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.

Remove Spyware And Get Your Computer Running Like New

Over time, most people find their computer gets slower and slower as junk builds up on it. One way to improve this is to remove spyware from your system. Spyware is a major cause of problems that seem to appear all of a sudden.
If your computer has been running slower than it used to, or you're having strange problems that were never happening before, it can often get things running properly again when you remove spyware.
What is Spyware, Anyway?
Spyware - and related programs called adware or malware - is software that can do various nasty things after being installed on your computer. Some of these include:
  • Constant pop-ups
  • Tracking the websites you visit
  • Sending your private information to someplace
  • Causing your computer to run slowly or crash due to low resources
There are a number of different ways that spyware can be installed. The most common include the following:
  • "Piggybacking" on another program you install
  • Downloading automatically from a website you visit
  • Tricking you into installing it
A big cause of spyware installation are programs like Kazaa and Morpheus, the file sharing software that so many people use to download music, movies and other things. Most of these programs are free to use, but the hidden cost is that they install spyware and adware along with their own software. Completely aside from the legal issues with these sharing programs, I wouldn't recommend them just because of all the computer problems they will cause.
How Can You Remove Spyware?
There are a number of programs that will remove spyware from your computer. Some are free, other cost money. Sometimes they are included in internet security or antivirus programs. My recommendation is to run a couple of different ones to be sure they aren't missing anything. That way, if one program misses the latest infection, it's quite likely the other one will catch it, and vice versa.
If you're looking for a free program to remove spyware, the one I recommend is from Microsoft.  Anti-Spyware 
While the Microsoft Anti-Spyware is a good program, it doesn't give you any kind of customer service or support. When you buy a commercial program, you get these extras that can be really helpful if you have any problems with the software.
One of the best paid anti-spyware programs I've found is MalwareBytes AntiMalware. It is extremely thorough and will also find other errors in your computer beyond just spyware. Plus, you can download their software for free to do a scan of your computer and see if you have been infected.
You will have to buy the software to get rid of any problems the free download finds, but if you're having problems and want to see if it could be due to spyware, this is an easy way to check. I'm very careful not to allow spyware infections

Regulators shut down global PC 'tech support' scam

The FTC announces a crackdown on a massive international computer tech support scam that allegedly swindled tens of thousands of consumers in six countries.
Regulators from five countries joined together in an operation to crack down on a series of companies they say orchestrated one of the most widespread Internet scams of the decade.

Scammers would use remote desktop tools to access the victim's computer, regulators say.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other international regulatory authorities today said they shut down a global criminal network that allegedly bilked tens of thousands of consumers by pretending to be tech support providers.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, speaking during a press conference with a Microsoft executive and regulators from Australia and Canada, said 14 companies and 17 individuals were targeted in the investigation. In the course of the crackdown, U.S. authorities already have frozen $188,000 in assets, but Leibowitz said that would increase over time thanks to international efforts.
"These so-called tech support scams are the latest variation of scareware," Leibowitz said.
English-speaking consumers in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. were targeted in the global scam, regulators said. Most of the scammers were based in India, but some also came from the U.S. and U.K.
The scam involved cold callers who claimed to work for major technology companies, such as Microsoft or Google, and who told consumers they had viruses on their PCs, according to regulators. The callers would attempt to dupe users into giving them remote access to their computers, locking the user out while attempting to "fix" the malware that the scammer claimed was on the machine.
In some cases, ads were placed on Google to lure unwitting consumers when they searched for their PC's tech support phone number. And many of the people called were on do-not-call registries.
Windows PC users were targeted seemingly indiscriminately and charged between $49 to $450 to remove the non-existent malware that the supposed tech company representative claimed was on the PC.
Leibowitz said the frozen assets could be distributed to victims once they are identified, but he warned it's rare to "get 100 percent back in restitution." The FTC said that more importantly, it should be able to stop the scams going forward.
It is thought there could be upwards of tens of thousands of victims worldwide in total across six countries, and the FTC warned that the figure could be "significantly higher."
The alleged scammers attempted to avoid detection by using virtual offices, including more than 80 different domain names and 130 different phone numbers. Officials said many of the scammers from India were using U.S. carriers, and the carriers agreed to block the numbers.
A U.S. District Court judge, at the request of the FTC, ordered a stop to six alleged tech-support scams pending further hearings. A further 17 individual defendants were also targeted by the FTC in six legal filings with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The FTC charged the suspects under the Federal Trade Commission Act, which bars unfair and deceptive commercial practices, and were also charged with illegally calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.

More than 10,000 complaints were drawn from Australian citizens to the country's regulator as early as 2009. Once the scam began to spread around the world, the Australia Communication and Media Authority contacted U.S. authorities, which had by then received 2,400 complaints, with intelligence on the alleged scammers. The FTC said "hundreds of thousands of U.S. consumers" could have been affected.
Canada had also received "thousands and thousands" of complaints, but Andrea Rosen, chief compliance and enforcement officer at the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), said it was difficult to identify exactly how many. In Australia, it was estimated that the scammers made about $85 from each successful scam.
The FTC is working with the Indian authorities, but did not disclose confidential details due to the ongoing investigations.
Leibowitz thanked U.K.'s Serious Organised Crime Agency and the CRTC for their "invaluable assistance" to the FTC.
Canada's Rosen said "we make a difference by working together," highlighting how the agencies and regulators collaborated across borders to investigate the scams.
The FTC also acknowledged investigative assistance it received from Microsoft, as well as from other technology companies.
Frank Torres, Microsoft's director of consumer affairs and senior policy counsel, said at the press conference that Microsoft will continue to work with the agencies as other scams emerge. He noted that Microsoft will never cold-call customers and ask for their credit cards to charge them for services they don't need.
"It's like playing a game of Whac-A-Mole, really, for cybercriminals to find ways to deceive people," Torres said.

Phone Scams and Computer Repair: Know Your Facts to Protect Your Computer

Imagine this – you are sitting at home minding your own business when you receive a phone call from an official sounding person telling you that your computer is seriously infected with viruses. They say they will help you out and eliminate the viruses if you will provide a credit card number.
An increasing number of computer users are receiving similar phone calls and some — afraid of potential data loss and device damage — are surrendering their bank account information in the hope this will protect their tech.
If you get such a call, we’re here to tell you — hang up. It’s a scam!
Technogeek are seeing a rise in phone scams targeting PC and Mac owners. Cybercriminals pretending to work for Microsoft, Geek Squad, or any other nationally-recognized tech company call their intended victims, claim they’ve scanned their computers remotely and found viruses on them. Relying on computer users’ fear of viruses, data loss and identity theft, they trick people into giving them actual access to the computer.
Once the scammer has access to the victim’s system, they will often show the user scary looking error messages on the machine, require immediate payment to cleanup the “dangerously infected” computer and install more “protection” software onto the system. Chances are they’ll take the opportunity to install other bits of malware to capture the victim’s online shopping or banking information.
 If your first instinct is not to trust cold calls about fixing your computer, you’re absolutely right. Scammers often use publicly available information (like your name and telephone number) to make initial contact, and can often make an educated guess about your PC’s operating system. They can sound very convincing (they are good at this), but don’t be taken in.
It’s important to understand that reputable tech companies (like Microsoft, Technogeek and other tech leaders) will not scan computers remotely without permission from the owner. They will not call computer users unless they are already working with them on a support issue.
Should you receive one of these telephone calls, here are a few tips to help protect yourself:
  • When in doubt, hang up the phone and call the company back at their publicly listed telephone number. You can usually find contact information on their web site.
  • Never provide a credit card or banking account information to someone on a cold call — even if they claim to be from a computer support company.
  • Never give remote access to your computer to any technician unless they can confirm they are a legitimate member of a computer support company with which you have an existing support agreement.
 If you’ve been a victimized by a phone scammer:
  • Contact your credit card or bank and speak with the fraud prevention team to have the charges reversed and the account protected from future charges.
  • Change your computer password, along with the password of any online accounts that may have been provided to the cybercriminal.
  • Update your security software and run a full scan on your computer.  You may also want to contact Technogeek Support to have the PC checked for malware.
Phone scams are successful because cybercriminals rely on computer users trusting an unknown person with access to their computers. Together, we can defeat these scams by simply hanging up when you receive an unrequested support call, regardless of who they say they are.

Phone scammers target PC users with phony virus reports

Summary: Online con artists are targeting PC users worldwide in a brazen scam. It starts with a phone call from a "tech support specialist" who warns that your computer is infected with a virus. To fix things, all you have to do is give the caller remote access to your PC. Here's what happens next.

Updated 7-November with additional details.
An old social-engineering scam appears to have taken on new life lately, targeting PC users worldwide.
Ironically, the scam doesn't use a computer at all—at least, not initially. Instead, it starts with a phone call from someone who claims to be affiliated with Microsoft or another legitimate company or government agency.
The caller then asks for the primary computer user in the house, who is told: "Your computer has downloaded a virus." And, of course, the caller is ready and willing to fix the problem. All you have to do is navigate to a web site, click a link to install some remote-control software, and allow the "technician" to get to work.
The perps are using legitimate remote-assistance software, like the Ammyy Admin program from Ammyy Software Development, which posted a warning that included some reports the company has received from scam victims:
"I got call from an India based consultant who said to me that he is calling from a govt. organisation in Melbourne, Australia. He made me to log into my computer to track some files and without advising me he wanted me to download a software application from and get remotely connected to a technician to delete some files..."
"I was recently called by what I thought was my internet service provider technician who used Ammyy to gain remote access to my computer - after I stupidly granted him that permission. It turns out that he was nothing to do with my internet service provider. When I became suspicious and began questioning him he said he would show me who he was and opened a website of a company - the web site triggered my virus software and I then demanded that the remote access be terminated..."
The scam has been around for a few years. Charles Arthur at the Guardian UK wrote about a similar scam last year, noting that it had been "going on quietly since 2008 but has abruptly grown in scale this year." He wrote about it again in March 2011.
In June of this year, Microsoft published a warning about the scams, including results from a survey it conducted in the U.K., Ireland, U.S. and Canada. The survey showed that across all four countries, 15 percent of those surveyed reported having received one of these phony support calls.
Of those who received a call, 22 percent, or 3 percent of the total survey sample, were deceived into following the scammers’ instructions, which ranged from permitting remote access to their computer and downloading software code provided by the criminals to providing credit card information and making a purchase.
The vast majority (79 percent) of people deceived in this way suffered some sort of financial loss. Seventeen percent said they had money taken from their accounts, 19 percent reported compromised passwords and 17 percent were victims of identity fraud. More than half (53 percent) said they suffered subsequent computer problems.
The latest outbreak appears to be another wave, judging from the sudden increase in complaints I've seen recently.
I've heard from Windows users and legitimate support specialists who've seen this scam in action in Australia, Canada, and the UK. Recent reports from Microsoft indicate that the scammers have widened their net and are now working in languages other than English, targeting Windows users in Poland and the Czech Republic.
I also got one reliable report from an extremely trustworthy source: my mother.
A caller with a thick accent tried to run this scam on my mom, who peppered the caller with questions. What's your name? What's your company's name again? What's your phone number? (She raised six kids. She's used to social engineering attempts.)
My mom's Caller ID said the call originated from 999-910-0132; the caller claimed to be from a company that sounded something like Alert Center, and she gave a callback number of 609-531-0750.
If you plug those numbers into a search engine, you'll find that they lead to a group of companies using identical website templates under different names, including TechResolve, Itek Assist, and—bingo—AlertSoft. A company with the unimaginative name Custom Design Firm, at the same address in Kolkata, India, also offers custom web-design and search-optimization services at exorbitant prices.
My mom eventually hung up on the scammers, but others haven't been so lucky. If a victim falls for the scam, the next step involves a credit card, naturally, as this victim reported:
Posed as troubleshooter, got into my system, used a "safe code" to get into my computer. Claimed my machine has been hacked into and infected with a virus. Tom and John, heavy Asian accents. Wanted to install "lifelong protection" for $130. I balked. They have my name and number and have been calling incessantly. I'm concerned that they might have planted something in my computer that allows them access.
Indeed, that's a legitimate concern. Once a victim has granted an intruder remote access, it's impossible to tell exactly what sort of damage they've done. If you know someone who has fallen for this scam, you should assume their computer has been compromised and respond appropriately.
Most readers of this blog are sophisticated computer users who would laugh out loud at an attempt like this. But you probably have friends, family members, or clients who could use a heads-up on this one. If you get a call from someone claiming to have detected a virus on your PC, just hang up.

Nailing Down Your Computer Startup Problem

If your system simply won't start, there are a few things to check as the cause of the computer startup problem. Some of them may seem obvious, but sometimes it's easy to overlook the obvious things and assume you need technical computer problem help.
The first thing to check is whether or not the computer is getting power. When you press the power switch, do any lights come on? Can you hear the fans starting up?
No Signs of Life
If there are no lights or noises coming from the system when you turn it on, the first thing to check is whether your computer is plugged in. Double-check to make sure that the power cord is connected tightly to the back of the computer, as well as to the power outlet.
While you're at it, check all the other cables at the back of the computer and make sure none are loose. If you use a power bar with your computer, make sure that it is connected properly and is turned on if it has its own power switch. Not getting any power is - obviously - a major computer startup problem :-)
If the power is connected properly, the next thing to check as a possible computer startup problem is the power switch on the computer. Many newer computers have a master power switch on the back of the system, as well as the power button on the front. If the master switch on the back is off, the front power button won't have any effect. Most of the time the switch has a 0 and a 1 marking on it - make sure the switch is in the "1" position.
Losing Your Cool
If the lights on the front of the computer do come on when you turn on the power, your system is at least not completely dead. If they come on but nothing else happens, check the fan on the back of the computer. If it's not spinning, or if you can't feel any air blowing from it, the fan might have packed it in. These fans do wear out, and without the fan the computer can overheat pretty quickly.
If the fan isn't working, turn your computer off and don't turn it on again until you get the fan replaced. Most chips have safeguards against overheating, but even so the chip can be damaged by heat. If your fan is not working, there is already a chance that heat has damaged other components in the system, so this would be something best handled by a PC repair center. By finding this computer startup problem, however, you can tell them what you found and it will save them some time in troubleshooting.
Lights Are On but Nobody's Home
If everything seems to be working when you turn on the computer, but you're not seeing anything on the screen, it's possible that there could be a problem with the monitor. Make sure it turns on, and if not check the power connection for your monitor as well. If your monitor is getting power and the connection to the computer is okay, there could be some other problem with the screen.
Watch and listen to your computer when you turn it on. Does the light on your CD or DVD drive come on for a few seconds when you start it up? Can you hear a clicking or whirring sound coming from the computer after you turn it on? Is the hard drive light (usually the one with a little picture beside it that looks like a can or cylinder) either on or flashing?
If all these things are happening, your computer is going through its normal startup procedure and it's quite possible that rather than a computer startup problem, you really have a monitor problem. At this point you would need to either connect a different monitor to your computer or connect your monitor to a different computer to see if one or the other is at fault.
If you don't have a second computer system to test with, I would recommend you take both the computer and the monitor with you to the computer repair shop. They should be able to quickly test your monitor while you wait - all they have to do is plug it into a computer and see if it works. This could save you a second trip if you only take one of the two pieces in and it turns out to be the other one that's causing your computer startup problem.

Maintaining Your Computer

If you've ever fried a CPU because you didn't clean your fan, lost a decade of your digital life to a hard drive crash, or spent four hours trying to remove a nasty virus, you learned a valuable lesson about the need to maintain your computer.
Medical experts remind us that "prevention is the best medicine" so as your personal computer support expert, I'm going to strongly advise that you apply the same logic to your computer!
  1. Backup Your Data
  2. Update! Update! Update!
  3. Keep Your Computer Clean
Backup Your Data
The most important thing you can do as a computer owner is to consistently and reliably back up the data stored on your hard drive. Hardware used to be the most valuable part of a computer but those bits and bytes are now the real investment.
You've spent huge amounts of money on software and digital music and video, and countless hours authoring documents and organizing your digital files. If you don't regularly backup this information, a serious computer problem could leave you with nothing but a huge feeling of regret.
Update! Update! Update!
Keeping the software on your computer updated is no longer an optional part of computer ownership. Viruses, worms, junk mail, security breaches, hardware incompatibilities, and software conflicts are all now part of your daily digital life.
Updating your computer with the latest patches, fixes, and device drivers really can keep these annoyances at bay. Updates are freely available on the Internet for just about every antivirus program, email client, operating system, and piece of hardware you could possibly own.

Keep Your Computer Clean
We all know that most things run a little better when they're clean. Water flows easier when your plumbing is clean, your car's engine runs better if you've been taking care of it, and your dryer does more in less time when you clean out the lint.
Your computer is no different. Keeping your files and folders tidy in your virtual world and clearing the dust and grime that builds up inside and outside your computer all play a part in keeping it running smooth day in and day out.

LCD or Plasma Pick the Display That's Right for You

Flat screen televisions have been one of the greatest technological innovations for home viewing in recent decades. Today's flat screens are lighter, sharper, more luminous, and more energy efficient than comparably-sized tube TVs of the past, a more theater-like viewing experience possible for John and Jane Doe in their own living room. Manufacturing improvements have reduced the costs of modern plasma and liquid crystal display (LCD) systems, making large, wide screens - once restricted to high end projection systems - available to nearly everyone.

Picking the Display Type that Works for You

LCDs and plasmas both have their strengths. The type of video display you choose should depend largely on how you plan to use it. In the past, it was common for plasma displays to have a very "glossy" screen, which tended to reflect a lot of light. LCDs have traditionally had less glare issues. This, plus their higher light output, makes LCDs ideal for bright rooms or for daytime viewing.
By comparison, plasmas are often best suited for areas where there is more light control. They perform their best in darker areas where they aren't competing with ambient room lighting. Plasmas also generally offer superior "off-axis" viewing, which is a fancy way of saying the image can be seen better when viewed from an angle. In a room where there is a wide range of seating locations, or the TV will not always be viewed straight on, a plasma display may be something to consider.
While LCDs used to struggle with off-axis viewing, technology advances have been closing this gap over the years. A surefire way to know if a display will work with your situation is to determine where you will sit at home before visiting a store to look at TVs. Take note of not only the viewing distance, but the viewing angle. You'll then be able to replicate more accurately your normal viewing behavior at the store and get a better idea of how the display you are considering may work in your home.

Making the best choice

While the range of choices available in the TV market can be a bit overwhelming, the variety of available displays means there is likely a TV out there that is just right for you. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing a flat screen display:
  • Think about where you will put the display
    You already know to check whether off-axis viewing is a concern for you, but how many people will be using the display, and from what distance? It's tempting to stand in front of a display when viewing dozens of them at a store, but take the time to view them from the same distances and angles you expect to watch from at home. And speaking of angles, consider that displays are often most comfortably used when the screen is at eye level. Placing a display over a fireplace may look nice when standing up discussing it, but make sure that viewing angle is still right for you if you usually watch while sitting down.
  • Check the reflectivity of the screen
    Turn off the TV and walk around. Looking at the screen with the power off makes it easier to see how much ambient light it will reflect. Displays with matte screens, common to LCD TVs, are better if your room at home has a lot of bright light. Keep in mind that most retail stores are tend to have a lot of lights shining at different angles. Think about what lights are usually on in your home when you watch TV and where they would be relative to the TV. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson about the reflectivity of the screen.
  • Test the TVs using content you know
    Bring one of your favorite DVDs and ask the salesperson to play it on the TVs you are considering. Most retailers show content in which images change quickly. This can make it hard to get a real sense of the TV's picture. Although there are many factors that can affect a display's picture, testing TVs using content you are familiar with can make it easier to focus on the picture.

Keys to a Secure Password

Using short, simple passwords to access your online accounts, or using the same password everywere is a rookie mistake. It puts you at significantly higher risk of a security breach or identity theft. To increase your protection, Agents suggest using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Granted, when you create a password, you have to be able to remember it. But your larger concern should be keeping your information secure and private. Some sites have their own guidelines for how many and what characters can and cannot be used. Geek Squad suggests these guidelines to help you create a password that's less likely to be cracked.

Switch It Up With Your Characters
  • Use at least one upper case letter
  • Use at least one lower case letter
  • Use a number
  • Use a symbol character from this special set: ' ! @ $ % ^ & * ( ) - _ = + [ ] ; : ' " , < . > / ?
  • Use at least six characters
  • Don't use repeating characters
  • Don't use spaces

Don't Make It Guess Worthy
  • Do not use a common, dictionary word—not even spelled backwards
  • Don't use your name, a relative's name, a close friend’s name, or pet's name, either
  • Don't use personal numbers, such as your driver's license, license plate, social security, telephone, or birth date
  • It’s a good idea to change your passwords monthly. And if you must write them down, put them in a safe place and don’t include the URL
  • Use a password that is at least 8 characters long
  • Some examples of good passwords would be: Th1$isG00d!, B3nR0ck$

Use a personal algorithm
This sounds harder than it is. Many people use the same passwords for everything and this can be a problem. If your email gets hacked, the criminal may also gain access to your back account if it uses the same password.
But no normal human can remember random 8 character passwords for 50 different sites. To solve this quandary try creating a personal password algorithm.
An algorithm is essentially a set of rules that can be applied the same way to each site, but will result in a different password. For example, maybe my algorithm is to use my dog’s name (with some special characters (rex=r#x) The second and third letters of the website name (capitalized), and my favorite number (1337).
If I was creating a password for, my password would be r#xAY1337. Using the same set of rules, I could create a password for, r#xOO1337.
By using this set of rules, I can create strong passwords that are different on each site, and the great thing is, I don’t have to remember each password, I only have to remember the algorithm.

Introduction to Understanding Digital Media Devices of all eras

This chapter focuses on the various types of digital media devices. Users can store different types of data on these devices, including pictures, videos, music, text, and applications. The chapter covers older digital media, such as magnetic tapes and floppy disks, before moving on to a discussion of optical discs, such as CDs and DVDs, and devices such as digital audio players and flash drives.
Magnetic Tapes
A magnetic tape is a recording medium that consists of a thin plastic strip with a coating of a fine magnetic material. It is generally used for recording audio, video, and digital data.
The magnetic layer consists of a magnetic pigment suspended within a polymer binder. As the name implies, the binder holds the magnetic particles and tape backing together.
Data is stored in frames across the width of a tape. The frames are grouped into blocks, or records, which are separated by gaps.
A magnetic tape is a serial access medium. If someone wants to find a particular piece of data on a tape, the tape drive has to start at the beginning of the tape and search until it finds that data. However, large amounts of information can be stored on a magnetic tape. This feature has made it an excellent choice for the regular backup of hard disks.
Floppy Disks
A floppy disk is a small, portable magnetic disk that is used to store and transfer computer data. It is also called a diskette or floppy. The access speed of a floppy disk is slow when compared to that of a hard disk. The storage capacity of a floppy disk is lower than that of a hard disk, but floppies are not as expensive as hard disks.
The following are the basic sizes of floppy disks:
• 8-inch: Created in 1971, this type of floppy consists of a magnetic storage medium enclosed in a cardboard case. It is capable of storing up to 1 MB of data.
• 5¼-inch: Designed in 1976, this type of floppy has types capable of storing from 100 KB to 1.2 MB of data.
• 3½-inch: Made in 1987, this type of floppy is enclosed in a rigid plastic envelope. It is also called a micro floppy. Despite its smaller size, it stores a larger amount of data, generally between 720 KB and 1.4 MB.
Compact Discs
A compact disc (CD) is a polycarbonate plastic disc with one or more metal layers that is used for storing digital data. It is a standard medium for distributing large quantities of information in a dependable package. The diameter of a standard CD is 120 mm, and the diameter of a mini CD is 80 mm.
Polycarbonate plastic (substrate layer) is impressed with microscopic bumps that are arranged as a single continuous spiral track of data. The polycarbonate plastic is coated with a thin aluminum (reflective) layer that covers the bumps. Then a thin acrylic (protective) layer is sprayed over the aluminum. The label is then printed on the acrylic layer.
The single track of data spirals from the center of the disc to the outside edge. The extended bumps that make up the track are 0.5 microns wide, 0.83 microns long, and 125 nanometers high.
Types of Compact Discs
There are different types of compact discs used for data storage. The following are some of the more common types:
• CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory): This is the most basic type of optical disc used with computers.
The most common CD-ROM format holds 700 MB of data. When a user purchases a CD-ROM, it already has the data on it. A user cannot write new data to the disc.HD DVDs HD DVDs were originally called Advanced Optical Discs (AODs) and were developed as a successor to standard DVDs. An HD DVD is the same physical size as a standard DVD (120 mm), but it holds more data. Whereas a DVD holds up to 4.7 GB of data per layer, an HD DVD holds up to 15 GB per layer.
It has a bumpy layer that reflects light from a laser to a sensor, which creates a digital signal.

HD DVDs store more data than DVDs for the following reasons:
• HD DVDs use 405-nanometer blue-violet lasers instead of 650-nanometer red lasers.
• Because of the shorter wavelength lasers, the pits used in HD DVDs can be smaller and arranged closer together. Whereas the track pitch of a standard DVD is 0.74 microns, the track pitch of an HD DVD is 0.4 microns.
• HD DVDs use more efficient compression techniques to reduce the sizes of the files they store.
Blu-ray Discs
Blu-ray is the next-generation optical medium patented by Sony. A Blu-ray disc holds a large amount of data and is generally used to store high-definition video and audio. The laser used to read the data is focused on smaller areas, so more data can be stored on a disc that is the same size as a CD or DVD. Blu-ray discs are not readable on standard CD and DVD players and readers.

The following are the specifications for Blu-ray:
• Recording capacity: 27 GB
• Laser wavelength: 405 nm (blue-violet laser)
• Lens numerical aperture (NA): 0.85
• Data transfer rate: 36 Mbps
• Disc diameter: 120 mm
• Disc thickness: 1.2 mm
• Protection layer thickness: 0.1 mm
• Minimum pit length: 0.15 microns
• Track pitch: 0.32 microns
• Recording format: Phase change recording
• Tracking format: Groove recording
• Video recording format: MPEG2 video
• Audio recording format: AC3, MPEG1, and Layer 2
• Video and audio multiplexing format: MPEG2 transport stream
A single-layer Blu-ray disc holds 27 GB of data, and a dual-layer Blu-ray disc holds 50 GB of data. The format also offers interactive features that allow users to connect to the Internet and directly download subtitles and other movie features.

The following are the advantages of Blu-ray:
• A user can record high-definition television (HDTV) without any quality loss.
• A user can instantly skip to any spot on a disc.
• A user can record one program on a disc, even if he or she is watching another one.
• It generates playlists.
• It edits or reorders the programs that are recorded on a disc.
• It automatically searches for an unfilled space on a disc to avoid recording over a program.
• A user can access the Web to download subtitles and other additional features.
The iPod is a class of portable digital audio players that are designed and marketed by Apple Computer. The user interface is designed around a central scroll wheel.
The standard iPod stores media on a built-in hard drive, but the smaller iPod shuffle and iPod nano se flash memory. Apple iPods operate as external data storage devices when connected to a computer.
iPods support various audio file formats. For formats that aren’t supported, such as Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and Windows Media Audio (WMA), the file has to be converted to a compatible format before it is placed on an iPod. A user can use iTunes, the digital media player application most commonly used to interact with an iPod,
to perform this conversion.

The following are the file formats iPods support:
• MP3
• Protected AAC
• Audible audiobook
• Apple Lossless
The following are the features of iPods:
• They are used to play music files and videos.
• They are used to store pictures.
• They are used to store backup data files.
• They are used to store addresses and contacts.
• They are used to play games.
• They have up to 20 hours of battery life.
• Their storage capacities range from 1 GB to 120 GB, and this increases with each new iteration.
• They act as mass storage devices. The iPod uses the Apple HFS file system when the device is run with a Mac, and the FAT32 file system when it is used with a Windows PC.
The Zune is a portable digital music player that was developed by the Microsoft Corporation. It can hold 30 GB of data. Figure 2-2 shows a Zune.

The following are the features of Zune:
• It takes digital photos.
• It contains a three-inch LCD video screen that works in portrait mode to view pictures and videos.
• It contains a built-in FM tuner that works with American, Japanese, and European frequencies.
• A user can share full-length tracks, home recordings, playlists, and pictures wirelessly from one Zune player to another.
Flash Memory Cards
Flash memory cards are solid-state electronic flash memory data storage devices. They are used in digital cameras, cell phones, handheld devices, laptop computers, digital music players, video game consoles, and other electronic devices. Each sector of flash memory can be erased and written to only a limited number of times.

There are various types of flash memory cards, all with different storage capacities and features.

Secure Digital (SD)
An SD card is small and thin. A standard SD card is 32 mm long, 24 mm wide, and 2.1 mm thick. A mini SD card is 21.5 mm long, 20 mm wide, and 1.4 mm thick.

This type of card has storage capacities ranging from 8 MB to 4 GB. It also supports digital rights management (DRM) technology. SD cards usually come preformatted with the FAT32 file system. SDHC cards support capacities greater than 4 GB.

These cards are not compatible with older devices that accept SD cards. However, SDHC readers accept older SD cards. The SD interface has also been used for SDIO devices, which are small devices such as GPS receivers, Bluetooth adapters, Ethernet adapters, and FM tuners that are compatible with the SD standard.

CompactFlash (CF)
There are two types of CF cards: Type I cards are 3.3 mm thick, and Type II cards are 5 mm thick. CF is one of the older flash memory types. The cards are larger than most of the newer types, but people still use this type of card because of its large capacity and low cost. CF cards have storage capacities ranging from 2 MB to 100 GB.

CF cards have a controller chip that attempts to prevent the premature wearing out of a particular sector by spreading the data out over the device when writing. Microdrives, which are miniature hard disks, were designed to fit into Type II slots, and CF cards can easily fit into a PC Card slot with an adapter.

Memory Stick (MS)
There are various types of Memory Sticks, with capacities ranging from 4 MB to 32 GB. These cards are typically used with digital cameras, PDAs, and the Playstation Portable (PSP). Memory Sticks support high-speed data transfers, with a maximum speed of 160 Mbps.

MultiMediaCard (MMC)
An MMC is 32 mm long, 24 mm wide, and 1.4 mm thick, so it is almost the same size as an SD card. The SD format is actually a successor to MMC, and MMCs can fit into most devices that support SD cards. MMC supports storage capacities up to 8 GB. Figure 2-6 shows an MMC.

xD-Picture Card (xD)
An xD-Picture Card is 20 mm long, 25 mm wide, and 1.78 mm thick. The xD-Picture Card format supports storage capacities up to 8 GB. As the name implies, these cards are used primarily in digital cameras, particularly those made by Olympus and Fujifilm, developers of the format. Some cameras that use xD cards use the cards to provide certain photographic features, such as a panoramic function. xD cards support fast data transfer rates,
and they are smaller than many older card types.

SmartMedia (SM)
SM cards are 45 mm long, 37 mm wide, and 0.76 mm thick. The storage capacities of SM cards range from 2 MB to 128 MB. These cards can be used with PC Card slots, CF Type II slots, and 3½-inch floppy drives using adapters. Its larger size makes it impractical for use in most modern devices. Figure 2-8 shows an
SM card.

USB Flash Drives
USB flash drives are NAND-type flash memory data storage devices integrated with a USB 1.1 or 2.0 interface.
They are small in size, lightweight, easily detachable, and rewritable. The storage capacities of USB drives typically range from 8 MB to 64 GB.
They are usually used for relatively quick portable storage and have replaced the floppy disk for this purpose.
They use the USB mass storage standard, which is supported by the latest versions of operating systems such as Linux, Mac OS, and Windows.
They are also known as pen drives, thumb drives, jump drives, USB keys, USB sticks, key drives, and vault drives.
A USB flash drive consists of a small printed circuit board enclosed in a robust plastic or metal casing.
The USB connector is usually protected by a detachable cap. A USB drive does not require batteries and instead gets its power from the device it is connected to.
To access the data that is stored on a flash drive, a user must connect the drive to a USB port or USB hub attached to a computer or some other device.

The following are the components of a USB flash drive:
• Male type-A USB connector
• USB mass storage controller
• Jumpers and test pins
• NAND flash memory chip
• Crystal oscillator
• Write-protect switches

The following are the common uses of USB flash drives:
• To transfer data from one computer to another
• To perform system administration tasks
• To transfer applications
• To hold music
• To boot operating systems

Internet Addresses - IPv4 and IPv6

IPv4 stands for Internet Protocol version 4. It is the original standard set up for handling IP addresses when the Internet was initial developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the early 1970s.

IPv4 uses a 32 bit address field which provides for 4,294,967,296 unique Internet addresses. This is the number of computers/devices that can be connected to and use the Internet. In the early 1970's the population of the earth was less than 4 billion people, personal computers did not exist, and at most there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of mainframe and mini computers that had been assigned Internet addresses. So the 4 billion plus address space was deemed to be more than enough to last beyond any foreseeable requirements.

IPv4 addresses are all but consumed
By 1992, the rapid explosion of the Internet fueled by the vast number of personal computers attaching to it, made it clear that the IPv4 address space was already consumed to the point that a replacement had to be found.

IPv6 was developed in response to this situation. IPv6 allocates 128 bits to map the Internet address space. The number of bits were not just doubled, but instead quadrupled from IPv4's 32 bits to insure that this address space would not run out any time soon!

IPv6 addresses will probably never run out
128 address bits provide IPv6 with 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 unique addresses. It may seem like overkill to have this many addresses available, However, many visionary individuals believe that eventually every wired and wireless computer, cell phone, PDA, household appliance, security camera, devices that haven't yet been invented, will each have their own unique Internet address.

Besides the huge number of IP addresses, IPv6 provides for better handling of voice than IPv4 which was not initially set up to handle it. This means that phone conversations over the Internet will be smooth and clear instead of choppy and broken up like they often are now.

The time is almost upon us when any device with an Internet address and a connection to the Internet can be monitored and controlled from anywhere in the world. While you're away on vacation you could turn on lights, change your thermostat, check security cameras around your home, etc. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination!

Interesting Facts about COMPUTERS

Today, almost all of our work is done by some or the other computing machine. Computers are enhancing the technological growth with a rapid speed. The more we know about this super machine, is less. Knowin...g about few of the interesting computer facts can be fun. Mentioned below are few of the little known computer facts :-

1. There are approx. 6,000 new computer viruses released every month.

2. Doug Engelbart, invented the first computer mouse in the year 1964 and it was made up of wood!

3. It is believed that the first computer virus released in the world was a boot sector virus, which was created in the year 1986 by Farooq Alvi brothers. It was designed by them to protect their research work.

Modern Computers

4. A normal human being blinks 20 times in a minute, whereas a computer user blinks only 7 times a minute!

5. TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

6. While it took the radio 38 years, and the television a short 13 years, it took the World Wide Web only 4 years to reach 50 million users.

7. The first domain name ever registered was

8. On an average work day, a typist's fingers travel 12.6 miles.

9. The world's first computer, called the Z1, was invented by Konrad Zuse in 1936. His next invention, the Z2 was finished in 1939 and was the first fully functioning electro-mechanical computer.

10. Domain names are being registered at a rate of more than one million names every month.

11. The house of Bill Gates was designed using a Macintosh computer.

Replica of Z1 Computer, First Computer to be made
12. The group of 12 engineers who designed IBM PC were called "The Dirty Dozen".

13. One of the world's leading computer and computer peripheral manufacturer Hewlett Packard was first started in a garage at Palo Alto in the year 1939.

14. On eBay, there are an average of $680 worth of transactions each second.

15. Early hard drives in Personal Computers held 20 MB, or 20 Megabytes, and cost about $800. By comparison, an $8 flash drive holds 2 GB, or 2 Gigabytes. That's a 100-fold decrease in price and a 100-fold increase in capacity.

16. The computer mouse, the windowing GUI, laser printing, and the network card were all developed at one company; Xerox in Palo Alto, California.

17. The computer in your cell phone has more processing power than all the computers in the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander that put 2 men on the moon.

18. 'Crash Course' is another name for Microsoft Windows tutorials.

19. Although we normally think of computers as the ones we use in our everyday lives to surf the web, write documents etc, small computers are also embedded into other things such as mobile phones, toys, microwaves and MP3 players. We use computers all the time, often without even knowing it!

20. Almost all computer users must know how destructive a virus can be. But then, it would be interesting to know that a virus cannot corrupt your PC on its own. It corrupts your system only when you activate it by either downloading infected files from the Internet or by sharing these infected files.


Nobody can create a FOLDER anywhere on the computer which can be named as “CON” (without Quotes).

Actually CON is one of system reserved words, that's why it cant create CON Folder !!!

Install More RAM In Your Laptop For More Speed

Your Laptop is indeed your companion, especially when you're on the go. We often take both our laptops on vacation, in town to catch up on some work. And boosting your knowledge of your laptop with go a long long way in saving you money by repairing it

Installing memory is one of the easiest tasks. Take the time to first sure you have the right RAM for your computer. If you're in doubt take it back to the place of purchase and be sure you have the right RAM. After being certain you have the right RAM, you're ready to open the system unit and begin. But first, you need to remove static electricity.

First: Turn Off the Laptop and remove the Battery, normally located on the bottom of the computer.
Second: Turn the Laptop over and locate the RAM compartment. Some Laptops Memory Module Compartments may be located in another area. Check your owner's manual to be certain.
Third: Remove any and all ESD or Electrical Static Charge from your body and clothes so no damage to the chips can occur. Use a screwdriver to remove the RAM compartment cover.
Fourth: Study the Memory Modules for a minute to understand how they are installed so you won't forget how to add the upgraded modules. Grasp the clip holding the old
Module in place and push it up.
Grasp the module and carefully lift it up and out of the socket. Notice the indent in the module. This allow the module to be installed in only one way.
Fifth: Remove the new RAM from its protective wrap and study it to be sure it is not damaged. Place the module in the empty socket, carefully press down and allow the clips
to click in place.
Sixth: Replace the Memory cover, and Battery. Reboot the computer and the operating system should recognize your new or added memory without any problem.
Its that easy when it comes to installing new or more memory. Read your computer's manual first to find out what type of ram memory you have and what is needed for upgrades.

And go ahead and enjoy the faster speed you should experience once your new memory is installed. Don't forget to run scandisk, defragment, and disk clean-up to clean your hard drive of extra space.