Computer + Liquid = Trouble

Take precautions to keep your computer from getting watered, but if an accident happens be prepared to act quickly.

Prevention is the best strategy. To minimize your risk:

  • Place beverages on a separate surface from your computer and/or elevate your computer above a surface subject to spills.
  • Avoid eating over your keyboard.
  • Never store your computer in a compartment with liquids.
  • Keep an absorbent cloth in your laptop bag or work area, just in case.
  • Recognize that accidents do happen, and back up your data regularly.

If you do spill something on your computer, quick action may save your computer and data from ruin:

  1. Safety first! Beware of the potential for electrical shock.
  2. Shut down the computer immediately. If normal shutdown procedures will not work, press and hold the power button until the computer shuts down.
  3. Unplug the power, external devices and cables and remove the battery if it is easily accessible. Remove any easily removable parts.
  4. Blot up any visible liquid on the surface of the computer.
  5. If the spill is on a laptop, turn the computer upside down with the lid open, to allow the liquid to drain and dry out.  Keyboards should also be turned upside down.
  6. Wipe up the spill.
  7. Do not attempt to disassemble a laptop body to remove internal parts or remove key caps.
  8. Allow your computer to dry undisturbed for at least 24 hours. A nearby fan or hairdryer on low or no heat may be used.
  9. Bring your computer to the Student Diagnostic Center or call the IT Help Desk (413.559.5418). Your computer may benefit from further disassembly and cleaning. Do not attempt disassembly yourself.
  10. Do not attempt to start the computer until you are sure the liquid has had sufficient time to dry.
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Keep your Web Browser Updated

Security features are regularly updated in browsers, and it’s important that they be installed. Web browsers pass confidential information entered by you to the websites you visit, and their ability to keep that information secure may be their most critical feature. Given that, it’s important to keep your browser updated with the latest security releases.

We are particularly interested in getting the Hampshire community to upgrade to browsers that support a security feature called TLS v1.2. It’s a protocol working behind the scenes to keep your data secure as it is passed from browser to website.

Keeping Firefox Updated
Despite the importance of keeping security features up to date, there is a downside to updating browsers too frequently: websites may not be able to keep up with the changing features. We have seen issues like this with Mozilla Firefox, which rolls out new release every couple of months. Mozilla realizes this is an issue, and they have a slower release schedule that you can follow if you use the Extended Support Release (ESR) version; the ESR gives you security updates on a regular basis, but feature releases only come once a year. We recommend Hampshire computers stay current with the ESR version. Firefox has had TLS v1.2 support enabled since version 27; ESR is currently on version 38, and the general release is up to 44.

To check what version of Firefox you have installed use the FirefoxAbout Firefox menu on a Mac, and HelpAbout Firefox menu on Windows. There is an automatic update option in the About Firefox window, and if it works it’s very handy; in our experience it sometimes fails, in which case you can go to https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/all/ for the latest ESR release. (A note to Mac users: if you are unable to copy the new version of Firefox into your Applications folder because you don’t have permission, throw the old version in the trash before copying the new one over.)

Google Chrome
If you use Google Chrome, the default settings are to have it automatically update itself, and we recommend that you keep it that way. Learn more about keeping Chrome up to date.

Apple Safari
If you use Apple’s built in web browser, Safari, it will be updated through the Software Update mechanism–these days this is handled through the App Store application. Note that if you are using a version of OS X earlier than 10.9 then there is no version of Safari available that supports TLS v1.2. If you are concerned, you can switch to a different browser or upgrade your system to the current OS–but the latter option comes with its own caveats and may not be possible on older computers anyway.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
If you’re using Internet Explorer, don’t. Internet Explorer 11 does support TLS v1.2, but Firefox and Chrome are both better browsers.

Microsoft Edge
If you’re using Edge you’re pretty much on your own. Literally. Well, Edge does support TLS v1.2 but we–apparently like most of the world–don’t have experience with it or any compelling reason to switch.

Empty that Inbox

Start out the new year with an empty inbox and a fresh quota by moving your old messages into Local Folders in Thunderbird. It’s quick & easy, and it’s so nice not to be looking at 3,000 messages in the inbox!

Email is usually stored on the mail server, which provides secure storage and regular backups, but also has limited storage space–you have a quota of 2.5 GB for email. We suggest that at least once a year you archive old messages into folders that are on your computer, which both declutters your inbox and frees up quota space.

There are a few things to consider before you do this:

  • Messages that are archived in Local Folders are only available on the computer they are stored on. If there are messages that you need to access from multiple devices, don’t store them in Local Folders.
  • If you don’t have a backup plan for your computer and your hard drive fails you will lose the messages in Local Folders (along with all the other files on your computer).
  • Local Folders should not be used if your email contains highly sensitive information (see our policy for a description of Level III data) unless your computer is encrypted. If you’re not sure whether it’s encrypted, it probably isn’t.
  • If you use another mail client, like Apple Mail, there is a similar capability, but the terminology and steps will be different. We may be able to help you with this if you can’t figure it out.
  • If you use only WebMail to access your email but still want to use this technique, you could set up Thunderbird just to use as an archival tool. We can help with that.

These instructions are for copying a year’s worth of messages into one folder, but there’s no reason you can’t chunk it into a different time period if you like.

  1. In Thunderbird, click on “Local Folders” in the pane on the left.
  2. From the File Menu select “NewFolder.”
  3. Give the folder a name. It’s a good idea to put the year at the beginning of the name, like “2015 Inbox”.
  4. Under “Create as a subfolder of” it should say “Local Folders.”
  5. Click “Create Folder.”
  6. Go up to your inbox, and find the first message from 2015 (or whatever year you’re dealing with), and select it.
  7. Scroll to the last message of 2015, and hold down the shift key while you click on it. You should see the messages in between all highlighted”
  8. From the Message menu select “Move ToLocal Folders”, and select the folder you just created.
  9. Thunderbird will begin moving the messages. There is a status pane at the bottom of the menu that will report the progress, but you can continue to work on your computer while it does it’s thing.

You can use a similar procedure with the messages in your Sent folder–there are often more messages in Sent than in Inbox because we don’t look at it as often.

There, doesn’t that feel better? Now, if only there were Local Folders for my office…

Tech Tip Extra: Unplug for the Holidays

It’s always a good idea to unplug electronics before heading off on an extended break. This will save electricity and protect devices from power surges should the power go off and back on again during the break.

We have seen printers as well as computers and monitors fail from power surges. If you’re the last one to leave the office before break, take a look around and see what is left on or plugged in; write a note to remind yourself or a colleague to plug them back in in 2016.

Have a wonderful break!

My Most Common Question of 2015

This could just as easily be titled “My Most Common Question of 2014”, or 2013…really back several years! Read on to find out what it is.

And the Winner is…
By far the most frequent question I get* is “Why will my phone receive email but not send it?” As soon as someone says, “My phone won’t send email,” I have a pretty good shot of knowing two things about them: they have an iPhone and they just changed their Hampshire password.

If you have an iPhone that receives your Hampshire email but doesn’t send it, and you recently changed your password, the problem is that you have to update your password for both incoming and outgoing mail. Unfortunately, the outgoing password is buried down a couple of levels in the interface. I hope that someday Apple will redesign this setting, but in the meantime here’s what you can do to fix it:

  1. On your iPhone open up Settings.
  2. Select “Mail, Contacts, Calendars.”
  3. Find and select your Hampshire email account.
  4. Select your account again in the “IMAP” section.
  5. If you are receiving email without problem then your Incoming Mail Server Password is correct, and you should look below that for the Outgoing Mail Server. Select “SMTP.”
  6. If you are presented with a list of servers, select the Primary Server at the top of the page, which should be “smtp.hampshire.edu.”
  7. In the Password field on this page enter your new password. While you’re here, doublecheck that your username is your Hampshire username. Other settings should be: Host Name “smtp.hampshire.edu”; Use SSL On; Authentication Password; and Server Port 587.
  8. Back your way out with Done/Account/Done at the top of the page and you should be all set to send email.

The Runner Up…
The second most frequent question I get is “Why doesn’t VPN work on my PC?” VPN setup is complicated, and we compounded the issue by having instructions that appeared to end before all of the steps had been completed. You can find the updated instructions at https://intranet.hampshire.edu/vpn .

*To be perfectly honest the most common question I get from faculty & staff is “When am I due for a new computer?”, but that doesn’t lend itself well to a Tech Tip.

Malware on Mac

We have been seeing more and more malware on Mac computers. Luckily it is usually pretty easy to get rid of, and you can even do it yourself.

If your browser has been hijacked by popups and rogue search engines, or your Mac spends more time showing you a spinning rainbow than letting you type, there are a couple of tools that can help.

Check which Version of the System You Are Running
You will need to know what version of OS X you are running before you can download helper tools. From the Apple menu select “About This Mac” and make a note of the version number.

Malware Help for OS X 10.8 or later
If your computer is running OS X 10.8 or later, download the free Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac and then use it to scan your computer. Have it remove any malware that it finds, and reboot if instructed.

Malware Help for OS X 10.6 and Later
ClamXav is available as a free 30-day trial and will work on system 10.6 and later. It is a good tool, it’s just a little slower than Malwarebytes. One note about using it: before scanning, use ClamXav/Preferences/Quarantine to set up a quarantine folder–otherwise you will have to run the scan a second time to actually remove any infection.

Realtime Scanning
Both of these programs have paid versions that will scan your computer as you use it to guard against malware being installed. We do not generally recommend this on Mac’s because there is a trade-off of computer efficiency that we do not think is yet outweighed by the level of threat. However, if you have repeatedly had infections on a computer that you personally own and want to guard against them you may want to consider one of these tools.

If You Still Have Symptoms
If you still need help with your Hampshire computer, put in an IT Ticket or contact the IT Helpdesk at helpdesk@hampshire.edu or 413-559-5418. Personal computers can be brought to the Student Diagnostic Center on the 3rd floor of the Library; note that the SDC will be closed between semesters.

Detaching Attachments

Ever want to save an email but get the attachment out of your Inbox? Thunderbird will let you detach an attachment while keeping the message.

Detaching is easy:
In Thunderbird, select the message you want to detach the attachment from.

From the File menu choose “Attachments→Detach All…”.

Select the location to save the attachment, and click “Save.”

Confirm that you want to detach the attachment.

Now you have a copy of the attachment saved to disk, but you aren’t using up the extra space in your Inbox for a second copy–and yet you still have the email message.