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Planning Retirement Online

You can do IT in later life


You can do IT is a regular feature of aimed at trying to help laterlife visitors make the most of Information Technology on or off the web. 

Jackie Sherman who runs the You can do IT Question & Answer section is an IT trainer and author. Jackie has spent her career in education and specialises in teaching IT to adults. Her courses for adults include such topics as MS Office, the Internet, e-mail and basic web page authoring.  

Jackie has also written several books - you can find more details about these by clicking here. Jackie has also been running a course specifically for over 50s.

Via Jackie aims to particularly help those new to IT and the web to build up knowledge and confidence, so no question is too basic. At the same time she will cover Q&As for the more experienced user. 

So if you would like to ask a question of Jackie, or if you have discovered something which may be of interest to others in making the most of the web, then she would love to hear about that too. Why not email her


December 2009 



Getting the most from your computerAs safety over the Internet is becoming more and more worrying, I think it is time to re-examine the logging in process, which is meant to be a good way to keep your personal data secure.

Usernames and passwords

Once you start using your computer, you will find you are often asked to register. This means supplying two names/codes which are combined to identify you and allow you access to secure parts of the system. This can include a bank account, e-mail account, shopping account or simply your own area on a networked computer.

The most important thing is to remember them and type them accurately, or you will be denied access. Having registered once, every time you revisit the site or want to start a computer session, you must enter both names/codes in a process known as logging in. You may be able to allow your computer to remember the details by clicking a reminder checkbox, but do NOT do this on any public computer. If you ever forget to log out – the next person sitting down will have access to all your information!


This is also known as the account name, UserID or ID and is usually in the form of your email address or abbreviated first name and surname, perhaps with the addition of numbers e.g. bilbo_baggins, bilbo123 or b.baggins256. (Occasionally, for example on a chatroom site, you will also choose a Nickname which is simply a familiar way to be identified, but this is not usually part of any security system.)

When registering for the first time, have a few alternative names ready when asked to enter your preferred username. This is because, if you have a common name, someone may already have claimed the straight-forward username and you will be offered an unwieldy alternative.

Type in upper or lower case letters, it doesn’t matter, but don’t forget the underscore or full stop. You usually cannot leave spaces between words, and the punctuation symbols allowed will vary depending on the system.
You will normally use the same username for many different websites – especially if it is your email address - and it will be well known to others.


This is NEVER divulged, and should be changed regularly. It should be reasonably long e.g. 6 or more characters, and usually a mix of letters, numbers and punctuation symbols. It is case sensitive i.e. if it starts with capital D, it must do so each time it is typed.

Do NOT use the same password over and over again. Once it has been identified on one site, criminals can use it across the Internet.

When you type the password, you will only see •••. This prevents anyone who is nearby from seeing what you are typing. (But this can also make it easy to type it incorrectly, so when typing a password it is a good idea to slow down and make sure you enter it accurately.)

Very often, you will be asked to supply the answer to a basic question e.g. your maiden name, favourite food, family pet etc. when you first register. This is so that, if you forget your password, the answer you give will identify you as the true owner of the username and you may be able to continue into the system.

The major problem with passwords is the need to keep changing them. This is because unscrupulous people spend a great deal of time trying to break into secure areas and passwords can easily become compromised.
Try to use words that other people will find hard to guess, and DO keep a note of the changes each time – although don’t leave these anywhere near the computer or where people can find them.

One solution is to change just one or two characters in a password which you can then safely write down. Someone finding 6X will be none the wiser, but you will know that your password now reads sPell6Xt. Next month you could use 5Y and the password becomes sPell5Yt etc.


View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers

For a wealth of books on the web and IT generally, visit Amazon and under the books section select Computers and Internet.

Don't forget to visit the general laterlife features section called laterlife interest


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