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Beeeep…Beeeeeep

Beeeeep…..Beeebackupeep…….Beeeeep. I was sitting in my bathrobe this morning, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the local rag. I mean the Charlotte Sun. When this awful noise crashed into my morning routine. Beeeeeep……Beeeeeep……Beeeeep. There it was again. I jumped up; or more accurately, got up. That early in the morning not everything wants to function quite as sprightly as it once did. I walked out the front door to see what was going on. Coming down our street in reverse was a large moving truck.

Beeeep….Beeeep….Beeeeep. Now I am not superstitious but this was a bit weird. Have you ever had one of those days where at the end of the day you say, “I should buy a lottery ticket.”  One of those days when seemingly random events have a recurring theme embedded in them. For example: I client of mine gave me his phone number. Later that day I went to his house and his house number was the same number as the last four digits of his phone number. Then oddly enough, when setting up a broadband account, they asked him for the last four digits of his social security number and, you guessed it, it was the same number.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeeep…….Beeeeep  So here I am standing in my driveway, listening to a truck make that terribly annoying noise and it hits me. The truck is BACKING UP. This is the second similarity in two random events. Not twelve hours prior to this, a business client of mine had called me and told me his PC had crashed during a power outage and now it would not restart. I had run over to help him but the PC was in need of a complete re-installation of the operating system. I looked up and asked for all the BACK UPS so I could rebuild the system for him. “BACK UPS, what BACK UPS?” he said. Fortunately PC CPR  (that’s a computer/medical term)  was able to get the system BACK UP and limping along sufficiently to do an immediate BACK UP of all critical business information. Happy ending so far.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeep……Beeeeeep. What was this series of events trying to tell me? As I pondered the question I turned and went BACK UP to the house. Wait a minute, is that the third event? I realized that while my PCs are all supposed to automatically BACK UP all important data, it had been awhile since I actually checked the BACK UPs myself. How do I run my BACK UPs? First, since I have more than one machine networked together, I have software on my machines that takes all the important files from one PC and copies it to the other on a regular schedule. This means that each machine on the network has a complete copy of all the important files on each machine. Lose one machine, no files are lost, and as soon as a new machine is installed, I am BACK UP and running. Second, the critical files or the ones that would be nearly impossible to recreate, stored in the cloud. Finally, on rare occasions I will make an image of the entire hard drive (no this does not mean I take the PC apart and take a picture of the hard drive) and store it on the network.

Now, let’s BACK UP a minute. You don’t have multiple PCs on a network. You don’t have a flash drive, and finally your camera doesn’t take pictures of bits and bytes. When your PC crashes you want to be BACK UP right away too. What should you do? If your back up requirements are minimal, open a GMAIL account and take advantage of 15 gigs of free cloud storage called Google Drive. Or if you have a Microsoft account go to OneDrive for 5 gigs of free online storage. Dropbox is another storage site as is Amazon Drive. If your storage requirements are even greater then check out Carbonite (https://bitsbytesandchips.com/cloud_backup  (“Did he say FREE, Martha?”) There you can store terabytes of data, (that is a lot of space.) Not only would your data be secure and BACKED UP, but if necessary you could access your files anywhere in the world. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Hopefully you have picked up the recurring theme embedded in the seemingly random preceding paragraphs. I have to head BACK UP to the office now, but later on, I think I will go out and buy a lottery ticket. Beeeeep……Beeeeep…….Beeeeep!

Did your Windows Product Key Expire?

We discussed these items before but after this week, it appears a refresher is in order.

windows product keyMost of us run PCs with the Windows operating system on it, either Windows 10, or one of the older versions such as Windows 8, or Windows 7, or if really living in the past, Windows Vista or even XP. Someday the phone will ring and either we’ll be unfortunate enough to answer it or the caller will leave a voice mail message informing us that the Windows license key has expired and our binary buddy will be shut down permanently unless we pay up immediately. Red flags should fly up our flagpoles. First, the windows license key NEVER expires. Second, as a client was recently instructed, they needed to go to Walgreens, the scammer even provided the nearest Walgreens and purchase seven $100 Steam Gift Cards. The client was to call back and provide the numbers on each card to the caller and their Windows license key would be reactivated. Third red flag; Microsoft is a global corporation; the chance that they can’t take credit cards is zero. Fourth red flag; $700 to reactivate a key that doesn’t expire? We could buy a new computer for less than that. Fifth red flag, Microsoft will NEVER, not EVER, call us unsolicited.

And from here it went downhill as the caller convinced the client that he needed to take control of the computer to check a few things. The scam artist installed a small program. This program activated as soon as the computer was turned on and made the screen go black with a little message in the middle that said the computer had been deactivated and the user needed to call the 800 number right now. It looked serious, but task manager quickly allowed the bogus program to be turned off and then uninstalled.

Another item that needs attention is System Restore verses System Recovery. System Restore is like time travel. If we have it turned on, we can tell our binary buddy to travel back to a date where everything worked and start over from there. Example, we download an old driver for our printer by mistake, install it and the computer starts whooping and hollering that the world is going to end. We quickly open System Restore and move our pc back to the day before we installed the non functioning software. All is as it was. System Recovery on the other hand is like a rebirth. It wipes our calculating companion of all the accumulated junk, files, pictures, programs and miscellaneous detritus we’ve inadvertently added to our poor pc. When the System Recovery is finished the machine will be the same shiny box it was when we first brought it home. Here is the take away from this. System Restore, earlier time, System Recovery, all is gone but the PC is like a new born babe.

Finally, use a local tech. Much cheaper in the long run.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! 

 

Moving Files to the New Computer

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There sits our brand new calculating companion we successfully set up last week. We answered the initial set up questions and it finally displayed a beautiful, if empty desktop. What’s next? Moving files from the old PC to the new one would be appropriate now. There are multiple processes available to accomplish this task.
For those heeding my entreaties over the years to back up files to an online cloud system such as Carbonite (http://partners.carbonite.com/bitsbyteschipscomputerservices) the process is as simple. Surf over to our cloud based backup provider, log on to the site, click on recover files and follow the steps. This will install Carbonite on the new computer and then restore all backed up files to where they were on the old computer. Depending on how large the backup is it can take a long time. However this won’t prevent us from continuing with other tasks such as loading programs on the new computer.
For those preferring to back up files to an external drive, simply connect the drive to the new computer and copy and paste from the drive to the new PC. If we used Windows File History to back up our files to the external drive, we can open File History on the new computer and tell it to restore all our files in the same places on the new computer that they were on the old computer.
There are still a handful of folks that have no backups. If the old computer is still running, use a flash drive to copy all the files we want from the old PC to the flash drive then put the flash drive into the new computer and copy the files from the flash drive to the new computer.
Another possible method to move a lot of files from the old PC to the new is to network the PCs together and transfer files via the network. This again assumes that the old PC is working and we know how to set up the network between the two.
Some folks use Microsoft’s Onedrive, Google Drive or Dropbox. Install these on the new computer and all the files we kept in them will magically appear on our new computer.
If the old PC isn’t running, there is a possibility that the hard drive (where all files and programs reside) may still be readable. A local tech can pull the drive, hook it up to some fancy drive reading hardware and salvage files and pictures and move them to the new computer.
Many programs such as Microsoft’s Office 365 actually store files in the cloud so even if we didn’t back them up as soon as we reinstall the program the files will be available on the new computer.
If our preferred email program is a webmail based system where we open a browser to read our mail, then all the email we had was actually in the cloud. It will still be there when we surf over to the email site with our new computer.
One last method for transferring files, call a local tech. Next week installing programs, hardware, and setting defaults.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com or 941-626-3285

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Who you gonna call?

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One thing we can be sure of is that our binary buddies will never spend two days in a row, exactly the same. Sometimes we change it ourselves, add new software to perform some desired task. Install new hardware such as an external back up drive or a new microphone. Sometimes it is a mystery how we turn off the computer at night and the next morning when it fires up there are changes made without our knowledge, some good and perhaps some not so good. It’s the not so good ones that perplex and frustrate us, especially if we don’t know how to fix or undo the change. The other issue that goes along with this is we don’t know which service or company to contact for help.

Example: A recent Windows update was thought to be the cause behind the speakers suddenly going silent. A call to Microsoft resulted in the user being told to plug in the speakers. They were already plugged in just not working. Here is where the problem arises. Speakers are hardware, the hardware works because of software called drivers, specifically designed for the audio card in that computer. That driver is provided by either the computer manufacturer if it is a major brand or by the maker of the audio card. It is not provided by Microsoft or their Windows service. So calling Microsoft to fix another manufacturer’s hardware would be akin to calling Comcast to fix our dishwasher.

Another example was a user whose AVG antivirus stopped working. A call to Comcast resulted in an attempt by Comcast to install Norton on the computer without removing the non functioning AVG. Now neither system worked, both antivirus programs were trying to start, then they would crash, try to start, crash on and on. Error messages were popping up on the screen and the poor defenseless PC was being over worked trying to start two systems that refused to start. In this example it should have been AVG that fixed their problem. Comcast doesn’t own AVG, nor service it. Again, calling Comcast to fix an AVG problem is like calling the car mechanic to change the refrigerator light bulb.

Still another example of who you should call for help. A client decided to take my suggestion and buy their own Internet modem so as to save the rental fee on the modem provided by their ISP. (Internet Service Provider) This example happened to be Centurylink but it holds for all providers. The client ran into some difficulty installing the new modem and couldn’t get online. A call to Centurylink resulted in being told they don’t support any modems except their own. A call to the modem manufacturer resulted in some technical jargon regarding settings to be obtained from the ISP. Which brought the client back to Centurylink and round and round.

So the question is, does there exist a single source of help that can address all the issues, knows what company belongs to which piece of software or hardware and understands how they all fit together? Of course there is. Call a LOCAL computer technician. It’s what they do.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com or 941-626-3285

 

Better living through Cell Phones

This week a client informed me that they still had an old flip phone and used it only for emergencies. The question is what denotes an emergency? For many of us, the smart phone has complemented or replaced our desktop or laptop computers. But how many of us stretch the capabilities of our smart phones to their limits. Almost all smart phones are set up to retrieve and send e-mail, text and messaging. We can use them to shop, check reviews, even move our car in and out of parking spaces when the spot is a bit tight. But how about simple day to day tasks that in the past might require separate tools, dangerous positions, pencil, papers or rulers and tables? For example, I needed a part for a twenty year old vertical blind. The blind parts company asked for the model or serial number of the unit to determine which parts it required. Now, in the old days, I might have gotten out the step ladder, climbed up and unfastened the blind, taking it down, knocking over the lamp that I set off to the side so I wouldn’t knock it over, finding the tag and carefully ascribed the numbers and letters on a note pad. But my baby binary buddy, with the camera set for a selfie, or using the front camera, was able to be held up behind, over and under the valence while I perused the screen until I found a label. Now to record that label’s information was a simple touch on the screen and a photo was taken that could be enlarged if my eyes required it.

Want to give up car ownership? Put an app on the smart phone for Uber and Lyft. The Uber app tells us how many Uber cars are nearby, (eight right now) gives three options ranging from everyday drives to more complex rides. The rate for the basic ride from Punta Gorda to Murdock for 4 people is $18.92, my credit card is charged, and according to the app, the car will arrive in nine minutes to pick us up. In the meantime, I can check out the driver’s customer ratings, see a picture of the driver and the car. No cash transfers between passenger and driver unless of course we receive exceptional service which might elicit a tip. As important as the passengers rating the driver, the driver can also rate the passengers as to their behavior. Now sell that old car. No insurance, no registration, go gas, the list goes on.

The possibilities are endless; an app called Loseit will allow us to track every calorie we stuff in our mouth. Amazing how when we see the calories consumed how our hunger seems satisfied much sooner and the pounds seem to fade away.  Another app called Life360 allows our spouse or others to track our travels, which Martha likes to do when I’m out on a long bicycle ride around Charlotte County.

What do you use your smart phone for?

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte!