Saturday, 17 December 2016

Why do I keep having to update? ...My computer's just the way I like it!

Why do I keep having to update? The simplest answer to this question is money... Tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple aren't making any money while they're not selling you stuff. But wait a minute it can't be all about profits! ...can it?



The more palatable explanation is the progressive tug-of-war between hardware (your physical tech) and software (the programming that runs your tech). Here's the scenario... Tech company improves the speed and efficiency of its product hardware... then the software designers say "hey we can do new stuff with this extra processing power".... The software guys get to work on updates which take advantage of the new improved hardware... Then the hardware guys say... "Hey we can make this software run faster with this new processor"... Then (yes you guessed it) off we go again!

It has to be said... These days you'll probably replace your computer because it's software is out of date rather than it having physically broken down, certainly in the case of a higher end computer your hardware will more than likely outlive your software.



How long will this keep happening? Moores law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, the truth is we have already way surpassed this and will continue to develop new technologies and manufacturing techniques in to a future which we would today struggle to imagine.


Gordon Moore

Of course not all updates are to do with upgrades for the sake of upgrades... The majority of minor updates usually contain bug fixes and security patches with a few design tweaks and new feature roll-outs.

In summary it's a fact of life that every few years you will replace your computer for a newer, faster model as you probably do your phone or tablet. My advise is to just strap in and enjoy the ride in to the future! See my post on Backup

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Hit the road Jack!

Do you have unwanted software on your PC or Mac? In most cases the answer to this problem is probably yes. In this post I'm going to show you how easy it is to blast those old programs away.

Ok let's first look at removing programs from the PC - In Windows the method is to go to "Control Panel" then (in category view) under programs click on "Uninstall a program", once the window has populated simply click on the program you wish to uninstall and then from the menu at the top of the list click "Uninstall/Change" and follow the prompts in the wizard. That's it, you're done!




















Remember! When a program is installed on a PC files are often installed in many different places and registry entries are made, so if you tried to just delete the program as you would any other file you'd probably start getting error messages when you start your PC due to the program trying to run as instructed by a line in the registry. Don't just delete program files! Always use the correct Remove Programs tool.


Now for the Mac - Macs are a bit different as you'd expect. Apple say all you need to do to uninstall a program or application from a Mac is to delete it from the Application folder in your finder, this of course goes right against the rules for a PC, on a Mac this is perfectly safe to do. Another method I prefer is to use a third party application such as "AppClean" (which is free), which searches for related files and folders to the application you're trying to delete therefore leaving in most cases nothing behind on your system.







That's it! You will have now gained space back on your harddrive and may have even sped your computer up. Hope this post helped... Have fun! The Computer Wiz

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Just Browsing...

A Web Browser is a program or App which allows you to browse websites on your computer or other internet enabled device. Your device or operating system will have a default (go to) browser set right out of the box, for example Microsoft Windows 10 uses "Edge", Apple MacOS Sierra uses "Safari", and Linux Ubuntu uses "Firefox" ...BUT ...The bowser you use is ultimately up to you, you can choose from the browsers available to your operating system. My personal favourite browser on the Mac is Safari, and on a PC I find Google Chrome to be quite nippy.

There are a few features, or tools common to most browsers ...Let's take a closer look!

The Search Box, or Address Bar. Usually the Address Bar and Search bar are unified nowadays, in other words you can enter a direct URL such as "cpwiz.co.uk (Uniform Resource Locator - Web Address 😏) into the bar or a search phrase such as "Computer Wiz".



A Search box within a website such as Google will just give you search results, it won't go directly to the site entered.


Home Button, this pretty much does what it says on the tin... Click the button and wherever you are on the web you'll be taken back to your home page faster than Mr Spock can beam from the Starship Enterprise to the alien planet below.



Back & Forward Buttons, this is how we navigate backwards and forward through web pages on the internet.



Tabs, probably one of the best modern browser innovations. Tabs allow multiple web pages to be open at once in one browser window. For example you could have hotels for your holiday up in one tab and flights and car parking open in other tabs. Open and close tabs as you need them.



Favourites or Bookmarks Bar, (named either, let's go with bookmarks bar) keeps all your bookmarks accessible at the top of your browser window.



That's covered the basic features common to most browsers, the browser you finally decide to settle with will probably be chosen for it's key features, for me I prefer Safari on the Mac because my favourites sync across all of my devices and I love the "Reading List" feature which is kind of a temporary bookmarks feature. See my post on Eco Systems.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spammity Spam, Wonderful Spam!

Taking its name from the 1970 Monty Python sketch "Spam", Spam has become the term used for unsolicited messages, in this case email, text and now even iCal invites. In simple terms it's Internet junk mail.



Nobody likes Spam, so let's talk about best practices on how to deal with it.

  1. Don't give away your email address to just anyone - When either completing an online form or even giving your email address to a sales rep over the phone make sure you "opt-out of marketing". Why not set up a junk email address just for online offers etc, that way you can just delete all email (including spam) to that email account.
  2. Don't click the links - or interact with the spammers in any way. By responding your telling the spammers that theirs someone there and then you'll probably never get rid of them! Just delete the message and move on...
  3. What about those new pesky iCal invites? Be on the look out for spam calendar invitations for $19.99 Ray Ban sunglasses. THIS IS SPAM! I found this handy blog post which explains how to deal with it (This affects Mac or iPhone/iPad users only). http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/258424/spam-icloud-calendar-invitation
  4. Unsubscribe - If the email is from a genuine (honest) source then simply clicking the "Unsubscribe" link at the top or bottom of the email should remove you from their mailing list, BUT... Be warned you may just be confirming to the spammer you exist and end up with even more junk. The best advice is to be vigilant, slow down and think... is this a genuine sender you've heard of before, in which case go ahead unsubscribe, if it looks dodgy then just delete and move on...
  5. Antispam - This is a tricky one, because sometimes anti spam software can stop you receiving genuine email confusing it with "Junk", so it's a case of fine tuning the software to get the right balance. This brings me neatly on to my final bullet... Black & White Lists...
  6. Black & White Lists - Some email service providers who have Anti-spam built in use Black Lists and White Lists to decide whether an email is genuine and should be sent to the mailbox. A Black List is a list of Bad (or Black) email addresses that should always be blocked, while (yes you guessed it) A White List is a list of Good (or White) email addresses that should always be sent on to the mailbox. ISP's (Internet Service Providers) that provide Anti-Spam usually have some sort of portal or control panel you can log into to add to your Black or White lists manually.

...and now for something completely different!

  • Egg and bacon
  • Egg, sausage and bacon
  • Egg and Spam
  • Egg, bacon and Spam
  • Egg, bacon, sausage and Spam
  • Spam, bacon, sausage and Spam
  • Spam, egg, Spam, Spam, bacon and Spam
  • Spam, Spam, Spam, egg and Spam
  • Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam
  • Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâtébrandy and a fried egg on top, and Spam.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Play Nicely... Let's Talk Ecosystems

Ecosystems in terms of tech are the services which a company (i.e. Apple or Microsoft) offer to make its tech work nicely together. Apple has iCloud and Microsoft has the Microsoft Account & Office 365, and let's not forget Linux flavour "Ubuntu" with its own online service.

It goes without saying that its in that company's interest to promote brand loyalty through its ecosystem but it pays to commit. As you can see from the diagram below Apple, Microsoft & Google have worked very hard to build their own respective ecosystems.



It could be said that trying to get one piece of tech to work with another alternative brand can feel a little like trying to put a square peg in a round hole, BUT when that tech is designed to work together life becomes much simpler! With the right eco system you can start thinking in terms of cloud-centric as opposed to computer-centric, for example when an email comes in multiple devices ping all at the same time and you just go for the closest device... Simples!

See also my post on Cloud Computing

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Keyboard Shortcuts (will totally change your life!)

Keyboard shortcuts often appear daunting to many users and difficult to remember. BUT... Persevere! The effort in learning just a few simple keyboard shortcuts will totally change your life! (well ok... just a little bit... but it's still worth it).

To keep thing simple in this post we'll talk about just Windows and Mac keyboard shortcuts (we'll leave linux to the geeks!) Most simple (2 key) shortcuts use a combination of either ctrl (control) + "Key" for Windows or  (command) + "Key" for Mac, i.e. ctrl+c for "Copy" on Windows or +v for "Paste" on a Mac. Some more complex keyboard shortcuts use combinations of 3 or even 4 keys, but don't let this put you off as your fingers will soon get used to where to go on the keyboard.



Ok... Let's put what we've learnt in to practice with a really easy shortcut... "Print" Open any small file email, webpage or letter etc, then with that windows selected hold down the ctrl key, and then with that key still held down hit the letter "p" and then release both keys. Now you should see the "Print" dialogue appear on your screen... Pat yourself on the back you just did your first keyboard shortcut! 😊 (for Mac users just replace ctrl with  .)

Now that wasn't too bad was it! Here are links to both Windows and Mac keyboard shortcut sheets, get stuck in and have fun!

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts | Mac Keyboard Shortcuts   💬Don't forget to ctrl+p or +p when you open the linked PDF's.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

What is Cloud Computing?

For many years user data has been computer-centric, a major floor with this approach is that is that if the computers' hard drive fails without a backup you're up the proverbial creek without a paddle as the data is lost with the hard drive. A second issue with computer-centric data storage is that it can be tricky to access your data when not at your computer.

Cloud computing solves these and many other issues by storing data online (in the cloud) affording access to data securely and in sync across multiple devices. All your data, everywhere, all the time.

How cloud computing works




Is iCloud Cloud Computing? Technically yes... iCloud is a cloud service provided by Apple, iCloud offers a variety of services in the cloud such as Mail, File Storage, Calendar, Contacts to name just a few. Other cloud service include One-drive, Dropbox, Box and Google Docs.

Here's how Wikipedia describes cloud computing: Cloud computing is a type of Internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., computer networks, servers, storage, applications and services),[1][2] which can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in third-party data centers[3] that may be located far from the user–ranging in distance from across a city to across the world. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Do I need fibre? ...and what is it?

Fibre Broadband is a high speed broadband service connecting you to the Internet. The much higher upload and download speeds of a Fibre Internet Connection affords the use of HD online streaming of TV and Movies allowing you to watch what you want, when you want. If you have a family all fighting for a broadband connection and you're encountering buffering the Fibre would most certainly alleviate this.

According to Wikipedia Fibre is a broadband service with an underlying network is fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), which uses optical fibre for all except the final few hundred metres to the consumer, and delivers claimed download speeds of "up to 76 Mbit/s" and upload speeds of "up to 19 Mbit/s" depending on package selected.[1] The fibre terminates in a new roadside cabinet containing a DSLAM, from where the final connection to the customer uses VDSL2 technology.





Another advantage of Fibre Broadband is that most Software manufacturers such as Microsoft and Apple have now moved away from physical methods of distribution such as CD's and DVD's and have adopted downloads instead. As a VERY rough example Apple's new OS macOS Sierra would take over 2 hours to download over standard broadband, the same download over fibre would take around 15 minutes!

















Ok I'm interested in Fibre Broadband but who should I buy from?

I usually recommend BT Infinity to my customers but in the interest of fairness to other providers here's a link to broadbandchoices.co.uk



Wednesday, 26 October 2016

BACKUP! BACKUP! BACKUP!

Unfortunately most people only think about backups when it's too late! As you're reading this post ask yourself "Do I have a backup of all those family photos, music, work or homework?" if the answer is no, read on...



Backing up your stuff doesn't have to be complicated in fact it's as simple as not keeping all your eggs in one basket. There are many ways to backup your files, probably the most simple method is to copy your important files to a USB pen drive and put it away in a safe place.



There are numerous ways to backup your computer, here a few of my preferred methods:


  1. USB pen drive (or USB stick) - This method is as simple as it gets, no software to install or accounts to setup, just plug in the drive and copy your files across. Note a USB external harddrive will suit larger file size requirements.
  2. Use your computers own built in backup program - On Windows 10 you'll find Backup in System Settings, just plug in an external USB harddrive and follow the prompts to setup. Once setup this method is fully automatic and will quietly get on with backing up your files in the background. On macOS or OS X the built in backup program is called "Time Machine", just plug in an external harddrive and when asked say "Yes I want to use this drive for Time Machine Backup".
  3. Cloud Storage - typically this refers to paid services such as Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or even iCloud (Mac). Cloud storage is my preferred method, once you can get your head around the fact that they're looking after your data and not you (not great for control freaks) cloud storage allows you to just put your files in a specific folder and relax, the software installed on your computer takes care of the rest uploading and syncing your files with their server on the internet (cloud). Dropbox, Box and OneDrive all pretty much work the same way as far as you the end-user is concerned, but iCloud Drive by Apple is a little different, iCloud Drive takes your "Documents" and "Desktop" files and syncs them automatically to the cloud allowing you to access your files on any of your Apple devices, as most people tend to "dump" most of their stuff on the desktop I love this approach. Which ever cloud service you use the idea of all your files being on multiple devices all the time successfully lends its self to the basket of eggs rule.
  4. Number 4 isn't really a preferred method of mine - Backup Software, don't get me wrong some backup programs are great BUT sometimes they can be a little complicated to setup, and sometimes the restore files can only be accessed by that program (no good if it's a new computer and you don't have the program anymore!)
When to backup? Ask your self one simple question... How much data can I afford to loose.

...and finally if you do one thing today BACKUP!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Pa55w0rds123!

Let's start with a simple question... If a locksmith changed a lock in your home and then handed you the keys, would you just put them on the side and forget them? ...or would you keep them in a safe place, where you know where to find them?...after all you won't get in your house without them!

Of course you'd keep them safe ...right???



When it comes to passwords people misplace them all the time. It's incredible how many times when I ask a customer to enter their password when fixing a computer problem we enter into the usual TV gameshow of "Try This!". Is it "Password123"? Is it "Mydogiscute55"? Is it "letmein"?



Passwords are important... Don't treat them any differently to that new set of keys! Follow these 3 simple rules and your passwords will be there when you need them.


  1. Don't be predictable - You might think Pa55w0rd123 is a clever password and that the bad guys would never guess that one... YOU'RE WRONG!!! Don't go for obvious words in obvious combinations.
  2. A different Password for everything - Just like those keys are different for each door, your passwords should be different for each login. Yes I know it's a pain, but think about it, if the bad guys guess one password they've got access to everything... NOT GOOD!
  3. Keep your passwords safe - You wouldn't just throw your keys in the air and hope you find them later would you? ...then don't do it with your passwords, keep them safe. You could try and keep them all in your head (a bit tricky for most people) but it's much easier to either write them down in a book and keep it safe, use a password manager such as passpack.com, but whatever you do keep your passwords safe.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

S.C.A.M.


Internet scams are only too common, I hear of many on an almost daly basis. I'll give you some tips to help you avoid getting scammed in this post. To help you remember what to watch out for remember this Mnemonic:


Let's look at each of these headings...

SCHEMING - Online scammers will often either try to deceive you by pretending to be someone or something else, or will try to lure you in with offers or deals that seam too good to be true (they usually are). Sometimes they'll try to trick you in to thinking you've won a competition (THINK! Did you ever enter that competition?). Golden Rule... Treat EVERYTHING with suspicion, take a moment and just think "Does this feel right?". DELETE - RUN AWAY - IGNORE

CRAFTY - Scammers are now turning to less conventional means to gain access to your computer, or even your wallet. As most people are becoming much more clued-up on keeping safe online the scammers often rely on non-technical approaches such as calling you on the phone and pretending to be a genuine company. I myself am not immune to this approach, I once received a phone call from "Microsoft Explorer", the not-Gentleman explained my computer had a virus and that I should follow his instructions immediately to avoid loss of data (or something like that). I kept the scammer on the phone for about an hour and then revealed I was on a Mac... he was NOT amused! This brings me on to the next heading...

AGGRESSIVE - My scammer immediately became aggressive and let's just say wasn't very polite! I of course new exactly what I was doing in my little pay-back game (don't do that at home folks!). At the point where the scammer feels he's loosing you (you're becoming suspicious) he will attempt to make you feel intimidated, stupid, flustered or even sorry for him, these are all tactics... DON'T FALL FOR IT! 

MALICIOUS - And finally if they're not after you wallet they may simply be trying to infect your computer with Malware. Now if you're on a Mac you probably thinking I'm alright I'm on a Mac, they can't touch me, well you're WRONG! Macs do indeed have very good security, BUT that security can't protect YOU from YOU. If you enter your system password in when the nice man asks you to that simply saves him having to hack your system. DON'T DO ANYTHING THEY ASK YOU TO... HANG UP!

In summary... If you think that email or phone call is genuine, contact that company (looking up the contact details yourself - don't use the contact details they give you, they could be false) directly, you'll then find out if you've cleverly avoided a scam.

My thoughts... I still believe there are more good people in the world than bad people but stay vigilant as they're banking (quit literally) on your kindness!



Hope this helps... Marc (aka The Computer Wiz) Simmons | See also my post on Antivirus.



Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Warp Factor 9 Mr. Scott... SSD vs HDD

SSD vs HDD... What are they? ...and what's the difference?

According to Wikipedia an SSD (Solid State Drive) is: A solid-state drive (SSD, also known as a solid-state disk[1][2][3]) is a solid-state storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently. SSD technology primarily uses electronic interfaces compatible with traditional block input/output (I/O) hard disk drives, which permit simple replacements in common applications.[4] Additionally, new I/O interfaces, like SATA Express and M.2 have been designed to address specific requirements of the SSD technology. SSDs have no moving mechanical components. This distinguishes them from traditional electromechanical magnetic disks such as hard disk drives (HDDs) or floppy disks, which contain spinning disks and movable read/write heads.[5] Compared with electromechanical disks, SSDs are typically more resistant to physical shock, run silently, have lower access time, and lower latency.[6] However, while the price of SSDs has continued to decline over time,[7] consumer-grade SSDs are (as of 2016) still roughly four times more expensive per unit of storage than consumer-grade HDDs.[8]





According to Wikipedia a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) is: hard disk drive (HDD), hard diskhard drive or fixed disk[b] is a data storage device used for storing and retrieving digital information using one or more rigid rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material. The platters are paired with magnetic heads arranged on a moving actuator arm, which read and write data to the platter surfaces.[2] Data is accessed in a random-access manner, meaning that individual blocks of data can be stored or retrieved in any order and not only sequentially. HDDs are a type of non-volatile memory, retaining stored data even when powered off.





Now that's the tech bit out of the way...

Many existing computers and laptops come with HDD's pre-installed as they're cheaper and can offer large storage capacities on a budget. While HDD's are fine for most users once you've experienced the massively increased speeds of SSD's you won't want to go back to regular HDD's. Typically an SSD drive is 10x the speed of a HDD which makes this one of the most noticeable upgrades your computer or laptop can have fitted.

Most computers are capable of running on SSD drives though sometimes an adapter or bracket may be required. A consideration for laptops is that SSD drives use less battery power than regular HDD's which is a handy bonus, plus they're more durable if your laptop gets knocked or even dropped (even if the laptop doesn't survive the SSD probably will).

The downside of SSD's is the upside of HDD's, SSD's are much more expensive and space comes at a premium, typically a new laptop with an SSD drive will cost you an extra £200 with 1/4 of the space of its regular HDD counterpart, but the massive speed difference makes this still a desirable option.

Best of both worlds...

Hybrid drives SSHD or as Apple markets them "Fusion" Drives deliver the best of both worlds, combining SSD with HDD in one package. The SSHD delivers very nearly the speed of an SSD with the storage capacity of a HDD at a price point usually somewhere between the two. Hybrid or SSHD drives are perfect for people who want SSD speeds on a budget while not compromising on storage capacity.


If you would like to know more about SSD or SSHD upgrades just call 01553 660941 and The Computer Wiz will be happy to discuss your requirements in more detail.

Friday, 23 September 2016

AntiVirus Software... Don't get ripped off!

When it comes to protecting your PC from viruses and malware there are many differing opinions out there, but many either come with hidden engenders or are simply ill-advised.



Many computer manufacturers and retailers either pay to have their software pre-installed on your new PC, or get paid commission to sell the software, it's big business! The truth is... YOU DON'T HAVE TO SPEND A PENNY!

I advise two essential programs which will keep your PC protected from both viruses and malware:

  1. Windows Defender - If you have Windows 8 or Windows 10 you already have it. Windows Defender is built right into your operating system (they don't tell you that). It's made by Microsoft and can even obtain updates from within Windows update. It's mighty, slender and FREE. All you need to do is uninstall your current AV software (if you have any installed) and then search for "Defender", pin it to your task bar and your done!
  2. MalwareBytes - is a very thorough anti-malware program, the free version has to be run manually when you suspect your PC might be vulnerable. There is a paid version which runs in the background but this isn't essential.
Final note: I'm not condoning stuffing your PC full of so-called security software (most of which just slows your PC down) because it's always much better to only install what you use, this will ensure you have a nice clean, quick PC.

ALWAYS think before you click, and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is! Don't forget no AV or AM software can protect you from you. :)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Say hello to Siri on your Mac



Say hello to Siri on your Mac

macOS Sierra will be landing in the UK around 18:00 tomorrow evening. Book your upgrade with The Computer Wiz by calling 01553 660941 or email help@cpwiz.co.uk.
 

What's all the fuss about?


macOS Sierra main features & enhancements:

  • Siri on your desktop. 
  • Copy on one device. Paste on another.
  • Auto Unlock with Apple Watch.
  • iCloud Drive.
  • Apple Pay.
  • Optimised Storage.
  • Photos.
  • Messages.
  • iTunes.
  • Tabs.
  • Picture in Picture.

What we'll do:

  • Make sure your Mac is capable of running the upgrade.
  • Ensure all your stuff is backed up.
  • Hi speed install, no long downloads required.
  • Email & iCloud correctly configured.
  • Get your applications running correctly. (update software as required)
  • Make sure your Printers & Scanners are working normally. (update drivers as required)
Then we'll introduce you to macOS Sierra and some of its best new features!

macOS Sierra version 10.12 is available free from the Apple App Store on compatible Macintosh computers. The service provided by The Computer Wiz is a managed installation service.