Correction to This Article
The column incorrectly described a security setting on Google's Gmail service. To ensure an encrypted log-in, Gmail users should click the "Always use https" button on the general-settings page.
Fast Forward

Help File: Security On Public WiFi Networks, Video Cables Defined

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, May 10, 2009

QI used the free WiFi on the Vamoose Bus to New York, but I was leery of somebody recording my passwords so I only visited sites that did not require a login. Was I being too paranoid?

A If you log in at sites that use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption -- as shown by a lock icon in your browser's toolbar and, often, a site address beginning with "https"-- your login should be safe. At these pages, your browser will encrypt your username and password using a key provided by the site.

Any other traffic, however, could be snooped on by a lurker on the same wireless network.

(Note that you may need to select a secure login at your Web-mail service. For example, Hotmail users need to click the "Use enhanced security" link before signing on, while Gmail users should click the "Always use SSL" button on their general-settings page.)

Even with an encrypted login, however, you can face a different security risk: shoulder surfing. Make sure nobody's gawking at your screen from an adjacent seat.

Can you give me a simple explanation of all the cables necessary for high-definition video?

There are many ways to connect a video source to a screen, but you only need to worry about three on an HDTV. Analog component video cables have a trio of red, green and blue plugs; you should only require them for some older devices. VGA cables, useful for hooking a computer up to an HDTV, have trapezoidal plugs.

Most HD sources, however, use HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connections, which carry both video and audio over a single digital cable with flat plugs at each end.

Ignore composite (a thin cable with a yellow plug) and S-Video (thicker, with a black plug); those inputs don't support HD video.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Visit for his Faster Forward blog.

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