Who is Really Calling?

Computer scams are rampant if my voice mail is any judge.  For the last few weeks I’ve been getting a voice mail message with the following recording:

“This call is in regards to the security software we installed on your computer last year. Now we see a red flag on our end stating there is a security breach on it. Please call 1-866-758-1262. I repeat, 1-866-758-1262. Thank you.”

We’ve also received phone calls from regular people like you or me who fell victim to these scams.

Whenever you receive a call on your home or mobile phone from a number that you do not recognize, be extra careful. Dell or Microsoft or Toshiba or even Apple won’t be calling you to tell you that your computer has a virus.  When you get this kind of call, your spider-sense should be tingling!

There are times though when you answer the phone and the person on the other end is very convincing.  You might believe them and agree that they can access your computer remotely.  Then when you hang up the phone you have second thoughts.  Some things you should do right away are to:

  • Turn your machine off.
  • Disconnect the internet from your machine.  You may need to unplug the Ethernet cable from your machine or turn off the router if you have wireless service.
  • Turn your machine back on and confirm that your anti-virus is still working and is still installed.
  • Start your virus scanner.  It should tell you whether any malware has been installed, and it should remove those programs.
  • Once your virus scanner has completed and has removed any potential threats, you can reconnect your internet.
  • For the next few days be very cautious about how you use your machine.  For example, it would be prudent not to enter any financial or banking information on that machine – use your phone or iPad instead.  If the machine doesn’t show any signs of continued infection, it should be fine.  If it starts displaying pop-ups or becomes very slow, it’s time to call in a professional to do a through scrub of the machine.

You can find other symptoms of an infected machine here:

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 at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

 

Experts say computers won’t last as long as you think

We have several customers with very old machines and they generally ask us how much longer they can expect their machine to last. We’re talking ten plus years! Remember Windows ME? Yup, we’re still seeing customers with that Microsoft Operating System!

It’s true that the machines that were built prior to 2010, for example, are likely to last five or so years. Some people have gotten them to last longer by taking special care of them. For example, we’re still happily using our 2008 iMac. Eight years later, it still performs very well. However, machines built in the last couple of years were only made to last three to six years.

I talked with Chris about computers in general and how long we can expect them to last.

“Computer technology doubles every three to four years and computers tend to last about four years. The better (more expensive) computers tend to last much longer than the cheaper ones will.”

Other experts around the internet chime in:

“…we use the 3-4-5 theory.  Plan on three years, hope for four, and don’t push past five years.”

“If you’re looking at the computer as a whole, with no interest in upgrading or replacing parts, expect to get at least three years out of the average desktop computer.”

“As a general rule of thumb, I expect laptops to last two to five years. Desktops may last three to seven years.”

“…a good timeframe to consider upgrading is around every three to four years.”

What can you do to help your machine last longer and keep it humming along?

  • Keeping the insides free of dust and pet hair.
  • If a machine is short on RAM, adding more will help it to run faster.
  • Too many protective software programs will make a machine run slower.
  • When the hard drive is more than 50% full, it will begin to run slower.
  • Viruses will tend to make your machine run slower. If you think you may have a virus, run your virus scanner to remove them.
  • Things get bigger and more computationally intense over time, so there are lags.

Remember, even if your machine is running perfectly, to keep your machine backed up regularly. Backups never go out of style and you never know when that hard drive might fail!

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 at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area

 

Data Transfer vs. Data Recovery

We’ve been doing a lot of Data Recovery lately so I asked Chris to tell us what is involved in Data Recovery and how it is different from Data Transfer.

Although Data Transfer and Data Recovery are similar phrases, they are different in important ways.

Data transfer is the act of copying data directly from one device to another. (For example when you purchase a new Mac and need to transfer your data from your old PC.) Data transfer tends to be much faster than Data Recovery, because it uses the native copy function provided by the Operating System. But, if there are physical problems on the device, or if the filesystem on the device is corrupt, data transfer will not work because it is not tolerant of errors.

Exploding Disk Drive!
Exploding Disk Drive!

Data recovery is performed by specialized software that is tolerant of physical disk errors and errors in the filesystem. It takes much more time to perform Data Recovery because the process has several steps.

Although Data Recovery is much slower to produce a Gigabyte of data, it is tolerant of errors so it is capable of getting to files and putting them back together.

There are five main steps in Data Recovery:

  1. Is the device accessible?
    • if the disk controller is unresponsive, we would need to replace that and retest;
    • if the disk does not physically turn, we will not attempt to fix;
    • if the disk “clicks” when it is turned on, this indicates internal damage within the hard drive which we will not attempt to fix;
    • if the data is overwritten, we will not know this until after the data is recovered and you have inspected your data
  2. Media Analysis (to find where the good data blocks and the bad data blocks are)
  3. File Analysis (to discover what disk blocks comprise which files and folders, and in what order)
  4. Data Selection (to choose which files and folders should be recovered because they are interesting and necessary, and which files and folders should not)
  5. Data Production (the act of creating new files from the recovered data onto an external hard drive).

Our method of recovering data is “Read Only”, meaning that we will not open the hard drive to get to your data; We will connect your hard drive to an adapter, and attempt to access the data through the disk. We will not open your hard drive because we don’t have a “Clean Room”, and we don’t have the spare parts or the specialized equipment necessary to transfer your platters to another drive in a way that would work and not damage your data. If we were to physically open your hard drive, we would introduce significant contamination to your disk, and this would not improve the chances of getting back your data.

If we find that we cannot access your data, we will stop work, because proceeding will not improve the chances of our getting your data.

If we cannot get your data, and you have a business case for getting your data, we recommend that you send your hard drive to one of the major data recovery companies and not to a local company which says they can do it. Because that company will get “one bite of the apple”; they will need to be able to open the disk in a clean room, and have the resources to get your data, because there is a serious risk that your drive will be polluted by their attempt.

There are a handful of Data Recovery companies in the country which specialize in recovering data from physically bad hard drives. They have a clean room, spare parts, and invasive methods of getting your data. They charge a lot more than we do, but we are usually successful, and we can determine in a reasonable amount of time whether Data Recovery is something we are likely to be successful in doing or not.

Our most exciting Data Recovery story happened several years ago.  There was a fire near Gold Hill, Colorado.  Our customer’s home survived the fire, but the next spring, with all the snow melt and spring rains, a mud slide buried their basement.  Their computer was covered in several feet of mud.  Chris carefully cleaned the machine and then started the data recovery process.  Success!

We can recover data from Windows or Mac hard drives.  The device can be formatted using the Windows filesystem or for the Mac filesystem. It doesn’t matter to us if the computer that the device came from is bootable or not, because the device will be removed from the “source” computer and then connected to an adapter, which will allow the data to be accessed directly.

Let us know if you have any questions about this process. Give us a call or send an email.

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.

Chris’ Favorite Websites

It’s important for Chris and Geek For Hire to keep up new technology, different trends, and any up and coming changes in technology.  That’s why Chris is constantly reading and learning about what’s going on in the tech world.  Some of his favorites include:

Ars Technica – http://arstechnica.com/ – Founded in 1998, it caters to the “alpha-geeks”.  Their vision was to be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. ”  One of their current articles is about Google’s new OnHub router.

Fast Company – http://www.fastcompany.com/ – Launched in 1995, Fast Company has “a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design.”  FastCo has the technology news that the other sites have, but that’s not their only focus.  Here’s an article about comic books turned into movies.

Morning Ticker – http://www.morningticker.com/ – is relatively new Founded in 2014, MorningTicker covers the latest news, offering breaking news and analysis of the biggest trends and happenings around the world.  Chris has been following the Jeep hacking issue and was interested to see that Uber seems to be taking advantage of this flaw.

Slate –  http://www.slate.com/articles/technology.html?wpisrc=burger_bar –  is a daily news magazine founded in 1996.   With so many people still insisting that Mac’s and Apple iPhones are impervious to malware, Chris found this article very interesting.

Wired – http://www.wired.com/ – We’ve been receiving Wired Magazine since the very beginning – 1993.  They made the jump to the internet early on and is one of Chris’ go-to sites for news.  More Uber news – this time involving the NYC taxi system.

Where do you get your technology news?  Please share in the comments below!

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 at www.GeekForHireInc.com. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area. They can provide remote service throughout North America.

How Often Should You Get Your Mac or PC Tuned Up?

I recently brought my sewing machine in to get fixed.  It’s been sewing unevenly for the past several years, but I’ve just been living with it.  I’ve been living with it partly because it “wasn’t that bad” and partly because I really didn’t know where to take it.  Well, I finally realized how bad it was and asked around for a recommendation of where to take it.  I made an appointment and brought it in.  The nice woman behind the counter asked me how long it had been since my sewing machine had had a tune-up.  I told her it had been at least ten years.  She laughed (in a nice way) and told me they recommend a tune-up at least once a year.

I can understand that.  In fact, I can solidly get behind that!

How many times do you wait and wait?  How often have you thought “It’s not so bad.  I can wait two minutes for my internet page to load.” or “It’s normal for my machine to shut down on its own, isn’t it?”

We recommend that our customers get an annual tuneup on their machines – for both PCs and Mac’s.  Why?  When I asked my friend Karen why she did, she answered: “In one word?  Stress reduction.”

A few years ago, Karen got a nasty virus.  Chris came out and cleaned it all up and she was pretty impressed.  When it was time for her to get  a new machine, she asked Chris for help in the selection process.  I see her frequently and at least once a month she tells me how thrilled she is with her new machine.  When she got a postcard from us reminding her that a year had already gone by, she called right away for her appointment.  Chris checked it all out, deleted some unnecessary files that were gunking up the works, scanned for any viruses, and updated her new anti-virus, and she was good to go!

So, here is some of what happens during a tuneup:

  1. Chris does a scan to make sure there aren’t any viruses.
  2. He’ll do a general clean up to make the whole machine snappier.
  3. If you don’t have an anti-virus, he’ll add one.  If you do, he’ll make sure it’s up to date and accepting automatic updates.
  4. Chris will make sure your operating system is updated with all the necessary file uploads.
  5. He’ll answer any of your questions and provide training if you need that.

So now I know.  My car needs a tune-up every 3-5000 miles.  My sewing machine needs a tune-up every year.  And now you know that your computer needs a tune-up every year too!

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.

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, but I’m tempted!   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.)

Myth – Mac’s Don’t Get Viruses

Source: Internet meme
Source: Internet meme

More than once I’ve heard someone say they won’t ever get a virus because they have a Mac.

Unfortunately that’s just not true. Mac’s can get viruses just as easily as any other kind of machine. It used to be that malware was written specifically for the Microsoft Operating System, because there were just so darn many of them out there. If our experience at Geek For Hire, Inc. is any guide, plenty of our customers with Apples are getting all kinds of malware.

(By the way, “malware” is the catch-all phrase for any software you haven’t deliberately chosen to load onto your computer. Remember from high school Latin that “mal” means “bad”. “Malware” includes viruses, spyware, rootkits, and more.)

In fact, way back in 2012, Apple itself recognized the flaw. In April, 2012, more than a half million Macs were infected by the Flashback Trojan bug. Shortly after that, PC Magazine reported that Apple “removed from its website the claim that its Mac operating system is not susceptible to PC viruses.”, and changed its tagline to “It’s built to be safe”.

Today, even more malware is being written specifically for the Mac OS. And Apple does not seem to be on top of getting fixes out to their users.  In an article by Digital Trends, they stated:

“Apple has also been criticized for being slow to deal with threats and shut vulnerabilities down. Rootpipe was discovered in October 2014, but the fix only came out this month (April 2015), and it only patches Yosemite, not older editions of OS X. To make matters worse, the patch doesn’t actually fix the problem properly. Apple’s big rival may have a bad reputation, but it has taken decisive action to tackle that perception.”

It’s best to protect yourself with a good anti-virus program for Macs. We like ESET’s Cyber-Security.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post them below. I’ll try to respond to every single one!

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 at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area. They can provide remote service throughout North America.

What Is a Solid State Drive and Why Do I Need One?

For the past five years or so, whenever Chris had to replace a hard drive in a Mac or PC, or is designing a new computer for a customer, he always recommends that they get a Solid State Drive (SSD), rather than the traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD).   Why?

First of all, here’s a great explanation from PC Magazine of how a HDD saves your data:

“The traditional spinning hard drive (HDD) is the basic nonvolatile storage on a computer. That is, it doesn’t “go away” like the data on the system memory when you turn the system off. Hard drives are essentially metal platters with a magnetic coating. That coating stores your data, whether that data consists of weather reports from the last century, a high-definition copy of the Star Wars trilogy, or your digital music collection. A read/write head on an arm accesses the data while the platters are spinning in a hard drive enclosure.”

And here’s a description from TechTerms on how the Solid State Drive works:

“While SSDs serve the same function as hard drives, their internal components are much different. Unlike hard drives, SSDs do not have any moving parts (which is why they are called solid state drives). Instead of storing data on magnetic platters, SSDs store data using flash memory. Since SSDs have no moving parts, they don’t have to “spin up” while in a sleep state and they don’t need to move a drive head to different parts of the drive to access data. Therefore, SSDs can access data faster than HDDs.”

For a long time, I just didn’t get it. Why is “newer” always “better” for these geeks?! Chris patiently explained to me some of the benefits.

More Robust:
Because a Solid State Drive has no moving parts, there aren’t any parts to break. This makes the SSD perfect for those who don’t count “grace” as one of their better qualities. It’s also a better choice for frequent travelers

Speed:
SSD’s are faster. I’ve read that they are 100 times faster than HDD’s. Machines with an SSD will boot faster, open programs faster, transfer files faster. Games process more quickly too. When seconds count, choose an SSD.

Lighter:
When you’re lugging a laptop through an airport, you want to shed every excess ounce that you can.  SSD’s weigh slightly less than the HDD’s.

Downside:
SSD’s are more expensive to purchase than HDD’s. But, considering that the SSD will last longer, that’s only a short term problem.

Here are some additional articles on why the SSD is a better choice:
PC Magazine / OCZ / ThinLabs

Purchasing Recommendations:
If you are looking into purchasing a new SSD, C|NET has some great recommendations here.

Once you get your new SSD, we can help you install it – just give us a call!

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.

iPad Games For Your Cat

I’ve been hearing about games you can play with your cat on your iPad.  I decided to try a few and see how Dot (our cat) liked them.    I started with this article on MacLife.com.

I have a silly rule about applications for my phone and iPad.  All apps (except for the ones required for business) must be free!  Most of the free apps I found were published by Purina/Friskies.

If you don’t have a screen protector, I’d recommend getting one before letting your cat play with your iPad!

First we tried Cat Fishing 2.  Dot seemed interested in the fish swimming around the screen and watched them intently.  But she never tried to catch them or attack them in any way.  The game makes two sounds.  Dot didn’t seem to notice the fish bubbles, but when the iPad meowed at her, she jumped about a mile!

Cat Fishing 2
Cat Fishing 2

Next we tried Nifty Cat Games.  It showed a fly buzzing across the screen.  Before Dot could express an interest one way or another – a mere fifteen seconds later – this nifty screen popped up:

Time Out!
Time Out!

Next we tried Game for Cats.  I’m starting to think my cat just is too cool for the iPad.  Here’s a photo of her with the laser tag game:

Yawn....
Yawn….

I think we’ll just stick to the old fashioned cat toys!

Dot vs. Cat Toy
Dot vs. Cat Toy

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.

What Do I Do With My MF (Multi-Function) PRINTER?!

I’ve updated this page – check out the new blog here.

Of course, we can help you with  your printer issues.  Give us a call and give me a run-down of the symptoms.  If it can be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, I’ll let you know.  If not, I’ll let you know that too.

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 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.

The Geek That Calls You Back – and Other True Stories

We get calls all the time from people who say “I’ve had this problem for a week, but my regular geek isn’t getting back to me.”  When people say that, it always makes me wonder.  How can you expect your customers to treat you with respect when you have a sub-standard level of professionalism?  We provide a professional service and treat our customers how we want to be treated.

The geek that lets you shoulder surf:  Chris likes for our customers to know more after their service than they did before. Ask questions! Chris will answer them, but more than that…

The geek that treats you like an intelligent human:  We’ve all seen that show where the geek comes to fix your computer and makes fun of you because you don’t know the difference between a RAM and a gig. Chris knows that you’re an intelligent person who has skills in areas other than fixing computers. He treats you with respect and kindness.

The geek that’s not on commission:  When you bring your computer to a “big box store” for repair, everyone you talk to is probably earning a commission. It’s in their best interests to tell you that your computer can’t be repaired, or that you’d be better off with this new computer on the shelf over there.

The geek that comes to your home:  Have you had a problem with your computer and you pack it up and bring it in to the store, but the problem magically disappears? Then comes back when you get it back home? Even laptops, which are supposed to “work everywhere”, will have issues only in one place. When we come to your home, all the problems that were there yesterday, won’t mysteriously disappear just because we walk through the door!

The geek with 30+ years of experience:  Yup, you read that number correctly. It makes me laugh when I see an IT company with two geeks that proclaim “OVER 15 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE!!” (Each geek has worked with computers for 7 or 8 years.)  Chris has been working with computers since high school.  He has kept up-to-date with changes over the years. Today, he’s just as comfortable with a MacPro or a Surface as he is with the old PDP-11.

The geek that’s been around for over 15 years:  We intend to be around for a lot more. That means consistent service for you from someone who knows you and knows how you work. There’s a trust there that’s built over the years.  We watch your kids grow up. There’s an honor about being let into our customer’s lives. We grieve with you when your house gets flooded or is in the middle of a wildfire. We celebrate with you when you get a new puppy, or your kids graduate from high school.

And, we know computers, and we’ll call you back.

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.