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Computer Tips

Some of us think we know the best way to do things.  Here are a few of mine  :)
 

 

  Internet Trickery
Malware Prevention

Screen Cleaning

Printers - Which One?

Printers - Configuration?  USB, Wireless, Wired Network?
Printers - Wireless Troubleshooting
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The Internet Is Not Your Friend

Gone are the days when we went on carefree surfing strolls along the Interwebs.  Companies have discovered that there are millions of gullible people out there who can be exploited by way of pop-ups, advertising, and an Internet user's quest to get information, help, and software for free.

If you do general web searches without looking around corners first, trying your luck trying to find phone numbers, weather, recipes, maps/directions, computer-related help, blind shopping, deals, coupons, online games, etc., you are the target audience of people who want to scam you.

Sure the Internet has legit web sites where these things may be found and accessed but you need to know where to go in advance without doing a new blind search every time.  You also need to know when a page is trying to trick you into thinking something is wrong with your computer or you need to do this in order to do that.  Make the wrong decision and you can give your computer permission to install marketing/tracking software and change browser search engines and Internet home pages.  That's the minimum damage that can be self-inflicted - it can be worse.

Not everyone is an Internet expert.  If you go to the same web sites all the time but need to get there by doing an Internet search, I highly recommend learning how to set bookmarks on your particular web browser so you don't have to get there by way of a search engine.  With my customers who just go to a few places, I place their favorite sites on their Bookmarks Toolbar.

Information.  Let's use driving directions as an example.  Blind searches for driving directions can often leave you with an unwanted toolbar and a browser extension that is there not for your benefit.  MapQuest, AOL, Bing, YaHoo! are popular map sites but they are clunky and often show buttons designed to trick the visitor into installing a toolbar or they allow ads that create pop-ups to trick people into thinking something is wrong with their computer and giving them a help phone number (to a scammer) to call.  Use a map site that doesn't have ads, learn that site and use only that site.  I like Google Maps.

Speaking of ads, your best practice would be to IGNORE ALL ADS.  Never click on one. Never, ever.  The modern Internet is one big nasty billboard.  It's a sewer filled with flash and bling wanting to make a buck off of you.  Nothing good can be had by clicking on an ad.

I could talk about this all day - just remember that the Internet is there to trick you and make you click on things.  It's not the public library and it's not a comfort safe haven unless you are wise to the tricks and know the safe places.   If you are online and something warns you that your computer is infected with something, THIS IS NOT A REAL WARNING.  Update notices given by web pages are usually tricks.  Full-page warning pop-ups sometimes must be closed using Task Manager.

Now, if you have been a victim and things are on your computer that are giving you warnings after a restart or if you let someone on the phone "fix" you computer, please call me.  I won't scold or make fun of you.  None of my customers are experts - that's why they have me.  In addition to cleaning your computer, I'll teach you a lot about it and the internet.

 

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Malware Prevention

For the most part, malware seems to slip by many, if not all anti-virus products.  I have had machines brought to me with AVG, Avira, McAfee, Norton, Kasperski, etc. that have been infected with malware and are affected with the associated registry/system changes and damages.

So what gives?  Aren't we protected if we have an updated anti-virus installed?

Obviously not.

I know a secret that the major anti-virus companies don't want you to know - actual viruses are very rare and the biggest modern threat is malware.  The kicker is that their products will not stop many instances of malware from being installed.

So what about protection?

The best protection is our brain.  People can stay out of trouble by staying in safe areas and not being gullible.  It's generally safe to check email, Facebook, shop, and read news.  These activities are relatively safe and you can engage in these without needing to keep your antenna up with only a few exceptions...

Email
Account reset requests, attachments and web links.  WATCH OUT!  Scammers want to trick you!  Be on the lookout for and question web links that you are emailed - even from contacts you know. Emails accounts still get hacked and when this happens, the victim's contacts often get harvested and emailed a link with no personal message other than the link.  Trouble often awaits at the other ends of these links.

Question and carefully scrutinize emails that require or tempt you to click a link or button to either satisfy a curiosity or to "solve a problem" with an account.  Scammers often use effectible social engineering to get people to click and activate a tripwire or trick people to give up private information.

Important - if you get an email that has a zipped attachment, DON"T MESS WITH THE ATTACHMENT unless you are expecting it.  People who know computers sometimes use zip files as a way to send multiple files inside a single attachment.  But businesses like FedEx, UPS, USPS, PayPal, eBay, the IRS, etc. DO NOT send PDF "reports" inside a zip file.  If you receive an email with a zipped attachment assume that it contains a malicious program. Verify the contents of a zip file with the sender before opening.  If you don't know what a zip file is, go HERE.

Installing Software
Gone are the days where novices can install software safely without fear of being tricked into advertising schemes and being able to undo it if things go south.  At the very least, blindly clicking the [NEXT] buttons on the installation screens coiuld change your Internet homepage, default search engine and add an unneeded toolbar.  Read every screen and opt out of the extras that permits the software to change your homepage or add a toolbar.

In general, free downloaded software is downright dangerous. Almost NOTHING is free without a catch.  It's wise to stay clear of software searches and downloads unless you know exactly how the Internet scam game is played.  Most people are not equipped to deal with the hidden traps buried inside of free software.  Something as simple as trying out a new media player can leave your computer loaded with a list of undesirable software that could take an experienced technician to fully remove.

Kids
My advice is to keep them off of a computer that you care about.  Give them a ChromeBook or similar.  Or create a "Limited" account for them and forbid them to use your password protected account with Administrator rights.  It doesn't take very long for a fearless young game seeker to trash a Windows computer.  With kids, it's not a matter of IF - it's WHEN.

Updates
If you are on the Internet and are prompted to update anything, consider it a trick unless you are adept at recognizing and installing legit updates.  Driver update programs are malicious.  Do not rely on a driver utility to address a suspected driver problem because they are tricks - seek professional help.  Legitimate updates from JAVA and Adobe products are offered to us as our computers start - NOT while on the Internet.  Not sure?  Then wait.  No update is worth messing up your computer.  Even installing legit updates such as those from JAVA and Adobe come with caveats - be sure and uncheck any added features that they want to install in addition to the update.

Tune-up Programs
Often malicious and totally unnecessary.  Stay away.  If you think your computer needs a tune-up, it is probably running slow because of undesirable software running in the background or a heavy-resource antivirus program.  It definitely won't be faster with a so-called "tuneup" program also swirling in the background.

 

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Screen Cleaning

This is for flatscreen TV sets and non-touch screen computer monitors and laptops.  In a new spray bottle, add 1/2 Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and 1/2 distilled water.  Mix.  Spray a clean microfiber cloth and do gentle swirls.  Dry and lightly buff with the other side to remove any streaks.  If you still have streaks or smears, repeat the process until clean.

For touchscreen monitors/laptops and phones, I do not recommend the use of chemicals like alcohol.  This can degrade the coatings on these types of screens that are there to allow your fingers to slide easier.  The slightly damp bath towel that you just used to dry off after a shower is ideal.

 

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Printers

Part 1: Color or B/W? Inkjet or Laser?

Printers are supposed to be easy right?  Well they can be if you carefully follow the instructions that come with the printer, but there are still pitfalls.  Selection is covered here.  Do you really NEED color?  If not, consider a black and white laser printer.  Your ink hassles will be over.  No more troubleshooting cartridges because of dried/clogged print heads.   Laser printers use toner cartridges and toner lasts a lot longer than ink cartridges used in inkjet printers.  I have two older laser printers that are still cranking and for the occasional color need, I have an inexpensive ($20) non-wireless USB-connected HP inkjet.

So you need color but don't mind spending a bit more?  Consider a color laser printer.  You must deal with four toner cartridges but those still last longer than ink.

With inkjet printers, you have the type that use four or more individual color cartridges (Black, Blue, Yellow, Pink) and then there's the type that use only two cartridges - a black and a single tri-color.  The advantage of the two-cartridge type is that the print heads are part of the cartridge and since they get changed when you put in a new cartridge, the print heads rarely need cleaning.

The print head on the four-cartridge type is part of the printer and needs occasional cleaning.  If you are ot aware of this, you might think that you need a new ink cartridge and only after hours of troubleshooting and expensive ink replacements, you might stumble on the suggestion that your print head is dirty or clogged.  Sometimes a built-in print head is so clogged that it needs to be replaced and usually once that conclusion is reached, hours of troubleshooting and expensive ink been wasted.  All for a printer that could have been simply replaced for $89.

If you are having issues with an inkjet printer that is two or more years old and are looking at spending half of what a new one costs just to troubleshoot a possible ink problem, consider replacing the old printer.  What's the part in Kenny Rogers' The Gambler?  "... know when to hold 'em...  Know when to fold 'em...  Know when to pitch your printer..."

 

 

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Printers

Part 2: How to install.... USB?  Wireless?  Wired Network?

I recommend AGAINST installing a printer as wireless whenever possible.  It's not IF it will lose connection - it's WHEN it will lose connection.  Most people do not have the experience troubleshooting wireless networked printers and these things can be one huge headache.

USB-connected printers work FLAWLESSLY but your computer needs to be connected to the printer.  This is not always optimal.

Third option:  "Wired" (Ethernet) connection.  Ethernet-connected networked printers are as reliable but can be more convenient than USB-connected.  The connection method is plugging an Ethernet cable into the printer and the other end into one of the client ports of your router.  Many of us use laptops and don't want to be constantly tethered to a printer by a USB data cable. For this reason, I highly recommend choosing a printer that has wired Ethernet capability.  Configured this way, the printer needs to be located in the vicinity of the router so it can be connected to the router by Ethernet cable.

This type of install works very well.  Instead of DHCP (automatic IP address), I do recommend configuring network printers with a static (manual) IP address outside of or at the top of the router's assignable range.  This is whether you are connecting wirelessly or Ethernet wired.  A static IP address provides stability.  There are places on the Internet that explain how to do this and each printer's settings method is different.  Besides a correct IP address, you will need to enter the proper subnet mask and DNS.  If you are not experienced in networking, this is no doubt another language.  Also note that each connection method has to be individually configured.  As convenient as it would be, printer installation is not as simple as switching cables and plugging in  without configuring. Call me... I can configure your printer correctly.

 

 

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Printers

Part 3: Wireless Troubleshooting

OK.  You didn't listen to me and you have a wireless printer that doesn't print.  Call a pro because at this point, you probably have several failed print jobs clogging up the queue and those need to be deleted before checking other things.  One mistake that people sometimes make is seeing their printer in the wireless access point list and try to reconnect that way.  No.  If you do this, your computer may not be able to access the Internet afterward.  Instead of hours of troubleshooting, call me.

 

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