Passwords…Again

July 20, 2018

Passwords…Again

I know we keep writing articles about passwords, but it’s because they are so important. And we have some new and interesting information for you.

Having a good password is important. Many people set a password and say, “Nobody will guess that password.”. However, the truth is, most of the time a password is cracked, not guessed. Password cracking programs use many different methods to try and crack a password. That’s why having a strong password is so important.

What are most likely ways a hacker can get your password?

  1. They hack into a vendor’s system and steal all of their customers passwords. There’s not much you can do about this other than keep an eye on your account and on the news and change your passwords every so often.
  2. Malware, phishing emails, or fake websites trick you into telling them your password. To avoid this, make sure you have good security on your computer, be careful what you open and where you click, and keep tabs on your accounts.
  3. They use a password cracking program to figure out your password.
    Have a strong password to prevent this. Use a different password for each account.

As you know, there have been a lot of hacks in the last few years and a lot of passwords were stolen. Wpengine.com recently analyzed a large set of Gmail accounts and their passwords that had been stolen and posted online. The results of their analysis were very interesting. You can read their full article by going to http://www.wpengine.com/unmasked.

The first thing I found interesting were the 50 most common passwords used.
The most common ones were numbers from 1234 to 123456789. The word “password” was the second most common password. Not surprising at all. Other common passwords in the top ten were qwerty, 111111, and dragon. I didn’t expect dragon, but the other two were no surprise.

The most common passwords on the list in positions 11 to 50 that were no surprise to me were 123123, abc123, letmein, 666666, 123321, and 7777777. I have encountered customers with all of these passwords.

If you use any of the passwords on that list, you might want to change your password.

As you know, most services require you to include a number in your password. Wpengine.com’s analysis revealed that the vast majority of people just add the number 1 to the end of their password. The number 2 was a distant second.

The average length of all the passwords was eight. The vast majority of passwords were between 6 and 10 characters long. As you know, the longer your password is, the harder it is to crack.

Something you might have noticed in the most common passwords list is that first names are commonly used as passwords. The article also lists the most common words used in passwords. They categorized them too. Categories included nouns, verbs, colors, animals, fruits, I Love, My…, superheroes, first names, and days of the week.

There are several lessons that can be learned from that article.

  1. Don’t use common or obvious passwords.
  2. Don’t use words and names in your password.
    1. If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it in your password.
    2. Don’t use proper names like names of your family members, pets, etc.
  3. Don’t put the number 1 on the end of your password.
    In fact, use several numbers throughout your password.
  4. Don’t just use capital letters at the beginning of passwords.
    Use them throughout.

Do you know who takes note of these types of lessons? Hackers. That’s right. They are going to use these lessons to try and hack into accounts and they will be successful. They could hack into your account if you don’t have a strong password.

For more information on creating a strong password, click here read this article on our website.

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A website says my computer has malware

July 9, 2018

If you are surfing the web and you suddenly get a website that says your computer is infected or something and to call a number to get the problem resolved, that is a scam.

These type of web sites have been a real problem in the last year and the problem is getting  worse. Even with the best security, you can still encounter these websites.

Just be aware that if a website tells you something is wrong with your computer it’s a scam.

Most of these types of web pages make it to where you can’t use your web browser until you get rid of that web page. You can’t switch to another tab. You can’t close the web browser. Some of them even have audio warning messages. The easiest way to get around this is to reboot your computer. Or, if you know how, you can open task manager, find your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Safari, etc.) and end the task.

Along the same lines, if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or “Windows Support” telling  you that your computer has a virus or that your copy of Windows is going to expire, those are also scams. Do not let them on your computer! Microsoft will never call you unless you call them first.

If you go to look up a phone number on the web, watch out. There are a lot of fake numbers out there. In the last few months, Google and the other search engines have done a good job of eliminating a lot of those fake numbers, be aware that these fake numbers are out there. When you call one of these fake numbers, they even answer the phone claiming to be with the company you were looking for. But they’re not. When looking up a phone number on the web, make sure it’s coming from the company’s domain. For example, if you searched for HP Support Phone Number, the first number that comes up first might be from a website called hpsupporthelp246.com. But that’s not HP’s website. So that’s a fake number. Look for the phone number from hp.com.

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Which Web Browser Should I Use?

June 16, 2018

A web browser is a program that is installed on your computer that lets you view websites.
Here is a list of the more common web browser and our recommendation for each.

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer – Not Recommended
    Comes with Windows. Slow. Antiquated. Vulnerable to attack. Microsoft is phasing IE out and replacing it with Edge.
    Not available on Mac.
  • Microsoft Edge – Neutral
    Much better than Internet Explorer but still too young. Has some problems. Not as easy to configure as others. Not as many extensions available.
    Not available on Mac.
  • Vivaldi – Recommended
    I bet you never heard of Vivaldi. It’s very much like Chrome and actually comes from the same code base. But the makers of Vivaldi has done an excellent job of making Vivaldi easy to use and configure. It’s fast too. And since it’s the same base code as Chrome, you can use all of the Chrome extensions in it. By far my personal favorite web browser.
  • Google Chrome – Recommended
    Very good. Fast. Configurable. Many add-ons available. Some people have concerns about privacy with Google.
  • Mozilla Firefox – Recommended
    Very good. Fast. Very configurable. Lots of add-ons available.
  • Safari – Recommended on Mac. Not recommended on Windows.
    Pretty fast. Pretty good. Somewhat configurable. Fair amount of add-ons available.
  • Opera – Neutral
    Fast. Not as many add-ons. Fairly configurable.

Some websites work better with certain web browsers than others. One website may work better with Chrome while another may work better with Firefox. That’s why we generally recommend having at least two of our recommended browsers on your computer.

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How to tell if an email is fake

June 8, 2018

You know what a SPAM email is. You probably know what a PHISH email is to. But just in case, a PHISH email is an email that tries to look like it’s from a company in order to trick you into giving either giving them your password, or to install malware on your computer or device. The people that send these PHISH emails are often pretty good at making them look real. However, if you know what to look for, you can pick up the clues that an email might be fake.

Let’s start with an example email that I received. I got an email that said it was from “iCloud Client”. The subject of the email was “[Alert] Reminder: We have prevented an unusual activity on May 2018”

There are several little clues here that something isn’t right:

  1. It says both alert and reminder. Is usually one or the other, not both.
  2. The date give is just a month and year, not an exact date. These people often use vague information.
  3. Although iCloud is certainly something real, iCloud client doesn’t really make sense.

On their own, these little clues are not enough to convict an email of being fake. Of course, the first thing you should think about is do I use iCloud? If not, then delete the email. If you do use iCloud, the safest thing to do at this point is to stop. Go to iCloud.com and check your account there. If everything seems OK there, then the email is probably a fake and you can delete it. If, however, you aren’t sure, the next step would be to open the email and look for more clues.

When I opened this particular email, I see that it is from “iCloud Client norply-accountupdates32@marlynwixky7.org

There is one minor clue here and also one major clue.

The minor clue is that most email servers use noreply, but in this case they used norply. Again, this is a minor clue.

The major clue here is the email address that follows iCloud Client. The part of the email account after the @ is @marlynwixky7.org. A legitimate email from Apple concerning iCloud would be from @icloud.com or @apple.com. This clue tells us with 100% certainty that this email is fake. But even if this major clue had not been there, I would have been fairly certain that this email was fake because there were several minor clues.

This particular email wasn’t as tricky as some of them. Many of them try to make it look more legit. In this case, they might have listed the from email address as support.apple.com@marlynwixky7.org. The first part makes it look like it’s from apple.com, but the only part that matters is what’s after the @. Another trick they often use is to do something like this: support@apple.com.marlynwixky7.org. If you look after the @ it looks like it’s from apple.com at first. But it’s not. It’s from marlynwixky7.org.

In this case, the email itself was blank but had an attachment. You already know this, but I feel obligated to say it. Never open the attachment to an email unless you are 100% sure the email is legit. If there is even one minor clue that an email may not be real, don’t open the attachment.

Really good scammers can make an email look, at least on the surface, that the email is from support@apple.com (or whatever). In this case, if there are minor clues that an email is fake, the next step would be to look at the email headers. Email headers are parts of an email that you normally don’t view. It’s overhead information most people don’t want to see and so it’s normally not shown. When you look at the headers, it will tell you the exact name of the server the email came from. If that server’s name doesn’t end with apple.com (in this example), then it’s not from apple.com and it’s fake.

How you actually view the email headers depends on what email service you use and how you access your email. If you use Gmail and read your email by going to gmail.com, then when you are viewing an email, there is a small down arrow near where it lists who the email is from. Click on that small arrow and it will show you the headers. Gmail actually displays the headers in a very nice way that’s easy to read. But some of them don’t format the headers and it can be overwhelming. If you are on one of those, look for Mailed By and see what server is listed there.

We don’t have room to list how to access the mail headers for every email service. If you can’t figure it out and can’t find the answer on Google, email us and we’ll tell you.

If you don’t want to mess with looking at headers, here are some basic rules to follow when reading email:

  1. Never click an link inside an email, even if you think it’s legit. Instead, manually go the company website in question, login, and do what you need to do. It’s not as convenient, but it’s safer.
  2. Don’t open an email attachment unless you are 100% sure it’s legit. If there is even one minor clue that the email isn’t legit, don’t open it. Even if it’s from a friend of yours. Their email could have been hacked.
  3. Be suspicious of every email you receive.
  4. If you aren’t sure if an email is legit or not, treat it as if it is fake.

Sorry this was so long and I hope it wasn’t too technical.
If you have any questions, please reply to this email and let us know.

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Privacy Policy Updates

June 8, 2018

Seems like a good portion of the email I have received lately are from companies informing me of privacy policy updates. There was a study in 2008 that determined it would take the average person 244 hours per year, about 40 minutes a day, to read all of the privacy policies for the websites they use. And this year, with the increase in privacy policy updates, it would take a lot more! And they wonder why nobody reads them. But I digress. The reason for the mass privacy policy update is because the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) just went into effect in Europe. Companies that do business in Europe had to update their privacy policies and terms of service because of it.

This doesn’t really have anything to do with us here in the U.S. But a recent privacy policy update from Yahoo that didn’t have anything to do with GDPR does impact those of us who use Yahoo for email. Yahoo recently announced that the software on their email servers will start reading all emails. This software scans your emails for keywords for the purposes of figuring out what types of advertisements to show you. By the way, for various reasons, Yahoo Email has been on our avoid list for many years.

Google used to do that but in 2017 they announced they would stop. However, their software still scans your emails. Just not for the purpose of showing your targeted advertisements.

You may be wondering why they would scan your emails if they aren’t looking to show you targeted advertisements. The reason is to be “helpful”. Here’s an example. Let’s say you book a flight and the airline emails your itinerary to your Gmail email account. Google will scan your email, recognize that it’s a flight itinerary and give you the option to add your flights to your Google Calendar. Do you consider that helpful or an invasion of your privacy?

Loss of privacy is the price you pay for most free email accounts. There are a few, very few, free email services that don’t scan your emails. Of course, they aren’t as “helpful” LOL. If you are worried about your privacy, you have options. Our favorite private and secure free email service is ProtonMail (www.protonmail.com). Other good ones include Hushmail.com and RiseUp.net.

If you don’t mind paying a small annual fee, you can a totally private email account. We offer our own email service, tornadomail.net (www.tornadomail.net) which we are currently offering at the introductory price of only $20/year.

Another option is to get your own domain. A domain is like google.com, cnn.com, ct-cp.com, or tornadomail.net. You can get your own and have email accounts on it. Residential customers can get one like TheColburnFamily.us, motorhead.net, or whatever. Note that you can’t get anything you want as it has to unique. So if someone already has what you want,  you’ll have to pick something else. But there are lots of options. The cost of a domain name varies. For example, .com, .net, .us, and .org are all under $20/year. But just having a domain name isn’t enough. You have to have a server to put it on.

You could host your domain name through Google G-Suite and use the Gmail interface, but that costs $10/month for each email account. Expensive if you want to have several email accounts. You can sign up for a web hosting account at a place like GoDaddy, but then you have to do everything yourself which many people do not have the skills or time to do. Or you can let us do it for you. We can get a domain name for you and host it on our server. If you only want to host email, and not a website, the cost is $120/year for unlimited email accounts with unlimited storage (does not include cost of domain).

If you have any questions or need help, please let us know!

 

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Buying a new PC

April 12, 2018

We are frequently asked what features and specifications to look for when purchasing a new PC. You can save a lot of time and effort by letting us get your new computer for you. But if you prefer to get your own, here is some information to help you.

In order to determine what features you need in a computer, it’s important to classify yourself into the appropriate category of user. Please read the descriptions of the following three categories of users and decide which one best describes you. Once you know that, read the rest of the article to find out what features you need.

Casual User

This user reads e-mail, surfs the web, edit’s documents and other similar tasks only. May play low graphics games like solitaire. Typically only has 1 or 2 applications going at the same time. Casual user would also include pre-teen/early teen children.

Power User/Business User

This user does everything the casual user does. In addition, this user does occasional editing of photos, graphics, or video. May play games that are somewhat graphics intensive but not action oriented. May have 2-4 applications going at the same time. This category would include students in the final years of high school or college students.

Gamer/High-End Business

This user does everything the power user does. In addition, this user may play games that are graphics intensive (First Person Shooters, etc.). User may perform tasks like CAD drawing. This user may do a lot of graphics or photo editing. This user may also frequently edit video. Once you have determined which category you fall in, you can then determine what features you should look for in a PC.

Now that you have categorized yourself, here are our recommendations.

PROCESSOR

The processor, also known as the CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brain of your computer.

Casual Users don’t need too much processor power. Even so, we don’t recommend low end processors. Get an Intel core i3 processor. Get one that has a speed of at least 2 GHz. For AMD, get a Ryzen 3.

Power/Business Users need a fairly beefy processor, but you don’t need the latest and greatest. An Intel Core i3 would be OK but an i5 or i7 would be better. Get one with a speed of 3.0 GHz or faster. An AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 would be fine. As with Intel, 3.0 GHz or faster.

Gamers/High-End Business Users will want an intel core I7. Get one with a speed of 3.5 GHz or faster. Although we recommend you get the I7, if money is tight a core I5 will be fine. Get the fastest speed and the most cores you can afford. An AMD Ryzen 7 will be good as well. A speed of 3.5 GHz or better.

WINDOWS

There are several different editions of Windows 10. However, if we eliminate the ones for big companies and for education, we are left with two editions. The Home edition and the Pro edition. Their are two main differences between the Home and Pro versions. The Pro version can join a company’s domain and the Pro version has Bitlocker. Bitlocker is a security feature that allows you to encrypt files. In a nutshell, everyone should get the Home version unless the computer will be used in a business environment with a server or if you need Bitlocker.

64 bit versus 32 bit. In general, we recommend the 64 bit version, but some business users will need the 32 bit version if they have old outdated software or devices that won’t work on 64 bit. 32 bit systems are getting harder and harder to find.

SYSTEM MEMORY

There are basically two types of memory in a computer. System memory (often referred to as RAM) and hard drive memory. Hard drive space is the amount of space you have to store programs and files. System memory is the computer’s internal work space.

Imagine that the computer’s processor is a person who does the work. Imagine that this person has a desk to work on and that the desk represents system memory. All work must be performed on this desk. If the desk is too small, then the person must move things he’s not working on off the desk and move things he wants to work on to the desk in order to work on them. If the person is working on several things at once, they may spend more time shifting things on and off the desk than they do actually working on things. This is why system memory is so important to the performance of your computer. Even if you typically only run one or two programs at a time, you still need a good amount of memory because even if you are doing nothing, there are still a lot of programs running on your system in the background. Things like Anti-Virus, Anti-spyware, Firewall, Windows internal processes, and the like.

Casual Users should have 4GB or more system memory.
Power/Business Users should have 8GB or more system memory.
Gamers/High-End Business Users should have 16 GB or more. If a computer will be used for CAD or video processing, you’ll probably want more.

NOTE: if you are getting the 32 bit version of Windows, don’t get a system with more than 4GB of system memory. The 32 bit version of Windows cannot address more than 4 GB of memory so it would be a waste of money unless you are planning to upgrade to the 64 bit version in the future.

VIDEO/GRAPHICS

The video functionality of your computer is the part of the computer that processes graphics and displays information on the monitor. Some computers have the video functionality built-in to the motherboard or built-in to the CPU. This usually means that video processing will take up processing time on the main processor and also will take up system memory. You can get better performance, in general, out of your computer, and better graphics, if you have a video card that is not part of the motherboard or processor. This is called a distinct video card.

Most higher end desktops come with video cards or you can purchase one and add it to your system. Laptops, however, are a different story. You can find laptops with distinct video cards, but they are expensive. In addition, you can’t easily add a video card to a laptop.

The video card provides a dedicated processor for processing graphics along with dedicated memory, thus taking a huge load off of the processor and memory on the motherboard. Note that just because and computer says it has a XXX GB video card, doesn’t mean that the video card itself has that much memory on it. Some video cards steal system memory away from the computer and use that. Make sure you get a video card with DEDICATED memory, not shared.

Casual Users should not worry about what video card is in their system. Integrated video is fine.
Power/Business Users can usually get away with using integrated video unless they work with a lot of pictures, videos, graphics, or CAD or work at a fast pace. In that case, a distinct video card will make a big difference. You you don’t need an expensive one. Model names of video cards don’t follow a nice linear path, so I can’t say get version x and higher. The easiest way to rate a video card is by how much it costs, how much memory it has on it, and what type of memory it has on it. A video card that costs $100 or more with at least 1GB or better of memory will be good.
Gamers/High-End Business Users should get a distinct video card without question. You can spend about as much as you want on a video card. Up to $1000 if you want to be on the bleeding edge of technology. But we recommend going with a card that costs around $200 – $300. Your card should have at least 1GB memory or better on it. The type of memory should be at least GDDR4, GDDR5 preferred. The memory interface should be 128bit or higher. Although you can find laptops that are good for these types of users, they are very expensive. So unless you need/want a laptop, go for a desktop.

HARD DRIVE SIZE AND SPEED

These days, there are two types of hard drives. There’s the traditional mechanical hard drive, and then theres the solid state drive (SSD). An SSD will make your system run MUCH FASTER. But an SSD is more expensive as a mechanical hard drive and doesn’t hold as much data. Many systems have 2 drives. An SSD for the system drive, and a mechanical hard drive for the data drive.

If you are getting an SSD, don’t get anything smaller than 256 GB. We recommend 500 GB. Make sure that’s going to be enough storage space for you. On a desktop you can have a second internal hard drive. You can also use an external hard drive on either a desktop or laptop as a second drive for more storage. It’s difficult to find desktops in stores that have SSD’s. You’ll probably have to have us upgrade your desktop. You can buy laptops with SSD’s. However, they are usually small and overpriced. We can upgrade almost any laptop to an SSD.

In terms of mechanical hard drives, make sure you get one that is 7200 RPM. This can be difficult on a laptop as many of them are 5400 RPM.

Sizes of hard drives vary.

Casual Users should get the smallest sized mechanical hard drive available.
Power/Business Users should get a mechanical hard drive with at 1TB of storage space. If you are going to be storing a lot of videos on your computer, get a 2TB sized hard drive or bigger. If you are impatient with your computer, consider an SSD if it’s in the budget.
On a laptop, a 5400 RPM drive will be OK but get a 7200 RPM drive if you can find it. Better yet, get an SSD if you don’t need a huge amount of storage space.
Gamers/High-End Business Users should get a 500 GB SSD for the system drive and a second mechanical hard drive for data. The mechanical hard drive should be 7200 RPM. At least 1TB unless you will be storing a lot of video or doing a lot of gaming, then get a 2TB or larger drive. If you are considering a dual drive or RAID configuration, we recommend you consult with Cyber Tek Computer Pros before making a purchase. RAID is too complicated to go into in this article.

BRAND, WARRANTIES, SUPPORT

Most brands are OK. If you look for the features and specifications we have outlined, you should generally end up with a decent computer. The question then becomes about the quality of the system, how long it will last, the cost of repairing it, how easy it is to find parts, and how the support is.

In terms of quality, the old adage that says, “You get what you pay for” is generally true. The cheaper brands like EMachines and Toshiba tend to have more problems and don’t last as long. No brand is perfect. In general, most companies provide a 1 year warranty on hardware. Many of them say it is onsite service as well. Many people pay extra for onsite service warranties thinking that if there a problem, someone will show up and take care of them. But it doesn’t always work that way. For example, if the hard drive on your 2 month old PC dies and your system won’t boot, the onsite service technician will come to your home, remove the old hard drive, install a new one, install Windows, and leave. That sounds nice until you realize that all of your data is gone and you are left to reinstall a lot of programs on your system. That is certainly not how Cyber Tek Computer Pros does business. In this example, we would get your data off of your old hard drive, install the new hard drive, and load all of your data and programs onto the new hard drive. We would also try and configure it as closely as we can to how it was before. Also, when you call technical support for any of these big computer companies, you are usually going to get someone in a foreign country that may be difficult to understand. For these reasons, we do not recommend upgrading your warranty. We also don’t recommend store warranties either. They aren’t worth it.

Our favorite brands of computers (desktops, All-In-One’s (AIO), and laptops) are Dell and ASUS. Dell is our favorite. Good computers and good prices and it’s easy to get parts for them.

We recommend going with a big name brand because it’s difficult and expensive to find parts for the smaller brands. For example, an Alienware laptop is a good, high performance laptop. If it breaks, trying to find parts for it is difficult and expensive. You pretty much have to get Alienware to fix it, which is a slow process and expensive. That doesn’t apply to desktops. Their parts are more standardized.

STORES

What store you buy your computer at doesn’t really matter as long as you are buying one of the major brands of computers. Just look for the lowest price with the specs you want. In the Austin, Texas area, good places to look include Best Buy and Fry’s Electronics. Other places include Office Max, Office Depot, Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club. Reminder: We do not recommend purchasing extended warranties or store warranties on computers. You can purchase from these stores websites as well. You can also purchase directly from the manufacturer on their website. You would think that would be cheaper, but it’s not. The advantage, however, is that you can custom configure your computer. In terms of online only stores, some good ones are newegg.com, amazon.com, and tigerdirect.com.

ALL IN ONE (AIO) COMPUTERS

An All In One (AIO) computer is a large screen that has the computer built into the monitor. They are great for reducing the number of wires and saving space on your desk. But, like laptops, they are limited in performance, options, and upgrade-ability. In addition to the options explored above, the other options for an AIO include screen size and touchscreen. Get the screen size you that will fit on your desk. If your eyesight isn’t the best, the bigger the screen, the easier it will be to read what’s on the screen.

In terms of touchscreen, lots of people think it’s cool and want it on their computers but then don’t use it. It all depends on how you use a computer and what you will be doing on the computer. On an AIO, you probably won’t use it.

NOTBOOKS/LAPTOPS/NETBOOKS/ULTRABOOKS

Notebook or laptop computers are a special case. Laptops lag desktops in technology because of size and heat requirements. If you don’t need portability, don’t get a laptop. They are more expensive to purchase, not as up-gradable, more expensive to upgrade (if they can even be upgraded), and more expensive to repair. And they don’t have the performance that desktops can have. If you do need a laptop, then things to consider in addition to what we have covered are battery life, screen size and shape, size, and weight. In this instance, we are not breaking this down based on user category.

Here are our recommendations:

Laptop Type
These days there are several different types of laptops. Here is a list of the most popular types and a description of each.

  1. Standard Laptop
    This is the laptop you know and love. usually has a 15″ to 16″ screen. It has a hinge and opens up for you to use it and you can close it when you are carrying it around.
  2. Ultralight
    This is basically a standard laptop, but much smaller, thinner, and lighter. They usually cost more than standard laptops. They are great for carrying around but can be limited in performance and features. For example, they don’t have CD/DVD drives. They don’t have numeric keypads. They often don’t have wired internet and can only do wireless. They don’t have a lot of USB ports either.
  3. 2-in-1
    This is a laptop where the monitor can be folded or rotated around so that it folds down on the keyboard with the screen out so you can use it like a tablet. It’s going to be much bigger and heavier than a tablet. These all have touchscreens.
  4. 2-in-1 detachable
    This is kind of an odd animal, but it really works. It’s like a tablet with a keyboard. You can detach the keyboard and use it as a tablet, or attach the keyboard and use it like a laptop.

Battery Life
If you are going to be using it on the go, get a laptop with a long battery life. There is nothing more frustrating that paying a lot of money for a laptop you can use on the go, and then not being able to use it because the battery is dead. Some laptops can be upgraded to a longer life battery.

Screen Size
Get the biggest screen you can afford as long as the size of the laptop that goes with it is not too big or too heavy for you to carry around. Remember that the bigger the screen size, the bigger and heavier the laptop will be. Also remember that the smaller the screen, the lighter and smaller the laptop is, but it’s harder to read what’s on the screen because everything is smaller. Those of us who don’t have the best vision will want bigger screens and will want to avoid the smaller screens. Also be aware that the smaller laptops don’t have numeric keypads on the keyboard. If you enter a lot of numbers, that could be an issue.

When you are not traveling, you can connect an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse to your laptop and then when traveling use the smaller screen on the laptop itself. Hooking up an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse is easier with a desk dock, but not required.

Size and Weight
Size matters in this case. If you carry it around a lot or for long distances, the smaller and lighter it is, the better. A 9 pound laptop doesn’t sound like it would be that heavy to lug around, but when you add in the AC adapter and other accessories, it can get pretty heavy. Even if you just carry the laptop without the AC adapter or other accessories, 9 pounds get’s pretty heavy after a while. Get the smallest and lightest laptop you can afford with the screen size you want. In general, the smaller and lighter the laptop, the more expensive they are. But as we mentioned above, make sure your eyesight is good enough for a smaller screen.

Carry Cases
Be careful on the prices of carry cases. If you purchase a case at the same time as your laptop there is often a huge markup. You can always purchase a generic carry case later at a store like Best Buy or Frys or at an online retailer. Make sure you get a carry case that your laptop will fit in. In general it goes by screen size. The specifications for a case will tell you it can handle laptops up to a certain screen size. Most laptops with 15″ or smaller screen will fit in most any laptop case. However, laptops with 17″ or bigger screens won’t. It’s a good idea to get a carry case that doesn’t look like a laptop carry case, for security reasons. One of our favorites are the back-pack type carry cases. These look less professional in a business environment, but the great thing is they don’t look like laptop bags and are, therefore, less likely to get stolen at the airport or hotel.

Touchscreen
Touchscreen is a cool feature, but many people don’t use it. If you have a 2-in-1 or 2-in-1 detachable computer, you’ll have touchscreen. For a standard laptop or ultralight, most people don’t use the touchscreen capability with the possible exception of playing games like candy crush.

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Recent Windows Updates Cause Big Problems

March 26, 2018

Recently there were two Windows Updates that caused major problems.

One of them caused the mouse and/or keyboard to stop working making the computer unusable. This bad update was easy to address if we already had our remote support software on the computer. All we had to do was remote in and remove the bad update. If we didn’t have our remote support software on the computer, it was much more complicated, but fixable.

The other bad update was much worse. It rendered the computer unbootable. There’s no easy fix for this at this time. If this happened, we had to back up your data, wipe it, re-install Windows, and basically rebuild the computer from scratch.

Despite these recent update issues, it’s still important to apply all security updates to Windows. We recommend holding off at least a week, before installing an update, just to be safe. Of course, this makes maintaining your Windows computer more complicated. When your computer wants to install updates, you have to look at the list and then Google each one to see how long it’s been since it was released and to make sure nobody is having trouble with it. Or you can just roll the dice.

This is one of the nice things about our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan. Our software controls when Windows updates are installed. We review all updates to make sure they are safe. We don’t allow an update to be installed to a computer on our SAM plan until it’s been out at least a week and there are no problems reported. Consequently, not one computer on our SAM plan got either of these bad updates.

If you are interested in putting one or more computers on our SAM plan, you can read more information about it on our website by clicking here.

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Is my email address on the dark web?

March 22, 2018

You may have seen advertisements or gotten emails from companies like Experian are offering a free dark web scan to see if your email address is on the dark web. We would like to educate you on what this really means.

The name dark web sounds ominous. Like using the name “dark one” to refer to Satan, the name dark web conjures up images of fire and evil. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The dark web is much like the web you know. The only difference is that it is only accessible using special software that allows users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.

Now that we understand what the dark web is, what are the chances that your email address is on the dark web? Actually, very good. The vast majority of people’s email address is on the dark web. Only people who have done very little on the web are not there. Chances are very good that your email address is on the dark web. Pretty much all of my email addresses are on the dark web.

How did your email address get on the dark web? Hackers hack servers and steal information and then sell it on the dark web. This type of information is purchased by spammers and identity thieves. Your information can get onto the dark web in other ways too, but that’s the primary way. If you ever watch or read the news, you’ve heard about website breaches. Yahoo, Dropbox, Adobe, LinkedIn, Equifax, Uber, AOL, Ameritrade, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Citigroup, Compass Bank, eBay, Facebook, Gmail, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, NASDAQ, Neiman Marcus, Texas Attorney General, Scottrade, SnapChat, Sony, Starbucks, Starwood Hotels, TJ Maxx, Twitter, U.S. Army, Walmart, Verizon, and Wendy’s just to name a few better-known websites and companies. In reading this list, you can see why most people’s email address is on the dark web. This is but a tiny sampling. The list is huge. And that’s just the ones we know about. Many companies keep it a secret when they get hacked.

You are probably asking, “If my email address is on the dark web, what does that mean for me?”.
If your email address is on the dark web, you are going to receive more spam than an email address that is not on the dark web. In addition, it’s more likely that a hacker is going to try and hack your email account. That’s pretty much it. Companies like Experian are using the scary phrase “Dark Web” to try and scare you into purchasing their identity theft protection. Don’t fall for it. It’s nothing more than a ploy to try and scare you into signing up for their services.

Our advice? Don’t bother with these dark web scans. Assume your email address is on the dark web (because it probably is) and follow the guidelines below to protect yourself.

  1. Make sure you have a good, complex password.
    For our recommended password guidelines: Click here to read our password article on our website.
  2. Turn on 2-step verification for your email account.
    For more information about this, click here to check out step three in this article on our website.
  3. Keep your computer safe and secure by doing the following:
    1. Keep Windows up-to-date
    2. Use one of our recommended security products (or Sign up for our SAM plan).
    3. Don’t let your security software expire or get out-of-date.
    4. Keep security sensitive programs updated. These include Java, Flash, Reader, Skype, and many more.
  4. Be careful what you open and what you click on.
    When in doubt, shoot us an email and ask us. If you get an email you are suspicious of, forward it to us and ask us to check it.
  5. Don’t fall for scams. The internet is chock full of scams and scammers will be calling you, if they haven’t already. When you search for a website or phone number on the web, you’ll probably get several fake ones at the top before finding the real one.

We sincerely hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

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What’s the Best Free Email Service?

March 1, 2018

We are often asked which of the free email services is the best one.

Before we answer this question, I want to remind you that we do not recommend using the email account given to you by your Internet Service Provider. These services usually aren’t very good and if you move or change service providers, you have to change email accounts and can’t set up automatic forwarding.

Defining the best free email service is a little tricky since the word “best” is a subjective term.
Here are some of the things to consider when selecting an email provider:

  • Reliability
  • Security (from hackers)
  • Privacy
  • Speed
  • Features
  • Spam filtering
  • Integration
  • Ease of Use (if using webmail)
  • Storage

While I would think Reliability and Security are important to everyone, the rest of the features may vary in how important they are to a particular person or organization. With that in mind, here are our recommendations.

Let me first start by saying that we do not recommend using AOL Mail or Yahoo Mail. We do not recommend AOL Mail because it is missing some key features. You can’t even set up automatic forwarding. And we don’t recommend Yahoo Mail because of all of the email services, it’s the one that is always getting hacked. In addition, they frequently change their web mail interface upsetting many people.

There is one free email service that scores very well in all of the above categories (except one). It is the most popular free email service in the world for that reason. It’s Gmail (gmail.com). For most people, Gmail will be the best option for a personal email account. Gmail is also good for organizations. In fact, Gmail is so good, it would be the one and only recommendation if it weren’t for one issue. The one drawback to Gmail is the concern about privacy. Google used to scan your emails for the purpose of showing you targeted advertisements. They claim they have stopped this practice but many people do not trust them.

If privacy is a big concern for you, then you may not want to go with Gmail. For those concerned about privacy we recommend Proton Mail (protonmail.com). You’ll be somewhat restricted in that you can only access ProtonMail via their webmail or one of their apps to access your email. That makes sense because that’s the only way they can provide that level of privacy. But if privacy is important to you, it’s worth it.

Here’s some information on some other major Email providers you may be interested in.

Outlook.com (Hotmail.com, live.com, msn.com).
This is a Microsoft service. In addition to privacy concerns, there have been a lot of problems with this service in the past. Especially if you don’t use a Microsoft product to access your email. In addition, Microsoft, as it often does, has removed useful features from it’s Email service, just like it has from Windows.

iCloud Mail
This service is from Apple. It’s not bad, but it’s missing some important features and doesn’t integrate well with other accounts.

There are a huge number of additional free email providers. Too many to mention. In this article we have focused on the most popular free email services.

If you are willing to pay a small annual fee, you can get an email service that is, in many ways, better than any of the free services. For example, our email service is only $25/year. With our service you get top notch security, the best Spam filtering, very good privacy, and unlimited storage.

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Tired of Email problems?

February 14, 2018

Are you tired of having your email hacked?
Are you tired of getting lots of spam?
Are you tired of having someone sending spam making it look like you sent it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on!

Email accounts through internet service providers like Spectrum and AT&T are included with your service, but they have problems. They aren’t very secure, they don’t do a good job of blocking spam, and if you change internet service providers, you have to change your email address.

Free email accounts through places like Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft (Hotmail.com, live.com, msn.com) have some of the same problems. They aren’t secure and you get lots of spam. In addition, these accounts are free so there’s no support for them. If you have a problem, there’s nobody you can call to get help.

We here at Cyber Tek Computer Pros have been enjoying our own email for years. We don’t get much spam. Our email accounts have never been hacked. And if anyone tries to impersonate us in an email, most email servers will block their attempt. Our email is so good we though, maybe some of our customers would like to enjoy it. So we have created our own email service, tornadomail.net.

For just $25/year (that’s a year, not a month) you can have an email account with our new email service, tornadomail.net. With our new email service, you won’t get very much spam (nobody can guarantee no spam). Your email account is highly unlikely to be hacked (Nobody can guarantee an account won’t be hacked). And thanks to our security measures, spammers can’t easily impersonate your email (Nobody can prevent it, but we make it highly unlikely).

If you are interested in an email account that works and doesn’t have all of the problems that most email accounts have, this service is for you!

If you want to sign up or have any questions please contact us.

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