Google+ June 2009 ~ High Tech House Calls

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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 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 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.
  • 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 ( 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.

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

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.