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Keeping Your Computer and Its Contents Safe

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Security

IT'S hard not to experience anxiety when you're traveling with a laptop. A computer can certainly make life easier for travelers keeping an online travel journal, serial e-mailers and those who want to keep up with their jobs. But there are, as every laptop-toting traveler knows, numerous risks: accidental drops during security screenings, theft from a hotel room, loss in a taxi or restaurant or hardware failure from too many jolts.

"Laptops are great because you can take your entire office with you wherever you go, but you need to recognize that your entire office might be lost, stolen or damaged beyond use," said Ann Westerheim, president of Ekaru, a technology services company.

Perhaps the most important safety measure, Ms. Westerheim said, is protecting the information on your computer, so that if it is damaged, lost or stolen, the data remain safe. Travelers now have many backup devices to choose from.

Beside storing your files and data on a removable CD or DVD disk, there is a variety of other portable storage devices. Particularly convenient are flash drives: small key-chain-size plastic devices that weigh only an ounce or so and plug into a computer's U.S.B. port (the port typically used for connecting printers and other peripherals). You can copy your e-mail files, documents, pictures or data files to the U.S.B. flash drive and can then keep the files with you or keep them in the hotel safe.

Lexar makes a U.S.B. memory device, JumpDrive Secure, with one gigabyte of storage, large enough for lots of documents, photos and e-mail ($75.99 at Amazon.com), that includes software that allows only users with a password to download data.

For additional security, there are flash drives with biometric capabilities, like a fingerprint reader that allows access only with a matching fingerprint. For example, ACP makes a U.S.B. memory drive (Security Key Fingerprint Mini Flash Drive, $200.99 at www.compusa.com) with one gigabyte of storage. Other U.S.B. flash drives, like the Relay 512MB ($49.98 from Staples) simply provide portable storage without any additional security capabilities.

Alternatively, you might even want to consider storing or backing up your data files on the memory cards that slip into comparably equipped digital cameras or cellular phones. For example, my Nokia 6230 phone from Cingular accepts standard MultiMedia Cards (SanDisk 256MB MMC Card, $39.99 at www.sandisk.com) that I can remove from the phone and slide into a computer to copy and store files, while my digital camera accepts Memory Stick styles of memory cards. This solution is good for travelers who simply want backup.

Of course, you want to protect the laptop itself, too. A variety of traditional security-oriented devices like cables (just like bicycle locks) for attaching your laptop to something immovable (for example, the Kensington MicroSaver, $44.99 at www.kensington.com), or small motion-detecting alarms that are placed in the bag with the laptop (Targus PA400U Defcon 1, $49.99 at www.targus.com), help guard against theft.

But there is a range of other, more basic approaches for reducing the risk and stress of taking your computer with you.

There is your hotel, for instance. Before booking a room, security-conscious laptop owners should ask what size of room safe the hotel offers or if the front desk is willing to store a laptop in the office safe.

"We all know hotel safes aren't perfect, but they do protect from most thieves," said Brian Beeler, president of NoteBookReview.com, a Web site that reviews notebook PC's. "While the average safe isn't very large, most are large enough to secure 12-inch notebooks and under. Larger machines, especially with wide screens, simply won't fit, reducing your physical security options."

A few hotels have started offering larger safes. For example, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., recently installed a specially designed laptop safe in every room that not only fits newer, widescreen laptops but also includes power outlets so guests can charge their computers (and other devices) while keeping them secure. Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fla., also offers extra-large in-room safes with electric outlets.

"You can also insure your notebook by adding it on to your homeowner's or renter's policy," Mr. Beeler said. "It's often more affordable than the accidental damage policies that computer stores sell."

In some cases, your existing homeowner's insurance policy will cover theft of laptops, with your standard deductible, if it's not being used for business purposes. Safeware (www.safeware.com) offers insurance for notebook computers and includes coverage for accidental damage, theft, vandalism and other problems. The premium for a three-month-old computer that cost $1,500 with no deductible was $90, based on a recent Web-generated quote.

If you don't want to travel with a computer but need access to data, files or e-mail while on the road and have the use of a hotel business center or other Internet source, you can arrange to have your computer at home run a remote access program that's included in Windows XP or through a service like GoToMyPC (www.gotomypc.com), which enables users to gain access remotely to their PC's from any Internet-connected computer. To use a service like GoToMyPC, you register the computer you want to make available on the site, download the remote access host software and install it. To access that computer remotely, you then use a Web-enabled PC to log in to your home PC. You are now able to work as if you were at home. Personal plans for GoToMyPC start at $19.95 a month or $179.40 a year.

And lowest tech of all, travelers can take a simple and inexpensive precaution recommended by Robert L. Siciliano, a personal security and identify theft expert and president of SafeTravelSecurity.com. "I have all my contact information and a picture of me taped to the back of my computer," Mr. Siciliano said. "That way if I leave it somewhere, people can easily identify me and call or page me to retrieve it."

By DAVID A. KELLY
The New York Times

Wow

Has the New York Times slipped into mediocrity or what? Can't wait for that article writer's next report on using a raincoat to stay dry in the rain and how you can prevent being stuck with a flat tire by carrying a spare. His laptop article was complete dribble - can you say "Gosh Mr. Obvious, tell us more"?

re: Wow

lololol... you crack me up!

Hey, and that was the best article on there today. Big Grin

Oh man, news gets so slow on the weekend...

----
You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

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A victory for free software over the "Microsoft tax"

This is a guest post by Marco Ciurcina, a lawyer who worked on this case.

The Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) issued a judgment1 that bans the "Microsoft tax," a commercial practice that discourages users from converting their PCs to GNU/Linux or other free operating systems by forcing them to pay for a Windows license with their PCs. PC producers in Italy now cannot refuse to refund the price of the license to purchasers that will not run Windows.

The ruling definitively concludes the case filed in 2005 against a hardware producer by Marco Pieraccioli,2 with the support of the Consumer Association ADUC,3 and affirms Marco Pieraccioli's right to a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license for the computer he purchased.

The primary reason to insist on using free software4 is because nonfree software deprives the user of freedom, including the freedom to participate in its development. The "Microsoft tax" has no effect on that issue.

The "free" in "free software" refers to freedom. It does not mean "gratis," and copies of free software do not have to be distributed without charge. Selling a copy of one free program or many of them is legitimate.5

However, most GNU/Linux distributions are offered to the public gratis, while Windows is not. Therefore, switching to GNU/Linux offers an opportunity for the secondary benefit of saving money -- a benefit that many Italians would value. The "Microsoft tax" has the effect of abolishing that secondary benefit. Now the secondary benefit must be available.

The ruling applies to more than just Windows. The Court states a general principle that applies to any device with software preinstalled: "...who buys a computer on which a given operational software (operating system) was preinstalled by the manufacturer has the right, if he does not agree to the conditions of the license of the software made available to him at first start of the computer, to retain the computer returning only the software covered by the license he did not accept, with refund of the part of the price that specifically relates to it."6

According to the Supreme Court, any commercial practice that prevents the user from getting a refund "..would clash in different ways with the rules that protect the freedom of choice of the consumer, and the freedom of competition among firms..."7

On the one hand, therefore, the judgment follows the path of the French Courts' case law, that on several occasions stated that the joint sale of hardware and software, without providing for the buyer the possibility to obtain refund of preinstalled software, violates the right of the consumer.8

On the other hand, the Italian Supreme Court states that the act of hindering the refund violates the freedom of competition among firms. This statement of principle is interesting considering that, to date, the antitrust authorities have done little against business practices that "force" the joint sale of hardware and proprietary software. Now they may consider taking stronger action.

The focus of the Court's reasoning is that the sale of a PC with software preinstalled is not like the sale of a car with its components (the 4 wheels, the engine, etc.) that therefore are sold jointly. Buying a computer with preinstalled software, the user is required to conclude two different contracts: the first, when he buys the computer; the second, when he turns on the computer for the first time and he is required to accept or not the license terms of the preinstalled software.9 Therefore, if the user does not accept the software license, he has the right to keep the computer and install free software without having to pay the "Microsoft tax."

Notes:

1 Judgement n. 19161/2014 published 11/9/2014
http://www.italgiure.giustizia.it/xway/application/nif/clean/hc.dll?verbo=attach&db=snciv&id=./20140912/snciv@s30@a2014@n19161@tS.clean.pdf.
2 I had the honor to assist before the Supreme Court Marco Pieraccioli who already had favorable decisions both at first instance (judgment no. 5384/2007 of the Giudice di Pace di Firenze) and in second degree (judgment no. 2526/2010 of the Tribunale di Firenze).
3 See http://aduc.it/.
4 See https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.
5 See https://gnu.org/philosophy/selling.
6 See p. 22 of the judgment.
7 See p. 21 of the judgment.
8 See http://non.aux.racketiciels.info/.
9 The judgment at p. 21 states: "Having been assessed that there are not technological obstacles, the 'packaging' at the source of hardware and operating system Microsoft Windows (as it would for any other operating system for a fee) would actually respond, in substance, to a trade policy aimed at the forceful spread of the latter in the hardware retail (at least in that, a large majority, headed by the most established OEM brands); among other things, with cascade effects in order to the imposition on the market of additional software applications whose dissemination among final customers finds strong stimulus and influence - if not genuine compulsion - in more or less intense constraints of compatibility and interoperability (that this time we could define 'technological with commercial effect') with that operating system, that has at least tendency to be monopolistic".

© Marco Ciurcina, 2014 – Some rights reserved This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or any later version. Read more


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license (or later version)

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