Tips & Tricks

Cyber criminals may be the scum of the earth, but you have to hand it to them: they’re creative.

A very common scam of late is the hacking of email accounts. The bad guys hunt around popular web-based email services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) looking for targets. They essentially hi-jack your email account by trying random passwords. If your password is weak, there’s a good chance they’ll get in.

Typically, the hackers will gather up all the contacts within your email account and send out mass spam messages that contain a click-able web link in the body of the text. That link is either a site that wants to get your money or attempts to install a virus on your machine.

Another frequent hack is to send “cries for help” to everyone in your address book. They pose as you, and send emails to everyone claiming that they are stuck in England or Spain without any money. They’ve had their cell phone and wallet stolen and they need you to wire some money to them quickly. Depending on the situation, this can be a highly effective scam. It has happened to a couple of my friends, and they came very close to falling for it.

The remedy? IMMEDIATELY change the password on your email account. There’s nothing more important than coming up with a very strong password that contains upper/lower case letters, numbers, and odd characters like asterisks and dollar signs.

Secondly, quickly send an email to all of your contacts explaining that you were hacked and to please watch out for suspect emails. Time is of the essence, so jump on it!

Third, call any credit card companies for which you have an online account. The hackers can conceivably get into those accounts by sending a “password request” to the hacked email. Tell the credit card company to immediately freeze the account, then have them reset the password and recovery emails to your preference.

Strong passwords are always a must. Your computer is generally safer if you create a log-in password, and your WiFi router should ALWAYS be setup with WPA2 encryption and a great security key.

Finally, be very wary of ANY request for your personal information. Phishing scams run rampant today, so make sure than you carefully verify the person requesting your information before giving it to them.

Let us know if you have any security questions or concerns. We offer free system and network look-overs and we can help you keep the bad guys out!

Think for a moment about how many tasks you perform on your computer each day: Email, Facebook, Word Documents, Pandora, photo editing, YouTube, web surfing, phew! Although we rarely do all these things at once, we are typically running at least a few of them simultaneously. And your screen can sometimes become a confusing mess of tabs, windows, folders, and screens. What to do?

OPTION ONE: FLANK YOUR OPEN WINDOWS. Toggling between open windows gets cumbersome after awhile, yes? And resizing/juggling/moving windows around can drive you crazy in seconds. Here’s a quick fix for that:

In Windows Vista/7, grab your window by clicking and holding the solid-colored bar at the top and then “fling” it to the left side of your screen. BOOM–the window re-sizes itself to take up exactly one-half of the screen. Now “fling” another window to the right hand side. Voila! You now have two windows perfectly nestled next to each other. This is great for drag/drop or cut/paste situations, or if you want Firefox on the left and your photos on the right.

If you want more than two windows to be flanked or stacked, try this: Right-click on your taskbar (the solid colored bar at the bottom of your screen) and choose either “Show Windows Stacked” or “Show Windows Side By Side”. Whammo, your windows are perfectly oriented for multi-tasking whoopee.

Windows XP users can do the same as above, but the options are named slightly different.

OPTION TWO: GET DUAL MONITORS. What was once expensive is now relatively affordable. All you need is a secondary monitor and a capable graphics card in your PC. Dual monitors allow you to keep an eye on your email while checking your stock quotes. If you’re reviewing a proposal, you can view the rough draft on one monitor and your new, updated version on the other. How about watching the news in the morning while reading the latest headlines? Or think about having a program open on one screen and it’s owner’s manual on the other: Perfect.

For basic dual monitor walk-through, check this article http://lifehacker.com/317479/make-the-most-of-your-dual-monitors

Auburn Computer Help also offers great package-deals for dual-monitor setups. Give us a call and we’ll give you a free quote.

Happy Computin’!

Many new programs and folders within Windows 7 no longer contain the traditional menus at the top. FILE, EDIT, VIEW, TOOLS… they’re typically hidden to keep the interface clean and simple. This has made some folks very happy and some folks very upset; either way, it’s easy to restore. Here’s how:

Simply press the “ALT” key on your keyboard, and the menus will appear. After you’re finished using the menus, they will go back into hiding.

If you prefer the menus to stay visible full-time, there are a couple of ways to fix that.

GENERAL PROGRAMS: Once you’ve clicked the “VIEW” menu, there are usually options within that pull-down column that toggle the menus to stay on or stay off. It varies by program, but it’s usually an option somewhere in that context.

FOLDERS: to force Windows 7 folders to always display menus, just open any folder and press the “ALT” button as described above, and your menu appears. Then choose TOOLS>FOLDER OPTIONS. Select the VIEW tab. Within the ADVANCED SETTINGS window, tick the “Always Show Menus” box. Click APPLY>OK.

If you’re still using Windows XP or Vista, now would be a great time to consider upgrading to Windows’ latest operating system. Windows 7 offers a vast amount of improvement over its predecessors and looks fantastic to boot.

    Among the reasons to upgrade:

Enhanced Security
Faster Performance
Increased compatibility with peripherals and hardware
More Intuitive Searching
Ease of Navigation
Simplified Networking
Stability improvements
Simple layout

If you are running a Windows XP machine now, upgrading to Windows 7 also gives you the ability to run more than 4 Gb or RAM on a 64-bit operating system. What’s this mean? It means that you can take full advantage of multi-core processors and screaming-fast performance for things like gaming, video editing, and mutli-tasking.

Windows 7 fixed some of the issues in its Vista debacle, and in our opinion, was simply done right. Windows 7 recognizes just about any piece of hardware you plug in to it and doesn’t nag you with endless security prompts like its sibling.

It’s our belief that Windows 7, teamed with a multi-core processor and ample memory, will not suffer the 2-year cycle of obsolescence we’ve seen in the past. That is to say, you won’t find yourself needing to upgrade your hardware for many years to come.

Upgrading to Windows 7 on your current computer can be accomplished in about 2 hours at our shop, or you can buy a new system and transfer your data painlessly. If you’re looking for a shot-in-the-arm in performance, we suggest Windows 7 for any business or personal user who simply wants to go faster!

Internet Explorer–which comes bundled with every version of Windows–was the de facto web browser for many, many years. That has changed drastically in the recent past. Mozilla Firefox now holds approximately 27% of the market share, with Google Chrome coming in third at 18%.

Many customers ask us “What’s The Difference?” Our answer is this: in terms of loading basic web pages, really nothing. However, with the proliferation of so many web-based viruses, trojans and worm infections, browser security has become a major concern of late. And that is a very good reason to consider changing browsers.

We always recommend Firefox. In general, Firefox is better because it’s an Open Source software. Developers the world around collaborate on Firefox every day to make it safer, faster and all-around better. Since revenue is NOT the driving force behind Firefox, the game becomes quality instead of quantity.

Firefox has a rich community of “plug-ins” that can also be added to the browser. These add-ons give you extra functionality, layout options, tighter security, and plain ole’ fun. When done right, your Firefox experience can be productive and worry-free.

The only caveat is this: there are a handful of web pages that simply won’t load well with Firefox. These sites will include government pages, financial institutions and Windows Update. No big deal; just keep your Internet Explorer shortcut handy for those times.

In addition to computer repair, we can teach you how to setup and configure Firefox to make for a great web-surfing experience. This will do two things: make your cloud experience better, and keep viruses off your machine.

Clicking on a Google search result isn’t always the end of your quest for information. You typically have to scour the resultant web page for the key words you’re looking for. That can be very cumbersome if the site is a support forum or a page full of scrolling text.

Instead of reading an entire article, why not just quickly highlight the search term you’re wanting? CTRL+F is your answer. Within any web browser, simply click the combination of the two keys CTRL (and) F on your keyboard. A small search box will drop down (or pop up), allowing you to quickly enter the search term. As soon as you type the word, your browser will instantly highlight that very word on the web page you’re viewing.

This trick also works in many Windows applications too. Say goodbye to lengthy treasure hunts, and say hello to gettin’ ‘er done!.

Have you ever found yourself out and about, wishing you had access to an important computer file? Wanting to finish that office report while sipping coffee at Starbucks? How about sharing your favorite photos with mom, without sending a monstrous email attachment?

Enter Dropbox, a free online storage utility. Dropbox allows you to create and manage folders on your home computer, then access those folders from your smart phone or public computer. It works by synchronizing your files to an online server. You log-in to the Dropbox website and–Voila–you have instant access to all your stuff. And yes, there’s an app for that on iPhones and Droids.

Dropbox also synchronizes folders across multiple PCs. Let’s say you have both a desktop computer and a laptop. If you install Dropbox on both computers, everything in one folder will be automatically synchronized to the other. You can also “share” a Dropbox folder with a friend or family member and easily send them music, photos, videos and documents by simply dropping it into your shared folder.

Sharing photos is a fantastic feature of Dropbox too. Simply place a bunch of your favorite photos into the Dropbox “photos” location, then send your friends a link. When they click the link, they will be presented with a slideshow, without having to download the photos to their local hard drive.

Dropbox has recently become a very popular way for musicians to collaborate on songs and for businesspeople to work together on important documents. The possibilities are endless and–best of all–free for all, up to 2Gb.

Finally, Dropbox is a wonderful tool for backing up your precious data. Since it works by saving files to a remote server, you can rest easy knowing that your data is always in two locations.

Give it a try today by visiting www.dropbox.com

Happy Computin’!

If your computer has recently encountered a disastrous failure, a system restore could be the trick you need. There are several options you might be able to choose from.

In Windows, “system restore” works by making backups of your computer’s settings at regular intervals. When disaster strikes, you can go backward to a day when you know the computer was working well. Doing a system restore only restores your computers’ settings. All of your personal data stays put, and is not affected. To invoke system restore, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click System Restore. You will see a calendar of system restore dates to choose from. Pick a date that you know is well before the system crash, and pull the trigger!

Another option for some is a “Full Recovery”. Many computer manufacturers like Dell, HP and others include a partition on your hard drive called “Recovery” or something similar. This “recovery” partition includes your operating system and all the software needed to bring your computer back to the way it was when you opened the box. Depending on the make and model, there is usually a “function” key to press while rebooting your computer (for instance F11 or F9). Pressing one of these keys while rebooting takes you into what’s called a “Recovery Console” that will guide you through the restoration. BE WARNED: this option wipes all of your personal data, programs, settings and customizations. If you can, backup any data before doing a restoration.

Most manufacturers allow you to create what’s called a “recovery disk” that places all of this recovery partition information on a DVD. Having this info on a disk makes the recovery process a bit easier. Windows 7 also has it’s own native utility for creating a disaster recovery disk. Accessing this utility is something that everyone should do as soon as they get their new computer configured and customized the way they want it. It will save you much grief in the future.

Finally, you can sometimes repair a corrupted operating system by inserting your original operating system CD and performing a reboot. The CD contains special utilities that can help you get things running smooth again. It depends on whether you use XP, Vista or 7, but generally you will see screen prompts that you will follow. This option is a bit of a gamble and typically requires a knowledgeable tech support professional to navigate.

Please give us a call if you’re experiencing a system crash and need to restore or recovery your PC. We can walk you through the necessary steps to get your computer back on its feet!

As a special promotion for the month of August, Auburn Computer Help is thanking its customers by giving away FREE 8 Gb thumb drives!

To qualify, simply setup any service call or donate your computer e-waste until the end of the month. You MUST present this coupon at time of service. Just click on the image and print! Thanks to all of our customers and Happy Computin’!

We often load free software on our customer’s computers. The first question we typically get is “what’s the catch?” Well…there is no catch!

Believe it or not there is a rich and diverse community of software developers out there that believe that FREE and OPEN is how it should be. They belong to the “Open Source” gang that collaborate and share ideas about software development. One person or group will create a program, release it, then allow other developers to modify and improve their original work. It rests on the belief that a collective effort is better than a single-minded corporate approach.

In fact, our website was built on open-source software called Word Press. Yep–a free utility that hundreds of thousands of web developers employ.

Here’s a list of open source software that is very popular…and FREE:

FIREFOX–a great web browser http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/new/

VLC–plays any multi-media file http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

OPEN OFFICE–a productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office http://www.openoffice.org/

AUDACITY–used for creating and editing digital audio http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

HANDBRAKE–a utility used for compressing and converting video files http://handbrake.fr/

PDFCreator–you guessed it: it creates PDFs! http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/

Search around and you’ll find thousands of other fine pieces of software for free. Give them a try: you won’t be disappointed. Happy Computin’!