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.
In today’s business world, having great Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury -it’s a necessity. Businesses, with their varying needs, have personal requirements for what constitutes great Wi-Fi. For some small businesses, consumer-grade Wi-Fi may be sufficient, but many find that business-grade Wi-Fi is more appropriate. As companies grow, there becomes a tipping point where business-grade is necessary. So how do you know if your business is ready for business-grade Wi-Fi? Ask yourself the following questions to find out.
How many devices use your Wi-Fi?
It used to be that only desktop computers connected to your Wi-Fi, but that is no longer the case. With the rise of portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, each person may be using your Wi-Fi from several devices. Consumer-grade hardware is designed for just a few people (like the amount that live in a single household) but can’t manage larger amounts of users and all of their devices. This is especially true for sustained usage. Remember that your employees aren’t the only people who expect to be able to connect to your Wi-Fi. One of the first things visitors typically do is look for a Wi-Fi network to connect their smartphones to.
What is the size and shape of your workspace?
The number of access points you will need for your Wi-Fi is dependent on the amount of physical space that needs to be covered, the shape of the area, wall material, and the number of users/devices. In smaller spaces, consumer-grade Wi-Fi is good enough. Larger, oddly shaped spaces benefit from business-grade. If your building’s walls are made of brick, cinder blocks, or cement, you likely need more access points than buildings made of other materials. Make sure you have a strong connection from all locations. It’s annoying to only be connected to Wi-Fi in certain areas of a building and find yourself in a deadzone a few steps later.
Access points for business-grade Wi-Fi tend to be more powerful and flexible. For example, some business Wi-Fi systems can transfer Wi-Fi devices from a crowded access point to one that is less busy. By doing this, everybody’s fast speed remains. If you foresee your range needing to increase, such as renting out more space, it’s easier to add more access points to business-grade Wi-Fi than consumer-grade. Businesses that anticipate scaling up soon are better off with business-grade Wi-Fi.
Do you want guests to have the same quality Wi-Fi as workers?
In households, where consumer-grade Wi-Fi is prevalent, all users share the Wi-Fi equally. In a home environment, if children are slowing down the internet with Netflix or video games, it’s not a big problem. However, a choked business Wi-Fi can cause a lot of problems. Business-grade Wi-Fi allows you network management. You can assign a designated amount of bandwidth to different users so they’re unable to clog the entire connection. You can allow visitors internet access without giving them unlimited access to the network.
How much does the internet affect your employees’ productivity?
For some companies, workers only use Wi-Fi for a few quick tasks. With these types of businesses, if the internet is slow, it won’t have a big impact on how much work your employees get done. Consumer-grade Wi-Fi might be a good choice. For other companies, there isn’t much people can accomplish if the Wi-Fi isn’t working well. The slower your employees work, the less money you make. Wi-Fi troubles can also lead to frustrated, unhappy workers. If fast internet is essential for people to complete their daily tasks, business-grade Wi-Fi is important.
Strong Wi-Fi is a necessity for all businesses. This is especially true for larger businesses that connect a lot of devices (from both employees and visitors) and have a big work area. Also for those where employee productivity depends on a strong connection. The goal is to keep your business-critical technology running smoothly. Consider carefully whether consumer-grade Wi-Fi or business-grade Wi-Fi is the best choice for your business. When you ask yourself the questions above, the answer should become clear.
Is your business’s Wi-Fi struggling? Give us a call at (262) 515-9499 to discuss a solution.
Like many valuable things we buy, new computers suffer from wear and tear over time. Our computers are particularly vulnerable as we have placed more and more demands on them every year. New machines have got faster, quieter, more reliable, and more capable over time. At the same time our own computers have begun to slow and sometimes even stop performing altogether.
There are many ways to address the problem of a PC which isn't quite performing up to the task anymore. Whether frustratingly slow or no longer working; we are happy to take a look. When you bring your computer to us we will diagnose the condition and find a solution that works for you. Often times the simplest solution works best. A complex problem sometimes only needs a simple repair to get your home computer up and running like new again. Whether a small replacement part, loose wire, or bad connection; we will find and fix the problem to give your familiar, home machine a new lease of life.
Many computers come to us running slowly, taking a long time to start up, or freezing when trying to load files and programs. Often owners have reached breaking point and become convinced the machine is fit for only the scrap heap. In many cases, the problem can be pinpointed to a bottleneck in the system. A single, seemingly trivial, part can be holding up the entire system. Amazingly, upgrading just that one component can make the whole machine run like new again.
Adding memory can provide extra space for programs to run faster. Adding an updated, faster hard drive can allow files to be retrieved without delay. In both cases, a low-cost single component can provide a cost-effective solution that makes an old machine like new again.
In some cases, computers succumb to more major faults. A critical part, difficult to replace, may stop working altogether. A failure of the motherboard for example, the backbone that all other components connect to can be expensive, if not impossible, to fix. Typically, with the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of computing, a motherboard will only house computer parts that were manufactured around a similar time.
A motherboard is almost certain to be incompatible with components built just a couple of years before or after its own design for example. Occasionally even a motherboard failure can be resolved too. In these cases we strive, whenever possible, to find a replacement board of the same generation that will work alongside existing components. The result is a cost-effective solution that keeps cost down by saving replacement parts.
In cases where a like-for-like replacement motherboard is not available, many parts of the computer may have to be replaced at the same time. Often replacement costs in these cases can get close to, or even exceed the cost of buying a new machine.
We would always give advice where it makes sense financially and practically to consider replacing an old machine. Often, in this respect, a home PC can be considered a little like a car. Sometimes a simple, non-expensive, easy to replace component such as the window wiper can fail. While a crucial part to be used for driving; it would be silly to suggest replacing the vehicle once it has worn out.
A window wiper may be low-cost and simple to replace, but if the engine were to wear down or break the solution may not be quite as simple. Attempting to make a 30-year-old car as fast, safe, and reliable as a brand new model generally doesn't make any financial or practical sense. Sometimes the best course of action to save money and avoid breakdowns is a more up to date vehicle.
In computing, many of the same rules hold true. The best solution in each case is always tailored personally to fit you and your own computer.
Bring your machine in to us or give us a call us at (262) 515-9499 or click here to discuss your computer issues. We'll keep you informed about your machine and advise on the best course of action to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
Last week we took a brief look at the three common types of Hackers – White hat, gray hat, and black hat.
With a more professional approach to hacking, the “White Hats” don’t often stray much beyond what they’re compensated for. Some of them work for different clients around the globe. While others have offices with one company.
The “Gray Hats” have foggier, more ambiguous motivations, and hacking may even just be a hobby for them. Many “Gray Hats” consider themselves to be what we call “hacktivists”.
Hacktivists are hackers who are motivated by politics or by a cause. With the intent of bringing public attention to an issue that they believe needs to be addressed.
There has been quite the debate over whether hacktivists are “good” or “bad” to begin with, as many of them aim to right perceived wrongs, or to enact a specific change – Such as the hacktivist group “Anonymous”, who regularly takes down ISIS social media profiles, or some of the contributors to Wikileaks, who work towards full disclosure of information.
Some of the more prominent hacktivists have been known to take down government websites (via DDOS) for long periods of time, which is a heavy criminal offense. Others have been known to breach servers and steal information, leaking personal data to the public, such as the Sony Data breach of 2011, when the personal information of all registered users was stolen by a group of hacktivists.
While there have been attacks in which private information was leaked for the sole purpose of embarrassing the users of specific sites, their primary objective is usually to open eyes, and to direct attention to something imperative that everyone is missing.
Recently there has been a clamp down on these hacktivist campaigns, reducing the overall number of political attacks around the globe exponentially, but that doesn’t mean they’re over and done with. There have been massive hacktivist attacks as recent as we saw in the 2016 presidential election, and hacktivism today is still considered disruptive, if not downright dangerous; a real threat to online communities, multi-national corporations, trade associations and businesses in general.
Regardless of whether or not you own a business of your own, you could still be affected by a more large-scale attack, and even more so by a personal one.
We talked about those hackers who aim to gain financially from either individual, corporate, or even government losses, check back next week when we discuss these Black Hat hackers and how to secure yourself from them.
When you think of the word “hacker,” what’s the first image that comes to mind? Was it a hooded figure, sulking in the basement and desperately waiting for the opportune moment to obtain all of your information with the click of a button? Or perhaps it was a socially awkward teenager chugging down their fifth energy drink of the night while typing out strings of 0s and 1s like rapid fire. The media most often portrays them as one of the two.
The term “hacker” started out relatively harmless. They were seen as innovators in the 1950s, the kind of person that challenged the manual and found different solutions to a problem. Eventually the more negative connotation stuck when the nineties arrived and is presently the most popular definition, a “hacker” is someone who uses a computer to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.
Today we mainly recognize three different kinds of hackers, categorized by the motives behind their actions. They typically hack with the same skill sets as one another as most hackers use the same methods.
Black Hat Hackers, also known as “Hacktivists,” apply their skills maliciously and their objectives typically range from stealing the personal data and monetary funds of individuals like you or I, to major corporate breaches. They work outside of the law, and what they do is usually very illegal.
These guys can type at mach ten, dress like death -if he wore a hoody and ratty jeans. The sketchy guys that stand in the back alleys of the internet waiting to tempt you with empty promises and infect your computer with malware and other harmful viruses.
Occupying a vast land of motivations neither good nor bad, Grey Hat don’t aim to directly cause harm to anyone.
Some of them may in fact have good intentions, breaking into different organizations online and informing them of vulnerabilities anonymously. To some of them it’s only a hobby, to others, selling those vulnerabilities to different agencies is also common occurrence and their livelihood.
Often called the “ethical” hackers, a White Hat is someone who utilizes their skills for the good of other people or companies and are usually hired in order to do so in the first place.
They’re compensated to find breaches in security, vulnerabilities, test systems and a plethora of other small jobs here and there that require their level of devotion and technological understanding.
Unfortunately, lurking behind each type of hacker are those that are ruthless in their pursuit of getting political and public attention. The members of this group can come from white, gray and black, and each is trying to open the eyes of the world.
Join us next week when we take a closer more in depth look at the people known as “Hacktivists”.
Tech Force Blog
We provide you with important, practical tips and insight for your technology and networks for both home and business.