Search Engine Secrets

By: Phil Shortell

Just about everyone who takes an internet class here at Computer Corner sooner or later gets around to making the statement/asking the question “What good is a search engine if it comes back giving me too many sites for me to wade through?” This leads me to ask them what they are looking for and how they enter their query. I usually find that there being buried by the hits because they have never been told about the way ALL search engines work. Within a few short minutes, they get the answer and now you get it too.

The example I use in class came right from one of my students. Her son needed to do a paper on Daniel Boone, but when she typed in Daniel Boone they got 378,090 hits (That is the actual number, you may get something different depending on which search engine you use) the problem is that a search for Daniel Boone scores a match with sites for Daniel Boone, Daniel Defoe, Daniel in the lion’s den. Pat Boone, Debbie Boone, and Kim Kardashian! OK I just threw Kim in to see if you were paying attention. But all the others are absolutely true. When you want an exact phrase such as “indian jewelry” or “daniel boone” or “cuban black bean soup” you should enclose the phrase in “quotes” AND yes, all lower case is best.

Now, if you want more than one argument in your search, the plot thickens. As an example, if you want to find a biography of Daniel Boone, it would seem logical to type in “daniel boone” biography. Doing this may actually result in over one million matches because it’s now going to find the Daniel Boone Motel in Paducah Kentucky AND the biographies of Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson and Kim Kardashian (and yes, there are multiple web sites having a biography of Ms. Kardashian.) What you need to do here is tell the search engine that BOTH arguments MUST be present to score a hit. You do that simply by placing a + (plus sign) in front of each word/phrase. i.e. +”daniel boone” +biography.

Now, sometimes you might want to say to the search engine that you do NOT want sites containing certain words or phrases. You accomplish this by preceding the abjured phrase with a – (minus sign). In attempting to avoid certain sites that shall not be discussed here, you might want to construct your search like this +”daniel boone” +biography -“XXX”.

I am the principal cook in our household and as such, from time to time I find the need to search the web for a recipe or two.  My chef life here is complicated by the fact that my wife is an especially picky eater.  She hates the taste of ham, is a teetotaler and she would sooner volunteer as a knife throwers assistant than eat any food that wasn’t fat free. That brings me to what may be the ultimate demonstration of giving a search engine the information it needs to fulfill a request.  A while back, I wanted to get a recipe for (as mentioned above) Cuban Black Bean soup. You give this a try and see what happens.  Type in Cuban Black Bean soup recipe (Yes I know I just ranted on above about NOT doing things that way, but you need a starting point to make a valid comparison don’t you?)  Note the number of hits you get. Now type in exactly what follows:

 +”cuban black bean soup” +recipe –ham –bacon –rum +”fat free”

Note the difference.

It might also be a good idea “just in case” to end your search argument with -“kim kardashian”.

Happy searching!

More About the End of Windows 7 – the Nagging Message to Update to 10

As mentioned in our podcasts and on a previous blog, the security patches/updates (referred to as “support”) for Windows 7 will be ending on January 14, 2020. I think this is important because hackers know this and will go after the vulnerabilities in Windows 7… probably not immediately, but as time goes by and the vulnerabilities are exposed, you can bet on it.

Windows 7 is going to nag you with a pop up letting you know that the support is ending, but there is a “Do Not Remind Me Again” checkbox at the bottom of the pop up. That will stop the reminders for now, but not forever. If you don’t check that box, and just close the popup screen, you will continue to be reminded so frequently that you will want to scream. (Yes, literally).

If you are still using Windows 7, your computer is getting a bit on the older side and things like the hard drive may start to fail soon. Processors and memory rarely fail these days unless there is a power surge through them or human intervention causes an issue, but hard drives fail. Period.

This upcoming holiday season is an excellent time to consider a new computer with Windows 10. Places like Computer Corner can configure your new computer to look like Windows 7, so you may want to consider buying locally to get that special feature.   And, (plug for us), Computer Corner gives you a free Windows 10 class with your computer purchase, to help you along your path to enjoying Windows 10.

Windows 10 is one of the most secure operating systems that Microsoft has ever produced and has now surpassed Windows 7 in its installation base. It has some great features like Cortana, search improvements and more control over updates (when and if they occur). There’s many more of course!

Upgrading an older Windows 7 computer could be problematic, and let’s face it, it’s still an old computer. Don’t forgot our tips for buying a new Windows 10 computer though:

  • Buy with Windows 10 Professional 64-Bit (not Windows 10 Home), or you will lose many features that you might want down the line.
  • Buy with at least 8GB of RAM. Windows 10 barely operates on 4GB and your computer will run slowly if you buy with 4GB.
  • Remember that even if you opt for a data transfer, you (or someone) will need to reload your programs (like Excel, QuickBooks, Word, etc.) and you’ll need the discs or license keys for that.
  • Back up your data somewhere, somehow and test that the back up works before upgrading to Windows 10 OR buying a new Windows 10 computer.
  • Check compatibility of your older printers and scanners. They may be compatible with a driver update or firmware update, but may not be. Go to the manufacturer’s website to check this.

If you have a business and many Windows 7 computers that you want to continue to support with patches, Microsoft will do that, but there is a fee for every computer you want supported. You can go to the Microsoft Support Center on their website to learn more.

Contact us for a free business evaluation of your Windows 7 PC’s and we can help make the transition as easy as possible.

The End of Windows 7 Support. Why Should You Care??

The End of Windows 7 Support. Why Should You Care?

Windows 7 was released in July of 2009 and was the most widely used operating system in history, until last month. In July of 2019, Windows 10 (four years after its release) finally took the lead. On desktops, laptops and tablets, Apple and Linux-based computers have less than 15% of the market with all versions of Windows at over 85%.

Windows 7 “support” will end in January of 2020. That means that Microsoft will stop producing those annoying updates that reboot your system in the middle of the night. Sounds good, right? Perhaps, not so much. Those updates are security updates. Patches to vulnerabilities that have been found in the existing programming, that could allow hackers access to your computer.

If you still have a Windows 7 computer, it’s probably time to do one of two things.
1) Upgrade to Windows 10 – however, your system may not be compatible with Windows 10; your other peripherals (printers/scanners, etc.) and software may not be compatible with Windows 10 and there is no longer a free version of Windows 10. An operating system re-load, with data back-up and re-installation of your application software will be required. If you have this done in a shop, this could cost from $200 to $400, so…… option #2 might be a better idea.
2) Get a new Windows 10 computer. You get a new warranty, new technology, probably a faster computer, and the guarantee that Windows 10 will function properly. You will still need to consider the fact that your older peripherals and software may not be compatible with Windows 10 AND you will still need to deal with your data and your application software, which means data back-up and re-installing your programs/application software.

Best idea is to back up your data to an external hard drive and re-install your programs to the new computer IF they are compatible with Windows 10.

If you’re already running Windows 10, then there are a few other things to think about.
What people do you rely on that are still using Windows 7? Is your CPA still on Windows 7? If so, that’s not going to be a secure choice in 2020. You get my drift…..

Happy Computing!
Carole

How to Bring New Life to Your Old Computer

If your computer is 3 to 5 years old, and you’re not ready to buy a new one, this blog’s for you.

Back up your data before you do anything else!

Then, start with an assessment of what you have.  If you didn’t make any upgrades to the original system, you can Google the part number of the unit “Specs for HP 5LA11UT#ABA” for example.

  • What type and size of hard drive does it have?
  • How much memory does it have?
  • What is the processor type and speed?
  • What operating system are you using?

If you have an Intel i3, i5 or i7 processor, your system may qualify for the fountain of youth.  If you have a Pentium or AMD processor, you may want to start saving for that new computer…. but there are still a few things you can do to optimize your system’s performance.

All computers will benefit from some basic computer maintenance tips.   Please see my blog about that!  Maintenance Blog   Defragmenting your hard drive, cleaning up temp files, deleting files you no longer need are just the tip of the iceberg, so please read that blog and follow those steps first.

The computer component most prone to failure is the hard drive.  If your computer is 3 to 5 years old you may have a SATA, mechanical-type hard drive.  This is a drive with moving parts, that takes a while to boot up, read to and write to files, and because of those moving parts, it’s more prone to failure.

Consider upgrading to a new Solid State Drive or SSD.   This uses technology on a chip to store data.  It boots up and stores data extremely fast.  Don’t forget to back up your entire drive first or have your local computer store do a data transfer to the new drive.

If you are running Windows 10 (or for that matter, Windows 7) and only have 4GB of Memory, you should upgrade to 8GB if your machine can expand.   Many people who bought systems with Windows 7 took advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade but it requires most of 4GB of RAM just to function.  Buying and installing RAM is tricky.  There are many types and speeds of RAM (DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, buffered, unbuffered, ECC, non-ECC, 204-Pin, 260-Pin, PCL-12800 and many more) and your motherboard will take a specific type; best to let an expert assist with this this too!

Performing computer software maintenance and (assuming your computer is upgradable), upgrading to an SSD and additional RAM, can give your computer a new life.

Computer Maintenance Tips

General Maintenance Tips for Your Computer.

These would apply to PC’s or MAC’s; laptops or desktops and we’d like to recommend you do this once a week.

First let’s talk about the products that you’ll be using.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus Software.  Malware Bytes – which is an anti-malware program which you can download and run on demand or purchase a subscription.

Hitman Pro, which works well with your anti-virus and malware bytes. We use it to catch anything that slips past your anti-virus, and it’s necessary because we computer users have a habit of clicking where we shouldn’t, downloading a file we shouldn’t or opening an e-mail we shouldn’t.

Not only that but when a new virus is introduced on the world wide web, at that moment there is no code written to block it. The anti-virus publishers get to work writing code to block the new virus, but in the interim you could be vulnerable to a virus or a hack.

And if you’re a MAC user and think you don’t need anti-virus or malware protection, you would be potentially disastrously incorrect. Some of the biggest hacking incidents involve Apple users, including iPhones.

CCleaner is another program you can download and run, we use this to clean up temporary files and registry issues, that can slow your computer down and take up your resources like hard drive space.

Let’s start with Kaspersky Anti-virus software – we recommend this over other anti-virus programs because we believe it does a good job and doesn’t bog your system down like some other anti-virus programs.

We recommend that you run Kaspersky manually at least once a week, doing a complete scan of all your drives.

Then run Malware bytes to get rid of cookies and ad tracking. Then run Hitman pro to root out anything that has slipped past your anti-virus, as reminder, these usually slip through because we’ve clicked on something we shouldn’t have – it might not even look like a threat, in fact it might be a website or e-mail message imitating a bank, the IRS or the post office.

After Kaspersky, Malware Bytes and Hitman pro, we recommend that you run CCleaner, as we said before this will clean up temporary files and registry issues, but you don’t want to stop there.

Then, you can finish by clicking on MY PC, right clicking on my boot drive, and going down to properties and running disk cleanup. I know that you might think that CCleaner did all this, but you will discover that there are still some temporary files to be removed.

 

The very last step should be making sure all the Windows updates are current by going down to the search box on the taskbar and typing “Windows Update” or “check for updates” which will bring you to the Windows Update screen where you should find a notification as to whether you’re up to date, and if not you can initiate a check for updates from Windows.

You’ll especially want to run these programs if you feel like somethings wrong with your computer – maybe it’s running slowly or shutting down or you just get that feeling that something’s not quite right.

If your computer is running slowly and you’ve already run Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, Hitman Pro and CCleaner, you also may want to see if your computer is running out of hard drive space.

To do that go to the File Explorer, This PC and right click on the boot drive (normally the C: drive) this is the same place that Joe sent you earlier in our talk here, there you will see a donut graphic of how much space on your drive is used and how much is free.

The general rule of thumb is that you should have 15% of the total capacity free is you have a mechanical hard drive and between 10% and 25% free if you have an

That amount of free space is needed if you decide to optimize the drive by clicking on the tools tab and selecting “optimize”, which will manually defragment the drive for greater efficiency in file retrieval.

 

 

Computer Buying Tips

At Computer Corner we’ve recently seen a wave of customers who have bought computers elsewhere and discovered that the computers didn’t meet some basic requirements of their college dorms, work or software. They’re upgrading their computers with us, but wished they’d known more about what to buy to begin with.

Hence, our tips!

Windows 10 is our only choice now on a new Windows-based computer, and you’ll want to get Windows 10 Pro (or more appropriately Windows 10 Professional), 64-Bit Operating System. You’ll save money getting Windows 10 Home version, but you’ll not be able to connect to a network (which is essential for students and businesses), or connect remotely to any domain (if you plan to work remotely from home to your place of business). There are also some setting and security features that are not available to you with Windows Home.

Additionally, you’ll want to get a computer with at least 8GB of RAM. Yes, I know many are sold with 4GB, and again… that saves you money initially, but that is barely enough for Windows 10 to run and once you start doing other things with your computer, it’s going to be really slow when you boot up, save files and more.

If possible, an SSD drive would be a nice choice, especially on a laptop. This type of drive is different than the traditional SATA drives (with moving parts) and an SSD drive allows you to boot up, save and access files much faster than the traditional SATA drive. This is especially nice on a laptop, when you need access to the system quickly.

If you’re buying a laptop, you might want to opt for the accidental damage protection warranty, which will give you full replacement coverage no matter what happens to the laptop – even if a truck runs over it. Yep, it’s happened and it was fully covered under the accidental damage warranty. Do be aware that your data will not be replaced, so backing up your data is essential.

You’ve Spilled Your Coffee on Your Laptop Keyboard, Now What?

My blogs are frequently about trends that we are seeing in the Computer Corner service department. Over the past few months, we’ve seen dozens of laptops come in to our shop with a variety of liquids spilled on their keyboards.

Obviously, your desktop keyboard is not as big an issue, because desktop keyboards are typically inexpensive and easy to replace, unless you have a fancy gaming or ergonomic keyboard. So, I’m going to focus on what you should do if you spill anything on your laptop keyboard.

If treated properly and quickly, you have a good chance of saving your laptop a caffeine-related demon, however we’ve seen a consistent theme of how people tend to react after a spill, and, inevitably, they’re at our service counter is because whatever they tried did NOT work.

In almost every situation the individual has tried to power on their laptop after merely towel drying the outside of the system. This is probably the worst thing you can do – your system must be completely dry inside and out before you attempt to power up again.

In fact, if you have gotten liquids inside your laptop, it may actually take several days to dry, not just overnight, so you’ll not only need to follow these steps but also be patient.

Many of the people we’ve seen recently with dead laptops started out down the right track but didn’t let their system dry thoroughly inside before they powered on again and that’s what ultimate damaged or even destroyed their laptops.

Here’s what you should do If you spill liquids in your laptop:

  • Immediately turn it off and disconnect it from any other device, especially the power adapter and even any USB drive or drives that are connected.
  • Depending upon how much you spilled, drain the liquid by turning the unit upside down, towel dry what you can on the outside and remove the battery. DO NOT use a hair dryer, it may result in a static electricity issue. Do Not use canned or compressed air to try to dry it out because you could be forcing the liquid into other parts of the laptop like the motherboard. ((Many online recommendations will tell you to use canned air to dry your laptop – do not do this).
  • Remove other components such as the battery and memory, if you have easy access to them, emphasis on “easy” – do not start taking your laptop apart with a screwdriver unless you really know what you’re doing.
  • Turn your laptop over and let it drain and dry out as much as possible. That may take days not hours – patience here is indeed a virtue.

Or you can bring your laptop into a qualified service center, where trained and experienced staff will disassemble your laptop and dry it fully before attempting to power it on.

Unfortunately, if you have spilled a soda beverage in your laptop, the likelihood of it surviving is small…. After all, you can use some sodas to tenderize meat and clean that porcelain convenience in your home, if you get my drift…

Any and all other sweetened beverages are also not as easy to clean as plain water, black coffee and unsweetened tea, and if you’ve unlucky enough to have doused your laptop with a Piña Colada, you probably should just make yourself another one and think of happier times.

The Importance of a Good Data Backup Plan

Our Service Manager recently did an on-site service call to a small, local business. The business had been vandalized and their only computer was stolen…. Along with the backup drive located next to the computer and the USB flash drive (also next to the computer), that contained a secondary back up.

The business owner was also backing up to the cloud, but all info about where the backup was and how to get it back, well… you guessed it. It was on the stolen computer.

All the business and tax records, all the customer data and sales information – it was all gone in an instant. There was nothing that we could do to help the owner recover her company’s data.

Unfortunately, the owner went out of business about two weeks after the vandalism, after realizing that recovering from all the loss was nearly impossible.

We’ve talked about backing up your data before. And we’ve talked about keeping a local back up (external USB hard drive, etc.), as well as backing up to the cloud. The owner was doing all this, but it wasn’t enough.

Another thing to consider is that “data backup” does just that, it backs up your data only. That does not mean your application software (such as Word, Excel, Quicken, etc.) are backed up or your Operating System (OS). If you are only backing up your “data”, and a disaster strikes it will be necessary to reload the OS and your application software.

To protect yourself against data loss:
  • Utilize a local USB drive of some sort (hard drive or flash drive)
  • Store the backup device in another location – at least another room, hopefully in a water-proof/fire-proof safe, and preferably to an offsite location
  • Test your backup to be sure you can actually restore in case of a disaster
  • Keep your procedure for backing up locally and from the cloud, in another location
Types of backup devices and services:
  • USB flash drive – inexpensive, good for small amounts of data, but can be lost or damaged easily
  • External Hard Drive – also inexpensive these days, even up to 4TB of data storage.
  • External Hard Drive with removable drives – good choices if you want to leave the backup device next to the computer and remove the data drive to another location
  • Cloud-based services like Carbonite. You can opt for data only back up or a full image of your computer, which would include your programs, operating systems and data.

What’s the Buzz? Mining Rigs!

A mining rig is a computer system used for mining crypto currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. The rig might be a dedicated miner, built and operated exclusively for mining or it could be a computer that is utilized for other purposes, too.

My personal computer is used all day long for work, and at night it works for me earning Ethereum – it’s a part-time mining rig. We also have mining rigs at Computer Corner that are dedicated to mining 24×7.

Essentially when you own a mining rig, you are participating in a process in which you allow internet transactions to be conducted through your computer. There is no middleman, such as a bank or a credit card company. Your computer is essentially that middleman and you earn the associated transaction fee in crypto currency.

Mining rigs are all the rage right now because in January of 2017 Bitcoin was $970. As of Friday January 12th 2018 Bitcoin was at $13,461.54. I could kick myself for not acquiring bitcoin in January of 2017, since that $900 investment would now be worth $13k. Ethereum in January of 2017 was $9 per unit and now it’s at $1,332.50.

Earning Bitcoin or Ethereum today is like investing in a good stock. Like the stock market though, there is always risk. You also need to be sure to build one with the right components and tweaks, to insure the least amount of power usage (yes they use a LOT of power and create a lot of heat as well).

What makes a good mining rig?

  • The Graphics Processing Unit – or GPU – the graphics card with 11Gb or so dedicated memory per card. (Yes, 11Gb – that’s not a typo). A serious mining rig might have 6 or 8 of these at about $1,000 each. (Not to be confused with the CPU, which is the Central Processing Unit or Processor Chip).
  • The Power Supply – 1500 Watts or more. These could run around $500 or more.
  • Extra Cooling Fans
  • And a full-time rig is typically housed in a horizontal chassis or frame that would contain 6 or 8 GPU’s.

The steep investment in the hardware is not for everyone and it takes a skilled, technically inclined individual to build one. That’s my husband Joe, and building mining rigs for people is now a passion of his! It also takes a while to recoup your investment and there are no guarantees about the future (are there ever)?

There are Crypto currency user groups and mining user groups right here in Albuquerque, too. There are even mining “farms” springing up in various locations – buildings that house numerous mining rigs.