How and Why You Should Clean Inside Your Computer

2010 August 14
by J Storlie
If you’re brave, try this at home. Otherwise, we can do it for you. It’s one of the easiest ways you can keep your computer running well. If you screw this up, you can’t possibly hold us responsible.  Come on… What were you thinking? But seriously, you should really keep your computer clean.

Storing your tower on the ground, under your desk can cause it to collect more dust.

Most people know that there are steps they should take to maintain their computer, like running virus checkers and scanning for spyware.  But have you ever considered the fact that you actually need to clean your computer tower?  Just like anything else in your home, your computer tower accumulates dust which needs to be cleaned out.
Why should I clean my computer?
The dust in your computer can cause several issues which could ultimately cause your computer to quit working.  As your computer gets clogged with more and more dust, the fan that keeps the circuit boards cool can end up clogged. When the fan stops moving, or when the air can’t circulate inside, your computer overheats.  If this doesn’t turn your computer off after a little while, it can decrease the lifespan of the internal components. At the early stages, it just slows down your machine, depending on where the dust has accumulated.
Things You’ll Need:
  • Can of compressed air.
  • Lint free cloth
  • Cotton swabs
How to Clean Inside your Computer
If you are not familiar with the inner workings of a computer, there is really not a lot that you need to know before engaging in cleaning out your machine, but please do not ignore the following safety guideline:
SAFETY ALERT: Discharge the static electricity within your body by touching the exterior of the tower while the three prong plug is still plugged in, but not turned on.
Once you have done this, disconnect all the cords and power from the tower.

Air can't get into those ventilation holes when they're filled with dust.

Step 1: Take your tower somewhere outside or in the garage, where the flying dust won’t ruin your wife’s fancy rug, and open the case up. You will probably just need to remove a few teeny screws from the back and then you can pull the cover off.

Step 2: Make sure to read the instructions on the can, as you can cause some damage if you spray too closely to your computer.  Start by spraying the fan clean, you should be able to see through it, to the blades inside, when you’re done.Make sure you do not spin the fans with the compressed air. Compressed air can spin the fans way faster then they are supposed to spin causing the bearings to burn out, ruining the fan. We usually use a pen or pencil to keep the fans from spinning. Use a cotton swab to wipe off any chunks of dust that may be clinging to the fan.

Step 3: Once the fan is clean, spray the circuit boards inside. Always pay attention to the distance between the can and your computer. But if you happen to break something, we probably happen to have a new one in stock.

Step 4: If by some strange turn of events you have spots inside your computer, from spilling coffee or something, you can use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to remove the residue.

Step 5: Use the lint-free cloth to wipe down the inside of the tower cover.
Clean your tower every few months, it takes less than half an hour and can save you from the headache of an overheated computer or the slow loading time that comes from running hot.  An easy rule of thumb is to clean it every time the seasons change. The first cleaning may take a while if you have not cleaned it for quite a while.  But if you keep up with it after that, it should not be too difficult.

Laptops for Students –

2010 August 7
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It’s back-to-school time and here at Yakima Networking, that means one thing: Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, we’ll get a million back-to-school laptops in for repair and virus removal.

Buying computer equipment for kids is tricky. You don’t want to spend much, because you know there’s a strong possibility that it will be dropped, stepped on, lost or damaged. But you know modern kids have computing needs, for school work and… let’s be honest, games and social networking.

Lenova IdeaPad g530

The Lenova IdeaPad g530 is functional, durable and inexpensive (says PCWorld)

Avoiding Craptop Disasters

Craptop is the technical terminology we use for cheap laptops that… suck.  Not that all cheap laptops suck.  Some manufacturers are more opportunistic than others, replacing cool features and functionality with slick marketing in order to save a buck on certain models.

Don’t you wish you could call us from the superstore to see which cheap laptop is the smartest option for your kids?  Well, you can – 853-0850. Seriously, program it into your phone.  Now. Would you rather know the answer before you buy, or a few months down after you’ve purchased it, when you discover that the machine is useless?

We Service New Laptops

Now you’re probably wondering why on earth a new laptop would need servicing, right?  It’s preventative maintenance, especially for students computers. Computers that kids will be operating need to be prepared for the onslaught of viruses and malware that are distributed on the sites where they play games and communicate with friends. They also need to be purged of the factory-installed trial versions, too.

When we get a brand new laptop in the shop, the first thing we do is get rid of the trial program installations. Computer manufacturers make business deals with software companies, designed to trick the consumer into buying the full version of a software program by making them dependent upon the trial version.  The last thing you want to do is spend $300 registering software on a $200 computer because your son’s homework was made using the “trial version” and now no one can open the file.  We can get rid of the trial ware and recommend alternatives to expensive software programs.

Free Virus Protection Programs

MSI Laptops in Yakima

MSI makes mini netbooks and full-size laptop computers

You’re welcome to purchase a virus protection program, but paid-for protection can be just as effective as free protection, especially when a 12 yr old is using their own judgment about whether or not to allow a program access to his webcam, or installing a game that happens to have adware attached.

Bring your child to pick up the laptop, so we can scare him straight about virus protection. Sometimes kids just need to know what to look for, and how to respond when their computer is doing something strange. Some kids won’t tell you if their computer is acting up because they’re afraid of getting into trouble, but fear won’t protect their computer from viral attack. Arm your kids with the power to operate their own virus protection program, the knowledge to execute a full system scan, and the tools to protect your hard-earned computer budget.

What to do when your Facebook account is hacked

2010 July 28
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by J Storlie

Hopefully you will never need this information. But every now and then a rogue Facebook application will take over your profile, sending advertisements and porn to friends and family without your knowledge.

Unfortunately, it won’t be without your consent. That’s right, you gave it permission so technically it isn’t a hacking situation, but it feels like one. So you gave it permission and you can take it away. Instead of cancelling your account or blaming Facebook for poor security, or changing your password (which won’t help) you just need to know how to take away their permission.

Step 1

facebook login

Sign in to Facebook.com

Log into your Facebook account

In the upper right hand corner of the screen,click  on “Account.”

change facebook application settings

Facebook Application Settings

Step 2

A drop-down menu will appear, then click on “Application settings” Facebook will automatically display your recently used apps. Skim through the list of titles and delete the ones that you don’t trust.  New or unfamiliar apps are more likely to be the culprit.  Once you’ve weeded through the recently used list, double-check the “granted additional permissions” and make sure that nothing looks fishy there.

Deleting Facebook Apps

How to delete a Facebook application

Sometimes- I don’t know how often, but I’m sure it happens- nice people will develop a harmless application and then rack up a lot of followers and sell out or get hacked, much to the surprise of their followers, so it might not be something recent.  So stay in your application settings and check the “all authorized” to get rid of everything unfamiliar.

If you’re sure you know which one it is, you can Report the App to Facebook, to save others the stress and headache.

Once your account is cleaned up, be sure to remove the evidence from your wall and friend’s walls, so your friends don’t fall victim, too.

Step 4

Share this post with your family and friends.  In fact, bookmark it or email it out so that everyone knows what to do.  You can never be too careful.

Backing up your Home Network

2010 July 20
Are your home network files secure?

Back up your home network files

It’s important to have a backup system for your home network, to protect you from damage of theft, disaster, virus attack  or computer failure.  Home backup solutions provide users with peace of mind, much like data insurance.

Imagine, losing family photos, business records or other important documents.

Back up your network with CD-ROM or DVD-ROM

You can use compact discs to back up your network.  If each computer doesn’t have its own drive, the files will need to be placed into a folder that’s accessible to the network.  Burn copies of important files on a monthly basis.  You can use the “detailed folder view” to see if a file has changed since your last backup.

This method gives you full control over which files are being backed up and discs are very inexpensive. In fact, if you’re using rewritable discs, you can backup your files to the same disc more than once. The drawback to this method is that people rarely remember to back up their system.  If you’re working from home or rely on your computer heavily, you may need to schedule time on a weekly or monthly basis to back up your system.  Very important files can be backed up on a daily basis.

For emergency backup of just a few files, email yourself a copy using a web-based email program like Yahoo or Gmail.

Backup Your Network to a Local Server (MUCH easier than discs)

A backup server, or Network Attached Storage Device  is one or a series of external hard drive with lots of memory that everyone on your home network can access.  You can also use one of the computers on your network for backup.

The good thing about this method is that each computer has access to the same backed-up copies of files, which can free up resources.  Unfortunately, if the house burns down or becomes flooded, the local backup is in just as much danger as the rest of the network.

Remote Backup for Home Network

Remote backup sites pull copies of the files you specify and store them on a secure remote server. You can access your files online, by logging into your account.  Registering for a remote backup website is easy

  • create an account
  • install the secure transfer software
  • choose backup preferences

Shop around for backup services. Some charge monthly, others charge annually and still others charge according to your file transfer habits and disk usage. The benefit of these services is that they can be set up to perform automatic backups, without you ever having to remember to back up.  The servers are located away from your home, so they’re not subject to the same natural disasters and, since the company is in the business of securing your files, they often have additional backups in place, in case one of their servers are compromised. Choose a reputable host that’s been in business for a long time and has a history of stability.

Hook your Computer up to your TV

2010 July 13
by J Storlie

HDMI, or High Definition Multimedia Interface, is one example of how a single cord can change your life. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

HDMI to laptop

plug your computer into your TV

Imagine…

  • Never having to pay a cable bill again because you’re streaming online TV and movies right onto your big-screen TV, from Netflix.com, Hulu.com, Blockbuster.com or even just playing a DVD from your laptop.
  • Forcing your neighbors to watch your vacation slideshow, just like in the old days – except the pictures are on Flickr.com.
  • Playing World of Warcraft on your plasma TV.  Or FarmVille, if that’s how you roll.
  • Using your TV’s surround-sound system to play your iPod while you’re cleaning.
  • Sitting on your couch and checking your email ON YOUR TV?  (Surely someone finds that exciting, right?)
  • Having HDMI-connected mini monitors in the headrests of your car, all pugged into your iPod or Blu-ray player, so the kids fall asleep on the way to Grandma’s house.

The HDMI  connector is built into many digital cable and satellite TV receivers, DVD players,  digital cameras, mobile phones, digital camcorders, game consoles, Blu-Ray players and ALL digital televisions made since 2009.

HDMI boasts:
  • Consolidation of HD video, audio, and datain a single cable
  • Enables high speed bi-directionalcommunication
  • Enables IP-based applications over HDMI
  • Transfer speeds up to 100Mbps

The newest HDMI cables even support 7 different kinds of 3d images. Did you even know there were 7 different kinds of 3d?

Stop into Yakima Networking to learn more about HDMI and get help choosing an HDMI cable that meets your needs.

(pppsssssttt- about the price… we’re way cheaper than Best Buy. I’m just saying…)

Managing Staff with Point of Sale Software

2010 June 25
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Cash Register

If you’re using an old fashioned time clock to manage your labor expenses and a cash register to track your sales, you’re losing money. Period. This method may have worked in the past, but these days, a POS system for your business is designed to handle so many different sets of numbers and replace so many old-fashioned activities, you may be surprised what a point of sale system can do for you

Electronic Time Clock

With a POS System, your employees only need to touch the screen, enter their ID number and they’re clocked in (or out) You can put an end to things like

  • punching in early in order to get paid more

Because Dinerware and other POS Systems  can be programmed to not ALLOW early clock-ins, so your schedule matters to someone other than you

  • working late or overtime without permission

Because your system can be set up to alert you about possible overtime, and late clock-outs can be set up to require a manager’s permission

Payroll Calculator

Enter employee information into your POS System and create easy records that can be saved into a spreadsheet and transferred to your Quickbooks file, or sent to the accountant or payroll service.  You’ll never have to spend another minute calculating timecards.

Easy POS Training for Staff

One excellent thing about touch-screen POS Systems like Dinerware is that they’re very easy to use.  The software is customized to your menu and pricing. New employees can be turned loose in “training mode” to explore the touchscreen options, place practice orders and learn the system on their own.  During training, costly mistakes can be avoided since the system has your prices and options programmed, just for you.

Easy Close-Out – Extreme Cash Accountability

Closing the drawer at the end of each shift is a lot easier with a POS System. Instead of rummaging through a roll of printed numbers, or checking to see if the green slips match the cash in the drawer, all you need to do is print an end-of-shift report and count the money in the drawer.  Every order that’s been entered into the system will be counted in the report. Checks, credit card sales and cash sales will be listed separately, so there’s no more cross-checking and wondering if you counted right.

New Hires and Managers

Customizable permissions allow managers to void sales and require new employees to ask for assistance when redeeming coupons, or closing a sale.  Staff with higher permission levels have access to sales reports, inventory tracking, employee files and other areas of the system.

Parental Controls for the iPod Touch

2010 June 22
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If your kids are using any of Apple’s personal devices, like the iPhone, the iPod Touch  or the iPad, take a look at the parental controls.  You might notice that they suck.  Users are given the option of creating a 4 digit passcode and then either enabling or disabling the Safari Browser, or other apps.  What if you want to allow them to use the Internet, you just don’t want them accessing adult websites or explicit videos on Youtube?

parental controls for iPhone

Parental Controls for iPod Touch and iPhone

Kid Friendly Browser Apps for iPod Touch and iPhone

In the recent Cnet article “Five Must-Have Apps for Parents,” Rick Broida recommends Mobicip.  The Mobicip browser is designed to replace Safari It blocks naughty websites completely and works with iPodTouch, iPhone, iPad and Netbooks.  So kids can still research for their homework assignment, access their email and online school assignments, but they can’t stumble into anything seedy.

Safe Eyes is another browser with built in filters to keep kids from accessing pornography on their iPhone or iPod Touch. With a price tag of $19.99, however, it’s expensive compared to the Mobicip. Reviewers at the AppStore complain that Safe Eyes won’t allow them to click on links or connect to the Internet via WiFi Hot Spots.

Installing a Kid-Safe Browser for iPad

To install the mobicip for iPad, visit the App store, search for mobicip and plunk down the $4.99 from your iTunes account, it’s worth it. Once it’s installed, launch the app and open a new account. From now on, you can log in from anywhere to block new sites or see the browsing history. To block access to Safari, you need to go to the “General” tab and “enable restrictions” then block Safari, YouTube and AppStore (unless you choose to just block Safari) the scroll down to Music Preferences and disable explicit lyrics. Then scroll down to movie settings and choose whether you want to block films higher than PG, Pg13 or R. Repeat for television shows.

By default, Mobicip blocks inappropriate search results and URL’s.

How to Remove Parental Controls from an iPad

Here’s the flaw; it’s easy to plug the iPad or Touch into any iTunes and click “restore device” to remove the parental controls.  A tech-savvy teen might even replace your parental control code with his own, in case you pick it up to double check.

Another way kids can bypass the parental controls are “jailbreaking” and installing unauthorized apps like HidePod, which looks like a calculator, but is actually a gateway to hidden files. When a secret set of symbols are typed in, HidePod reveals explicit songs, videos and pornography that were previously invisible. The default passcode for HidePod is .8008. , but it’s easy enough to create a new passcode. Remember that there will be a decimal point both before and after the passcode.

As a last resort, visit the HidePod website and enter the device’s serial number, to see if there’s been an authorized installation of HidePod. An unauthorized, or pirated, installation, will be harder to find.

So perhaps blocking your  teenager’s device might not be the wisest way to instill responsible browsing habits. You might need to <gasp> trust them. A little inappropriate browsing to satisfy a curiosity doesn’t mean a lifetime of deviant behavior.  The best way to protect your teens might just be honest communication.

Who is Phishing for your passwords?

2010 June 17
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by J Storlie

More importantly, what is phishing? There are a few ways internet scammers can steal your passwords, and that’s what phishing is all about. Just like real fishing, all they need is the right trick bait for the right kind of sucker fish.

Email Phishing Scams

Chances are, you’ve gotten an email from First Anytown Bank, alerting you that your account security has been compromised. In order to keep your account from being closed, or to keep your pending transactions from being sent back, it’s important for you to click here to log into your account right now.

The main problem with this scam is that it’s sent out to millions of people and only a small fraction of them will actually have an account with First Anytown Bank. The few suckers that fall for the trick end up being directed to a website that may look identical to the bank’s website. Hopefully they’ll notice in the address bar, that it’s not their normal bank website and close the page. If they proceed and enter their banking information, it gets saved in the scammer’s database and then they’re usually directed to their bank’s real login page, and feel much better once they see that their account is fine. Until a few days later when they see that all their money has been transfered to Dubai.

Text Message Phishing Scams

I recently got a text message telling me that my (nonexistant) account at the local credit union had been compromised and that I needed to verify information by calling an 800 number. I felt snarky and planned to call and give them a piece of my mind. However, the entire call-in process was automated, and quite impressive.

I was instructed to verify the last 4 digits of my Social Security number. The computer repeated them back to me for confirmation. While I waited to see if my SS# matched the phone number on file, I listened to a legal warning about the dangers of submitting fraudulent information. Never laugh with coffee in your nose, it’s painful.

Once their “security” system decided my phone number and bogus Social Security number were correct, I was told to enter my 16 digit bank card number. The numbers were accepted, even though I made them up. My expiration date and even the 3 digit (made up) security code on the back of my card were verified. Boy, was I relieved.

The system then thanked me for verifying my information, assured me that the credit union takes security VERY seriously, and gave me the (real) phone number to the bank’s security office. Imagine that. I wonder how many people fall for that scam. You bank will NEVER  send you a text message to verify your account, nor will they EVER ask you to input your debit card information over the phone. EVER.

Facebook Phishing

If you’ve ever accidentally spelled facebook wrong when trying to log in, you may have come across a page that looks exactly like facebook. Hopefully, you noticed before actually trying to log in. If, however, you were to enter your real email address & password into their fake login boxes, it would end up stored in their database and you’d be redirected to the real facebook to try logging in again. If this sounds familiar, go change your password right now. Phishers have been known to steal facebook accounts with the intention of blasting your family & friends with viruses or advertisements.

Any time you ever see anything posted from you, that you’re not sure about, go into your application settings and disallow access to the app. After that, change your password. Also, if you click on an application that seems to do nothing, or you visit a page that seems to do nothing… do your friends a favor and remove it from your profile. Just because 3 of your friends “liked” something with a cool title, doesn’t mean you need to perpetuate the potentially fraudulent application.

Other Facebook Phishing Attempts

See our facebook widget on the sidebar? It pulls information from our Facebook page automatically. When someone visits our site, they can “like” us from right here. It’s a good thing we’re the nice guys because if we were bad guys, we could use a corrupted widget that steals passwords. Just to be safe, when you’re visiting a site you “like” but don’t “trust” log in to Facebook from a different tab or window, then reload the page you’re on before clicking that “like” button. Or, when the login pops up, make sure the URL in the popup window begins with https://ssl.facebook.com/followedbyabunchofrandomlettersandnumbers, for security.

Paypal Phishing Scams

Paypal is a reputable Internet Bank that’s popular for online commerce. Almost daily, I get phishing emails about my Paypal account. “your Paypal account has been closed” or “re: merchant complaint 234567” or “Paypal fraud prevention alert.” Sometimes they’re impressive, using graphics similar to the Paypal website. Other times they’re not impressive, with words misspelled, bad grammar and bad punctuation.

You can help Paypal battle phishing by forwarding each one to spoof@paypal.com. If you believe that you really do need to log in to Paypal, don’t use the link in the email. Go directly to paypal and log in. If your account has any sort of alert status, you will be notified upon login.

Other Phishing Scams

Phishers are opportunistic. There’s been reports of Phishing attempts for every major US Bank, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo mail, gmail, MySpace, etc. If you work for a company who hires internet workers, you’ll likely get scammers phishing for those usernames and passwords, too.

Protecting Yourself From Phishing Attempts

If you fear you’re not observant enough to protect yourself from a phishing scam, there are other ways you can protect yourself. Be sure to take measures to educate your teenagers and the elderly in your life as well.

  • Browser Plugins: Firefox and Google Chrome browser utilize plugins- external applications that work with your browser. Security plugins can stop you from visiting acebook.com instead of facebook.com or usbamk.com instead of usbank.com
  • Your Firewall: your firewall will keep external programs from downloading files from your computer without your knowledge
  • Your anti malware and antivirus programs will keep you from installing naughty programs that look safe.

What to do if you’re a victim of Phishing

Immediately change your passwords on the affected accounts. If your email account is phished, you may need to change every password on every account associated with that email. It’s very easy for a thief to download all of your mail, then search through account information and address book without you ever knowing. Once they know your email password, they can conceivably request password assistance from your bank and other institutions.

Yakima Computer Help Forum

2010 June 7
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by J Storlie
your computer works in yakima

Computer Help Forum on Facebook

When you need computer help in Yakima, look no further than Facebook.  The Yakima Networking Facebook page is set up with a discussion tab that can work as a computer help forum.

It’s easy to get answers to your computer questions from trained professionals.  Sometimes you don’t need physical help, you just need a question answered, right?

  • My computer works fine and then suddenly restarts itself
  • My laptop computer works at home but won’t connect to the Internet at work
  • My computer works, but it’s really slow. What happened?
  • How do I install this keyboard? It didn’t come with a disk.
  • How often should I defragment my hard drive?
  • The picture on my monitor is shaky
  • Can I retrieve files from my old laptop when it won’t even turn on?

What about you, do you have any computer questions?  Where will you go when something is wrong with your computer?  (Yakima networking) Who will you ask when you need a quick question answered?  (Yakima Networking)

Bookmark the Yakima Networking Facebook page (must be logged in)

Get the most out of your laptop battery

2010 May 29
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Keep your laptop battery charged longer, by paying attention to the power settings on your computer.

Some of the newer laptop batteries hold a charge for 9 hours or more, but the life expectancy of many laptop batteries can be under 2 years. What can you do to make your fully charged battery last longer?

Prolong your Laptop Battery Life by Adjusting the brightness of the monitor.

When your laptop monitor is set at its brightest setting, it can eat up more of the electricity stored in the cells. In fact, the light from the monitor is responsible for most of the battery power you’re using. You could have fifteen tabs open on your Internet browser and it will still be the monitor light that’s responsible for your battery dying, not your browsing habits.

Keep Your Laptop Battery Charged Longer

Laptop Power Settings Can Make your Battery Stay Charged

Change your Power Settings to Make your Laptop Battery Last Longer

In a windows based system, click on Start > Control Panel > Power Options and check out the settings for Portable/Laptop power scheme. The settings can be customized as you wish, but they’re designed to turn off the monitor and hard disk as well as to put your system in standby or hibernate mode after specific periods of inactivity. Users who habitually walk away from the computer for prolonged periods throughout the day may want to change some of the settings. For example, while plugged in, the automatic standby and hibernate can be extended a few hours, rather than 20 minutes. While running on batteries, the settings should be fairly low, with the monitor turning off after just 5 minutes of inactivity and invoking system standby after as little as 15 or 20 minutes. Only you know how long you generally walk away from the computer, so these settings should be personalized, with an eye toward saving your laptop battery charge.

Save Laptop Power by Ejecting CDs and DVDs

Simply having a disk in the laptop’s CD or DVD drive eats up a considerable amount of power, even if the disk isn’t in use. If you need to access files on a disk, copy them to your hard drive before switching away from outlet power, to preserve the life of your battery. If you’re watching a DVD movie on your laptop, just keep it plugged in.

Unplug Power-Sucking Devices

When you’re trying to keep your laptop battery charged longer, don’t charge your iPod. Other external devices, like USB keyboards, a wireless mouse, thumb drives, and other fun laptop accessories you purchased at Yakima Networking shouldn’t be plugged into your laptop while you’re running on battery power because these devices use your battery’s charge in order to work.

Unplug External Devices to Save Laptop Power

Make your battery last longer by unplugging your wireless mouse

As laptop batteries age, they begin to hold less power. While your new battery may hold a 9 hour charge today, six months from now it may only hold 5 hours and that charge will get smaller and smaller as it gets older. Before you invest in a new battery, consider also that the battery’s charger degrades over time, too. Yakima Networking distributes power cords and batteries. Stop into the shop to see which needs replaced before making unnecessary purchases.