in the next room. It’s simply bad user design and downright rude. Web pages should not make sound until the user requests it. If you’re a website designer and you use auto play sound, stop it.

Unfortunately, if you’re not the web designer, there’s not a lot you can do.

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How Can I View Two Different Email Accounts at Once in a Browser?

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I’m using Windows 7 and I want to keep my two Yahoo email addresses open just like on my cell phone. But when I sign into the second Yahoo email, it signs me out of the first. Ideally, I want both to be open when I turn on the computer so I can view both at any time.

Surprisingly, this is a common desire. Many people have more than one email address these days. You can use a couple of approaches to do this.

Read moreHow Can I View Two Different Email Accounts at Once in a Browser?

How can I share a single WiFi connection across multiple devices?

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My wife and I travel with two iPhones and two laptops – both Macs. Many hotels have started to charge for internet service per device. Is there some sort of WiFi-to-WiFi hotspot device or some other way to be able to sign on to WiFi so that it looks like it’s all one device?

I’ve seen this in hotels and I really don’t like it at all.

In my opinion, hotels should provide internet to the room and not necessarily care how many devices you connect and for how long. Free WiFi is a wonderful perk. The hotel will recover the cost in your room rate or other charges, but in today’s connected society, it really annoys me when hotels start charging big fees for you to stay connected.

I don’t have a specific one-size-fits-all solution, but I do have a couple of things to try.

Read moreHow can I share a single WiFi connection across multiple devices?