Tech Tip of the Week: Using a Password Manager

Whether you’re reusing passwords (a definite security risk) or trying to keep track of a multitude of passwords (a definite sanity risk), a password manager is a great help.

I finally reached the tipping point with passwords a few months ago. I had been using an encrypted file to keep track of passwords, but it just became untenable with multiple devices. I also wasn’t happy with the lack of complexity of the passwords I was using.

After some research I settled on LastPass, a free utility that is web based with apps available for iOS and Android OS. Once I came up with one super-strong password (the “last pass” I’ll have to remember), I set it up to generate random passwords for some sites, and left other (less important) sites as they were.

Things I love about LastPass

  • It’s really easy to have it remember and retrieve passwords when I’m using a computer browser.
  • My passwords are (securely) accessible from any device I use.
  • The security level is highly customizable.
  • I can designate certain passwords to be shared with other LastPass users–my family for instance, can use their own LastPass account to access my Verizon password, so they can log into our shared family plan. This feature requires one person (me, in this case) to buy the premium service, which costs me $12 per year.

Things that I don’t love about LastPass

  • It’s a bit cumbersome on my phone. While the new version provides its own browser that will automatically invoke LastPass when needed, that doesn’t help with apps that require passwords. Getting to my LastPass passwords from an app on my phone requires launching the LastPass app, copying the password, pasting it into the password field, and then going back and clearing out the clipboard so the password can’t be pasted in again.
  • The base settings for LastPass aren’t as secure as I’d like (it stays logged in too long, for instance), so I spent some time tweaking them to my liking.

Choosing a Password Manager
When you’re choosing a password manager you should consider several factors:

  • It should use at least AES 256 encryption.
  • It should be able to generate random, secure passwords for you.
  • It should work on all the devices you use to access secure sites–your smart phone, tablet, and computer–and any browser.
  • Two-step authentication is a security feature that makes it more difficult for someone to break into your password vault.
  • If you need to share passwords with friends or family, can it do that without compromising passwords that are just for you?
  • A helpful rundown of password managers can be found at,2817,2407168,00.asp.
Blogger PostDeliciousTumblrFacebookTwitterRedditGoogle+Share/Bookmark

02. October 2014 by Kate, School Support Specialist
Categories: TechTips | Comments Off

Tech Tip(s) of the Week: A Triplet of Thunderbird Tiplets

A lot of Thunderbird’s settings can be tweaked to suit your preferences. Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Put your reply above the text you’re replying to.
If you reply to a message and include the text, Thunderbird’s default setting is to put your reply below the message you’re replying to. Most of us want our words on top, and it’s pretty easy to do:

  1. In Thunderbird, select “Tools→Account Settings.”
  2. Click on “Composition & Addressing.”
  3. Switch the “Then” option to “start my reply above the quote.”

Automatically add “” to email addresses
It can get old typing “” over and over again. To have Thunderbird add it automatically if you don’t put an “@” in the address:

  1. Select Thunderbird→Preferences (Mac) or Thunderbird→Options (PC).
  2. Click on the “Advanced” icon.
  3. On the ribbon below, select “General” (note that there’s a General icon above as well, which is a little confusing).
  4. Click on “Config Editor…”
  5. Promise to be careful.
  6. In the search box type “autocompleteTo”, which should select only one item, “mail.identity.default.autocompleteToMyDomain”.
  7. Note that the Value is set to “false” by default. Double-click on it to change it to “true”. This will tell Thunderbird to autocomplete addresses with “” by default.
  8. Close up the windows, agreeing to save changes if prompted.

Have Thunderbird always display your mail quota
By default Thunderbird will display the percentage of your email quota that you’ve used only when it gets above a critical threshold. If you’d like to be able to keep an eye on your quota all the time you can have it displayed in Thunderbird’s bottom status bar:

  1. Select Thunderbird→Preferences (Mac) or Thunderbird→Options (PC).
  2. Click on the “Advanced” icon.
  3. On the ribbon below, select “General” (note that there’s a General icon above as well, which is a little confusing).
  4. Click on “Config Editor…”
  5. Promise to be careful.
  6. In the search bar type “”. This should list just one item, “”.
  7. Double-click on the listed item, and change the number displayed to zero.
  8. Click “OK” to save the changes, and close up windows, agreeing to save changes if prompted.
  9. Quit Thunderbird and then start it up. Click on your Inbox (it sometimes takes a few seconds or a couple of tries) and you will see your quota displayed in the bottom right corner. Note: if you don’t see the status bar on the bottom of your window, turn it on using the View→Toolbars→Status Bar menu item.

25. September 2014 by Kate, School Support Specialist
Categories: TechTips | Comments Off

Tech Tip Extra: Update Info for iOS 8

ios8Apple released iOS 8 yesterday for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. Here’s what we know so far about the update process…

  • Backup your device to iCloud or iTunes before beginning.
  • The update process takes about an hour and a half. There’s a download and preparation process, then a verification process, then the installation.
  • It requires a button press in between the download/prep and verification/installation process, so you can’t just start the download and come back to a completed install.
  • It may require as much as 4.6 GB of free space on your device to install (this is for the install process, it won’t use that much when it’s finished installing). I found that it didn’t warn me about insufficient space, instead it just failed the install. To check your space use Settings->General->Usage.
  • If the installation fails you will need to use iTunes on a computer to restore the device. Don’t start the update if you don’t have access to iTunes on a computer.

As of this writing I have updated five devices: two iPad 3’s, two iPhone 5S’s, and an iPad 2. The first 4 installed with no problems but the iPad 2 had to use iTunes Restore to install iOS 8, and iCloud to restore the iPad. Your mileage may vary.

For a more comprehensive look at iOS 8, check out

18. September 2014 by Kate, School Support Specialist
Categories: TechTips | Comments Off

Tech Tip of the Week: Six Signs it is a Scam

It must be phishing season–several examples of scam emails have come my way this week. Here are six clues to look for to figure out if it’s legit Hampshire email.

Those of you who have been here a few years will remember how many scam emails we used to get. That number has gone way down, largely thanks to the efforts of our system administrators. There are always going to be holes in our net, though, so one or two phish may find it to your inbox. Here are some things to watch for:

  1. The email is from someone not at Hampshire. We send out our own warning messages, and they’ll always come from an address including “”
  2. The email contains links to “hidden” web addresses. If you see a link to a website in email, put your cursor over the link without clicking. While the blue link text can say whatever it wants, if you look down at the bottom of the window you can see where it’s really going to send you to. We always show you exactly where we’re sending you, so the two should match; but even if they don’t, the real location would always be “”.
  3. The email wants you to go to a website because you’re over quota. If you’re over quota, just start deleting, no need to go off to any website other than Webmail!
  4. The email sends you someplace other than to change your password. If your account is indeed “locked” (which is a pretty rare thing), the page at will tell you that and instruct you to call us.
  5. The email mentions the wrong quota size. Our email quota is 2.5GB. That may change, but you can always see what it is and how close you are to it by logging into Webmail at It’s right there at the top of the window.
  6. The email contains gross grammatical errors. Not that we use the queen’s English or anything, but we can usually string together a group of words that include a subject and a predicate. This is becoming less of an issue, though, as scammers get more sophisticated.

If you’re unsure about an email after scanning it for signs, give us a call or send it our way; we’ll be able to tell you for sure. The Hampshire College help desk can be reached at, or 413.559.5418.

18. September 2014 by Kate, School Support Specialist
Categories: TechTips | Comments Off

Tech Tip of the Week: Students Can Now Get Access to Zimbra

Zimbra iconIf you’d like your student workers to be able to access Zimbra calendar system with their own log in, you’re in luck.

Our renewed license for the Zimbra calendar system now includes students. Staff and faculty can enter an IT ticket on TheHub to request access for the student(s) they would like added. Students cannot enter IT tickets, so if a student is putting in the request directly it should be done via an email to

11. September 2014 by Applications and Web Services
Categories: TechTips | Comments Off

Tech Tip of the Week for Staff and Faculty: Having Trouble Printing?

If you’re having trouble printing on the wireless network, check that you’re using “wallace” and that you’ve registered with the network.

There are several wireless networks on campus, including “hampguest”, “gromit”, and “wallace”–but only wallace will allow printing for staff and faculty. If you aren’t having success printing to one of the campus printers:

  1. Check that your wireless network is set to “wallace”.
  2. Once you’re on wallace, use Firefox (or any web browser) to verify that you have network access. If you’re prompted to register for the Hampshire network, enter your username and password, then wait a few minutes. Once you can visit web pages again, try printing.

04. September 2014 by Kate, School Support Specialist
Categories: TechTips | Comments Off

Tech Tip of the Week: Stop Sneaky Software from Slipping In

When you install 3rd party software or updates there will sometimes be add-ons bundled in with it. Stay alert when installing to keep your computer from getting bogged down.

The problem
Oftentimes perfectly legitimate software installations and updates–Adobe Reader, Oracle Java, etc.–will include with them an option to install virus protection software or browser toolbars. The virus protection software conflicts with Hampshire’s virus protection, and should never be installed. The toolbar add-ons take up space in the browser and often change your default search engines; don’t install these, either.

Common Culprits
We regularly see McAfee Security Scan, Norton Security Scan, MacKeeper and the Ask Toolbar installed on computers on campus; we do not recommend any of these utilities. Each of these programs can slow down your computer or cause unexpected behaviors.

How to Keep from Installing “Extras”
There are a few simple steps to keep extra software from slipping in:

  • When you download an application like Adobe Reader from a website, look carefully at the options. If there’s a checkbox for additional software, deselect it before downloading.
  • When you install software or updates, read the screens carefully, looking for check boxes that indicate they’ll install extras. Deselect anything that’s not the specific program you intended to install, and anything that indicates it will change your searching or browsing settings.
  • Sometimes installers will have a “Custom” install option; if they do you should always select it so you can review the options that are being installed. Deselect anything that’s not the specific program you intended to install.

How to Remove Things Accidentally Installed

Removing Firefox Add-ons
If you find that you’ve accidentally installed a toolbar or other browser add-on, in Firefox it’s easy to get rid of it:

  1. From the Tools menu select “Add-ons.”
  2. Click on “Extensions”, and then disable any that are suspicious.
  3. Click on “Plugins”, and do the same.
  4. Close up the Add-ons tab or window, quit and restart Firefox and you should be all set.

If you’ve accidentally installed anti-virus or other non-browser additions you can remove those, too.

Removing PC Extras

  1. From the Start Menu (or Windows Button), select “Control Panel.”
  2. Select “Add or Remove Programs” or “Programs and Features” (if you don’t see one of those choices, first change the menu selection from “Category View” to “Small Icons”).
  3. Look for items that you didn’t add, like McAfee or Norton AntiVirus. Select the program you want to remove, and click on “Remove.”
  4. When you’re done, close up the windows and restart your system.

Removing Mac Extras

    1. In the Finder, from the Go menu select “Applications.”
    2. Look for applications that you didn’t add, like McAfee or Norton AntiVirus. Select the program you want to remove, and drag it to the trash.

Some programs are stored other places and start up automatically when you start your computer. If this seems to be the case:

  1. From the Apple Menu select “System Preferences.”
  2. Click on “Users & Groups.”
  3. If the padlock on the lower left is closed, click on it and then enter your password when prompted.
  4. Select “Login Items” from the tab at the top.
  5. In the list, look for items that you want to keep from starting up. If you see one you want to remove, click on it and then use the “-” button on the bottom left to remove it from the list.

21. August 2014 by Kate, School Support Specialist
Categories: Software, TechTips | Comments Off

← Older posts

Newer posts →