Google+ 2009 ~ High Tech House Calls

Mesmerizing Sheep Harding

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday newsletter sent! Money saving coupons included. Did not receive one? Send email to carlthorne@htcatlanta.con to request one.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Become a fan of High Tech House Calls. Go the hthcatlanta.com and click on the "become a fan" button in Facebook lower right corner of site.

Life goes on. My website is back up! The terror of changing host companies is at an end! Happy Holidays! www.hthcatlanta.com

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apple or Windows 7? Need help deciding? We offer free advice! High Tech House Calls @ 404.229.0839

Need help with Constant Contact to manage your email distribution list? We have the answers to your questions. Let us help! 404.229.0839

New newsletter should be sent Dec 2nd with money saving coupons. Look for it in your inbox. Go to www.hthcatlanta.com to subscribe.

Are you thinking computer for Christmas? Let High Tech House Calls set it up and have it ready for the big day. Call us at 404.229.0839!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Electronic Recycling Day - Cobb County, GA

Electronics Recycling Day






Keep Cobb Beautiful
Electronics Day
and Shoe Collection
Saturday, November 14, 2009

9am – 1pm
Jim R. Miller Park - 2245 Callaway Road Marietta, GA 30008
Piedmont Church - 570 Piedmont Road Marietta, GA 30066


Items Accepted
Computer Monitors/Microwave Ovens/Computer CPU's Stereos/ Toaster/ Laptops/ Copiers/ Printers/ Video Machines/ Alarm Clocks/ Disk Drives/ VCRs/ Can Openers Floppy Drives/ Camcorders/ Telephones/ Test & Networking Equipment/ Camera (Digital too)/ CB Radios Modems/ Mouse/ Record Players/ CD Players/ Circuit Boards/ Portable Radios/ Electrical Panels/ Typewriters/ UPS/ Battery Back-Up/ CD Roms/ Fax Machines/ Cell Phones/ Rechargeable Batteries/ Cables/ Projectors/ Keyboards/ 8-Tracks (Reel to Reel Tape)/ Scanners.
TELEVISIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED FOR A $10 FEE PER TV.


Items NOT Accepted
Refrigerators / Washers / Dryers / Ovens / Freezers / Humidifiers - Humidifiers Power Equipment / Tires / Household Trash / Non-Electronic Equipment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Free Upgrade to Norton Anti Virus 2010?


Do you currently have installed a current (not expired) version of Norton Anti Virus or Norton Internet Security?

You may be eligible for a free upgrade.
Click on this link and follow the directions. (http://updatecenter.norton.com/)

Why upgrade? The newer release should have improvements from the previous one. Those improvements might include:
  • Using less resources on your computer.
  • Detecting viruses quicker.
  • Detecting viruses better.
If you have the installation CD for the Norton Anti Virus Product you are currently running, you can always de-install the 2010 release and re-install the 2009 release if you think the older release is the better release of the two.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Webmail vs. Outlook - Time to Change?


What are the differences between using webmail (email accessed via an Internet Browser) and Outlook (email application part of the Microsoft Office Suite)?

Where is your inbox, sent and user created email folders located?
  1. Webmail: On the Internet Service Providers' mail server.
  2. Outlook: On your computer.
If you email is on your computer, you can back it up. Is it is on a web server, your email probably is not backed up.


Where are your address book (contacts) and appointments (calendar) located?
  1. Webmail: On the Internet service providers web server.
  2. Outlook: On your computer.
Same note as with email.


Will my Smart Phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Palm) synchronize with my email application?
  1. Webmail: No.
  2. Outlook: Yes.
Your backup can restore all your contacts and appointments to your new phone.

Must I use my own computer to access my email?
  1. Webmail: No.
  2. Outlook: Yes.
In general, more than one computer using Outlook cannot access Outlook. This is not true with webmail since all the email is stored on the mail server.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Moving to an Different Email Address


You have decided to change from your current email address to another. How do you inform everyone that you communicate with, your new email address?

The easiest way is to create a list of all your corespondents' email addresses by entering them into a distribution list.

Once the distribution list is created, you can send an email to the distribution list that states that your email address has changed, what it has changed to, a request for your corespondent to update their address book with the changed email address and a cutoff date when your old email address will no longer be valid. Once the email is sent out, you might get messages that one your email is undeliverable. More than likely this is because the email address you tried to send to is out-of-date and is not longer valid.

In conjunction with the email sent to your distribution list, email applications like Outlook allow you to auto-reply to new email messages. The auto-reply would have a similar message to the one you created for your distribution list.

All the websites that require an email address to communicate with you will need to be updated one by one. One way to accomplish this is to make the change when you need to access the website.

Time to Get Rid of Your AOL Software?

Are you using AOL Software to access your email?

Put your computer on a diet by getting rid of all the AOL Software and using an Internet Browser to access your webmail or receive your AOL email through an email application such as Microsoft Outlook (part of the Microsoft Office Suite).

Why get rid of AOL Software?
How do you uninstall the AOL Software?

On the Windows Operating System, look for Add/Remove or Programs and Features and select AOL Software. Indicate that you wish to remove the software and you are done.

On an Apple Computer, go the Applications Folder and select the AOL Folder. Drag the folder to the trash can.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blackberry News You Can Use



The Blackberry Desktop for Mac Application was available for download on October 2nd. (http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/desktop/desktop_mac.jsp) This installation was tricky, but sync'ing with Entourage 2007 worked! The folks at High Tech House Calls suggest you make the change from PocketMac (current Blackberry Application used for sync'ing on a Mac) to Blackberry Desktop for Mac. We would be happy to assist you the installation. Call High Tech House Calls at 404.229.0839.

Texting is a way of life with a Blackberry, but it is easy to delete a received text before you have copied down the information you need from it. A free application automatically sends your text message to your email so that you have an electronic record of it that can be retrieved later from your computer email inbox. The Cortado SMS2Desk software automatically forwarded all my text messages to an email address we specified. No more asking to have text'ed information send again. (http://www.cortado.com/euen/CortadoFree/SoftwareforBlackBerry/SMS2Desk.aspx)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Books to Add to Your Reading List


For Your Health: Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You're 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley, Henry S. Lodge M.D. M.D.

I'm not interested in ending up in a walker. Following this book NOW allows you to plateau health-wise instead of a gradual decline. I can see a difference from the couple of months I have been following the advice.

For Networking: Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz

Why did I spend 25 years consulting idiots and doing their work? How did they get the CEO job when it looks like they needed help getting dressed in the morning. This book was an eye opener.


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)
by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Mind expanding.
Interesting stories to tell to new contacts.

For Business: Communicating Strategy
by Phil Jones

Insight from an expert.

101 Ways to Promote Yourself: Tricks Of The Trade For Taking Charge Of Your Own Success
by Raleigh Pinskey

One great idea after another. Now, if I could find the time to implement them...

Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
by John Jantsch

The right price for what I can afford for good marketing advice.




Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Disaster Recovery Plan - Prepare for the Next Flood


  • Gather all your software installation CD's into one place. If the pile is overwhelming because you have kept software for computers you no longer own or the software is outdated, now is the time to throw out the old and keep the current. If you want help culling through all the software, please call High Tech House Calls (404.229.0839). We are here to help.
  • Store your software CD's in a safe place. At the very least, store your software in a different room from your computers. A safer option would be a fireproof media safe or a bank safety deposit box. Plastic (what CD's are made of) will melt before paper will burn, so getting a fireproof media safe is a must.
  • To ensure your the safety of your personal data such as Quicken financial records, word documents, and photos, you should be backing your data up to an external hard drive, Cd's or an online backup solution such as Carbonite http://www.carbonite.com.
If the worst happens and your computers are under water, relax a little, because all your things you need to restore your computers are safe and sound.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Snow Leopard - Worth the Cost of Admission?


Snow Leopard is the newest release of the Apple Mac Operating System. This update is only available to Intel Processor based Apple computers. Power PC processor based systems such as the iBook cannot use this upgrade. Power PC systems are basically frozen from upgrading beyond Leopard. With this limitation in mind, it might make sense to start saving for a new Apple computer with an Intel processor.

Installation was straight forward; I did not encounter any problems.

Is it worth the $30?

No!

  1. This release offers no new functionality that most users will be able to use or see. The core basis of this release is an improvement in computer speed. The benchmarks I have seen show that the casual user of an Apple computer will not notice any increase in computer response times.
  2. You will need to update and install new print drivers for your printer. The good news is the major printer manufacturers have posted on their websites drivers that support Snow Leopard.
  3. Third party Apple Software such as TechTools Pro (http://www.micromat.com/) may require upgrades to their products to work with Snow Leopard. Therefore, the true cost may be much more than $30 if you factor in the additional upgrade costs for third party software you may be running.

Vista 64 Bit Version - Is this the version you should be running?


Many Microsoft operating systems come in 64-bit and 32-bit versions (Win XP, Vista, Windows 7). Many Dell and HP systems are coming pre-loaded with 64-bit versions of the operating system. If you bought a 64-bit version by mistake or found out that a 64-bit version will not work in your computer environment, you will have to buy a 32-bit version of the operating system and load your computer from scratch your computer.


What are the major differences between the two versions?

  • A 64-bit version of the operating system allows you to utilize more memory space. More memory means the computer and its associated applications should run faster.
  • The 64-bit version of the software is more expensive than the 32-bit version.
  • Your computer hardware must have the capability to run a 64-bit version. If your computer has this capability, you have the option of loading either the 64-bit or 32-bit version of the operating system.

What are the problems with upgrading a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit operating system on a 64-bit hardware capable system?

1. Some of your existing hardware components may not have 64-bit drivers.

Sound cards, printers and network interface cards, to name a few, may stop running because the manufacturer has not created a 64-bit driver.

2. In Vista 64-bit, any driver that is not properly signed will not be able to enter the kernel and will fail to load.

Think how many times you have ignored that warning that a certain hardware driver is not properly signed when you installed it for the first time. With Vista 64-bit, if your driver has not be recertified by Microsoft, it will not work. Therefore, a 64-bit driver can exist for your device, but will not work if the manufacturer has not had Microsoft certify it.

3. Very little 64-bit software currently exists.

64-bit software only runs on a 64-bit hardware system with a 64-bit operating system. Currently, however, there is very little 64-bit software out there. Unfortunately, this situation is the classic Chicken versus Egg paradox.

One example I have run across is Palm's Desktop Software which will not run on a 64-bit platform. Therefore, you cannot sync your Palm Smartphone with your computer.

Conclusion:

If you decide that a 64-bit version of the operating system will not support your computing environment, make sure the operating system that is pre-loaded on the new computer you are looking at is a 32-bit version.


Monday, August 24, 2009

HP Computers - Recovery Nightmare



We do not recommend buying HP computers.
Here's why:


How much time did you spend setting up your computer when you took it out of the box?


If you are like most people, you plugged the computer into the wall, turned it on, and pressed the enter key a couple of times.

Did you notice which software CD's came with your computer? If it was an HP computer, there were not any CD's. Why?
  • CD's cost money. To minimize the price of the computer and maximize the profit, hard copy manuals and software installation CD's are typically not included with HP systems.
  • One of the pieces of cardboard that you probably did not read indicated that you needed to make a Recovery CD Kit for your new computer. Such a kit would enable you to restore your computer if the contents of the hard drive ever are corrupted and need to be reloaded.
What is a Recovery CD Kit?

A backup for your computer's files is written to CD. Typically this means 10-12 CD's; the process takes a couple of hours. If you did not create a Recovery CD Kit, and your computer crashes, you will not be able to restore your computer to the way it was when you removed it from the packing box.

If you did build the kit and need to restore your computer system, is everything going to be ok?

Not necessarily. If you bought an HP computer because it had features such as the TV Tuner, the Recovery CD Kit will not reload the driver for this component. The HP website will not have the driver for you to download. More than likely, you will be unable to find the driver and will have to buy a new TV Tuner to replace a perfectly good TV Tuner to get a software installation CD that works.

What do you do if you did not build a Recovery CD Kit and your computer needs to be reloaded?

You will need to repurchase the Operating System in order to rebuild your system. An Operating System Installation CD is $150 - $300. If your computer is a desktop computer, you are rapidly approaching the point at which buying a new computer ($400-$600) may make sense.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Browsing the Internet with Safari v8 Revisited


Safari v4 just came out. I gave up on it once, on previous releases when I started using an Apple laptop for my business about 4 years ago. I just gave it another test drive. Here are the results:

  • It still does not work well with many sites. I could not edit my newsletter at ConstantContact or view my daughter's eBill at college (not sure that was a bad thing!).
  • It loaded more quickly than Microsoft Internet Explorer v8, but what doesn't?
Conclusion: I am sticking with Mozilla Firefox. www.mozilla.com

Want to try your own test? Here are some ways to get Safari v4 loaded on a Windows or Apple platform:
  • If you have Apple's iTunes Application on your Windows computer, you may also have the Apple Software Update Application. Double click on it. It should present you with Safari as an available download. Select Safari and the rest should be automatic.
  • On an Apple platform, if you do not have Safari preloaded, bad things may happen: you may not being able to find, download and install updates to your software. Click on the Apple logo in the top left hand corner and select software update. The new version of Safari should be in the list. Follow the directions to install it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Windows 7 - Countdown to Nirvana?


The newest operating system offering from Microsoft, called Windows 7, is due to ship October 22nd of this year.

Here are a list of early insights gathered from computer magazines:

  • Benchmarks indicate that Windows 7 is no faster than Vista.
  • Recognition of a device you plugged into a USB port is supposedly to better. Devices like cameras and camcorders should have slick wizards that assist in transferring your pictures and movies.
  • Have you tried to save some money by sharing a printer among various computers in your house? This process has been difficult in the past. Windows 7 implements something called HomeGroup that makes it easy to share printers, files and folders.
  • A feature called Libraries allows you to catalog items like photos and documents together.
  • One Click Wi-Fi. Windows 7 promises to connect more easily than Vista to Wireless Networks.
We have our fingers crossed. Hope for the best, plan for the worst!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Your Next Must Have Purchase For Your Computer


And the answer to the question is: An External Hard Drive!

Why?:
  • To stop you from filling up your hard drive with photos and your iTunes library. Your hard drive must have unused space in order to run the operating system efficiently. Filling up your external hard drive does not cause your computer to hang, slow down, crash or not boot.
  • Backup your hard drive. Hard drives fail and laptops get stolen. If you have backups of key files on your external hard drive, the pain of getting your new computer back to where you were will be minimized.
  • Save some money on your next computer by buying the one with the smaller hard drive. 2TB (yes, terabyte!) external hard drives exist. Why spend money for a big hard drive for your operating system when you can put all your stuff on a huge external hard drive.
  • One external hard drive will work on all your other computers. No more trying to remember what computer that document is located on. One thing to remember is that the external hard drive will be formatted to work with the various Windows Operating Systems or the Apple Mac OS System. A Windows drive will not read Mac OS files, but a Mac OS drive will read Windows files.

Buying an External Hard Drive

  • There are basically two types of hard drives; a) small physical size (pack of cigarettes sized) using the power from just one or two USB ports on your computer b) large physical size (thick paper back) using an electrical adapter like the one for your notebook that plugs into the wall. If you are lugging the external drive around, the USB port powered external drive makes sense. This convenience will cost you more than the paper book sized drive.
  • The other difference is whether backup software is included in the price of the drive. Do you want a program to automatically backup folders you selected or are you comfortable cutting and pasting, drag and dropping from one hard drive directory to another? External hard drives with a backup program cost more.
Go out and buy that external hard drive now!

Backing Up Your Blackberry


Would your business or social life be over if your Blackberry address book or calendar was corrupted or missing?

The "data conservative" folks at High Tech House Calls back up their Blackberry more than one way to ensure that an up to date calendar and address book are always available.

  • Is Blackberry Desktop Manager loaded on your Windows based computer? It should be. This piece of software is necessary to synchronize and backup your Blackberry. When you decide to get a new Blackberry, Desktop Manager can copy all your old Blackberry stuff to your new Blackberry. na.blackberry.com/eng/services/desktop/
  • Is PocketMac loaded on your Apple computer? It needs to be. This piece of software is necessary to synchronize and backup your Blackberry on your Apple computer. However, be aware that this software has problems and does not work at all with Entourage 2008. It seems to work fine with Entourage 2004. http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/desktop/mac.jsh
News Flash. RIM has announced that a Blackberry Desktop Manager will be available for the Apple Operating System. Many Mac users will want to make the switch immediately when the product is available.

  • Google Calendar Sync will synchronize your Blackberry calendar and contacts with your gmail account. Gmail accounts are free. They work on your Blackberry and with Outlook. A Gmail account should be part of everyone's computer toolkit. www.google.com/support/calendar
  • If you have more than one computer, back your Blackberry up on all your computers. We strongly advise doing a two-way sync one only with one computer and do a Blackberry to computer one-way sync on all other computers. A two-way sync compares the data on your Blackberry to your computer. Based on this comparison, data will be added, updated and deleted. A one-way sync replaces all the data on the target computer with the source computer data.
  • You must assume that something can and will happen to the data on your Blackberry. Without a backup, it will be very difficult to put the pieces back together. Do something about it today!


Easy Fix for Computer Freezes


An easy thing to try for a computer that keeps freezing is making sure your BIOS (Binary Input Output Software) is up to date. The BIOS is the first operating system that starts when you turn your computer on. Once it is loaded, the operating system you are used to seeing (Win XP, Vista, etc.) starts.

BIOS is specific to your computer. To obtain the lastest BIOS upgrade, go to your vendors' website and look for support or drivers. You should be able to specify your model computer and the operating system you are running. A list should be presented and you should see a catagory for BIOS. Follow the instructions on downloading and installing the BIOS. Cross your fingers. Maybe this fixed your computer Freeze.

Need additional help updating your BIOS. Drop us an email at carlthorne@hthcatlanta. We are here to help.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Skye - Keep in Touch With Your Away at College Kids

Skype is a computer application that runs on both WinTel and Apple computers that allow you to call or video conference using the Internet for free or a very low price.

Many parents use Skype to keep in touch with their away at college children via video conferencing.

What do you need to use Skype?
  • Each Skype user must have the Skype software loaded on their computer. www.skype.com
  • You must have created a Skype account to use Skype.
  • Each Skype user needs a WinTel or Apple computer that is connected to the Internet.
  • If the computer has a built in microphone, this can be used for the voice part of your Skype conversation. No built in microphone? Headsets that have a mic and a ear piece will easily plug into a usb port on your computer. If you are not interested in using the video portion of Skype, you have seen all the requirements for a Skype voice only connection.
  • Many laptops and monitors have built-in web cams. These may work with Skype. Only testing with Skype will tell. If your existing web cam does not work, review the list of approved web cams on the Skype website before buying a new one. Installing a web cam is not more complicated than plugging it into usb port and loading some software. A web cam can shared among many computers by just plugging into the other computers usb port.

When Your Computer Needs Retirement


Here are some points to consider when evaluating the fix versus buy new question.

Average Life of Computers:
  • The life of a laptop computer is three years.
  • The life of a desktop computer is five years. A desktop computer has a longer life because they are stationary and their components are not crammed into a small case.
What components fail on laptops?

Remember an entry level Dell laptop starts at $550 and an Apple entry level laptop at $1000.
  • Battery. Average life is two years. Batteries are easy to replace, but have a high cost ($100-$160).
  • Power adapter. Universal power adapter are ~$100. Buying one from the computer vendor can cost much more.
  • Hard drive. Three years. Lets hope baby's first step pictures are backed up before this happens. A failing hard drive may not give any indication of failing before it fails totally. Watch for missing or corrupt files or your system running slow. A new hard drive is $100 on up depending on its capacity. Re-loading the system software and applications can be very expensive if you cannot find your installation disks and have to re-buy software you already own. On a WinTel computer, usually one screw to remove the drive. On a Apple laptop, you might have to take the entire case apart.
  • Keyboard. $100 for part. On a WinTel computer, pretty easy to fix. On an Apple Computer can be as much as 45 screws of different sizes and 1 1/2 hours of work.
  • Broken screen. This part can be very pricey and usually makes the repair of the laptop uneconomical.
What components fail on desktops?

Remember an entry level Dell Desktop starts at $400 before you add a monitor.
  • Power supply. $40 - $100 depending on capacity. Easy to replace. Hard to find a matching replacement for the existing power supply. The new power supply must be of the same size and the same or more capacity. This part can be easily damaged due to an electrical storm.
  • Cooling fan. $40. Your computer may have more than one. One fan is part of the power supply. This is a relatively easy repair. If you computer shuts down for no apparent reason, it may be overheating due to a cooling fan failure. Placing your where the fans are located on the case should detect air being circulated
  • Sound card. Easy to replace if you are comfortable putting your hands inside of the desktop. ($20 on up for the replacement card.)
  • Video card. $100 on up. The most complex thing about this replacement is determining what to replace the broken card with. There are current 2-3 "standards" for the interface for a video card. You must purchase a video card that conforms to the interface standard of your computer. Easy to replace if you are comfortable putting your hands inside of the desktop.
  • USB ports. $20. It seems every new computer component requires a usb port. You can never have enough. This is a pretty easy replacement as long as you have a place to plug the new card into.
  • NIC (Network Interface Card. Connects your computer via a cable to the Internet.) $20. Easy to replace if you are comfortable putting your hands inside of the desktop. A replacement that uses a usb port can be used inside of a internal card. The usb replacement will be more expensive and take up a valuable usb port.
  • Keyboard. $10 on up. As easy to replace as unplugging the usb connection to your computer and plugging the new keyboard in to the usb port. Depending on the keyboard features, a CD with software may need to be installed. Cheap keyboards should be replaced with a keyboard that is more to your liking. Go to a geek superstore such as Micro Center (www.microcenter.com) so that you can test touch prospective keyboards.
  • Monitor. $200 in up depending on size and quality. Monitors plug into the video card on the back of your desktop. An easy to obtain adapter may be required if the plug for your monitor is different than the plug on your video card.
  • Hard drive. $100 on up depending on size, speed and interface type. Physically replacing the hard drive is relatively easy . The hard part is reloading your system and restoring your pictures, photos, emails, etc. If you cannot find the software that come with your computer, you will need to re-purchase it in order to reload your computer. Software costs can easily run to $400. A new entry level Dell desktop starts at $400.
  • Mouse. $10 on up. Cheap mice should be replaced with a mouse that is more to your liking. Go to a geek superstore such as Micro Center (www.microcenter.com) so that you can touch prospective mice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Georgia Sales Tax Holiday


From Thursday, July 30- Sunday, August 2, 2009, Georgians will be able to take advantage of a sales tax holiday. The holiday applies to:
  • Clothing under $100
  • Computers/computer equipment under $1500
  • School supplies under $20
Points to consider:

If you are buying anything online, your purchase probably will be charged Georgia sales tax. If you call and place the order, the sales representative probably will be aware of the holiday and will be able to make the appropriate credit for your sales tax. This has been the case when I have ordered computers from Dell.

Please take advantage of my free configuration advise for computers early in order to take advantage of the sales tax credit. Email me at carlthorne@hthcatanta.com.

Windows 7 - Good Thing or Bad Thing?


The newest operating system developed by Microsoft to run on a WinTel platforms is called "Windows 7". It will be available in mid October 2009. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Click here to visit the "Windows 7" home page to review the features of this new operating system.

  • Remember how bad "Vista" was when it came out? I expect "Windows 7" to have the same rocky start. I do not advise being an early adapter.
  • "Windows 7" cannot be installed as an update to "Win XP". You can buy the less expensive upgrade license, but all user installed options (such as programs) will need to be re-installed.
  • Upgrading from "Win XP" to "Vista" and then to "Windows 7", is an option but a costly option in both time and money. A clean install from scratch installation is better than an upgrade installation.
  • This option addresses only users who need a new computer now. If you buy a new computer running "Vista", many vendors are offering a free "Windows 7" Software Upgrade Installation Kit when it becomes available. This option is appealing in that you have the option of re-installing "Vista" if "Windows 7" turns out not be for you.
With the future of the WinTel platform being one of dread, it is time to consider buying an Apple computer?

Netbooks - Time to Buy?


What is an Netbook? A Netbook is a small laptop computer.
  • Typically, a screen no larger than 10". My current Dell laptop has a 15.4" screen.
  • The keyboard is 80%-92% the standard size.
  • The price point is $200 -$400.
Why consider a Netbook?
  • Easy to transport. Small size and weight.
  • Low on price.
  • You want a basic computer to access the network and not much more.
Downsides to a Netbook?
  • Not enough power to use standard Office applications such as Outlook and Word.
  • Poor experience when surfing web. You are constantly scrolling left and right, up and down to view a web page. Viewing a web page on an iPhone is a much better experience.
  • No optical drive. You cannot load software from a CD, or play music CD's. You will need to buy an external CD drive (approximate cost $100).
  • Hard to upgrade because of small form factor.
Recommendations:
  • Buy a named brand such as Dell or HP.
  • More is better. Get the biggest hard drive you can. Get the most amount of memory, the biggest screen and the biggest keyboard.
  • Conventional hard drives such as SCSI. Do not buy a Netbook with a solid state hard drive. Solid state drives are new technology and are still very expensive. In order to meet the small price point for a Netbook, solid state drives are in the 4GB to 16GB range. A SCSI drive will be 40GB-160GB.
  • Do not consider a Netbook with less than 1GB of memory. Less than this will ensure that your Netbook performance is pokey.
  • Anything less than a 10" screen will make surfing the web a painful process.
  • If you can touch type, a keyboard less than 92% of standard will be frustrating to type on.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Computer Running Slow, Part III


You probably understand what a computer virus is.

What is malware or spyware?

In the context of your computer running slow, they can be considered the same. Remember the free ("fill in the blank") that you downloaded? As part of the agreement that you electronically signed, software that tracks what websites you visit was also installed. Besides this data collection being an invasion of privacy, the software is taking resources away from the applications on your computer you want to run. Another performance side effect is that the software can be written badly so that it causes your computer to "freeze" or "crash".

What should you do if you think you have been "infected"?
  • If you are running only the Apple Mac OS, do not bother reading the rest of this article. So far, the Apple platform has not been infected with a major virus. We feel uncomfortable making this recommendation, but you do not need to install an anti virus solution on your computer. The same recommendation stands for a malware/spyware detection and removal tool. Let us all hope these recommendations still hold for the future.
  • No matter what product you use for a Windows platform, the three most important regarding its use are making sure the virus definitions are up to date, the subscription is not expired and the weekly virus scan did occur.
  • Make sure you have installed a "current" anti virus software product and a malware/spyware detection and removal tool. Current means that if the product required a payment from you, that the license has not expired. Expired products usually result in pop up windows informing you to renew your virus definition subscription.
  • Once a week or on a as needed basis, you should be running anti virus scans and a malware/spyware detection scan. Check the log of the product you selected to make sure the scan occurred.
  • Most anti virus software products will remove or "quarantine" viruses that are discovered during a scan. Most malware/spyware detection and removal tools require you to validate the results of the scan before the tool will remove the malware/spyware.
  • Do not install more than one anti virus software product. Each product will see the other product as a virus attack. Your computer will be brought to a standstill.
  • Please refer to the software vendors manual or website for specifics on running their products. If you still have questions, email High Tech House Calls at carlthorne@hthcatlanta.com. We would be happy to help explain things.
Recommendations for Anti Virus Software:
  • If you are more comfortable with a purchased solution, we recommend Symantec Norton Anti Virus or Kaspersky Anti Virus. We recommend buying a copy from the store and not from the online site. This ensure that you have a CD that you can use to re-install the software if the need arises.
Recommendations for Malware/Spyware Detection and Removal Tools:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Computer Running Slow, Part II

If your computer is running slow, the cause can be one or more of the following:

  • Virus/Spyware/Malware infection
  • Your applications needs have outpaced the amount of memory you have available.
  • Your hard drive is too full.

Part 2, will focus on not having enough memory.

In general, more memory is better. Here are some general guidelines for the minimum amount of memory you need.
  • For a Windows system (before Vista), anything less than 750MB of memory will make your computer sluggish.
  • For Vista systems, consider at least 2GB of memory.
  • For Mac OS X, consider at lease 2GB of memory. If you are going to use Photoshop or other memory intensive applications, double the amount of memory to 4gb. Also, if you have decided to dual boot your Apple computer (run both Mac OS X and Windows OS), you should also consider 4GB of memory.
How much memory does your computer have presently?
  • For a Windows system, go to the control panel and click on the System application. The first page should tell you have much memory you have.
  • For Mac OS X, select About This Mac under the Apple symbol in the top left hand corner.
I have a brand new computer, why do I need to add memory?

Many deals on computers cut corners on components. Leave out some memory and you can sell the computer for less. Use the guidelines specified in this blog to determine how good the deal is. If you have to add memory to the system, use the Kensington Memory website www.kensington.com to determine how much more money you will have to add to the base price of the system to arrive at a true total price for the system.

What type of memory do you need to buy?


One type of memory does not work for all computers. It seems different types of memory are coming out monthly. Go to the Kensington website www.kensington.com and use the memory selector to determine what type, the maximum amount and the approximate cost of a memory upgrade for your computer system.

How difficult is it to install memory?
  • For a Windows system, it is pretty easy. On a laptop, there is a couple of screws that cover an access plate to the memory. On a desktop, the skin on the side needs to be removed to expose the memory. Refer to your user manual for details on your particular computer. Cannot find your manual? Go to the vendors website and view a copy of the manual online.
  • For an Apple computer, it could be just a couple of screws or taking the whole case apart. Refer to your manual for details.

Computer Slowing Down? Part 1


If your computer is running slow, the cause can be one or more of the following:
  • Virus/Spyware/Malware infection
  • Your applications needs have outpaced the amount of memory you have available.
  • Your hard drive is too full.
Your hard drive contains both the operating system (Windows, MAC OS X, etc.), your applications (Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) and your user data (iTunes library, photos, documents, address book, etc.).

The operating system and applications running on your computer require a scratch pad in order to function efficiently. That means at least 15% of the total capacity of your hard drive must be free to act as a scratch pad. In other words, your hard drive is totally full if 85% of your hard drive is being used.

To check to see how much free space you have, do the following:
  • On a windows system, double click on My Computer, right mouse click on your hard drive (typically labeled "c:") and select properties.
  • On Mac OS, select Get Info from the pull down menu associated with your hard drive.
What can you do if you have less than 15% disk space free?
  • Delete files you do not need such as documents or photos. Do not delete files you do not recognize such as application files.
  • Uninstall applications you no longer use.
  • In windows, defragment your hard drive.
  • Moving your photos or iTunes library to an external hard drive can free up an enormous amount of disk space. Once you have verified the copy of your photos or iTunes library is complete, it should be save to delete those files from your computer. Associating your newly moved iTunes library with the iTunes applications is a little more complex than just moving files. Please refer to the Apple website for more help. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1449
  • If you have tried all of this options and you are still at less than the magical 15% free mark, it might be time to consider a newer computer with a larger hard drive or installing a larger hard drive into your current computer and re-building your system. Neither of these options should be taken lightly. Both of these options are best left to a professional.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Teenage Boys and the Internet


I am asked all the time how to protect children from accessing or seeing stuff their parents would find objectionable.

  • Deny access to your wireless network for your children. Make your child's access the Internet under your supervision. It is pretty easy to add a WPA or WEP key to your wireless network that a computer must have entered in order to access the Internet. Your wireless network should be WPA or WEP key enabled to protect your network anyway.
  • Add parental control software that attempts to prevent access to undesirable features of the Internet. Software such as Net Nanny (www.netnanny) or SafeEyes (www.internetsafety.com) can be installed. Software as provided by High Speed Internet Providers such as ATT has been ineffective. The problem with a software solution is exceptions. A real life example is the blocking of access to your child's Christian prep school because by default sites with a religious content are blocked. Just imagine what happens when he or she start to research for their Sex Ed class. Bottom line: Be prepared to act as an administrator when these problems happen.
  • Limit your child's access to the computer. The more free, unsupervised time they have to access the Internet, the most likelihood they will be exposed to things you do not wish them to see.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fix no cell signal in your home or office

My last three homes did not get a cell signal unless
I was on the top floor, went outside or walked up the driveway.
So much for the convenience of a cell phone!

T-Mobile has a solution that works for T-Mobile subscribers. If you get new cell phones from T-Mobile that are Wi Fi capable, have a home wireless network, and sign up for the plan, your cell phone will be able to send and receive calls using your wireless network.

Here are some of the advantages:
  • Since you are not using T-Mobile's cellular network, these call are not charged against your cell phone plans minutes.
  • No noticeable degradation quality of service.
  • Cell phone works where ever your wireless internet network connection works.
  • Easy to set up.
  • Works on any wireless network you could use to access the internet. This means when you visit a friend's home or another office where you cannot get a cell signal, you can make and receive calls on your cell phone using their wireless network. If the wireless network is unprotected (no WPA or WEP key), this happens automatically when your phone detects the wireless network.
  • If all the people in your family or company are using this capability, you now have a free intercom system using your cell phones. No more screaming all over the house for people to come down for dinner!
Here are some of the disadvantages:
  • If your internet connection is down, so is your ability to place and receive cell phone calls on that wireless network.
  • All cell phones you want to use your wireless network must be T-Mobile enabled Wi Fi phones. This can be expensive unless you are due a cell phone upgrade. Do not try to buy an unlocked phone on eBay to get around the expense. My daughter decided the phone she had "was not good enough" because it was not a Blackberry. She bought an unlocked ATT Blackberry Wi Fi phone on eBay. The cell part worked, but the Blackberry was never able to succcesfully connect to our wireless network. T-Mobile provided much help, but we both concluded there was something unique to the ATT phone that prevented it from working on the T-Mobile wireless network plan.
  • Your wireless network does not seamlessly hand off your cell call to T-Mobile's cellular network. Start a call in your garage and start up your driveway will guarentee that the call will drop once you are out of range of your wireless network. Plan accordingly and this is not much of a problem.
Click here for more information on this offering from T-Mobile.
http://www.t-mobile.comUnlimitedHotSpotCalling


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Real Cost of "Cheap" Computers


In this economy, who can afford to spend more money than they have to on a new computer?

Here is a list of things to consider when evaluating a deal:
  • Does the computer come with CD's that let you re-load the operating system and hardware drivers? In an attempt to penny pinch, many computers take up space on your hard drive with a recovery partition to restore your computer to its factory settings. If your hard drive crashes, all your software you would use to restore your computer with a replacement hard drive is gone. You are faced with re-buying an operating system and any other application software that was bundled with your computer. You may not be able to find the correct drivers for your video card or sound card. That means buying a new video card or sound card and getting it installed in your computer.
  • Is the desktop computer you are considering a mini tower? Mini towers are very narrow desktops that have the advantage on taking up less space in your office than a full sized desktop. If a mini tower component fails like a network interface card (connection to the Internet), you may not be able to find a reasonably priced replacement because of the size constraint.
  • If you are buying a computer off of eBay, plan on erasing the hard drive and re-loading the system from scratch. I would assume the worst in that the computer is riddled with viruses and malware. Take in account any software you will need to buy to re-load the software and the time and labor of the system re-build when you enter your bid.
  • I have had mixed luck with refurbished electronic gear. Many of my Win Tel desktops are Dell Outlet refurbished computers. I cannot tell the difference. The Canon refurbished digital camera died right after the warranty was out. Refurbished, name brand computers purchased from the manufacturer are probably worth the risk if the price savings are significant.
High Tech House Calls offers free advise on computer configuration. We would be happy to assist in the purchase of your next computer, printer or smart phone. Give us a call at 404-229-0839 or email use at carlthorne@hthcatlanta.com

Monday, June 15, 2009

Backup and Recovery

  • Notice the term recovery. If you don't test your backup by trying to read it, the backup is useless. Did the backup succeed? Can I read the files from the backup? Are the files I need, part of the backup?
  • Is the backup stored in a safe place? If your laptop is connected to the external hard drive you are using for your backup, do you think the thief that steals your laptop will take your external hard drive too?
  • Are you sure that your emails, calendar, address book, tasks and notes from Outlook are backed up? Copying the outlook data file (*.pst), is not the way to go. You should export your files to a backup file using the built in Outlook export utility and make sure your backup procedure copies this file to the backup media.
  • Don't put off backing up your priceless stuff because you think it is going to be expensive or time consuming. A USB Flash Drive can be had for less than $20. It is possible to automate the procedure so that it occurs late at night while you are asleep.
  • High Tech House Calls has 25 years + of designing, implementing and testing backup and recovery procedures. Let us help you with yours so you can sleep better at night.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Virus Protection Pointers


I have preferred anti-virus software I use, but whether you contract a computer virus comes down to these factors:
  • Keep the virus definitions up to date. If definitions are not downloaded automatically, manually download them yourself once a week.
  • Keep your subscription to virus definitions up to date. An expired subscription means that you are no longer protected from newly created and discovered viruses.
  • Never update a subscription online. Buy a new copy of the software from the store. Something always seems to go wrong when updating your subscription via the Internet. If you need to re-load your anti-virus software, it is much easier from a CD than trying to download the software again. Also, you may qualify for a rebate if you have a CD from the previous version that serves as a proof of previous ownership.
  • May sure a virus scan runs at least once a week. A virus scan scheduled for when your computer is turned off, is a missed scan.

Going Green At What Cost?


Do you want to help same energy? Here are some factors to consider before you turn off the switch:
  • Printers need to remain on all the time. When the printer is not in use, the printer "exercises" the print heads so that the ink does not dry out clogging the print nozzles. It is next to impossible to clean out dried ink from the tiny print nozzles. A new print head always seems to cost the same as a new printer.
  • Turn your computer off at night to safe energy? If your weekly virus scan or your daily windows update download is schduled for the time when your computer is turned off, do these scheduled events get run when you turn your computer back on? No! Make sure your virus scan and windows update download is scheduled to occur when your computer is turned on.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your High Speed Internet Choices


What are your choices for High Speed Internet in metro Atlanta?


Some providers may not be available at your location. Go to the various provider websites to determine this.
  • ATT - best solution when compared to Earthlink and Comcast. ATT still smells bad, but it does not smell as bad as the other solutions. Support will drive you crazy. Grab a cup of coffee, a magazine and a tranquilizer when you call.
  • Earthlink - uses ATT copper line to get to your house. If the problem is with the ATT line, be prepared for some finger pointing. Getting Earthlink to call ATT to fix the problem is difficult at best. You cannot call ATT because you are not an ATT customer. ATT repair techs do not care if your problem is solved because you are not an ATT customer. I have seen ATT techs lie about coming out to fix a problem. They do not come out, yet mark the problem as solved. Earthlink is a sinking ship financially and it shows.
  • Comcast - Horrible customer support. Horrible reliability. If you dropped your telephone land line and use the Comcast home phone line solution, I hope you have a cell phone because your home phone line uses the Internet connection and your Internet connection goes down at the drop of a hat for days. Run away from Comcast if you can.
  • Charter - cable company in Smyrna. This is what HTHC uses. Very fast and reliable. Good customer care. This is the provider of choice if you can get it.
If you change from one provider to another remember:
  • You will lose your email address. You will need to contact everyone in your address book with an email blast telling them you are changing. You will also need to go to multiple websites that you do business with and change your profile to point to your new email address. If you are using something like Yahoo instead of an ATT (or other Internet provider) email address, this will not be an issue.
  • Comcast will offer, for a price, the ability to keep your email address when you get rid of your Internet connection. You cannot send email using your Comcast email address. You can only receive emails delivered to your Comcast email address. I see this as a way of buying time until you send out your email blast and cut the tie all the way with Comcast.