Computer Scams can really Ruin your day…

Having a bad day today?  Well it could be a lot worse.  What it you were surfing the web on Facebook and suddenly saw this?

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Many people have seen messages such as this, particularly by clicking a link on Facebook.  Don’t fall for this scam.  The real infection here is to get you to call the phone number, let them connect to your computer to “Fix” it, and then have them install real spyware.  Then they show you how the machine is “infected” and tell you they can fix it for $190 only to steel your credit card info and make charges to your card.

Don’t make an errant click into a terrible mistake.  Force quit your browser to get rid of the message and ignore it. NEVER call a phone number for a computer problem that pops up on your screen and NEVER let someone you do not know make a connection remotely to your PC or Mac.

This can happen anywhere on the web but lately, many people see this from clicking a link from Facebook.

Problems with Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

imageQ: I have had increasing issues connecting to WiFi with my phone from free access locations at airports and motels. I get messages like “server not available” or “cannot connect to server”. So far, I have gotten around the problem by turning off WiFi and relying on cellular connection. However, I want to solve the problem, because once we are traveling to Canada we will rely on WiFi to send emails. Any explanation or suggested remedy?

A: I often times see the same thing coming from free wireless connections. In many cases you have to chalk it up to you get what you pay for. These free Wi-Fi connections are many times not very good and even more often don’t work. I find this to be very prevalent in airports.

But there are a couple of other things to consider when you connect to the free Wi-Fi hotspot. I’m finding more more often that these hotspots require you to open the Safari browser after you make connection to them and agree to some hold harmless agreement. I think the lawyers have gotten involved and people who offer free Wi-Fi are afraid someone will use the Wi-Fi for illegal purposes.  They allow you to connect, but unless you immediately go to Safari and agree to their license agreement, which often comes up automatically if you run Safari immediately after connection, you don’t actually have any Internet access.

The other possibility is that some of these are not truly free Wi-Fi sites. They may be connections other people are offering from their computers in the hopes of someone connects  Then, once connected, they are able to scan their computer for private information. It’s very hard to do this on the Mac, and nearly impossible on an iPhone or iPad, but on a Windows machine if you connect to one of these fake hotspots, and don’t have your firewall turned on, a thief can scan your computer for all kinds of private personal information. People create these fake access points hoping to get unsuspecting individuals to connect to them.  Nothing to really worry about with a Mac or an iPhone, but frustrating because they act exactly as your are describing when you try to connect to the Internet.

Finally, many free wireless hotspots, particularly at hotels, will not allow you to send email. They block the email ports in the Internet connection to keep you from using their systems to send out spam. I found this happen a lot in nicer hotels.  In fact, when I was traveling for business, it almost went without saying that if you paid for Wi-Fi at a hotel, it would always have mail blocked.

The best thing I can tell you, is to only connect to the  hotspots that your sure are legitimate. If a business says they offer a hotspot, it’s usually a good one to connect to. But if you see one named something similar to “Free public Wi-Fi” I find 90% of the time these are scams so only connect to one that you’re familiar with.  Also keep in mind that the only benefit of providing a free Wi-Fi connection to a business is marketing, so restaurants, and hotels, tend to put their names in the Wi-Fi connection. If you see an unlocked connection with an odd name you’re not familiar with it’s probably not one you want to connect to.

Those are just some of my thoughts.  Rest of shared, it’s not you or your devices that are having the problem, Everybody sees the same thing and has the same problems.

 

Google photos: the photos service that Apple should have developed

imageThe world of photos storage and manipulation, for the average user, has been turned on its head this spring with Apple releasing its new photos app to replace iPhoto, and now google introducing its own photos service that replaces Google+ photos and Picassa. Also the spring, Yahoo has greatly enhanced it’s Flickr service as a competitor to both the big dogs. With all these options for photo storage and manipulation, how does a person make a choice?

So let me start off by being perfectly clear. If you’re a Photoshop user these are not competitive products to you. If you use Lightroom to store your photos, then these are probably not services you’re going to have interest in either. If you were an Aperture user and Apple abandoned you, you’ve probably already looked into lightroom and likely selected it as your new system. But if you were in iPhoto user, someone who uses Windows Photo Gallery or still a Picassa user, the time is right to look at your other options.

I’ve written about Apple photos before and described how it was a good start at a new photo application for Apple. If you’re a Mac User this may be all you need. But if you’re a Windows user, or you’d like to get your photos into the cloud for storage without paying an arm and a leg, the other options are quite compelling.

imageNow I like Flickr. Flickr is very well developed and with its new release has many features that people will find very useful for dealing with their photos.  If your a Flickr user and have already worked out a workflow for putting your photos up at Flickr, then I see no reason to make a change. But if you have photos on your computer, that are haphazardly stored in folders, Google photos maybe just the ticket for you.

Like most Google services, Google photos is available as a web service in your web browser. First off you have to have a Google account to use the service. If you have a Gmail address you already have the account set up.  Once you connect to Google photos you have the ability to be able to put photos into the service and have them backed up. One of the benefits of Google photos is that they allow you to store up to 16 megapixel images uncompressed for free. If you’re using a camera that takes larger images, photos will down sample the image to that size or you can choose to pay for storage space to store full size images. For most users using the free unlimited storage is good enough.

So what makes Google photo special? Google photos has a lot of intelligence built-in similar to what iPhoto users had been used to with faces and places. Google photos gives you the ability to put photos up and then Google uses their algorithms to scan those photos to help organize them in a very simple way.

imageGoogle has made available a small application for both Macintosh and Windows users that allows you to automatically upload any photos on your computer. This application runs in the background and will send any new photos up to Google photos as soon as they’re on your computer. This makes using Google Photos extremely easy. You basically continue to work with photographs the way you always have and Google Photos sends copies of those photos up to their web service and stores them for you as a backup. If you’re in computer user that has photos stored on your computer and is not religious about backing them up I see no reason to not use Google photos just for that service. Even if you do nothing with the photos you put up in Google photos, just allowing Google to back them up for you at no cost is a big win. To do this you don’t even have to go to the website, you can just download the small application, run it, and let the backups begin.

But some of the real power of Google photos begins once your photos are stored with Google. As your photos are put online in an area that is secure and only accessible to you, Google analyzes these photos both by reading the metadata and also by analyzing the image itself. From this Google automatically creates things called stories that are basically short booklets of images that are related often by time or location. You really have to see this in action to understand it. I’ll tell you upfront I was pretty amazed. In addition Google organizes photos by peoples faces, locations, and generic terms such as lakes, mountains, flowers, and helicopters. I am certainly not very good at tagging my photos but the way Google analyze them and puts them into groups was amazing.

imageHere are some of the things googles literature says that it does.

• VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the people, places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description. Note: Face grouping is not available in all countries.
• AUTO BACKUP: Keep all your photos and videos safe and accessible from any device. Choose free, unlimited cloud storage available at high quality, or store up to 15GB original size for free (shared across your Google account).
• SAVE SPACE ON YOUR DEVICE: Google Photos can help you clear safely backed up photos and videos from your device so you never have to worry about deleting a photo to make space.
• BRING PHOTOS TO LIFE: Automatically create montage movies, interactive stories, collages, animations, and more.
• EDITING: Transform photos with the tap of a finger. Use simple, yet powerful, photo and video editing tools to apply filters, adjust colors, and more.
• SHARING: Share hundreds of photos instantly with shareable links and use whichever apps you’d like to share.
You can read more about some of the amazing things Google photos can do on Google’s website at http://www.google.com/photos/about/

Google currently has applications for photos on the iPhone, iPad, and android devices. And for first releases, they are very good.  They also promise native apps for Macintosh and Windows coming soon.

So if you don’t have a photo storage strategy, or your strategy has been blown apart with the discontinuing of iPhoto, or even if you just want to try a good way to back up your photos automatically, I highly recommend Google photos as your new photo storage service. I’m not completely counting out Apple photos at this point, but Google photos is the app Apple should have released. So I’ll continue to use the Apple photos app in addition to Adobe lightroom to manage my imagery, but I’m going to let Google backup my photos because I can see the amazing potential of what they released this week.

What’s the story on cookies in your web browser these days?

Verizons-Mobile-‘Cookies’-Could-Take-the-CakeQ: How about a rule of thumb for cookies? I recently discovered that my cookies were causing login problems for a site that I use to order medications.

A: It used to be, that cookies were a real problem for browsers.  Websites would store information about you and then use it too direct you to places they wanted you to go. Some advertising still tries to do this. Have you ever searched for something you’re looking to buy only to find that many websites you go to now have it in their sidebar. It’s a little annoying but it’s the way the web works..

Over the last few years browsers have become more intelligent on how they deal with cookies. Most advertisers have realized that using your information to try to sell you something when you’re not asking really doesn’t work.  As a result I don’t necessarily believe you need to delete all of your web browser cookies as many people used to recommend.  So many websites use these cookies to make our experiences better and deleting them keeps that from happening. Not only that, legitimate websites are using cookies to assist you in being remembered, setting your preferences, and helping you to find things that are actually a real benefit.

In my opinion, the days of suggesting that you delete all your cookies, or prevent your browser from storing cookies are really over.  So my recommendation is to review your cookie settings and allow your browser to store them, or at least some of them.

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In Safari, this is under privacy preferences. As you can see from the dialog box, using “Allow from websites I visit” or even “always allow” is probably a reasonable setting.

In this case of the problem you were having where the cookie was causing problems it certainly is a time to delete it. But most web browsers give us the ability to delete individual ones rather than all the cookies.  In Safari, to remove all the cookies you would press remove all website data. But if you have a particular website you want to remove the cookie from, you can press the details button. From this dialogue.  This allows you to remove a single cookie causing a problem. Find the site you want to remove and press “Remove”.

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In Chrome, it’s a little more difficult to find. first go to preferences in chrome then scroll to the bottom and click “Show advanced settings”.  Under the privacy area press the content settings button.  This is where you find your cookie preferences.

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Now press the All cookies and site data..”  button and you’ll find where to go to delete individual cookies.  Again, find the site you want to remove, select it, and press the small “x” on the right side.

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in general cookies are not a bad thing anymore. I believe they enhance our experience on the web and make surfing easier. So don’t be afraid of cookies anymore.

Internet Slowdown Problems

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.26.09 AMQ: Lately I’ve noticed that the internet has slowed down a great deal. I also tried to purchase music at iTunes and got an error message, three times, that the network connection had ‘timed out’

A: In my experience Internet slowdowns are often a result of two things. Obviously it could be a slow down at the cable company providing the service. But the second thing actually happens more often. The devices that connect us to that Internet sometimes get confused. These are boxes at tend to run 24 hours a day so any little glitch can cause a problem. The first thing I always do when the network seems slow is to unplug the router and unplugged the cable modem. But it’s important to reconnect them in the right sequence.

While these boxes are unplugged, restart your computer. It’s always a good idea to shut down all the way to power off and then turn the power back on.

Next, plug the cable/DSL modem in and then wait about a minute. Now plug the power into the router. This allows the cable modem to reset and make a connection prior to getting the router powered back up. Once you’ve done that the next thing to do is to test the speed of your Internet and see if you’re getting what you’re paying for.

I often use one of these websites to test Internet speed.

http://www.speedtest.net/
http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest

There are also apps to do this on the iPhone or the iPad.

If you’re not getting the speed you’re paying for, it’s time to call your Internet service provider and see if they can do anything to help.

Network attached storage for the home: The good the bad

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.06.00 PMEverything you hear these days is about cloud computing. Articles about ways that people are moving to the cloud seem to be all over the internet.  Many are related to many products that can store your files in the cloud.  I have had the opportunity to try a couple of network attach storage devices recently and had one very good experience and one not so good.

So why would you want a home network attached storage device? Well that’s pretty easy to explain . If you’re using cloud storage today you’re likely limited by the amount of cloud storage that’s provided at a low-cost. You can definitely add additional storage for additional cost but that still does not solve the problem of having enough storage for what you want to put in the cloud. Vendors have realized this need and have developed network attached storage devices that you can put in your home and that will provide you a large amount of storage for a relatively low cost. You also have the added security of knowing that your cloud data is located where you put it. There is no risk of the cloud service going out of business or losing your data by doing things this way. It does not eliminate the need for a backup of your network device, but it does provide you that peace of mind in knowing that you have the data and are the only one with the data.Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.06.27 PM

The first one I tried is made by Western Digital called My Cloud. Western Digital is a storage company that makes hard disk drives that are available at a local electronic stores so they were a natural to get into the network attached storage business. If you’re familiar with an external Western Digital hard drive,The My Cloud device will look very similar. On the back of this device you will find an ethernet connection port. This port connects to your local home network and allows you to configure the device for access outside the home. It also provides a USB3 port on the back of the device to allow you to either upload photos from a digital camera or connect directly to your computer.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.10.13 PMSetting up the device only takes a few minutes. Once you install the included software on your computer it provides access to the device You then connect to the device across your home network to do the configuration. Once it’s connected you can map drive to your computer or you can access the files from the Internet. It’s very easy to work with and works very quickly. Western Digital offers mobile apps for the Android and iOS operating systems that which helps solve another problem many of us face: data fragmentation caused by having stored files on multiple devices. Install the apps onto your smartphones and tablets, and you can send all your media files over the Internet to your My Cloud.

One of the best parts of this network attached device is the cost. A 2 TB unit costs about $150. A 3 TB unit is about $200. Considering the cost of the drive itself is at least $100 to $150, these devices are are absolute bargains.

Unfortunately, I can’t be nearly as positive about the second device I’ve had experience Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.28.24 PMwith. This unit was called Transporter from Connected Data. (recently purchased by Drobo). If you were giving points for looks, the transporter would certainly be a winner. It has a very odd shape and a beautiful blue light that pulses when date is being accessed. But looks are about the end of the good things I can say about transporter. The software for this product has been extremely buggy. I ‘ve also found that when I have the software running on my computer in noticeably slows my machine down. You might be able to forgive the company for some problems with the software, but the problems with the transporter only begin there.

The Achilles’ heel behind the beautiful looks of the transporter is that it uses only a 2 1/2 inch drive. As a result, the costs are much higher for drives in a transporter. Plus many small 2 1/2″ drives are truly intended for laptops and not intended for something that spins and runs 24 hours a day. The result of this drive choice is that transporters are expensive and slow compared to other devices. As an example, a 2 TB transporter costs $350. That’s a full $200 more than the Western Digital My Cloud.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.28.35 PMOne of transporters claims to fame is that can it can automatically mirror your data to another transporter. In practice, this proved to be difficult to make happen. Configuration, firewalls, and general lack of ability for the device to see itself on the network made doing this difficult. When you add in the fact that to make this work you need a second transporter, you have to wonder what these people were thinking about in their design and selection of product features.

You have to wonder why a company like Drobo, that provides high-quality storage devices, would purchase transporter. Couple that with the fact that Drobo doesn’t even advertise transporter on it’s own website makes me believe that the purchase was more related to software or people that it was to the device itself.

From my experience with these two devices there is no choice. If you’re looking for a low-cost network attached storage device, to build your own cloud in your home, choose the Western Digital My Cloud. Steer away from transporter.   It really does not perform as well as it should, and costs way too much.

Cloud Storage Options

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.08.05 AMWhere once there was one now there many. Cloud storage is a big fad of these days. Being able to store documents and have them accessible from any location on any device is not just nice but it serves A real business purpose. The ability to open documents created on one device on all your devices could be of great help to you. But how do you know which cloud storage system to use? With so many choices in the market today, it’s hard to make that decision. So let’s take a look at some of the major players in the market for class storage and see what their benefits and weaknesses are.

Before we look at each option individually, let’s get some of the preliminaries out-of-the-way. All of these storage options give you the ability to store documents locally on your computer and have them automatically synchronized to the cloud for use in other locations. All of the major players in the marketplace today support Macintosh, Windows, Android, iOS, and browser-based access. All of these major players also provide a free trial of their service with a small amount of cloud storage space. They also all allow you to purchase additional storage if you have the need. And finally, all of these players are major companies vying for your use of the cloud. In general they all do the same thing, but in practicality, some have benefits over others.

So let’s look at the major players:

Dropbox

Dropbox is been around for quite a while. As a result of his longevity, many more applications support the use of dropbox storage then any other cloud storage on the market. If any system can be called the standard for cloud storage, Dropbox is the one. You can store any kind of file in Dropbox, by either uploading to the Web site or adding it with the desktop apps. Those apps live in your file system so you retain copies of them on your computer for easy and fast use. Dropbox provides you 2 GB of free storage. I use dropbox every day for storing documents I want to have access on my iOS devices. It’s easy-to-use integrated into both Microsoft and Windows and Mac and works seamlessly with almost any other device type you might use. It also supports sharing files when you use tons of different kinds of devices.

Google Drive

If you already have a Google account, you can already access Google Drive Just go to drive.google.com and enable the service. You get 15GB of storage for anything you upload to Drive, including photos, videos, documents, Photoshop files and more. However, you have to share that 15GB with your Gmail account, photos you upload to Google+, and any documents you create in Google Drive. When it comes to a web-based client, Google drive truly excels. It’s web-based interface is the best of the bunch and its integration with Google services provides a high level of value. If you’re a Google user, Google drive is already part of the service your getting. Other than issues related to privacy, with Google in general, I think Google drive is probably the best service available today. I use Google drive every day to store documents and use them on multiple devices. This service is highly recommended.

OneDrive (formally SkyDrive)

If you are a user of Windows 8 and 8.1, you have OneDrive built into your operating system, where it shows up in the file explorer next to all of the files on your computer’s hard drive. But, anyone can use it on the Web or by downloading a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, and OneDrive is also available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox. If you were a Windows user OneDrive makes perfect sense for you use. If you subscribe to Office 365 you get additional storage as part of that subscription plan. But if you’re not a Windows user or subscriber there’s probably not much reason for you to use OneDrive as your primary cloud storage location.

Box

Box has been around for a long time but has never really taken off with users as a class storage system. Box service’s list of sharing and privacy features were built specifically for business and IT users. Because it is not backed by one of the major players or integrated into many applications box is simply another option for you to look at for storage space on the web. Unless your an IT organization  looking for large amounts of storage in the cloud for your business, you likely need to look elsewhere for personal or small business needs.

But what about iCloud?

Apple has taken a slightly different tack to cloud storage. Like many things in the Apple universe, apples cloud storage is intended for use with their devices only. Apple seems to believe that cloud storage should be transparent and as a result provides iCloud that works in the background to store many things including documents. Unfortunately this only works really well if you’re using Apple products or products Apple supports (ie Windows).Apple provides the ability to synchronize contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and other information is used on a daily basis with iPhone, iPad, or computer. And let’s be clear, for this use, Apple does a great job. Storage and use of these pieces of information are absolutely transparent to the user one set up. But in my opinion Apple holds is proprietary system to close to itself to make iCloud be your only class storage system. I wholly recommend that for these items mentioned above iCloud is your best choice. But when it comes to storage of documents, iCloud is probably not your solution. If you’re to only use Apple products such as pages, numbers, and keynote, did Apple store system works perfectly but if you use other documents or want to be able to store other file types iCloud leaves you wanting. This seems to be because Apple integrates I call use into his applications making it just as transparent as the storage of your contacts. But unfortunately Apple does not allow other vendors to integrate iCloud so closely in their applications. So unless Apple applications are the only thing you use, one of the other cloud storage systems is better suited for document storage. My recommendation for iCloud use is that if you have iPads, iPhones, or Macs, use iCloud to stor ad sync contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and other personal information but use one of the other cloud document storage systems for storing documents in the cloud.

Below is a table from a Cnet article on cloud storage options.  If your are looking for more depth on the subject, take a look at this article.

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So what are my final recommendations? I think there’re many reasons to use more than one cloud storage system. Each system has integration in certain areas that the other systems lack. Story documents in more than one location can never be a bad idea. But the bottom line is that class storage systems are here to stay. If you’re not using them now you need to begin to look at them. With so many new devices using solid-state storage and providing less storage then you might have had on a machine with a spinning hard drive, there’re many reasons to start storing some of your information in the cloud.

Top 10 mistakes people make when purchasing a new computer – Part 2

Top-5In a continuation of my previous post, here they are, the top 5 mistakes people make when they’re considering a computer purchase

5. Waiting until your old machine fails to purchase

When is the worst time to buy new computer? That answer is simple. If your computer has just failed, it is the worst time to have to buy a new machine. Not only do you tend to rush your decision, but you also may have issues with whether your data is well backed up and you can recover the data from your old machine. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Computers fail. That probably is not going to change. So planning your new purchase on a timeframe is often a good idea. I tell people that if your computer is five years old it’s time to start considering a new machine. It may run well today, but a failure of any part of that machine is often too expensive to repair. In fact, a hardware failure on the machine as young as two years is sometimes more expensive than replacing the device.

Don’t expect your computer to last forever. And if your computer is very old, make sure you have a good data backup. There’s nothing I hate worse than telling someone all of their pictures, all of their music, all of their documents, and many times their business records, are gone because they didn’t have a backup. Many times people ask me if there’s any way to retrieve that data. There are companies that will attempt to retrieve the data for you. But beware, these services do not come cheap.

About 12 years ago I have experience with a customer who lost a 400 GB raid device. Unfortunately, there was no backup. Since this date or was absolutely critical to his business, he contracted with a company called Drive Savers to recover his data. They were able to recover every bit of the data he had. But unfortunately, the cost was over $20,000. If that seems like a lot of money, it is, and while prices may have gotten less expensive, our data storage needs have gotten much larger than 400 GB. So when people ask me about recovery companies to retrieve data on a failed hard drive, I always tell them that Drive Savers does a great job, but you probably won’t want to pay for it. Do yourself a favor, and have a good backup strategy for your computer. It will pay dividends if you ever have a failure. One copy of your data is never enough.

The other problem with waiting for a computer failure to replace your old machine is that you’ll never get a good price. Having to make a purchase without giving yourself time to do the research, it will always cost you more. If your computer is older don’t wait till it dies to make the decision to replace it.

4. Not considering other platforms

You’ve always use the PC. Why would you want to change? I’m not saying the change is always good I’m just saying that it’s often a good idea to consider all the options.

Ask yourself if your computing needs could better be served with a tablet device. Could you get by with a browser-based computer such as a chrome book? Is it time to consider a platform change to Macintosh? There may be many reasons one of these solutions is a better fit for you than just buying a another computer like you had before. Think about how you use the computer. Think about where you use the computer. Is a laptop better for you this time than a desktop? Consider all your options before you make a decision on what direction you want to go. You might be surprised at how well you enjoy a change of pace.

3. Believing that all your peripherals will work with a new computer

This is one of the most common problems I see. You go out and purchase a new computer, set it up and do all the software installs, and finally get around to installing your peripherals that you already own only to find out that your printer, thats seven years old, doesn’t have a driver for a new operating system. I see this happen a lot with printers, scanners, and occasionally specialty pieces of hardware. Checking for availability of drivers for the new operating system you’re going to get on your new computer is often a good idea before you make the decision to purchase. While this rarely will change your mind on your computer purchase, it may set your expectations as to what else you may have to replace at the same time as the computer.

Hardware vendors sometimes don’t make drivers for new operating systems. They leave their peripherals left behind in old versions. That doesn’t mean these printers and scanners don’t continue to work, as long as their left on an older version of software. It does mean that these devices may not be able to move forward with you to a new machine. If you know this upfront, you can often better plan your purchase. Checking usually only takes a few minutes on the peripheral vendors website to see if drivers are available.

2. Not discussing your plans with a expert you trust

Making an informed decision on your computer purchase is a great idea. Doing research and looking into what you want or need is the perfect first start. After that, making a plan on what you want to do is the next step. What some people often skip is the idea that what you read on the web is not always the full story. Talking to someone you trust about what you plan to do is a great idea. I’m always happy to talk to people about what they want to accomplish. In many cases we can come up with an easier, less expensive, or better way to do it if we just talk it out upfront. The worst time to try to get advice is after you’ve already made the purchase. A quick phone call upfront will often save many hours of frustration in the end.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 1.28.01 PMNot getting assistance soon enough

This is probably the problem I see most often. People often believe that they can continue to work on things and solve even though they don’t really know what the problem is. They make changes to settings, reinstall drivers, uninstall software, all in an attempt to get a problem fixed. By the time they finally get assistance the damage they’ve done requires much more effort to fix then it would’ve been to fix the problem in the first place. I have seen cases when people uninstall portions of the operating system that and up requiring a full restore to fix. All in an attempt to fix minor issue with some new peripheral or device they purchased.

I certainly believe in self-sufficiency when it comes to computer use. I believe people should attempt to fix the problem themselves if they feel they can. But the best recommendation I can give is that if you’re making changes, because you don’t know what else to do, that may be the time to get assistance. In some ways, knowing when to say when is a tough thing.

Well there it is.  10 mistakes I see all too ofter.  If now is the time to make a computer purchase, I hope you give some consideration to these mistakes so that you don’t end up repeating them.  The purchase of a new computer can be an exciting thing.  Don’t temper the excitement by causing yourself any of these problems.

Top 10 mistakes people make when purchasing a new computer – Part 1

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 1.24.18 PMTop 10 lists are very popular today   I thought it might be interesting if I provided a top 10 list of mistakes people make when they’re considering a computer purchase   Since this list is kind along, I’ve split it into two separate posts. So here’s the first five.

10. Listening to a big box store sales person

Many big box stores hire salesmen based upon quotas. Often times the sales people get paid based upon which computers or devices they sell. As a result, it’s often hard to believe what they tell you. Many times you hear exactly what you want when you talk to one of the sales people. Even if you go in looking for one device, you many times get steered to another device that they are going to make more money off of. Be aware of this in your shopping.

Always know what you’re looking for and do research on the product you’re interested in before walking into a big box store to purchase. And since many computer items are commodities, purchasing online is never a bad idea. Many times you’ll save money that way.

9. Being the first person to try something new

We all love the new products. Sometimes the new thing looks to be absolutely perfect for you. Vendors in the computer industry spend lots of money making you believe that. They provide free hardware to people who will write good reviews for them. They rush products out the door before they’re ready to meet a particular seasons demand. Try not to get caught up in having to have the newest product on the block. In general, you’ll always pay more, but it’s common to see new products today that are three months old tomorrow cost much less. If you purchase a new device when it’s first delivered you also run the risk of buying something that has bugs in it. I always recommend people wait a few weeks for things to sort out our new hardware devices before making their purchase.   Wait for the real people reviews to show up on the web.

Believe me, I’ve often wished I could take my own advice on this one.

8.  Not getting enough Ram memory

RAM memory, the memory the computer uses to actually run programs, is fairly inexpensive today. Most machines come with a minimum of 4 GB of RAM. Upgrading that ram is often times not very expensive. A good recommendation for a computer today is to look for a machine with 6 GB to 8 GB of RAM. This much memory, will future-proof you for new operating systems and new programs that require more space to run. Purchasing a computer with 8 GB of RAM over a computer with 4 GB of RAM will often cost between $50 and $100 at today’s prices. That additional cost is well worth it.

But keep in mind, RAM is often the thing that can be added to a computer these days. But if you purchase a laptop, that has soldered RAM in it, you can’t often  more RAM at a later date so get what you need today.

7.  Underestimating your storage needs

It used to be, that every new computer had more storage than the last. What were seen today with the advent of solid-state storage, many computers, particularly laptops, are coming with solid-state hard drives. Solid-state hard drives are much more expensive than they’re spending counterparts. As a result, vendors provide less storage when solid-state is used than they did when spending disks were used. It would be hard to find a computer today with a spinning disk smaller than 500 GB. But it’s common today to find computers with solid-state hard drives of 128 GB. If you have lots of pictures, music, or video stored on your computer, be sure to determine how much space that will take on your new machine before you make your purchase. It’s always bad to end up with less storage on a new machine then you have on the old one unless you put a plan in place of what you’re going to do with those files when you move to the new computer.

6.  Shopping only based on price

The old idea that you get what you pay for is true in computers. If you always look for the cheapest price you’ll always end up with the cheapest device. Most computers are today commodities. You can buy parts and build your own or you can buy one already assembled. But like many things, there are many grades of hardware and parts that could be put into a computer. If you buy the cheapest computer you can fine you can depend upon the fact that it has the cheapest parts in it that are available. That doesn’t necessarily mean these are poor parts, but it does mean they’re probably less tested and often more likely to fail.

Some people complain about the cost of the Macintosh. But one thing about the Macintosh you can depend upon is that the parts it’s made of our high-quality. If you look at PC vendors, they often have home lines of machines and business lines of machines. The business machines often costs more and that makes perfect sense, because these machines are made from better components. People replacing computers for their business often consider the long-term cost and value of the computer. Unfortunately people who buy a computer for home are often only looking for the cheapest price.

I certainly recommend you do shop for price. But I don’t recommend picking the cheapest thing you can find. These cheaper machines often have lesser levels of support, and I’m not just talking about support for a hardware failure, I’m talking about support for updated drivers and configuration parameters.

If you’re looking for a PC, choosing a machine from a company’s business line will often times get you a higher quality computer.

So there are the first five reasons. Later in the week, I’ll show you the top five. Feel free to provide comments on any of my posts. I appreciate your input.

How do you know so many answers to tech questions?

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 4.14.17 PMMany people ask me how I know so many answers to tech questions.  Part of what I know is how to perform a good Google search.  Here are some tips from the Google Support site on how to do a good Google search.

Tip 1: Keep it simple

No matter what you’re looking for, try to start with a simple search like [where’s the closest airport?]. You can always add a few descriptive words if necessary.

If you’re looking for a place or product in a specific location, add the location. For example, [bakery seattle].

 Tip 2: Search using your voice

Tired of typing? Click the microphone icon in Chrome’s search box to search by voice.

Tip 3: Use web friendly words

Use words that are most likely to appear on websites. For example, instead of saying [my head hurts], say [headache], because that’s the word a medical site would use.

 Tip 4: Don’t worry about the little things

Spelling. Google’s spell checker automatically uses the most common spelling of a given word, whether or not you spell it correctly.

Capitalization. A search for [New York Times] is the same as a search for [new york times].

Punctuation. Most punctuation, like ?!,.%^*()[]\, is ignored when you search.

Tip 5: Find quick answers

For many searches, Google will do the work for you and show an answer to your question on the search results. Some features, like information about sports teams, aren’t available in all regions.

Weather. Search [weather] to see the weather in your location or add a city name after Weatherweather to find weather for a certain place.

Dictionary. Put [define] in front of any word to see its definition.

Calculations. Enter a math equation like [3*9123], or solve complex graphing equations.

Unit conversions. Enter any conversion, like [3 dollars in euros].

Sports. Search for the name of your team to see a schedule, game scores and more.

Quick facts. Search for the name of a celebrity, location, movie, or song to find important information.