Archive for February, 2012

Google Privacy

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis February 29th, 2012

OK, the clock is ticking;  Google announced a few weeks ago that it will change its privacy policies and begin harvesting information…about YOU (and me).  According to the Digital Journalin about a week they will start the process, in an attempt to tie sites together that you use and make it a seamless, personalized experience.  Here’s the opt-out page for you to stop this Lots of people are really gun-shy about this kind of thing, and it’s more than a little creepy in my opinion.  Given the far-reaching depths of information that Google already has access to, it’s starting to sound a little like a George Orwell story (i.e. Big Brother is Watching).  But to put things in perspective, just imagine the Terabytes of information gathered every day by the NSA.  I’m fairly certain that a big chunk of the many $BILLIONS of debt since the 9-11 incident were spent on computer gear and software with SERIOUS muscle.  I’m guessing that the new show “Person of Interest” isn’t too far off in their estimate of the information harvesting power of the US government.  So THERE… does that make ya feel better?  😉  Thanks to Mitch and Judy for the articles on this.

Open Source

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 27th, 2012

Open Source Software is great.  It is built like a community project, with lots of people writing code, testing, and helping with all the details.  This is in stark contrast to closed-source, or “proprietary” software like Microsoft’s (and Apple’s).  The software is often free, and published under the “GNU General Public License” project, or GNU GPL for short.  Some great examples that run under Windows are LibreOffice, Firefox, and Firebird.   Some are operating systems, like Linux, or languages, like Java.  All these products have a large following, and don’t cost users a dime if they choose. You might think that would result in lower quality, but evidently not.  A recent study by Coverity shows exactly the OPPOSITE:  the open-source stuff had LESS MISTAKES and problems in the code than their proprietary counterparts, according to a recent article in TechWorld.  You can support open source software by downloading, using, and donating to the authors or the project.

Hard Drive Shortage

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 24th, 2012

For several months now there’s been a major shortage in hard drive production.  Why?  You might think that the earthquake/tsunami in Japan last spring is the cause, but the REALLY big problem for the PC industry comes from Thailand.  Flooding last year shut down all but a handful of factories, and has caused a ripple effect in the production of hard drives (HD’s).  Every PC has one, and the shortage is likely to drive up computer prices in the coming months, in my opinion.  The 3 big HD makers; Western Digital, Toshiba, and Seagate, all have bottlenecks in production because of this natural disaster.  Last summer the prices of drives shot up, in some cases, to triple.  This is the first time in decades that the cost per Gigabyte of storage has gone up, rather than down.  As factories come back online, and the supply begins to match the demand, prices should stabilize.  I remember back in college when a 40 MEGAbyte hard drive was HUGE.  Nowadays a MILLION MEGABYTES (1 Terabyte) is pretty standard.  When you think about it, we really are spoiled…if you compare to 30 years ago, we are using PC’s that are the equivalent of an old Mainframe computer that might have filled an entire room and cost millions of dollars.  Now we can get one for $499.  Helluva deal…

Hard Drives

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 23rd, 2012

It makes me giggle when my customers call their computer a “hard drive”.  Your hard drive is a paperback book sized unit INSIDE the PC, and it’s where all the software (and your stuff) is stored.  Laptops have similar, but smaller drives.  One of the most common laptop failures I run across is a failed hard drive, often from vibration.  See, these drives are mechanical and have a tiny little magnetic “head” that moves around constantly across a spinning platter of zeros and ones.  It’s a VERY precise operation, and it doesn’t take much of a bump to damage the head or platters.  Some PC makers have tried to stop this problem by adding accelerometers that can sense when you drop it, and lock the heads in place.  Others make “ruggedized” laptops that have lots of rubber/padding around the drive to dampen vibration.  But the latest, greatest thing out there is called a Solid State Hard Drive.  It’s not mechanical; the storage is all memory chips, with no spinning platters.  They are incredibly fast and NOT sensitive to vibration.  I’ve had a chance to upgrade a few laptops to solid state, and I was VERY impressed.  The only downside is the higher price.  Right now you’ll pay about twice as much for around half the storage if you buy solid state.  This should change over time, and I expect to see a lot more laptops shipping with this feature in the next couple of years.   Next time:  PC prices are going UP…

Debunking the Myths

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 22nd, 2012

Internet garbage not only circulates, it comes back!  There are all kinds of virus warnings, hoaxes, urban legends, and other misinformation that get passed around, usually by email.  Some of these have been out there a LONG time and will resurface occasionally.  I got one around Christmas time that had a bunch of really cool things you can do with your cell phone, so I saved it for a blog.  But the more I read it, the more I wondered how accurate it was.  So I searched for an entire sentence, in quotes… and guess what?  The EXACT email pulled up on Snopes.com.  Here’s the TRUTH behind some cell phone tricks (and yes, some are possible) If you’ve never seen Snopes before, remember that name.  These folks have been around a LONG time researching and publishing the truth about this kind of stuff.  I rely on them any time I get a mass email (or other post) of any type that could be false.  Kudos to the Snopes gang for keeping a high standard of accuracy for many years.  Sites with good, solid information are hard to come by these days, so if you find one… bookmark it!  And, as I write this, I hope you’ve all bookmarked the TPCD News page.  :-)

Sub-branding

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis February 21st, 2012

How do you know who made your product?  Sometimes it’s REALLY hard to tell.  Sub-branding is a pretty common practice in the business world. And it’s not just parent companies sub-branding their own stuff.   A company will purchase a product from elsewhere, in bulk, with an agreement that they can put a new label on it with THEIR name to resell.  Back when Dell first started selling Dell-branded printers, I found out they were just sub-branding Lexmark printers.  BAD idea!  Lexmark, at the time, was the one of the worst printers on the market (in my opinion) so I stopped buying Dell printers.  Since then they’ve started manufacturing their own, and they have some decent products.    Here at TPCD we sub-brand services; like the tool we use to remotely connect to our customers.  It looks like our software, but it’s not.  We pay a pretty penny to license from a German software maker.  But the quality of the product is so high that it would be silly for us to re-invent the wheel.  In many cases it’s like a contractor who builds a home – he/she will use MANY subcontractors and service companies, but you’ll likely NEVER see the name of any of those.  Only the primary.  So sometimes it pays to do a little research and ask questions to make sure that you get good quality.

Facebook Stalkers

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis February 20th, 2012

Yes, it happens.  So there are LOTS of good reasons to enable privacy on your account.  ESPECIALLY women and kids.  But you’ll often see ads that claim they can tell you things like 1) who is looking at your page and 2) who’s searching the engines for you.  THESE ARE FALSE, and might get you a virus instead.  There’s no way to do this without a warrant, so it’s just another scam.  They’re trying to get you to sign up/pay for something that’s impossible.  Meanwhile, make sure you enable full privacy on FB and don’t friend anyone you’re unsure of.   If you or someone in your family suspect ANY bad feelings about an individual, just remove them from the friend list.  Better safe than sorry.  I’ve also posted some good stuff in previous blogs to help protect/monitor your children It’s interesting to note here that LinkedIn (another social site geared more towards business) CAN tell you who’s watching, for a price.  You have to pay them for a premium account to get this feature.

Facebook IPO

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis February 19th, 2012

Should you invest?  The initial public offering of stock by Facebook has been the hot topic of the business world for a few weeks now.  I’ve read a lot of opinions, and been asked by several people to weigh in, so here goes:  at this point I think it would be VERY dangerous to buy the stock.  The biggest issue, in my mind, is that the success of the company depends on popularity.  Let’s be honest here:  the attention span of the average American is about … ooo what was that?  Oh.  What was I saying?  :-)  Seriously, does anyone even REMEMBER MySpace?  They started this fad, after all.  Add to that the VERY high expectations of success, and the fact that Zuckerberg refuses to give any control to the stockholders, and I see a recipe for disaster (unless you plan to sell short).  Internet companies like this have very little brick and mortar capitol invested, so it’s basically just a high priced IDEA.  Throw in the fact that the staff virtually ignores the users, and I see a failure looming.  Have you ever tried to get help on Facebook from the company?  If so, you know how frustrating it is.  There are no phone numbers, no chat options…nothing.  At best you can send an email and HOPE they respond.  For more detailed analysis here is an article describing how people don’t trust them (thanks Daily Ticker).  Here’s another with lots of financial details (very nice analysis by Aswath Damodaran) .

DNS Warning

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis February 18th, 2012

The Internet is basically three things;  Connections (think wires, wifi, fiber optics etc), Computers, and Routers.  The main computers that control and manage the traffic are called Domain Name System (DNS) servers.  Some of the biggest and most dangerous attacks lately are setting up fake DNS servers, and making YOUR PC go someplace evil instead of where you told it.  The FBI, and a bunch of other “good guys”, have been combatting recent worm attacks called DomainChanger.  These digital heroes went so far as to replace some of the nation’s biggest DNS servers via court order, to try and stop the spread of attack.  University Geeks set up a web site to help you check your computer.  EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS – you can find the instructions here.  Meanwhile, in June 2012, the court order expires and a bunch of key DNS servers may go down.  It could cause major Internet traffic issues.  Read the full article on Beta Beat here.

Bloggin’ again…

News | Posted by Dennis February 17th, 2012

Well, I guess I owe all you readers an apology.  I’ve been so swamped with IT chores and projects that I let the blog slide.  I was also interested to see how traffic on the TPCD.com web site fell off and WOW, what a difference.  When I stopped writin’, the numbers dipped by more than 3,000 visits over the two months that I’ve been “slackin'”.   I’ll take that as a compliment, and GET BUSY!  So much to write about, so little time…  But rest assured, it will be as Geeky Okie as I can do.  :-)   PS  If you’re new to the blog, you can get it three ways:  1) the Tulsa’s PC Doctor sight is the original post and then it gets posted to 2) Twitter and 3) Facebook.  The downside to 2 and 3 are that you can’t see the whole post, and the links.  BUT it gives you a link straight to the article, so all ya gotta do is click it!  Anyway, keep those comments coming and ENJOY!