When you own or use a computer, there are several important things to keep in mind. Some of these are basic common sense that we sometimes forget. Whatever, they all are very important to know.
1.Use a surge protector
to protect your computer and peripherals from voltage spikes that may occur due to lightning or another cause. While during a lightning storm it is best to unplug, most of us do not. In the event of a surge your equipment can get destroyed. Think of having a garden hose and too much water goes through at one time putting too much pressure on the hose. The result is a hose that bursts. A good surge protector prevents this from happening.
2.With 2 exceptions, do not turn off your computer
with the power switch. Shut your computer down by going into the start tab and select the "Shut Down" option. The 2 exceptions are if you computer freezes and after selecting the "Shut Down" option, the computer is still on 10 minutes later. Using the power switch can result in lost data or windows files. The computer needs to go through a sequence of things in order to properly shut down.
3.As noted in a previous blog, backing up your data is a very inexpensive insurance policy
in the event of a hard drive or other computer failure to minimize any data loss. The link to my blog on backing up is http://computerconciergeny.com/3/post/2010/06/back-up-back-up-back-up.html
. There are several ways to approach this but failure to backup is a recipe for losing all of your data in the event of a failure. A recent study by Symantec indicated that 80% of computer users do not have backup software installed on their computer.
4.Less and less computers these days come with a recovery disk. Perform a Recovery Disk Creation as soon as you can.
Go to control panel/system and security/create a system recovery disk (if not there “create a system repair disk) and insert 1st disk. Will need about 3-5 DVDs which are preferred over CDs for this exercise. Click the start tab which is usually in the lower left of your computer;then type “repair” in the search bar and choose System Repair Disk. Follow instructions. In the event you ever need to reinstall your system, this will come in handy. Make sure you keep these disks in a safe and secure place.
5.Anti virus software and anti spyware are a must.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a good free program. If you are purchasing an internet security program, Norton and McAfee offer good protection.
6.If you have a wireless internet connection, it MUST
be password protected. An open connection enables outsiders to access your internet service. Personal information of yours is compromised. In addition, any illegal activity done on your internet connection is traced to it.
give out information on the internet or otherwise when you are solicited for it. You may get an email along the lines of "there is an issue with your account. Please supply (your password, social security number, date of birth, etc)." On the internet, most sites have a policy where they will NEVER ask you for personal information online. When in doubt, call the bank or other financial institution in question. This is not only on the internet but anywhere. When I get a call where the caller says there is a security issue regarding a credit card of mine, I immediately hang up. It could be a ploy to get personal information of mine to steal my identity. I refer to the back of the credit card in question and call that number. If a voicemail message is left with a phone number to call I never call the number they say to call at. It may be a true and legitimate issue but why take the chance? Also avoid scams where you have to pay money to get money.
8.NEVER unplug peripherals from your computer when it is on.
This can short out the connector socket or motherboard. When using a USB drive or similar there is an option usually on lower right hand side to safely remove hardware. Click this and select what you wish to remove. When OK to remove message is shown then it is safe.
9.I am guilty of this one but keep food and drink away from computer, mouse, keyboard and any other electronic device.
Crumbs, soda and juice spills can cause sticky keys. Liquids on or in electronic devices can ruin them.
10.And last,when using a public computer make sure you log off your email accounts and any other site you have been to that required you to log in using a user name and/or password. On more than one occasion I have accessed a public computer and noticed that the previous user did not log out of their email account. Your email account is open to that person and at that point belongs totally to them. They can if they wish send nasty messages to a friend, significant other, etc. As an aside here, for those having Flickr accounts. Flickr is a photosharing company owned by Yahoo. If you log into Flickr and then logout, you need to go to your Yahoo account and log out. I do not know why this happens. If you go into your Yahoo account and log in, your Flickr account is not affected.
By following the above tips, you will make your computer safer to use and less likely to breakdown. You also will be using the internet in a safer manner.
As you likely are aware, Facebook has had privacy issues that seem to pop up from time to time. You always need to keep on top of privacy issues that come out through the media or otherwise. Below are some security settings you may or may not be aware of. By using these you will further be able to have your Facebook profile and activity seen only by those you want to.
If you wish that a particular person not be able to access your profile or even see that you have a Facebook account, there is a "Block Lists" in the privacy section (note that all unless otherwise noted require going into the privacy section). Just enter the name of the person you wish to block. Note that for this that the person can log on under another ID that would enable him or her to access your profile according to your privacy settings.
Under "Customize Settings" in the privacy section there is a section "Things Others Share". This is what others can share about you. Make sure to edit these to your choosing. In particular "Friends Can Check Me Into Places". This is one that you will likely want to disable. For "Photos and Videos I'm Tagged In" you will likely want "Friends Only" or "Only Me" which is under "Customize". For "Suggest Photos of me to Friends" I would suggest you disable this. Friends can tag you without suggestions.
Be very careful about sharing contact information. I would not share phone numbers and addresses with anyone within Facebook. Those settings should be set to "Only Me". Personally I did not enter any information for them. For email addresses if I was to share I would only share with friends. Unless there is a business reason I would not share beyond. If you have a website, you can share that with everyone. Anyone can see the address of this blog as well as my Twitter account. For Twitter the privacy setting is under "IM Screen Names".
You also want to be careful about what Apps and websites share about you. In the "Apps and Websites" section under "Info accessible through your friends" I would suggest under "Edit Settings" you keep all unchecked. For Public Search, you need to determine whether you want your profile to be found when a search engine is used. Select as you see fit.
Facebook is a great site for social connections and for reconnecting with old friends. With the privacy issues that Facebook has had and will likely continue to have, you need to keep on top of your privacy settings. As always, be careful of what you put out there. You never know who will see it. For starters divorce attorneys have been known to go through Facebook profiles to aid in their cases. I heard a story of a divorce attorney friending their clients estranged spouse in an attempt to get incriminating information. Now of course the estrange spouse should never have friended the attorney but that is another story.
One of the advantages of the internet is how much closer it has bought the world. I enjoy travel and have used various internet sites to book my travel and plan an itinerary.One benefit I can think of is how we can book our travel online without a travel agent. This enables us to price compare for plane tickets and hotels. We can book our own travel packages without going through a travel agent. Some good sites are Travelocity
. I have gotten good rates booking on both. When booking where it more advantageous not to combine airfare and hotel(s), I have used Kayak
. This is an aggregator which compares hundreds of travel sites for the best rate. I have used this individually for airlines and hotels. In addition you can book a car rental or a cruise on these sites as well. Speaking about airlines, these days you can print your tickets and boarding pass. In addition, just about all the airlines allow you to check in online up to 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart by going onto their website. This eliminates waiting in line to check in at the airport and in this day of heightened security checks is one less thing to worry about at the airport.There also are good sites to review hotels. My preference is Tripadvisor
. The hotels are ranked by reviews and I have found the reviews to be very useful in deciding which hotel to book.There are also some good sites to plan an itinerary while travelling of places to see and do. As mentioned previous, I use Tripadvisor
to help plan. Another good site is Virtualtourist
. The reviews are mainstream travellers for the most part. Real people with real experiences. You can get everything from museums, off the beaten path places and getting around. The sites also offer forums to post and answer questions. Another good site is Wikitravel
. You can get some real good information about the places you are going to on this site. There are also other sites to choose from. They include the standard Frommers
. Lonely planet
are 2 relatively more recent ones. It is a matter of your own personal preference. As an aside, Igougo
is an aggregator similar to Kayak
.Further if you do not use a GPS while driving, you can map your trip. Google Maps
will give you door to door directions. You do not need to be a member of AAA to get an online triptik that you can download. To do this go to the AAA
website. Select in the online section not mail order section TripTiks. Select your starting point and destination. Then select "Get Maps & Directions" After this completes, select on the left hand side "Print TripTik". When "Print Options" is displayed select "AAA Exclusive TripTik" and then "Create Print Version". Your triptik is now complete. You can print and/or download. Further whether or not you are a member of AAA you can create an online account to save your triptik. Mapping your trip even if you are using a GPS can be useful in the event your GPS fails to work.
Last but not least, you want to have an idea of what the weather will be like on your trip. Weather.com
are just 2 sites to help you pack for the expected weather on your trip.Following these tips will help you to have an enjoyable vacation. After you are done, you may want to give your own review and perhaps upload your own travel photos. One of mine is the featured picture for Yahoo travel New York
. It is the picture of the Brokklyn Bridge taken at night..
Enjoy your trip.
Earlier this week I was helping a friend who uses Yahoo Calendar and was having issues with it. What I found was cause for concern. I did a little research using my existing Yahoo account which I do not use much anymore. Let me first start by saying that between Friday February 18 and Monday February 21 the calender that was in beta version for Yahoo was released as their new version. My friend had prior to February 18 converted from the older calendar version to the beta version and was having issues with the beta version. This past Friday that version was still in beta. With my Yahoo account I successfully converted my calendar to the beta version. I saw this disclaimer
which led me to believe I could switch back if I was not satisfied with the beta version (see the disclaimer terms noted in 2). I switched to the beta version with the intent of switching back as there was nothing in the disclaimer to make me believe I could not switch. As a matter of fact,what was mentioned was what I would lose if I decided to switch back. However, when I tried switching back there was not a way for me to switch back. Upon further searching, I found a link that I cannot switch back to prior version
. While I certainly do not think that Yahoo deliberately is setting up people to switch, I do feel that given the disclaimer I should have been able to switch back. With Yahoo Mail,one can choose from their current version, classic version and beta version switching as you see fit. Why can you not go between the old and new Yahoo calendar versions? I will add here that if you have had an existing Yahoo account, you are not presently required to switch to the new calendar. However if you were to now open up a new Yahoo account, you are given the new calendar version.
My concern is that there are likely others who made this switch but were not able to switch back. As I noted, in Yahoo mail you can go back and forth between 3 versions including the beta. Why not allow the same for their calendar especially in light of what I had mentioned? If anyone from Yahoo reads this and wishes to respond, I will publish their response. We all know Yahoo has been having issues as of late and has reduced staff. They should step up here. When I used their service on a more frequent basis, I was satisfied. I note that Google's email service and calendar surpassed them a while back. Their new calendar still does not have quite a few features that Google has but it is improved and I like the interface better than their previous calendar. I hope that Yahoo does the right thing and allows those who use the new Yahoo calendar to revert back to the previous version if they wish.
If you are looking for a good note taking program that you can sync with your smartphone then Evernote may be for you. Its number of users have increased quite a bit since it became more user friendly for Android users. It can be used to store notes, pdf files (which you can annotate) and is great for clipping parts of a website that you wish to save to later use. While it is in the cloud, you can save a version that rests on your hard drive as well. You also are given an Evernote email address to use in case you or someone else wishes to add to your existing notes or create a new one. This is good where your spouse,friend,etc can send you a picture of what a particular item you are shopping for looks like.
As mentioned you also can take and store pictures. You can take a picture with your smartphone and upload to your Evernote account making notes about the picture once it is uploaded. Those who have an Eye-Fi card in their digital camera can send pictures directly to their Evernoteaccount from it.
It is a great program for note taking and organizing your notes. Similar notes can be categorized as notebooks which is a collection of notes. The search feature is also very good. You can search by keywords, tags, and titles. Evernote is good for making notes which you could use with pictures to better clarify and also for its ability to clip parts of a webpage. You can also convert speech to text. This enables you to send voice notes that are converted to text.
An area of concern is its ability to share your notes with others. You have the ability to share your notes with everyone, selected people or no one. Sharing is based upon notebooks which as mentioned is a collection of notes. Even with the paid version I do not see a way to allow those you share your notes with to edit and make changes to them. I find the lack of this feature and the fact that sharing is by notebooks and not individual notes to be a concern. When I make notes that I wish to allow others to make changes to I use Google Docs where you can allow changes to be made by others for individual file(s).
For those who like a good way of taking and organizing notes on the run, need a good way to organize your notes and have your own personal digital assistant this is a good program check out. It may suit your needs and do it well. Even if you do not have a smartphone, you may do well using it.
Have you ever wanted to share files with someone without emailing them? Have you ever needed to access a file and you are not by your computer? Then Dropbox is for you. Per Wikipedia, “The Dropbox client enables users to drop any file into a designated folder that is then synced to the cloud and to any other of the user's computers and devices with the Dropbox client.”
While Google Docs is a way to share and store files offline, it is not as good as Dropbox. 3 reasons:
1. Using Dropbox allows you to upload by folder which at this point in time you cannot do using Google Docs. With Google Docs, you can only upload files. You have to set up a folder in Google Docs and move the files to that folder after you upload. With Dropbox, you can drag the folder into Dropbox and the folder and contents are uploaded.
2. You can set up more than 1 computer to have access to selected files. When you use the files and update, they are automatically uploaded on any other computer linked to your Dropbox account. You do not need to use a USB drive to transfer files or email a file to yourself.
3. Dropbox offers up to 2GB free storage. With Google Docs you are limited to 1GB of free storage.
Let’s discuss the 1st advantage. When you use Google Docs you can only upload files. You cannot upload a folder but rather the files in a folder. In Google Docs you upload the files in the folder, individually or collectively. What this means is that in Google Docs you need to create a folder name. Then in Google Docs you move the files to the folder selected. In Dropbox you simply upload the folder which would include all the files in the folder. A step saved.
I also like the time saver of the 2nd advantage. My wife and I have both a laptop and a desktop. When we travel, frequently our travel notes are written on the desktop. Prior to our trip we use a USB drive to transfer our travel notes to our laptop. Now that we have Dropbox and both computers are linked to the Dropbox account this is automatic. No USB drive needed here. That said, in order for the file to sync in Dropbox the file cannot be opened. While you are using the file, it cannot be synced to the Dropbox website or any other computer. Only files in the Dropbox folder are synced. If you do not want to share a file and/or folder you don't put it in the Dropbox folder. You save time in that you do not have to email files to yourself. You also do not need a USB drive to transfer files from 1 computer to another. This also has the advantage of backing up files on both another computer and on the Dropbox website. Don’t have another computer? Well like Google Docs, you can access the file from another computer by going to Dropbox on the web. If you want to share a file with others, you send an email allowing access to the file you wish to share.
The last advantage is academic. 2GB of free storage vs 1GB of free storage.
All in all, Dropbox is not only a good way of storing and accessing files online. It is also a better way of doing it than using Google Docs. Try it. You will find that you have some extra time on your hands for other things to do.
When you attach a file on an email, you may be giving out unintended information (metadata). This includes but is not limited to date file created, your name, computer name, date and time last saved. You may not wish to share some of this information. To clear you can try going into the Explorer program, locate the file in question you wish to hide information and right click. Select "Properties" and then select the "Details" tab. At the bottom you will see "Remove Properties and Personal Information". Click on this. If you see the following message,"Not all Properties Were Cleared. Windows was unable to remove properties from the selected files...". You then need to open the file in the appropriate Office program for Microsoft Office files. For Office 2007, select "Prepare" then "Inspect Document". Select where you are prompted to "Remove All" where appropriate. For Office 2003, the attached http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?familyid=144e54ed-d43e-42ca-bc7b-5446d34e5360&displaylang=en?loc=interstitialskip
is a download for an add in to remove for Office 2003 files. Note that is a free tool from Microsoft. For photos, the following link is to remove metadata. Note most if not all metadata is removed. http://pcsplace.com/tips-n-tricks/how-to-remove-delete-metadata-from-photos-images-of-any-formats/
Just like we all or at least should do an oil change every 3,000 miles to keep our cars running properly and go for an annual physical exam so that we are healthy and stay that way, we also need to do preventive maintenance on our computers. We need to be proactive with our computers, cars, ourselves, etc. Here are a few computer maintenance tips that will help increase the life of your computer:
- Defragmenting your hard drive - This reorganizes the files on your hard drive that allows them to be accessed more efficiently. This should be done on a weekly basis. If it is not done, your computer will operate at a notably slower pace. Go into your "Start" tab select "All Programs" then "Accessories", "System Tools", "Disk Defragmenter". This can be set to run automatically. "My Defrag" and "Defraggler" are free programs that will also defrag your computer. Norton Systemworks is a security suite that offers defragging and can be purchased online and at stores.
- Your computer also accumulates files that you no longer need. These are files such as temporary internet files, deleted files in your recycle bin and windows temporary files. To clean up unneeded files, go to your start menu. In the search bar type in ""Disk cleanup" and select the Disk Cleanup program shown on top. The program will scan for files that can be safely deleted. Select those files you wish to delete and select OK to delete. This should be done on a weekly basis as well. A free program CCleaner can be downloaded that will perform this and I recommend this program.
- Backup, Backup, Backup. I cannot say this enough. I recently did a blog about backing up data. http://computerconciergeny.com/3/post/2010/06/back-up-back-up-back-up.html. 80% of computer users do not have backup software installed on their computer. This is a cheap insurance policy against data loss. Recovering data on your hard drive from a data recovery service will run about $500 minimum up to a few thousand. Recovery is not guaranteed. One service also prices out by emergency service which is 24 hours; priority service which is 3 days; and standard service which is 2 weeks turnaround time. If you want 24 hour turnaround you will pay for that level of service. As I noted in my last blog, Dropbox can be used to back up your data as well in the cloud as well as to other computers. http://computerconciergeny.com/3/post/2010/06/dropbox-a-real-good-program-for-file-sharing-and-accessing-files-away-from-your-computer.html. Up to 2GB is free. You can also back up up to 50GB for 9.99 monthly. I discussed other backup sites in my blog on backing up.
- Make sure your security and anti virus, anti spyware software are current and up to date. If not, your computer is an open target for new viruses, malware, etc.
- You also want to check your hard drive about monthly to fix file system errors and recover bad sectors on your hard drive. This may take several hours so make sure you will not need your computer for a while. Select "Computer" or "My Computer" Select "C:" and right click on and select "Properties" and then select the "Tools" tab. You then select Error Checking. Select automatically fix file system errors and scan and attempt recovery of bad sectors. When you get the prompt asking if you want to run this the next time you start your computer, select yes. Then restart your computer. Again, it may take a while to run.
By following these steps you will help to extend the useful life of your computer.
A posting by Maximum PC last week on their website noted that 80% of computer users do not have any backup software installed on their computer. That would indicate to me that at least 80% of all computer users are not backing up their data. I find this to be very disturbing. In the event of a hard drive failure, these people would lose things such as pictures of loved ones, letters, notes, spreadsheets, etc… that are not stored anywhere else and are at risk.
Backing up is a cheap insurance policy against data loss. It does not take long (backing up data to a DVD takes less than ½ an hour) and to purchase a 10 pack of rewritable DVDs at Staples costs under $18 on their website. To recover data on your hard drive from a data recovery service will run about $500 minimum up to a few thousand. Recovery is not guaranteed however. One service also prices out by emergency service which is 24 hours; priority service which is 3 days; and standard service which is 2 weeks turnaround time. You want 24 hour turnaround and you will pay for that level of service.
On a personal note, when I have had to reinstall data from my backups, I was up and running with the essential files and programs within about 4-5 hours. Note that you should have your program disks in a safe place. That said, usually I can have my computer up and running in about a day. The cost, not in the hundreds or thousands of dollars but less than $20 in files (I back up pictures at full size which does use a few DVDs) and the time spent to upload the DVDs. Any losses I may have incurred of data were minimal.
My question to you then is what scenario would you rather have when your data is lost? Personally I prefer my inexpensive insurance policy so to speak of backing up my data in case I need it in case I have a computer issue where it is lost. Several years ago in about a 3 week span, 2 friends of mine lost data on their computer. One was due to a flood in their office and the other was due to a hard drive crash. They did not have backups. Confidential client data and irreplaceable family pictures were lost. Had my friends backed up their computer, any loss would have been minimal. If you think this could never happen to you, think again. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Further, I also have copies of backups away from my home. In case the unforeseen happens, I still can get my data. Hopefully that scenario will never happen but if it does, I am prepared.
You can use different media to back up your data. A USB drive (although I do not recommend that you use this method), DVD drive, external hard drive, online backup service. Prices will vary of course. If you are using an online service, some also offer a free version. These versions are not as good as the paid versions. If you choose this route, mozy.com offers a plan with unlimited space for $4.95 per month. I have only heard good things about it.
In the end the choice is yours. Before deciding that you will not back up your data, think about what would happen if you don’t and you have a hard drive crash, a virus that destroys your data or some other mishap.