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Traveling? Remember to Take Alexa With You

“Alexa, what’s my schedule today?”

“Alexa, tell me the weather for this week.”

“Alexa, lock the house and set the thermostat to away mode.”

“Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes”

“Alexa, what’s the nearest coffee shop?”

If you have an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV, or other device with Alexa on it, chances are you’ve gotten pretty used to Alexa’s help.

After all, Alexa can help you with almost anything you could ask of her.

This is especially true if you have a house full of Alexa speakers and have taken advantage of all the smart home devices like smart coffee makers, locks, thermostats, and lights.

But if you’re heading off for summer vacation, a fall camping trip, or a long-distance family visit this Christmas, you don’t want to be without Alexa while you’re away from home.

After all, she can get you directions, give you the weather, play music, be a personal concierge, or even stay in control of your smart home devices from across the country.

How to Bring Alexa Along

Believe it or not, you can bring your Echo device with you anywhere and use it just as you would at home. Just make sure it’s connected to the Wi-Fi where you’re staying.

If you’re flying, though, or just don’t want to risk traveling with your Echo, you can still use Alexa on your iOS or Android phone.

Just open the Alexa app, tap the logo in the center at the bottom of the screen, and talk to Alexa just like you would at home.

Control Your Home From Anywhere

Even when you’re not at home, you can still control your smart devices at home with Alexa from anywhere, whether you’ve brought along your Echo or if you’re just using your phone.

Here’s some tasks you can give here while you’re away:

  • If you have a friend taking care of your pets while you’re gone, unlock your doors for them and lock them again when they leave. Who “hides” keys under the mat anymore anyways?
  • Adjust your thermostat on your ride home to make sure you walk in to a comfy environment.
  • Turn lights on or off at random, creating the illusion that someone is home and therefore reducing your chances of burglary.

Stream Music

If where you’re staying doesn’t have any music streaming options, Alexa’s got you covered.

Just connect your Echo to the Wi-Fi where you’re staying and search for music as you normally would.

Listen to music from specific artists or albums or listen from you own stations or playlists while you get ready for the day, make dinner, or sleep.

Streamline Your Mornings

Picture this: Alexa wakes you up with an alarm at 8:30, reads you today’s itinerary and weather forecast, plays your morning wake-up playlist while you get ready for the day, then orders an Uber for you at 10:00 to get you downtown – all without you saying a word.

More than just a fancy alarm clock, Alexa can streamline your whole morning routine.

Just set up routines for her before you go, give her your itinerary for the week, and you’re good to go.

Your routines can string together any list of commands in any order. Just tell her what you want to do and when, and your vacation just got a lot less stressful. Pretty awesome, I know.

Mobile Concierge

Alex can also be your personal concierge on your trip.

Need a place for donuts and coffee in the morning? She’s got it.

Want some Friday night pizza but don’t know where to go? Just ask.

Don’t know where the best gas prices are near you? She does.

If you’re bringing along an Echo, just make sure you update its location in the settings in the Alexa app. Go to Settings > [speaker name] > Device location.

If you’re heading out on vacation, make sure to bring Alexa with you – you’ll be so thankful you did.

If you don’t have an Echo yet…what are you waiting for?

While it may seem a bit intimidating at first, buying and setting up an Echo isn’t nearly as much trouble as it seems, and what little hassle it may be is so worth it.

You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

If you’d like some more tips for vacationing with Alexa, help getting started with Alexa, or would just like to share you vacation experience, feel free to send me an email at christian@calibre-cs.com.

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Why Ordinary Antivirus Fails To Protect Your PC

What antivirus software “protects” your computer?

Some of the common ones I see on client computers are:

  • Norton
  • McAfee
  • Trend Micro
  • BitDefender
  • VIPRE
  • AVG
  • Avast
  • Avira
  • Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender
  • ESET NOD32

Bad news, my friend.

I’ve got bad news if you’re using one of these products – your PC ISN’T as safe from viruses and malware as you believe.

Older isn’t better in this case

All of these antivirus programs use 25-year-old technology to block viruses and malware.  It’s called virus definitions.

Multiple times every day, these software manufacturers push updated virus definitions to your computer.  It’s basically a list of known bad threats they have discovered that shouldn’t be allowed on your PC.

Two Flaws

I’m sure you can see the two major flaws with this.

First, it’s impossible to keep the list on your computer up-to-date. 

Cybercriminals are always writing new scripts to attack computers. 

It’s only after these new viruses are released on the Internet and have done their damage that antivirus vendors know they exist, reverse engineer how they work, and add them to the “bad list.” 

This process can take days or even weeks – leaving your computer completely unprotected.

Second, it’s easy to bypass the list.

Hackers know how these lists scan incoming files to determine whether it is good or bad, whether it should be allowed or blocked. 

So they modify their code just enough so your antivirus software doesn’t recognize it as being malicious – simply because it’s not on “the list” in the virus definitions database.

Think of it as using a fake ID.

Use Technology To Fight Technology

What’s the solution?

Fortunately, there is a new antivirus software that utilizes the latest technology to combat against all types of virus and malware infections without using a list.

This antivirus protection stops any threat – known or unknown – from damaging your computer. 

How?

It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine if the actions a particular file or program is performing are normal or malicious.  If it’s malicious, it immediately shuts it down.

There are no outdated virus definition lists and no days or weeks of your computer being vulnerable.

I’ve Seen It Work

I installed this new protection on a client’s computer in late October.  On New Year’s Eve, while I was vacationing in Arizona, I received an email alert that the Cybersecurity Antivirus had stopped a hidden, malicious file stored in the computer’s recycle bin from encrypting all her files and rendering her computer inoperable.

The report showed exactly where the file was located and specifically what files on the computer it was trying to modify.

Because it immediately quarantined it, this client didn’t experience any problems.  And more importantly, she didn’t have to shell out any money for a virus removal.

You Decide

Antivirus software MUST be installed on your computer.  Anything is better than nothing.

But is it smart to use antiquated technology that doesn’t really protect your computer from the latest threats? 

You spend between $0 and $100 for antivirus “protection,” but end up having to spend $100-$200 more to clean up your PC when that “protection” fails you (and it will).

 Alternatively, the Cybersecurity Antivirus protection can keep your computer safe and keep money in your pocket for less than $150 a year.
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How to Test and Optimize Your Internet Speed

Clients frequently call me complaining their Internet is running slow.

Web sites take longer than they should to load. Streaming videos start, stop, start, and stop – making it impossible to enjoy entertainment on their PC or smart TV.

I’d like to provide you some tips on how you can test and optimize your Internet speed.

Know Your Numbers

First, it’s important to know what Internet speed you’re paying for from your Internet Service Provider.

Unfortunately, many providers don’t clearly identify this on your monthly bill, disguising it with fancy names like “Extreme Internet” or “Ultra Internet.” You may have to search their website to get determine the exact speed (such as 100Mbps) you’re subscribed to.

Test … And Test Again

After you know what speeds you’re paying for, you should run several Internet speed tests. I recommend using www.speakeasy.net/speedtest and www.speedtest.net.

Keep in mind these tips when testing your connection:
• Only run a speed test when you’re not doing anything else on the Internet. Otherwise, your results won’t be accurate.
• Run speed tests at different times of the day. Network congestion can cause slow Internet speeds.
• If possible, run at least one test with your computer connected directly to your cable modem instead of through your router. This will help you determine if your router may be causing problems.
• Use multiple computers to run the speed tests – but not at the time same. This can pinpoint a problem with your computer or Internet browser instead of with your Internet connection.
Reboot

If your speed test results are significantly lower than what you’re paying for, you should reboot both your cable modem and router. Unplug the power cord from both devices, wait about two minutes, then plug them back in – cable modem first.

This often clears up any “junk” clogging up your Internet pipeline.

After about five minutes, you can run another speed test to see if your connection has improved.

Change Browsers

The program you use to surf the Internet can make all the difference in the world.

I recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox instead of Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer.

Chrome and Firefox typically load websites much faster, are significantly safer, and encounter fewer problems than other browsers.

Regularly Tune-Up Your PC

Junk builds up on your computer with regular use. Cookies and other files can cause your computer to run slower, especially on the Internet.

It’s important to perform regular maintenance on your computer, including clearing out junk and temporary files, running virus scans, and defragmenting your hard drive.

Visit https://www.calibreforhome.com/2013/05/9-tips-to-keep-your-computer-running-smoothly-2/ for 9 tips to keep your computer running smoothly.

Make A Call

If you’ve taken all of these steps and your Internet still is slower than a snail, you’ll most likely need to call either your Internet Service Provider or a computer professional or both.

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How to Create Strong, Easy-To-Remember Passwords

Do you use “123456” as your password for any websites? How about “qwerty”? Maybe 123456789?

If you do, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 1,000,000 people use those passwords.

But there’s a problem.

Each of those can be cracked in less than a millisecond, leaving you and your personal information exposed to data thieves.

So what can you do to stay more secure, but still be able to remember your passwords?

Don’t Reuse Passwords

Using the same one or two passwords for everything drastically reduces your personal security. Obvious, right?

Maybe, but that doesn’t stop over 80% of people from reusing passwords. Instead, use a unique password for each website you visit.

Most people can’t remember that many passwords, so I recommend using a password management service like LastPass to safely store your passwords for you. It can even generate passwords that are practically impossible for computers to guess.

Use Longer Passwords

Hackers don’t type in passwords one at a time. Instead, they often get millions of them at once from data breaches. They target the short passwords first and, with enough passwords to compare, they’re able to decrypt thousands of them in just a couple of hours.

If your password is 8 characters or longer, however, there’s a good chance it will be overlooked.
Hackers don’t want your password: they want as many as they can get in the shortest time possible.

Assuming it is not a common password such as “password123,” each additional character over eight could potentially add days, months, years, or even decades to the time it would take an algorithm to crack, making your password very unappealing to hackers.

I suggest using passwords with at least 10 characters to keep yourself off hackers’ radar.

Use Sentences as Passwords

Which is easier to remember: “Tl|_|,BwwB2R” or “My favorite kind of pie is chocolate!”?

The latter, of course.

However, you don’t want to use real words, as they are easily cracked.

Instead, use only the letters from your sentence as a password.

In this instance, “My favorite kind of pie is chocolate!” turns into “Mfkopic!.”

If you’re feeling clever, you could even change “pie” to “3.14” (pi = 3.14, in math terms), then the “1” to a “!”. This leaves you with “Mfko3.!4ic!” – a password which cannot be easily guessed and would take 200 million years to crack.

As long as you avoid using common words or phrases, this simple technique will keep you much more secure than most complex, hard to remember passwords.

Remember: a password that is hard for you to remember is not always hard for a computer to guess.

 

 

Here are some resources to help you create strong passwords, along with some cool facts and information:

Helpful graph for remembering long passwords (Stanford Password Policy):

http://bit.ly/stanfordpasswordpolicy

6 techniques for creating stronger passwords:

http://bit.ly/6techniques

Most commonly used passwords of 2016:

http://bit.ly/commonpasswords2016

Common passwords, plus helpful tips and tricks to keep yourself safe:

http://bit.ly/telegraphpasswords

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3 Ways To Extend Your iPhone Battery Life

I replaced the battery in my iPhone 6 at the start of marching band season in August. Long days on the road at competitions meant not being near an electrical outlet to charge my phone.

And usually my phone needed charged by noon each day, even with minimal use.

By early-October, though, I noticed my iPhone’s battery life and overall performance seemed sluggish. Even with the new battery.

Letters were slow to appear on the display when typing text messages. Snapchat took forever to open. The camera took 10 seconds or more to process the photo I just took, leaving me to wonder if I’d captured the moment.

As my frustration and impatience grew with my obsolete iPhone, I become more and more tempted to fork out the money for the new iPhone 8 or iPhone X.

But I didn’t (and still haven’t).

Then, just five days before Christmas, Apple finally admitted to intentionally slowing down the older iPhones – to prolong the life of the devices, they said.

Basically, Apple says that as the lithium-ion batteries in the phones age, they’re unable to provide the necessary power for the iPhone to function properly. This could cause unexpected shutdowns or random freezes.

Through software updates, they throttle performance on the iPhone 6, 6s, SE, and 7.

Besides being a disgruntled iPhone user who doesn’t want to shell out $1,000 for the newest model, what can you do?

Here are three easy ways to improve and prolong your older iPhone’s battery life:

Use Low-Power Mode

Low-power mode forces your iPhone to conserve as much power as possible by shutting off all non-essential features.

According to Apple, it could offer you up to three extra hours of time before needing to charge your phone.

To enable this setting:
1. Tap Settings.
2. Tap Battery.
3. Move the Low Power Mode slider to on (green).

NOTE: Be aware that this feature turns off many useful features, including push email notifications, the ability to use Siri by voice command, and some visual effects.

Lower screen brightness

Lighting your display drains the battery the most. Keeping it at a reduced level will help prolong time between charges.

To manually adjust the screen brightness:
1. Tap Settings.
2. Tap Display & Brightness.
3. Move the Brightness slider as far to the left as your eyes will allow you to clearly see content on your screen.

Alternatively, you can enable Auto-Brightness. This setting lets your iPhone automatically determine the appropriate level of brightness based upon the ambient light conditions at the time.

To turn on Auto-Brightness:
1. Tap Settings.
2. Tap General.
3. Tap Accessibility.
4. Tap Display Accommodations.
5. Move the Auto-Brightness slider to on (green).

Limit background app refresh

Some apps are set to update their content even when you’re not using them. The benefit is you’ll have new content immediately when you open the app. The drawback is less battery life.

To turn off background app refresh:
1. Tap Settings.
2. Tap General.
3. Tap Background App Refresh.

From here you have several options.

You can manually turn off individual apps from refreshing automatically by moving the slider to the left (off/gray).

Or you can turn off all apps from refreshing by tapping the Background App Refresh at the top and selecting Off.

If these suggestions don’t help extend your battery life, you can either have your battery replaced or, if you’re excited to upgrade to the newest iPhone, you can purchase the iPhone 8 or iPhone X. – and then do this all again in two more years!

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4 Tech Predictions for the New Year

Tech Predictions

“Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born,” computer scientist Alan Kay aptly states.

I remember the days of listening to cassette tapes on a Sony Walkman, listening to the radio for hours just waiting to record my favorite song, and even having to access the Internet using a dial-up connection.

With every passing year, new innovations bring massive changes to the technology that surrounds us.  What’s common today will soon be replaced with something else tomorrow.

For your enjoyment, I present to you four technology predictions for 2018.

Widespread Adoption of New Digital Interfaces

Android smartphone users love to brag how their devices are the pioneers for many features in mobile technologies.  They enjoy taunting Apple iPhone users, like myself, with phrases like, “We had that in our phones two years ago.”  (Yes, Cai and Scott R, two of my techs, I’m talking about you!)

When Apple introduced the iPhone X in October, it adopted facial recognition as the way to unlock your phone.  Some Android devices also use facial recognition and iris scanning to access them.

But digital interfaces will begin appearing elsewhere too.  Vehicles will start to incorporate facial recognition to save unique settings for each driver.  Fingerprint scanners will be used to allow access to various facilities, like your neighborhood gym.

Subscription Models Become the Norm

Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, and a host of other companies have already acclimated consumers to paying for movies and music on a month-to-month basis.

Adobe switched to subscription-only plans for its entire suite of creative products in 2013.  Microsoft is now encouraging consumers and businesses to purchase the Microsoft Office software through its recurring Office 365 subscription plans.

You’ll see many other software and service companies switch to offering their products and services by subscription instead of one-time purchases.

Cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain Continue To Rise

If you’re not familiar with the terms “cryptocurrency” and “blockchain,” you may want to start doing some research.

The blockchain is simply an online ledger, originally designed to track cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in a secure and efficient way.  But the technology has been quickly adopted by other industries because it reduces cost and improves efficiencies.

Despite advice by uninformed financial talking heads on TV, early investors in cryptocurrencies and other blockchain technologies have pocketed major gains. 

While it is still a volatile investment, in-the-know investment advisors predict continued growth throughout 2018.

Security Breaches Continue And Cybersecurity Remains A Big Focus

From the WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled over 300,000 computers worldwide to the Equifax security breach that compromised financial records of as many as 143 million people, such incidents will continue to regularly occur throughout 2018.

As a result, small businesses will see the need (and even be mandated) to adopt better cybersecurity protections to safeguard information stored on their computers.

It’s impossible to predict the future – especially in the tech world.  But in December, it’ll be fun to look back and see what changes actually occurred.

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How the Repeal of Net Neutrality Could Affect You

Think your cable and Internet bill costs too much already?

Enjoy freely surfing the web’s variety of funny, informative, and even weird, content?

Thanks to a party-line vote to repeal net neutrality by the appointed members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last Thursday, you could end up paying more to view certain Internet content or not even be able to access certain content at all.

What is (was) net neutrality?

Net neutrality rules made the Internet a level playing field for all content providers and consumers. They required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to allow equal access to all lawful web content.

ISPs like Spectrum, Frontier, and Comcast, couldn’t charge you more to access certain websites. Nor could they slow down your connection to other Internet content.

Mozilla – the company known for its Firefox web browser – succinctly describes it this way: “In other words, the Web is a level playing field: you can read, watch, play, browse and share on the same terms as everybody else.”

Net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC went into effect in 2015. Those rules prohibited certain practices by Internet Service Providers, as described in this excerpt from a December 14 New York Times article:

“BLOCKING – Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.

“THROTTLING – Service providers could not slow the transmission of data based on the nature of the content, as long as it is legal.

“PAID PRIORITIZATION – Service providers could not create an Internet fast lane for companies and consumers who pay premiums, and a slow lane for those who don’t.”

The FCC’s decision

Last Thursday, the five appointed members of the FCC voted along party-lines to repeal those 2015 rules.

Essentially, they caved in to lobbyists of major communications corporations.

Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, wrote to Google users in 2006, “The phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block on-ramps for those who can’t pay.”

How this could affect you

First, Internet providers could begin to create bundles of content – increasing your monthly Internet bill. This is similar to what cable and satellite providers already do for television content.

Want to access social media sites? That’s an extra subscription package per month.

Want to stream videos from Hulu, Netflix and YouTube? You’ll need to pay more for a separate bundle.

This is already happening in other countries, such as Portugal, where no net neutrality rules exist.

Second, they could completely prohibit you from viewing certain content at all – or make it extremely painful to do so.

For example, Comcast is the parent company of NBC and MSNBC. They could decide to deny subscribers the ability to access any news content other than that produced by NBC/MSNBC. Or they could slow down connections to other news sites so that it takes longer to load, thereby discouraging people from trying to even access it.

(I agree, this may be an extreme and unlikely example. But with the repeal of the rules, it is now possible.)

Third, Internet providers could allow deep-pocketed companies to pay for faster load times of their websites.

This could prevent small businesses and non-profit organizations from promoting their products, services and causes to the same audiences.

Your voice matters – Say something!

The repeal of net neutrality is a bad deal for consumers and businesses alike.

The FCC’s decision faces serious congressional and legal challenges in the months ahead. So major changes won’t happen immediately.
But if you enjoy a free, fair access to the Internet, you can’t just finish reading this column, move on to the next article, and do nothing.

I encourage you to call or write your federal representatives in Congress. Let them know you want them to challenge the FCC’s decision.

Call or write the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Encourage them to join with New York’s Attorney General in filing a multi-state lawsuit against the FCC’s repeal.

A free and open Internet is an important platform for free speech and open enterprise.

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3 Affordable Home Automation Gadgets

You wake up at 5:59 a.m. to the warm glow of sunlight in your bedroom. Peering out your window, you see the stars still out and the moon shining brightly.

“Alexa, set scene ‘Morning,’” you say. Within seconds, your house illuminates into soft shades of orange, blue, and white for an energizing ambience.

As the clock strikes 6, your home’s heat kicks on. You find your morning coffee waiting for you in the kitchen. You enjoy your breakfast and leave your house at 6:30.

Behind you, your lights and coffee maker power themselves off. Your home’s temperature is allowed to drop below 50° to save energy. Throughout the day, your lights turn on and off at seemingly random intervals to make your home appear occupied, deterring potential home invaders or sketchy neighbors.

That evening as you drive up your driveway, your garage and front room lights turn on to greet you. You walk inside your recently warmed house to find your TV already tuned to the evening news.

When you walk into your comfortably cool bedroom at 10:00, you command, like an officer in 1969’s Star Trek, your house lights to turn off by saying “Alexa, set ‘Bedtime.’” A single soft light in your bedroom slowly dims over the next hour. You now fall into a natural deep sleep.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a futuristic home like this? I sure think so.

And that’s why I’d like you to know something – for under $1,000 you can have your home transformed into a “home of the future.”

Let me walk you through the three devices that made this 20th century sci-fi-esque day possible.

How are you able to enjoy sunlight at 6:00 in the morning? This is thanks to Philips HUE lights.

These Wi-Fi enabled lights can be controlled using nearly any phone or smart hub. At your fingertips (or even just your voice), you’ll have timers, beautiful scenes, GPS capability, and 16,000,000 beautiful colors.

These lights are my personal favorite of available smart home devices. They’re relatively affordable at about $70 per bulb. These bulbs are installed in regular light sockets for ultimate ease of installation.

Who wouldn’t want their coffee made and TV turned on for them without even flipping a switch?

Belkin agrees and has graced us with their Belkin WeMo Mini for just this purpose (or anything else you can think of).

At just $30 each, the WeMo Mini is the cheapest and simplest way to modernize your home. All you have to do is plug your WeMo mini into a wall outlet and your coffee maker into the WeMo. Then set your desired on/off times via the WeMo app and… voilà! You’ve automated your first task.

You can do the same thing with nearly any other device, such as a TV, lamp, space heater, or even a toaster. And at just $30, why not?

In this perfect home, you may have noticed your home’s temperature smartly adjusting throughout the day. This is thanks to the Nest Learning Thermostat ($249).

It has tons of cool features, like voice control, detailed energy use reports, and smoke detection (with add-ons). You’ll save an average of 10-12% a year on your energy bill, thanks to its adaptive adjustments.

As you adjust your home’s temperature throughout the day, the Nest thermostat learns your habits and creates a schedule accordingly.

Technology is super exciting and can make your life so much easier. However, getting started isn’t always so easy.

Bonus: Amazon Echo ‘Alexa’
Talking to many of these devices is made possible through a Amazon Echo device. The least expensive in the Echo family, the Dot, is just $50 and allows you to speak commands to a large variety of home automation gadgets and listen to online music, podcasts and radio. Alexa can also tell you information, set timers and more. Google, Bose and Apple also make similar assistants.

Email me at christian@calibre-cs.com if you have any questions, are interested in having us set up home automation for you, or just want to share your knowledge and experiences.

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Thanksgiving Thoughts and Black Friday “Bargains”

Thanksgiving Thoughts

“There’s one thing I should be … giving up now, and that’s worryin’ about life.”

Those lyrics from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s first collaborative album resonated with me as I began writing this column.

This week is Thanksgiving. The one day of the year we intentionally set aside to be grateful for all the blessings in our lives. It’s a day when we should quit worryin’ about life and focus on the good.

Here are just a few things I’m thankful for:
• The opportunity to get up each morning, breathe in the fresh air, and work out at the gym
• A loving, supportive family who is always there for me
• Each of you, the readers of this column, I can serve by providing practical advice and useful tips to help you better understand and use technology
• My three dedicated staff members – Christian, Cai and Scott – who help make Calibre the company it is
• The privilege of working with the PCHS Marching Tigers. Music is a wonderful thing and working with a dedicated group of young people is so inspiring.

I could list dozens more. I bet you could too.

What’s on your list of thanks?

I encourage you to take just 5 minutes today and write out some things you’re grateful for. For that short period of time, I guarantee you’ll stop “worryin’ about life.”

Black Friday “Bargains”

If you’re looking for a cheap laptop this Black Friday, Best Buy’s selling one for only $99.99.

But before swiping your credit card to make that purchase, you might want to consider if you’re okay with throwing your hard-earned money away.

(How many hours do you have to work to make $100?)

This steal-of-a-deal laptop can barely be called a computer. It’s hardware components are almost the lowest you can get.

It’s 2 gigabytes of memory is painfully inadequate to run the Windows 10 operating system.

The 32 gigabytes of storage capacity leaves you unable to install future, required updates to the Windows 10 operating system. This means you’ll be bombarded with constant pop-up warnings to install updates that you can’t install because there’s no room on the PC to do so.

So after about six months of use, your $100 laptop is now a useless heap of plastic.

Why do computer manufacturers and big box retailers sell these “bargain” PCs?

To appeal to people who only look at price when buying them.

I’d encourage you to skip the Black Friday “deals” on computers because most of them will cost you more in the long-run for repairs and updates in order to make them last.

An investment in a good, quality computer may cost a little more up-front, but you’ll spend less overall and you’ll have a faster, easier-to-use, and more problem-free PC.

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Take Your Old, Slow Computer And … Speed It Up

The October 31st deadline was approaching.

Jan, a busy local business professional, knew she needed to do something quickly about her frustratingly slow, five-year-old Dell computer. She depends on her PC every day to serve her clients and employees.

Her time is pressed from early morning to late evening between a constantly ringing cell phone with calls from clients and employees needing her assistance, numerous visits to client homes and offices, and time-critical meetings to meet a variety of important deadlines.

Her painfully slow computer hampered her ability to efficiently conduct her business. She could turn it on, log in, and fix a cup of coffee before it was ready to be used.

Having read my warnings about the dreadful Windows 10 operating system, Jan called me seeking advice about buying a new Windows 7 desktop or if there was another way to speed up her sluggish PC.

Fast forward to last Thursday night at the Gibson County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.

“My computer is so much faster!” Jan excitedly shared with me. “It’s so nice to be able to turn it on and it’s ready just like that.”

Ready in 30 seconds!

What did I do that now makes Jan’s computer ready to use in only 30 seconds?

I installed a new solid state hard drive and doubled the amount of memory.

An affordable combination that significantly improves performance and adds additional life to an otherwise old PC.

Until recently, most computers shipped with mechanical hard drives. These drives are fairly reliable, cheap, and provide plenty of room to store pictures, documents, and music.

But as prices have dropped, solid state hard drives are becoming more popular – both in new computers and as reasonably priced upgrades for older ones.

Why consider upgrading your hard drive?

If you have an older computer that works well but crawls at a snail’s pace, you should seriously consider upgrading to a solid state hard drive.

It’s cheaper than buying a new computer, allows you to keep your existing operating system (which is hopefully Windows 7), and gives you the speed boost you desire.

What makes them better?

Without getting too technical, solid state hard drives (SSDs) perform better than mechanical hard drives in four primary ways:

1. Your operating system and programs load quickly because of faster read/write speeds to and from the hard drive.
2. The likelihood of a failure of the hard drive is significantly reduced because there are no moving internal components.
3. They consume less energy and operate more quietly. If you’re using a solid state hard drive in a laptop, you’ll notice you can use it on battery power much longer.
4. Fragmentation of files is less, which means your computer can find necessary pieces of data faster – translating in to faster performance.

A painless upgrade

Upgrading your current computer to a solid state hard drive is fairly easy. Unless you’re having other software-related problems with your computer, your existing hard drive can be imaged over to the new solid state hard drive.

All your programs, files, settings, desktop background – everything – will be copied over exactly as is to the new hard drive. You won’t even notice anything’s changed – other than the speed of your computer.

If you’re tired of wasting time waiting to use your desktop or laptop – and it’s otherwise working well for your needs – consider upgrading to a solid state hard drive.

It’s almost like having a new computer – without the cost!