Tech – for Everyone

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

A few more items and Friday Fun

Happy Friday to you all. Here are a few more news items for your consideration.

* ANYONE NEED A BUNCH OF RUINED LAPTOPS? Why One School District Killed Its Student Laptop Program 

There is no more determined hacker… than a 12-year-old who has a computer.Read more..

[Yet again, another ‘feel good program’ fails when it bumps into reality..?]

bozoApple hit with privacy class-action over iPhone location service

Apple has been hit with a class-action suit for using the location service function on its iPhones to track customers, alleging that Apple has indeed handed over the information to third parties, including the U.S. government.Read more..

* How one judge single-handedly killed trust in the US technology industry

In a single two-hour courtroom session on Thursday morning — just in time for lunch — US District Judge Loretta Preska ruled on a case that has massive global implications for US technology giants.Read more..

Encrypt your face and foil the NSA

Surveillance cameras are everywhere, backed by sophisticated facial recognition software. But you can defeat them, the NSA and whoever else is monitoring you. Here’s how.Read more..

Latest Citadel trick allows RDP access after malware’s removal (keyword=”after”)

Attackers have updated Citadel with a new “trick” that gives them device access even after the banking malware has been detected and removed by administrators, a security firm found.Read more..

[Geekspeak note: “RDP” (remote desktop protocol) is what tech service types (such as myself) use for ‘remote repairs’. It allows me to see your screen, move your cursor as if I’m moving your mouse, type commands, etc., without visiting your home.]

* Friday Fun Video Note: the first several minutes of this is jet fighter flying stuff, but you can skip that if that’s not your thing. Slide it to 3:50.

* Today’s quote:Fun is good.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Copyright 2007-2014 © “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.
And please, never forget – one person can make a difference.
Find a way to make someone’s day today.
(Best advice I ever heard? Don’t sweat the small stuff.)


August 1, 2014 Posted by | Apple, computers, consumer electronics, News, privacy, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing the right computer for your student

This is the time of year when I am asked for advice on what computer “tech” to buy for students.

It can be daunting – shopping for a new laptop or PC – as the number of choices is immense. (And shopping for someone else isn’t as easy, either.) But the good news is that it is hard to find a laptop or PC that is not capable of (powerful enough for) ‘general use’; even the cheapest ones. And the other good news is that, because computers are just an assembly of parts, it really isn’t all that important to choose one brand over another. Better yet, almost everyone selling tech has super discounts this time of year.

parents/teachers may want to click this image

However, if your student is older, and their coursework requires taking (doing) processor-heavy stuff – such as Animation/Film, Music editing/Broadcasting, Video Game Design, Drafting/Architecture, etc. – you’ll want to look at mid-to high-end units; which have faster processors (with more “cores”), plenty of RAM (4 – 6 GB’s), bigger screens with a “graphics card” (or in the case of laptops/notebooks, what is called “discrete graphics”) of at least 1GB.

Laptop or Desktop?

For home (or the dorm) the Desktop PC is still the workhorse, and my first choice; but for students who need mobility to study in the library, take notes in the classroom, join collaborative “study sessions” at the Quad, and whatnot, it’s hard to beat a laptop. (Sorry, but no, an iPad or tablet is not really a productivity device.)

If you decide on a laptop/notebook, there are a few factors to consider – most do not come with a 10-key “numberpad”, so if your student is a math, or business major, you might want to choose a model that does. Also, you might also want to buy a (larger) monitor that can be plugged into the laptop when back in the dorm.

More essential accessories:

* I always add a wireless mouse to my laptops. If the laptop you select has Bluetooth, a Bluetooth mouse is a “must have” addition (IMHO). If it doesn’t have Bluetooth, I would recommend a small (aka “travel”) wireless mouse from Kensington.

* External backup (“storage”). Whether you opt for a 1TB “portable” USB drive, or signing your student up with a subscription to a “cloud” file storage/sync service like Dropbox or SOS, a place to store copies of their homework is essential (you wouldn’t want to have to write that essay twice, would you?) and can help prevent “the hard drive ate my homework” nightmares.

* A pair of decent speakers. Today’s world really is “multimedia”, and speakers are must-have’s. It’s just that simple. And I said “decent”, as in don’t buy the cheapest you can find. (Yes, laptops do [usually] come with some kind of ‘built-in’ speaker, but even the best of those are wimpy.) I consider headphones to be a supplement to a speaker set, but in environments with nearby roommates (such as a dorm room), headphones might be a better first choice than speakers.. (if you’re planning to use Skype to visit with your student [and/or they’re online gamers] a headset with a ‘built-in’ microphone would be a good choice.)

* Anti-theft/find-if-lost software (optional). I personally would feel better if my student’s new laptop were protected – and (possibly) recoverable – if misplaced or stolen, and software like Laptop Cop is a great addition, well-worth the added investment. (See, 6 Ways to Find Your Stolen Laptop, If your laptop is ever lost or stolen, this security software will work hard to protect your precious data and help you recover the device.)

I hope these thoughts will help you choose a unit that your student will like and get good use from. But if you were hoping for more info (such as, “what do those Giga-numbers mean to humans?” [aka “specs”]) you may also be interested in this article: What to Look for When Buying a New Computer, My Computer Shopping Guidelines (it’s older, but still pertinent and more detailed).

*    *    *

Are we ready to pay attention now? $1.5 million Cyberheist Ruins Escrow Firm

A $1.5 million cyberheist against a California escrow firm earlier this year has forced the company to close and lay off its entire staff. Meanwhile, the firm’s remaining money is in the hands of a court-appointed state receiver who is preparing for a lawsuit against the victim’s bank to recover the stolen funds.Read more

Today’s quote:I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” ~ Mark Twain

Today’s fun video (because it’s summer):

Copyright 2007-2013 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<

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

August 14, 2013 Posted by | advice, computers, consumer electronics, hardware, PC, Portable Computing, shopping for, tech | , , , , | 2 Comments

Back To School Computer Shopping Guidelines

Some of you will be shopping for a computer for a student, so today I will re-post some advice on what to look for in a new machine. I’m not going to get into a Mac versus PC debate. I am going to focus solely on hardware (the ‘capabilities’) options of a non-Mac desktop or laptop PC.

Tip(s) of the day: What to look for..
* Laptop computers. Most of what I am going to recommend today applies equally to laptops and desktops with very few exceptions. Today’s portable machines (notebook and tablet PC’s) very nearly rival the hardware capabilities of a desktop (or “tower”), and some models market themselves as a “desktop replacement”. They have large hard drives for storage, can ‘burn’ dual-layer DVD’s, have nice large screens, can access the Internet wirelessly, and are fast. Some have high-end graphics adapters that can keep up with the latest games.

Where laptops are different is: they are comparatively more expensive, they (often) depend on a battery, and they’re limited in terms of “expansion”. Expansion, quite literally, is room to “add stuff”, commonly referred to as “upgrading”. For this reason, I advise (when purchasing a notebook/laptop/tablet) differently than when buying a tower/”box” – buy the most machine you can afford. (that means, faster CPU, bigger “Gigabyte” numbers..)
Also, I advise buying the battery “upgrade”.

If you have to penny-pinch, reduce the RAM and/or go with a smaller hard drive… because these are the two components on a laptop that it is relatively easy to “upgrade” at a later date, when your finances have recovered. The other things – CPU, graphics, motherboard, sound, etc. — are not so easy to swap out/upgrade. In a Desktop PC (“tower”) there is practically nothing you cannot replace: in a laptop you’re kind of stuck, so buy as high up the scale as you can. Not just what you think you’ll need today, but buy for tomorrow as well. Because that’s the way the machine will be for its lifetime.I would look for an i3/i5/i7 CPU.

When deciding which model laptop, do not forget to compare battery life (these stats are published). Also, and I can’t stress this enough, do not buy a laptop that you haven’t typed on. Yes, you can make your purchase online or out of a catalogue, but go into a store and touch it first (sorry, all you Best Buy salespersons out there). Each keyboard and touchpad is different. Make sure you like the layout and “feel” of typing on the keyboard. There’s nothing worse (in laptop computing) than trying to work on a keyboard that just isn’t “you”–IMHO.

Considering a netbook? The portability of the compact netbook computers would certainly appeal to the student. For those who go this route, I would suggest the addition of an “external” hard drive (for more storage) as well as a DVD reader.

* Desktops: When considering which tower/desktop to buy, there’s basically three categories of machines; budget/student, workstation, and “performance”/gaming. Low, middle, and top-end. You can spend as little as $300 $250, or as much as $8,500. (Yes. $8,500. But, those systems are cool!) I have mentioned before that to do it right, you can get everything you want/need for $700 – $1,100 $399 – $899, and that even the budget machines have the “good stuff”.

My advice for what to look for in a desktop, is a little more flexible. First, decide roughly what you’d like to spend. If you really are in the $300 -500 $250-400 range, do not rule out “refurbished” machines. Factory rebuilt/refurbished machines are an excellent value. Any negative stigma they may have is largely unjustified.

Get the most RAM you can.I would not buy a PC today that had less than 4 GB’s.

If your machine is coming with Windows 7 (and most of them are), you should look for 64-bit.

Go with a mid-to-high end CPU. The quad-core CPU’s from Intel are very good, and are the latest ‘generation’. If it is in your budget, go quad-core.

Optical drives. Unless you really need a ‘high def’ burner and you want it right now, hold off on going for a “Blu Ray” burner just yet. Blu-Ray readers are available and should suffice. Two optical drives, while nice, is not a necessity. Do, however, make sure your “combo drive” can burn (”write”) to a dual-layer DVD.

Graphics. Most people do not need a $800 graphics card (only us hard-core gamers, and other boys-of-all-ages, do) nor do they need an “SLI” set up. However, whenever your budget allows, it is almost always better to have a “graphics card” than “onboard graphics”. Onboard graphics chipsets are built into the motherboard, and while they do a quite adequate job, they “share” your RAM … and by that I mean “steal” your RAM.
Please note, you can buy, and install a graphics card at any time..

Power Supply. Do not forget to check the Wattage of the machine’s power supply. Here is another area where more is definitely better. It constantly surprises me how many seemingly unrelated computer ‘glitches’ and quirks turn out to be caused by an inadequate or failing power supply. Shoot for one that’s rated in the neighborhood of 350W, unless you’re going for a more “loaded”, high-end performance machine — in which case 500W, or higher, is not unreasonable.

* Will your student be in a dorm? Consider a “small form factor” (aka “mini tower”) size. These smaller boxes fit on (or under) a desk much easier than a normal size. You can find some “bundled” with a 17″ LCD monitor.. perfect for the dorm.

Well, that should get you started. Buying a new PC should not be a stressful thing. It should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Just remember to test drive before you buy, and do a little comparison. It really doesn’t matter if you decide upon a no-name, a HP, a Sony, Dell, or whatever.(see, Which is Better, HP or Dell? and/or Tech’s Most (and Least) Reliable Brands

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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August 20, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, shopping for | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments