The Internet isn’t the only place viruses can be lurking, waiting to cause harm to you and your family.
The keyboard you tap away at on a day to day basis could be absolutely riddled with germs and bacteria. Not only that, but your other computer peripherals like your mouse, touch pad, touch screen, or stylus can easily collect dirt and grime with just a short time of use. Studies done with spectrum lights have shown that most of the same germs and bacteria that can be found on a toilet seat, public water fountain, and even the bathroom doorknob, can also be found on your mouse, keyboard, touch pad and, especially your touchscreen.
When it comes to cleaning your computer equipment; which you have already spent a good bit of money on, you should definitely exercise caution. These aren’t just like your kitchen counters or the occasional buildup of grime in the shower, so harsh cleaning chemicals won’t do the trick; if anything they’ll probably do more harm than good.
Though most of your peripheral cleaning can easily be done with just a dust cloth, or a can of compressed air – to get at those cookie crumbs and pizza crust chunks stuck between the keys – we strongly advise against the use of most household cleaning agents. The best bet is rubbing alcohol, 90% if you can find it, white vinegar, or a strong ammonia-based window cleaner.
Never spray the peripheral directly, always spritz or pour a little on a dry cloth, you want the cloth damp, not wet. Too much fluid can cause unnecessary drips, that may damage components. Remember, you are washing computer parts here, not a dirty plate after Thanksgiving dinner.
Soft cloths are best used when de-germing more fragile peripherals, like your touchscreen. When cleaning don’t apply too much unnecessary pressure, this can cause the touch components of a touchscreen to squish, or one of the connections on your keyboard to short out or even get stuck in the forever typing position. The idea here is to let the cleaning solution do the work, not elbow grease.
If your keyboard or mouse have a large buildup of dirt and grime, use a cotton swab or Q-tip to get within the smaller cracks and crevices. You can also take a bowl with a small amount vinegar or alcohol, dampen the Q-tip – squeezing out the excess liquid – and then gently clean those crevices.
Mice, touch pads and touch screens have the tendency to get incredibly mucky which can ultimately makes things short out, not connect, and thereby cause them to not work to their full potential. Simple sanitation wipes can do the trick, but sometimes even these have too much liquid, best to squeeze out the excess before tackling any peripheral with it.
Your computer is a working machine with a fan and parts that move constantly, dust buildup makes them slow down and eventually stop altogether, which leads to an inefficient, slow moving device. Giving the inside of the case a good compressed air spritzing is just good household hygiene. Air borne pathogens can easily get caught is the dust bunnies of a fan to come back later to infect your family.
Cleaning the components of your computer can seem a little risky, so if you’re unsure about what you’re doing and think you need some assistance, feel free to call Tech Force anytime!
Our data is everywhere. We have MP3s on our phones, movies on our tablets, books on our Kindles, and stuff for work on our laptops and desktops. This being the case, we sometimes have to wonder if our information is completely safe? Our devices, along with our data, can always be lost, damaged, or even stolen from us.
There has to be a way we can gather all this information in one place, perhaps somewhere we can access from all of our devices. Maybe somewhere we’d even be able to easily share certain files with friends or family. A place where even if we spill coffee in the drawer that holding our backup drive, our data would still be safe.
Cloud Storage, to put it simply, is a folder on a server where you can store your information, and even backup your files. No more desk drawers cluttered with USB sticks, old external hard drives, or even the odd floppy disk or two. Cloud storage is especially useful when getting a new device, making the transfer of data from one place to another easy and efficient.
These services not only make life easier for the casual computer user, but for students, small business owners, or anyone who just wants to be able to access their data from multiple devices.
From the pictures of you last vacation to those top-secret office documents, you can easily store it all on the cloud. This way you can be sure that your most important documents are perfectly safe, even when the most unfortunate happens.
One of the really cool features of storing your data on “the Cloud” is that the data is stored on secure servers, making your data more difficult for cyber criminals to access than it would be on that old laptop that hasn’t been properly cleaned out in years.
The most convenient part? Cloud Storage is typically very low cost and sometimes even completely free! Services like Google Drive are perfect for storing text documents, pictures, or even some of your music collection. With a simple click of a button you can access your files from anywhere in the world!
Now that more and more of our devices are connected to “the Cloud”, it makes sense to utilize this new technology to not only protect our data, but to also make our lives a little easier.
If you have any questions about “the Cloud”, or need help setting up storage for your office, give the experts at Tech Force a call!
Over the last century or so we have watched as some amazing history has written itself into the books. We have witnessed the collapse of nations, the installment of new ideas, and the extremely rapid rise of technology. We have watched as much of this new technology came alive from our favorite Science Fiction books, movies, and television shows.
Here are just a few examples of how we’ve seen science fiction become science fact.
In 1966 a new television show took the nation by storm – Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, showed us a glimpse of what the future could hold. The United Federation of Planets not only strove to create peace on a galactic scale, but it did so using some amazing technology. One of these mind-blowing pieces of tech was a hand held, long range communicator. This tiny little idea and prop inspired Martin Cooper’s genius to bring us the invention of the cell phone almost 20 years after the airing of the first episode.
With a book, and years later a movie, we were chilled and slightly terrified by HAL. Created from the mind of Arthur C. Clarke; HAL, a Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer, was the artificial intelligence that ran an exploratory nuclear vehicle Discovery XD-1 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today we have access to our own HAL-inspired personal assistants: Siri and Alexa; although not as terrifying as HAL, they can at times be just as annoying.
We definitely cannot forget one of the most famous, and prolific Science Fiction writers of the 20th century. Publishing books from 1947 to 1987; and a couple after his death in 1988, Robert A. Heinlein delighted audiences with stories of occasionally utopian and often quirky futures. Many of the things we use today, even some we are still looking forward to, came from his pages. Memory foam, hydraulic beds, water beds, (anyone else picking up on a comfort theme here?) and one that’s just about to roll out – the self-driving car.
From Mary Shelly to H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov to Spider Robinson, the ideas of the future born from these writer’s minds have become a part of a history that points us further toward the future. So, remember next time you are watching Travelers, reading Michael Crichton or Larry Niven, not only are you reading Science Fiction, but you are possibly reading about an idea that might end up an everyday part of your life in the not-so-distant future.
We all love to customize things. We like to make them our own and give them a little touch of our personalities. With our cell phones, we buy colorful cases, download apps, and install custom ringtones. On our computers, we change the wallpaper and screen saver, install or uninstall programs and apps, and even install “extensions” in our web browsers.
Browser extensions, plugins, or add-ons, are small programs that increase or enhance the functionality of your web browser. these little programs can power-up your browser to handle a variety of tasks which most browsers wouldn’t be able to perform. Their ultimate goal, of course, is to make your online life easier and give you a better browsing experience.
How can browser extensions customize my internet experience?
Extensions can modify websites as they appear on your computer through adding, removing, or modifying content. In December 2015 there was a scare about seeing spoilers of the new Star Wars movie. Someone made a web extension that would block these spoilers from being seen until the fan got to see the movie for themselves.
Extensions can also give your online security a boost. Ad blockers like AbBlock Plus or uBlock Origin can blocks malicious pop-up, and keep annoying and potentially fraudulent ads from being displayed. Helping to keep you from falling for some of the more common computer scams.
Extensions can add additional features to your browser. An Extension called Web of Trust adds a safety feature to your web searching This extension shows you if a website is safe on the results page by adding a red, yellow or green dot next to the webpage.
Extensions can even combine with other services or apps. For example, you use Evernote, there is an extension called “Web Clipper” that allows you to highlight and automatically clips notes into your Evernote for use across all your technological devices.
One important thing to keep in mind about using browser extensions is that malicious extensions do exist. The best way to ensure that you don’t accidentally do more harm than good by loading one of these rogue extensions is to make sure that you only download and install extensions from your browser’s own web store.
Another thing to keep in mind is the more extensions you have running at once, the more RAM it takes for your browser to run, so try not to overdo it.
Of course, if you have any questions about browser extensions, or any other computer related question, feel free to reach out to Tech Force. We’re always happy to help!
The first thing any IT guy or gal will ask you when you call him with a computer problem is if you tried restarting. An infuriating question to be asked when you just lost three days worth of work, or that work just won’t save and you have a meeting in 5 minutes. However, a lot of computer problems can be solved by simply restarting the device.
When a computer goes without a reboot for an extended period it becomes prone to a bit of bugginess. These annoyances include programs running at a slower pace than usual, unexpected system freeze-ups, and lagging Internet speeds. That horrible call to the IT guys in the basement can be avoided with a simple daily restart. Here’s why:
Clearing the RAM
A program open and running on your screen stores much of the data required to do so in the memory, and sometimes not all the data is cleared out when the program is closed. This data can clog up your RAM causing “memory leaks”; meaning that there may not be room in the computers short term memory for a new program to open up. When this happens your computer will run slow, glitchy, and the blue-screen-of-death might make an appearance forcing a restart.
A preemptive “off and on again” can flush out all the random, unimportant, and temporary data bogging down your device. This will keep you computer running at the speedy pace you have come to expect.
Many program updates need reboots to complete. This includes your Operating System, whose updates don’t take effect until a reboot occurs. A fresh install or update tends to scatter data in several places, a restart will tidy up the mess and arrange it properly on the hard drive. Some programs won’t even run properly without a restart because the information isn’t where is is supposed to be.
Just like the RAM, a system’s processor can become overworked and overloaded by all the processes that are trying to run at the same time. A quick reboot can provide your CPU with a fresh start, and without all the nonsense filling up the processor's poor little cache.
So now you know why the phrase, “Have you tried turning it off and on again” has become a technological cliché. A quick restart will not only fix some annoying computer issues, and prolong the life of your machine.
Of course, if you’re having any problems that restarting you computer doesn’t solve, give your friends at Tech Force a call!
Nowadays, it seems like we’re just about surrounded by some form of technology at all times. Most jobs even require a little bit of a background with computers, especially desk jobs and the like. While the majority of us are pretty confident in our abilities to work around a desktop, there are small details in plain sight that we don’t always catch. Specifically, the different types of computer mice we work with.
The Mechanical Mouse
It used to be that the only type of computer mice was the mechanical mouse, which harbors a hard rubber ball within that translates its movements along a surface into information, which is then sent to the desktop and allows you to move the cursor around as you please. But, all good things must come to an end, as did this old tried and true mouse.
The Optical Mouse
The most common, and one you’re probably using right now is the optical mouse, which is far more convenient than the mechanical mouse because instead of using a ball that could become dislodged, it uses an LED sensor to detect movements along a tabletop, which is of course sent off into the computer like the former.
The Wireless Mouse
Wireless mice come in two types, the infrared and the radio frequency. Both mice relay signals to a base station wired to the computer’s mouse port. Considering they don’t have a cord to directly connect them to the computer or laptop, both types also require batteries or some form of charging. Even with the small disadvantage of occasionally dying on you, they are very easy to carry around on the go if you’re someone who travels a lot, and there’s the added benefit of not having to deal with messy cordage tangles. Good stuff!
The Trackball Mouse
Similar to the function of the track pad on laptops, a trackball mouse looks a lot like a mechanical mouse placed upside down with the ball facing upwards that you’d move manually with your thumb or index finger. While it definitely takes a while to get used to in comparison to its other mice mutations, but because it stays mostly stationary, it doesn’t need a lot of room, and it likely wont tangle as much as others might. You don’t really see many of these out in the wild any more.
That’s just a very very brief rundown of the different types of computer mice.
If you have any questions, or need any computer help, feel free to give your friends at Tech Force a call!
Avoid exposing yourself to malware: When installing software, always choose the “custom” option.
If given an option to choose a “custom” installation vs. “express”, “recommended” or whatever, always choose “custom”.
Why? Because chances are that they are trying to trick you to installing bundled third party programs, browser extensions, or tool bars (yes, those are still a thing). By choosing a custom installation you can uncheck these unwanted and occasionally malicious installations.
Be careful though, some of these third party vendors are getting a bit sneaky. Hiding or moving the “decline” button or even disguising their installer as a “terms of service” that needs to be accepted.
As always, if you have any questions about how to remove some of these third party problems, want to know whether or not a particular program is safe, or have any other questions at all, feel free to call us here at Tech Force.
If you’ve bought a new laptop anytime within the past ten years you may have noticed something a little peculiar. Or maybe it seemed like something was missing.
We’re often asked the question, “Why don’t new laptops come with DVD drives anymore?” And though some still do come equipped with a DVD drive, they are few and far in between. Why is that?
Years ago it made sense for a computer to come with a DVD drive. CDs and DVDs were the cheapest way to back up your data, and the only way to install new software. Ten or fifteen years ago, it made sense to purchase a stack of those discs for a few dollars, with the potential to hold upwards of four or five gigabytes of data each – it was a hot deal back then. It’s important to note that at the time, flash drives were incredibly expensive, some costing nearly fifty bucks for a measly 128 MB of storage.
Nowadays you can pick up a 64 gigabyte flash drive for a little under fifteen dollars at your nearest hardware store. Files can be downloaded straight to your device within minutes, whereas they used to take a whole day, if not several, based on the size of the file. It’s a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more convenient for companies to offer their programs online rather than on a four to eight gigabyte disk. It’s cheaper and it saves a whole lot of vital resources in the process!
Not to mention that discs tend to scratch easily – which can mean a whole lot of lost data. Speaking of data, it’s now a thousand times simpler to backup your data using programs that offer cloud storage, online services like Google Drive and Dropbox are available at your fingertips, and allow you to access your files from virtually anywhere in the world on just about any device you can think of! It’s come to the point where even flash drives are becoming less and less commonplace.
In the end, DVD and CD drives just aren’t practical in our modern day computers any more. They’re expensive to produce, but more importantly, there are cheaper, faster, and more practical options available.
Keep in mind that if you do purchase a new laptop without a DVD drive, and run into one of those rare instances that you actually need one, an external DVD Drive can be picked up rather cheaply.
If you need help backing your data up, or have any questions about your computer, give the experts at Tech Force a call!
When people think about hacker groups, there is no group more notorious than “Anonymous.”
Believe it or not, “Anonymous” is not some “secret organization”, as the media would have us think. With all the information, and sometimes misinformation out there about this group of “cyberterrorists” there are only a few facts.
1. Anonymous is not really an organized group.
It’s easy enough to join Anonymous, as it is really more of a movement than an actual organization. All you have to do is proclaim yourself a “member”. This is the main reason the icon is a suited man with a question mark for a head, or a man in a mask. There is no designated leader, no structured ranks, no systematic order, and no secretly scheduled assignments. People within Anonymous come to the forefront when they demonstrate their hacking abilities or spearhead internet causes or rally people together online; doing it in the name of Anonymous.
2. Anonymous began with a joke.
It began on the website “4chan” in 2008, an online community of people in different groups determined by their interests and such, a site not unlike today’s mainstream internet site Reddit. It was in this year that Anonymous became a political hacking group, when it began to flood The Church of Scientology with prank calls and faxes, even going as far as to take down their website.
3. There has been a lot of inner turmoil.
Anonymous faced a bit of a civil war in its earlier years that resulted in some of the most notable hackers within the group branching off into different groups like “Lulzsec.” After the Scientology debacle, many within were divided between whether or not they wanted the movement to continue as a politically charged hacktivist group or just a bunch of trolling pranksters.
4. The Irony
It’s a little difficult to operate a group of hacktivists all pursuing one common cause while maintaining complete anonymity without people labeling particular cyberattacks or data dumps as “Anonymous led.” This is the problem Anonymous has been facing for quite some time now, and it only really adds to the occasionally laughable public profile.
5. Anonymous beliefs
When people hear about Anonymous nowadays, many roll their eyes or scoff or simply pay no mind at all. Once upon a time, it did have a set belief system. It was for the betterment of society, not just toppling websites for the fun of it but also exposing people, holding protests against the “1%” and, threatening terrorists groups.
6. The Mask
Originally seen in Warner Brothers 2005 film “V for Vendetta,” the mask has become absolutely iconic within the hacktivist group and is used to designate specific members. Funnily enough, the movie itself is very pro-copyright in some respects, which would probably offend the entire Anonymous movement, but it has somehow remained over all of these years as the “face” of Anonymous.
7. Anonymous is broken.
Conflicting beliefs, motivations and skills have caused Anonymous to crumble beneath itself and fade from the public eye. With some of its most skilled hackers like “Sabu” from Lulzsec retiring or being arrested, it has become a mockery of what it used to be. Falsely identifying two possible officers who shot Michael Brown, wrongly shutting down twenty thousand Twitter accounts of people whom those involved claimed to be a part of ISIS (but were not,) and just generally mucking it up as of late certainly hasn’t helped its reputation.
This group of internet “hacktivists” has made a profound impact on what we know about hacking and internet causes today. It has opened our eyes to things in the world that are going sideways, the movement also wreaked havoc on governments and corporations.
It is interesting to note, that while the general public thinks of them as a “serious problem”, the “members” of Anonymous don’t take themselves seriously at all.
If you need help protecting your computer from some of the internet’s nefarious denizens, contact Tech Force today!
Of the three types of hackers the most dangerous are the Black Hat. These guys do it for profit; it is how many of them actually make a living, and they don’t care at whose “expense”.
A Grey Hat might hack into a corporation’s bank account to transfer money to a poor family that needs the funds for rent or food; a Black Hat will do it to transfer money to his own account so he can buy a new car.
While not all hackers are dangerous, the White Hat hackers work to make the world a safer place, but finding vulnerabilities and patching them before the bad guys can exploit them.
Some of the more nefarious hackers sit in coffee houses, parks, and even stores scanning for a chance to snag your passwords, account information, and other credentials. They can also sometimes sit in offices programming malware and viruses that will pop-up on your screen while you surf the net and hold your computer hostage until you pay the ransom.
However, there is hope! You can protect yourself by maintaining a few good security habits.
1.Uninstall Any Software You Don’t Use
Chances are that most of the software that comes with that fresh Windows install are just trials to get you to pay for the full version later. Basically you try it for 30 days and then it will pop-up ads every time you turn on your computer to get you to buy it. These bloatware programs can make your computer vulnerable.
2. Automatically Install Security Updates
Your Anti-malware and antivirus software is a great defense against hackers. Keeping it up-to-date plugs holes that a hacker can get through. If you don’t have time, or updates confuse you, think about getting a Maintenance Plan – It is like having your own personal nerd in the basement keeping you and your family safe.
3. Avoid Plugging in Devices You’re Not Sure About
If this amazing person you just met in the coffee shop hands you a USB with a file of a story they just wrote on it, use some skepticism. If you find a random drive lying on the ground, best to toss it in an Electronic Recycle bin. Remember what curiosity did to the cat.
4. Never open attachments or emails (unless you’re really sure)
You just got an email telling you, you won a trip to Ibiza! Yay for you! Maybe… If it isn’t a timeshare, then chances are that link or attachment on this amazing offer is malware or a virus waiting to infiltrate your computer and take over your life.
5. Don’t share personal data when surfing on public WiFi
Many stores, coffee houses and even restaurants have public Wi-Fi these days to allow you to use their apps and electronic coupons right in the store. This is a bad opportunity to transfer funds, pay bills, or message your Social Security Number to a friend. On a public Wi-Fi connection, a hacker can intercept this information and make it their own.
The same goes for Internet Cafés. If you have to use a public computer to do these things always remember to take the proper security measures.
Hackers can be some rather nasty hombres, but luckily there are ways to keep yourself from becoming a victim. If you would like to learn more about staying safe from hackers, or are interested in a Maintenance Plan to keep you and your family safe, reach out to Tech Force in Racine.
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