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my main computer build
 
 
  • Fractal Design Define R5 Blackout Edition ATX Mid Tower Case (amazing case. to keep it silent don't use the top panels)
  • gigabyte X99-UD3P-CF motherboard
  • 32GB of G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3200 Memory. On average I use about 13GB of ram daily.
  • Intel Core i7-5820K 3.3GHz 6-Core Processor / Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO (I do not dig the liquid cooling)
  • Samsung EVO 500GB SSD as the system drive running Windows 7.
  • 2 crucial 256GB SSD's used as scratch drives
  • seagate 2tb data drive plus various other 3TB internal drives
  • evga gtx-970 bideo card| 4gb video ram |
  • Corsair M65 Gaming Mouse
  • Digidesign Mobx 2 mini audio interface (USB)
  • AZIO MGK 1 RGB mechanical keyboard with cherry blue switches.
  • xbox 360 controller for the PC
  • EVGA SuperNOVA NEX 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply
  • Noctua NF line case fans. extra quiet + a 5 year warranty.

 

 
 

WE ARE CALLING YOU TO INFORM YOU YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED


Scammers are really upping their game in 2017.  They even try to represent themselves as legit companies like Webtech Craft.  I had a customer almost get scammed by them.  I ended up saving them over $600.  They had to rush to their bank early in the morning before the charges came.  And boy did they come.  They like to call area codes here in the states that have a large number of middle-class citizens or retires.  They use scare tactics in trying to get you to believe your computer is sending them information stating that its infected with all kinds of bad stuff.  Which is funny, because the only way they would even know something like that is if they hacked your computers, but they didn’t.  In fact they can convince people who leave their computers mostly off that they are receiving a transmission from them.  How does a computer transmit any information when its off. 

They read from a script.  Get them off the script and they will start getting angry.  They want to install a remote connection application on your machine so they can do what they already said they had detected before they called you.  Once they install this application on your computer they can do whatever they want with your machine.  They will tell you that ANYONE who worked on your computer before is incompetent.  They will always tell you that in order for them to complete the work you have to give them a credit card number so they can install a bunch of programs that you could get yourself.  The application they install begins to infect your computer with all kinds of fun stuff.   It’s not as bad a ransomware, which holds your files hostage, but its pretty bad.  They can install junkware, which are programs that do nothing, but look like they are doing everything.  Once you send them payment they are off to the stores and hangouts to get vodka and escorts and who knows what else.  Once you give them your credit card number they will try to use it for other things too. 

The best way to avoid getting used and abused by these evil people is to never, ever, ever let anyone calling you or sending you messages via email or using scare sites (sites that give you fake warning s about your machine) ever have access to your computer or credit cards.  Never let anyone who is not in your home or an actual human in front of your face computer repair technician person convince you that there is anything wrong with your computer.  If your computer is running slow or appears to have a virus, use your anti-virus and scan you hard drive or call a LOCAL computer repair technician.  Never give your credit card information to anyone over the phone, or anyone online that is not a major merchant like amazon.  Try to use different passwords for your different website needs as well.  If they get one login and password they will try to use it on any sites that they can, like paypal, your bank ect.  Be defensive, and if you are unsure about a situation get in contact with me, day or night. 

 

RANSOMWARE.  WHAT THE HELL?

Ransomware is THE worse situation you can get yourself into when it comes to internet scumbags taking your computer hijack.  Ransomware is usually an application that you ‘accidentally’ clicked on.  It could be a fake adobe flash update, a fake driver update, a script that a website ran which asks you permission to run.  IOnce you click yes or once you click and run the small file they downloaded to your computer the ransomware program will take effect.  It will search for all personal data you have on your hard drive(s) and will encrypt the data.  Once the data has been encrypted it will then give you a pop-up message stating that your files are no longer yours to use.  If you look at the files they will be renamed or have a file extension that you have never seen.  Encrypted files are files that have been put into a ‘safe’.  The only way to open this safe is to provide the right ‘password’ (key).  The password is usually a long string of letters, numbers and symbols.   Impossible to break for consumers.  The only way you get your files back is to pay these guys what they want.  You don’t pay in the normal way, like PayPal.  You have to pay in bitcoin currency.  It is an internet currency that lets a person pay for things anonymously.   Your normal money has to be converted into bitcoin money.  Once this is done you pay them and from what I understand from a few people who have fallen victim to this crappy scenario you get your files back rather quickly, because hey, they have a reputation to keep up right.  It is horrible.  The last major ransomware outbreak happened earlier this year and many places like hospitals, banks and schools had no choice but to pay the ransom to get their data back. 

Good news is it is pretty easy to avoid ransomware.  Never click yes on any scripts the internet puts on your screen unless it’s a place you know for sure is legit.  And even then be careful.  If you are updating flash then make sure you did it at adobe’s website.  The URL should look like this: https://get.adobe.com/  .  If you see anything else in the URL where the get. Adobe.com part is then most likely it is a fake website setting you up for glorious failure.   Use the same rules for any other websites you deal with.  Make sure amazon is actually amazon.  Ebay is actually eBay.  This will help you with not only ransomware but also other types of scams that they have out there.  Do not click on any programs or applications that show up in your downloads folder unless you know where they came from.  If you do not, or if they are named in a way where it suggests that this is an application, DO NOT click on them.  Delete them immediately.  Call someone (like me) if you have any doubts on what the internet is doing. 

ALWAYS back up your files, and don’t let online cloud backup be your only source of backup.  Get yourself a 2TB or larger external USB 3.0 hard drive and backup your data manually from time to time.  I had a few customers who came under attack with ransomware and icky malware and because they backup constantly the damage was minimal.  They were able to give the middle finger to the creeps trying to extort them and get their computer cleaned and their data restored via their external and cloud backup.  Cloud backup works ONLY if you trust the service you are using.  Just remember that all cloud backup is is a bunch of server computers and hard drives online, just sitting there.  It’s not being guarded by Judge Dredd or the Avengers.  It’s being guarded by regular people, many who probably have large USB 3.0 flash drives.  Reason I say this is because I know a couple people who used to work for could service, and they admitted that when they were bored they liked to look through people photos.  Comforting thought, right?  Also, you have to be concerned how your data is uploaded and in what condition is it in once it is uploaded.  Are you files encrypted BEFORE they are uploaded or do they encrypt your data after its been uploaded?  If you are an accountant, lawyer or someone with sensitive data you have to be concerned about this when using the cloud.  Yes, backup can save your bottom in a crisis, but you also want to make sure your data cannot be shared.  A nice solution to daily backup is to get network attached storage (NAS), which is simply a large hard drive that connects to your internet router.  This way it can be used anytime by any computer or even several computers, tablets, smartphones, videogame consoles, smart tvs  at once.  Western Digital has a nice line.

Many people get scammed by using google to find help on a problem.  A problem with an HP computer will get you a lot of phone numbers on googles search results.  The problem is the majority of them are not really HP, and they will scam you out of your money by making you believe that whatever your problem is, even printer related, will be due to your computer being ‘sick’.  And of course, they have the cure.  For a steep price of course.  They will try to get you to download and run their remote connection application and then the rain will come.  Same thing with Yahoo and the problems they were having with email accounts being hacked at will.  The person locked out of their account would do the same thing, do a google search to get their account back.  These scammers spend a little money to get their fake websites placed at the top of google search results.  They look legit because Google is a search engine and is not responsible for the websites it indexes.  Once you call these people they will try to ruin your bright sunny day.  Always be defensive online and question EVERYTHING. 

 
IS WINDOWS STILL ANY GOOD?
 

Windows is targeted by hackers all around the world. The number of users that use windows is massive, which is why it is targeted so hard by scum. They tend to leave lesser used operating systems like OSX and linux alone because there is no real money in it. 

Most threats to computers are the ones that like to take advantage of human error, meaning it requires the user to either clikc on something that will allow the evil onto their machine, or pickup the phone and call someone who wishes to dump something on your machine so thay can remotely control it. As you can see from the pictures below (click on them to enlarge them, and don’t fear, they are just images) there are a variety of ways the scum try to get you to make a mistake, using fear tactics or ‘must upgrade’ notices every chance they can get. Depending on what websites you visit, the frequency you run into these traps will vary. 

Now I see a lot of what I like to call click bait. You can be on facebook or any social media site and you’ll see “top 10 celebrities with no clothes on” and you’ll click on it. It will take you to a page that is designed to slow your system down to a halt while you wait for just about every ad process ever devised to load all at once. Yes you will see the photos eventually but you will only see 1 at a time. When you click NEXT it won’t advance because the page is programmed not to advance until next is hit 2 or 3 times. Finally you get the second photo after 4 minutes of waiting and flash ads for products you could care less about. When you finally get to the third photo you get a pop up or 2. One of the pop ups will contain a ad to something you don’t care about, but when you try to close that browser tab you get what looks like a system message asking you if you are sure you want to leave and if so you have to actually click leave this page. The other pop up that opened will likely be one of the types of ‘YOU ARE IN GRAVE DANGER” messages or “MUST UPDATE YOUR FLASH NOW” things that people click on, hence giving their computer the flu. When you click ok, that’s all it takes. 

You are not installing a flash update, you are installing evil. Don’t do it. Never install anything the internet tells you to. Never. If you are worried that your flash is out of date, then go to adobes website and do it there. If you get the FBI warnings or IRS scares just close the browser tab. DO not call the number. DO not use services that want to download a remote connection so they can cure your machine. If you do that you might as well get windows reinstalled, because what they install is quick acting, thorough and relentless. Your keystrokes are monitored for passwords and other sensitive data, your webcam will come on (sometimes without the light indicator) so they can get a good look at ya and your surroundings. They have bots that search your hard drive for files that might hold information they can exploit, like word or excel documents. Text files and photos. Anything they can scan to see what personal information might be lurking in them. They install things that run in the background you don’t even know about, and they can put their files all over windows. So well that they even can rest in your system restore, napping like a baby till you wake em up again.

They will disable your anti virus as well. People will often blame the anti virus. Its not the anti virus’s fault, after all you let the party in. New malware, virus and Trojans are created every day at an alarming rate, and often anti virus definitions aren’t updated fast enough to detect them. That’s why some knowledge of how these traps work can help out a great deal in keeping your machine clean never install what the internet tells you. 

Never install anything the internet tells you too.  Ever.  Again, if in doubt, go to the companies website and do a check.  If you get a prompt to update flash and you think you need to, close the prompt and go to adobe’s website and check your flash install there.  This goes for any application that claims to be in need of upgrading via a web pop up or website.  Always ask questions first, not later. 

  • Never call any number given to you by a pop up ad or message that locks you out of your computer. 
  • Do not get scared when you see a IRS notice in your email. The IRS will never email or call you. Not their policy. They will always mail you by post office letter. 
  • Remember services that offer to fix your computer via a remote connection are very risky, many operate in other countires that scramble their origins so well you’ll never figure out who they are or where they are if your personal checking account gets drained overnight. 
  • Never let your anti virus expire, and if your serious about protection go for something that is real, even if you have to pay a little (Kapersky is the leading one right now), you’ll thank yourself when kids get on your computer doing searches for Nicki Minaj or Beyonce. 
  • When doing a search for help or repairs, stick to local service.  1-800 numbers are usually evil.  These types of setups will take your money and with it they will buy vodka and escorts with the accounts you provided for them.  Fake programs known as malware will install and look like they are doing all kinds of wonderful things when in fact they are not.  You are watching a short movie provided by hackers to give you the impression you are in good hands.  They will all prompt you to spend a little money to unlock the program they install once its found the bad stuff (it has in fact found nothing and has added more to your problems in the process) and that payment of $39.99 you authorized……..they now have your credit card number and the information needed for hot fun on Saturday night. 
  • Be afraid of remote connections (when they offer to fix your computer by letting you download a small file).  Be very afraid.  If you cannot find them, then what can you do if they take you for a ride?
  • If you can, pay for things via paypal online.  The reason being is that the merchant you purchase from will only see their money; they will not see the credit card numbers or bank account numbers attached to the payment.  This way when a company gets hacked for personal information you can sleep well knowing they don’t have your debit card or credit card numbers.  Paypal is sweet.
  • When a pop up does open, close it.  They have nothing positive you want to see.  Its ok to click the ‘leave this page’ prompt you get for some of those annoying pop ups that won’t let you just click X to close the browser tab. 
  • I’ll say this about the cloud.  If you have sensitive data, you might want to think about getting a home cloud solution installed.  Reason being is that unless the data is encrypted on your side of the fence with only you having the decrypt passkey before it gets uploaded online, then your data is at the mercy of the people who run the cloud service.  Often times it’s not the kind of people you think up there.  It’s not that 1990 Norton guy in the shirt and tie who looks like he does nothing but guard stuff day n night.  Nope, its people you see at best buy or wendy’s.  They have lots of computers with lots of space and lots of ports.  With a usb 3.0 connection you can download a ton of personal data in minutes.  That’s all it takes.  Your data goes home with someone lonely soul who wants to see who takes the best selfies, or who has a credit card number listed within a excel file.  Be very careful how you protect your data.  The cloud is convenient.  Dropbox is wonderful, but using it for sensitive data is very risky.  I cringe when I hear clients of mine who are lawyers, financial officers, accountants who are using the cloud to backup their business data.  Cloud drives are affordable now and they are huge.  4TB if you need it.  They attach to your router and can be accessed by any device on your network.  You can encrypt data before you back it up to the drive and you can also access the drive remotely, like on a business trip or vacation.  IT’s a relatively inexpensive solution and something to think about in this data driven world we live in now. 
  • As far as anti-virus programs, if you’re on a budget run AVAST free edition.  If you have a little lunch money and want the very best protection then run Kaspersky
 
common traps used by bad bad hackers and scamers online
(double click to enlarge the screen shot)
 
 
 
more archived stuff
 
  • Don't worry. If you use WIndows XP, even though support will end for it in May 2014, you can still use the operating system with no problems. The only people who have to really be concerned are those who are on networks or business enviroments. If you do daily normal use with your computer (web, favebook, office, ect) then you will be ok. I do recommend you use either firefox or Chrome as your main browser. Internet Explorer 8 in XP is terrible, and Internet explorer on windows 7 is just as yuck yuck.
  • Want to turn your notebook or desktop into a speed demon. Upgrade to a SOlid State Drive. At this time (4/14) your can get a 240GB SSD for around $125. SOlid state drives have no moving parts. It's memory that acts as a hard drive. Windows and Macbooks can boot up as fast as 7 seconds. PRograms open instantly. Large data heavy applucations run so much faster. I have them in all my laptops (2007 macbook pro, 2009 macbook white & HP dm1 mini notebook) and they are truly amazing. I haven't gone the desktop route yet because I need the largest possible hard drives I can get into my systems (2 custom rigs, 1 Dell Precision and 1 2013 Mac mini). When the price of a 1TB drops some more I will probably make the change on my desktops as well. I highly recommend the upgrade. You can turn an old slow moving Dell Lattitude notebook into a speed freak. Get in contact for more details.
  • Windows 8.  Do you need it?  If you run windows 7 and love it, and you should, its a great operating system, then nope.  It’s a waste of money to upgrade to it.  Here’s the problem.  With windows 8 the operating system is basically 7 with a few improvements behind the door, mainly on the technical side.  What they did in their infinite wisdom was remove the Start button.  If you use an operating system without a touch screen, then not having the start button will drive you nuts.  Windows 8 is geared towards touch screens.  Even with the touch screens it is still kind of a moot point.  Its still see the icon, click on the icon, open application.  The mouse has been replaced with touch and lot s and lots of fingerprints and hygiene concerns.  If you love your smart phone on your PC then windows 8 ius for you.  For the rest of you, stick to windows 7 and max out your machine memory with that money instead. note: Windows 10 is out. Get it and leave 8 behind.
  • Windows 7.  I am truly amazed at just how great this operating system is.  I get stuff done, and it gets out of the way.  I push my machines hard.  Stable and fast.  It’s amazing to be able to say this about an operating system.  Highly recommended.  Get the 64bit version, and max out to as much RAM as your machine can take (or that you can afford).
  • Ultrabooks.  SO pretty.  So sweet.  I actually believe ultrabooks are the intended form of the laptop.  What manufactures would have liked to release instead of the bigger bulkier notebooks. Here’s why.  Heat.  Heat kills notebooks.  Squeezing the desktop computer into the size of a smaller encyclopedia book is nice, but it comes ata price.  The heat generated from computer components is pretty tropical in intensity.  A PUC with no heat sink and fan on it, can fry bacon.  Hard drives and computer memory are usually the first victims of excessive computer heat.  Especially with ‘consumer model’ laptops.  I’m sure you or someone you know has had a laptop and within a year or two, it stops working right.  You get it checked out by a technician who knows what he or she is doing (like me!) and they tell you, your memory is bad ore your hard drive has bad sectors.  You need to replace the hard drive or memory.  This usually comes from excessive heat.  Most hard drive manufacture’s and memory makers warranty their products for at least 3 years.  In the case of memory they will do lifetime warranty (like by peeps G-Skill!), which guarantees you a full replacement after you RMA (return merchandise authorization) the memory.  SO if manufacture’s are selling product with the intent of lasting a long time, why do so many laptops and netbooks die after a year of being used?  Well quite simply its because laptop makers tend to put things out and ask questions later.  There is a big difference between Dell consumer base laptops (inspiron, ect) and their business class machines (Latitudes) and it all has to do with money.  They cannot afford to sell product to corporate clients that have a high failure rate.  Bad for business.  For consumers they say, hey…..business as usual.  I never see Lenovo notebooks coming in for repair.  Their consumer and business class laptops are the bst out there.  They are the few and the proud.  I own a macbook pro (3,1 – got it for writing fiction) and man does that thing get HOT.  They wer smart enough to move the hard drive n memory away from the danger zone so you can go a little longer without complications from heat taking a toll.  So what does this have to do with Ultrabooks you ask?  It’s simple.  Ultrabooks work with as few moving and mechanical parts as possible, therefore less heat is generated.  Dat is handled a lot more efficiently due to memory and storage being soldered onto the motherboard.  Ultrabooks run nice and cool.  The design in windows based ultrabooks is starting to catch up with apple.  Unfortunately they are priced like apples too, but I’m sure that will be forced to come down since windows 8 is driving people away from buying one.  If you do have the money for one they are very nice indeed.  Try Lenovo or Asus.  Macbook Airs are also very nice, they have the best keyboard in the business.
  • The mac thang, 2013. Mac computers only.  First off I can say the Retina display is the kind of marketing genius you wish you could do for yourself.  Like creating the Retina Pizza. A pizza with 3 times the toppings of a regular pizza.  I was lucky enough to be able to get a couple macbooks on the cheap.  A macbook white and a (3,1) macbook pro.  Even though they are a few years old, the displays on thos e things are pretty incredible, especially for creative writing.  Extra bright and crisp.  Trying to pass off a display that is twice as sharp to normal people seems more of a hustle.  No one is reading text magnified x40.  If your going to get the recent macbook pro’s, do it for other reasons than the retina display.  The new macbooks are kind of the direction that computer manufactures all want to go.  Give the end user less choices and you the excuse less reason for something to go wrong on the manufacturer end.  For computers this can be a bad thing for power users.  You want the option to be able to add more memory or replace a hard drive.  You want to be able to change your own battery as well.  Apple, and soon other computer manufacturers are going to opt to remove this choice from the table.  Not good.  The cost to max out a macbook pro is some very serious coin. You have to do it if you want your ensure your machine is up to date.  8gb is the new standard for memory for a PC or mac.  Windows 7 will use 2GB of RAM just starting up and remaining idel.  Same with apple OSX.  The more memory the happier these OS’s run.  So with Mac’s I’ll say this.  If you can afford a Mac, then get one because they are well crafted machines despite the flaws.  The resonate art, design and function in many ways.  Just keep in mind that if your buying new, max out the macbooks memory and storage.  Eventually you’ll want to do that and because of everything being soldered on the motherboard, you cannot upgrade.  A great alternative are the 2010 2011 macbook pro’s.  I believe the heat issues aren’t as bad as the older pro’s, and you can max out the memory to 8gb, and in some cases 16GB.  I recommend OWC for any mac related upgrades your thinking of doing. The Macbook air is also a great choice for people how need a nice portable machine that won’t overheat on you in heavy use.  The MacBook keyboards are the best in the business, which is why I wanted to try one.  Something so simple can make a world of difference in the creative process for writers.  The Mac Pro desktop is supposed to get an upgrade, but those things are already priced like Lexus so I don’t see the re-fresh being a better choice.  Right now the Imac out-trumps the Mac Pro desktop in terms of everyday speed.  Those are also nice machines if you can afford them, the Imacs. 
  • Beware of Yahoo Mail.  Just for Poop’s n giggles, if I were you I would start a gmail account and import your yahoo account into it just for safe keeping.  Yahoo email gets hacked way too often for it to be a coincidence.   I personally think they have something going on with these 1-800 numbers people find when locked out of their yahoo accounts.  They always want 2 things.  To remote in on your computer and then they want you to pay money to get your account back.  Don’t fall for it.  Contact yahoo directly, this type of service should always be free and will NEVER require that anyone should have acres to your computer.  After you get your account back, move to Gmail, send a blast stating your new email address, and then drink Pepsi and enjoy the good life.
  • Vista or XP?  It’s like this.  I’m a nerd.  Big time.  So I’ll try to give you the scoop in non-nerd talk.  Here it is, unless you have MAC money, you’ll have to settle for the Windows experience.  Microsoft seems to get a kick out of making all consumers who purchase new Windows operating systems what they call ‘Beta testers’.  This means that you use software that is half done and needs work to get right.  You end up being the beta tester by calling or emailing Microsoft support complaining about something that isn’t working right with your OS.  They write it down and add it to the list of the hundreds of other bug fixes that need to be done.  Rather than get it right BEFORE releasing, they choose to put it out ‘as is’.  They have done it with every version of an operating system they have ever made.  This being said, when it comes down to it, Vista with service pack 1 (sp1) is pretty rock solid.  This doesn’t really mean much though because other than the brighter look and better indexing feature (with better indexing than xp, you can search for anything with vista in seconds), Vista offers nothing special; especially for the money Microsoft wants for it.  Seriously, if you have XP or an XP machine with a dual core processor, don’t waste your money on Vista. The way I see it it was released to push new hardware.  There is no logical reason that a 4 year old  XP machine should not be able to run Vista, but that’s how they do things at Microsoft.   Vista has got so much bad press that Microsoft already has another operating system in the wings slated for a 09 release called…..taa daaaa Windows 7.  Vista has been out like what…2 years or so?  They say Windows 7 will be the OS they should have released in the first place, and that being said, it isn’t all that exciting from what I’ve seen from the Beta’s.  It’s the same windows.  They need to make their OS exciting again and make it an easy buy.  1 version for everyone.   I’ve used Mac’s Leopard and Unbuntu’s Beryl and I can tell you, folks are going to get tired of the same ole Windows environment. These alternative operating systems are pleasant to look look at, easy to use and run fast on hardware that uses 3 times less the requirements to run the full version of Vista.
  • Mac, PC or linux box?  It really depends on how you like to spend your money.  If you have money drippin’ out your but cheeks, then MAC is the way to go.  It’s true that you can get the same type of PC in terms of speed and power in the PC field for half of what you pay for a glorified MAC, but when you use a MAC day to day you’ll see where all that money went.  That’s if you have it to spend.  MAC’s, configured to mirror similar built PC rig, can take your lunch money.  MAC binds their OS with their hardware, and their hardware isn’t exactly top of the line anymore.  The Leopard OS is so good that it can make bargain basement components shine.  I’ve used Leopard.  It’s almost sexual the way it runs.  Like a hot chick who is really there just for you.  That’s the MAC OS.  If you have the cash, spend it. 

-Does this mean you should rule out the PC or a linux box.  By all means NO, but understand this.  ALL problems rooted with PC’s with Windows 2000, XP or Vista can probably be traced to something that was caused by internet access.  I have 3 main computers, low grade laptop (single core Celeron, 1.5gb ram) running Vista Home, a productivity PC running xp pro (2.40ghz dual core athlon, 4gb ram), and my music computer which runs xp pro (3.04ghz Pentium 4, 2GB ram).  My music computer does not touch the web.  In fact the network card is disabled and there is no phone card.  NO web.  I can tell you that I have absolutely no trouble with my music computer.  Ever.  There is no virus program on it, everything gets scanned before it gets put on it.  It’s just the OS and my music software.  No firewalls, no spyware programs.  None of that crap.  It runs great.  At one point I had it running for 3 months straight, no reboots needed.  XP pro without the internet is basically a MAC.  One of the most stable operating systems I’ve ever used for productivity (next up is AMIGADOS J).  You connect XP to the web and that’s when the darkness comes.  All kinds of evil crap comes out the woodworks.  You have to install virus scanners, spyware programs, malware detectors, firewalls, all kinds of stuff just to keep your pc safe.  MAC’s and Linux boxes don’t seem to have the bull’s-eye target on it that hackers love like Windows does, but give it a couple years and I think they will start to work on Leopard and Linux, especially since they are becoming more popular.   If you do productivity I would suggest getting 2 computers, one  that accesses the web and the other that you just do work on.  Dual core machines (refurbished or lightly used)  can be had for $200 online.  That’s the selling point of the PC.  More for your money.  That PC you buy that doesn’t touch the web will bring you joy joy feelings.  That PC that is connected to web will catch internet HIV from time to time.  Its just a fact of nerd life.  So basically what I’m saying is that you can get 2 pc’s for the price of what you’ll pay for a glorified MAC.  A dual core processor with a clock speed at 2.20ghz or higher running xp pro will be fast enough for anything you want to do. 

-Where does Linux stand in all this.  It’s like this, if you do not need to run Microsoft  or Adobe software, and you don’t have $1500 - $4000 for less for the money MAC, then Linux might be for you.  I’ve used linux in the form of the Ubuntu  version of the OS.  You can install it from a CD image which you can download, or order a installation CD.  After you install it you basically have everything at your disposal that you’d need to be productive.  Photoshop like graphic program (GIMP), Office suite (Open Office), a Standalone word processor (Abiword), as well as all the other tools you have in Windows and Leapord.  Mp3 player, Instant message program, FTP, Firefox, Web design tools, and much more.  Best of all this operating software is going to cost you nothing, and it can run on yesterdays technology and move faster than Windows or Osx.  You can run Ubuntu on a $150 desktop that can scored of craigslist and as long as you don’t have the need to run brand name software or play games, you’ll be all right.  Yep, Linux ain’t for playing video games, and the list of brand name software makers who make software for linux is never going to be like Windows and Mac OS.  But that’s what is missing from todays computer environment.  The lack of variety stunts true growth and innovation.  Linux is growth and innovation, just like Apple Leopard.  Only difference is that this is all free for the end user.  You can add different things to Ubuntu to make it similar to the windows or mac experience.  Beryl will give Ubuntu the 3d look of Mac Leopard or Windows Areo, and I must say that it looks more exciting than the big two’s offering.  Of course there is a learning curve with Ubuntu, as well as all of the different factions of Linux OS’s (there are many different types of Linux OS’s), but the basic Windows / Mac structure is there.  File Edit ect.  You can also dual boot Ubuntu from a windows machine, or you can run it from a CD to test it out.  I’d give it a try if you fit the category I mentioned above.  Not everyone needs a $250 operating system and $150 - $600 photo editing software.  I mean have you seen the size of Adobe Acrobat?  What’s that all about.  How can the software makers of pdfprimo and Foxit Reader do what acrobat does and be 90% smaller than the adobe installer?  This is where the beauty of alternatives comes in.  Linux software is small, tightly written, and stable like good government job.  Check it out.

-If you must try to install anything inside your computer, please please please unplug the power first and then press the power on button to cycle any remaining charge. By doing this you avoid the risk of shorting out any of your sensitive components like memory or your CPU. I get a lot of customers with fried motherboards from attempting to be a geek without the proper dweeb skills. Try to get a tech to install your internal pc goodies. So much that can go wrong. Just a little advice.

-Windows 7. It's nice they are getting around to releasing what is really VIsta Service Pack 3, but to make people pay a premium for it is just wrong. I recently moved from Vista back to XP on my notebook and I must say, you don't really get just how messed up Vista was until you feel it. With XP back on my little $399 Compaq it now runs 3 times faster and it doesn't have that rubbery feeling that Vista did. Everything is where it should be. I hope Windows 7 really is the proper XP pro replacement. I love visiting Mac stores, but that's just about as far as I Can go with that. They are nice, but not that ni$e. Windows 7 will have a lot to prove, especially with the price tag it carries and those ridiculous "home version', "school version", "business version", Medium Apartment size version" series they are doing all over again. When I get some hands on time with WIndows 7, which should be soon, I'll write about it.

-It’s funny.  I find I’m having to remove Norton and McAfee from customers computers in order to get wireless networking and speed back to the pc’s.  Whatever happened to Norton?  I remember those box covers from the eearly 2000’s with the picture of the serious looking dude in the white shirt looking like he was born to do nothing but kill evil computer virus’s.  Norton was a great virus program back then.  Now they (along with McCafee) have become bloated.  Norton still has a great detection rate, but it’s like running a second Operating system on your machine.  It’s so bloated that you have to run a special uninstall application they created in order to fully delete it from your machine.  That sux.  Virus suites should barely be noticed.  You want good virus protection without giving up half your computer resources?  Try some of the free alternatives like avast, Avira, Kaspersky.  I personally run Avast.  It’s a great free antivirus program but you do have to have good "”surfing sense”.  Don’t click when they tell you you’ve won a free Xbox 360, stuff like that will give your computer HIV. 

-A lot of customers I come across are kind of  lost as to what they can do with a home network.  With a home wireless / wired network you can do the following:

    • the most obvious thing is being able to get online with any wireless capable device like a laptop, ipod touch or portable video game system.
    • You can network share a printer.  This is a better way to share a printer.  WHen you share a printer that is connected to a computer, if that computer is turned off, you can’t print.  With a network printer which is connected to your router (or switch…i’ll explain), you can print to it no matter which computers are turned on or off.  With a Switch, which allows you to add more connections to your network, you can even have more than 1 printer connected to share.  You can also share Network hard drives in the same manner, so anyone wishing to backup files can write to the network hard drive.  This way if something goes wrong with the hard drive on your computer or laptop, you have backup copies of the files on your network drive.  Very nyce!
    • You can also share share folders on your network from any computer connected to your router whether it be wired or wireless.  This is a nice way to share files, but an even better way is with a network hard drive (like i mentioned above) which can be accessed no matter who’s computer in on of off.  Throw a bunch of movies, music and ebooks on it and anyone on the network can access the goods. 
    • With a wired network you can share large files between computers with a lot of speed.  This is nice for families that have kids (and adults) who like to collaborate on things.  Want your brother to add some funny text to a picture you took?  No need to put in the usb flash drive, copy it, go all the way to the basement and give it to him to copy.  Just open up his public folder on your network and copy and paste it there.  Now instantly he has it.  This is also good for small business owners and folks who do a lot of computer related productivity work.  Like art students sharing a apartment.
    • You can attach video game units on to your network.  Wired or wireless.  Also you can host LAN parties where everyone brings their laptop and plays PC  games together.  The notebooks plug into your router.  If there isn’t enough inputs on the router then you get a switch.  Nice thing about switches is that you simply plug them in and they figure out things by themselves.  You plug in yout router output into the switch, then connect the other devices (notebooks, printers, ect) and the switch automatically figures out where everything is suppose to be routed.  I have a switch on my router.  My router only has 4 inputs, which are being taken up by my desktop pc, ps2 and network printer.  The one input that's free is connect to the 8 port switch, and my network hard drive, xbox 360 and photo printer is connected to that.  Keep in mind when you buy a switch you will lose 1 input to your router output jack. 
    • If you have a strong enough router, some people share an internet connection between 2 homes or apartments.  Hey why not?  It’s not like that money tree you planted is generating free cash.  Just be sure you know the limitations of the internet service provider you have.  I know Comcast is notorious for having hidden usage caps (usually 250gb per month), so watch the downloads when you do this.  You can try one of the free usage monitors here.
    • You can also share programs with a home network.  One computer with a copy of Adobe Acrobat can be used across several machines.  When you print, you can chose the printer you want to use.  Select the adobe acrobat printer and print the file to your machine.  If you want to make pdfs for free (without the bloat), you can try PrimoPDF.  An alternative for viewing pdfs (no bloat) is the Foxit Reader.

-Do you favor yourself a dweeb like I do?  Then download the iso (or order the cd) of Ubuntu.  It’s a free operating system based on the Linux Kernel.  You can run it off a CD without it touching your windows install.  It will find drivers for your components.  It comes with a office suite, photoshop alternative, firefox, media player, and more.  It has cool effects which you can add like the one you’ll see here.  Again, it’s free.  You can run Microsoft and Adobe software  (actually all software made for windows) using Wine.  It runs on old PC’s, very fast. 

-I've been getting a few computers with dead hard drives. Every now and then when you use your computer, put a ear close up on it. A dying hard drive will emit a high pitch squeal. Its not going to be super loud, but you should be able to hear it. A heathly hard drive runs quiet. If its just squealing then you have some time to back your data off of it to an external usb drive. If you hear a kocking sound, that's usually a drive that has had it. IT will ocst a lot of money to get the data recovered when its dead like this since the insides have to be removed to get to the files. Always have a backup plan. External hard drives are cheap now.

- From a design standpoint, you have to love Apple's website.

- Never clean a LCD or Plasma monitor or TV with Windex or any other glass cleaner. That would be a bad move. Always use a cleaning spray specifically designed for LCD's n Plasma screens. Like the one's you'll find here.

- Wondering if you'll be drenched with rain? Live in the Chicagoland area and suburbs? Bookmark this!

- I get asked a lot of questions. I kept a list of the most common one's. I'll do it Q & A style :)

- Beware of scams. This one really pertains to Yahoo mail. Everyone Yahoo mail seems to get compromised no matter how careful you are with your account, or how strong your password is. I never get this sort of thing with gmail users or Hotmail users unless they have their personal email addresses in their yahoo accounts.  It seems to work like this.  You get messages from your friends saying that you sent them a email which looks like spam, or you get locked out of your account because your password was changed.  Upon doing a search you find a number to call, like 866-562-7219, which is supposed to be yahoo’s customer help.  Now all you want is your password reset so you can log back in to your email account and reset it again and get on with your life.  Not so fast.  The guys on the phone, which sound like they are in the middle of India, have one thing on their mind.  To get you to download a remote access file of for you to setup your computer so they can access it (that’s never good).  They do not tell you up front that they are a pay service, which means anything they do for you will not work, because they are a pay service.  They will either tell you that your machine is infected, even if you’re working on a machine with a fresh install of a operating system.  They will even give you a reset password, which of course won’t work, all so they can get you to allow them access to your machine.  They will then tell you it will cast anywhere from $99 and up, and tell you to borrow the money from someone if you don’t have it (no joke).   If you ask too many questions they will get rude with you and eventually hang up.  This kind of thing is disturbing because its attached to a well-known and trusted company like Yahoo.  Every single compromised account that sent me bogus email was from yahoo.com. I don’t like the odds of it being them every time.  Keep in mind that you can log into email services like yahoo, gmail or Hotmail from ANY computer.  You should also be able to log into your email account even if you had a virus provided you have internet access.  Point is this is another sick scam.  Don’t fall for it.  Contact yahoo directly, makes sure the person you are talking to states that they are an official Yahoo company.  DO not pay a dime to get your email account back up and running.  In fact if you do, export your contacts and forward any important emails you need to keeps to a shiny brand new gmail account.  I haven’t come across a hacked gmail account yet.  It is sad that people have to deal with creeps like this.  If you do come across scum like this, report them.  There’s a chance Yahoo might not know what’s going on.  A real slight chance.

 
 
 


 

RECENT MOVIES I DUG:

John Wick
CAptain America: winter soilder
Mad Max: Fury Road (movie of the year!!)
Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation (cruise is nuts)
The Equalizer

 

RECENT TV


supergirl
banshee
the detour
search party
Justified
supernatural
homeland
Archer
Ray Donovan
taboo
iZombie

 

 

 

MUSIC:

The Beatles (remastered series)
Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street (remastered)
Prince - 1999
Kate Nash - My Best Friend Is You
Stone Temple Pilots - 2010 release
REM - Mumor (remaster)
Gangstarr - Moment of Truth (RIP Guru)

BOOKS:

Barry Eisler - Fault Line
Mary ROach - Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
John Douglas - Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit
Douglas E. Winter - Run
Stephen King - On Writing

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

archived - pre 2013
 
  • 1 megabyte (MB) = 1024 bytes
  • 1024 megabytes (MB) = 1 gigabyte (GB)
  • A blank cd-r can hold 80 minutes of music or 700mb of data.
  • A blank single layer dvd can hold about 4489 megabytes, which is 4.4 GB.  It can also hold the same amount of data it would take 6 cd-r discs to store. If you have 6 movies that are 700MB each, a single layer dvd will hold 6 movies. I prefer DVD-R blanks.
  • A blank dual layer dvd can hold double the above.
  • All music whether it is mp3, flac, mp4 gets converted to Microsoft’s .wav format so it can be heard on your speakers.
  • An mp3 basically takes a .wav file and strips it of all the frequencies human’s cannot hear.  This reduces the size of the track significantly.  A 4 minute songs is about 40MB.  Using an mp3 encoder (LAME is the best) and using a 128 kbps bit rate, that 40MB wav is reduced to a 4mb mp3 at cd quality sound.  Now you see why the music business sucks ass now right?
  • Video codec’s reduce the size of a movie or tv show from the DVD .vob standard.  There a so many video codec’s out there that it really depends on which one you use as far as the rate of compression that you'll get.  In reality a 4 gigabyte dvd movie (2 hours) in .vob format can be reduced to a 700mb .avi file which will look pretty good on a tv set.  Google dvd shrink or #1 dvd converter to read up on this.
  • Ever play a DVD on your computer with a 22" lcd monitor?  Wonder why the picture is so small.  In simple terms this is because dvd's, as clear as they are on a regular tube tv, are really a third of the size of most 20" monitors.  
  • A dual core processor computer basically has 2 processors (cpu’s) instead of one,  which will either work in tandem or work separately to do your tasks.  Think everything gets done in half the time.
  • Who makes the best routers for home and apartments.  I’ve used them all.  Lynksys gives me the least troubles. 
  • When upgrading a computer, keep in mind that while the motherboard and cpu may be crusty and old, Your other components might just be fine and can be moved to a newer system, espeically the hard drive (s) and cd or dvd drives.
  • Burning DVD’s?  DVD-R blanks are what you want to get.
  • For desktop computers one of the easiest ways to improve performance if your RAM is already maxed out, is to use a dedicated video card.  If you don't play games, a simple 128mb or 256mb video card will do the trick.  Good enough to work on everyday tasks and get a little WOW in.  Of course if your computer is running on less than 1gb of memory, then you should add more ram.  2gb is good enough.  3gb is even better.  Most windows xp and vista 32bit computers will only use 3.25 gigabytes of ram, anything more will just sit there.
  • Want to find a picture or mp3 on your hard drive?  In the folder you want to search, hit CTRL - F and choose all files and folders.  If you want to search for all jpg pictures in the folder, enter *.jpg in the "all or part of the file name" box.  Windows will search for all files with the extension jpg.  Now you can see if your significant other has any naughty stuff sitting on the PC :-)
  • Ifyou have a product key sticker on the bottom of your laptop for windows, be sure to put a peice of clear tape over it so it doesn't wear away. Otherwise they will fade away over time due to normal handling.

-Do you have dvd’s you would like to make backup copies of?  You might want to try the knock out combo of dvdshrink and DVD Decrypter. Works great on most discs. 

-Need to backup cd or dvd data discs.  You’ll need to make an ISO, which is a duplication of the file structure of a disc.  An exact copy.  You’ll want something like PowerISO

-Want to save that clip you saw on youtube or google videos?  Get your hands on this nice free app called Orbit Downloader. It works.

-Want to convert that dvd .vob file (or any other one) to a smaller .avi?  Grab HandBrake.  It’s free, and it works.

-Do you torrernt? Do it behind a VPN or some other IP hiding solution. They are out there snooping (aggressively), and if you are caught downloading copy-written material and are subpoena's 9 times out of 10 you will have to pay damages. Best to stay private online.

 

 
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