Q&A - 2018

Freeing up Disk Space
(12-Oct-2018)

Disk Cleanup At the October Q&A Session, we discussed using the Windows built-in utility “Disk Cleanup” (Windows 7 through 10) or the Windows 10 Settings app (Settings | System | Storage | Free up space now) to free up space – sometimes up to 35 GB or more – on your computer. If using “Disk Cleanup”, be sure to click the “Clean up system files” to get the largest number of options for cleaning up. Carefully read the descriptions to choose the options that are right for you. Two of the options that may be there that can free up the largest amount of space are “Previous Windows installation(s)” and “Windows Update Cleanup” More details are available in the newsletter article: Freeing Up (lots of) Disk Space! Ottawa PC News; p.1; April 2019 (1.5 MB PDF)

How do I prevent a web site from redirecting me to their Canadian version?
(12-Sep-2018)

Such redirection likely occurs due the web site identifying (from your IP address) that you are located in Canada – and deciding, therefore, that you must want Canadian content! A possible solution is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and to select a server located in another country, thus making it appear that you are based in that country.

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) “owns” the IP address assigned to each of their users, and all IP addresses owned by the ISP are presumed by any remote web server as being in the same country as that of the ISP. So, if a web site interrogates a user’s browser request, it will identify the user’s IP address as being based in Canada.

If the user implements a VPN, the VPN software encrypts the data for each browser request and routes the traffic through the VPN’s server, before sending it on to the target web site. The encryption process is the primary reason for using VPN’s; however, there is a second feature that can be useful. Since the target web site is receiving data from the VPN’s server, the IP address associated with the request is attached to that server. Most VPN’s offer servers in various parts of the world. Consequently, subscribers to a VPN service can select any one such server and so have it appear that their computer – based on the VPN server’s location – is located in another country. For example, if the VPN’s server is located in Dallas, Texas, then the user’s IP address will appear to be an IP in the United States.

A number of VPN’s offer free versions of their software that can be useful, at least to explore the features that a VPN might provide. Most free VPN’s have limitations over the features that their paid-for cousins provide. Generally, this comes in the form of a data cap (of perhaps 500 MB of Internet traffic in any given month), a reduced number of servers and locations to choose from, and/or limited transmission speed.

Some suggestions for free VPN’s are as follows:

 
In addition, it was noted that the Opera web browser has a built-in VPN feature:

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities
by Chris Taylor and Alan German (24-Jan-2018)

Two CPU vulnerabilities – Meltdown and Spectre – have recently been identified that affect most modern computers. The exploits potentially allow access to the operating system’s kernel memory. An attacker can use such exploits to obtain such things as passwords, cryptographic keys, or any other personal data on your computer. Intel, computer manufacturers, Microsoft, and other software developers are all rapidly producing patches for CPU microcode, operating systems, and browsers. Linux systems are also at risk from this hardware-related issue and similar solutions are available (e.g. see the Security Notice for Linux Mint). Make sure that your computer is up to date with all security measures, including your anti-virus software. Steve Gibson (Gibson Research Corporation) has created a free tiny utility that can check for your machine’s vulnerability to Meltdown and Spectre. Download the program from https://www.grc.com/inspectre.htm. The program does not need to be installed. Simply, run inspectre.exe and the utility will instantly display the patch status of your machine with respect to both Meltdown and Spectre, and give an indication of how the CPU performance is being affected by the patch(es). Inspectre