Posts Tagged ‘#PC’

Windows 8, Part I

Helpful Hints, News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis December 2nd, 2012

I’ve already had a lot of customers asking about the new version of Windows.  This will be a series of posts about the new operating system from Microsoft, and some details you should know both before and after buying.  First of all, this is really just a cosmetic build On TOP of Windows 7.  Unfortunately it is only an advantage FOR TOUCHSCREEN DEVICES.  If it doesn’t have a touchscreen, DON’T BUY IT with Windows 8.  For a normal desktop PC, it’s much more trouble than it’s worth.  Not only does it FORCE the large “Metro” screen on users, but they have disabled some of the handy desktop features that we’ve all grown accustomed to.  I’ll elaborate on that later.  Another thing to beware of before purchasing is that there is a second version for tablets called Windows 8 RT.  For the first time ever, this is based on architecture other than x86 (ARM-based).  The bottom line:  it won’t run any of your old PC apps!  You must get all new apps from the Microsoft store to run on this version.  I started to buy one of the new Surface tablets from Microsoft (see photo), but found out that the x86 version won’t be out until Spring.  Currently they only have the Windows 8 RT version for sale.

Freeze! Your backup is in danger.

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 16th, 2012

If you’ve been following my advice, you back up regularly.  But there are times when you should know how to lock, stop, or FREEZE your backups so that you don’t ruin them.  Let’s say, for example, you have a REALLY important document that gets corrupted somehow.  Maybe the power shut off in the middle of what you were doing, and you can’t open the file any more.  THIS is the perfect scenario for retrieving a file from backup.  The problem is, if you back up that file again BEFORE you retrieve it, you’re Hosed!  Screwed! Dataless!  You get the point.  The problem is that you overwrote the Good version from the last backup with the Bad version after it got ruined. How to prevent this?  TURN OFF YOUR AUTOMATIC BACKUP when trouble occurs.  Some do it by plugging in a USB memory stick.  If so, just turn off the program that automates the process (like  Allway Sync, for example).  If you use an Online backup, look for a command or menu item that does this.  In Carbonite it’s called Freezing your Backup.  For this service there’s about a 6 hour time lag with all files, so you have that long to choose the Freeze option.  If you do your backups MANUALLY, then that’s easy… just stop.  Don’t run another backup until you’ve retrieved what you needed.

Sync Madness

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 9th, 2012

Sync or Swim, I always say.  :-)   With all the smartphones and tablets out there, lots of folks are “sync’ing” or synchronizing, their emails, songs, photos, etc. from their computer or web accounts.  It’s fine when it works, but it can be a real headache if it misfires.  How do you track down the problem?  First of all, know your apps.  You need to be aware of all possible culprits that made the mistake, and it could be more than one.  For iPhone users, for example, iCloud can sync, but so can  i-TUNES when you plug in to your PC.  For Android users most apps are pretty specific to one type of object, like Picasa for photos, Google Calendar for appointments, Soocial for contacts, etc.  But for Android THE LOCAL app (on the phone/tablet) may not be so obvious.  Calendar is the one to check for your appointments, gallery for your photos.  Keep digging around until you figure out this second half of the issue.  Now, BEFORE YOU GO MUCH FURTHER… is your stuff backed up?  You don’t want to accidentally change something and have all your files disappear.  Ok, the next step is to start looking at the settings for the app.  You may also need to log in to your online account and check the settings there.  If you can’t find it, try Googling the problem to see if there’s an article.  I just had a friend who DID NOT want her Picasa photos all dumped to her phone.  With a little searching I found this article.  (Thanks TricksWindows!).  Be aware that occasionally a Rogue App may be involved.  Facebook users were taken by surprise last year when the Android Facebook app suddenly added all their friends to the contact list on their phones.  Grrr….

No Apple 4 ME

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis March 7th, 2012

I usually have to say this at least once or twice a week:  I DON’T DO APPLE.  Despite this, I still have customers that want to pay me to work on their i-stuff.  Even though I warn them that it will take me a lot more time, they still do it.  So I know more i-nformation than I really wanted.  NEWS:  If you use an i-phone, and Outlook… things are changing.  Email sync with Outlook is something a lot of i-phone users want, but it’s a tricky thing. By this I mean making deletions, for example, happen on both devices with only one action. (If you’re a geek DO NOT tell me about IMAP accounts because Outlook doesn’t play nice with IMAP).   If you don’t work for a big company that has an Exchange server, you should buy a service to do it.  The most popular has been MobileMe.  But Apple is making a move similar to Google: they are combining several services and sites into a one stop “cloud” solution called iCloud.  Hopefully the new mail sync will work better than MobileMe did. 

Automation

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis March 5th, 2012

There are times when a good ol’ pencil and paper still rule.  How do you decide if/when to spend the effort to make things happen automatically?  Before you spend a lot of time or money… read on.  When you look at a routine, or process, or calculation, you need to ask yourself  some questions;  1) do we repeat this very often?  2) if yes, how long does it take?  3) How long (or how much money) will it take to make it automatic via computer?  4) how long then, will it take for this automation to pay off?  For example, I recently dug in and revamped the database for TPCD.  See, it tracks all work-orders, parts, and invoices… but was never designed to track payments.  So every time a deposit was made, somebody had to sit down with a pencil and paper, write it all down, add it up, and fill out a slip.  It took about an hour for a standard deposit, and was sometimes inaccurate.  It took me about 30 hours of programming time to automate this.  (it would have taken a pro SQL guru much less time)  At a dollar value of $3000, it’s hard to justify this.  It saves about 30 minutes on each deposit, so it will take several years to recoup the costs.  But there’s a hidden value here:  it helped track down unpaid invoices.  So about $600 was recovered IMMEDIATELY.  Now, for the average user there wouldn’t be any programming involved per se’.  You probably use a canned database (like QuickBooks, for example) that has the automation you need BUILT IN, but there is a time cost in figuring it out and setting it up.  Bottom line:  if you repeat the process on a regular schedule, it’s probably worth it to make it computerized.  If the task is too daunting, hire a professional to set it up for you.  You’ll likely recover that cost, plus some.  And you might be pleasantly surprised out how quickly and easily he/she accomplishes your goal.  :-)

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…

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!

More on McAfee

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis December 22nd, 2011

Did I say Moron?  :-)  I’ve been trying to figure out WHY IN THE WORLD that Intel, one of the most respected companies on the planet, would buy McAfee for $7.7 billion.  It’s really a mind-blower if you know how cruddy McAfee’s PC protection has become.  But I think I figured it out:  they have been leveraging into the FIREWALL and INTERNET SERVER industry.  If you watch closely, a LOT of the sites that you visit will have little logos at the bottom that say they are McAfee Secured.  (Keep in mind they charge MEGA BUCKS for this)  When I figured this out, it made me giggle.  I mean, really?  No, REALLY!?  They expect people whose PC’s have been totally hosed from viruses or malware to trust this logo?  Do they think this will inspire confidence?  I’ve learned a lot about the computer industry over the years, and one thing that’s REALLY important is that you gotta start from the bottom.  If you don’t know much about the computers, how can you protect or deal with a network?  You need a solid foundation to build on, and I think Intel made a HUGE mistake here.  AMD (the other big processor, or CPU, company) should pay attention, because this is the kind of slip-up they could really take advantage of. 

Games

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis October 12th, 2011

One of my pastimes has always been PC games.  All kinds, but I really love anything with great graphics and some strategy.  People ask “Why would you play it on PC instead of a console?” referring to X-box, PS3, etc.  The short answer is MODS.  Modifications, or mods for short, are much easier to do on a PC than the other platforms.  A game console is much like any other appliance; it does one thing, and does it well.  But if you want to change it, tweak it, improve it, hack it, or make changes of any sort you need a computer, not an appliance.  It’s the same argument I use when describing Apple products to my customers.  Yes, they’re gee-whiz cool, but fairly inflexible.  The reason they don’t ever “break” is that you can’t change anything in the underlying system.  This almost killed Apple early in the game.  They tried to change it by adding a ton of apps to the market, and it turned the table for them.  But if you ask any of the programmers they hired, they’ll tell you they got shafted (unless they’re still under contract.  They have a gag clause!).  Still, the question remains:  Should I game on my PC or a console?  I’d say, if it’s for your kids, get a console.  But if it’s for you, or your geeky teenager who is looking like a computer prodigy, get a really beefy PC and PLAY!!