Trails End Computer Club

Bulletin for the week of MARCH 6, 2016

WEEKLY MEETINGS
EACH Wednesday 

Program or Lesson 9:00 - 10:00 AM
One on One Help 10:00-?
In the Library

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS:

If you would like to meet in a small group to discuss special computer related subjects or form a Special Interest Group lets discuss it.

Our bulletin is also available on line by visiting tecc.apcug.org and clicking on bulletin.


Our weekly program or lesson is intended
to be of interest to all computer users.
Following the program an allotment of time will
be available for one on one help to those
who want a better understanding of something done
 during the presentation.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday MARCH 9, 2016 Meeting in the Library
 8:45 AM Set up your computer
 9:00 AM Lesson
10:00 AM One on One help

Meet an Old Friend: Snipping Tool

By Nancy DeMarte, 1st Vice President, Sarasota Technology User Group, FL      www.thestug.org      ndemarte (at) verizon.net

I use a tool almost daily that has been part of Windows through many versions: Snipping Tool. I am surprised so many people don’t even know it exists. Introduced in Windows Vista, it can be found in the Accessories folder in All Programs in Vista and Win 7 and in the Accessories apps list in Windows 8.1. An updated version comes with Windows 10.


What does it do? It is a screen capture tool. I use it to make digital copies of small or large sections of documents or spreadsheets or photos and use them in my articles or tutorials. I capture pictures, objects or text from web pages and copy them into Word so I can save or print. I have used the Snipping Tool more than once to copy an error message from my screen and email it to a tech support person. I have also snipped charts from Excel and added them to PowerPoint slides. There isn’t any limit to what you can capture from your screen with this tool.

B esides being free, this little tool is easy to use. I keep it pinned to my taskbar for convenience. When I want to capture something on the screen, I click the Snipping Tool scissors icon, which opens its main window and shows three commands. Clicking the arrow next to New gives me a choice of four types of snips: Free-form, Rectangular, Window, or Full screen. Free-form lets me use a stylus or my finger on a touch screen to draw around an object or section of the screen. The Rectangular option, by far the one I use the most, lets me draw a rectangle around an area of any size. The Window option makes a perfect clip of an entire window, and Full screen captures the whole screen. If the Snipping Tool window opens on top of an area I want to capture, I just drag the tool window to a different spot before I snip.

L et’s say I want to capture the Editing group on the Home tab of the Word ribbon. I make sure ‘Rectangle snip’ is selected. When I click New, the whole screen turns grayish except for the Snipping Tool window. I click a corner of the Editing group and drag around the area I want. When I let go, the Snipping Tool clipboard opens, showing that my snip has been successful. Now I can choose whether to save the snip, cancel the capture if it is not what I wanted, or copy it directly into a new location without saving. I usually save the snip so I can use it later. I click the Save icon, which opens the Snips folder in my Pictures folder, name the file, choose a file extension from the four available (HTML, PNG, GIF, or JPEG), and click Save.



O ccasionally, I want to capture a view that is not visible on the main screen, such as a drop down menu that requires an extra click to open. Snipping Tool has a way to handle this situation. I open the Snipping Tool and press the Esc (escape) key on the keyboard. Then I open the menu, which minimizes the Snipping Tool. Next I hold down the CTRL (control) key and press the PrtScrn (print screen) key, which leaves the menu open and restores the Snipping Tool so I can proceed to snip the area containing the menu, as shown.

A few features are only visible when a snip has been captured and is on the clipboard. In this view, I have access to a pen with choices of ink color, a highlighter, and an eraser, all of which can be used to add a caption or notes to the snip. Another option is to send a snip directly from the clipboard to an email recipient, either within an email or as an attachment.

There are other free screen capture apps, such as Jing by Tech Smith (for Windows) or Skitch by Evernote (for Windows or Mac). There are also full-featured capture tools for a price, such as SnagIt, also by Tech Smith. The paid tools have more features than the free ones, which often results in a longer learning curve. Snipping Tool is free, simple, and does the job. Plus, if you have a Windows computer, it’s already installed and ready to use.


Book Review: The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld

Reviewed by Jim Scheef, Director, Danbury Area Computer Society, CT

The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld, By Jamie Bartlett, 2015 Melville House, dacseditor (at) dacs.org

Cyberspace, if I may use that term, is often divided into distinct parts. The news media does this every day, providing convenient compartments into which they stuff everything from politicians to television programs to even criminals. The netherworld of the Internet is so far from our frame of reference as typical users, we cannot conceive what it’s like. Of course that does not stop the news media. What we hear about in the news then is just the tip of the iceberg. The Internet’s underworld is actually far worse than the news stories depict. Fortunately The Dark Net is well researched and written with sensitivity to the real people depicted in the stories. The author’s thoughtful analysis makes this book a valuable read for anyone interested in the human side of the Internet. The author lives in the U.K. where The Dark Net was researched and written.

The Dark Net book has seven chapters plus significant Introduction and Conclusion sections. Each of these cover a significant part of the why and what of the digital underworld. The Introduction covers the impetus – what inspired people to write the systems that make it all possible. The cause was and remains liberty – individual freedom. In the 1980’s, as the ARPAnet evolved into the Internet, users realized that this government-sponsored network made possible communication that seemed to be anonymous but in reality is not. Encryption is needed to ensure both privacy and anonymity. Phil Zimmerman provided one of these tools in the form of PGP or Pretty Good Privacy, a program for the exchange of encrypted emails. Ironically, the US government provided the research that led to TOR, or The Onion Router, a system of multiple proxies that first add and then remove layers of encryption making it virtually impossible to trace the origin of Internet packets. TOR was developed to allow secure US military communications. The same technology has been implemented by volunteers all over the world to allow secure and anonymous communication all over the world, Chinese citizens, dissidents and whistle-blowers to mention just a few, can browse the web and communicate securely. Of course it provides these same features to criminals and terrorists. To use TOR you install the TOR browser and you are good to go.

Chapter 1 covers Trolls, the bullies of the Internet. Trolls date back to the formation of Usenet news groups, the original Internet bulletin boards. “Flame wars” soon followed where one or more people posting anonymously attack another user. Today this can be unmerciful bullying or worse. The author covers where a user is “doxed.” This is where the user’s true identity is uncovered and the user’s online behavior posted for the world to see and emailed directly to the user’s family, coworkers and employer. This can literally destroy someone’s life in the “real world”. I cannot give more detail in here; you need to read the book to fully understand the context. The most common trolling we see covered in the news is on social media between junior-high and high school kids. The suicides that can result from this online bullying show the depth of the harm.

We hear in the news about how “lone wolf” terrorists are perhaps the most serious threat facing society today. This is always followed by pundits talking about people becoming radicalized “on the Internet”. In Chapter 2 the author documents online forums supporting both extremes: the nationalists (sometimes “Christian”) on the right and the “antifa” or anti-fascists on the left who compete for control of cyberspace. Both sides use their forums and chat groups to fuel and amplify the prejudice and fears of like-minded people. Both sides infiltrate and spy on the other side. A few of these forums are on the regular Internet, but most can only be accessed using TOR making it essentially impossible for law enforcement to identify and locate these people. The book covers British groups thru the author’s interviews of people on both sides by email and in person. A must-read chapter.

Moving along, we come to the cyberpunks. These are the people who continue to develop new technology to solve problems of privacy and security. In this case security means freedom from state surveillance. The extreme of the cyberpunks are anarchists – the far, far-out end of libertarians. They see the crypto currency Bitcoin as a path to a future where people are totally free to live as they please without the constraints of government.

They may be right! Bitcoin’s ability to allow virtually instantaneous movement of cash between individuals, whether locally or across continents at extremely lost cost can hide transactions not just from governments but from banks as well. Remember that governments cannot tax these unseen transactions. If an entire society were to adopt Bitcoin, it would de-fund government.

Even Bitcoin transactions must be recorded somewhere to prevent a same lump of currency from being spent twice. Any transaction must irrevocably transfer the wealth represented by the Bitcoin from one person to another. This requires that the transaction be recorded in something called the “block chain” but this record does not name the people involved as does a bank check or credit card. [Please accept that this is true as the mechanics of Bitcoin are way beyond this article.] The catch in this process is that at some point, you must buy your Bitcoins with dollars (or other currency) in an exchange. Bitcoins only exist as long strings of seemingly random numbers, so it is not possible to exchange Bitcoins for a national currency like Dollars without using a computer somehow connected to the exchange. These transfers become the anonymity weak points from which Bitcoins can be traced.

In Chapter 3 we learn about Amir, a cyberpunk, and his project “Dark Wallet” which aims to make these transaction points more anonymous. This is a world of mathematics and cryptography that dates back to 1976 when Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman invented the public key encryption that we use every day to keep our online banking and other transactions safe and secure. What we see here is that this and any other technology can be used for both good and evil. Yes, drug cartels can launder money but foreign laborers can avoid the vampire currency exchanges that charge exorbitant fees at both ends to send the laborer’s money to their family back home. Using Bitcoin the family can receive the money directly to a cell phone!

I’m going to skip Chapter 4 where the author discusses the darkest part of The Dark Net: the world of child pornography. I’ll only pass on the author’s finding that child porn had become almost impossible to obtain prior to the widespread availability of TOR. Unfortunately both the market for and the supply of have grown in recent years.

I found Chapter 5 to be the most interesting part of the book. Ross Ulbricht, the person allegedly responsible for the Internet market place, “Silk Road”, was tried and convicted this past February. Except for the charge of attempted murder for hire, most of his crimes centered on excessive capitalistic free enterprise. Before the final gavel bang, several new markets, including “Silk Road 2”, were opening for business in a much more competitive online market. The author makes a strong case for these markets as the safest place to buy drugs.

What is it about eBay that gives us the confidence to buy things offered by people we do not know? Well, eBay keeps track of both the sellers’ and the buyers’ reputations in the form of a “feedback score”. You know to stay away from any seller who has received bad feedback from other buyers. The mere threat of bad feedback keeps sellers honest in the descriptions of their listings. The Silk Road brought this same concept to the world of illegal drugs. A dealer who shorts his customers or misrepresents the quality of the goods does not last long. A clever three party system of escrow ensures that buyers pay and sellers cannot just run away with the money, which, of course, must be Bitcoin. Silk Road can only be reached using TOR, making anonymity “virtually” assured for everyone involved. That virtually part came to an end for Ross Ulbricht after months of investigation by Federal agencies. Regardless of your opinion about whether drugs should be legal or not, Silk Road and its successor markets make buying drugs far safer than “scoring” in person on some street corner. If the “icky” parts of the book bother you, this is one of the chapters you must read.

Chapter 6, entitled “Lights, Camera, Action”, is about another market-based, free enterprise part of the underworld, the world of web-cams where mostly young women provide live entertainment for a fee. I get the impression that most web-cam sites are not porn in the hard-core sense usually associated with the word. Instead entrepreneurial young women earn a few extra pounds (which is the U.K. currency) entertaining regular viewers in exchange for “tokens”. Practiced as described in the book, everyone “wins” and no one gets hurt. Again, this is a chapter you must read.

The last numbered chapter is about websites and forums that are the opposite of self-help. Sites that promote anorexia, cutting or self-mutilation, and suicide all have the ability to make the unthinkable seem not just normal, but desirable. “Pro-ana” sites promote the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. I can’t summarize this here, you must read it.

The Conclusion is a comparison between two men, Zoltan and Zerzan. Zoltan (his real name) wants to live forever. He wears a medallion inscribed with instructions on how to preserve his body for the freezing process he anticipates will allow him to “survive” until his mind can be transferred to computer memory – sort of like the movie Transcendence, but not really. Zoltan is a “transhumanist”. On the other hand, Zerzan is an “anarcho-primitivist”, the Luddite opposite who fears our society is sliding into dependency on technology and wants us to reverse this trend all the way back until society is mostly hunter-gatherers. The fascinating aspect to these polar opposites is that they both describe the same problem – we are destroying our planet. The difference is the solution.

From the conclusion: “It’s their views about human freedom rather than technology that constitute the real dividing line between the techo-optimists and the techo-pessimists. For the transhumanists, there is no “natural” state of man. Freedom is the ability to do anything, to be anything, to go as far as our imagination can take us.” … “For anarcho-primitivists, technology tends to distract and detract from our natural state, pushing us ever further away from what it really is to be free humans. It’s freedom in a radically different sense: a freedom to be self-reliant, a freedom to be human without relying on technology.”

The book is 240 pages plus 68 pages of acknowledgements, notes and suggested further reading. ISBN 978-1-61219-489-9. Released in the U.S. just a few months ago, it is available in book stores, both physical and online. I borrowed it from my local public library.


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