Fresh-baked cookies are yummy, but you may not have the same positive associations with cookies on your computer. Here’s what you need to know about cookies and what they mean for your internet browsing.
A website cookie is a small piece of text the website you are visiting stores on your computer.
Cookies are equivalent to your ticket to get onto the website. Website owners track your individualized code to gather information.
Cookies tell the website that the user has been to the site before. The website can recall personal login information and other preferences. A shopping site will remember your cart and let you continue shopping, or suggest other goods you might like.
Viewing and Controlling Cookies
So, why are sites asking for permission to store their cookies on your computer? Users are more concerned now about the digital footprint they are leaving on the Web: they want to protect their Web history.
Let’s be clear. When you accept a cookie, you are not allowing access to your computer or any of your personal data, unless you have knowingly provided it as you do when online shopping, that is.
Also, it’s not possible to execute code from a cookie. That means a bad actor can’t use a cookie to deliver a virus or malware.
Overall, cookies on their own are safe. Agreeing to first-party cookies from the website simplifies session management, personalization, and tracking.
The danger comes from third-party cookies generated by advertisers or analytics companies. Say, for instance, you surf to a webpage that has 10 ads on it. You don’t even have to click on any of those ads to generate 10 cookies. These cookies track your browsing history across the Web on any site carrying their ads. That’s why people are becoming more wary of the privacy implications.
That’s the Way the Cookie CrumblesUsers can make their own cookie choices. Those who allow cookies will enjoy a more streamlined Web surfing experience. Those who don't want cookies tracking their browsing history will opt out. Without cookies these users have to re-enter their data every time they visit a website.
Often you can control your cookies in your browser settings. In Google Chrome, for example, you’d select “Settings” from the menu drop down in the upper-right corner, then “show advanced settings” and then “content settings.” In the Cookies section you might choose “Keep local data only until you quit your browser” and “block third-party cookies and site data.”
If you’re really annoyed by the pop-ups asking you about cookie use, you can install a browser add-on, too.
The “Incognito” mode on your browser can be used to save cookies for the current session, but when you close the browser the cookies will be deleted.
We can help you minimize the extent to which you are being tracked on the internet. Contact our IT experts today at 262-515-9499. If you want to serve actual cookies if we visit you at home to do the work, we won’t complain.
The Rolling Stones sang, “Hey you, get off my cloud,” yet businesses might want to think instead about leaving the public cloud. Weigh these possible public cloud concerns against the advantages of alternate cloud solutions.
When most people think of the cloud, they are thinking of the public cloud. Apple users are on its iCloud. Others may be storing files on Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud, or other services. These all typically have a free level of service. You can pay a monthly fee to upgrade based on the resources you use.
Cloud data is easy to store and access. This can enhance business productivity and efficiency. Added advantages of hosted cloud services – public or private – include the following:
Yet there are some drawbacks to the public cloud. The public cloud is affordable because businesses share resources. The cloud service provider relies on economies of scale. They bring many businesses together for the same services, and it all adds up. But if you’re in an industry with high compliance requirements, the public cloud is a risk.
Advantages of the Private CloudThe private cloud offers the same benefits as the public cloud – and more.
A private cloud solution is dedicated to your business: yours is the only data on the server. This is a more secure solution offering greater visibility and infrastructure control.
A private cloud can be on- or off-premises. On-premise, your IT team sets up, manages, and maintains the cloud infrastructure. Off-premises, a cloud services provider customizes a dedicated and secure cloud.
The private cloud is appealing to regulated industries, government agencies, and tech companies needing strong controls. It is more expensive but allows businesses to easily access data, applications, and backups, and with reduced security risks.
Cloud Flexibility with a Hybrid OptionA third alternative is the hybrid cloud. The business takes advantage of both public and private cloud solutions. You decide which apps and data workloads need more security. Meanwhile, the public cloud is available to offer cost savings and efficiency, plus, it can be a backup for sporadic traffic spikes.
The hybrid option, though, requires strong integration between private and public cloud deployments. Managing the mix of architectures can prove challenging.
Understanding the difference between these cloud offerings can help you choose the best for your business.
Need help migrating to the cloud or changing your cloud solution? Our IT experts can help you weigh the tradeoffs and determine the best one for your needs. Contact us today at 262-515-9499!
Cybercrooks are disturbing people. Consider job-search scams. With the world economy reeling, bad actors are capitalizing on people’s desperation. They’re targeting those looking for work. There are steps you can take to filter out illegitimate opportunities.
Cybercriminals like to be timely. Plus, appealing to people’s emotions improves their success rate, so it’s not that surprising that there’s been an uptick in job-listing scams in 2020.
The bad guys are betting people will be less cautious when they see an attractive job offer. Don’t be their victim. Take these steps instead.
Read the job description carefully
Be wary of instant hiring
No matter the industry, few positions are filled immediately. You should expect the recruiting process to take time. If you are being pressured to take hiring steps urgently, that should be a red flag. Get an email congratulating you on earning the position before you’ve met with anyone? Proceed with caution.
Question modes of communication
Job scammers will rely on online chat interviews and email. If you don't speak in person with someone, it will be more difficult for you to confirm legitimacy. With emails, read the return address carefully. A scam job might use a close approximation to a big brand to add credibility. (You have to look closely to distinguish between nationalbank.com and nationlbank.com.)
A good strategy is to search the company’s website for a job listing. If you don’t see the role you’re interested in posted, investigate further.
Don’t pay for a job opportunity
Don't pay an upfront fee for a background check, uniform, or some other testing or training. Don't provide any of your private personal information at the outset either. Don’t send tax or banking details before a formal offer of employment. Even then, be aware that some scammers take it from start to finish, including interview and job offer.
Trust your instincts
If the job sounds amazing, and you can’t believe how perfect it is, scrutinize the posting. A listing posting an exorbitant fee for easy work or telling you about the stupendous success of another candidate is likely a fraud. Confirm standard job expectations and salary with an online search of career listings.
Falling prey to a job or other cyberfraud can leave you vulnerable to more than disappointment. Victims report loss of money, identity theft, or computer hacking, and more. An IT expert can help with security patches and system upgrades to keep your devices and network safe.
A few months ago we thought working from home would be temporary: a couple of weeks of remote work was going to help corral this coronavirus thing, and we’d get back to usual. Now we know better, and the things we could put up with in the short term loom as bigger challenges. Poor internet connectivity is one of those.
Many home internet connections were fine before. Someone in the family could be streaming Netflix, and another person could be checking email or paying bills – no biggie. Yet the demands on the internet connection have grown exponentially. People still want to do all those things, but students are also connecting to online learning platforms. Employees are logging in to video conferences, too.
Many businesses and their employees have seen the benefits of working from home during the pandemic. However, as remote work becomes a long-term solution, people can’t continue making do with subpar internet connectivity. What can be done?
Improving Internet Connectivity
Internet connections vary widely depending on where you are. You could enjoy blazing fast internet that allows you to upload large files in minutes even while someone else blasts zombies in a multi-player video game. Yet a few streets away, a user lacks the bandwidth to participate in a conference call without connectivity issues.
Home office internet connectivity depends on several factors, one of which is your internet service provider (ISP). Some ISPs simply aren’t as good. They may be cheaper, but they could be overselling their capabilities, which results in slowdowns at night. Higher-priced ISPs are less likely to have this problem. You may gain speed by simply switching to a different provider.
The kind of network connectivity available is also a consideration. Perhaps your network provider’s signal is carried over copper wiring. If that’s the case, the internet signal degrades with distance. Those physically further away from the exchange will have slower internet than someone closer in. Unless you want to move houses, there’s not a lot you can do about this one.
Still, fiber-optic cables are increasingly available in different areas. The ISPs charge more for these connections, but reliability benefits. Fiber loses only 3% of its signal over distances greater than 100 meters, whereas copper can lose up to 94%! At the same time, fiber is more durable and lacks the conductivity issues of copper, which can be vulnerable to power lines, lightning, and signal-scrambling.
Another factor may be the plan you’re on. The ISP may have a 100+ Mbps plan, and you’re only on the 12 Mbps. That was enough before, but you may want to upgrade now that so many devices are connecting to the internet at the same time.
Find out also if your plan is subject to a data cap. Some ISPs set up a data threshold limiting the amount of data you can use in a month or at particular times of the day.
Get Expert Insight into Your Internet
You might also benefit from upgrading your home internet connections. An IT expert can come in and take a look at the hardware you’re using to get online. There could be some quick connectivity gains with an upgraded router or gateway, or moving your wireless access points.
Our IT gurus can also determine whether a Wi-Fi booster or mesh solution would help. In your area, you may have a 4G or 5G wireless option. It’s more expensive but can be another way to get the speed you need.
Point-to-point Wi-Fi might also be an option. If you’re within range of a location providing business-grade internet, it may work to set up a dish on your roof. Of course, geography matters in this case, as you need a line-of-sight connection to the signal source.
Now that work from home is stretching long term, consider how you can upgrade your internet connection at home. Support remote work, student online learning, and other ways you use your bandwidth by getting the best you can. Give us a call at 262-515-9499 to learn more!
If you’ve spent any amount of time around a computer, odds are you’ve heard about the infamous “Blue Screen of Death.” Though if you’ve never experienced it yourself, you might not know what it actually is – and might not be prepared for if and when it happens to you.
The “Blue Screen of Death” can sometimes be referred to as “BSOD” or a “stop error”,and there are a wide variety of reasons as to why it might happen to your computer, but that doesn’t mean your device will never work again. It’s not irreparable, it only means that your computer encountered an error that required it to completely stop in its tracks.
While stop errors are more prevalent with older versions of Windows, it still occasionally pops up, though it’s pretty rare to find on newer versions like Windows 10. One major cause of a stop error is a malfunctioning memory, or a failing Hard Drive. If either of these components happen to be defective or not compatible with the rest of the system, it could result in a blue screen.
Overclocking the CPU or RAM could also cause a blue screen. Increasing the performance of your hardware components past their factory settings in general probably isn’t the best idea, as they can easily become overworked which could lead to some serious damage.
Though of course these stop errors aren’t only caused by hardware disruptions. Faulty or missing drivers mean that the device it belongs to, like your graphics card, can’t communicate with the rest of the computer. So software errors, and even computer viruses can lead to blue screens as well.
While the “Blue Screen of Death” definitely isn’t as terrifying as it looks or sounds, it’s still a serious problem to come across and can be especially stress inducing to those who work from home or haven’t backed up their data in a while. If you ever have the misfortune of coming across a stop error, give your friends at Tech Force a call, we can get your computer back up and running in no time!
With every typical household comes a list of chores meant to keep everything in good working order. Things like cleaning the lint trap in the dryer, changing the water filter in the kitchen sink, and putting gas in the lawnmower are good examples of “basic maintenance” we all do around the house.
Of course, there are also a few things you should be doing every now and again to maintain your computer.
It’s not a bad idea to give the computer a reboot at least once a day. This helps to clear the memory of any inconsistencies, and allows updates to be applied.
Run a quick scan with your antivirus. This can usually be scheduled to occur automatically in the settings tab of most antivirus applications.
Run Disk Cleanup. This finds and deletes all temporary files, duplicate system files, and other nonsense, keeping your computer running smooth and clean.
Make sure that your Backup software is functioning properly. There’s nothing worse than losing your data.
Remember to discharge the battery on your laptop. A lot of us keep our laptops plugged in while we’re using them. This can actually be wearing on the battery, as it generates a constant flow of power to the battery. Best practice is to unplug it while you’re working until the battery reaches about 40% or so, then plug it back in. You never want to let the hit 0% – that could cause problems.
Uninstall applications that are no longer in use. This frees up hard drive space, and helps things run more smoothly.
Run a deep antivirus scan. That could also possibly be scheduled to run automatically.
Check for and install Operating System updates. Most Operating System updates are security enhancements, so it’s always a good idea to makes sure your system is up-to-date.
Check for third-party software updates. The applications that you regularly use are generally updated on a regular basis to patch bugs and add features. Make sure that you have the current versions of these programs.
Every Few Months
De-clutter your email inbox by deleting unnecessary email and spam.
Clean your mouse and keyboard. These can get a little dirty over time.
Check wires and peripherals for wear and tear, and replace as needed.
Clean out the dust from your computer by blowing compressed air into any vents, nooks, and crannies.
Remember to renew your antivirus or Computer Maintenance Plan. These will help you keep things working properly for the next year.
Get your computer a professional tune up. Just like your car needs a tuneup every year, so does your computer.
This is just a sort list of a few of the things you should be doing with your computer to keep it running as well as it can.
Of course, with one of our Maintenance Plans many of the things on this list will be done for you automatically as part of the service.
If you have any questions about how to get the most out of your computer, please feel free to give Tech Force a call at our offices (262) 515-9499.
Contributing to at least sixty percent of all computer repair problems, liquid damage is one of the biggest nuisances for the computer-age office worker. Even if it is easily preventable, there can always be accidents. Here are the four most common types of liquid spills that we see damaging our client’s computers.
The biggest culprit of liquid damage by far has got to be coffee, likely because those of us that work at our computers all day, and likely all night, need a bit of a pick-me-up. The complex cocktail of chemicals and additives in coffee can absolutely destroy a computer’sinner-workings. They can even caramelize the insides of the device – as well as leave a rather nasty odor, due to the dairy products and sugar Many of us add to your coffee.
Water would be just beneath coffee, contributing to about twenty percent of all cases of liquid damage. Oddly enough it really isn’t even the water that does the damage, it’s what’s within the water. A myriad of minerals in distilled or tap water can cause a short circuit, but completely pure, distilled water itself isn’t even a conductor of electricity.
Due to the sugar and acidity in soda and other soft drinks, they’re extra-corrosive oncomputer hardware, causing a lot of the same damage as a coffee spill. It’s probably best to keep any liquid fit for cleaning auto parts as far away from your electronic devices as humanly possible.
Beer and Wine
Surprisingly enough, the alcohol in beer and wine isn’t what damages your computer, in fact it’s pure isopropyl alcohol that a lot of technicians use to clean up the components of a computer. It’s actually the additives to alcoholic beverages that typically do all of the dirty work. Sugars, juices, and food coloring can all do severe damage to the circuitry of your computers or other electronic devices.
What should you do when the inevitable accidents do happen? It’s important to know the precautionary steps to take to prevent anymore damage from occurring. First of all, turn off, unplug the device and take out the battery, as electricity still conducts through it even when it’s powered down. You should also seek the advice of a reputable computer technician, like the ones at Tech Force.
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.
Tech Force Blog
We provide you with important, practical tips and insight for your technology and networks for both home and business.