Mr. Modem: It's hard to feel secure when sharing credit-card details

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Mr. Modem


Mr. Modem's sites of the week

IKEA Hackers

This is an interesting site that has as its focus modifications and repurposing of IKEA products. These unauthorized changes may be as simple as adding a cosmetic embellishment, or major changes that require the use of power tools and lots of creativity. The site exists largely due to the contributions of IKEA hackers worldwide who submit their creations with the hope of providing alternative ideas for IKEA. If nothing else, the hacks are interesting and occasionally inspirational.

Kiddie Records Weekly

Browse through classics from "The Golden Age" of children's records. Most of these great recordings were made from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. The objective here is to give parents and grandparents the opportunity to share these children's albums of the past with their own text- and Facebook-obsessed little ones. Every week the site is updated with a new record, including such classics as Puss 'n Boots, The Happy Prince and Tubby the Tuba, which has been renamed Bubba, the Big-Boned Tuba, to be more politically correct.

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I was told that an http (without the stitching) website address is not secure if I intend to use a charge card, and that https means it is a secure website. Is this correct? Should I not trust a website with an http?

Any online financial transactions should be conducted on an https page. The "s" indicates that data is entered on a secure server, so the data transmitted from your computer to the site is safe. Think of it as creating a tunnel from your PC to the site through which your data can pass without exposure to the outside world. It isn't fatal if a site doesn't have that, but any reputable website will use a secure server for financial transactions. It is only the page in which a credit card number or other personal or financial information is entered or displayed that needs to display https.

While it is a good idea to look for the https when transmitting any financial data online, all that means is that your data is being transmitted securely. Once it arrives at its destination, any doofus or disgruntled (or gruntled) employee can leave your data out in the open, print it, save it in an unsecured manner, or steal it. Anything is possible in that regard.

I received a letter from my Internet service provider asking if I want to download a data usage meter. I checked my account and found that my data usage for the last 30 days was 1.86GB, which is far less than my allowable limit of 50GB. Do you think that I should download their data usage meter?

In a word, "No." A data usage meter for you is unnecessary because 50GB is a huge amount of data and your usage isn't even close. By way of comparison, a two-hour motion picture is approximately 1.5GB.

While the heartfelt offer of the data manager is very nice, I would respectfully decline. My philosophy when it comes to software is "the less the better" and to always beware of geeks bearing gifts.

Two of my Taskbar icons have mysteriously changed to a generic form, making them almost identical. How can I change them back into icons that will be more recognizable? I'm using Windows 7.

Click Start and type "icons" in the Search field. From the search results that appear, click to select "Customize icons on the Taskbar." This will provide access to the area where you can then change those icons.

Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem!" each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit

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