It's easy to get all wrapped up in the giving and receiving of gifts. In the aftermath of Christmas, may we all remember to be grateful for the gifts we take for granted!
On behalf of all of us here at Yellowstone Computing, we wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas! Our office will be closed December 24th through the 26th as we celebrate with our families.
The holiday season is here again. TV advertisers have released their festive jingles and stores have dusted off their Christmas displays. Most importantly, shopping centers have moved their latest and greatest devices to the front of the store. It's almost time to eat warming treats in front of a roaring fire.
There may still be work to do, however, before we can invite round family to unbox their latest gadgets and watch the year’s Christmas movie. A little maintenance, updates, and set-up goes a long way to ensure the holiday season goes without a hitch.
Sadly, not every device is ready to run straight out the box. Not every device even comes ready to interact with others when it's first opened. Each new gadget comes with its own setup and new things to learn.
Often today, devices, toys and computers require extensive updates before they are ready to function. This commonly means large downloads and lengthy installation periods.
In previous years devices have been purchased for Christmas, only to be rendered useless waiting for updates while large numbers of requests crash the company servers. This can be highly frustrating and put a real dampener on the holiday spirit.
Here is how we can help this season:
Shop at Yellowstone Computing
Every new computer we sell comes ready to run right out of the box! No setup or configuration needed, we make sure each system is ready to rock! We even transfer your files and setup your software in advance! We have a great selection of computers ready to make your holiday a success! Need an awesome gaming rig for the nephew? We’ve got you covered with the newest high-performance systems from Lenovo! We even have systems with the highly sought-after Nvidia RTX2080 graphics cards and Intel Core I9-9900K processors! Too powerful for you? No problem, we have a “milder” AMD RX570 equipped “cube” PC to scratch the gaming itch, along with the high-performance monitors and accessories needed to dominate the playing field. Need a laptop or convertible to chill out on the couch with? Yep, we’ve got those too! Perhaps an “all business” person is on your list. Don’t despair, Yellowstone Computing has you covered! Whether you need the minuscule footprint of a ThinkCentre Tiny desktop, the sleekness of an all-in-one or the super-light yet powerful computing of a ThinkPad X1 Carbon, we have it all! Don’t forget, we’re including a full year of Emsisoft Anti-malware with each new computer sold!*
Setup Your New Devices
In the modern day simply purchasing a gadget doesn't make it ready to use. Often, they still need setup, updates, and extra steps to make it safe to access the internet too.
When you purchase a new computer from us, you know that it is safe and ready to use the second you unbox it. We perform the initial setup, get it ready for the network, and install mandatory updates. By the time we're done, your device will be the first one ready to use. For relevant devices, we can install additional features too. Parental protection, antivirus and security features ready to defend your machine against the latest threats.
Transfer Data and Retire Old Devices
Getting a brand-new computer is fun and exciting. Before getting carried away with the latest tech, we must consider what happens to our old data too. Depending on the device there are any number of dangers and pitfalls to think about.
Replacing an ageing laptop or desktop computer with a brand-new model, for example, has inherent danger in data storage. These computers typically use hard drive disks to store all their data.
When disposed of improperly, hard drives are vulnerable to being removed and taken. These can often be read and copied by thieves looking to steal your data. Old devices containing data need just as much care and attention as new ones fresh out the box.
There are many cases where individuals have had important records stolen this way. In some cases, the information has been used to access accounts, and in others, for blackmail.
We can help transfer old files and data to your new device and safely dispose of your old one too.
We can ensure that every photograph, video, and bit of data is recovered from your mobile device or laptop so that you never lose a single file. We can then securely wipe and even physically destroy the old hard drives at your request. We strive to ensure you keep every bit of your old data and not a single byte falls into the wrong hands.
It sometimes happens that new technology has moved so fast and changed so much that it doesn't play well with older devices already installed on your network. Sometimes it seems impossible to even connect certain devices at all.
Often simple configuration changes are all that's required to introduce two pieces of technology successfully. With the right set of eyes and in knowledgeable hands the most complex of jobs can be turned into a quick fix.
*Residential customers only.
If your goal is for a smooth, fun and relaxing holiday season, give us a call at 715-255-0325 and we'll get you up and running!
Marriott Hotels Exposed 500 Million Customer Records.
Up to 500 million travelers could be compromised as hotel chain Marriott International have announced a security breach in their guest database. Analysts recently alerted the firm to a vulnerability that has granted hackers access to the hotel chain's systems since 2014.
The firm announced their Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program was compromised for an extended period which left customers vulnerable. The exploit exposed critical guest information which included names, addresses, passport numbers, and dates of birth. Marriott also announced an unknown number of customers had encrypted credit card details stolen in the attack. If you have been a member of Marriott's Preferred Guest Program or a customer of Marriott hotels in the past, you should take steps today to ensure your data security. By doing so, you can protect your finances, prevent identity theft, and defend your data from attackers looking to exploit an opportunity.
Secure Your Data
Changing your Marriott password should, of course, be the first step to protecting your accounts. Even more importantly, sites where that same password may have been reused should be updated with new credentials too. Hackers commonly try details stolen from one site to access popular services and pages. We encourage everyone to use a password manager to store their details for safe use in the future. A good password manager enables unique, random, and strong passwords to be used with ease for every single website. While we can't stop hacks on systems outside of our control; we can defend our other accounts from being accessed by criminals. With secure password management, attacks on your business services or related accounts from a single hack are made impossible.
Performing Damage Control
The damage to the Marriott International brand following news of the leak will be undoubtedly huge. At a minimum, they have lost the trust of their customers worldwide. Asking customers to leave their personal and financial details again to pay for goods and services will be no small feat.
News of the hack made front page news as it broke, further damaging the firm's reputation among potential future customers too. As a result of a simple security attack, Marriott International will be forced into damage limitation to keep customers returning to the brand. This is why business security matters to us; when done right it's cheaper by far. The total cost of this latest attack won't be known for years to come. The firm is vulnerable to lawsuits worldwide, in some cases liable for financial losses, and required to purchase identity monitoring and security services for affected customers. Business owners can learn from Marriott's costly lesson.
Protect Your Business and your Customers
Any business can find their systems vulnerable to attack at some point. Whether waiting for updates, a newly released zero-day hack, or a malicious employee; responsible firms take steps to limit their liability.
As a rule, staff accounts should be locked to only the systems they regularly need to access. Similarly, customer data should only be open on an as-needed basis when a legitimate requirement exists. These steps, alongside systems and data monitoring, prevent a small-scale attack from resulting in an enormous data breach. Strong security enables customers to place and maintain their trust in a brand they can keep coming back to again and again.
Recent Scams Locally
A number of customers have contacted us recently regarding phone calls they have received from “Microsoft” saying that their “IP address has been hacked or compromised,” and that they need to let “Microsoft” resolve this immediately. In other cases, customers are being told that their antivirus is expired or not working. As usual, this is just another scammer trying to gain access to your personal details and devices. Under no circumstances should you give these callers any information whatsoever. Simply hang up. This latest batch seems to be rather persistent though and is often calling back repeatedly in an effort to gain access. While you may become aggravated with this behavior and wish to “teach them a lesson,” please remember that the best thing to do is simply hang up. If you wish to make a report of the incident, note the phone number(s) and file a complaint with the FTC here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
One of my favorite analogies to tell people when dealing with this kind of incident goes like this:
Picture yourself walking down the street, minding your own business when a stranger runs up to you, grabs you by the shirt and says “I’m a doctor, you’re having a heart attack and we need to operate now!” You feel fine, but yesterday you had a minor headache, so you lie down on the sidewalk, hand your wallet to the stranger, rip open your shirt and say “Get it done doc!” Of course, this sound ridiculous and you would never do such a thing in real life. If you really had a health problem, wouldn’t you call your regular physician or go to a real hospital? So why would you do this with your computer?
Don’t trust your computer to a stranger, get rock-solid computer help from your friends at Yellowstone Computing!
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.
To read about us, click here!