Thoughts on Newtown, CT 12/14/2012

A few thoughts.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and responders in Connecticut. It is an unimaginable tragedy that we’ll never fully understand.

But remember, 49 million other kids went to school today and came home safe and sound. As did yours and mine. Remember that over the past few years more kids have died in school bus accidents (which is also very, very, very few!) than from school shootings.

We need to let our kids explore, grow up, and live. Bad things can happen. We need to focus on things we CAN control (car seats/seat belts, safe driving, cutting smoking, keeping our homes fire-safe).

We also need to remember that there are places in the world where mass killings are an everyday occurance. Where people can’t travel alone, ever. Where there ARE no polce and first responders to start helping 100 seconds after something bad happens.

We live in age where everyone in the world can know about this bad news within minutes…and we miss the millions and millions of really good things that happened today.

Take a moment and hug your kids, for sure. Not because you’re afraid to lose them, but because you’re glad they’re here. Never forget the difference.

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Tech Tuesday #9: Oh, crap!

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Sharon from Lunenburg asks….

Q: Oh, crap!

Which is not really a question per se. So we followed up.

Q: My work computer won’t start!

A: Still not a question. We press on.

Q: My system doesn’t start. It comes up with a black screen that says, “BOOT DEVICE MISSING.” What’s wrong? And by the way, I last backed up about three months ago.

A. It could be something simple, like a flash drive plugged in or a DVD left in a drive. Make sure there are no usb connectors hooked up, and no discs in a drive.

If that’s not the case, there’s a small chance there’s a configuration problem keeping the computer from recognizing the hard drive. Sometimes we can attach the drive to another system to fix data errors. Ideally the hard drive will just attach and Windows will identify and correct file system damage.

Less-than-ideally the hard drive will attach, Windows will say something witty, like, “The disk in drive G: is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?”

Don’t format it. We have tools that can often recover files even if Windows can’t see them. We have had good results with Runtime’s GetDataBack recovery products.

On the other hand, there are some drives you just can’t get to. Either they won’t show up at all…or they’ll make a tell-tale sound of hard drive death

Bzzzzzzt
Bzzzzzzt
Tick-click
Tick-click
Tick-click
Bzzzzzzzt

Many “tech guys” will tell you it’s toast and there’s no possible way to save files from a disk that’s dead. They’re not entirely correct. It’s often possible to recover stuff from a disk that’s physically damaged or failing.

If your hard drive is making clicking or grinding sounds, using software MAY be able to retrieve some files but will reduce the chance of successful professional recovery.

For that we’ll need a cleanroom.

No, not THAT kind of clean.

That’s better. A professional service company like Kroll/Ontrack, DriveSavers, or Gillware will take apart your hard drive in a dust-free environment, replace broken pieces, and copy the data onto another disk.

Cost varies from around $500 to over $2,000 depending on:

  • How quickly it gets done
  • How big your disk is
  • If there’s anything special like encryption, it’s linux, mac, etc
  • Which provider you use

For that kind of money it’s usually not worth recovering the kids’ school projects. But for a master’s thesis…the only copy of your Quickbooks file…wedding pictures….the external hard drive that has 15 years’ worth of family pictures…

it just might be worth it.

Remember, though, that all of this could have been avoided with a simple backup.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Tech Tuesday #8: Buying Safely Online

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Jeanne from Fitchburg asks, “How do I buy stuff online without getting scammed?”

There’s one absolutely foolproof way to NOT get scammed with a purchase: Don’t buy anything.

Failing that, there are a few quick and easy tips:

  1. Use a credit card, NOT a debit card (or PayPal, etc). Even when playing with well-known vendors it’s always best to play with someone else’s money. If you buy something that isn’t as advertised (or a big company charges you twice for that new platinum-plated toaster oven), it’s a world of difference. The debit card holder sees their money taken immediately…calls the merchant, calls the bank, and after a couple days the errant money finds its way back into its proper place. The credit card holder calls the bank, fills out a form, and the problem goes away. I’m not a big fan of credit cards and consumer debt, but this is why credit cards are essential in 2012.
  2. Use only well-know vendors or stores. Yes, google shopping says that joesplatinumtoasters.com has the same toaster for 20% less than anywhere else, but is it worth it? If anything in this post is news to you….stick with Amazon, buy.com, and other stores where you can return online purchases in-store.

    Elite <em>Platinum</em> 23 Liter <em>Toaster Oven</em>

  3. Factor in shipping costs. You can buy an aftermarket front bumper cover for a 2006 Subaru from Amazon.com for $81. The tiny print below says, “+ $70.01 shipping.” One can buy the same bumper from a local auto parts store for $92 including tax
    .SUBARU LEGACY OEM STYLE FRONT BUMPER COVER
  4. There’s more to this than money, though. If you know what you want, it only makes sense to buy online from a reputable vendor and save money. There are times when we don’t really KNOW what we want/need. Perfect opportunity to get into “buy local” mode and go to a store to take advantage of their knowledge…and buy something! It is pretty lame to get the info from a local expert then go home and order from Amazon to save 5%.
  5. Make sure your computer is updated, with antivirus software, and stop to think before clicking the “Buy Now” button.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Tech Tuesday #7: Mobile Printing

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Debbie from Gardner asks, “How do I print from my iPad?”

I’ll extend the question to include iPad, iPhone, Android phone (including my current Samsung Galaxy S3), android tablet (including my current favorite Kindle Fire HD).

If you’re just using Apple iDevices along with computers…it makes sense to look for a printer that supports Apple’s AirPrint standard. AirPrint simplifies printing by automating discovery and driver loading for these devices. Most new wireless printers and all-in-one devices are AirPrint-ready.

Second choice, search the App Store for your printer. Many printer manufacturers like Brother, HP, and Epson have apps that will let you print pictures and other content to your printer.

If you don’t want to buy a new printer, or your printer doesn’t support wireless, try Collobos’ FingerPrint. This program runs on your Windows or Mac computer and shares your printer for your iDevices. Make sure to run the trial before paying the $20 to buy it. There’s a great step-by-step guide on how-to geek for setting this up.

For Android devices things are a little more complicated. Android doesn’t have a built-in print handler like AirPrint. There is the Google Cloud Print program and app…there are about a dozen models of printer that will  automatically connect to the Google service,  Otherwise install the Cloud Print server to your computer and use the mobile-enabled service to print to your printer.

For business use, a nice choice is EFI PrintMe/PrintMe Mobile. This solution turns a computer into an AirPrint print server, similar to FingerPrint, but also offers an Android app to facilitate printing from other devices.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Business Lesson: Reaching Out

The postcard came in the mail a couple weeks ago:

  • Single-stream recycling
  • $7 off per month for a year
  • Award-winning customer service
  • New rolling trash carts

Not this one, but similar:

So I called and signed up for a new trash service. Easy enough.

Then I called my old trash service to cancel.
“We offer that too…”
“I can match that price…”
“You should have told us you needed a new cover for your cart…” (this was an issue that annoyed me every week, but didn’t upset me enough to call and complain.

For a moment I felt bad about cancelling my service without letting them match the other offer and solve my problems.

But then I re-framed things in the context of my business.

Sometimes my clients say, “I didn’t know you offered phones…

Or, “I didn’t know you could take care of my internet service…”

Or, “I found a cheaper tech guy!”

After a few minutes of mulling things over, I asked myself a few questions.

  • Who lets my company’s clients know what services and products we offer?
  • How would I know if there were underlying problems annoying them?

In the years I used the old trash company, I don’t remember getting a single communication that

  • thanked me for my patronage
  • introduced a new service or better pricing
  • wanted to make sure I was happy. that there were no lingering issues that made me unhappy.

So when WAS the last time you checked in with your customers? (By the way, we can help with systems to track that…but that’s another story)

Tech Tuesday #6: Battery Basics

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Nadine from Leominster asks, “Should I keep my laptop plugged in or let the battery discharge?”

Laptop batteries have come a long way from the old Ni-Cad batteries of the 1990’s, and (for the most) part Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries from the early 2000’s.

There are a lot of myths about how to best maintain your laptop and battery. There are also a lot of “best practices” that are not feasible in real life. The average laptop battery lasts about 3 years. This varies widely depending on how you treat the battery.

First Key point: Laptop batteries HATE HEAT. Their ideal storage temperature is ZERO. As in freezing. Every degree above freezing shortens the lifespan of the battery. So use your laptop on a desk, on a table, on a hard surface, or one of those laptop coolers that I always used to make fun of.

Similarly, tossing a running laptop into an insulated bag is not so helpful. Let it get into suspend or hibernate first.

Second key point: Laptop batteries are damaged by full discharge. Which means, turn it off BFORE the battery is completely dead and it shuts down.

 

Third key point: Laptop batteries have a finite life. That means that the chemicals inside the battfery degrade each time the system is discharged and recharged. So while there’s no “memory effect” per se…a partial discharge of the battery has the same effect as a full discharge. So it makes sense to charge the battery fully, unplug, and discharge it to 5-10% left then do a full charge.

Fourth key point: Today’s laptops are smart. Use the power features. They can shut down the DVD (if there is one), reduce brightness, slow down the processor, and take many other measures…simultaneously reducing power consumption (giving you more time per charge) and heat (giving you more charges per battery).

It can be helpful to remove your laptop battery when running for long periods of time on AC power. This can reduce the battery’s exposure to heat and cut the number of unnecessary cycles.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

 

Windows 8 Survival Guide

Well, it’s out. Microsoft officially released Windows 8 yesterday. As your local tech experts we’re happy to answer your questions about any Windows, computer, or general tech topics. Call us at 888-928-3336 or jump on our Contact Us webpage, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

Before you buy:

There are four versions:

  • Windows 8 RT is a tablet-only version that only has the new interface (formerly known as Metro) and runs new Windows Apps…RT does not run Windows Programs like your computer. There’s an “app store” like iPad and Android have. That said, WinRT does come with Microsoft Office “Apps” that will let you use Word and Excel files. Here’s a picture of a MS Surface running RT:
  • Windows 8
    This package replaces the old Windows 7 Home/Home Premium. It’s not Pro so it must be Amateur? Win 8 base is a full desktop/notebook operating system. It combines the WinRT tile motif (and its Apps) with a Desktop “App” that launches Windows As You Know It. This is a good version for most non-business use. Below is a picture of the Win 8 Desktop.
  • Windows 8 Pro: The Professional version of the schizoid monster Operating System adds two important features from the base/Amateur version:
    The ability to operate in Windows Domain networks, and Bitlocker whole-disk encryption. Even if you don’t plan on using these features immediately we recommend going with Pro for any business use.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise is only available as part of a Microsoft Licensing Agreement and its special features are mainly of interest to corporate IT folks. We don’t recommend Enterprise for businesses with fewer than 500 seats.

You’ll want to make sure your system meets the requirements (most computers made since 2007 or so already exceed these. We’ve found Win 8 to run as well or slightly faster that Windows 7 on all supported hardware. Tip: Win 8 loves SSD drives and takes full advantage of the possible speed improvements.

Office

At this time we’re not at all impressed with MS Office 2013. We still recommend Office 2010 for your document, spreadsheet, etc, etc needs.

Finding your way around

There’s an important concept here. RT is RT, desktop is desktop, and never the twain shall meet. Keep that idea in mind and Win 8 will be a lot less confusing to you. Think of the RT environment as a tablet and the Desktop as a computer. (This makes a lot more sense on a convertible device like a Lenovo Thinkpad Twist)

For example, you’ll connect your RT Mail App to your Exchange mail/contact/calendar server. This will synch the RT side of things but you’ll also need to connect desktop Outlook as you normally would.

Remember also that there’s an Internet Explorer in RT which is a different version (and has different favorites, plug-ins, etc) from the desktop one.

For instance, here’s desktop Internet Explorer:

And here’s Internet Explorer’s evil twin in RT. It’s designed as a touch-interface system:

Although Win 8 works best on a touchscreen it’s still usable on a non-touch desktop or conventional laptop. The desktop has a few places where visible navigation has given way to “you just gotta know:”

To bring up the Start Streen press the Windows key, or move your mouse to the bottom-left corner.

To bring up settings move your mouse all the way to the right.

Keyboard shortcuts are back!

In one of their worst moves in years, Microsoft has taken away many of the Windows interface elements, figuring that people would either a) use a touch device, b) eventually figure things out, or c) give up and buy an Apple.

Added tip: Fastest way to shut down or hibernate a Win 8 machine: Press Ctrl-Alt-Del. In the bottom-right corner you’ll see a power icon. Click it and you’ll be able to choose Shutdown/reboot/hibernate, etc.

Here’s a list of every keyboard shortcut we know of (there ARE a lot of them but most of ’em you already know…)

Windows key: Switch between Modern Desktop Start screen and the last accessed application
Windows key + C: Access the charms bar
Windows key + Tab: Access the Modern Desktop Taskbar
Windows key + I: Access the Settings charm
Windows key + H: Access the Share charm
Windows key + K: Access the Devices charm
Windows key + Q: Access the Apps Search screen
Windows key + F: Access the Files Search screen
Windows key + W: Access the Settings Search screen
Windows key + P: Access the Second Screen bar
Windows key + Z: Brings up the App Bar when you have a Modern Desktop App running
Windows key + X: Access the Windows Tools Menu
Windows key + O: Lock screen orientation
Windows key + . : Move the screen split to the right
Windows key + Shift + . : Move the screen split to the left
Windows key + V: View all active Toasts/Notifications
Windows key + Shift + V: View all active Toasts/Notifications in reverse order
Windows key + PrtScn: Takes a screenshot of the screen and automatically saves it in the Pictures folder as Screenshot
Windows key + Enter: Launch Narrator
Windows key + E: Open Computer
Windows key + R: Open the Run dialog box
Windows key + U: Open Ease of Access Center
Windows key + Ctrl + F: Open Find Computers dialog box
Windows key + Pause/Break: Open the System page
Windows key + 1..10: Launch a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + Shift + 1..10: Launch a new instance of a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + Ctrl + 1..10: Access the last active instance of a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + Alt + 1..10: Access the Jump List of a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + B: Select the first item in the Notification Area and then use the arrow keys to cycle through the items Press Enter to open the selected item
Windows key + Ctrl + B: Access the program that is displaying a message in the Notification Area
Windows key + T: Cycle through the items on the Taskbar
Windows key + M: Minimize all windows
Windows key + Shift + M: Restore all minimized windows
Windows key + D: Show/Hide Desktop (minimize/restore all windows)
Windows key + L: Lock computer
Windows key + Up Arrow: Maximize current window
Windows key + Down Arrow: Minimize/restore current window
Windows key + Home: Minimize all but the current window
Windows key + Left Arrow: Tile window on the left side of the screen
Windows key + Right Arrow: Tile window on the right side of the screen
Windows key + Shift + Up Arrow: Extend current window from the top to the bottom of the screen
Windows key + Shift + Left/Right Arrow: Move the current window from one monitor to the next
Windows key + F1: Launch Windows Help and Support

PageUp: Scroll forward on the Modern Desktop Start screen
PageDown: Scroll backward on the Modern Desktop Start screen
Esc: Close  a charm
Ctrl + Esc: Switch between Modern Desktop Start screen and the last accessed application
Ctrl + Mouse scroll wheel: Activate the Semantic Zoom on the Modern Desktop screen

Alt: Display a hidden Menu Bar
Alt + D: Select the Address Bar
Alt + P: Display the Preview Pane in Windows Explorer
Alt + Tab: Cycle forward through open windows
Alt + Shift + Tab: Cycle backward through open windows
Alt + F: Close the current window Open the Shut Down Windows dialog box from the Desktop
Alt + Spacebar: Access the Shortcut menu for current window
Alt + Esc: Cycle between open programs in the order that they were opened
Alt + Enter: Open the Properties dialog box of the selected item
Alt + PrtScn: Take a screen shot of the active Window and place it in the clipboard
Alt + Up Arrow: Move up one folder level in Windows Explorer (Like the Up Arrow in XP)
Alt + Left Arrow: Display the previous folder
Alt + Right Arrow: Display the next folder
Shift + Insert: CD/DVD Load CD/DVD without triggering Autoplay or Autorun
Shift + Delete: Permanently delete the item (rather than sending it to the Recycle Bin)
Shift + F6: Cycle backward through elements in a window or dialog box
Shift + F10: Access the context menu for the selected item
Shift + Tab: Cycle backward through elements in a window or dialog box
Shift + Click: Select a consecutive group of items
Shift + Click on a Taskbar button: Launch a new instance of a program
Shift + Right-click on a Taskbar button: Access the context menu for the selected item
Ctrl + A: Select all items
Ctrl + C: Copy the selected item
Ctrl + X: Cut the selected item
Ctrl + V: Paste the selected item
Ctrl + D: Delete selected item
Ctrl + Z: Undo an action
Ctrl + Y: Redo an action
Ctrl + N: Open a new window in Windows Explorer
Ctrl + W: Close current window in Windows Explorer
Ctrl + E: Select the Search box in the upper right corner of a window
Ctrl + Shift + N: Create new folder
Ctrl + Shift + Esc: Open the Windows Task Manager
Ctrl + Alt + Tab: Use arrow keys to cycle through open windows
Ctrl + Alt + Delete: Access the Windows Security screen
Ctrl + Click: Select multiple individual items
Ctrl + Click and drag an item: Copies that item in the same folder
Ctrl + Shift + Click and drag an item: Creates a shortcut for that item in the same folder
Ctrl + Tab:  Move forward through tabs
Ctrl + Shift + Tab: Move backward through tabs
Ctrl + Shift + Click on a Taskbar button: Launch a new instance of a program as an Administrator
Ctrl + Click on a grouped Taskbar button: Cycle through the instances of a program in the group
F1: Display Help
F2: Rename a file
F3: Open Search
F4: Display the Address Bar list
F5: Refresh display
F6: Cycle forward through elements in a window or dialog box
F7: Display command history in a Command Prompt
F10: Display hidden Menu Bar
F11: Toggle full screen display
Tab: Cycle forward through elements in a window or dialog box
PrtScn: Take a screen shot of the entire screen and place it in the clipboard
Home: Move to the top of the active window
End: Move to the bottom of the active window
Delete: Delete the selected item
Backspace: Display the previous folder in Windows Explorer  Move up one folder level in Open or Save dialog box
Esc: Close a dialog box
Num Lock Enabled + Plus (+): Display the contents of the selected folder
Num Lock Enabled + Minus (-): Collapse the selected folder
Num Lock Enabled + Asterisk (*): Expand all subfolders under the selected folder

Press Shift 5 times Turn StickyKeys on or off
Hold down right Shift for 8 seconds Turn FilterKeys on or off
Hold down Num Lock for 5 seconds Turn ToggleKeys on or off

Quick Take: Apple Announcements 10/23

Well, the big news today is from Apple. The company has announced some major product updates.

A few thoughts….

In typical self-congratulatory fashion, Apple cheered the iPhone 5 and iOS6, conveniently forgetting the  Maps debacle…  as well as a widespread problem with basic meeting/calendar invite handling. They do sell a lot of phones, though.

New MacBooks were introduced. Apple is firmly committed to killing the onboard DVD drive, so you’ll just buy all your programs Apps from the Apple App Store. Silly me, no one uses programs any more…

I don’t understand the drive to compress Apple displays into the maximum number of pixels. The new Pro has higher resolution than an HDTV, on a 13″ screen. I don’t know about you, but my eyes aren’t good enough to notice that.

“Like all of our products, the team works hard on making these eco-friendly.” Interesting comment by Senior Vice President of Lying Marketing at Apple. The new MacBook Pro build looks very similar to the previous version which is called out in several sources as an example of a sealed, non-recyclable, non-upgradeable design. It seems that Mr. Schiller saying it’s environmentally-friendly makes it so. Seriously, no laptop should have a permanent battery. Even the best ones last 2-3 years tops in everyday work use. Run it flat a few times and it’ll get down to about an hour on a charge. It’s the nature of lithium-ion batteries.

Wow, the iMac is updated after 1-1/2 years. The new version looks really slick. I’m concerned about cooling of the hard drive, and serviceability and lifespan of what look like laptop-type components. Starting price of $1,299 is in the same ballpark as the multi-touch Lenovo A720…which I’d argue is more innovative…

 

 

Apple announces new iMac with 5mm thin profile - Jason O'Grady

Meanwhile the “super user” Mac Pro has gone a full year and a half with no meaningful updates. It’s a very expensive entry in a field of workstations from HP and Lenovo that continue to offer better value. You’ll recall that Tim Cook said earlier this year, “We’re not a computer company.”

If you’re in the Apple iOS ecosystem and like it, you’ll like the newly-upgraded iPad. Except…the only real news is the inclusion of the new Lightning connector. Otherwise it’s kind of like the Cupertino crew needed to release a full-size iPad with the new connector and kept asking, “What’s the least we have to do to get people to buy it?” Gizmodo has an expansion of this line of thinking here.

And finally we get to the iPad mini. It’s magical, revolutionary, and has less bezel around the screen than the Android device.  It’s reasonably priced…from $329 to $659. Interestingly, no mention of the Kindle Fire ($159),  Fire HD ($199), or Fire 8.9, which tops out at $614 but includes high-speed wireless access. I still think the sweet spot of the Kindle line is the $199 Fire HD or the entry 8.9 at $299.

Bottom line

The Kindle Fire line is my favorite tablet right now…a good choice for budget buyers. 2 basic Fire 7″ tablets for the price of one iPad mini! The Fire HD 8.9 at $299 is a nice compromise between size (full-size iPads always seemed too big to me) and price. Amazon has nice integration of apps, books, and video on demand that makes the experience a small step behind Apple. Main drawback: lack of a camera. I haven’t missed having one and I cry every time I see someone taking pictures or video using a tablet.

Other Android tablets are nice for the casual user, Android convert, or the real power-user techie. Root that sucker, build your own baseband, and flash it like you want it! People with lots of android phone apps will feel at home with these devices as well.

And yes, Apple will sell ten million iPad minis. Primarily to people who are already in the Apple ecosystem and own iOS apps, but many of them will go into the education market (and to families) because of the sheer number of apps available.

The Microsoft Surface tablet is expected to cost more than the iPad now, I see Windows Tablets as non-starters. Windows RT Tablets will be sold at fire-sale prices after Christmas but we’ll be living with the legacy of this crap on our desktops and laptops for years to come.

What do you think? Is Apple on the right track? Does any of this really matter?

Tech Tuesday #5: Maintenance

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Today’s question, from Diane from Leominster: “What do I need to keep my new computer healthy?”

Many people don’t realize that computers do need attention and maintenance.

Most computers don’t need much for physical maintenance (we recommend proper ventilation, a good battery backup power supply, and protection from excessive humidity), but they do need regular attention.

1. Backups, backups, backups! We now offer an automated (because you won’t run it yourself), online (to protect your from fire/theft/etc), and monitored (because it’s IMPORTANT) backup solution for home users to complement our more advanced business-grade backups. Contact us for details, plan starts around $15/mo.

 

 

 

 

2. Antivirus. All computers, Windows, Mac, or linux, need software protection. GFI VIPRE has worked well for us and runs well on older computers. We don’t recommend Norton/Symantec or MacAfee products. But yeah, even Mac computers need active protection with automatic updates.

3. System Updates. You should schedule Automatic updates to run, well, automatically. Any system now can be configured to run these updates at a time when you’re not using your computer…for most people this is at night. Most updates fix security problems or solve usage issues, and they’re almost always safer than NOT installing them. And if you’re running Windows make sure you activate Microsoft Update to included MS Office patches as well.

4. Other updates. Make sure your Java, Flash, and Adobe Reader are all kept up-to-date.
a) Java: go to http://www.java.com and click “Free Java Download.” Watch it during the install, though, as it will often try to sneak in the worthless MacAfee safe-scan tool, or the equally-worthless Ask toolbar. Un-check the boxes for those.

b) Adobe Flash and Reader. Go to http://www.adobe.com and look at the bottom-right for “Get Flash” and “Get Reader.” Again, make sure you’re ONLY getting what you want, un-check the boxes for the other crud.

And whenever Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, or Java ask to do updates, let them!

Otherwise….we haven’t found much value in cookie cleaners, registry “optimizers,” and disk defrags, even the legit ones.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Tech Tuesday #4: What do you think of Windows 8?

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Today’s question, from Jim in Gardner: “What do you think about Windows 8?”

Windows 8 is a mixed bag.I’ll be writing in-depth coverage later this month.

Of course the newest version of Windows always has the most up-to-date security features. The Win-X menu is great, the expanded Start menu isn’t my cup of tea but seems useful. The new Task Manager provides loads of useful information for us techies, and the Win 8 systems I’ve used are very, very fast to boot and sleep.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of redundancy…you’ll see two completely separate Internet Explorer items, one of which is an “app” and runs full-screen. Many tasks have changed from clicking things to “hovering” your mouse in a certain corner of the screen, or keyboard combinations. Win-I, Win-E, Win-X are very useful but it’s my opinion that good user interfaces don’t leave the users guessing like Win 8 does. I’m also concerned about patching and updating the multiple Internet Explorers, Flash, Java, etc for each part.

And don’t get me started on Microsoft Office 2013. The previews make it significantly less usable than Office 2010 (which contained a few minor but appreciated improvements over Office 2007)

Bottom line: If you have a convertible system, tablet, or other touch-screen then Windows 8 can work nicely. For instance on a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Twist it makes perfect sense…Use the tile-y block-y tablet-y “apps” when you’re folded over in Tablet mode, then use the Windows Desktop to run “programs” like a real computer. When properly assembled this Frankenstein makes sense…but on a conventional computer it’s just schizophrenia.

In general, though, Windows 8/Office 2013 are just bad interface design. I’m supposed to say, what? “Move your mouse to the bottom-left corner of the screen and wait for something to happen…now go to the upper-right corner, wait for the icons to slide in from the right, and click the gear.”

To say nothing about running this system remotely…on an unstable internet connection.

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