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What you need to know about Bitcoins and Blockchain

After a few years of virtually no mainstream news about Bitcoins, all of a sudden Bitcoins (and Blockchain) are back in the news again.  Part of that has to do with Bitcoins recent upward trajectory to cross the $10,000 mark.  (Here’s a great visual of Bitcoin’s growth in 2017.) I first explored the subject earlier this year in my blog entitled Digital Currencies and Bitcoins.

Since then, Bitcoins, Blockchains and other Digital Currencies have filled up my inbox.  What is interesting to me is that, not too long ago Bitcoin, and other crypto-currencies, were not a trusted form of currency.  Today, while it is still not trusted by the average American, they are being used by more and more people throughout the world.  I’ve been learning that, as volatile as it is, Bitcoin is still more stable than several global currencies. Plus, Bitcoins provide privacy and independence that US currency does not.Price of Bitcoins

I’m still learning, so I won’t pretend to know nearly enough about Bitcoins, Blockchain, or other Crypto-currencies.  Here are articles I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to.  If you’d like to learn more, explore this list.  And then do more research on your own.  Please let us know of any resources you’ve found that are particularly helpful.

Articles explaining Bitcoins:

Podcasts about Bitcoins:

Here are some books that may be helpful:

Let us know what other resources you’ve found.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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4 Articles about Online Privacy

If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you know that my biggest bug a boo is privacy.  Second, of course, is security.  In hopes that others will want to learn a little about privacy, I’ve searched the interwebs for some of the best articles out there right now about why online privacy on your electronic devices is important.

As Marsha Blackburn of US News and World Report says:

“Online privacy is an issue that continues to rightfully concern Americans. According to research by IBM, over ninety percent of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years alone. The explosion of smartphones and internet-connected devices has Americans utilizing online services to do everything from grocery shopping to tracking their health. However, increased reliance on online services has made Americans more conscious about how they share sensitive personal information…”

Who else besides me uses their phone for everything from buying coffee to checking Facebook to tracking steps?  That’s a lot of info that goes out into the “cloud”.  Is it safe?Online Privacy

It’s important to remember that the onus is on you to keep your own data secure as these people who sued Facebook found out.  They thought that once they had logged out of Facebook, it should not be able to track their browsing history.  In this article, the Judge presiding over the case said no.

“Judge dismisses lawsuit accusing Facebook of tracking users’ activity, saying responsibility was on plaintiffs to keep browsing history private. …. US district judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, dismissed the case because he said that the plaintiffs failed to show that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy or suffered any realistic economic harm or loss. …. Davila said that plaintiffs could have taken steps to keep their browsing histories private…”

And Alfred Ng reports in c|net that some of the bargain phones are sending info to a server in China.

“People have enough to worry about when it comes to privacy on their personal devices. Between government surveillance and security vulnerabilities, preinstalled software on the phone itself is an unexpected breach of both trust and privacy for millions of owners who are just looking for an inexpensive phone. ….. Having access to the command and control channel — a communications route between your device and a server — allowed Adups to execute commands as if it’s the user, meaning it could also install apps, take screenshots, record the screen, make calls and wipe devices without needing permission.”

Privacy has become such an issue that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case later this year.  This article in Reuters describes much of the case.

The case reaches the high court amid growing scrutiny of the surveillance practices of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies amid concern among lawmakers across the political spectrum about civil liberties and police evading warrant requirements.

The legal fight has raised questions about how much companies protect the privacy rights of their customers. The big four wireless carriers, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, receive tens of thousands of requests a year from law enforcement for what is known as “cell site location information,” or CSLI. The requests are routinely granted.

The Supreme Court has twice in recent years ruled on major cases concerning how criminal law applies to new technology, on each occasion ruling against law enforcement. In 2012, the court held that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. Two years later, the court said police need a warrant to search a cellphone that is seized during an arrest.

Civil liberties lawyers have said that police need “probable cause,” and therefore a warrant, in order to avoid constitutionally unreasonable searches.”

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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Mac OS Malware – What you need to know

It’s finally happened.  Mac’s have finally reached that magic threshold where more and more people are purchasing MacBooks and iMacs.  The “bad guys” have recognized that and are writing Mac OS malware, viruses, and ransomware.  Yes, they are specifically targeting the Mac OS.  They’ve had years of practice on Windows machines.  They know Mac users are a bit more discerning, so their malware needs to be even more subtle to trick those Mac users.  Their products look like the real thing – a real email from Dropbox, a real pop-up from Adobe.

It’s a jungle out there, so don’t think you’re immune just because you have a Mac!mac os malware

Two versions that are targeting Macs are MacSpy and MacRansom.  MacSpy does the usual data scraping, browser history harvesting, etc. MacRansom is a straight-up ransomware.  The cost to retrieve your data is about $650-750.  You can read more about them in this article from Dark Reading.

Another Mac OS malware that’s spreading is installed when you think you’re installing an Adobe upgrade.  You do get the upgrade, but you get a “snake” program as well.  For anyone interested in reading more, check out this article.

Another Trojan, named OSX/Dok, is also relatively new and spreads it’s program through a sophisticated phishing email.  So far, it seems to be targeting primarily European Mac users.  Checkpoint says that:

“This new malware – dubbed OSX/Dok — affects all versions of OSX, has 0 detections on VirusTotal (as of the writing of these words), is signed with a valid developer certificate (authenticated by Apple), and is the first major scale malware to target OSX users via a coordinated email phishing campaign.”

Have you learned something about Mac OS malware? If you found this helpful, please forward it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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3 Steps to make your iPhone screen more efficient

Are you one of those people who have to scroll through four or five pages on your phone to get to the application you are looking for?  I’m here to tell you that your iPhone screen can be much more efficient, and you can make it easier to find your importaniphone screent apps.  (Here’s what my home iPhone screen looks like – so easy to find my most used apps!)

  1. First, you need to think about which apps you use multiple times a day.  Those are the apps that belong on your Home or first iPhone screen.  It’s simple to drag and drop them to that first page.  Put your index finger on the icon for that app and hold it there.  Don’t tap it!  After about 3 to 5 seconds, it will start to “wiggle”.  Then you can move the app by dragging it.  If it’s not already on the first page, drag it towards the left until the previous page appears.  Continue doing that until you are on the first page of your phone.  Then you can drop it onto that page.
  2. Next, you might have noticed that some of your apps are related.  For example I have several apps I check for the weather, several for News, and several for sending messages.  I have grouped those apps together so that they are all in one place.  Again, hold the icon for one of those apps until it starts to “wiggle”.  Then drag it on top of the app you want to group it with.  Your iPhone will give the grouping a name.  You can change that name by clicking the small “x” next to the title, and typing in your own name for that group.
  3. Lastly, once you have all of your apps in different groups, it is easier to “drag and drop” them to the Home page or a second page.  I try to keep all of my apps on just two pages.  The first or Home iPhone screen is where I have the apps I use the most.  The second page has the apps I don’t use every day or even once a week.

If you found this helpful, please forward it to your fellow iPhone users!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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4G Service – What the heck is that?

Have you ever wondered what 4G service is? Have you wondered what the code is next to your cell phone bars of service?  For example, right now my iPhone shows 4 dots (out of 5) and the code LTE.  It looks like this:

LTE or 4G service

 

 

 

What the heck does this mean?  And sometimes when I complain to Chris about my lousy cell quality he’ll ask me what kind of service I have.  Invariably the answer is “3G”.  What the heck is that?!  Basically, my phone is currently providing me with 4G service so that I can surf the internet and send videos to my friends with wild abandon!

A little history:

When we first started using cell phones, they were for voice and simple texting only, which doesn’t take as much bandwidth as data does.  Gradually, the sophistication of the phones, and the service provided on the cell towers, improved.  Using vast amounts of creative thought in naming each new improvement, they were named 2G, 3G, 4G, and the yet to be released 5G.  (The “G” stands for Generation, so the 4G or 4th Generation phones are better than the 2G phones.)

I like the way PC Magazine explains the difference in the different generations:  “1G was analog cellular. 2G technologies, such as CDMA, GSM, and TDMA, were the first generation of digital cellular technologies. 3G technologies, such as EVDO, HSPA, and UMTS, brought speeds from 200kbps to a few megabits per second. 4G technologies, such as WiMAX and LTE, were the next incompatible leap forward, and they are now scaling up to hundreds of megabits and even gigabit-level speeds.”

At the beginning of this year, AT&T shut down their 2G network.  It was state-of-the-art when it was first introduced in 2000, but 17 years later it’s totally obsolete.  Engadget put it this way:

“The shutdown is also a reminder of just how far mobile data has come since 2G hit the scene (in the US, at the turn of the millennium). EDGE was considered fine at a time when any mobile data was a relative novelty, and the most you did with it was check email or surf the most basic of websites. Now, even a modestly-sized app or photo download would absolutely crush 2G — the modern mobile internet depends on speeds that are orders of magnitude faster. We can only imagine what it’ll be like when 3G bites the dust and LTE is considered the baseline.”

4G Service

According to Wiki, LTE or 4G service provides your phone with technologies that “include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.”

5th Generation

The 5G technology is still being defined, but you can expect to see it in the next year or two.  In the meantime AT&T and Verizon are launching pre-5G which will increase speeds and decrease latency.

 

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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Two Factor Authentication

What is Two Factor Authentication?

Two Factor Authentication (TFA or 2FA) or Multi-factor Authentication refers to a practice commonly used by financial institutions and other sensitive applications to make sure that the person signing into an account is really that person and not a hacker. It is used above and beyond the usual login credentials. You may have used 2FA without realizing what it was called.  Like me, when I first encountered it a few years ago, you may have been annoyed that your bank was asking you to prove your identity when you’ve already entered your username and password.

Can you explain that again?Two Factor Authentication Code

Your UserID and Password together make up the first factor of authentication. The second factor is a code that is known only to you.  For example, when you receive a six digit code on your cell phone to provide after you’ve entered your password.  Another example is commonly used with credit cards.  The credit card number, expiration date, and the sneaky code on the back are all available to someone with the card in their hands.  2FA would ask you for your billing zip code.

Why is 2FA important?

Two Factor Authentication provides another level of protection for your accounts.  It will work with your computer, your tablet, and your phone.  It helps to ensure that your sensitive information isn’t available to hackers.

According to Secure Envoy: “With standard security procedures (especially online) only requiring a simple username and password it has become increasingly easy for criminals (either in organised gangs or working alone) to gain access to a user’s private data such as personal and financial details and then use that information to commit fraudulent acts, generally of a financial nature.”

Want to learn more?  Check out these articles:

  • https://www.cnet.com/news/two-factor-authentication-what-you-need-to-know-faq/
  • http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2456400,00.asp
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-factor_authentication

We recommend that you enable Two Factor Authentication for all of your email, financial, and other sensitive accounts.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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Windows 10 Advice – Revised

A few weeks ago, I asked Chris about Windows 10. Should I upgrade right away, or wait awhile?  What should I tell our customers and readers of the blog? His answer was basically:

“Unless you have a reason to stay with your current operating system (and especially if you have Win8), it should be fine to upgrade.”

Well, he’s changed his mind.

Windows 10 has been plagued with issues, especially for computers without the capacity to properly run it. So, if you have Windows XP, or Windows Vista machine without a modern processor and upgraded RAM, you should do those upgrades first, or consider a new machine with Windows 10 already installed.

Chris has also talked with other people that have upgraded with zero problems.  One guy said that the upgrade “breathed new life into his laptop”.  Chris added:

“Of course, it could just be that we’re only getting calls from folks who are having issues!”

Another huge issue with Windows 10 that is just starting to come to light, is the amount of information that Microsoft collects. The collected data isn’t just for targeted advertising  A recent article in Wired states:

“Of course, Microsoft’s privacy statement outlines all the data that is collected, and you agreed to this when you downloaded Windows 10 and checked the terms of service.

In this Age of the Unread Terms of Service Agreement, it’s important to, well, read the ToS. It’s too easy for our technologies to gather personal information without our realizing it. Microsoft is far from the only perpetrator…”

Of course, in order to actually use Windows 10, you do have to agree to the Terms of Service. Once the new Operating System is installed, you should change the privacy and tracking settings.

So Chris’ new advice is to wait until you have a real need before installing the Windows 10 Operating System. Windows 10 doesn’t really give you much more than Windows 7. You don’t really need to run right out and get it now.  If you’ve already upgraded to Windows 10, what was your experience?

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.