Archive for October 2011

Google’s Halloween Doodle

imageThe Google Doodle is that design you see when you go to Google.com.  For special occasions they create unique designs, and for Halloween the doodle is a high-speed video of people at Google carving out these huge pumpkins to create a live Google Doodle.

On YouTube there is a full video on the making of the Google Doodle video here: http://bit.ly/TekChic0419

DEAL: Performance Laptop on a Budget

imageGateway is not what I would call a top-tier builder.  They were bought by ACER and a Lenovo or Dell would probably be a better built PC.  That being said, getting an Intel Core i5 processor in a laptop for $449 is a GREAT deal.  This laptop has 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, plenty of USB ports including one USB 3.0 high-speed port, an HDMI port, a memory card reader, DVD/CD burner and built-in web-cam. 

If you need a rugged laptop, then you probably need to spend more, but if you’re gentle with your computer and maybe most the of the time your laptop actually just sits there on a table or desk, then this would be a great deal.  Check it out at Best Buy (of all places): http://bit.ly/TekChic0418

DEAL: 27” Acer Monitor only $229

imageIf you’re tired of squinting at that little monitor and ready to step up to a BIG monitor – then Fry’s has the deal for you.  They have a nice 27” Acer monitor for only $229, that’s a great deal for a monitor this size.  It had DVI (digital) and VGA (analog) inputs and also has HDMI inputs, so you can even hook up a DVD player to it and listen over the built-in speakers.  You can buy it online or in the store (check their site to see if your store has it in stock.)  Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/TekChic0417

Don’t Get Scammed Into Giving Away Passwords

imageAn attentive client of mine forwarded me an email asking if it were legitimate.  I realize that I sometimes impart a sense of paranoia onto my clients because there are so many bad guys trying to fine a way into their computers, but it this case, their caution was justified.  Here is the email they received:

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No one you do business should EVER ask you to verify your password over email (or frankly even over the phone but sometimes they do.)  The email was bogus and NOT from Yahoo, had my client replied and provided the information the bad guys would now have full access to their email account.  That would be a HUGH problem, if you don’t know why, then read my article from June on “Why You MUST Protect Your Email Account”.

Never disclose any password via email, it’s never legit.

Deal: Basic Lenovo Laptop for Only $299

imageIf you’re on a really tight budget and need a basic but capable laptop, then this is an excellent choice.  Best Buy has a Lenovo 15.6” laptop with a dual-core Intel processor for only $299.  Though this isn’t quite as fast as the newer i3 processor, it’s close and the other components inside are still utilizing the latest technologies.  The laptop comes with 3GB of memory, a 320GB hard drive, a memory card reader, high-speed wireless-n, even a web-cam and a can output via HDMI to your television.  Here’s the link to Best Buy’s site where you c an check to see if it’s in stock at a nearby store:  http://bit.ly/TekChic0416

Got Carbonite? Know Your Password?

imageThe great thing about Carbonite (the very best online backup service) is that once you’ve installed it you can forget about it.  The PROBLEM with Carbonite is that once you install it you DO forget about it.  Hopefully if you’re a regular reader of my blog you know about and HAVE Carbonite on your computer (if you don’t read last month’s article “Crisis and Carbonite”, then come back here.)

I encountered several clients recently who either had new computes or needed to restore data and surprise – they didn’t know their password!  No problem, because when you forget your password, Carbonite will send you a link that will then ask you your three secret questions that you can answer and then reset your password.  Well guess what?  Every one of them had not only forgotten their password, they forgot the answer to at least one if not all three of their secret questions!  Really! 

imageSo give yourself a test.  Go right now to Carbonite.com and click the “log in” link in the upper right corner of the web site.  From there it’s real simple, just enter your email address and your password.  If you know your information, you’ll be logged in and you’re good.  If not…. then you now know why I’m writing this.  After clicking on the “Log in” link, click the link that says “forgot password”.  There you will enter your email address and they will send you a link.  Click the link in the email and you will be taken to the web site and have to answer your three secret questions.  If you FAIL to answer correctly, try again – but after three attempts if you fail you will have to wait 30 minutes before trying again.

At this point it’s clear you don’t know the answers and you’ll need to call Carbonite’s support center during normal business hours and convince them that you are you and they will assist.

When you change your password, make sure it’s a STRONG password and make sure you document it somewhere in case you forget (I recommend you download LastPass, but that’s another article.)

Verizon is Selling Your Information to Marketers

imageIf you’re a Verizon Wireless customer, you might want to opt-out of their program that lets marketers know where you’ve been, your gender, sites you’ve browsed on your phone, even what restaurants you seem to like – pretty much anything they can glean from your phone.  PC World has an article detailing it including the link to Verizon’s Privacy Policy.  I think it’s just a little ironic that the company that quietly changed their privacy policy to divulge more information about you starts its privacy policy with “Verizon is committed to protecting your privacy”.  Though Verizon says it won’t provide personally identifiable information, seems to me they will be providing enough that it won’t be hard to figure out.  Here’s the link to PC World’s article:  http://bit.ly/TekChic0415

iOS 5 is Out!

imageIf you have an iOS device (recent iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) then the next time you connect to iTunes you’ll probably see a notice that there is a new update available.  Below are a few of the 200 features Apple has put into iOS 5.  Follow the link at the bottom to go to Apple’s site to see all the included features.

The iOS 5 update includes over 200 new features, including the following:

Notifications

Swipe from top of any screen to view notifications in one place with Notification Center
View notifications briefly at top of screen
View notifications from lock screen
Slide notification app icon to right on lockscreen to go directly to the app

iMessage

Send and receive unlimited text, photo, and video messages with other iOS 5 users
Track messages with delivery & read receitps
Group messaging and secure encryption
Works over cellular network and Wi-Fi

Click the link to see all the features:  http://bit.ly/TekChic0414

Simple Tip to Save Your Smartphone’s Battery

imageIf you own a smartphone (an iPhone, Android phone, Windows phone or BlackBerry) you know all about poor battery life.  Think about it, most smartphones have at least 5 radios in them.  One for making phone calls, then there is 2G, 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and if you have a 4G phone you can make that SIX radios.

Have them all running at the same time and you can watch your battery life fall faster than the stock market when the tech bubble burst in March 2000.

What you may not know is that your cell phone provider doesn’t want you using their 2G, 3G or 4G network any more than possible.  As a result if your wi-fi radio is turned on, it is CONSTANTLY looking for a wireless network to connect to and THAT will suck power from your battery.  When your home, turn on your wi-fi and take advantage of your fast and free (from the phone’s perspective) Internet.  When you leave home, turn off the wi-fi radio and just let the 3G (or whatever radio) handle data away from home.

Do you use Bluetooth?  If not then go into your settings and make sure it’s turned off.  If you’re not sure – then you probably don’t so just shut it off.

Now go forth and enjoy the freedom a full battery can give you throughout the day.

It’s the 2nd Tuesday of the Month, Do You Know Where Your Updates Are?

imageIn case you’re new to my blog, the 2nd Tuesday of the month is when Microsoft pushes updates to its Windows operating system down to your computer.  These updates aren’t to make it prettier, it’s to fix security holes that have been discovered. 

Throughout the month you will also get updates from Adobe for Acrobat Reader and for Flash, as well as from Sun for Java.  When you see one of these icons you need to heed the warning and update your computer.  imageWithin DAYS the bad guys will be looking for computers that have NOT fixed and will try to exploit any vulnerabilities.  Don’t get caught – keep your software up to date.

Do You Feel the Need to Laugh?

imageWell, take 10 minutes out of your day and you’re guaranteed a great laugh.  MakeUseOf.com found a few YouTube videos that are either blatantly or subtlety funny.  I promise you won’t get out of it without laughing, and whatever you do, hold out for the last one, because you’re not human if it doesn’t make you laugh.

Hey, you work hard and you play hard.  Give yourself a little reward and laugh a little – just for yourself:  http://bit.ly/TekChic0413

Yep – Tablet Prices are Dropping!

imageA week ago I wrote about how Amazon’s announcement of their Android based 7” Kindle Fire tablet at $199 was driving down prices on tablets.  Well, now Lenovo has announced that their new A1 tablet that is due November 1st is now available for pre-order at $199 – matching Amazon’s price.

The Lenovo A-1 is a 7” tablet that though not aimed at the high-end market, should have more than enough performance for the average user.  Unlike the Amazon tablet, the Lenovo A-1 will have front and rear facing cameras, SD card reader slot, Bluetooth AND will have built-in GPS that works even if you don’t have a wi-fi connection (which means you can use this as a 7” GPS unit in your car.)  It will have a 1GHz processor and the resolution will be 1024×600.  Onboard storage is only 2GB, another $50 will get you 16GB. 

It comes with Gingerbread, which is not the latest version of Android software for the tablet, and we don’t currently know if it will run Android’s next operating system “Ice Cream Sandwich” that is coming out in a few weeks.  But none the less it’s a promising tablet and we’re finally seeing the prices for these devices get down to where it’s easier for most to have a tablet of their own.

If you want to order one now, here’s the link to Lenovo’s site:  http://bit.ly/TekChic0412

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

imageIf you read about the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries, you’ll read about how steam-powered machines, all-metal machine tools and advancing production techniques marked a dramatic shift in the lives of people.  When I was in school we learned about Eli Whitney, who invented the cotton gin and made possible the mass growing and harvesting of cotton, making it profitable as a crop and all that manufactured cotton can do for people.

Jump ahead two hundred years.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak release their first computer on April Fools Day in 1976 and Apple Computers was born.  35 years later Apple is one of if not THE biggest companies in America.  At times they have more money in the bank earning interest than the United State of America’s government.  The success of Apple Computer isn’t because they built computers.  Thousands of computer companies have come and gone since the first Apple computer, some were mom and pop shops building and selling their own models, some were once large and well-know names that you might say “oh yeah, I remember them, what ever happened to them?”  Apple is who they are today because of the vision on one man – Steve Jobs.  There are things about how Apple does things that some people don’t like, things like how when in the Apple world it is VERY hard to get apps from sources outside the regular Apple source.  Apple will argue it is for ensuring a consistent and secure customer experience, and it does that.  Others will say it limits what people can do with the product they own.  Regardless of what you might think, it’s hard to argue with Apple’s success, and THAT is directly related to the leadership of Steve Jobs.

We are fortunate to be living today in a time that will some day in history books be referred to as the computer (or digital) revolution, and no name will be referred to more as having a singular impact on how the average person created, learned or communicated in this new digital world than Steve Jobs.  Bill Gates will be remembered perhaps as the one man who made the personal computer popular and affordable for most people, but even Microsoft’s success can in part be attributed to Apple.  Would we even have Windows if Apple hadn’t built their Macintosh with the graphical user interface? 

When you think about the innovation that has driven the digital revolution of our time, you have to attribute that to Steve Jobs.  His vision and passion has made possible in computers, tablets and phones (and I don’t care WHO has built them) possible what was unthinkable even 15 years ago.

It’s a shame to lose someone so soon, but his imprint has been firmly left and hopefully we’ll continue to benefit from his vision for years to come.  I was in high school when my parents got our first VCR, and I’ve been blessed to move from the days when a simple/basic calculation that could only add, subtract, multiply and divide cost $100 to today where you can own a phone that you can carry with you anywhere, plays games, tells you where you are on the planet and how you find your destination, takes pictures, watch movies, listen to music, and much more for the same price.  And oh yeah, it does complex math as well.

Thank you Steve for making such a wonderful impact on all out lives.

Apple’s Big Announcement: The iPhone 4S

imageToday Apple announced their latest phone.  First they talked about several items included in iOS 5 (the iPhone and iPad operating system that will be released October 12th) like sending cards from an app and improved camera app functionality.  They also talked about iTunes “Match”, which for $25 a year lets you upload songs you’ve ripped and even downloaded illegally onto Apple’s iCloud servers, letting you stream your whole collation to any of your iOS devices.  Then the iPod Nano with new faces like Mickey Mouse and the iPod touch with the ability to send text messages over wi-fi.

Finally they got around to what everyone was waiting for – the PHONE.  The new phone will be called the iPhone 4S, NOT the iPhone 5.  That means on the outside it will look like the original iPhone 4, it will have a faster processor for smoother screens and also features faster graphics, which they demonstrated playing advanced games on the iPhone.  It will be capable of faster3G speeds (though technically NOT 4G it may get marketed by the carriers as 4G) and they redesigned the antennas so that you’ll have a better connection even if “you’re holding it wrong” (apparently Apple is still blaming the users for how they are holding the phone.)  They say it has an improved 8MP camera.  They spent a lot of time talking about the new voice command features, including setting alarms and reminders by voice.

The phone will be available on October 14, with pre-orders starting Oct. 7th.  The 16GB model will be $199 with contract on AT&T, Verizon and now Sprint as well.  The current (and soon to be old) iPhone 4 will be $99 and you will still be able to get the 3GS model now for free with contract.

Amazon’s Tablet Forcing Competition to Offer Deals

imageWith Amazon’s announcement this last week of their new $199 tablet (the Kindle Fire) we’re starting to see the pressure Amazon is applying to the competition, even though the Kindle Fire won’t be available until mid-November.

Best Buy is offering the 7” BlackBerry Playbook for $299, that’s a $200 discount from its regular price.  http://bit.ly/TekChic0408

Target has the 1st Generation iPad with 16GB and 3G for $499. An iPad 2 like this is $629:  http://bit.ly/TekChic0409

Tiger Direct has the 7” Dell Streak also for $299.  That’s $100 off the regular price.  http://bit.ly/TekChic0411

You may occasionally see some cheap (in every sense of the word) Android tablets for $150 or less, sometimes even under $100.  These are cheap Chinese no-name tablets that are underpowered and don’t have access to the Android Marketplace, so without the Marketplace you’re really limited as to what you can do with the tablet.  I would recommend you stay away from them, as tempting as it may be.

It’s expected that early next year Amazon will be bringing a 10” tablet to market, and so we can expect to see similar aggressive pricing from Amazon and price cuts from the rest.

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