MadMod Computing The MadMod Computing Newsletter

Vol. 2006b

Welcome to this edition of The MadMod Computing Newsletter.   We hope that you enjoy the features of each issue and learn some computing skills along the way.

First, a reminder to make backups of your important files, and to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.   Second use a software firewall and/or a router if using broadband.   Last, obtain all the critical Windows updates.

Featured in This Issue
1.     Banking On-Line
2.     Securing the Wireless of your Router
3. (website)

1.    Banking On-Line
More than likely your bank has an on-line site that you can log into to manage your accounts.  One of the free services most banks offer on their site is "Bill Paying."  Before using the feature, you'll have to visit your bank with some recent bills for things such as electricity, taxes, telephone, trash pickup, newspaper, etc. so that the bank can get the account numbers for the organizations to facilitate the wire payments.

Once done at the bank, you're set up to pay bills whenever you want--especially when on vacation and on the schedule of payments you want.  Just log into your bank's website, go to the bill payment section, select the account the payment is to come from, the vendors you wish to pay, the amounts and the dates you want the payments made.  The bank takes care of the details, and the best part is that you've saved some postage.  The next business day or so I usually log into the vendors' websites to check if my accounts have registered the payments I ordered.

Some important cautions:  First, use only a computer that is known to be virus / spyware / adware free (probably yours but never a public computer).  Second, type the URL of the bank's site in the address box or click from your favorites or bookmarks list--never from an e-mail link.  The site when it appears should have https:// in its address and clicking on the closed lock symbol should show that the certificate matches that bank and not from a 3rd party payment system.  Last when done, log out and close the browser.

2.    Securing the Wireless of your Router
There are 3 issues with "locking down" the wireless part of your router: router login, SSID broadcast, and encryption.

Router Login:  Typically a new router has a login of "admin" and a password of "password" though read the booklet to discover the exact pair.  I recommend that you at least change the password to something like "mar#4783" for a person last named Marston with a phone number of 796-4783 -- easy to remember though hard for an unwelcome guest to guess.  With the default login and password unchanged, a hacker could change the router settings to suit what purpose they have in mind.

SSID broadcast:  Wireless routers by default usually broadcast their SSID (station set identifier) as the company name of "Linksys" or "Netgear" for ease of setup.  I generally recommend that you change the SSID to something such as "marst796" and disable the broadcast of the SSID.  In this way only users who know the SSID would have a chance of connecting.  Without a broadcast signal, site surveys made on uninvited, nearby computers won't reveal the SSID of your router.

Encryption:  I don't recommend encryption for the average home user.  However, networks involved with a business should probably use as a minimum the encryption called WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).  While a bit of a nuisance to set up, it locks down a wireless system pretty well.  Most 2Wire modems come with encryption by default.  (Use the 10-digit key on the bottom of the unit as the WEP key.)

3. (website
Kiva has the short description of "loans that change lives."  The organization facilitates the making of microloans to needy individuals in at least 7 countries.  Kiva does the arranging of all the details for the loan recipients, the payment system and the accounting.  I've made at least 6 loan amounts for as little as $25.00 per loan through a personal PayPal account.  Thus a loan recipient may have many people sponsoring their loan.  Typically, loans are between $300 and $1800 for a period of about 18 months.  Payback rates by loan recipients average above 97%.

Kiva's microloans are interest-free and are made to individuals who would otherwise have no access to bank loans.  Most of the carefully chosen individuals have been in business already and simply need to expand their business by accessing expanded inventory or equipment.  So check out the Kiva site to see the varieties of businesses and the loan making processes.  Perhaps you'll want to join Kiva.

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E-mail to the editor: David Mawdsley

Copyright © 2006, The MadMod Computing Newsletter