Oh, the joy of New Year’s Resolutions. How many do you make? How many last more than a few days?
So, here are 3 resolutions you can make and easily keep, that could save you money and heartache over the years to come…
We are constantly reminded (lectured) on having unique and secure passwords for everything online. But I know people struggle to have a different password for everything.
So, if I can at least encourage you to keep two passwords different from all the others, they are…
If you use the same password for everything, whenever you register at any website you are giving away the access details to your entire online life. Even if you register at a safe website, if it gets hacked then your details are out in the open.
Keep your email password different to everything else, then it’s much harder for people to guess. Plus, if you need to reset passwords anywhere else, you need to know your email is secure to receive the updates.
This one’s pretty obvious, after all, it’s where your money is kept!
Whatever antivirus software you’ve got, it probably isn’t enough. To be fair, we hardly ever see PCs with a virus infection nowadays. Now it’s all about Trojans – programs designed to fool you into thinking they are something useful when they aren’t. They fool you so you give them permission to install, which is how they get past your normal security software.
Which is why all the PCs in the Dear Geek household are running Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro.
Apart from removing infections, which we rely on the free version for so many of our callouts, the full version provides constant protection, including blocking known ‘dodgy’ websites. The license fee is a one-off, not annual, payment of less than £20. Off you go, go and buy it now.
I go on about backup so often I think I’m turning into a parrot. But it is always worth repeating. Let’s give a real life example…
About a week before Christmas I was called out to a dropped laptop. The hard drive couldn’t be accessed. 9 times out of 10 I can hook the drive up to my kit and recover most or all of the data, but not this time.
So, with much gnashing of teeth, the drive was sent off to the recovery lab. They can recover the data 99 times out of 100, but charge £400+ to do so.
This was that one time out of 100 – the drive was beyond recovery. At least the customer had an external drive for their backups. It was safely tucked away in another room, in its original box. It’s original, unopened box. So, this client was to spend Christmas trying to recreate her entire business on her laptop.
Which is why we use, and recommend, Livedrive Online Backup from fmBackup – especially when it only costs £2 per month.
3 simple steps to make your 2012 a much happier New Year. One free, two ridiculously cheap, all very easy.
According to Ed Bott over at ZDNet, in the US the Microsoft Store are touting a new standard for PC images – the Microsoft Signature.
Anyone who has bought a PC in the last couple of decades will be well used to “crapware” – the rubbish bits of software that manufacturers install, not to make your life easier but to increase their income chances.
Microsoft Signature not only bans crapware, it has a few extra requirements:
In fact, they make sure the PCs are built, well, built the way we build new PCs at HDG for our customers of Computer Support in Whitstable!
I just hope the other manufacturers take note and start putting user experience higher up their priority list.
But then, nobody would be paying me to reset their new PCs when they buy them, so perhaps I should be hoping the opposite…
Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that gives me the biggest smile.
Most people will have realised by now that I’m a big advocate of using Google Apps for all things, especially email. There used to be one minor niggle though, that for some clients was a major annoyance. Using Google Apps Sync for Outlook, you weren’t able to drag messages from a different store (i.e. a different mailbox or account) into your main Google Apps account.
Well the latest update for Apps Sync (2.4) fixes this, and without the fanfare it deserves. If you look at the help article at http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?answer=153463 it doesn’t mention it. Instead, it was hidden away in the little email notification that most people will delete:
Small things please small minds, I guess…
It seems like only five minutes ago that Firefox 4 arrived and impressed us with speed improvements. A few niggles, some of my more esoteric add-ons were not compatible and the Google Toolbar behaved a little strangely with mouse clicks but was fine with the keyboard.
If there is one product we recommend time and time again, and rely on daily, it’s Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware – the free version is great, the paid-for version is brilliant and amazingly cheap.
That’s ok though – I’m a geek, I use the keyboard. Besides, it was soon fixed with updates.
So imagine the excitement (warning – this may be an exaggeration) when the prompt to upgrade to Firefox 5.0 appeared. This was soon joined by horror when the installation completed with the announcement that the Google Toolbar was not compatible with Firefox 5.
Perhaps Google were taken by surprise – I know I was. What a shame, this latest version of our favourite browser definitely appeared faster than the already much improved 4.0. No need to fear though.
By installing the Add-on Compatibility Reporter you are able to use add-ons that have not yet been approved as compatible with the latest version of Firefox. Now, you do this at your own risk as there may be a good reason for them not to be approved.
However, so far at Geek Towers, we’re quite happily running the Google Toolbar on Firefox 5.0 – of course, YMMV…
No, not some piece of magical hardware or software called Shoe BoxTM, a plain and simple cardboard shoe box. Obviously not just the box, you need some special contents but you should already have all the contents you need.
When you buy a PC, bit of software or some hardware, you usually receive a couple of important things – a CD or DVD containing software and a license key. If you ever need to rebuild your PC all these discs and keys can make the job much easier and cheaper.
So, put them somewhere safe, somewhere together but not necessarily somewhere near your computer (if your computer is damaged by water or fire then anything near it may be damaged too).
Particularly important is that annoying message that pops up when you buy a new PC, nagging you to create a set of recover discs. We see lots of PCs that are years old and still pop up this little message every time they get turned on. We also find that whenever we ask someone who has a dead PC the question…
“Do you have a set of recovery discs handy?”
…the answer is almost always…
It is in this situation that we are permitted to use the international language of a tradesman faced with extra work – the sucking of air through teeth.
When you buy some software online, burn a copy of the file you download to a CD and pop it in the box, along with the license details.
When you sign up with a new broadband connection, write down the ADSL username and password you are given and pop that in the box too. What about taking a note of the server settings you need to use for your email, or the admin password for your router?
These are all things that can save your friendly geek time, which means saving you money.
I have just been to see a client whose hard drive died about a year ago. We needed to rebuild their system and they hadn’t created their recovery discs. Toshiba in the UK wanted £90 to provide a set, fortunately we were able to source some from the US for about £25.
Today they appear to have wiped their drive (have I ever mentioned about computers and children, or how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing?) – but no problem, thinks I.
“Can I have the recovery discs we gave to you? I’ll set it rebuilding and it won’t need to come back to the workshop.”
(Quietly) sucks air through teeth.
So, next time you’re passing a shoe shop why not treat yourself to a new pair? Then when you get home, put the box to good use.
Ok, this post is going to come across all a bit ‘word from our sponsors’ and, yes, the links in this post are affiliate links, I do get a little kickback. But I genuinely recommend this product, I buy it personally for all the PCs at Dear Geek Towers and to be honest, if everyone bought it then I’d get a lot fewer calls. That little kickback will offset a fraction of my lost income!
My absolute favourite product for cleaning up PC infections is Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (MBAM). The free version is brilliant, as it will do all your scanning and cleaning for you.
What’s even more amazing is that the paid for version is less than £20 per PC, not per year! If you keep your PC for at least three years, that means…
The full version automatically updates and has a great active protection module. If MBAM spots that the website you’re on is trying to download something nasty, it will block it. I have seen it block sites frequently as I’m using my PC and I haven’t had even a hint of an infection since installing it.
…but for many people, when combined with a free anti-virus package, is all they need to protect their PC. If you’re looking for a good, free anti-virus then I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials (Ninite downloader here) – it doesn’t slow down your PC as much as certain 3-letter-acronym anti-virus programs and is a rarity in the free protection world – it can be used legally for business as well as home PCs.
A few days ago I recommended the product TuneUp Utilities 2011 and gave a link to a special offer that meant you could save £7.50 off the price.
The day before that, I recommended using Amazon to do your Christmas shopping.
Little honesty bit here: yes, if you clicked on one of the links and bought something, I would have got a little something, at no cost to you, but the recommendations still stand!
I just had a little lightbulb moment – “I wonder how much Amazon are charging for TuneUp?”
Well, you can save even more – TuneUp Utilities 2011 for less than £10 – for up to 3 PCs.
Now, I wonder if Mrs Dear Geek has bought all my stocking fillers yet…
Ok, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but we really like TuneUp Utilities here at Geek Towers, and there’s a Christmas sale on! Save £7.50 and give your PC a new lease of life.
Every now and then a bit of software, a gadget or a website comes along and makes the inhabitants of Geek Towers go “wow”.
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