Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

New tech security resource

Also, a $99 “PC Stick” (That comes with Windows 10)

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that I, for the first time in ages, have added a new referral link to my ‘blogroll’; CNet’s recently announced Security and Antivirus Center. I recommend taking a look-see.

cnet_sc* The best security apps and expert advice

Today we’re thrilled to launch our new Security and Antivirus Center. Our goal: to give you the tools and tactics you need to protect your privacy, your data, and your devices. You’ll find guides, reviews, and how-tos, including tips on banishing bloatware from your PC, tweaking your browser settings for better security, and building better passwords. We’re especially pleased to present our Best recommendations: we’ve tested security software and services and have declared a winner for best VPN, best password manager, and best cloud backup. Come check it out and let us know what else you’d like to see.Read more..

Other Items (of possible interest):
* The best tool for protecting your kids (or employees) from malware and porn

One of the industry’s best security tools gives a hand to frazzled parents.Read more..

[Note: worth reading even if you are not a parent, IMHO.]

* Archos $99 PC Stick is latest Windows computer that fits in your pocket

The French device maker joins Lenovo and Intel in offering a miniature system that connects to your HDTV via HDMI, but its version is cheaper and will ship with Windows 10 pre-installed.Read more..

Today’s quote:It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” ~ Yogi Berra

Copyright 2007-2015 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

June 25, 2015 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, encrypting files, how to, Internet, Portable Computing, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Tips For Choosing A Cloud Backup Provider

Loyal readers know that I harp on having a good backup solution in place and working for you (to insure your data, and to make recovering from ‘disaster’ easier). And loyal readers have heard me say that my articles about ‘backups’ are real ratings bombs.

For example.. I wrote a rather informative article, A Parachute for Your PC | Advice about “online backup” solutions, (which included links to reviews of such services) and it got maybe 20 reads.

But this is an important topic, and online backup is a viable option that folks should be aware of, so .. the link above is a reco’d read, and also there’s this reco’d read: Five tips for backing up your data to the cloud

“Cloud backups may seem like an ideal offsite storage solution. But as Brien Posey discovered, you need to do your homework before selecting a cloud backup service.

In many ways, the cloud has solved the problem of storing data backups offsite. In spite of all the marketing hype the cloud has been receiving lately, though, it is not necessarily the ideal solution when it comes to backing up your network. Here are a few factors you may want to consider before you adopt a cloud backup solution.”

Now.. since I used the word “cloud”.. and”parachute”.. and it is the weekend…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

YouTube – Blue Angels, posted with vodpod

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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March 5, 2011 Posted by | computers | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Time Travel Fights Infection

The Windows’ System Restore tool (see, My favorite Life Saver flavor? System Restore) gives us the ability to try to undo unhappy changes by reverting our computers’ system files to an earlier (pre-damage) point in time. This can, and often does, “save our bacon”

This cool ability to go back in time – and undo bad changes – has many people believing that they can undo a malware infection by simply going back to a time point before the infection happened.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

But the idea is a good one.

Many people are trying to create just such a type of anti-malware “system restore” – and virtualization technology seems to be the way this might be accomplished. The idea being, by running a virtual machine, if/when you get attacked and infected, it’s only the fake (“virtual”) machine that’s infected — your real machine is safe. This concept is the current wave of thinking, and development trend. It’s somewhat new.
But let’s face it: modern malware is military grade, and our current antivirus technologies are woefully behind the curve. Some new method of defense is needed.

Aside from going fully virtual, there are currently three main “virtual time machines” available to us consumers, and by great good fortune, two of my favorite tech writers each reviewed one this week, and I have been testing the third.

* Please see, Download Shadow Defender – Virtualized Intrusion Prevention
“Shadow Defender is an intrusion prevention system that is non-intrusive, and after initial setup, requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user.

Simply put, Shadow Defender, when active, creates a virtual environment on your computer by redirecting all changes to your system to an unused location on your Hard Drive.”

* Please see, Comodo Time Machine – A Powerful System Restore Utility
“If you are looking for an utility that will literally save your PC’s butt, then Comodo Time Machine may be the answer you are looking for. What this innovative utility does is take snapshots of your PC and archives those snapshots so that if you experience a computer problem (like a malware or virus attack), you simply revert back in time to one of the snapshots you had previously taken.”

I have been experimenting with  the third such program, Returnil.
Returnil virtualization technology clones a computer’s System Partition and boots the PC into this system rather than native Windows, allowing you run your applications in a completely isolated and secure environment. All activity is then performed within the virtual environment, ensuring that the operating system itself cannot be compromised by viruses, other malicious software, bad installations or user error. A simple reboot is all that is required to return the PC to its original state.”

About Returnil, I will say this: if you are interested in this program, download – and read – the User Manual. It is absolutely essential. [update: review, Download Free Returnil Virtual System 2010 Home]

About these programs in general, I will offer my humble opinion — I don’t think they are the silver bullet we’re looking for; are not quite ready for Prime Time; and are no substitute for a full backup (kept elsewhere, such as on an external drive or DVD’s). But I do think they may very well be the best defense currently available to us, and I certainly think you should be aware of them .. so why not click the links provided above and read these excellent reviews.

[note: System Restore is limited to only system files. A more “robust” answer is needed for your personal files – such as a true backup program/system, and/or Shadow Copy (see, Enable ShadowCopy On Home Editions / XP), and/or a “snapshot” backup program like Norton’s GoBack.]

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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March 16, 2010 Posted by | advice, antivirus, computers, hackers, how to, PC, security, software, System Restore, tech, Virtual Machine | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Best CPU? Hardware Upgrade, cont.

Welcome back to my series on my new recommendations for those who are interested in maximum computer performance. This series is about a specific, high-end, upgrade path. For more general and generic advice & How To on hardware upgrades, please see Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU.

I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI ‘rig’ and its performance is impressive. I am quite taken with the combo. In the previous articles I have so far covered:

* Intel i7-920: Hyper-threading, new chip architecture, and easy (stable) over-clocking give this CPU “chip” performance numbers that make it arguably the best CPU available to us “consumers” today. And it has been around long enough now that the price has dropped to “reasonable”.

* I went with the newer X58 chipset because the X58 motherboards have the ICH10R chip, which allows dual x16 (or quad x8) PCI Express 2.0 graphics card support, and supports Solid State Drives.

As I mentioned earlier, if upgrading to an “i-Series” CPU, you will need a new motherboard, and I reco’ a X58. It is fair to warn you that X58 “mobo’s” are rather pricey. I overcame certain reservations and – due to a “clearance sale” – picked up a MSI X58M (the “M” indicates “microATX”). A detailed review of which is here.

MSI-X58M[note: I also purchased a 5-year “replace with no questions asked” extended warranty, which covered the RAM, mobo, and CPU for a very reasonable fee. Ask your retailer what their policies are. (The RAM already had Lifetime..)]

Please understand that while I am recommending an X58 chipset motherboard, I am not necessarily recommending this particular MSI board. I am happy with it, yes, but it was a unique special discount price that was my decision factor. I would not go with a “mini” (or “micro”) ATX board by choice, primarily because the number of expansion slots are fewer.
To help you decide on a board, here are some comparisons/reviews (by date published):
* X58 Motherboard Roundup Review
* ExtremeTech’s X58 Motherboard Roundup
* X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards
* 7 Intel Core i7 X58 Motherboards Tested and Compared
* Intel X58 Motherboard Roundup – What does $300 Get You?

These boards vary greatly in number of slots (including graphics slots), features, performance, and price — so do a bit of pre-planning. Do you need four graphics slots, or will one do (if so, a P55 board may work for you…)

Biggest boost?
In my writing so far, the CPU, motherboard, and dual graphics cards have taken center stage. And one could argue “as well they might!”, but RAM is where you really put the “turbo” in a PC’s performance — upgrading your RAM is the first thing (in terms of hardware upgrades) you look at.


Patriot 6GB PC3-12800 kit

Fact is — the primary motivation for me to act, and do this upgrade was I wanted “tri-channel” DDR3 .. and I wanted 1600MHz. If you have read this series this far.. maybe you do too.

The primary benefit of DDR3 is the ability to transfer at twice the data rate of DDR2, enabling higher bus rates and higher peak rates than earlier memory technologies. For best performance, DDR3 should be installed in identical sets of 3, and I definitely advise purchasing a “3-pak” to ensure all three modules are the same.

I happened to find an unbeatable price on a Patriot Gamer Series PC3-12800 6GB DDR3 Kit (review here), but I have no idea what the best deal is today. I’m a “most bang for your buck” shopper. For those of you who are a bit more discriminating:
* Mainstream-Ready? DDR3-1600 Shootout
* The Great DDR3 1600MHz Memory Showdown
* | Focus on DDR3
* Benchmarkreviews: DDR3 Review Series

Winding down for today…
Since we are talking about cutting-edge hardware here, and “enthusiast”-level performance gear (aka “high-end”) means that these items will not be in the “student” or “budget” price ranges – some “sticker shock” is to be expected. That said, prices have come down on these items enough that you are no longer paying the premium. Still, you can buy a whole new PC for less than an i-Series upgrade…

I was able to use my existing power supply and graphics cards. And at least for now, I am not going to go nuts over-clocking the CPU, so I can stay with the stock CPU cooler and I had a well-ventilated gaming case. This reduced my upgrade cost but your situation might be different — an i7 upgrade path probably will require a more powerful PSU and more efficient cooling, and you should budget accordingly.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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March 1, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Child-Safe Internet (Browsers)

Folks, my apologies to those of you who are looking for Part 3 of my performance upgrade series. A rash of rogue infections has had me performing non-stop repairs this week as the cyberciminals are “poisoning” more and more legitimate websites (please read [and refer friends and family to] Your Computer Is Lying To You… The Epidemic Of Rogues. Hey, Mr. “Cyber Czar”. You listening?).

Today I only have time to suggest a quick reading recommendation. It is a bit dated, but contains much good information for parents.

How do you keep you kids on child-safe sites when you can’t watch over their shoulders as they surf? With a child-safe browser.

Please read Neil J. Rubenking’s, Child Safe Browsers

*     *     *

* This just out: Keep Your Child Safe Online

From online bullies to perverts to the lure of time-wasters like YouTube, there are far too many ways unsupervised kids of any age can get into trouble on the Internet. We look at a baker’s dozen ways to keep your kids out of trouble online—whether they’re toddlers or teens or thirty-something return-to-the-nesters.

Today’s free download: Download Over 5000 National Geographic Wallpapers with One Click

February 26, 2010 Posted by | kids and the Internet, security | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech Paul’s Top Lists List

In this, the retailer’s make-or-break shopping period, you have no doubt seen at least one shopping gift idea ‘guide’.. or ‘Top Gift’s For 2009’ list.
(I have already lost track of how many of these I’ve seen..)

And you’ve probably been reminded — at least once — that there is ONLY x SHOPPING DAYS ‘TILL CHRISTMAS.

So I won’t remind you how many days you have left, but I will simply be unable to prevent myself from showing you a list– my list of the best lists.

Tech Paul’s Top Lists List

This being a Tech site, it is only natural that my list of lists should include some distinctly tech-oriented lists.. lists with names like “Gift Ideas For The Gadget Freak” (note, if this really is somebody’s list title.. I apologize)

* PC Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide is divided into categories, and starts with Desktop computers. The editors at PC Mag use several criteria for determining their top picks; including value, performance.. and the all-important “kewl factor”.

* Tom’s Guide has the Shopping Guide: Black Friday and Beyond : Getting Bang For Your Buck which is also divided into categories; TVs, Cameras & camcorders, Game consoles, peripherals, etc.

* For those on a budget (and, who isn’t?) has some interesting ideas that might very well spark an idea for those hard-to-shop-for folks on your list (not exclusively X-mas-oriented ideas found here too).

* A site on my Blogroll, MyTechTalk, has posted some nifty gift ideas here, 8 Gift Ideas from Amazon – for any budget- for the Tech Lover on your List, and here Consider Online Gifts for the Web Surfer on your List.

* Sometimes, it is important to know what NOT to buy, and so I recommend a visit to the Consumer Product Safety Commission site, where you can check to make sure the item you’re considering is not on a recall list.

* Toms Hardware: actually, I don’t need to go much further than Tom’s.

  • Part 1: Tom’s Hardware—No Hassle Hardware Gifts, Good To Go
  • Part 2: Tom’s Guide—Top Kid Tech Gifts For 2008
  • Part 3: Tom’s Guide—Great Gifts For Tech Gurus
  • Part 4: Tom’s Hardware—Hardware For The System Builder In Your Life
  • Today’s free link: Rick Robinette over on has found and posted a geek video that may just replace White & Nerdy as the Geek Music Video. Click here and check it out.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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    December 7, 2008 Posted by | advice, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

    Online storage for data backup

    Backup your data. Backup your files. Backup your pictures. Backup your ‘system state’. Backup, backup, backup!

    Backup your files. Please. (with sugar on top.)

    Dear Reader, if your hard drive died.. would you lose valuable tax records? Irreplaceable photographs? How about your address book? Or.. have you followed my advice, so oft repeated here, and made two separate backups and stored them in two different locations/media types? If you have, you just may have saved yourself some tears of sorrow and frustration. (And if you run a business, maybe your livelihood.)
    A good backup will mean the difference between a couple hours’ of inconvenience –in case of a failure– and total loss. Just recently, I wrote an article on how having the second backup saved my bacon on an XP machine (see Back in the saddle) when its hard drive decided enough was enough.
    I cannot say it often enough: computers are complex devices and their parts DO fail (and usually provide little or no warning before they do). Make some copies of your stuff.

    Tip of the day: consider storing one of your system backups online. Online backups are convenient, (most are) secure, and most important, offsite. “Off-site” means, literally, “not here”, but “over there”. This is a key element in enterprise “Disaster Continuity” and you can implement it as well by taking advantage of an online storage service.
    Think of it as being like your safety deposit box. If your house (God forbid) were to burn down, get hit by a meteor, or swallowed by an earthquake.. and everything inside destroyed, you still have copies of your vital documents in your safety deposit box (right?).
    With an online storage service, you “upload” your files, via the Internet, to somebody’s server.. where they sit until you need them. When you need them, (and, I understand, hopefully you never will.. but.) you simply “download” them back onto your repaired machine.

    A reader has written to ask me which of the many online storage services I recommend (thanks, Bryan W.) and inspired today’s article. Sorry to say, I don’t have a “favorite”. What I can do is tell you what to look for, and point you to a comparison list. Fair enough?

    * Security: the storage service you want will have security in place so that some hacker can’t come rifling through the server, and read all your vital docs. (you wouldn’t want your bank to leave the vault wide open, and all the safety deposit boxes unlocked.. would you?) This is usually accomplished through encryption. Look to see if the data transfer occurs using SSL, that the account is fully password protected and your stored data is encrypted by some method.
    * Price: some of these “storage solutions” are quite pricey, charging 10 times as much as others. Why? Shrug. Because they can? While price alone shouldn’t be a deciding factor, be aware that some places gouge.
    * Size: These storage services charge you by how many Gigabytes you are going to take up on their server. There are MANY free online storage providers for very small allotments (typically 5GB’s, but some go all the way to 35GB’s), but these really won’t hold a full system state backup.. you need a “plan” that will allow you to store backup copies of each of your hard drives– with a little room to spare. But unless you’re a big corporation, you won’t need Terabytes.
    To quickly see how much data is currently on your hard-drive, Open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista) and right-click on the icon representing your hard-drive(s), and choose “Properties” from the context menu. You will see a pie chart showing the total size of your files and folders.

    Today’s free link: PC World magazine has two comparison charts of online storage providers: read this first, (reviews 17 providers) then click here, (for 6 more) which will give you their number one pick(s). Then take a look at Tom’s Hardware discussion/article (click here) and, may I suggest, skipping ahead to the Conclusion will give you their results.
    * My friend Mike, over on My Tech Talk, has also written about his experiences with online storage.
    * And Bill Mullins discusses Mozy here.

    [update 5/1/08: PCMag has just published a new article with updated reviews. They say say a new service, SOS, has ursurped the throne from Mozy. To read this updated review, click here. (I still suggest reading the others, as well, though.)]

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    April 26, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, how to, PC, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments