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Avoiding the Heartache of a Broken Computer

Avoiding the Heartache of a Broken Computer

Image by Justin

We have all become so reliant on computers these days that when the (almost inevitable) breakdown or crash occurs it can be a severe blow to your routine. If your desktop computer or laptop breaks down irretrievably, and you are left without the technology you rely on and all the data it held, life can suddenly get very difficult. Here are some tips on avoiding that situation.

Viruses, Spyware, Malware

Many common computer problems are caused by malicious software – computer viruses, spyware and malware. You can reduce your risk of encountering these problems by simply being careful; don’t open executable files attached to emails, don’t download free software from disreputable sites, and if a strange popup window appears while you’re on the internet, close it with the X in the corner or by pressing ALT+F4 – don’t click the Yes or No buttons. You will also inevitably encounter a number of warnings related to viruses, forwarded through emails or social media platforms. Some of these prompt you to take action that could itself damage your computer – if you receive such an email and aren’t sure whether it’s real or not, check against a database of virus hoaxes like that provided by Sophos, and if it’s listed as a hoax simply delete the email. Making sure that you have up to date antivirus software is also a must – McAfee offer a good range for home computers.

Regular Service

A computer is a very complicated piece of kit, and there are a number of things that should be done regularly to keep it working at its best. One example is defragmentation- as files are installed, moved and removed from your computer, they can get split or fragmented across the drive, and the computer takes longer to find and run them.  Defragmentation essentially finds the split files and puts them together in the same place again. This is a process which runs automatically in Windows 7 and 8, but not in earlier versions so if you’re using an older operating system like Windows XP you would need to do it manually. If you aren’t particularly tech-savvy, then you can find local professionals to give your computer a service – Lantech Computers in York are an excellent example.

Backups

If something does happen to your computer or laptop, being able to retrieve your data will make it a lot easier to cope. You have two options; firstly to backup locally, which means copying your data to an external storage device, and secondly to backup online, which means copying your data to an online service. This TechRadar article lists eleven recommended pieces of free software to use for making local backups. In addition to the software, you’ll need somewhere to copy your data to, such as an external hard drive which can be connected via USB. Some of these options are confusing for the novice so again, contact a local professional if you need help. For online backup services, Lifehacker offer a list of five good online services. You can also use cloud storage options like Dropbox to backup really important files.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

As a forty- something-year-old I have seen a lot of new technology arrive on the scene in my lifetime. Not all of it is still with us for example the VCR is all but obsolete now and even new technologies like HD DVD didn’t take off, losing out to Blue Ray in much the same way as Beta Max VCR’s lost out to VHS VCR’s back in the 80’s.

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The twenty-something generation have grown up with all this ‘new’ technology, so using it is second nature to them; they are the ‘net native’ generation. Fortunately the www came along at a time when I was still receptive to learning new technologies. I did some Open University web development courses in my spare time and it wasn’t long before I got my first job with a website development agency.  The Open Uni Courses are a great starting point if you’re looking to get into web development, you can find out more about their courses here.

Web development is a fast paced environment. I haven’t been able to rest on my laurels and rely upon the learning that I did back in the Mid 90’s. There always seems to be a new technology or to learn; my latest learning curve was HTML5 and CSS3. HTML being the language that makes up the structure of the web page and CSS3 is a styling language. These new versions add many new tools like interactivity in a standards based language. If you’d like to see the history of web development then I recommend you take a look at this great interactive timeline website – www.evolutionoftheweb.com.

Up until now I have only ever used a Windows PC for work and my own personal use. I have to admit that Apple Mac computers do look great and I believe every one of their owners that I’ve heard insist that they’d never go back to a PC. I however, have never been able to justify the cost of one. The only apple product I’ve ever used is an iPod – a far cry from Mac computer. Unfortunately my boss has fallen into trap that all developers need to work on Mac computers to look professional. It’s utter nonsense, but his decision is made and our office will be kitted out with Mac’s by the end of the month.

Whilst I’m sure all the software I use will work in a similar way on a Mac as it does on my PC, I have no idea how to use a Mac itself. To make sure that I don’t struggle when the new computers are installed I’ve invested in a training course on Mac OS X (the operating system on Mac computers) that I’ll be doing in a week’s time. If you would find this kind of course useful, you can find out more about the 3 day course I’m about to embark on by clicking here.

It will be nice having new computers to work on – the four year old pc I’m currently using is starting to show it’s age a little now, but would probably be fine with a memory upgrade. I’m looking forward to using a Mac for the first time, though I’m not sure I’ll be dashing out to part with money of my own for one any time soon.

Here Comes the Next Generation

Here Comes the Next Generation

There’s probably no faster moving area of technology than the smartphone market. The latest phones have a life of around 12 months as the ‘flagship’ model. The flagship of the Samsung phone range here in the UK, the Galaxy S3 has already had its successor released in the USA, the imaginatively named Galaxy S4. Its UK release is imminent, with many retailers now taking pre-orders for the first batch of phones. Another Samsung product that had a relatively short life as the flagship model was the Galaxy Note, which has now been replaced with the Galaxy Note II.

Samsung have received some criticism for these products – many say that they are not sufficiently different from the models that they replaced to be deemed a new phone in their own right. In a head to head comparison of the Galaxy S3 and S4, the reviewer in this PC Advisor article has to work hard to point out the significant differences between the two devices and even suggests that a the falling price of the S3 makes it the better choice.

The larger screen size of phones like the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note makes them a real consideration as an alternative to a tablet PC. Whilst the screen real estate of these phones is smaller than a 7inch tablet, they have enough processing power to perform operations previously only possible on tablet PCs by those who cannot justify the cost of having both a smartphone and a tablet.

Websites like buytec supply mobile phone accessories that make detailed touch operations on the smaller screens of mobile phones easier. Stylus pens and blue tooth keyboards can make mobile phones more useable for things like hand written note taking and drawing. Blue tooth keyboards make fast data entry into a phone a possibility – using a software app such as Evernote makes cloud based note taking possible. No longer do you need to carry a laptop or tablet PC to University – your notes can be taken on a phone and edited at a later stage larger computer.

We’re now into the second quarter of the year and no doubt new devices will be hitting the shelves soon. The Galaxy S4 was Samsung’s response to the Apple iPhone 5. I do believe the ball is now in Apples’ court again. We await their reply and, hopefully,  some real innovations later this year.

Tablets. Pro’s and Cons

Tablets. Pro’s and Cons

The popularity of tablets is easy to see after it being among the top 3 gifts bought for Christmas for 2012 but are they really worth it? And if so, why and which ones?

If the laptop is to be considered the portable desk top,  then the tablet follows on to be a more portable laptop (this defeats the idea of the smartphone however since all it’s ever been is portable…).

Essentially, the tablet has combined the most popular features of all its cousin counterparts to produce a streamlined, light and stylish product which many will come to not be able to survive without!

Apple probably boast the most popular range with their Ipads hitting the shops in 2010 and their latest Ipad, the Ipad 3, being rated five stars from PC advisor

Samsung and Microsoft have been quick to follow suit however producing equally as stylish versions each coming with specialist features and unique selling points as well as boasting their own running systems which aim to rival the highly recognizable IOS systems used by Apple.

Tablets are useful for all sorts of reasons. The highly popular Amazon Kindle which allows users to read books as well as search the net and download apps gained popularity this year with the popularity of e-books increasing.

Many versions of tablets include cameras, facilities to write and edit documents and access the internet via 3G and wifi as well as download the vast array of apps available to users nowadays.

How are they different to smartphones then? For one, it’s larger screen enables users to read and view graphics better without the added weight a laptop would add. the touch screen interface is quick and easy to use and its portability makes it great if you have to carry it all day long.

It also comes with accessories making it easier to use.  Students may appreciate the click in keyboard for easier typing which is removable making it multi purpose. These can be as cheap as £20!

Another plus for tablets, is the fact they are quite a bit cheaper than traditional laptops.  for the budget conscious, it’s a good choice to opt for but there are draw backs if it’s going to be used for academic study.

They have limited or no memory, making saving documents virtually impossible without opting to buy versions with inbuilt memory.

Overall, there are reasons to buy a tablet, but essentially it’s a very large smart phone with the option to turn it into a small net book.

 

Easier, Better, Faster, Stronger: PC Gaming and Why You Don’t Need to be Afraid Anymore

Easier, Better, Faster, Stronger: PC Gaming and Why You Don’t Need to be Afraid Anymore

It’s no secret that PC gaming suffers somewhat of an image problem. Mention the mere phrase and you’ll undoubtedly conjure images of bedroom-bound, hunched-over adolescents, almost exclusively male, plying their trade in some fantastical land of beast-slaying and levelling-up. Whilst that vision may still hold a kernel of truth, PC gaming has well and truly come out of the dark and into the living room.

Today’s modern superconsoles are the most powerful iterations yet. Both Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s XBOX 360 deliver incredible performance at an affordable price, and, as dedicated gaming machines, have literally thousands of titles available. It’s fair to say that these consoles, alongside Nintendo’s Wii range, do not bear the stigma of PC gaming. Indeed, the unique selling point of the Wii was its family oriented approach, something often viewed as sorely lacking in the PC world, as a mainly individual venture.

PC gaming is looking to change that. One of the ways in which this is becoming achievable is through the online game facilitating program Steam, and its revolutionary Big Picture project. Simply put, Big Picture allows you to hook your computer, laptop, or Mac directly to your TV, all with one easy step; the humble HDMI lead. Of course to do this you’ll need a PC with a HDMI output, most newer generation laptops will have one built in. Serious gamers with desktop PCs will probably find one on the high end graphics card that they will have installed in their PC. If not it could be time to upgrade your PC graphics card. Similarly you’ll need a TV with HDMI inputs – pretty much all new LCD / LED and Plasma TVs have at least one. If you are still using an older CRT TV you really aren’t going to see the brilliance of the Big Picture project on that kind of TV. CRT screens aren’t capable of displaying the kind of resolution of newer HD TVs. You should consider investing in an LCD or LED TV. The price of these TVs has really fallen in the last 12 months or so and there’s places online like Cheap LCD TV that offer some great deals on popular makes of TV.

No longer do you have to cower behind the couch in fear of all those cables! Just like plugging in your PS3 or XBOX360, now all it takes is one quick click and you’re all set. They’re readily available from all good electronics retailers; alternatively you can easily pick one up from any supermarket.

Not only is the lead extremely easy to use, it’s also relatively cheap to pick up, and, as it carries video and sound, the one cable is all it takes. If you’re in any doubt as to their advantages then check out this HDMI leads website for all your tech queries, so there’s no need for even the biggest technophobes among you to be afraid. You might even already be using one to make the most out of your HDTV, with sharper detail, brighter colours and bigger sound.

So drag that desktop out of the study, liberate that laptop from the bedroom! It’s time for a revolution in PC gaming to begin, and all it takes is one humble cable.

 

Hearing aid

Hearing aid

Earphones are part of everyday uniform nowadays with many people unable to spend a second alone with their own thoughts and instead plug their ears with chart topping music from their smartphone or mp3 player.  But when you’re actively trying to block out the mundane of everyday life, nothing can be more annoying than ear phones which fall out or are not loud enough on the highest volume setting.

Completely understandable of course, which is why below is a list compiling the best ear phones and accessories to make sure your thoughts don’t have to invade the music- not one  little chance.

Penny Pinchers: Soundmagic E20At £10, these ear buds designed specifically for Nokia phones provide clear, loud sound and a good base.  The features are similar to what you’d find from a much more expensive model and a good all rounder

Gamers: Sienehesser PC323CDWhen gaming, you want to be completely emerged in your Xbox battle, not be disturbed by your teenage sister in the next room singing along to Justin Beiber.  Sienehesser PC323CD headphones are just the ticket.  specifically designed with gamers in mind, the headphones boast volumes which reach earth shattering proportions and sounds good at mid range and low too.  Even better, they work well with music too ensuring that you’re not blown away by the high bass setting which makes it ideal for game playing.  Unfortunately this set isn’t for those of you on a budget and means it’ll set you back over a hundred pounds.  I think you’ll agree however, that it’s £105 well spent.

Splurgers: Phonak Audeo PFE 232 These are definitely not cheap but the sound quality for music is amazing.  it makes music silky and smooth and even the worst pop record will take on a new dimension with these ear phones. The ear phones boast a specially designed shape which means it blocks external noise to maximum effectiveness, the bass and high notes are also perfectly balanced making these the ultimate desirable pair.  (£299)

Fitness Freaks: Exercise Freak headphones These headphones look futuristic as well as performing the part to as well as it possibly can.  Runners and people who regularly exercise will have had the problem of headphones which drop out of shuffle off as soon as you start warming up, but running without music can be so boring! Luckily Denon US have come up with the perfect solution.  These Bluetooth earphones are sweat resistant, hands free and lightweight.  Not only are they perfectly designed to be easily and conveniently used in the gym, but they have an integrated amplifier which matches the pounding rhythm of your heart to further energize your workout.  Wires are a thing of the past.  (£149)

 

 

IT Equipment

IT Equipment

Every office and every home contains IT equipment. Whether you are aware of this or not this is very much the case. You might say that you do not have a computer at home. You might believe this to be true but actually every piece of electronic equipment more than likely contains a micro chip and can be considered IT.

The modern office is, as you would expect, very much a hub for IT equipment. IT is not just restricted to the PC but to all the traditional peripherals like a scanner and printer and nowadays to equipment like smart-phones and other mobile devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The busy professional today could work with a desktop PC all day in their office, or just as likely be on the move and take a laptop PC with them wherever they go. Sometimes it is not convenient to get out a laptop and start working – you will still need a surface to work on and somewhere to sit, and you will eventually need a power supply if you have to do a significant amount of work. The modern professional now has a smart-phone to pick up emails, check out important websites, check there calendar of up and coming appointments, and keep in touch with important clients and colleagues.

IT equipment is all pervasive in our lives today and it is not just limited to our PC sitting in the corner or on the desk. In fact, the PC will soon be superseded by the devices and gadgets we carry around with us in our pockets.

IT Consultants

IT Consultants

If you are looking to improve the productivity of your company, a good place to start would be to call in an IT consultant. These IT consultants can assess where the use of IT can be introduced to your company to make it more profitable by taking the monotonous and boring work away from people and giving it to an IT system to do. IT systems thrive on monotonous tasks it is what they do best and don’t make mistakes.

It is all very well buying and installing new IT systems but you and your staff need to know how to use them. IT consultants can also pin point the training needs of your staff to be able to use new IT systems so that they know how to use them.

Of course, you probably already have IT systems installed in your business, but is it the right system and are you using it properly to optimise your productivity? IT consultants can answer these questions for you and recommend strategies for you to move forward with your IT.

Consultants are often viewed with some scepticism, seen as a waste of money by being paid to tell you what you already know. However, IT systems can be very expensive and are rarely used to their full potential. It can be very advantageous to use an IT consultant to run an independent eye over your systems and recommend how you can make the most of your investment.

Management Consultants

Management Consultants

If your business is struggling and you believe that this might partly be due to the management then it may be well worth calling in management consultants. These consultants will be able to assess the management style being used in your company and suggest ways in which is can be improved. Their skills can be extremely useful when training up new recruits for management positions.

The cost of consultancy depends entirely on who you’re hiring. Very well known consultants who have years of experience and an excellent track record can sometimes be extremely expensive to hire, especially if they’ve worked with very high profile clients in the past. There a number of well respected management consultants out there who have worked with a variety of extremely successful client and these will be the most expensive people to hire because of their reputation.

Some people have cast a wry eye on the consultancy industry in the past, citing it as being over priced and claiming that a great deal of the work they accomplish can actually be done without their aid. However, many people feel that having an external source being brought into to help with the way that business is being run can actually have an extremely beneficial effect.

Irrespective of your own opinion on this industry it is almost certain that will continue to be quite prolific for some years to come from now.

Consultancy Firms

Consultancy Firms

Consultancy is big business nowadays and many firms and keen to call in external consultants and pay them top rates to assess how the business can be improved. There is a great deal of scepticism levelled at consultants by people who believe the service they provide does not justify the costs, as they essentially are simply suggesting improvements to all a business to function more smoothly. However, the very best consultants have had years of experience in their field and are able to make significant improvements to a business if the business is willing to take on their advice. However, this service can sometimes come at a hefty price.

There are consultants that specialise in huge variety of different businesses and industries, so if you think their services might be able to help you then you’re best of contacting a consultancy firm. These companies essentially function as an agency for the consultants, finding them work from clients who are keen to turn around the fortunes of their company.

However, some people argue that a lot of work that consultants do for a business can be achieved without their help. You don’t necessarily have to bring in a third party to help streamline and improve your business, although a lot of the time have an external influence seems to help some businesses out quite well.