Blog: Tech News & Tips

Link shorteners

In the last few days, we’ve had several questions about link shorteners.

  • Are they safe to click?
  • If I use one in my email, will people click on them?

We’ve all seen them. They are used primarily on social media and email newsletters. These are URLs that start with bit.ly or TinyURL or Ow.ly.  There are others which are less common – is.gd, adf.ly, and bit.do.

In general, people are of two minds about link shorteners aka URL shorteners:shortened links

  • They like them because you can create a short link that meets Twitter post length requirements and is easy to type in. For example, https://geekforhireinc.com/av/ becomes https://bit.ly/2yFErwj. People also like them for social media because then they can track the number of opens and clicks.
  • Or, they don’t like them because you can’t see where the link will take you, and what tracking information is included in the link until you’ve clicked on it.

I’m in the second camp, especially after a call from a customer the other day.

What happened:

She clicked on an email that was a scam.  Of course, she didn’t realize that until after she’d clicked on the link and downloaded the attachment!  She’s a Realtor, and the email supposedly came from a Title company.  It seemed perfectly reasonable to her that she would be getting an email with a PDF attachment from a Title company. The email looked real. It was convincing.  But when she had second thoughts and called the Title company, they hadn’t sent her an email that day. That’s when she called us. Chris remotely accessed her computer and took a look at the PDF file. He couldn’t see anything wrong with it except for a URL near the bottom that started with “bit.ly.” Luckily no one clicked on that link!

I go into a little more depth about shortened links and other things to watch for in my Free Report about Phishing scams.

But there are legitimate uses for link shorteners:

For example, another customer had heard bad things about bit.ly but needed a shorter link.  She was having a party and was sending printed invitations. She needed to include a link to a resource, but it was an exceptionally long link. We told her it would be fine to include a bit.ly link so that her friends didn’t have to type in 100+ characters.

Recommendation:shortened link -why they're bad

If someone you know sends you an email or message on social media with a shortened link, contact them to ask them to send you the full link. If you don’t personally know and trust the person who posted it or sent it to you, don’t click on it!

Please forward this to your friends who click on any link!

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

End of Windows 7 Support – What Should I Do?

We’ve had many customers ask us about their Windows 7 machines recently.  For the past year, there has been sporadic news that Microsoft won’t provide Windows 7 support in just a few months. It’s true. From the Microsoft website:

“Microsoft made a commitment to provide 10 years of product support for Windows 7 when it was released on October 22, 2009. When this 10-year period ends, Microsoft will discontinue Windows 7 support so that we can focus our investment on supporting newer technologies and great new experiences. The specific end of support day for Windows 7 will be January 14, 2020. After that, technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect your PC will no longer be available for the product. Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.

So, what should you do? You’ve got at least four options:

  1. Keep Windows 7 on your machine without updates after January 2020, making sure you have a great anti-virus.
  2. Upgrade your Operating System to Windows 10 on your current machine before January
  3. Replace with a brand new Windows 10 machine
  4. Totally switch gears and buy a Mac

Just so you know, Chris says we’ll continue using our Win7 computers after Windows 7 support ends, until there is some combination of:

  1. Our applications no longer work on Windows 7, and
  2. There are too many security issues that the Antivirus is not able to mitigate.

Please note: we will often recommend products, parts, and resources that we like.  Some of these we receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

Reasons to keep Windows 7:

  1. Windows 7 is a well-socialized Operating System.  It has been around for years, has been used daily on Millions or Billions of computers, and has received many constructive bug fixes and incremental fixes over time.
  2. Windows 10 does have some useful security features which Windows 7 does not have.  But a superior Antivirus should intercept most of those issues for the foreseeable future.
  3. Windows 10 does not have any features that you have to run out and get right now because you are missing something.
  4. I have seen several instances where Windows 7 would have been more robust to a “Graceless Shutdown” or an “Operating System Corruption” than Windows 10.

There is a Rebuild versus Replace balance.

  • REPLACE: Getting a new computer will come with Windows 10 already on it, it will be new technology, and it will come with a new warranty.
  • REBUILD: Your current computer can have Windows 10 installed onto it, but there will be a parts and labor cost, and your applications will need to be installed and activated – some of them at a price.

Migrate or Upgrade?

We don’t recommend that you upgrade to Windows 10 but treat the process as a Migration instead.

How do I migrate to Windows 10?

  1. Replace your storage with a new drive.  This is an opportunity to get new and faster technology at your chief performance bottleneck.  Also, this allows the full contents of the original drive to be copied From – and can serve as a backup snapshot at the time.  If possible, get a Solid State Drive, because they are /Much/ faster than physical Hard Drives.  (Here’s a recent article I wrote about SSD’s. Chris recommends this internal SSD from Samsung.) If possible, Mirror your drives as a Raid 1 mirrored pair, to allow your data to survive the Single Drive Failure scenario.  On the open market, a 1TB SSD costs about $150.
  2. Do a fresh install of the Operating System.  Then, update the Operating System thoroughly. Once the OS is up-to-date, begin installing any applications.  Figure the retail cost of the Windows 10 Professional software is around $200.
  3. Have a fast line to the internet.  A complete first update of Windows 10 takes about one hour to receive over a line with a rated bandwidth of 12Mbps.
  4. You will need to reinstall all applications and software on the computer. This includes any productivity software like Office, accounting software like Quicken, etc. Keep in mind that apps like Microsoft Office allow a limited number of activations. If you’ve already reinstalled it a few times, you may not be able to reinstall it again.

Change is bad. Do I really have to make a change just because Windows 7 support is ending?

Good news! Microsoft has announced that they will begin to offer an Extended Security Update for Windows 7 starting in January.  This is from their press release:

“With that in mind, today we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to all Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing, with a discount to customers with Windows software assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions. In addition, Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 ESU will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.”

I haven’t been able to find pricing information, but we’ve heard rumors that the subscription to receive Windows 7 Operating System updates will be $100 for 2020, $200 for 2021, and $300 or $400 for 2022.

Conclusion:

Please contact us if you want to discuss your options.  Yes, we can help!

Please forward this to anyone who still has a Windows 7 machine.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

Audio Books for Summer Reading

It’s summer.  Time to lay on the beach and read a book. OR, if your family is like my family, listen to audio books on a road trip!  There are options out there for listening if you know where to look. I wasn’t necessarily looking for free books, but that option kept coming up. It is important to me that any audio book I download be legally available.  I could, of course, go to sites where I can get anything and everything for free.  But if an audio book is for sale somewhere with royalties going to the author and other artists, it is important to me that they are all properly compensated.  (I’m getting off my soapbox now…)

Recommended:

AudioBooks.com:

Audio Books for summer reading
AudioBooks.com has an extensive selection

If you’re an Audible member and looking towards moving away from all-things-Amazon, AudioBooks.com seems like the best option.  After a free trial month, they’ll charge $15 a month which includes two audio books from their collection.  You choose one of those books from their entire selection; the other comes from their VIP list of 30+/- books which change every month.  What I like: Their book collection is extensive and had every book I searched for.  I have their app on my iPhone, and it is easy to use.

Librivox

Librivox provides free eBooks and Audio Books of many books that are already in the Public Domain. (In other words, they published the book so long ago that the copyright is no longer valid.)  These are mostly classic books that you probably were supposed to read in High School, but got the CliffNotes version instead and have regretted it ever since.  Librivox has a team of volunteers that record the books, which is how they can provide the Audio Books for free. When I did a quick search for Through The Looking Glass, I found that there were several versions.  Multiple people recorded some versions; others were read by just one person.  You should know that credit is given to Librivox at the beginning of each chapter.  Sometimes those credits are simple and relatively unintrusive.  Other times the credits were much longer.

Librivox takes a little bit of set up before you leave on your trip.  There’s no app, so it’s harder to set up on your smartphone.

Audible:

I had heard about the Audible app a long time ago but decided to sign up a few summers ago before a road trip.  Since then I’ve listened to audio books just about every time I’m in the car for more than a half-hour.   After a 30 day trial, Audible charges $15 per month. You get one book of your choice each month, plus you can pick two of six Audible Originals each month. (So you get a total of three books.) I’ve found that the “Originals” are hit and miss.  They are always books you’ve never heard of. Some have been amazing, and others are real duds.

I also like that you can get the Audible version of a book you are reading.  That way you can read the book when you’re at home, and listen when you’re in your car without missing a page!

Not Recommended:

Digital Book IO

Claim they have access to over 100,000 free audio and ebooks. (In case you’re wondering, “IO” indicates that they registered the website in the British Indian Ocean Territory.)  Some things I didn’t like include that the site took quite a long time to load, I wasn’t able to intuitively find what I was looking for, and it is closely associated with Amazon.  You’d probably be better off just going there to Amazon.

LoyalBooks

LoyalBooks has an extensive selection of free audiobooks from Librivox.  You can download them as an iTunes Podcast or as an mp3 file, or go directly to Librivox.

 

Please forward this to your friends with long commutes who love books.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

Best Tablets for Kids

It’s almost time for back-to-school, and you may be thinking about a new kid-friendly tablet computer. We don’t have kids, so I won’t be able to personally review any of these.  But there are several articles out there that examine the best kids tablets. Some of the things you need to consider are:

  • Battery Life
  • Storage
  • Access to games and apps
  • Size
  • DUrability
  • WiFi
  • Price
  • Operating System
  • Ports

Please note: we will often recommend products, parts, and resources that we like.  Some of these we receive an affiliate commission for at no additional cost to you.

Best Tablets For Kids:

Here are the hightlights:

PC Magazine

….likes the Amazon Fire HD ($80) and the iPad ($250) the best, although the Barnes & Noble Nook ($50) ranked pretty highly too. Here’s what they have to say:

Amazon Fire:

“The Fire HD 8’s default model, for $79.99, has 16GB of storage and comes with ads on the lock screen. For $15 you can turn off the ads; for $30 you can upgrade the storage to 32GB. There’s also microSD card support, but if you intend to use Netflix downloads a lot, I strongly suggest getting the 32GB model, as Netflix won’t download files onto a microSD.”

tablets for kids

Apple iPad:

“Apple’s sixth-generation iPad is still the best tablet value out there. …. you get a light, high-quality tablet with millions of apps, now with a faster processor and Apple Pencil support. It’s great for content consumption and creative work. But Apple wants to compete with laptops and chromebooks in schools, and that requires adding expensive accessories that significantly raise the price.”

LaptopMag

….likes the Amazon Fire Kids Tablet ($130) and the Apple iPad Air ($500):

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition:

“The best tablet for children used to be the Fire 7 Kids Edition, but its new 8-inch sibling just swooped in and stole our attention away. Not only does it offer the same bumper and two-year no-questions-asked warranty as its smaller counterpart, but its battery lasts more than 5 hours longer. It also boasts a brighter screen and more responsive performance.”

Apple iPad Air:

“At half of the price of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the iPad Air ($499) is a much more affordable iOS product for your kids. Its 10.5-inch, 2224 x 1668 is super bright and colorful, so when your child draws on it with the compatible iPad Pencil (1st Gen), their work will really come to life.  A couple of other neat features is that it supports Apple’s Smart Keyboard, so you can get your child into typing, and it even has a headphone jack. On top of all of that, it has a wild 11 hours and 54 minutes of battery life.”

Remember:

Most tablets come with usage restrictions so that your kid isn’t using it all day long!  Check out settings to customize them for your child.

 

Please forward this to your friends who have school-aged kids.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

Sleep and Your Technology

Tips for better Sleep:

I read an interesting article the other day about cellphones and sleep.  It indicated that there is scientific evidence that using your tablet, cell, or watching a movie at night didn’t cause the long term harm other scientists have concluded. “Yay!” I said to myself because I do have trouble sleeping and frequently turn to my cell phone for entertainment until I feel sleepy enough to try to fall asleep again.Tips for better sleep

So I started reading Checking Your Phone At Night Won’t Necessarily Throw Off Your Internal Clock to confirm that I could now watch Star Trek at 3 am without worrying.  But in the very first paragraph, it stated:

“People who only occasionally fall down an internet rabbit hole on their smartphones late at night might be able to rest easier—at least according to the results of a new study in mice. Researchers found that short bursts of light exposure at night won’t necessarily disrupt your internal clock, including sleep habits.”

and:

“What is clear, the authors cautioned, is that chronic nighttime light exposure, and the disruptions to our sleep it can cause, can be very bad for health. In other words, don’t use this study as an excuse to start regularly binge-watching Netflix till 4 a.m.”

So basically, there’s nothing new here. Using your cellphone or tablet at night, even with the brightness turned way down, is harmful to your health. So, I guess I’ll need to find some kind of “go-to-sleep” meditation or take melatonin.

Other Sleep Disturbances:

It’s important to note that light is only one factor that causes sleep disturbances. Technology can cause other disturbances as well. Sound and vibrations can wake you up, or contribute to sleep quality, which never falls into the deep sleep range.

Recommendations for better Sleep:

  • Keep your phone, tablet, and other technology in another room to charge overnight, if you can.
  • Turn the sound off.
  • Turn off silent notifications – i.e., vibrations
  • If you wear a smartwatch that is paired with your phone, make sure you turn off nighttime notifications too.  Nothing like having your wrist buzzing at midnight!

Please forward this to your friends who send you text messages at 4 in the morning!

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

9 Easy Tips to Keep Safe on the Internet

Here are some fast tips to keep you safe on the internet:

  1. Set up a throwaway email account. So many times I am asked for my email address and I’m not sure I want to provide it.  This makes it a little safer.  You can quickly get a free email from Google. Remember the password, and be sure you set up auto-forwarding to your main email address.
  2. When you’re away from home but have to use WiFi, try to go to a well-known company that will probably have safeguards built in.  Sorry independent coffee shops, but Starbucks is probably a safer choice than Caffeine-Arama.Internet Safety
  3. Whatever you do, don’t try to connect to WiFi with names like “TellMy WiFi LuvHer”, or “FBI Surveillance Van” or  “Hacker 547”.  (Yes, I’ve seen all of those.)  Remember the adage – “If it’s free, YOU are the product”.  To keep safe on the internet, think about what they might be getting out of the transaction to provide you with free WiFi.
  4. You can also go to your cellular carrier and ask them to make your cell phone a WiFi hot spot. (They generally charge a monthly fee for this.) Then you can connect your computer to WiFi wherever you are without worrying about someone hacking in who is also using the free WiFi.
  5. If you do need to use the free WiFi at a coffee shop, library, rest area,  etc., use a VPN so that your data is encrypted before it leaves your computer.
  6. Be wary about using computers at the library, especially if you need to enter sensitive or private infomation.  Most libraries are probably pretty proactive about scrubbing their machines regularly to keep malware and keystroke savers off, but not all libraries are aware that they need to do anything.
  7. Set up a separate debit card account with your bank from which to make online purchases. When you’re ready to make a purchase transfer the needed funds into the account.  Talk with your banker about the best way to do this without being subject to additional fees.
  8. Set up a Paypal account and use that for online purchases.
  9. You don’t need to provide your real name, address, or birthday just because someone asks for it.

Conclusion:

Be diligent about your Digital Privacy!  Follow these tips and stay safe on the Internet.

Please forward this to your friends who do a lot of traveling.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

Digital Privacy and Alexa

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I am passionate about privacy: digital privacy to be specific. The fact that our smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices are always listening to us, storing that information, and even selling it makes me crazy.

I’ve recently learned that the Amazon Alexa device keeps everything until you delete it. Whoa! I can delete that data on Alexa? (By the way, Alexa is just like Apple’s Siri.  You can ask questions, set timers, and ask either of them to look up information on the web. Alexa is available with the Echo Dot and the Echo Show.)

Here’s how to maintain some level of digital privacy on your Alexa:Digital Privacy and Alexa

First, open your Amazon account on your computer using your favorite browser.  We like Firefox because it tends to be a little more respectful of our privacy than some of the other browsers.

  • Then, hover over the “Accounts and Lists” down arrow.
  • Next, click on “Your Content and Devices”  about 3/4 of the way down the list.
  • Then click on “Alexa Privacy” and then “Manage Voice Recordings.”  From there, you will see an option to delete everything.

According to Tom’s Guide, some of the newer devices allow you to delete your history on a day-by-day basis by merely saying: “Alexa, delete everything I said today.”

Digital Privacy in the News:

There have been several articles that have caught my eye recently.  Here is just a sampling:

  • Amazon confirms it keeps Alexa recordings forever
    • “If you (like so many of us) hate listening to recordings of your own voice, you may be in for an unpleasant future, as Amazon has confirmed it hangs on to every conversation you’ve ever had with an Alexa-enabled device until or unless you specifically delete them.”
  • How to stop companies from selling your data
    • “The second you fill out an online survey, purchase a new home or subscribe to a magazine, your information may be scooped up by a data company and sold to a subterranean market for personal information on millions of people. These data brokers are building profiles about you, using thousands of pieces of information such as your age, income, race, ethnicity and interests and helping marketers use this data”
  • Simple steps to take to keep your data secure
    • “Social media services have become a significant part of our lives. However, despite these various benefits, some would still opt out of social media if it helped to restore their digital privacy forever.”
  • Tracking us with Digital “Fingerprints
    • “If there’s one lesson to learn about digital privacy, it’s that we can never grow complacent. Even if we secure our data so we are not tracked online, the ad tech industry will find ways to monitor our digital activities.”
  • Location Privacy and your Smartphone
    • “Most smartphone users don’t really lock down their security settings, sticking with the default settings that came with the phone. When they add a new app to their phone, they may not think to check what data they are sharing with the app developer.”

Conclusion:

Be diligent about your Digital Privacy!

Please forward this to your friends with an Alexa device.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

Getting your Tech Ready for Fire Season

What a difference a year makes.  Last year, starting in April 2018, we had the hazy views from California, Arizona, and western Colorado forest fires which continued all summer and into the fall. We’ve had so much moisture this spring our fire ban hasn’t even started yet.  This may be the first time in a decade that there’s not a fire ban on Independence Day!  Regardless, you do need to have a plan to get your tech ready for Fire Season. When you live in the West, you need to be prepared to evacuate at a moments notice. It’s important to prepare ahead of time. You want to make sure you keep your data safe, and to make sure your technology continues to work at your friend’s house, the hotel, or shelter if you do need to evacuate.

Here are the 7 plus 3 steps that I take each year.

Recommendations to get your Tech ready for Fire Season:

  1. Use a laptop for your daily computer.  There is not a lot of difference between a laptop and a desktop anymore, so get the machine that will allow you to grab it fast.  You can still have a large monitor, mouse, and keyboard on your desk.  If you need to bug-out, just unplug everything.
  2. Get two charging cables for your laptop. (Chris calls them “charging bricks”!)  Keep one at your desk and the other in the laptop case.  This way, you won’t need to grab anything extra.
  3. Make sure you backup your data and have a reliable backup system. I can’t say this enough.  Make sure you frequently back up your data! We recommend backing up to the “Cloud.” (Check out this article about what the Cloud is and how to use it.)  Backing up to an external hard drive is good too, but it can accidentally get left behind.  Or worse, you may not even have time to grab your laptop.   I like Dropbox it automatically backs stuff up and because I can log onto the Internet from anywhere to quickly access my data.  And I can view my files on my tablet and phone too. (Dropbox even uploads my photos from my phone into the cloud!)  We also recommend that you backup your data to an external hard drive at least once a month and keep that drive in a location that is separate from your computer. (We believe in the law of three places!)
  4. Talk to your cell phone provider about turning your cell phone into a WiFi hot spot.  As long as your phone has access to a good cellular signal, you’ll be able to send a reliable WiFi signal to your laptop wherever you are.
  5. Make sure you have a bunch of fully charged battery packs.  I bought two portable battery chargers like this several months ago and am regularly using one or the other.  I carry one in my car, so if I run low on charge, I can easily get recharged again.
  6. Keep the Geek For Hire phone number handy. (You can reach us at 303-618-0154.) We can talk you through most issues you might be having.  Remember, if you just have a quick question, we don’t charge for phone calls under 15 minutes.
  7. Have a great, reliable backup system in place.

And more recommendations:

  1. Remember to keep your precious photos and other valuables in a bin by the door ready to go in case you do get evacuated.
  2. Keep your fuel tanks at least half full throughout the fire season.
  3. Grab your laundry basket.  All of your favorite clothes are already in there!

 

Fire Season
James Peak on 30 April 2018 – Haze is from the Tinder Fire in AZ
James Peak - get your tech ready for fire season
James Peak on 30 June 2019

 

 

 

Conclusion:

To keep your tech ready for fire season, it’s crucial to have a plan.  Talk with your family and make sure each person in your household is prepared.

Please forward this to your friends and neighbors, so we’re all ready for Fire Season this year.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

Phone Scams and how to protect yourself

Privacy and Security

I’ve been reading some concerning news recently about the volume of phone scams going around. There are more and more each month.  You might wonder why there are so many of them and why the authorities can’t put an end to all of them.  There are good answers to both of those questions:

Why are there so many phone scams going around?Phone Scams

The reason is simple.  People fall for phone scams.  They voluntarily provide their user ID and password, or their name and birthday.  Worse, they’ll hand over their credit card number to a random person calling on the phone.  There are so many scams because they are profitable.  Before you say “Well, I would never do that!”, you should know that the scams have gotten much more sophisticated over the past few years. It’s only after you’ve given out your information and hung up the phone, that you realize that maybe all is not as it seemed.

Why can’t the authorities put an end to these scams?

Are you familiar with the term “Fly-by-night”? It is used to describe a person that sets itself up as a respectable business person, accepting payment in exchange for a promised good or service. Then, all of a sudden, they’ve closed up shop and moved.  Well, that’s what these bad operators are, with the added benefit of the internet.

Back “then,” you’d call the Police Department, and they would work with other Officers in the next county or state to catch them.  Today, the scammers will collect your money, and almost before your call is over, they will have changed their IP address so that it looks like they’re in a different country.

The authorities can’t put an end to the scams, because they have a challenging time catching the perpetrators.

What should you do if you fall for one of these phone scams?

First, don’t beat yourself up about it.  The people who call are very sophisticated and convincing.  They know all the right words to say to get you to give them what they want.

If you provide credit card information:

  • First, call your banker to let them know.  Ask them to deny the charge.
  • If you have online access to your bank account, log on at least once a day for the next few weeks to see if there is any suspicious activity.
  • You should also ask them for a new credit card with a new number.

If you allow remote access to your computer:

  • The first thing to do is to disconnect the computer from the internet. Unplug the ethernet cable or turn off the WiFi.
  • Next, run your virus scanner and delete any viruses or other malware that may be installed on your machine.
  • If you feel like they’ve installed something that you can’t get rid of, give us a call, and we’ll give your machine a good scrub.

How can you protect yourself from email scams?

I’ve created a Free Report of what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Conclusion:

Remember that Microsoft or Google will not call you if you have a virus on your machine.  Run your virus scanner regularly, and just say no to people who call and want to access your computer, or want you to sign up for online computer support.

Please forward this to your friends who may be susceptible to phone scams.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) 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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)

WordPress Security Tips

Do you have a blog or a static website?  Are you as concerned about WordPress security as I am?  I remember a day about two years ago when I received an email. WordPress locked the Geek For Hire website. When I frantically tried to log back in, I wasn’t able to.  I ended up by successfully logging in using Chris’ credentials.  Thank goodness I had set up two admin accounts! After I logged in, I deleted all of the other admin accounts.

(We sometimes provide links to products or services that we think will be beneficial to our readers.  Some of those links provide a small commission to Geek For Hire.)

How to ramp up your WordPress security:

There are several things you can do to make sure your WordPress site is secure.Wordpress Security Tips

  • First of all, don’t use “admin” as your login name.  If someone wants to hack your website, they will need two things.  One is your user id or your email.  The other is your password.  Admin is the most common user id for WordPress sites.  It’s kind of like using “password” as your password.  Don’t do it!
  • Your next step will be to play with your user id. Because “admin” or your name are standard user id’s, you want to use something unexpected. Make your user id something non-sensical.  A string of letters, numbers, and special characters will work.  Think of it as another level to your password.
  • Third, make sure your password is ultra secure.  WordPress has an option where they can generate a password for you.  I think it’s about 20 characters long with a healthy mixture of small and capital letters, numbers, and special characters.  Please use this option.
  • Fourth, check your list of users every few weeks.  There should only be you and whoever else you have authorized to have access to the account. If there are any other users, delete them.
  • Finally, use one of the WordPress plugins to ensure extra security. I use iThemes Security Pro. It has saved our website many times.  Because we have a name that is attractive to hackers, they constantly bombard us with break-in attempts; anywhere from 100-500 every day. If someone tries, unsuccessfully, to log into our account too many times, iThemes will lock them out.  We’re pleased with the level of protection they offer.

What we’re dealing with:

Here’s an example from one day last week.Wordpress SecurityYou can see that there were 243 separate login attempts, and one IP address has been locked out from trying to log in again.

Conclusion:

If you are concerned about WordPress Security, remember to use a secure password, do use an odd user id, check your users, and sign up for one of the WordPress plugins.

Please forward this to your colleagues who manage a static website or blog.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  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 online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days 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.)