Archive for November 2011

Have You EVER Changed Your Email Password? (Do You Even Know What it Is?)

imageChances are you’ve had your email account for a long time.  Chances are you are using the same weak password you originally set it up with, and if you’re using Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Thunderbird, Apple Mail or some other program on your computer, chances are you don’t even KNOW what your password is.

Back in June I wrote an article titled “Why You MUST Protect Your Email Account”, because if someone gets into your email account they know a LOT more about you than you may think.  Now, a hacker might get into your account and use it to spam your friends, but then you’ll start seeing messages from your friends asking you about the message “you sent”.

But suppose they don’t use your email account for spam, maybe for some reason they just read your eamil and leave it at that.  Maybe they’re stalkers, maybe they are trying to learn more about you.  All this time you wouldn’t even know that someone else was in your email.

So here we are in the holiday season – approaching the new year.  So let’s all just change our email password to keep what we hope is private – private.  Don’t just add a “1”, that’s so obvious you’ll be compromised for another year.  Review my article from earlier this year (http://goo.gl/qkr7k) and make sure your email is secure.

My Own Black Friday Deal – 40% Off All Services

imageNot wanting my clients to feel left out, I decided to have a Black Friday deal of my own – so here it is.  For all appointments that are made on Friday, Nov. 25, I will give 40% off of all my services.  You don’t have to have me come to you on Friday, just book the appointment.  If you call and get my voicemail, just let me know that you would like to schedule an appointment – and if I don’t get back to you on Friday, you’ll still get the discount when we do talk (probably on Saturday.)   If you have friends who need help with their computer, have them call me and not only will I give them 40% off, I’ll give you 25% off the next time you need me.  So here’s a Black Friday deal you can get and all you need is a telephone. 

If your system has been running slow and it’s time to give it a fresh start, there is no better time to get it done.  There are some certain “geeks” at a big-box store that are offering 20% off that day, and they charge more than me to begin with.  So save some money and get your computer happy-happy for the Christmas shopping season.

So call on Friday: 512-981-7835 and get that appointment booked.  After 11:59 PM Friday I’m back to my regular pricing (consider this a reward for being a regular reader of my blog.)  Happy Thanksgiving to all my clients and friends!

Viruses are Nasty, Don’t Compound One Lie With Another

imageOften I find that a person’s computer was infected because they fell for the LIE that was told to them by a bad guy.  The most common one is the pop-up window that LOOKS like it comes from their anti-virus software or Windows telling them that they ARE infected.  The trick is that at the moment, they are NOT infected – the pop-up window is just a cleverly designed paged that gives the impression that it is scanning your hard drive and finding all kinds of problems.  In the window will be a “call to action” to click on a button to download a “fix” or program to get rid of your problems, and often is another button saying “No Thanks” or “Ask me Later”.  Clicking on either button (or anywhere within the window) is fatal because THAT is when the real virus gets downloaded onto your computer.  It asks for your permission, you say yes and that’s it, you’re infected.  If you should ever encounter one of these windows, the best thing to do is DON’T touch, close any other programs you may be running and reboot your computer.  If you’re lucky it was just a malicious html (web) page and is gone – if it comes back then they got in another way, probably through an unpatched vulnerability in Adobe Reader, Flash or Java.  I wrote about how NOT to get infected in my monthly article exactly one year ago, if you need a refresher or missed it the first time you can read it here: http://goo.gl/afEha

You’ll notice I titled this article “Don’t Compound One Lie With Another.”  What’s the other lie?  It’s when a tech person tell you over the phone without seeing your computer that they can get rid of any virus, period.  There are so many viruses out there, so many ways to infect your computer and so many places to put the virus on your computer that anyone who tells you that is either delusional or lying.  I’m not saying that you CAN’T get rid of a particular infestation, professionals have tools at their disposal that you may not know about and a knowledge of where viruses like to hide to make sure that they are in fact gone – but some viruses just don’t want to go.  For example, there are infections that “wrap” themselves around you operating systems’ files, making it impossible to remove without actually breaking your computer.  Another type is known as a “root kit” – these guys hide where your hard drive first looks when it starts Windows, and Windows just thinks it’s “part of the family” and keeps it safe from things like your anti-virus software.  Sometimes, the only way to ensure that the infestation is gone is to completely wipe the hard drive and reinstall Windows from a disc you trust (after having backed up your data of course.) 

So if you find yourself infected (and if you’ve followed my advice it’s unlikely you will) and you call someone for help, make sure they give you a best and worst case scenario of your situation.  Getting rid of the symptoms of a virus usually isn’t too hard, but that doesn’t mean other stuff isn’t still going on silently in the background.  Being free of symptoms and being free of the virus can often be two different things.

I had someone call me with a virus and was hoping to get a “deal” on getting rid of it.  I briefly explained what it would probably cost and what it could possible cost and they explained the last time they got a virus they took it to someone who got rid of it for less.  If that someone had done them the service of telling them how NOT get a virus, I wouldn’t have even been having the conversation with them.  They said “Thank you” and would get back to me.  They might have saved a few dollars, but it gets expensive to keep re-infecting a computer.

Get an honest opinion, and if they tell you how to avoid getting re-infected (and they should) please pay attention.  Let viruses be other people’s problem, not yours.

Save 10% on an iPad! Really!

imageiPads are almost never on sale anywhere, so when you can pick one up at a discount – it’s a deal!  Newegg is giving a full 10% off all new iPads when you use the coupon code EMCJJJB74.  At the time of this post they are sold our of iPad 2’s, but they still have 64GB 1st generation iPads that you can apply the discount to.  With the discount you can get the 64GB wi-fi only iPad for only $432, they also have the 64GB version with 3G (that’s AT&T) for only $495!  That’s less than the original 16GB wi-fi only version – now THAT’S a deal!  So if you (or someone you know) has their heart set on an iPad, this might be your way to get one without breaking the bank.

Though you don’t get the 10% discount on these, Newegg also has refurbished iPad 2’s at great prices also – so follow the link to check them out (and if you’re buying a new on don’t forget the coupon code.)  http://goo.gl/uekRH

Google Music is LIVE and FREE to Everyone!

imageGoogle announced today that Google Music is now live and open to everyone.  Google Music lets you to upload up to 20,000 of your songs to their server for free.  From there you can stream it to your phone or another computer anywhere.

Not a big deal you say, well you’re pretty much right.  But then they up’d the ante by announcing that you can buy music at music.google.com, and they are the highest quality .mp3’s at 320Kbs.  When you buy a song on Google music, it automatically gets added to your online storage and if you wish, you can “Share” it on Google+ and everyone in your circles can play the whole song once for free.  They if they like it it’s easy to purchase – but they get to hear the WHOLE song first and not some little 30 second snippet.

And if you’re a musician, well they just may have put MySpace out of business because they are setting up a special area for independent artists where they can upload their own original work and make it available in Google Music just like the big boys and give them a lot of control over price, preview length and more.  There is an interactive tour you can take at http://goo.gl/NupKT.  Check out Google Music, a great way to have all your music with you wherever you are, and you can’t beat the price.

If You Can’t Afford Photoshop – Try Pixelmator

imageDigital photography has made it possible to take lots and lots of photos without the expense of film or processing.  If you have a Mac you have iPhoto for tweaking photos, but if you need more and Adobe’s Photoshop is out of reach, you should check out Pixelmator 2.0.  It’s only $30 in the Mac apps store and has all the tools you need to clean up those not-so-perfect photos.  Their web site has lots of tutorials on adding effects, removing things you don’t want and more.  Here’s the link to their site:  http://goo.gl/FS1MN

Apple is Recalling 1st Generation iPod Nanos

imageWhen the first iPod Nano was introduced – it was a hot item.  Well, now it’s REALLY a hot item because some of the first generation models have developed a problem with the battery overheating and creating a safety hazard.  Apple has decided to recall and replace the iPod Nanos that were manufactured between September 2005 and December 2006.  If your Nano has a plastic black or white front and a silver metal back, that’s a first generation Nano.  Apple has a page when you can enter your serial number and begin the replacement process.  Apple will replace it with a new one (what isn’t known if that’s a new 1st generation or a current model.)  If you do send yours in for replacement, BE SURE to back it up with iTunes before sending it, or you may lose everything that was on it.  Here’s the link to Apples iPod Nano replacement page:  http://goo.gl/0xG7w

Adobe Flash – Don’t Say No!”

imageDON’T say no when you see this window.

These updates fix security flaws that PROTECT you from the bad guys who are hoping you DIDN’T update your computer.  So spend the 45 seconds it takes and update your computer.  Adobe just updated their Flash player (again) so don’t say “NO” when the windows appears to update the Flash player.

Black Friday: Best Buy’s ad is Available

imageBlack Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, said to be the day many stores go into the “black” for the first time all year.  It’s a game every year played by the stores to try to keep their Black Friday deals a secret until the very last minute, that way their competition doesn’t have time to come up with better deals.  Well, the Best Buy ad has leaked out and you can see it here: http://goo.gl/u9Ofp

Some of the deals are a Sharp 42” 1080p television for $199, a $39 Toshiba Blu-ray player, an ASUS 10.1” Android tablet (that gets MY attention) and if you’re STILL not backing up your computer at home, they’ll have a Seagate 3TB (that’s 3,000 Gigabyte) external hard drive with both USB 2.0 and the newer MUCH faster USB 3.0 for $99.99.  There will be LOTS of deals leaking out over the next week and a half.  Check back here often – on the right you’ll see I’ve added a “Black Friday Deals” to the menu.  That’s where you’ll find my discoveries in case you miss one.  I won’t post these in the regular “Deal” topic because they have a very short and specific life.  I’ll be focusing on the “Tech” deals that I see, but obviously there will be deals on everything from dog food to bath towels.  For that you can check out sites like www.TGIBlackFriday.com.

The Scammers are Back at it in Austin

imageThe phone calls continue to come, so be aware – if someone calls you claiming to be from “Microsoft” to help you with a problem they have detected on you computer, hang up.  I received a call today from someone who unfortunately didn’t see what I posted in June (http://goo.gl/zhlnn) about getting this phone call, and he followed their instruction and downloaded a file per their instructions.  Fortunately he hesitated when they offered to sell him further services and asked for his credit card number, but damage was done and he is infected.

Microsoft will NEVER call you unless you contact them first AND you give them your phone number.  If they sounds new to you, click the link above and read my post from June.  Don’t get suckered.

Check Your Facebook Security (Yes, AGAIN!)

Facebook is almost evil for how they are always mucking around with your security settings.  I checked mine and what do you know?  They had changed!  Things that were once marked for Friends (or my eyes) only were now marked “Everyone”.  So whether you’re reading this directly on my blog (tek-chic.com/blog), on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Google+, go NOW to your Facebook page and click the down arrow in imagethe upper right corner and click on “Privacy Settings”.  This will take you to a page (that has changed since I was last there) and go through each and every item to make sure it is STILL what your thought it was.  I recommend you keep most things to your “Friends”.  Making information about yourself to “Friends of Friends” or worse “Everyone” makes more information about you available to the world than you probably would like if we ran through it line by line.

Facebook makes its money by selling YOU, literally.  Information about you is worth money and the more information about you they can sell, the happier they are.  Take control of your personal privacy and check those settings now.

Hold the Phone! Unlimited EVERYTHING for $19/mo

imageI know, it’s hard to believe, but it IS possible to have a smartphone that gives you UNLIMITED calling, UNLIMITED text and UNLIMITED data for only $19 a month.  How is this possible you ask?  It’s leveraging the power of wi-fi.  There is a new company called Republic Wireless that’s hoping to change how you feel about wireless companies.  The usual cell phone carriers charge you so much because it it expensive to operate cell phone towers that can handle all the voice traffic, not to mention the ever increasing text and data traffic. 

Well, Republic Wireless has turned everything around by leveraging the economy of wi-fi (which is already paid for) and using it in ALL cases before using the cell phone wireless network.  Their thinking is since wi-fi is almost always faster than a 3G and in many cases even a 4G connection, why not use wi-fi to handle not only the text and data, but the actual phone calls as well.

I can’t speak to how well it works in practice, but it’s a novel idea and could easily save me $600 a year, so I’m certainly going to look into it further. Their web site is RepublicWireless.com, check it out here:  http://goo.gl/BUPFg

Our Favorite Day of the Month is Here! Hooray!

imageWant to avoid getting viruses and other malware?  Then keep your software up to date.  It’s the second Tuesday of the month, and that means Microsoft is pushing updates to its operating systems and other software.  Windows XP users look for the yellow shield.  Windows Vista and Windows 7 users look for the blue logo.  If your computer doesn’t automatically update, you’ll see those icons in your task tray (in the lower right corner usually)   The orange/brown icon is for Java, and the red icon is Adobe Acrobat imageReader.  You may not see these icon in the next day or two, but you’ll see them at some point so be aware of them when they do.  These indicate FIXES to security problems that have been discovered.  They update quickly, so don’t click on “remind me later” or anything like that, just do the update and stay safe.  The same goes for Adobe Flash, when you get the message that looks like the image to the left (often right after you start your computer) by all means perform the update.

Deal: Dell Vostro Laptop for $386

imageDell has their Vostro 15.6” laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor on sale for $386 when you add the coupon code 4J?W56DPHGN09N at checkout.  This is a nice, basic system: 2GB of memory, 250GB hard drive, DVD burner and webcam.  The big plus for this laptop is the one-year next business day on-site warranty, which means if they can’t fix your computer over the phone they will send someone out to you the next business day – that’s worth a lot.  The Vostros are part of Delll’s business line, so it doesn’t come with a lot of garbage software.  It’s worth checking out if you’re on a budget but want a solid laptop from one of the best in the business.  Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/s0jyw

Deal: Desktop PC with Core i3 for $349

imageI’m very picky when it comes to laptop computers because the quality of the build has a lot to do with the longevity of the laptop.  Desktops are a little different – you set them down and you’re done.  You don’t move them around, you don’t open and close the screen, it’s just on or off.  Pretty simple.  I think twice about a Gateway laptop as a deal but as a desktop – it becomes a real possibility.

Gateway (now owned by Acer) has a desktop with a 3.1 Core i3 Intel Processor for only $349, and that includes a 1 Terabybe hard drive (that’s a thousand Gigabytes) and 6GB of memory.  It also comes with built-in wi-fi (rare in a desktop system). can handle most camera memory cards and even has an HDMI port for connecting directly to an HD television.  It comes with a 90 day warranty (less than I normally like), but in this case, if it works out of the box it will probably work for a long time.

I just set up a client with a similar system and it is a screamer.  If you need a new computer and you’re still running on Windows XP, this is a great system to upgrade with at a minimal cost.  Go check it out…. http://goo.gl/VkUgX

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