How Free is that “Free” Software?

October 19, 2010

My mother always says that nothing is free.  How many times have you found some cool software program on the internet that is free, only to discover that once the program was installed, it installed some other things that you may not have wanted on your computer?  The so-called “free” program may of been bundled with toolbars, additional software, malware and spyware.

Nearly any software program that is advertised as “free”, “freeware” or “shareware” typically has some other software or advertising built in to the package.

Many free software programs will install internet toolbars on your browser.  Using these toolbars will direct you to sites that the software company would like you to visit.  Add enough toolbars to your browser, and suddenly, your high speed internet can become as slow as dial-up.

Some software is bundled with spyware or malware programs.  These may cause pop-up advertisements, re-directs on your internet searches, or worse.

So how can we avoid installing unwanted programs while still taking advantage of the free stuff out there?  CUSTOM INSTALL! When installing the free software, make sure you read everything before clicking next.  Also, if there is an option for custom install or options, be sure to go that route.  You can usually remove the free toolbars and other things you don’t want installed.

Also, we recommend NOT selecting options for the software to “automatically check for updates”.  Leaving that option available means yet another software program will be running in the background, eating up the memory on your computer.


Mobile Phone Security

October 12, 2010

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It’s coming people.  Like a tornado, selecting its victims at random, destroying lives and homes.  What is it, you ask?  Viruses and Malware on your handheld devices.

As if we don’t have enough to worry about with viruses on our computers, now we have yet another concern.  A recent attack on Android phones allowed hackers to remotely instruct the phone to send SMS text messages that cost $5 each, driving up the user’s phone bill and putting cash in the hackers pockets.  The Android users had downloaded a “free” movie player, and the exploit was installed in the background.

The “movie app” was downloaded from an outside website not affiliated with Google’s Android Marketplace.

Another scam does not send out pricey text messages, but rather, instructs the phone to dial an international number using a specific carrier.  The call is generally only made once a month, in the middle of the night, and most victims did not notice the charges for a few months.

So how can we protect ourselves from these malware attacks?

  • Only download apps from an official source.
  • Be wary of texts instructing you to download “updates” to your phone’s operating system.
  • Watch your bills closely.

Do It Yourself SEO

October 5, 2010

How can you get your website or blog listed in the top rankings of popular search engines like Google or Bing?

You can pay someone to do it for you, or do it yourself!

Here are some tips for increasing your search listings.

  • Keyword Research – What are your potential customers searching for to find businesses like yours? Go to and type in the website for one of your competitors to get a detailed listing of search terms that people are using to land on their site.
  • Use Keywords in your file names. When building your website, name each file and page specific keyword names. For example, instead of naming your “Links” page links.html, name it links-computer-repair-in-salt-lake-city.html. Don’t use spaces in the names.
  • Make sure your content matches the optimal keyword searches for your business. Content is king. Write new content often and make sure the top keyword search text is included. Search engines are constantly scanning websites, so new content is important.
  • Get linked. Having other websites link to your website is very useful for improving SEO. Submit your website to the popular site DMOZ ( It may take some time. Just make sure you list your website in the correct category.
  • Social Media is on the upswing. Facebook and Twitter posts are starting to show up in search engine results. Make sure you use optimal keywords in your social media.

Most of these tips are fairly easy to perform, but can be time consuming.  It may be a better choice to use an SEO company if time is an issue.

Feed The Computer Nerds

September 28, 2010

Remember that old saying about the way to a man’s heart is through is stomach?  Well, the same goes for computer nerds.  If you have a computer nerd in your life, here are the treats and snacks that will insure that your computer nerd will be happy and will continue helping you solve your computer emergencies….

Doughnuts – What do cops and computer nerds have in common?  Besides a love of danger and speed (the nerds get this in video games), they both love doughnuts.  You visit any doughnut shop at any time of the day or night, and you are guaranteed to see a gathering of nerds and cops, both at different ends of the store, eating their favorite deep fried treats.

Taco Bell – Whether it is lunchtime, or 1:00 A.M., a computer nerd sometimes needs real food.  Well, as real as you can get from a fast food place with subtly offensive commercials.

Fritos, Doritos or Any Other Chips – Any type of chip that can be eaten while a game is in progress works the best.  If there is a robot available that can feed the nerd while they continue gaming or programming, that would optimal.

Mountain Dew and/or Diet Coke – Caffeine is a necessity for 48 hour Halo marathons, so stock up on lots of Dew and Diet Coke.  Yes, Diet Coke.  Nerds have self image issues too!

Toblerone – Ok, this one is just for me.  I love this candy!

Remember to show the love to your favorite computer nerd!

The Blue Screen of Death!

September 21, 2010

It has probably happened to everyone at one time or another.  You are happily using your computer to surf the internet, send emails, use a graphics program or play a video game.  Suddenly and with no warning, the entire computer freezes and you see the dreaded blue screen of death.  With a blue background, and lots of gobbley gook written on the screen, you may be unsure what to do.

You power off the computer, turn it back on and voila, it seems to be working fine.  So what is the deal with that blue screen error?  And what happens if it starts freezing and displaying that screen more often?

Memory Conflicts – The memory on a computer is like a pie, and every program needs a piece of that pie.  Windows manages what programs get their slices of pie.  Sometimes, a program will take a bigger piece of pie than offered.  If that happens, and another program is already chowing down on their piece, you may see the blue screen of death.  This is called a memory dump, and is usually a random event that occasionally happens.

Corrupt System Files – If you continually get the blue screen of death, especially when trying to turn on the computer, the Windows system files may be corrupt.  To fix this issue, you will probably need the Windows installation disk to run a repair on the operating system.

Hardware and Drivers – Installing a new hardware device, and subsequently the software drivers for that device, may also be the source of the blue screen.  If you have recently added new hardware, and suddenly your computer crashes every time you turn it on, try removing the hardware and uninstalling the drivers to see if that helps.  If it does, you may need updated software drivers for the hardware.  Check the website for the hardware manufacturer for the latest drivers.

The blue of screen of death happens for a reason, and by doing a little research, you should be able to resolve the issue.

To Firewall or Not To Firewall….

September 14, 2010

If you have ever installed a fully featured Antivirus program, or another security program, you may of been presented with an option to install a firewall, thereby disabling the standard firewall built into Windows.

What is a firewall, and should we keep the Windows firewall, or use the 3rd party software firewall?

A firewall is a hardware of software application that blocks unauthorized access to a computer or network.  It also lets the right kind of access in or out, meaning you can still access the internet and applications you need.

For most small businesses and home users, a software firewall application is suitable.  For larger networks, or high security, a robust hardware solution may be the answer.

There are arguments for using or not using the built in firewall in Windows.

  • FOR – The windows firewall is automatically configured and turned on by default.  You don’t have to do anything to start it up.
  • AGAINST – Microsoft Windows is a huge target for hackers.  They are always looking for ways to find ways into the system.  It may be harder to attack a system with another software firewall running.
  • FOR – If you have a hardware firewall application, or the firewall setup on your router, it does not hurt to keep the Windows Firewall running on your individual computers.
  • AGAINST – A company that specifically makes security software is focused on the purpose of security.  A 3rd party firewall application typically provides greater protection, though it does require more interaction and configuration.

Whatever your decision is, having a firewall running on your computer(s) is a good idea.  There are thousands of viruses, worms, and other threats floating around in cyberspace.

A Brief History of the Internet

September 7, 2010

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Did you know that the technology behind the internet today started in the 60’s?  Several colleges, as well as the armed services, began exploring ways to share information in a much broader scale than just being confined to one physical location.

Universities like Stamford, MIT and UCLA, as well as private companies all worked together to develop the packet sharing network protocol that still used today.  By 1982, the idea of a global network of information was becoming more of a reality than a pipe dream.

As the technology improved, Internet Service Providers were formed to open up the internet to homes all over the world.  Western cultures quickly adopted the instant communication tool known as e-mail and the World Wide Web.

Even with the bubble burst, the technology improved and commerce greatly increased using the internet.  As more people connected their computers to this large network, they also began forming what is called the Web 2.0.  Social Media is the new web, and it is growing in leaps and bounds.