Some of you may know that I have been a Star Trek fan since childhood. I know you'll find this hard to believe, but it was the technology that got me interested. :) Who wouldn't want to live on the Enterprise? Since someone has thoughtfully beamed down some snow for us, I thought I'd share this little video in the spirit of the Christmas season. Enjoy!
Christmas time is back with us again. The latest devices and gadgets are hitting store shelves just in time to keep up with the rush. Magazines, television, and the web are brimming with advertisements and reviews of the latest tech your money can buy. Before you rush out to buy the gadgets you've been waiting all year for, consider a few important questions before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Does This Technology Do What I need?
First, you must ask what problem you are trying to solve with a new piece of tech. The most important thing to consider is how adopting your new device will improve on what you had before.
In some cases, a sleek new gadget or device for fun is good too.
When you've answered this question, you should consider whether there is other tech or competing devices out there that can perform even better.
How Long Will It Take to Get?
Many people wait until the last minute to purchase things like computers because they think that it’s always available online with fast, cheap shipping but this year might be the exception. Whether you agree or disagree with the tariff on Chinese goods, it is causing supply problems for various retailers as current inventory gets scarfed up before the tariff increase hits. In addition, distributors and manufacturers are increasing pricing on new inventory and this of course is passed on to the consumer. This means that the device you’ve had your eye on may not be available in time for your celebrations or have a significant price increase.
As we’ve discussed previously, there are many advantages to shopping locally. Better service, better value, OK, I admit, this is a shameless plug for all us local businesses that serve you. 😊 That being said, we have been preparing for the holidays by having plenty of options on hand for your last-minute shopping needs. Whether you need a general-purpose laptop, a powerful gaming rig, or a sleek all-in-one desktop, we have what you need!
Purchase in Confidence
You can purchase in confidence knowing that we not only emphasis quality and reliability, but fantastic service. For December, we’re also including 1 year of award-winning Emsisoft Anti-malware security software on each new computer sold. *
News Around the Shop
It’s been a very busy year here at Yellowstone Computing thanks to all our wonderful customers! Much progress was made in remodeling the shop and upgrading our service area. We have also been making improvements and additions to the tools we use to keep your devices running in top condition. In the very near future, we will be launching a weekly newsletter full of tips, tricks, and stories to help you stay on top of your digital life. Stop by our website and sign up today!
Announcing Coffee and Cookie Thursdays @ Yellowstone Computing!
The snow has arrived! Take the edge off the chill with Yellowstone Computing! Stop by on the first Thursday of the month for homemade cookies and gourmet coffee from 9 to 11am. We’ve also got a stockpile of delicious hot chocolate and teas! Sit a spell and visit or grab a cup to go!
*Offer valid on new computer purchases only, business systems excluded.
All appliances have an effective lifespan. Computers are no different. In some cases, parts physically fail after years of service, in others they simply become too slow and too ineffective to keep doing the job. Hardware failures and IT issues can cost big in productivity losses, urgent fixes, and unintended downtime.
Improving productivity and lowering costs are the primary driving factors in why many modern businesses choose to adopt IT life cycles.
IT Life Cycle
The IT life cycle aims to make IT budgets predictable, manageable, and reduce costs across the department. This process starts with a thorough plan outlining the demands of the business. By looking at how and where equipment is deployed we can make the most out of the resources throughout the business. The first step is to reduce equipment duplicated and underused within the firm.
With a big picture approach, equipment can be scheduled for upgrade or replacement at predictable intervals based on use. With a plan in place, the focus of the life cycle can shift to resource procurement. As equipment approaches the end of its effective lifespan it can be brought in for replacement, repair, or recycling. Old hardware and components are often reused and recycled in new roles as they are decommissioned from their primary role.
By maintaining as many usable parts as possible we help lower costs of keeping efficient hardware on the front-line of the business environment. This approach helps a huge number of businesses keep modern, up to date hardware in crucial roles where it can have the biggest impact for the business.
Making the Most of Resources
Computers in a busy business environment will need replacement over time. It is important to plan and prepare for this end of service life to limit negative issues such as unplanned downtime, increasing costs and losses in productivity. Doing so helps to plan a regular, predictable IT budget, which will be less prone to sudden financial spikes.
The IT life cycle additionally allows the business to stay on top of software licenses, upgrades and operating system changes. By cycling old and out of date systems from the network, security vulnerabilities are dramatically reduced and easier to patch.
Additional financial security comes from manufacturer warranties for businesses that adopt the life cycle. As new equipment is purchased into the firm, manufacturer warranties provide guarantees about the handling of defects and hardware issues. This warranty may cover all, or most of the duration of the equipment's intended life cycle. This coverage provides an extra layer of financial protection from unpredictable IT issues.
In Control with Information
Tracking the IT life cycle of your own firm provides invaluable metrics about how equipment is deployed and used within your own production environment. Armed with this unique knowledge, better purchasing decisions can be made to equip your business with the tools needed to succeed. Budgets can be put to better use, getting the important high-value resources to the places in the businesses that need it most. This is where they will generate the most value for the firm. A key factor in getting the most from your firm’s IT is making sure the resources put into the company don't sit idly on a shelf after purchase. The insight gained from metrics related to the life cycle ensure that management stay fully informed.
A complete picture puts your business back in control of its IT by allowing you to choose the best, most efficient, and most cost-effective time to replace critical IT. Firms can plan replacements and servicing outside of busy periods so they can operate without interruption and know their IT is fully functional when they need it most.
Planning for The Future
With a fully planned, fully prepared life cycle, IT budgets can be planned in detail for years to come. Everything from printers to operating systems can be prepared on a tightly controlled schedule.
Businesses worldwide have adopted IT life cycles as a way to eliminate unwanted surprises, lessen productivity losses, and make the most out of IT budgets. Implementing or redesigning your own IT life cycle can greatly improve the way your business operates.
Talk to us about how you currently do IT today and we'll see if the life cycle model will work for you. Whether it’s service plans for existing hardware, financing for new purchases or lease options, we have the tools you need to make your business succeed! Call, Email, or Visit us today! 715-255-0325.
Last year I price-checked most of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertisements on electronics being sold at the Big Box stores in the area. Want to know the low-down on those so-called deals? They weren’t so great after all. Surprisingly, if you went to the manufacture’s web site and priced out the same items, you could get the same deal straight from them, and occasionally for a slightly better price. That’s right, you could avoid the crowds and chaos on a day when you might prefer stopping by the local Christmas tree farm with your family to find that prized spruce and sip a hot cocoa, or take another shot at that buck you hoped would be in your freezer for the winter. So don’t just assume that these deals are all they’re cracked up to be. Research has shown that most electronics (especially TVs) are usually older models that retailers want to clear out. Some retailers also carry units built to a lower price point specifically for the holiday sales. These units will often boast the same marketing as regular units, but if you look at the specifications, you’ll find that they differ from regular inventory. When something truly new and “hot” is advertised, the quantity is extremely limited; this is just a lure to get you into their store. Is it really worth spending time fighting the crowds of crazies just for a chance to get some gadget? Shop smarter; these deals are advertised well in advance, so you can do your homework by checking other locations and websites for the same product. When possible, use the model number to ensure the comparisons you make are accurate. Simply going by the sales description is a bad idea because they are purposefully vague. Get the model number and check the manufacturer’s website to verify what you’re getting.
Small Business Saturday and Reasons to Shop Local
So we know that deals from the big retailers aren’t all that great, but what about your local stores? People are often amazed to discover that their friendly local retailers not only have great deals for the holidays but all year round, and they’re much more pleasant to shop with. Whether it’s exceptional service, great inventory, or the simple convenience of being down the block, your local stores have so much more to offer you. It’s true, you may find the price of an item is a few dollars higher than at Big Box Mart but understand what you’re getting for that minor increase. A staff that calls you by name when you walk in. A family member or friend to help you find what you need. Understand that you are supporting not just the business owner, but their employees, your town government and schools. These people are your friends, family, and neighbors. Communities don’t simply exist because people live there, residents need jobs and places to purchase goods and services from. Without our local businesses, not only would we need to drive further for things, but our quality of life would drop. When we support local businesses, we support ourselves. So before you tackle the shady marketing tactics of faceless corporations, consider visiting your friends and neighbors; you’ll be glad you did.
Price vs. Value
Rather than sell you the highest priced device they can talk you into, local stores work with your budget to find the best value. Not only that, but their regular pricing is often at or below what the big stores offer anyway, AND they give each client truly personalized service. Instead of simply selling you something with all sorts of bells and whistles, local stores work to understand your priorities. This way they can determine what will get you the most benefit. For local businesses, customers aren’t just another addition to the sales quota, they are friends and neighbors, people they see every week. Wouldn’t you rather shop with a friend and get the best value you can?
My father taught me it’s better to spend a little more money on a quality product than a little less on a cheap alternative and then have to buy it again. While many people consider a lower price to be the better deal, most local stores prefer to offer higher quality products to their customers. Why? Because they know their customers will be happier with a quality product, long after the thrill of the “deal” goes away.
Please note that our office will be closed Wednesday through Friday this week (November 21st-23rd) as we spend time with our families during the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy your time with family and give thanks, we have so much to be grateful for!
Conventional wisdom states that cluttered workspaces lead to a disorganized mind. Mess prevents productivity and begins to hamper professionalism. Shouldn't that apply to the computer desktop too?
The simplest way to clean and organize your digital desktop is to add more space. Just adding a second screen doubles the available room and makes organization a breeze.
Getting work done with a single-monitor setup is a balance of poor compromises. There never seems to be enough space and the little space available is full of clutter and mess. Switching between windows or tabs wastes time and distracts from work to be done. Stacking windows together, side-by-side, or top and bottom wastes valuable screen real estate. The resulting clutter of windows makes it hard to focus on what is important. While most tasks can be tackled feasibly with a single monitor; two makes the same tasks faster, simpler, and much more enjoyable.
Two Monitors, Many Uses
Data entry with two monitors is far easier than data entry with one. Having source data on one screen, laid out in large type, and the destination on another makes the job a breeze. By eliminating the need to scroll tiny windows or switch tabs, forget and repeat; the same job can be done in a fraction of the time.
Graphic design, image manipulation, and editing are key areas that make the most of a dual screen setup.
Stacking one image on each screen allows you to make quick comparisons to make sure your work is going in the right direction. Organizing your editing space is made simple too. Stacking your tools, menus, and options on one monitor with your image maximized on the other helps to stay focused and finish the task.
Beyond Just Two
Having more than a single screen helps you to track tasks you need to keep on the back burner. A team chat window to keep on top of collaboration, status updates for business-critical services, or the latest stock price. These windows and dialogues can remain open and serving updates on a secondary screen while you keep your work focused on your first. It is not uncommon for stock traders or financial analysts to maintain 6 or more screens running from a single computer. Many use this option to track various stocks or indices, so they don't miss a beat.
Setup How You Like It
Multiple monitors can be arranged in almost any practical configuration imaginable. While traditionally positioned in landscape orientation, second, third, or fourth monitors are often rotated 90 degrees to portrait orientation. This setup is used often by software engineers, editors, and users reviewing large amounts of text. The lengthwise orientation allows multiple pages to be read from the screen at any one time. But what about physical desk space you ask? Don’t all these extra monitor bases take up valuable space on my desk? Ordinarily yes, but don’t panic! You can alleviate that concern and gain yet another level of flexibility by using a multi-monitor stand. Not only do these stands free up desk space by holding multiple monitors on one pole, they also offer greater flexibility in arranging your monitors. Most multi-monitor stands also include some form of cable management, so those extra cords don’t get in the way either. Multi-screen setups, no matter how they are arranged, behave the same as if all the monitors were just a single screen. Mouse input moves from one monitor to another as if there was no difference between them. From the user's perspective, there is no difference to how they interact at all.
A Boost to Productivity
There is a scientific advantage to multi-monitor setups too. A survey by Jon Peddie Research found that adding an extra monitor boosted a user’s output by as much as 20 to 30 percent. A productivity advantage of even 10 percent is prized and very hard to come by in the business world. Receiving a productivity reward of over 20 percent for just the cost of adding a second monitor is something few firms can afford to pass up. The satisfaction of de-cluttering your digital desktop and keeping your focus in the zone is worth it alone.
Give us a call at 715-255-0325 if you would like us to boost your setup by adding a second monitor.
Laptop computers commonly heat up a little in normal operation. Electronic components, including large capacity batteries, become warm while in use. Your laptop should never become too hot to handle though. When a laptop turns hot to the touch or starts to sound like a jet engine, it's likely beginning to overheat.
Modern laptops use nearly silent fans to cool components and keep the system comfortable and safe to use. In some cases, the sound the computer makes is the best tool you have to diagnose its running condition. Excessive heat causes the fans to work harder and faster to compensate. This jet engine sound is one of the first clues you have to indicate all may not be well.
Why So Hot?
Because of their compact size and portability, laptop computers are particularly prone to overheating problems. Their tiny footprint puts electronic parts closer together, creates less room for cooling vents and adds a heat generating battery which introduces more hot air into the system.
Most laptops have small fans that suck in cool air, passing it over metal fins to exchange heat from the case. The resulting hot exhaust is expelled through vents back into the room. This process prevents heat building up inside the machine. The constant air cycle keeps the laptop running cool no matter the workload placed on it. This process can be interrupted by any number of factors during operation. Alongside cool air, computer fans can also suck in dust, stray hairs, even cigarette smoke too. Smoke in particular contains thick tar which coats the fins, fan blades, and internal components.
Foreign debris inside the machine prevents components from working at their best. Tar, dust, and hair slows down the internal fan and coats the heat generating components and cooling fins. This coating prevents air exchange and keeping components warm as if they were under a blanket.
Causes of Overheating
Sometimes the way a laptop is used can cause it to overheat too. Resting a laptop on thick carpets, blankets, or soft furnishings can block vents, preventing the fans from sucking cold air in or blowing hot air out. Leaving the machine running on carpet or furnishings, particularly for extended periods of time, can cause overheating issues and introduce extra dust into the components too.
The best place to rest a laptop while in use is on a hard surface such as a desk, table, or lap tray. This allows air free access to the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.
As the computer starts running hotter for longer, its fan will attempt to compensate by running faster and more often. This results in the "jet engine" noise many users report when their computer is struggling to keep up. Unfortunately, once dust, hair, or tar has already found its way into the machine it is notoriously difficult to clean out. The only way to reset the machine to run cool and quiet is to disassemble the base and clean out its components. Much like a car engine, computer components have a designed temperature range in which they can safely and reliably operate without any issues. Extended periods of running above the temperature they are designed for can cause damage, sudden failures, and drastically shorten the designed lifespan of the computer.
Often times seemingly random blue screen computer crashes can be traced back to components that have been overheating inside the computer. As heat builds up, vulnerable components start to fail, sometimes temporarily, in the hotter temperatures. By the time the computer is rebooted and cooled down the issue is seemingly resolved. Back in operation, the computer heats up once more and eventually crashes again. These irregular crashes are highly inconvenient and can sometimes cause data loss too.
However, these symptoms are minor compared to a complete write-off of the machine. For some users, the first sign that their machine is too hot to run safely is when the motherboard is burnt out or their data storage has been irreparably lost.
If your laptop is running hot to the touch or has started to sound loud or irregular, bring it to us for a thorough clean out, you can reach us at 715-255-0325.
The term "virus" is often used to describe many different types of infection a computer might have. Virus, when used as a blanket term, can describe any number of potential computer programs. What these programs have in common is that they are typically designed to cause damage, steal data, or spread across a network.
Malware on the other hand describes software designed to act maliciously on a personal computer. The name 'malware' is a shorthand for 'malicious software' and describes exactly what it is. A computer virus is a single type of malware that can cause harm to your PC, but it is only one of many. Lets take a look at the most common forms of malware and what effect they have on your computer.
Short for advertising-supported software, adware is a type of malware that delivers advertisements to your computer. These advertisements are often intrusive, irritating, and typically designed to trick you into clicking something you don't want. A common example of adware would be pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.
Another place adware is encountered is when it is attached to “free” software. Developers or distributors of free software often sell advertising space on these free programs to advertisers as a way of generating revenue. In some instances, the user is notified of these additions during the install process and allowed to skip the installation of the adware, but many times the adware is hidden from the user during this process. Remember to always be careful when installing software of any kind and read what is on the screen before clicking next, I agree, etc.
Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing spyware themselves instead of the software or application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the data stolen is acted on in the form of fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts.
In technical terms a computer virus is a form of malware that is installed inadvertently, causing damage to the user. A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins, and bank information from the keyboard. It might steal data, interrupt programs, and cause the computer to crash.
Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform tasks remotely for hackers. The first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs should be running. A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem.
A particularly malicious variety of malware, known as ransomware, prevents the user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid. Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won't be revealed to the user until the full ransom is paid.
Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.
Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious email file attachments, or a vulnerability in the computer system.
Among the most common types of malware today is the computer worm. Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system. Often these programs cause harm to their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers, and using up all the available resources.
One of the key differences between worms and a regular virus is its ability to make copies of itself and spread independently. A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment; worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.
If you would like us to make sure your systems stay safe from malware, give us a call at 715-255-0325.
Being hacked is the single biggest fear of most computer users. Many believe the first sign of strange behavior or errors on their PC is a sign that hackers have taken control. But are hackers really inside your machine, stealing your information? Or should we be on the lookout for more subtle signs? What does being hacked really look like?
There is an important distinction to make between being hacked by a person and being infected with a virus or malware. Virus software and malware are automated processes designed to damage your system, steal your data, or both. There are of course ways that we can defeat these processes, but what if we are instead hacked by an individual?
Logins Not Working
One of the first steps a hacker might take would be to change the computers passwords. By doing so, not only do they ensure future access to the account, they prevent you from accessing the system to stop them. For the hacker, this is a crucial step that keeps them in control. With this in mind, we always want to make sure to keep on top of our own login details and how often we change them.
Security Emails or Text Messages from Online Services
Many services track which device and location you logged into your account from last. If your account is accessed from a new device or a different country it might trigger an automated email or text to ask if this new login is your own.
If you have logged in using a new computer, tablet, or phone; an email that asks "hey, is this you?" need not be cause for alarm. If you haven't, it may be time to investigate further. This service is an important part of information security. It may be a key first step to identify someone else gaining access to your account.
Bank Accounts Missing Money or Strange Transactions
Most commonly today, hackers commit crimes to steal money. The end goal for hackers is typically to profit from their crimes by taking money from people online. It always pays to keep a regular eye on your financial transactions to make sure you know what money is coming and going from your account. You may see a large sum missing where hackers have attempted to take as much as they can in a single transaction. Alternatively, small, hard to notice transactions may appear. These often account for small purchases where attackers have tested the details they have to make sure they work.
Sudden Loss of Cellular Connectivity
Network interruption is a symptom that few people expect but occurs commonly when hackers attack. Many banks and online services use a security feature known as Two-factor authentication. To do this they send a short code to your phone or an app when you log in. Two-factor authentication is ideal in most cases and a great boost to security.
Hackers can try to work around this by calling your mobile service provider to report your phone as lost or stolen. During this call, they will request your phone number be transferred to a new sim card that they control. When your bank sends its regular two-factor authentication code to the number registered, it goes instead to the hacker who may be able to log in. From your perspective phone service will simply stop working.
Keeping Vigilant and Maintaining Security
These are only some of the modern techniques that hackers can try to use to gain access to your accounts. It pays to be extra vigilant and pay close attention to the signs and signals that indicate you may have been hacked.
If you suspect that you might have been hacked, or would like help to prevent hackers in future, give us at 715-255-0325 call and we'll improve your security.
Old age creeps up slowly – unless you’re a computer.
Then it seems to happen overnight. One day you’re logging in normally and jumping right into the action, the next day booting up takes so long you not only have time to make a cup of coffee, you could have run out to the local café for the good stuff.
This is the stage where many people throw their hands in the air and start wishing for a new computer. Except your computer isn’t broken and doesn’t need replacing, it’s just . . . slow. Like any machine, computers have parts that wear out – particularly if they have moving parts that are in near-constant use. The hard drive is the #1 cause of speed bottlenecks in most computers. Traditional hard drives are made up of a stack of round magnetic platters, spinning at up to 7200rpm, while a read/write head on a mechanical arm whizzes back and forth. Eventually, the platters take longer to spin up, unable to reach full throttle, and the mechanical arm becomes sluggish. Which leaves you waiting. And waiting . . . .
SSD's Can Give Aging Computers A New Lease on LifeThe new era of hard drives is here with Solid State Drives – and they have no moving parts. Zero. Making a simple upgrade to an SSD can knock minutes off boot time, as well as streamline regular computer operations with rapid-fire functionality. They’re:
*Offer valid for residential computers only. Discount expires November 2, 2018. Free Emsisoft license available to new Emsisoft users only, a $10 discount is available to existing Emsisoft users. 15% Service Member discount can also be applied to this sale.
You have likely been alerted by popups while browsing the web. These, often flashing, advertisements claim your computer has more than a thousand errors requiring urgent attention to fix. Perhaps helpfully, these popups offer a solution to cure your computer with a click of the mouse. Buttons marked "fix now" appear to offer a simple fix to all your computer troubles.
These advertisements are often described as Registry Cleaners, or by a few other names that attempt to convince the user they will somehow clean or improve their home PC. Within the IT industry they are known as "scareware". They are software designed to convince you that your computer has problems it might not have.
Are They Trustworthy?
Almost all popups and advertisements that use banners saying "Fix now for free" are not trustworthy at all. They are little more than a scam attempting to take your credit card details, PC data or both. At best these programs might claim to scan your computer and show a convincing list of plausible sounding computer problems. Using this, they will ask for payment to "fix" these problems to get your PC back in shape again.
At worst these advertisements can be downright malicious. Some may attempt to use fake warnings and scare tactics to trick customers into installing spyware on their own computers. When installed, spyware will attempt to steal information in the background. Attackers may use this technique to steal usernames, passwords, emails, and credit card details. Sometimes the first sign a user has that something is wrong is when a virus scan detects software doing something it shouldn't be.
Do I Need to Clean the Registry?
The Windows system and various applications installed on your PC do leave files stored on your computer. These files can stay behind or go out of date even after the application that initially made them has been removed. These files can use up a little space on the hard drive and generally cause minor clutter within the system.
Despite the large amount of "scareware" and fraudulent computer cleanup scans out there, legitimate applications designed to clean your system do exist. This can be something we cover and is often done as a single small part of a complete computer tune up. Keeping up with out of date files and freeing up unused space is worthwhile and can be considered "good housekeeping". The vast speed boosts many online advertisements claim to unlock by simply moving files around are almost always false.
The home computer, however, is commonly upgraded and can be boosted by more conventional means. If the speed of your PC is no longer up to the task, there are ways in which we can unlock far greater gains than simple housekeeping chores.
Relatively low-cost hardware components such as memory can often be added to boost the speed of even an older PC and unlock a new lease of life. Upgrading the computers RAM can double the working memory available to the operating system. With extra memory, many programs can keep more information available to work with. This upgrade reduces loading times and increases the computer’s ability to run more programs at once.
Another common speed boosting upgrade involves how we store and load data from the computer. Switching from an older style mechanical hard drive to a modern Solid-State Disk (SSD) can bring down the startup and loading time of any PC.
Loading data from the hard drive is very often the slowest part of a computer, the bottleneck in an otherwise very fast system. Because an SSD does not use any mechanical components the time to access the disk is nearly instant when compared to older, mechanical hard disks.
Safe Speed Boosts
These upgrades offer boosts in speed to rival a modern system at only a fraction of the cost originally paid for the computer. Upgrading the RAM, swapping to an SSD, or doing both will provide an instant, dramatic, and safe improvement to the speed of your PC.
If your computer is running slow give us at a call at 715-255-0325 to arrange a real and professional cleanup.
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