Computers in Roanoke

Hi Friends, I hope that you are doing well. I wanted to spend just a few minutes talking with you about computers in the Roanoke Valley and how keeping them up to date is important. 

As technology continues to become more mainstream in our homes and businesses, it's important to keep the latest software on your computers, desktops, tablets, laptops and even smart phones. 

Not only do you have to worry about computer virus's but hackers too and as annoying as it can be to install the latest Windows 10 patches, it's extremely important to do so, especially if you are using any sort of online banking or keeping information on your computer that someone might be able to hack into. 

Wireless Routers

One thing that you should also be doing is installing any sort of wireless router software updates as they roll out. Even if you have your wireless router password enabled, people can still get into them with various software. This is an often overlooked thing within someones home or business, but it's actually one of the more important things you can do to help protect yourself and to keep your network up to date too. 

Some routers are easy to install updates by simply logging into them with your web browser and installing the firmware manually, some on the other hand require a professional to remote in using a command prompt, in either case, we can help you make sure that you are up to date with a service call. 

Computers

One thing that I recommend that you do with your computers OS or operating system is too set your updates on automatic. Usually this is setup within Windows 10 and the best thing about that is that you can set it up once and forget about it, making life pretty easy for you. 

For those not running Windows 10, I suggest that you do. Older Windows 7 and 8 systems actually have a lot of open access to them as Microsoft is slowly stopping support and patches on them, so I highly recommend that you upgrade if you haven't already done so. 

Also, if you haven't done so already make sure that your Windows Firewall is up and running, this can be important in helping to add a layer of protection to that sensitive information to your computer. 





Setting up your wireless printer in your Roanoke Home

Having a wireless network printer has several benefits. There is the obvious benefit of not needing wires to connect to the printer. While it is possible to share a printer via a network connection, having a wireless printer connection adds flexibility to the network. In a traditional computer sharing the printer, the host computer for the printer would need to be turned on in order to use the printer. You do not have this restriction with a wireless network printer.

Wireless Printer Adapter

A wireless printer adapter is a device which allows your printer to be linked on a wireless network. The printer involved will need to be a USB printer. The most common technology used with wireless printer adapters is Bluetooth. There are a variety of adapters available, depending on the needed range and number of computers needed to network with the printer.

Adding a printer to a wireless network is the same as adding any other device. You will need to have a wireless printer adapter which is compatible with your printer. Generally speaking, you will need a USB printer. If your printer comes with a built in wireless Ethernet adapter, then you will not need to use a wireless printer adapter You will need to use a wireless print server to connect to the rest of the network.

Wireless Inkjet Printer 
Almost any printer can become a wireless printer. If your printer has a USB connector, there are several wireless printer adapters that you can purchase that simply plug into the printer and you are instantly on the wireless network!


Hey Roanoke: What Type of Computer Should I Buy?

This is a question I seem to get literally just about every time I run into someone in Downtown Roanoke, Valley View Mall, my church or even just meeting up with friends or family.

The answer usually depends no what type of person you in relation to the computer. Are you using this for gaming, work, perhaps college? Or maybe you just want to check your email and social media feeds and occasionally check the news, stocks or your favorite hobby. 

Well today friends, I'm going to help you explore what it is that you really need when it comes to laptops, desktops, tablets and all-in-ones. 


Price


Perhaps the most popular question I get is the budget question. "What can I buy for less than X amount of dollars." In the computer world, the sky is the limit when it comes to technology. 

Before you get into the budget aspect of what you really want to buy, think about hos its going to be used. 

Just like an automobile, there are budget computer systems and there are top of the line systems that reach into the thousands of dollars. If you want a gaming computer and you only have $300 to spend, you might want to rethink your plans. 

For those that want an everyday machine in order to check email, maybe surf the web and watch a video on YouTube, perhaps do some online shopping or write a basic word document, I recommend purchasing a low end laptop or desktop. You can usually purchase these type of systems for less than $500. 

They will usually have an Intel processor, an i3, maybe an i5 if your are lucky, they tend to have 2-4GB of RAM and they will come with Windows 10 Home Edition. They are perfect for the occasional use user, a small child, maybe your grandparents or just an extra machine to have in the house. 

For those needing more power, like a high school or college student, someone that likes to dabble in playing video games or tinkering with coding and the like, I recommend that you look for something in the $500-$1,000 range. You could squeeze in the entry level Macbook Air (which I have) for under $999, it has an iCore 5 proc, 4GB ram and its perfect for blogging, running some Photoshop work and light computer coding and development. BUT, I can't do video editing on it, its just too under powered, you would need a powerful desktop for that, which you could buy within the same price range. 

Recently I was able to purchase a Dell desktop with an iCore 7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a DVD Drive/Burner and a 24" monitor for about $850. With that system I can easily do PhotoShop images, video editing and a lot more too. 

For those that are serious about wanting something with a lot of computer muscle, look for a system that might run you under a couple of thousand dollars. HP makes an amazing wide screen all in one system that you can purchase at Best Buy here in Roanoke. It's a complete all in one system and can literally do everything you would need. 

Another alternative that you might want to consider is a used computer system. I offer many used systems at a fraction of the cost of even a new one. Used systems are perfect for a 2nd or 3rd computer in the house, garage or office and many times I can help you customize it to meet your needs all while saving you a few bucks in the process too. 


Computer Buying Tips

When it comes to looking at the specs on a new or used computer system, it can be overwhelming, let alone hard to understand.  I want to share with you a few of my personal recommendations when it comes to the hardware. 

Processors

Low End:    Intel iCore 3
High End:   Intel iCore 7

ADM Processors are OK, but stay away form their low end systems. 


RAM Memory

I recommend that you get a minimum of 4GB on a laptop, or 8GB on the high end. Anything beyond 8 on a laptop isn't really needed at this point as laptops are generally still limited compared to desktops. 

For Desktops, I recommend 8-16GB of RAM. 

Hard Drive

If you're looking for a great hard drive then look for an SSD or solid state drive as your main operating system drive. Unlike traditional drives they are much faster, produce very little heat and are often times smaller than traditional drives. 

The downside currently is space sizes. Whilte a traditional hard drive can currently reach into the terabytes, most SSD drives are in the 256GB range, so it will take some time for them to develop into larger sizes. 

I recommend having an external drive or USB drive as a backup. 








Roanoke Computer Secrets

Cortana is one of the biggest features in Windows 10 and yet there is little known about it until now. When you purchase a new laptop or desktop, this great feature will come into your home and it will provide a new element to your PC. 

As the Roanoke Valley continues to grow in technology, I wanted to share a few great tips to help make the best use of Windows 10, let's dive right in!


How to enable or disable Cortana on Microsoft Edge

Cortana on Microsoft Edge is not a different version of the experience on the desktop. It's actually the same Cortana that you know and love, just extended to the web browser.
While there aren't any specific settings you need to configure to start using the assistant on the browser, you'll need to enable the experience if it's disabled manually.

To enable or disable Cortana on Microsoft Edge, do the following:
  1. Open Microsoft Edge.
  2. Click the menu button. It's the three dots button on the top-right.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Scroll down and click View advanced settings.
  5. Turn on or off the toggle switch for the "Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge"option.

How to use Cortana on Microsoft Edge

Microsoft has integrated Cortana on Edge in a non-intrusive way. Once the feature is enabled, you won't see the assistant until it makes sense. When it makes sense, you'll notice Cortana's circular icon jumping up and down in the address bar at which point you can simply click the address bar to interact with the assistant.
Although Cortana is always evolving and future updates may introduce a different set of functionalities, there are four main scenarios where you'll see Cortana trying to offer suggestions in the address bar, including:
  • Planning to dine out: When you're planning to eat out, and you visit a restaurant website, Cortana will be able to offer information, such as hours, contact details, directions, and menu.
    Shopping online: On online retailers websites (e.g., Microsoft Store, Best Buy, Staples, eBay, Macy's), Cortana can assist you by offering discount coupons for certain items that can save you money.
  • Websites with apps: When you're a visiting a website and Cortana knows it has an app that helps you make things easier, the assistant will tell you where to download the app.

    Watching music videos: Whenever you're watching a music video, the assistant can also pull up the lyrics of the song or a link to listen or buy the song from various sources, including Groove, Amazon, and iTunes.
    How to get quick answers using Cortana on Microsoft Edge

    1. Cortana can also provide assistance when you're visiting a web page, and you want to know more about a certain topic. On any web page, you can highlight a word, phrase, or even an image to get more information.
    2. To know more about a topic or to define a word, do the following:

    Highlight the word, phrase, or image.
    Right-click the content and select Ask Cortana.
    1. When asking Cortana about a topic, you'll see a flyout jumping from the right surfacing relevant data about. For example, if you're asking about a particular location, you'll see a map, information usually pulled from WikiPedia, weather, images, and related search results.




    Why You Should Update Your Passwords

    You have a password on your email account, your online banking app, and every website you shop on. Every time you sign up for an online service or social network you’ve got to come up with a something memorable that will keep your account and personal information secure.

    Passwords are meant to keep you safe while you surf, but hackers are getting savvier. Some of the most ironclad systems have been breached and thieves have gained access to millions of people’s personal and financial data, not just within the United States, but yes here in the Roanoke Valley too. But, even while the threat of getting hacked looms, an astounding number of people continue to use extremely weak, easily guessable passwords.

    The Wall Street Journal analyzed over 200,000 hacked passwords, and found that by far the most popular password was “123456,” followed closely by “password” and “12345678.” What’s worse, is that most people use the exact same password for every web page they visit. What is this telling us? Apparently, many internet users still have not heeded years of tips and warnings about password security.

    So, as a refresher and an update on tools you can use to generate and remember strong passwords, here are a few tips.

    1. Don’t use ANY of these


    • Your name, your spouse or kids’ names, or pet names - even if you put a number after it.
    • The last four digits of your social security number
    • Any consecutive sequence of numbers
    • “password’
    • The name of any school you went to or mascot of that school
    • The name of the city you live in
    • Any date of birth - yours, your spouse’ or your children’s.
    • “letmein”
    • “love”
    • “money”


    2. Never use the same password for multiple logins, especially when it comes to your email account. You may think your email isn’t super important to keep secure because “there’s nothing in there.” But, once someone cracks your email password they can go over to your bank app, click “forgot password” and have the key to your finances emailed to you (them) instantly. Regular hacker practice is to break into any web page you use just to figure out your standard password, then compromise everything else.

    3. Substitute letters for numbers that look similar and throw in random capital letters. You can put a zero in place of an ‘o’, a three in place of an ‘e’, or even better, an @ in place of an ‘a’. Example: @ppleCid3R

    4. Come up with something nostalgic that you’ll remember, but don’t use a person’s name. Every name or word in the dictionary will fail under a simple brute force attack.

    5. Because it would be difficult to remember so many different passwords, consider using Roboform for Windows or 1Password for Mac users. It can store all of your passwords in an encrypted format and let you use one master password to access them all. It will also fill in the forms on Web pages for you automatically, and allow you to take your password list with you on your tablet, phone or a USB key. Other such programs include KeePass and LastPass.

    6. Whenever you come up with a new password, use Microsoft's password strength checker to see how secure it is.

    Now that you understand the risk of using weak passwords, and have the tools to strengthen and diversify them, it's time to improve your online security!

    If one of your accounts has been hacked, there’s a good chance your other accounts using the same password aren’t safe! Now would be a great time to update your accounts with individually unique passwords.



    Roanoke Computers: Get the Best Battery Life from Your Laptop

    You just got a shiny new laptop to use on your commute to the office, on business trips, vacations and at the coffee shop down the street. Congratulations! You'll be a productivity powerhouse! But hold your horses for a minute there, friend!
    Any road warrior will tell you life with a laptop isn't always easy. As a freelancer with a keyboard permanently propped up on my thighs (like right now on an airplane bound for Seattle), I've got a few hints and tips for extending the life of your laptop and easing the pain of the never-ending outlet and hot spot hunt.

    Extend your battery life.

    Laptop productivity on the cold, cruel and often electrical outlet-less road often depends entirely on how much juice you've got left. The screen draws the most power from your battery. When you don't have access to an outlet, dim your screen to the lowest setting to make your battery last as long as possible.
    Also, disable unnecessary CPU-cycle-eating processes - like auto Bluetooth device and WiFi network detection - to save juice and make your battery last longer.
    At the beach house there is sand, at the coffee shop there are crumbs, and right now your fingers are covered in Dorito dust. Protect your keyboard from stray crumbs getting into the cracks with a protective cover. At a reader's recommendation, I invested in the iSkin which does double duty: it keeps crumbs out from between the keys and also protects the screen from keyboard scratches.
    Another way to prevent screen scrapes is a piece of rubberized shelf liner cut to fit inside your laptop like the bologna in a sandwich when you shut it. I've also seen people use a thin piece of cloth.

    Keep it cool.

    After an hour or so, a computer can burn one's thighs and wrists (like my super-heat conducting titanium Dell Laptop). If this is a problem for you, get material that doesn't conduct heat well between your skin and your laptop, like a lap desk or your laptop sleeve. Long-sleeved shirts with big cuffs help on wrists when the top of your keyboard gets hot to the touch.

    Work offline.

    Web-based email's great, but the dream of always-on Internet connectivity hasn't yet come true. Get yourself set up to work offline on your laptop on the plane and other WiFi-less locations.
    For example, Google Chrome is a must-have install on your laptop. In addition to downloading all your mail locally for working with offline, Microsoft Mail and Outlook has excellent SMTP management so you can switch which server you send your mail through when you get online very quickly. 


    Every Roanoke Computer NEEDS one of These...

    External Hard Drives for Backup


    It’s always a good idea to back up your computer. You may not trust your content to be stored in the cloud, so if you want a physical copy of your computer’s files – not just something that’s floating in the ether – you’ll want to buy an external hard drive (HDD). 

    The process of purchasing an external HDD can be overwhelming, considering the large amount of options out there, but we’re here to help. Every computer, regardless of the style or manufacturer should have some for of backup hard drive at home and at the office.

    When deciding what’ll work best for your needs, consider the following: What will you be using it for; how much space do you really need; and how often will you be backing up your files? 

    Also, do you want to be able to transport your external hard drive so that a lighter, encrypted one would be most convenient and best protected; or do you plan to keep it in one place, in which case you can afford a heavier but potentially cheaper device?

    Answering these questions will help you gauge what the best storage device option will be for you right now.

    Storage capacity


    Storage capacity in external HDDs can range from about 2GB to 4TB. In fact, some drive companies put two 4TB drives in one chassis, creating an 8TB HDD, which is total overkill for most people. 

    For reference, computers these days usually come with anywhere between about 250GB and 750GB of space in the hard drive. 

    Whether you want a mini external HDD (also known as a flash drive) that you can pin to your keychain and store a few important documents on, or a considerably larger one where you can keep all of your photos, songs, and videos, the possibilities are almost endless. A smart size for people looking to store videos would be 1TB or 2TB. 

    If you’re mostly just storing emails and word documents, a smaller one could do. The more files you want to store, and the larger the file type (photos and videos are larger than word documents), the bigger you should go. External hard drives with a decent amount of space can start at under $70 and go upwards of $3,200.


    Transfer speed


    If you plan to back up your computer every other week or so, most external hard drives will suffice. If you’ll mostly be using it to store large files, such as videos, however, you may prefer a device that takes in data from your computer more quickly.

    In this case, a hard drive with a USB 3.0 interface, as opposed to one with a USB 2.0 interface, would be best. Although USB 2.0 is still common, the interface copies your files at a speed 10 times slower than its newer counterpart. 

    Though USB 3.0 is the fastes in terms of transferring files, eSATA is the next best thing, but tends to be expensive. FireWire is the third fastest, so ideally you want to find a drive that can handle USB 3.0 – assuming your computer has a USB 3.0 port. Not all external hard drives work with all computers. 

    An older model could have a USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 connection instead of a USB 3.0, so pick a drive with the connection you need.

    There is also Thunderbolt, which is still gaining traction in the mainstream. Developed by Intel in a collaboration with Apple, Thunderbolt is an extremely fast. 

    In fact, with a throughput of 10Mbps, it’s the fastest out of all the ports. That being said, it also adds a hefty price to most Thunderbolt-capable external hard drives.   


    Portability


    If you intend to keep your external hard drive at home, going for one that costs less but weighs more might make sense. If you plan to tow it back and forth from home to work, you may want to pay a little more for a pocket-sized device.

    If you plan to transport it often, another practical feature for your device is enhanced data protection, which will reduce the risk of failure caused by shock if you happen to drop it.  A portable storage unit should also offer durability to protect your files from shock and damage. 

    Avoid anything flimsy and look for drives featuring solid, durable materials like quality plastic or aluminum.


    Desktop-style drives, although also technically portable, are designed to stay put and require a power adapter. If you’d rather have something thin and light that you can simply plug into your computer without an external power source, this isn’t the type of drive for you. Make sure to look for one with a built-in fan if you’re going to be using it frequently and for heavy file transfers. A built-in fan will help extend the life of the HDD.


    Safety


    Make sure your external hard drive comes with hardware-based encryption, which is more dependable than software-based encryption. This is especially important if you want to purchase a portable mobile drive to carry around, but it’s also important if you’re storing highly sensitive information. Carrying your private files around makes them more prone to loss and theft, so go the extra step and make encryption a concern.

    Ease of use and reliability


    If you’re a newbie or not in the mood to fuss with installing and configuring utility software, choose a drive with included software. It’ll just make things that much easier. Still, nothing is fail-safe, so buying a warranty isn’t a bad idea, especially one that lasts for considerably longer than a year since you should be able to use an external hard drive for several.


    Compatibility


    Do you have a PC or a Mac? Make sure to keep this in mind when shopping since some hard drives are only compatible with PCs or Macs – but not both. If you buy a PC-specific hard drive for a Mac, you’ll either have to reformat the hard drive you buy, or be limited to one that is PC- or Mac-specific.


    External solid-state drives


    A note on external solid-state drives (SSDs): As SSDs are much, much pricier than their hard drive competition, they remain rather rare, and do not boast monster capacities. Most SSD external hard drives range between 64GB to 512GB. Generally speaking, it’s better to have an SSD inside your computer than outside. 


    Roanoke Computer Question of the Week

    Help us out! We want to know what your internet speed is, just click on your top speed below!





    Your Roanoke Computer Needs AntiVirus

    Hi friends! I hope that you're well today. I was recently speaking with a client of mine here about the importance of anti-virus software on their computer and the question came up as to why they needed software in the first place. 

    Well theres plenty of reasons why you need virus protection and today I'd like to share a few great reasons why you need it. 

    Many people think that you can only get malware by downloading suspicious files, running unpatched software, visiting the wrong websites, and doing other irresponsible things like having the Java plug-in enabled in your web browser. It’s true – this is how most people pick up malware. But this isn’t the only way malware can spread.
    We have previously written about “zero-day” exploits – vulnerabilities that the bad guys find first. Ones we don’t know about, which we can’t protect ourselves from. At events like Pwn2Own and Pwnium, contestants are challenged to compromise fully patched software like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, and more for a financial reward. These browsers and plug-ins inevitably fall as the contestants use unpatched security flaws to crack their security.
    These flaws are corrected as soon as they’re found, but new ones inevitably pop up.
    In other words, your computer could be infected just from you visiting a website. Even if you only visit websites you trust, the website itself could be compromised – something that happens with alarming frequency these days.
    An antivirus is your final layer of protection. If a website uses a security flaw in your browser or a plug-in like Flash to compromise your computer, it will often attempt to install malware – keyloggers, Trojans, rootkits, and all sorts of other bad things. These days, malware is the domain of organized crime looking to gather financial information and harness your computer for botnets.
    If a zero-day in a piece of software you use does give the bad guys an opportunity to get malware onto your system, an antivirus is your last layer of defense.  It shouldn’t be your only layer of protection, but it is an important one. And there’s no good reason not to run an antivirus on Windows.
    Some people believe that antivirus software is heavy and slows down your computer. This was certainly true in the past. Older Norton and McAfee antivirus software suites were infamous for slowing down your computer more than actual viruses would. They’re full of notifications and inducements to keep paying for a subscription and buy more expensive security suites, just as adware annoys you with requests to buy products.
    This isn’t true anymore. Computers have become so fast that antivirus software doesn’t weigh them down like it used to. There are also more efficient security suites that are lighter on resources. The free Windows Defender on Windows 8 are lightweight antivirus programs created by Microsoft. They don’t try to sell you anything at all.


    Buy a PreOwned Computer and Save in the Roanoke Valley


    If you are looking for an affordable alternative to an expensive desktop or laptop here in South Western Virginia have you considered a used or pre-owned computer system? Many times households are looking for an alternative on a system that costs $800-$1200 or more, mostly for their second computer, perhaps for a child or family member. Well today I would like to share with you some great reasons why you should purchase one from a reputable business like ours. 

    It helps to narrow down your search by glancing at the age of the used PC. Age affects many of the important features mentioned below, so it makes for a good blanket factor when filtering out options. But at what age do you put on the brakes?

    Generally, aim for a computer that is three years old or newer. A computer that’s more than three years old is likely to be too slow, too worn, and too obsolete to make a good used purchase, no matter how much money you can save.

    When computers grow more than a few years old, several problems start to accumulate. First, years of dust have built up in the components and fan system, which threatens future maintenance troubles. And while Moore’s Law may be slowing down but it is still in effect – the amount of storage and the quality of features on computers three years apart is still very noticeable.

    For example: A 2012 27-inch iMac came with HD resolution, 8GB of RAM, a 2.9GHz processor on the base model, and a 1TB hard drive. A 2014 model comes with Retina 5K resolution, 8GB of RAM, a 3.5GHz processor, and a much faster 1TB fusion drive.  Yes, some specs remain the same, but others see significant jumps in quality, and this is only a two-year gap.
    What are the most important PC features for your job, gaming, schoolwork, or lifestyle? The answer is different for everyone, but here are features that are good news no matter what you want in your computer.

    • Enough RAM: RAM tends to get updated quite regularly, which means that a used PC will probably have less RAM than a new one. While lots of memory is a nice perk, it often isn’t necessary unless you juggle a lot of software. For reference points, around 8GB is sufficient for nearly all activities. Newer PCs come with up to 16GB of RAM.

    • A CPU you can live with: Processor speed, much like RAM, is all about what you can live with. All things remaining equal – unless we are talking about a 1-2GHz difference between speeds – you aren’t likely to notice too much difference for everyday activities. Most users will be happy with a dual, but if you run demanding programs like Photoshop or video games, a quad is a better bet.

    • Compatible ports/connections: It may be challenging, but you need to find a used PC that has all the necessary ports for your other devices. This includes HDMI, USB, and DVI, among others. The type of standard also matters. A USB 3.0 device will work with a USB 2.0 port, but not all features may be available.

    • Resolution: If you’re buying a laptop, you’ll be stuck with the display it includes. 1080p resolution or better is preferable, but if the laptop is more than three years old you’ll likely have to make do with 1,600 x 900 or 1,366 x 768. We don’t recommend going lower than that. If system is a PC, you can buy whatever monitor you’d like, as long as it’s compatible with the ports on the desktop. We recommend a 22-inch, 1080p display at a minimum.

    • About graphics: Integrated graphics cards are built in and cannot be switched out, while dedicated cards can be separately removed and upgraded. If you want a PC for gaming, choose a model with a dedicated graphics card. Notebook buyers can reference the GPU model at Notebook Check

    • Clean and shiny: You want to stay away from computers that have dents, scratches, or a painful level of grime. It’s a sign of age and poor treatment – and could hint at lurking problems that haven’t yet manifested. Buy from someone who cares enough to clean up and maintain their PC, especially when they are trying to sell it.

    We are more than happy to help you find the right type of computer thats not only affordable but also able to meet your needs for the next few years. Having a used computer system can save you a lot of money and give you years of enjoyment too! 

    Contact me today at 540-354-5577 or email me to learn more about how we can help!