Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Lastpass Free Password Manager - Getting Started

You want to use a password manager and you're ready to download it. What do you do next?

Download Lastpass Password Manager

Keep those passwords safe
Geralt, Public Domain, via Pixabay
So, you've finally decided to get serious about your online security and start using a password manager?

Well, you can't go wrong with Lastpass.

Ok now, I'll admit I'm biased towards Lastpass, but that's because I'm a very happy "pro" user.

If you haven't read my previous article on why you should use a password manager, then go read it first and come back when you've finished there!

The instructions here will be based on Lastpass, but will be similar to other password managers you can find online.

Step 1: go to https://lastpass.com/ and download it (it's free).

When you click the download button, you'll be offered a different installer, depending on what platform you are on (PC or Mac, etc) and which browsers you use.

The easiest choice is the binary installer, which will automatically sort out your machine and all your browsers, in one go.

However, if you aren't allowed to install programs on your computer - if, for example, you are on a locked down work PC - then there are browser add-ons available instead.

Installing And Registering Lastpass

Once you've got that installer in your hot little mitts, the next thing to do is install it.

That's not much more than a double-click away, but the wizard will take you through a few steps, to help get you set up.

One of the the first things it will do is ask you to create a user account, with a strong password.

Lastpass will give you some guidance on this and will let you know just how strong your password is.

The trick is to make sure you come up with something that is both memorable and strong.

You can of course, change it later, but it's worth taking some time to think it over, before you start.

If you can get this step right, then everything else will fall into place much easier.

Why is this so important?

Because once you've memorised your master password, Lastpass will do everything else for you.

- you don't need to remember your Facebook password, because Lastpass will fill it in, on your behalf.

That will feel a bit weird at first, but trust me, it's a whole lot more relaxing, in the long term.

To that end, the Lastpass installer will ask to trawl through your browser settings, to see if you have any passwords stored there.

We've all seen those little prompts, in Internet Eplorer or Chrome, when we log into a website.

"Would you like me to remember that password for you?", it says, innocently.

Many of us think that's handy, but don't realise that those passwords are often held unencrypted (as plain text).

Anyone could therefore look at the files where they are stored and get into your personal accounts.

Lastpass will happily grab them all, save them in its database - encrypted this time - and delete them from the browser files.

I recommend you say, "yes", to allow Lastpass to make a clean sweep of your system.

If you let Lastpass do that first step, you're well on your way and the rest of the install will complete in short order.

Inside The Lastpass Vault

You've now got a set of websites saved in there, but how do you use them?

First of all, let's have a look inside the database, our friendly password manager calls it the "vault".

Find the Lastpass icon at the top of the browser window (see image, right) and click on it.

Lastpass Options
You'll be asked to log in and you can tell the program to remember your user name and/or password, if you want.

- Just be aware of whether you are on a home, work or public computer, before you make a choice on this!

Once logged in, the Lastpass icon will turn red (unless you're using Safari, in OS X Yosemite, in which case it becomes a grey star).

Click on it again and you'll see a load of different options (see image, right).

Ignore them all for now and click on the top one, My Lastpass Vault.

Assuming you imported some websites, you will see a list of them (image, below right).

The cursor will be located in a search box at the top of the screen.

Just start typing and the list will filter down to your search criteria.

Websites in Lastpass
Hover the mouse over the name of your favourite website and it becomes a hyperlink.

Try clicking and the page will open in a new tab and Lastpass will automatically log you in or fill out your password, depending on your settings (auto-login, by default).

Now close that tab and go back into your Lastpass Vault.

On the right hand side of the Vault you will find some icons under the Actions section (see image, right), where you can edit, share or delete a website from your vault.

The most useful thing to show you right now, is if you click the Edit button and look at the displayed dialog.

Click under Advanced settings and you will see 3 tick boxes (image, below).

The one we are interested in is Autologin.

When unticked, Lastpass will fill out the password form for you, but it's up to you to click the "Submit" or "OK" button.

When ticked, then Lastpass will login for you, with no prompting required.

Top Tip: Autologin and Multiple Accounts

Most of the time you'll leave Autologin ticked.

However, if you have multiple accounts for the same website, then un-ticking Autologin will allow you to choose which account to use.

For example, I administer several GMail accounts - a couple for me and some for my wife and kids - so I have them all set up in my Vault.

When I go to the GMail login page, Lastpass puts a little number next to the password box, saying I can choose from x many accounts.

I click the number and see a list of e-mail addresses: I select the one I want and Lastpass fills out the details for the correct account.
This site has only 1 account

Setting Up Your Sites In Lastpass

Ok, so that's your Vault, which comes in useful from time to time, particularly when you have lots of websites saved.

Remember though, you don't have to use the Vault to access your websites.

You can go straight there, via a search or bookmark and Lastpass will still fill out the details for you.

It's clever like that.

But how do I add all my other sites?

Well, I'm glad you asked me that.

While we're in the vault, you may see the option to "Add Site" in the top left hand corner.

You can use this option if you know the exact URL of the site, but fret not, there's a much easier way, which I'll show you next.

Just follow these instructions and you'll be golden:

  1. Navigate to the website in question
  2. Enter your user name and password when prompted
  3. Lastpass will detect that you have logged in to a new website and show a prompt at the top of your browser window
  4. Choose to Save the site and you'll be shown another dialog
  5. If you want to, add the site to a folder in your vault, or type some notes, then click Save

Job done!

Lastpass will take charge next time you go to that site.

It's up to you whether you want to go through and store all your websites in one go, or if you want to do it gradually over a couple of days.

Either way, you'll soon come to rely on Lastpass to remember your passwords for you.

Registering At A New Website With Lastpass

My last tip for today, is what to do when you sign up for a new service online.

You can fill out the usual forms on the website in question, but Lastpass has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

One of those is the "Fill Forms" function, which I don't have enough space for here.

I will try to look at that option in another post, but an even better one is Generate Password.

Go through the process of registering your user name or e-mail address, but now have a look at the password box.

Hopefully, you'll see a little icon, looking like a padlock with a circular arrow, like this:

Click on it and you'll get another small dialog with a random password, all ready to use.

If you want to have a little fun, click the button next to the password a few times, to see a series of random passwords pass before your eyes.

Otherwise, just click the Use Password button.

You'll be asked to save the site in your vault, just like you did with your existing websites.

Then you'll be returned to the original page and you can click the Register/Save button to add your new, shiny account.

Talking 'Bout My Password Generation

I can't stress enough how much easier my digital life has become, since I discovered the Generate Password feature.

It takes all the worry out of thinking up new passwords and trying to remember them.

Since the generated passwords are completely random, they are extremely difficult to hack, so it gives me extra peace of mind.

Even when in doubt about a service, it is so easy to go and change an existing password that it'll soon become second nature (see my articles here and here for examples).

It brings us eerily close to Lastpass' marketing blurb that the password to your vault is "the last password you'll ever need".

I say "close"...

My only word of caution, is that certain services rely on e-mail accounts (such as GMail) to recover their passwords.

You may therefore wish to keep such an account with a more memorable, non-random, (but strong!) password, in case of dire need.

You can of course, access Lastpass offline, but call me paranoid, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Next time, I'll talk about how to take your Lastpass experience to the max, with increased security for your valuable passwords and more ways to make your life easier.

My question for you today is:
What password manager are you using and how easy was it to get set up?

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Xbox Versus PS4 Comparison

Why I Switched Platform

As gamers make the switch from one generation of consoles to another, many of them are also switching allegiance from one technology company to another.

In the new era of gaming, will you prefer Xbox or Playstation?

From Xbox To PS4

Playstation Defectors
Playstation and Xbox Booth
Source: Gage Skidmore, CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr

I recently read an article, stating that at least a third of new Playstation 4 owners have switched from the Xbox console, as they made the transition from the last to the next generation of gaming.

I'm one of those switchers and so far, I'm very happy to report that the PS4 does everything I expected of it, and more.

I have read one or two reviews by people who migrated the other way, but on the whole, there do seem to be more folk going from Microsoft to Sony, in the current console mash up.

This made me ask the question, why is this happening?

The two machines aren't massively divergent, being based on similar PC-style hardware, but they are pitched at two quite different audiences.

Here's why I made the switch.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Why Everyone Should Use A Password Manager, Like Lastpass

Lastpass remembers your passwords for you and gives you the best of both worlds - security and convenience.

Keep Your Password Safe: Security Or Convenience?

Padlock, via Pixabay
Remember when you first signed up to Amazon or Facebook?

As for many other website, you had to choose a password.

Do you remember it?

Even if you do, what about all the other sites you signed up to since then?

Well, if you can't remember every password in your "list", then it's time to stop trying.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Migrate To Mac With Parallels For Mac

How a 30-year PC pro, used Parallels Desktop for Mac to migrate from PC, in just 1 day (more or less).

Transferring files from the PC to the Apple desktop was easy peasy, but what to do with Windows programs?

What about MS Office, or those programs that don't exist in the Mac ecosystem?

Why Migrate To Mac?

"My new iMac", by Kansir, CC-A 2.0, via Flickr
Once upon a time in a small town south west of London, I received an iMac from a friend.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Simplenote And The Case Of The Disappearing Note Text

Simplenote has an intermittent issue with text disappearing from notes, but a third party app may be the cause.

Trouble In (Writing) Paradise

Pencil Buddies, by Taco Ekkel, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr
Problem with disappearing text in Simplenote?

Here's one possibility as to the cause.

I've had one or two "hiccups" in my writing life recently.

One of those hiccups has been the demise of Squidoo and the other has been an issue in Simplenote.

Simplenote is a note taking application which I sometimes use for quickly typing up blog posts and book chapters when I am away from my home desktop.

Friday, 15 August 2014

How To Make Disqus And Blogger Work Well Together

Blogger and Disqus work well together - once you've got it configured correctly.

I recently posted about changing Timbo On Tech over to the Disqus comments system.

I'm happy to report that it is working well.

I'm not sure whether I am receiving any more comments than before, but the quality of comments appears to be going up and I since the change, I have had zero spammers (long may that continue).

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Blog Changes To Disqus Comments System

Timbo On Tech is now using the Disqus commenting system, making it even easier to take part in the conversation.

Comments Please

You may have noticed that the comments area at the bottom of posts on Timbo On Tech looks a bit different to how it used to be.

That's because I have changed the comment system over from the default Blogger comments to Disqus, a popular third party application.

In this post, I will explain why I made the change and what it means for you, my dear reader.

Don't Panic!