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NEW PC MUST-DO CHECKLIST

Whether your reliable old PC was finally beaten down by the kids this summer, or you are springing for a new laptop for your back-to-schooler, ‘tis the season of new computers. Before you plug and play that new PC, take these steps to ensure your computer runs optimally from the beginning and to protect your investment for years to come.

Step 1: Get rid of the junk programs. Anyone who has booted up a new, off-the-shelf Windows PC can attest to the deluge of junk programs that come pre-installed to the average Dell or HP machine. Widely known as “bloatware,” these are programs that you’ll probably never use. They’re installed mainly because the computer’s manufacturer was paid to install them on your machine. They take up space, slow your system’s boot-up time and compromise performance. Not only that, but they’re really annoying – they pop up all the time, take up your bandwidth downloading updates, and are rarely useful.

The cleanest way to get rid of the junk is to wipe your hard drive and install a fresh version of Windows. It’s the pathway that most tech professionals choose. The hard part for most people, however, is that your new PC probably didn’t come with a Windows disk or even a recovery CD. Most of the functionality of your video card, USB ports and touchpad come from drivers that may or may not be included with Windows. If these functions aren’t immediately restored, you can be stuck spending hours tracking down the drivers you need.

Another option is to use a program called PC Decrapifier (http://pcdecrapifier.com/). Simply download the program and it will automatically sweep your system, identifying likely bloatware and offering you the option to confirm its removal. Continue reading

Can I Disable Tracking Cookies?

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Can I disable tracking cookies? Ok, so let’s talk about cookies, no not the kind you dunk in milk and feeling guilty as hell after you’ve finished the whole bag. No, these are internet cookies, the ones that have gained a rather sinister image.

A cookie is just one or more pieces of information stored as a text file on your machine. A Web Server sends you a cookie and the browser stores it. The browser then returns the cookie to the server the next time the page is referenced.

The most common use of a cookie is to store a user ID. For example, the cookie might contain the following string: ID=4567354.

Amazon.com is one site that uses this technique. When you order a book you fill out a form with your name and address. Amazon assigns you an ID, stores your information with that ID in its database on the server, and sends the ID to your browser as a cookie. Your browser stores the ID on your Hard Disk. The next time you go to Amazon, the ID is sent back to the server. The server looks you up by your ID and customizes the Web page it sends back to you. The page might say, “Welcome back, Joe Smith”

So for the most part cookies are great, especially if you don’t want to type in a password every 30 seconds. But most of us don’t like the idea of certain types of cookies that follow us around from one web-site to another to report to advertisers on what you’re looking at. But there is a way that you can block those “third-party” cookies without getting rid of the useful kind!

Internet ExplorerFor Internet Explorer, go to Control Panel > Internet Options > click the Privacy tab, and either choose a preset on the slider that blocks third-party cookies or click Advanced > checkOverride automatic cookie handling, and check Block under ‘third-party cookies’.

Safari LogoIn Safari, go to Edit > Preferences > Privacy and set ‘Block cookies’ to From third parties and advertisers.

Firefox logoIn Firefox, go to Firefox > Options > Privacy and select ‘Use custom settings for history from the drop-down menu. Uncheck Accept third-party cookies.

Chrome LogoWith Chrome, go to Option > Under the Hood > Content Settings and check Block third-party cookies from being set.

 For any browser, we suggest the free program CCleaner.  Our tech uses it for all the machines in our office and it provides an easy method to clean out your cookies, temporary files and other extraneous space-taker-uppers that your hard drive holds onto.

So there you have it, keeping the good cookies and heaving the bad ones, kind of like the best of both worlds. Got questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. Is there a question you would like us to answer, let us know, we’ll get right on it.

Mac vs Windows 7: the final verdict

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I’m now at the end of my Windows 7 experiment and I have to return the PC users’ suit and tie to the PC Pro cupboard and put on my blue jeans, black turtle neck jumper and New Balance trainers.

It’s been a steep learning curve for me, but not in the ways I thought it would be. I had Windows up and running with all the applications I needed to do my job much more quickly than I thought. I’d arranged my desktop, partitioned the hard drive and worked out the basics in less than a day, and that includes installing the software. Continue reading

Cleaning Your Computer

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series cleaning

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Is your computer making noises or humming? Is dust collecting visibly on the external fan surface? Is your machine running hot or shutting itself down for no apparent reason? Have you gone more than two months without cleaning your machine? If you have answered yes to any of these questions it may be time to clean your machine.

Dust inside your computer can lead to component failureRead More, fan failure, and slow performance. Keep your machine running smoothly and safely by taking the time to dust the interior. Don’t wait until a fan dies and your machine overheats with possibly irreversible damage to your hard drive, video card or motherboard.

Most people take the maintenance of their software seriously, running virus scans and installing protective software to guard against viruses, malware and trojans. In fact we highly recommend Microsoft Security Essentials to all of our clients which is absolutely free, made to integrate with your Windows operating system and easy to use. But when it comes to the hardware most people do not think about it until it is too late or they are intimidated by the thought of taking their machine apart. Continue reading

How to Protect Your Computer During a Thunderstorm

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Education

Each year computer technicians are flooded with repair requests from customers whose systems have been damaged from thunderstorms, some of which will be irreparable. Damage during a thunderstorm can be prevented by anyone willing to take a few preventive steps.

Surge Protectors:
Surge Protectors contain a fuse or a breaker that is designed to blow or tripRead Morewhen coming into contact with an electric surge. With these devices you literally get what you pay for in protection-some surge protectors come with a guarantee to replace any items that are damaged by surges while plugged into the device. Invest in the best one you can afford.

UPS (Universal Power Supply):
A Universal Power Supply is a step up from a surge protector in terms of protection. UPS devices not only protect your computer from surges but also work to prevent unexpected shutdowns due to power dips and outages. For instance, if your computer were writing information to its’ hard drive when the power was suddenly shut off that information will not get saved-and your hard drive could be damaged by being interrupted during such a sensitive process. A case of data corruption may prevent Windows from being able to load, forcing you to reinstall your operating system and possibly lose precious files as well. Worse-case scenario can result in a failed hard drive as the sensitive drive electronics are interrupted during the write process. A universal power supply will not only protect your computer from power surges during a thunderstorm but will also enable you to gracefully save all of your open files and shut down your computer properly during a power outage, protecting your system from damage.

Knots in the Power Cord:
Some people have learned the hard way the damage that could be wreaked from thunderstorms. Here is one old tech trick. Tie five overhand knots in your power cords, spacing them an inch or so apart. Do the same thing for phone cords as well. The jolt of electricity will burn itself out traveling back over itself, frying the electric and phone cords but sparing your computer. I wouldn’t swear by this method but have heard of some people who have had a couple of scorched phone cords after thunderstorms but did not lost a single modem or computer. I honestly do not know the technicalities of how this one works; only that it is one tech trick that is could be rather effective.

Disconnecting your Computer:
The best way to protect your computer during a thunderstorm is to disconnect it entirely from the electrical system in your house. Unplug your computer from the wall outlet and make sure that any device that is attached to the computer is disconnected from the power as well. Disconnect your phone line/DSL/cable/satellite connection from your modem and power that device off as well. By literally severing the connection between power sources and computer you are removing the pathways for a surge and are insulating your system from any possibility of damage. Continue reading

CryptoLocker Update

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Viruses

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Earlier this year, I wrote about what was then the newest and most widespread malware infecting computers worldwide, known as CryptoLocker. At the time I referred to it as “Game-Changing Malware.”

There have been quite a few developments along these lines since then, and this type of malware has become one of the most destructive threats of all time. Most of these developments have been of what we would have to consider a negative variety, but there is also a ray of good news thrown in for some victims of a CryptoLocker infection. First, here is a review of the evolution of encrypting ransomware over the past 10 months.

Evolution of encrypting ransomware, September, 2013 – August, 2014

Just about the time the original CryptoLocker was starting to make a significant impact (and a lot of money for its authors), a variation appeared that looked very much like the original. The infection methods were the same, the encryption was apparently done in the same way, and the message that showed up on the infected computer was almost identical to the original. There were only two obvious differences.

The original CryptoLocker initially set a price of $100 for the decryption key; this imitator demanded $300. But by that time the original authors had also raised their price to the same $300. The original gave the victim two options for paying the ransom – either a MoneyPak non-refundable debit card or payment in Bitcoin; the imitator would only accept payment via Bitcoin.

But on further analysis, several anti-virus vendors determined that this imitator was most likely produced by a totally different programmer or, more likely, programming team. They discovered that it was written in a different programming language from the original, and many other differences became apparent upon disassembly of the program and comparison to the original.

Since then, at least 6 similar programs have been released into the wild with a CryptoLocker-type payload. These are known generically as encrypting ransomware, and they continue to spread and evolve into even more-sophisticated threats. Most of these variants are obviously different programs, produced by different programming groups, each with its own twist on the distribution, payment amount and payment mechanism, and the message that is displayed after the user’s data files have been encrypted. Continue reading

TECH FOR TODDLERS: HOW TO HELP, NOT HARM

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Kids

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In their book, “Toddlers on Technology,” Patti Wollman Summers (early childhood educator and Head of the Parenting Program at the Mandell School), neuropsychologist Ann DeSollar-Hale, PhD, and Heather Ibrahim-Leathers explore the way today’s toddlers are interacting with technology. Is time spent with digital media helpful, harmful, or both?

According to a study released in October 2013 by Common Sense Media, “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013”:

“Among families with children age 8 and under, there has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices such as iPads, from 8% of all families in 2011 to 40% in 2013.”

In spite of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that parents restrict access to media for children under the age of 2, Common Sense Media reports that “38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device for media (compared to 10% two years ago).”

While these statistics maybe alarming to the AAP, the writers of “Toddlers on Technology” insist that exposure to appropriate apps on a mobile touchscreen device actually has some significant benefits, even for young children. Continue reading

How to keep kids safe online.

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Kids Safety

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If you have young children who use a PC at home there are a number of steps which you can take to keep them safe and which allow you to monitor the web sites that they are browsing. One of the easiest way is to set up ” Microsoft family safety” which is a suite of free programs which can help you restrict and monitor your children’s online activity. Continue reading

Recycle Bin Useage

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series recycle bin

You see it there, lurking in the corner, but how does one exactly use the Recycle Bin? I am here to tell you how.

Normally when you delete a photo or a file it is not really deleted, first it really only goes to the recycle bin. This gives you a second chance to change your mind and fetch it back in case you deleted it by mistake. Continue reading

Need to upgrade you Ram??

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Memory

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Computerization in every field has become a need of the hour today. With the growing requirements of data storage facility by all professional, the computer also requires up gradation on regular intervals. Hardware & software like Computer RAM, USB memory, pen drives and flash drives require sophisticated & expert treatment.

Most of us are not very clear with the concept that helps in better performance of the computer. The quickest way to speed up your computer is by adding more computer RAM to your system.This will surely leave your data processor to run programs much faster as computer RAM is considered to be the primary storehouse of all information when you are applying it. Capacity like 128MB, 256MB and 512MB are considered to be outdated, but when you are looking for premium quality performance, your computer needs latest versions of memory modules which range from 1GB to 8GB RAM.

The two types of RAM available are DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and SDRAM (Static Random Access Memory). The process of storing data in these two Ram type is different. Though SRAM is considered to be much faster in processing and does not even require being refreshed again & again, DRAM is more popular in terms of usage because it is cheaper in cost.

As we all know now that Computer RAM is the largest storehouse of information in the computer, it is the temporary house for storing

current data which is in use, that is why the information can be loaded much faster. However, it is not the permanent storage of the information and the same is lost when the system is switched off. In case the information had to be read directly from the hard disk, it would have made the computer very slow. Continue reading

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