Monday, 3 November 2014

Ten things about computer use in schools that you don't want to hear (but I'll say them anyway)

I don't want to hear this at an event last year in Uruguay for policymakers from around the world, a few experts who have worked in the field of technology use in education for a long time commented that there was, in their opinion and in contrast to their experiences even a few years ago, a surprising... amount of consensus among the people gathered together on what was really important, what wasn't, and on ways to proceed (and not to proceed).

Over the past two years, I have increasingly made the same comment to myself when involved in similar discussions in other parts of the world. At one level, this has been a welcome development.
People who work with the use of ICTs in education tend to be a highly connected bunch, and the diffusion of better (cheaper, faster) connectivity has helped to ensure that 'good practices and ideas' are shared with greater velocity than perhaps ever before.

Even some groups and people associated with the 'give kids computers, expect magic to happen' philosophy appear to have had some of their more extreme views tempered in recent years by the reality of actually trying to put this philosophy into practice.

That said, the fact that "everyone agrees about most everything" isn't always such a good thing. Divergent opinions and voices are important, if only to help us reconsider why we believe what we believe. (They are also important because they might actually be right, of course, and all of the rest of us wrong, but that's another matter!)
Even where there is an emerging consensus among leading thinkers and practitioners about what is critically important, this doesn't mean that what is actually being done reflects this consensus -- or indeed, that this consensus 'expert' opinion is relevant in all contexts.

An EduTech blog post from last year, for example, identified a dilemma faced by many Caribbean countries: They are putting lots of computers into schools. Consistent with what is considered 'best practice' from around the world, policymakers in the region recognize that providing more training and support for teachers is crucial if the investments in technology are to have real impact.
But if teachers are better trained, many may emigrate in search of better paying teaching jobs in other countries. If this is the case, what is a policymaker to do?

Examples like this do tend to complicate some of the 'expert' opinion that is congealing into conventional wisdom. ("When my information changes, I change my opinion. What do you do, Sir?" famously asked economist John Meynard Keynes.)

The comments below are adapted from a presentation I put together for senior policymakers in a developing country who have high level oversight of the use of technology in thousands of schools. Complemented by a separate discussion about 'worst practices' in ICT use in education, there were meant to be provocative, and to serve as a springboard for subsequent discussion and debate. They may or may not be useful or relevant to the people who read this blog (especially those with a lot of experience using ICTs in schools over many years), but I thought they potentially were relevant to the group with which I was speaking. To the extent that they might be of any interest to others, here are:

Ten things about computer use in schools
that you don't want to hear
(but I'll say them anyway)

1. Computer labs are a bad idea

In most places I visit, putting all (or most) of a school's computers into a special 'computer lab' is seen as the obvious thing to do when a school is being 'computerized'. This may seem obvious ... but is it really a good idea?

The trend in industrialized countries has largely been away from computer lab-centric models for educational technologies. One reason for this is quite practical -- the computer labs are already full of computers, and if you want to buy more of them, you need to put them in other places. Fair enough. There is also a recognition, however, that if you want computers and other ICTs to contribute directly to impacting the learning process in core subjects, you need to put them where core subjects are being taught -- like in the classroom. The move toward 1-to-1 computing, where each student (and/or teacher) has her own dedicated laptop, can be seen in some ways as a further extension of this belief.

This is not to say that school computer labs are a bad idea. Or, for that matter, that they are a good idea. Rather, it is to argue that, where the decision is made to invest in them, it should be for the right reasons -- and not just because "that's what everyone else seems to be doing (or did in the past), so we should do it too".

2. ICT literacy classes are a bad idea

Why do you need to put computers in schools? So that kids can 'learn how to use computers'. How do kids best learn how to use computers? By deliberately being taught their basic functions as part of a special 'computer class'. Right?

Some people don't think so, and contend that using ICTs primarily to build 'ICT literacy' tends to crowd out other educational uses of the technologies, and that desires to develop skills that conform to narrow definitions of 'ICT literacy' (i.e. basically the mechanical stuff -- opening a document, word processing, etc.) can often be met by utilizing ICTs in other ways. Might it be better, they ask, to help students develop their 'computer skills' as a natural by-product of ICT use as part of other learning activities than to 'teach' them, for example, how an operating system works and how to use basic office productivity applications? Of course local context is important here: What works in one place (or time) in this regard may not work so well in another. This is not to say that vocational computer-related instruction is a waste of time. Certainly not! (Although it may be worth asking what extent basic 'computer courses' are really appropriate in places where likely usage scenarios for ICTs going forward do not involve someone sitting at a desk, but rather using a mobile phone or -- soon -- a tablet device.) Nor is it meant to imply that children do not need to learn how to perform basic tasks with a computer. But there is more than one way to accomplish the task of making students 'ICT literate'.

3. Don't expect test scores to improve

Most 'research' studies I receive from vendors tout a marked, immediate positive impact on test scores as a result of their product or service. Precious few of these, at least in my experience, stand up to much scrutiny.

(Quick side note to vendors: I look at the methodologies used by your researchers before paying any attention to your conclusions. The more open you are about how you have come to your conclusions, and what the limitations of your reasoning may be, the more interested I will become.)
While acknowledging that there are some good studies out there that do show a (modest) improvement in test scores as a result of computer use in schools, I don't think much has changed since infoDev's Knowledge Map on ICT use in education contended that "impact of ICT use on student achievement remains ... open to much reasonable debate".

My goal here isn't to revisit or summarize the 'reasonable debates' in this area. Instead, I would like to turn things around for a second. Where there has been compelling evidence of improvement in test scores, it may be worth asking: Are these bad tests? We have known for decades how useful 'computer-aided instruction' can be in promoting the rote memorization of facts. 'Drill and kill' is the derisive term some use to describe the use of computers as little more than digital flash cards. In some cases, the use of 'drill and kill' educational software may indeed be the most 'effective' use of ICTs in schools, especially where rote memorization and regurgitation of facts is what is currently tested in national assessments. Just because something is expedient doesn't mean it is a good idea, however.

Now, I am not against flash cards per se -- they certainly have their utility in some instances and contexts. (When I was learning Chinese I found them invaluable when trying to recognize common characters, for example, and three minutes using simple flash card mathematics apps on my phone with my son can serve as a useful diagnostic, providing me with quick insight into what concepts he may be having trouble with.) That said, essentially building an entire (expensive) roll-out of educational technology around the use of high tech flash cards ... well, that seems to me to be missing most of the potential power of what the technology can do. I expect that few people will disagree with what I've said here at a conceptual level. That said, I challenge you to look at how computers are actually being used in your schools.

These days, the rhetoric around computer use in education is often that computers can be used to help develop sets of '21st century skills' (variously defined). Few examination systems, however, do a very good job in testing these sorts of skills. If your rationale for putting computers in schools is to develop these sorts of 21st century skills, but your examinations don't test for them, don't expect test scores to improve.

(I'll also note parenthetically that, if you are moving more and more of your instructional and learning activities into the 'digital realm', but you are still testing your students using traditional pencil and paper exams ... well, you may also want to take a step back and reconsider some things.)

4. What students do outside the classroom with technology is more important than what they do inside it

"Technology is revolutionizing education everywhere but in the classroom" -- so goes a saying quite popular in many education and ICT communities. Just because it may have past into cliche in some circles doesn't mean that it isn't true. While a review of research about the impact of ICT use in schools on educational outcomes around the world is decidedly mixed, results from the OECD research investigation of New Millennium Learners proposes (while controlling for things like income levels, etc.) interesting correlations between technology use outside of school and impact on learning. We shouldn't confuse correlation with causation, of course. That said, to what extent are you aware of how students are using technology outside of school, and using this information as an input to your decisions about how it is meant to be used in support of the formal learning processes in which your schools are engaged? If you are not doing this now, your calibrations for how technology is 'best' (and most cost effectively) used in schools may well be off the mark.

5. Digital citizenship and child safety will become an important part of what schools teach

You may say that this something you agree with. Why don't you want to hear this, then? Because few of you are doing it now -- or preparing to do it in any impactful way. Yes, in many instances, filters have been installed on school servers to keep kids 'safe', and laws have been established to help 'protect kids from online predators', but 'keeping kids safe online' is not just about insulating children from threats and vigorously prosecuting those who seek to do them harm. Schools are particularly well placed to help teach children to better identify and evaluate the various types of risks they may face when going online, and how to deal with them. This is especially true in communities where computers are not available in all homes, but are increasingly to be found in schools, connected to the Internet. At the same time, the proliferation of mobile phones and Internet cafes means that young people are increasingly operating in two separate digital worlds -- that of the controlled environment of (for example) a highly policed school computer lab, where 'digital literacy' often means instruction in basic word processing applications, and the 'anything goes' context of private Internet kiosks and personal mobile phones, where the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to navigate through one's 'digital life' are much more difficult to acquire. Might education systems have a role to play here beyond teaching basic 'computer literacy' and filtering objectionable content?

6. Most kids aren't 'digital natives'

One of the arguments often connected to discussions about technology use in schools is that 'children today are digital natives, and schools need to connect to them differently as a result'.

Proponents of this line of thinking contend that a new generation of young people have developed a set of attitudes and skills as a result of their exposure to, and use of, ICTs. While we have all observed (certain groups of) young people as they (for example) quickly explore how a device's menu'ing system works, how to turn on unfamiliar gadget, or 'intuitively' discover the rules of the way a particular piece of software or hardware 'works' without being so 'instructed', we may do well to resist the impulse to extrapolate from such observations that all (or even most) children magically know how to use technology successfully and ethically in support of their own learning.

While the digital natives hypothesis is compelling in its simplicity, academic research in this area is painting a picture that is much more differentiated and nuanced than popular opinions that, when it comes to technology, kids naturally "get it". Quickly learning and demonstrating a mastery of the mechanics of a particular process or use of a given technology (posting to Facebook, for example, or playing a video game one has never seen before) shouldn't be confused with a mastery of how to successfully use various technology tools with which young people come into contact in ways that are relevant to their own lives and communities.

It is one thing to be able to 'find' a 'fact' using a search engine. It is something else entirely to find the most relevant facts, and then successfully analyze and evaluate these 'facts' and their relevance to a particular task at hand, synthesizing this relevance and sharing the results of this processes with other to result in some sort of particular action or response. The first demonstrates familiarity with a particular process, the second forms a fundamental part of many people's definition of 'learning'.

7. You will never 'catch up' (technological innovations will always outpace your ability to innovate on the policy side)

Education systems are often one of the most conservative institutions in a society. One thing I often hear from policymakers is that they feel 'far behind' when it comes to considerations of technology use in education. My response to this may not be very comforting: You never will catch up, you will always be behind.

Now, I must admit, this is said a little bit for effect (there are of course many educators who are at the cutting, if not the bleeding, edge of technology use), but at a certain point, it might be more useful to change your perspective than to look back fondly at the 'good old days' when technology was not such a continually disruptive force.

I don't mean this to imply that policies (nor the policymaking process, given that the process of consultation around policy formulation can perhaps be as important as the resulting policy that results) related to the use of ICTs in education have no value. Of course they do. Articulating some sort of principle or rule to guide decisions (which is a basic definition of what a policy is) is quite important, I think, even in areas that are fast moving, like those related to technology. (Some may argue, in fact, that it is *especially* in areas that are fast moving where policy direction can be most helpful in many regards.) While it is important to acknowledge our limitations here, saying we will never catch up doesn't mean we shouldn't try -- and the way we frame our policies just might help us as we try to do so.

(A parenthetical note of caution: In some cases, where education systems have made a bold move to be 'visionary' and anticipate future trends, they have found that the abilities of some of the most senior officials to serve in effect as technology prognosticators has, to be charitable, left a little to be desired. Buying into technologies and/or philosophies at scale that are 'experimental' -- especially those that are closely tied to a proprietary standard and/or single organization or vendor -- can leave education systems quite exposed if things do not work out exactly had been originally envisioned. One of the truisms of investments in technology is that things rarely proceed as neatly as planned.)

8. 'Cheating' may well increase

Wherever computers and the Internet are introduced into schools for the first time -- whether this in a suburban Canadian school in the 1990s or a rural school in South Asia in the 2010s -- run-of-the-mill 'copy-paste plagiarism' invariably sky rockets, and other, more inventive ways to cheat are subsequently discovered and put to use by students (a process enabled by the willingness of some to freely share their related 'expertise' via the Internet.) This is an issue that, in my experience working with education officials in high, middle and low income countries alike -- and almost without exception -- grows in importance over time as a preoccupation of policymakers charged with oversight of ICT/education issues within education systems.

9. Like it or not, mobile phones (and other mobile devices like tablets) are coming (fast)

Yes, 'mobile phones' (or whatever you choose to call the little handheld devices that have more computing power than what sat on the desktops in computer labs a generation ago) may not be able to do what it is possible to do with a PC connected to keyboard and large monitor. But they are the technologies that are increaslingy to be found in the pockets and pocketbooks of people around the world.

This is not to say that students should not have laptops. Nor that they should not have interactive whiteboards, or _____ [insert name of another technology device here]. The technology choice should flow from a consideration of a lot of things (what's available, what's affordable, what's usable, what's appropriate, and most importantly: what's relevant for a particular learning or developmental objective). Yes, mobile phones may well be 'digital distraction devices' today in most classrooms. (Talk to a teacher in a room with 30 students with laptops -- she might well say the same thing about those devices, with kids instant messaging each other and sneaking in quick trips to Facebook and check sports scores.) That said, educational policymakers who do not include the use of mobile phones and other mobile devices like tablets as part of their future considerations of technology use in education are, in many ways, driving forward by looking in the rear view mirror.

10. _____

I have deliberately left #10 blank as an acknowledgement that there is much more 'conventional wisdom' related to the use of ICTs in education that could perhaps be challenged. I also do it as an acknowledgement that my knowledge of the specific contexts of technology use in education, and among young people, pales in comparison to your knowledge of how ICTs are used in your own country or community. There are a lot more things I could share on this topic, but I expect that, given your experience and expertise in this regard, you may wish to share some of them based on your own experience. Please feel free to do so [below].


Speed Test & Interpreting Speed Test Results

Run this test to see how fast your internet is running
Speed Test
Ok, so now you have some numbers and assessments from the Speed Test application. Here are the basics of how your internet connection speed was tested and what the download/upload numbers mean.

Performance tests

Tests if your Local Area Network (LAN) is protected by a firewall.
Requests are sent to a selected server and the time it takes to get a response is measured. This is a basic test of your Internet connectivity.
A measurement of the variance among successive ping tests. The lower the jitter value the better indicating that there is minimal difference in speed from one ping test to another.
Packet Loss
This is exactly what it sounds like - the number of packets travelling across a computer network that fail to reach their destination. Packet loss can cause jitter with streaming technologies, resulting in inconsistent performance.

Connection speeds

Connection speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Download speed
The number provided here represents the number of Mbps your connection is allowing to travel from a website to your network. When it comes to reading, playing games, viewing video and listening to streaming music on the web, this is the key number. The download speed is the number that your Internet service provider (ISP) uses to differentiate their different plans.
If your ISP is doing a good job, the download speed you get from speed test will be close to the one your service provider associates with your plan.
Upload speed
The number provided here is the number of Mbps your connection allows you to send from your computer to a website. Because so much online activity is interactive, your upload speed is important because it will determine how well you are able to work with web-based applications. ISPs don't pay as much attention to upload speeds in their marketing, but you should be able to find the expected performance noted somewhere on their website.
As with your download speed, your upload speed should be close to the speed your service provider associates with your plan.
What speed should I have?
If the Speedtest shows your connection is working as your ISP says it should but you're still not happy with your computer's performance, you have a number of options:
  1. Check your home network to make sure it is operating properly.
  2. Your computer may need a little a little work.
  3. You may need to upgrade your Internet service plan. To know what to expect by connection speed, see below.
Download Speeds
1-4 Mbps
Generally, this is the lowest level of service available in most areas. Email and most web site will load fine and most music streaming services will work without interruption. Internet phone services (VOIP) should have no trouble. But Standard Definition (SD) videos will buffer on occasion.
4-6 Mbps
According to the Federal Communications Commission, this is the minimum speed "generally required for using today's video rich broadband applications and services." Users at this speed should not have any trouble with streaming audio or video. Service at this speed will allow some file sharing and should work fine for streaming Internet TV (IP TV).
6-10 Mbps
For online gamers and heavy video-on-demand, this is the preferred speed. This speed delivers uninterupted online gaming and smooth on-demand video as long as only one device is using a high bandwidth service.
10-15 Mbps
Users at this speed say they do notice the increase in speed. Web sites drop right into the browser and your interaction with web-based applications and cloud services will be much quicker. Will help you interact with more complex online applications like remote education services, telemedicine and high definition Internet TV.
15-50 Mbps
If you have a number of devices connected to your network and want to use them at the same time without delays, this may be the speed for you. With the explosion of electronic products that can be connected to the Internet, keeping them all working at peak performance is going to be an increasing challenge. Multiple simultaneous connections will require this level of service.
50+ Mbps
Speed like this is not usually seen feeding home networks. The main reasons for such blazing download speed are commercial - video conferencing, real-time data collection and intense remote computing. But again, with the explosion of web-enabled devices in homes, speed like this may someday become the new normal. Remember, we used to access the Internet with dial-up modems.

Skype Buttons

What is a Skype button?

Add a Skype button to your websites and let people get in touch with just the click of a button. Whether they're on a computer or mobile, they will get through with a voice call or an instant message.

Click HERE to go to Skype Create Buttons Page


Call us on Skype! if you have that option and save money on calls plus you can get face to face time.

Call us on our service mobile via Skype! if you have that option


And don't forget...

You'll need to update your Skype setting to allow incoming calls or messages from people who are not on your contact list. . Need help? Check out the FAQ
Note: Not on Skype or can't pick up? Simply forward your Skype calls so you'll never miss a call.
Your use of Skype buttons implies access to and use of Skype software, as governed by Skype's Terms of Use. You also agree to the terms of the Microsoft Corporation Technical Documentation License Agreement.

Six Windows 7 Nightmares (and How to Fix Them)

You sit up suddenly in a cold sweat, and scream. But you're in bed, and it was just a bad dream. Sighing with relief, you get up, get dressed, go to work, and turn on your PC.
Then you sit up suddenly in a cold sweat, and scream--but this time, it's not a dream. It's a Windows nightmare.

Compared with its predecessors, Windows 7 is remarkably secure... and dependable. It's far from perfect, though: An unbootable PC, a nasty piece of malware, or a single but important file gone missing can make you lose days or even months of work. And you can't solve every nightmare by waking up.

Here are ways out of six common Windows 7 disasters. I'll tell you how to fix a PC that won't boot, retrieve files from an inaccessible hard drive, stop frequent Blue Screens of Death, restore a forgotten administrator password, remove malware, and find a missing file.

1. Your PC Won't Boot
If turning on your PC doesn't bring you into Windows, try booting from a Windows 7 DVD or a recovery disc.

Boot from a Windows 7 System Repair Disc, and you'll find tools to heal an unbootable PC.
You may already have the DVD. If Windows 7 didn't come with your computer but you installed it yourself, you have the disc. If you don't have it, you can borrow someone else's disc.
Alternatively you can borrow someone else's Windows 7 computer and use it to create a System Repair Disc (you can also do this on your own PC before it has a problem). To create the disc, click Start, type system repair, select Create a System Repair Disc, and follow the prompts.

If your computer won't boot from the CD, go into its setup screen and change the boot order so that the optical or CD/DVD drive comes before the hard drive. I can't tell you exactly how to do this since it differs from one PC to another. When you first turn on the computer, look for an on-screen message telling you to press a particular key 'for setup'.

If your PC fails before you can enter setup or boot from a CD, you have a hardware problem. If you're not comfortable working inside a PC, take it to a professional.

But let's assume that the CD boots. When it does, follow the prompts. Likely the utility will tell you very soon that there's a problem, and it will ask if you want to fix the problem. You do.

If it doesn't ask you, or if the disc can't fix the issue, you'll see a menu with various options. Startup Repair and System Restore are both worth trying.

2. You Can't Access the Hard Drive
If Windows can't boot because the PC can't read the hard drive, none of the solutions above will work. But that's not the worst of it: Unless you have a very up-to-date backup (and shame on you if you don't), all of your files are locked away on a possibly dead hard drive. Secondary drives you don't boot off of, both internal and external, also can die with important data locked away on them.

If you can't access your hard drive, Recover My Files might be able to do what its name implies.
If the drive is making noises that you've never heard before, shut off the PC immediately. In that case you have only one possible solution, and it's expensive: Send the drive to a data-retrieval service. Drivesavers and Kroll Ontrack are the best known, although they're not necessarily better than smaller, cheaper companies. Expect to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If your drive sounds okay, however, you may be able to recover the files for only $70 with GetData's Recover My Files.
If the sick drive is the one you use to boot Windows, you'll have to remove it from the PC and access it on another computer. You can do so by making it a secondary drive in a desktop PC, or by using a SATA-USB adapter such as the Bytecc USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA Adapter Kit.

The free, demo version of Recover My Files will show you which files can be recovered (almost all of them, when I tested it) and even display their contents. Once you've paid the $70 license fee, the program can copy the files to another drive. If that doesn't work, you'll need to use a retrieval service.

3. Blue Screens of Death Attack Your PC Regularly
BlueScreenView can show what Windows was doing before disaster struck.
One second you're working productively, the next you're staring at a blue screen filled with meaningless white text. If it happens occasionally, you curse, reboot, and get on with your work. If it happens regularly, you have a problem that needs fixing.
Windows 7 keeps logs of these "Stop Errors." (That's Microsoft's term; everyone else calls them "Blue Screens of Death," or BSoDs.) To view the logs and make sense of them, download and run BlueScreenView, a free, portable program by NirSoft (portable means you don't have to install it). The program shows you what drivers were running at the time of the crash, and highlights the likeliest suspects. If the same drivers come up from multiple crashes, you should definitely update them.

Speaking of updating drivers, you should make sure that all of them are current. SlimWare Utilities' free SlimDrivers makes this chore remarkably easy, as it scans Windows and lists which drivers need to be updated. If you register (that's free, too), it will find the drivers and run the update for you. It even offers to create a restore point before each update. Don't update all of your drivers at once, however; if you do, and one of them makes things worse, you'll have a tough time figuring out which one.

Frequent BSoDs can also be a sign of hardware problems, especially bad RAM. Although Windows 7 has its own memory-diagnostics program, I prefer the free Memtest86+, which you have to boot separately. You can download the program either as an .iso file--from which you can create a bootable CD--or as an .exe file that will install the program and its bootable operating system onto a flash drive.

4. No One Has the PC's Administrator Password
If the wrong person leaves your company in a huff, one or more PCs could be left stranded. With no one in the company knowing the password to an administrator-level account, you can't install software, change important settings, or possibly access encrypted data.

Fortunately, you can remove the password, letting you log on to that account. You do that with the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor, a bootable, text-based free program that you download as an .iso file. Double-click that file, and Windows 7 will start the process of burning it to a CD.

Sure your drivers are up-to-date? SlimDrivers can automate this otherwise time-consuming job.
Boot the CD and follow these instructions. I've put the on-screen prompts in italics. After you type your answer, press Enter.
boot: Just press Enter.

Select: [1]: Above the prompt you'll see a list of hard-drive partitions. Select the right one by typing that number.

What is the path to the registry directory?...: The default is probably correct. Just press Enter.

[1]: 1

What to do? [1] ->: 1

or simply enter the username...: Type the name of the administrator account. If you're not sure what it is, all of the account names are listed above the prompt.

Select: [q] >: 1

Select: ! - quit...: !

What to do [1]: q

About to write file(s) back...: y

New run? [n]: n

# Remove the CD and reboot.

You should now be able to log on to the administrator account without a password. For security purposes, don't forget to create a new password for the account. Just be sure to remember what it is.

Six Steps to Keeping Your Data Safe

When we lose precious information, whether to a system crash or to hackers, it can feel like we are losing parts of our lives. That's why keeping our data safe and sound is serious business. The following security tips from Geek Squad Agents are essential rules of thumb that will help keep your data safe from both an internal malfunction or an external invasion.
Use proactive software protection. Anti-malware software is a basic requirement for initial protection on all computers.
Viruses and spyware can creep into your computer and easily degrade performance and corrupt or even destroy data.
Use a firewall. Firewalls assist in blocking dangerous programs, viruses or spyware before they infiltrate your system. Various software companies offer firewall protection, but hardware-based firewalls, like those frequently built into network routers, provide a better level of security.
Be cautious of suspicious emails from unknown sources. Don’t open emails with attachments if you don’t know the sender.
Steer clear of websites of ill repute. These are havens for malicious and annoying intruders like spyware.
Keep your operating system updated. Repair the security holes that hackers love to exploit with the newest critical updates from Microsoft or Apple.

Consistent data backup crucial. Backing up to a separate media device or an online backup solution on a regular basis ensures that important files are secure.

Set up Windows Media Centre on Xbox 360 (Windows 7)

You can use Windows Media Centre to stream music, pictures and video to your Xbox 360 console from any computer on your home network. The following steps are for the versions of Windows that include Media Centre (Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Enterprise versions). For help installing Windows Media Center on your computer, see  Windows Media Center.
Step 1: Connect your console to your network
Connect your console to your home network using a wired or wireless connection. To learn how to do this, go to Wireless connection or Wired connection.
Step 2: Remove previous connections (if necessary)
If you previously connected a computer to your Xbox 360 console, you will need to remove the existing connection.
You can remove the previous steps on your computer or on your Xbox console:
Computer steps: Remove previous connections
  1. Start Windows Media Centre.
  2. At the bottom of the menu, click the Down Arrow, and under Tasks, click Settings.
  1. Click Extender.
  1. Click Xbox 360 Media Centre Extender.
  2. Click Uninstall.
  3. Click Next.
Console steps: Remove previous connections
  1. Go to My Settings, and then select System.
  2. Select Computers.
  3. Select Windows Media Centre.
  4. Select Disconnect.
  5. Press the B button on your controller to return to the Xbox Dashboard.
Step 3: Get the setup key on your console
  1. On your console, go to Apps, select My Apps and then select Windows Media Centre.
  2. Tip Not seeing Apps? You might need to Update your Xbox 360 console software.
  3. Select Continue.
  4. Write down the 8-digit setup key.
Step 4: Add your console to Windows Media Centre
  1. Start Windows Media Centre on your computer.
  2. Go to Tasks and then click Add Extender.
  3. When prompted, enter the 8-digit setup key from Step 3.
  4. Click Next to complete setup.
Step 5: Start Windows Media Centre on your console
Go to Apps, select My Apps and then select Windows Media Centre. It will take some time to build your media libraries the first time that you use Windows Media Centre on your console.

Scammers turning to phone calls to gain PC access

Criminals posing as PC security experts are calling people with offers of free scans in order to gain access to their computers, Microsoft says.

Forget e-mail. Criminals are making old-fashioned phone calls and offering free security scans in order to gain access to people's computers, according to Microsoft.
Among the 7,000 PC users that Microsoft polled in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Ireland, 15 percent on average had received such a phone call.
Of those, 22 percent fell for the con.
In many cases, the criminals were granted remote access to the victim's PC, where they were able to steal certain private information. In other cases, the victims provided credit card details, believing they were paying for legitimate software.
Most of the victims (79 percent) said they were hit by some type of financial loss. Among those, 17 percent reported that they had money taken from their financial accounts, 19 percent said their passwords were stolen, and 17 percent found themselves the victims of identity fraud. More than half said they also ran into computer problems as a result of the scam.
The amount of money stolen per person ranged from $82 up to $1,560, while the cost of fixing the subsequent damage to the PC was $1,730 on average and as high as $4,800.
"The security of software is improving all the time, but at the same time we are seeing cybercriminals increasingly turn to tactics of deception to trick people in order to steal from them," Richard Saunders, director of International Public and Analyst Relations at Microsoft, said today in a statement. "Criminals have proved once again that their ability to innovate new scams is matched by their ruthless pursuit of our money."
Though the scam so far seems limited to the four English-speaking countries covered in the survey, Microsoft believes it's only a matter of time before the criminals expand their horizons to non-English-speaking regions.
To protect yourself from such scams, Microsoft recommends the usual pieces of advice that we've all heard before but are worth repeating.
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem.
  • Never provide credit card details or other information to an unsolicited caller.
  • Don't go to a Web site, install software, or follow other instructions from someone who calls unsolicited.
  • Take down the caller's information and pass it along to the authorities.
  • Keep Windows and your other software up to date, especially antivirus software.
  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly.