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This could be the end of Metro, the new start screen in windows 8

Jul 1, 2014   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Industry buzz says that Microsoft will abandon the Windows 8 Start screen (Metro) interface for traditional computers in the next version of Windows, code-named Threshold. This means that laptops would still feature the metro start but traditional desktop computers would not include this feature. That’s a pretty drastic step. Does it mean that Microsoft recognizes that Windows 8 was the biggest operating system bust in its history? I think it should be made into an easy to find option for those that enjoy the metro interface. Much like you can very easily change your desktop background an option added into the control panel would allow you to enable and disable metro.

Life without a computer

Jul 1, 2014   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Life without a computer

Computers are now an essential part of our lives. Given the diverse use of computers for personal and professional reasons, it is hardly possible that a task can be accomplished without computers. Hardly any office work gets completed without the computer being used. In the current workplace every company and organization depend on computers and laptops to complete daily tasks. It is amazing just how much the workplace has changed since I began working for Newsday delivering newspapers on Long Island in 1982. It is equally amazing how much my lifestyle has changed since the introduction of personal computer technology. Not only do I fix broken computers but I also spend a lot of time researching and enjoying all of the great things that the internet has to offer via my laptop or desktop computer.

In the workplace

Banking sector

Most of my career up until recent years has been spent working for major banking institutions in the information technology unit. Whether it is a private or public bank, work without computers cannot be imagined. Gone are the days when front end banking operations were carried out manually. All branch banking tasks be it payments, passbook updating or record maintenance depend upon computers. Back office banking operations also cannot be performed without the use of computers and the involvement of technology support professionals. I can remember a particular time when an SVP up at a major bank in NYC told me that the I.T. department expenses were shared across all of the banks cost centers. Simply put she explained to me that every support ticket is logged and at the end of the month it comes out of their individual cost center. She then went on to tell me laughingly that my department did not produce any revenue for the bank and from an accounting standpoint was just an expense, and a growing one at that.

Remote support technology

Another technology wonder that has developed in the recent past is the creation of remote support task management. Whether you are a technology professional providing computer support or an accountant logging into a client machine to review Quickbooks these job tasks are accomplished with a computer via the online medium.

Personal computing

Computers are of great use, not only for professional purposes but also for personal purposes. These days there is so much useful information online that my time watching TV has been marginalized. I have learned more about linear equations on youtube as I help my kids with homework than I ever learned in school.

Computers and education

With the use of computers increasing at every level, it is but natural that the same can be considered as an educational tool. The children have become computer savvy at a very young age and prefer to learn new things via this medium. The use of computers is being taught and highly encouraged starting in elementary school. The education curriculum is always changing and some of the biggest changes include integrating computers into the classrooms. Closely related to this is putting student classroom records online for students and parents to view. Folks can log into an online portal and get a display of the students most recent quiz and test results.

USA Today Reports Department of Homeland Security tells Americans to Avoid Internet Explorer

Apr 28, 2014   //   by nick   //   Internet Security  //  No Comments

In a report from USA today Americans are advised not to use Microsoft Internet Explorer until a fix is found for the newest malicious exploit. It appears that this newest security flaw allows malicious hackers to get around security protections in the Windows operating system. They then can be infected when visiting a compromised website.

This is more proof that Windows XP users really need to give up the outdated operating system and refresh their technology. The downfall for Win XP users is that they will not receive a security patch and will be completely vulnerable even with antivirus software. Microsoft pushes security patches on the first Tuesday of the month. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can patch this flaw by May 6th, we hope so.

Http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/04/28/internet-explorer-bug-homeland-security-clandestine-fox/8409857/

Feb 1, 2014   //   by nick   //   Internet Security  //  No Comments

On January 30th Yahoo announced that its mail has been the focus of a coordinated hack and that at this time it has confirmed a number of users e-mail accounts have been compromised – you may be one of them. It is not clear how many users have been compromised, or exactly how. Yahoo doesn’t have a history of providing much information but it would be prudent for any Yahoo mail users to take precautions. Between the vague statements about malicious code and “a third party was probably to blame” Yahoo has been resetting the credentials of affected users via e-mail and SMS if your mobile is on file. While details are scarce at this time this continues a trend of bad security and resilience news for Yahoo who experienced a multitude of issues in 2013. The company made clear in their announcement that a third party database with shared credentials was likely the source and that they had no evidence the usernames and passwords were taken directly form their systems. Whether the third party was one they provided data to, or whether it was a random third party with shared credentials is not particularly clear. There is insufficient detail to lay blame at this time, but certainly it would be prudent to take steps to secure yourself.

The best way for my neighbors here in Connecticut to protect against being hacked is to minimize your exposure by hardening your public profile. Changing your password on a monthly basis and creating one that has more than just numbers and letters but also include symbols, underscores and hyphens is the best method. Look for a follow up post from Mr. Computer on best practices for hardening your publicly used passwords.

Thirty minute computer repair turns into two hour onsite appointment in Meriden, CT

Dec 20, 2013   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

This morning I had a wonderful opportunity to do some computer repair work for a senior citizen at her home in Meriden, CT. No matter how much I think I know about life I find that I am at my smartest when I am listening, especially to our senior citizens. Meeting folks like my new client this morning is a constant reminder to me of how fortunate I am to be able to do work for the public in this capacity. In the case this morning I think the computer service took about 30 minutes but the appointment was almost two hours.

What to do with your old computer

Dec 7, 2013   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Let’s say you just purchased a new desktop computer for your home or office. You’ve installed it and configured it for internet access and even set up for wireless printing. You’ve got the final task to complete and that is properly disposing of the old computer. Because computers contain elements such as mercury and lead you will need to contact your local recycling center for disposal instructions. However before doing anything with the old computer you need to destroy the hard drive!!

The hard drive inside of the computer contains your personal information such as internet activity, documents and passwords. It is very important to erase everything on it before dropping off for disposal. There are a few different ways to accomplish this task. The best way to destroy the data is to drill holes in the hard drive using a carbide drill bit. The second way is to purchase a good software program to allow you to delete everything by doing at least ten passes on the drive. There are several products on the market today that work well, I like Acronis.

Today more than ever because of low prices folks are opting to just buy a new PC instead of fixing the old one and as a result there is an elevated risk of personal information being maliciously and illegally recovered. If you are buying a new computer and are unsure or unable to properly wipe your old hard drive clean just contact your local computer repair shop for advice. Here at Mr Computer for a minimal fee of $10 the hard drive is removed from your computer and all of its contents are destroyed. In addition we properly dispose of your hard drive making the whole disposal process worry free for you.

Company pretending to be Microsoft is calling unsuspecting computer users

Dec 5, 2013   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

No less than six times in the last three weeks I have gotten phone calls from end users concerned that Microsoft had called them at home. The common theme is that a call is made to you at your home from someone pretending to be calling from Microsoft to let you know that you have a virus on your computer and that they have picked up on the threat and that your computer is now infecting their systems. The advice offered is that you need to have your system cleaned right away or else you will be fined by Microsoft. The fee for the remote computer/laptop cleaning seems to vary from $39 up to $300. Now here is the interesting part. Every one of the users that brought their computer into my office for assessment really did have malicious software installed on them and for sure the phone call was related to the problem at hand.

Here is free advice for all of you. Microsoft will never be calling you at home to tell you that your computer system has a virus and for a fee they can clean it off. The golden rule: Never-Never believe anyone that calls looking for money or tries to extort money from you via web threat. The best defense against these internet threats is to have the knowledge to know when it is a scam. If you are struggling it is easy enough to call our office and we can help you identify a threat at no charge. Norton Internet Security is one of the best products on the market. It works very well with Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 and will minimize your exposure to these types of threats. Norton Internet Security by Symantec is just $39. The installation fee is $10 and well worth the cost.

Computer virus getting right through antivirus protection

Oct 24, 2013   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

I was at a client site here in Wallingford, CT yesterday and went head to head with the newest malware threat known as CrytoLocker. Online attackers are using encryption to lock up our files and demand a ransom and unfortunately antivirus software probably won’t protect you. In the case yesterday this threat got right through a well known security software suite. I was able to remove the threats which had actually violated two computers on the domain, one of which was totally locked down with encryption and unfortunately this particular user was forced to sit and wait for us to arrive. I came across an article online associated with this latest threat and found it interesting. I have included ways to defend yourself from this latest threat — pass this information along to friends, family, and business associates. Forgive me if I sound a bit like those bogus virus warnings proclaiming, “You have the worst virus ever!!” But there’s a new threat to our data that we need to take seriously. It’s already hit many consumers and small businesses.

CryptoLocker shows up in two ways:

First, you see a red banner on your computer system, warning that your files are now encrypted — and if you send money to a given email address, access to your files will be restored to you.

Second,you can no longer open Office files, database files, and most other common documents on your system. When you try to do so, you get another warning, such as “Excel cannot open the file [filename] because the file format or file extension is not valid. This malware goes after dozens of file types such as .doc, .xls, .ppt, .pst, .dwg, .rtf, .dbf, .psd, .raw, and .pdf.

There are three modes of attack with this threat:

1) Via an email attachment. For example, you receive an email from a shipping company you do business with. Attached to the email is a .zip file. Opening the attachment launches a virus that finds and encrypts all files you have access to  including those located on any attached drives or mapped network drives.

2) You browse a malicious website that exploits vulnerabilities in an out-of-date version of Java.

3) Most recently, you’re tricked into downloading a malicious video driver or codec file.

There are no patches to undo CryptoLocker and, as yet, there’s no clean-up tool — the only sure way to get your files back is to restore them from a backup.

Some users have paid the ransom and, surprisingly were given the keys to their data. (Not completely surprising; returning encrypted files to their owners might encourage others to pay the ransom.) This is obviously a terrible option but for some it was their only known option at the time.

Keep in mind that antivirus software probably won’t prevent a CryptoLocker infection. In every case I’m aware of, the PC owner had an up-to-date AV application installed. Moreover, running Windows without admin rights does not stop or limit this virus. It uses social engineering techniques and a good bit of fear, uncertainty, and doubt to trick users into clicking a malicious download or opening a bogus attachment.

Ensure you keep complete and recent backups of your system. Making an image backup once or twice a year isn’t much protection. Given the size of today’s hard drives on standalone PCs, an external USB hard drive is still your best backup option. A 1TB drive is relatively cheap and you can get 3TB drives for under $200. For multiple PCs on a single local-area network I would advice you to look into cloud based back up solutions. Small businesses with networked PCs should have automated workstation backups enabled, in addition to server backups. At my office I use Mozy Pro and also sell and support the software to our clients.  I run the backups during the day, while others in the office are using their machines — and I’ve had no complaints of noticeable drops in workstation performance.

Once again keeping your internet security software up to date is always absolutely necessary. The hackers using this exploit are adapting the virus so quickly that AV vendors can’t keep up with the many CryptoLocker variations in play. It’s up to individual users to stay vigilant about what they click. The bad guys just keep getting badder.

Computer Repair Shop Tips

Jan 6, 2013   //   by nick   //   Blog, Laptop Repair Shop  //  No Comments

Hi Folks it your local computer repair shop with another tip!

On December 29th, 2012 Microsoft released Security Advisory 2794220 regarding an issue that impacts Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8. Currently they are only aware of a very small number of targeted attacks at this time. This issue allows remote code execution if users browse to a malicious website with an affected browser. This would typically occur by an attacker convincing someone to click a link in an email or instant message.

Internet Explorer 9 and 10 are not affected by this issue, so upgrading to these versions will help protect you from this issue. Read more >>

Laptop Repair Shop: How to replace cracked screen

Dec 15, 2012   //   by nick   //   Laptop Screen Replacement  //  No Comments

In this laptop repair shop post I hope to empower you to replace your own cracked laptop screen.When the screen on a laptop breaks it can an intimidating problem for those who have never taken a laptop apart before. Read more >>

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