Technology Advice in Plain English

Conficker Set to Strike


One of the biggest computer worms in recent history, called “Conficker,” appears set to strike on April 1, 2009. No one knows exactly what this worm will do, but you can be sure it won’t be good. If you’re running any Windows operating system (including Mac users who have Windows installed), you could be at risk.

To be sure that your computer won’t be one of the millions affected, please take a few minutes this weekend to protect your computer. First, visit Microsoft’s update page at to make sure that you have the latest version of your operating system and any patches that are available. (Microsoft has released a patch for all the current versions of its operating systems to combat Conficker.)

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Quick Tip: Free Calendars


As you might imagine, it’s rather time-consuming to write the in-depth articles I post to this site about technology news, products and services. I discover things almost everyday, but I haven’t shared many of them, because I just don’t have the time to research them thoroughly, look at alternatives and write about my findings. So in the interest of reducing my work a bit, while still sharing more information with you, I’m introducing a new post format that I’m calling Quick Tips.

Quick Tips will be short posts on simple things you can do and/or use to make life a little easier. These will include websites that offer great services, simple tricks or shortcuts you can use on your computer, cool online freebies and other worthwhile tech discoveries. I hope you’ll find them helpful!

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Putting Your Photos to Work for You


I posted a short article on my personal blog yesterday about how one of my photos had been discovered on Flickr and chosen for inclusion in an online travel guide on Amsterdam. It was a nice surprise for me, and, since the online guide will include a link to my photos on Flickr, it will likely increase the number of people who see my photos.

The experience led me to think more about what I do with my photos and what I could be doing with them. I typically shoot photos, upload them to Flickr and other photo sites, make albums of them for my husband and I, and share them with family and friends. But then I just let them sit. Periodically, people will find some of my Flickr photos through searches they’ve done, but otherwise the photos remain on my computer and hard disks, taking up space.

Of course, I love having these photos, and I certainly wasn’t thinking of deleting them. But I started to wonder if there was anything else I could do with them. I now have more than 4,000 photos in my digital photo library, and many of them are travel photos that feature cities and other destinations—and a few of them even resemble photos I’ve seen in guide books and on websites.

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet…


I thought that was one of the big tech questions of late, but I was surprised to find out from some friends that their question was actually, “What’s tweeting?” or more precisely, “What’s Twitter?”

With all the buzz Twitter receives in the tech world, I assumed that everyone had heard of it and that I was a relatively late adopter. (I created a personal account in December 2008, and I created a TechKathy account in January 2009.) And while it has taken me a few weeks to understand what all the fuss is about, I have to confess that I’ve grown to like the service.

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Protect Yourself from Windows Worms


More than three million Windows computers around the world have been hit by a malicious worm, but your computer doesn’t need to become one of this growing number. Just a few simple steps can protect you and save you hours of trouble.

A computer worm is a self-propagating piece of malicious software. Computer worms use networks (like the internet) to send copies of themselves out to other computers on those networks. Since no action is necessary on the part of computer users for a worm to infect their systems, users are often unaware they’ve been infected, and they unwittingly allow the worm to infect other users.

On Friday, the BBC reported that, in this particular case, “the malicious program, known as Conficker, Downadup or Kido was first discovered in October 2008.” Microsoft released a patch specifically to stop this worm from infecting machines, but it remains a problem because many owners of Windows computers have not downloaded and installed this patch.

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