Portland Computer Repair - Running silent with Firefox

by justin 28. May 2009 06:32

A while back I mentioned how awesome Firefox is and how much better and safer it is than running Internet Explorer. Well, a fellow tech geek has just validated that statement and made it about ten times more accurate with this article:

10 Firefox extensions that help keep you safe

Being safe while you surf the web is extremely important, yet safe surfing sometimes seems like an oxymoron. For users of the Firefox browser, downloading security extensions can help increase your level of protection from worms, hackers, phishers and the like.

I should note that even with these extensions installed, you won't be perfectly safe. Visit sites only of trusted sources, and don't download unknown files.

He mentiones the following Firefox Add-ons: BetterPrivacy, BlockSite, Dr. Web Anti-Virus, FormFox, Ghostery, Locationbar, NoScript, Password Hasher, QuickJava, and Web of Trust.

Read the full article here!

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Portland Computer Repair - How to fix computers like a pro. Or at least fake it.

by justin 15. May 2009 13:15

Wow your friends! Terrify your enemies! Cause women to tremble and faint! It's all part of being an uber-geek, and any self respecting geek will tell you that it's all about the tools.

When you're fixing computers, you can bungle around with built-in windows apps like task manager and command shell all you want, but if you want to fix things FAST and RIGHT you've got to have a well-stocked USB flash drive. That's where the Technibble forums come in.

GAWD how I love these guys. First off, if you're trying to fix some crazy once-in-a-lifetime issue there are techs that watch those forums that make me look like a complete n00b (that's computer idiot, for you computer idiots). On top of that they've got this thing called "Repair tool of the week" which has made my life about 20x easier. 

Take a look over at technibble.

Here's where you can find all of the "Repair tools of the week".

A few standouts:

Dial-A-Fix is like a swiss army knife for techs. It fixes all kinds of common windows problems. If you think you've got an issue you can safely just run all of the tasks in that sucker and a fair amount of the time your problem will be solved.

ATF Cleaner I've mentioned before, but it's the easiest way to clean out your crap and junk files.

FoxIt Reader and PDF Creator are free replacements for Adobe Acrobat. FoxIT Reader is also about 1/10th the size of Acrobat reader, faster, and just better in every way. PDF Creator is an excellent poor-mans alternative to shelling out $700 for Acrobat to create PDF documents.

Enjoy, thanks for reading, and see you next week(ish)!

 

 

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Portland Computer Repair - How to repair a computer in a few easy steps:

by justin 28. April 2009 04:15

I might be shooting myself in the foot professionally by writing this entry, but I feel like the number of people reading this blog before they call me has got to be pretty slim. With that in mind, here are a few steps to take before calling a computer repair guy like myself:

If your computer's acting weird and you suspect you have a virus:

1. Install Malware Bytes (malwarebytes.org), let it update fully, then run a full scan. It's free and they catch a LOT of new viruses.
2. Install SuperAntiSpyware (superantispyware.com), update it, then run a full scan. Also free, also good.
3. Run GMER (www.gmer.net). If anything pops up in RED TEXT then you have a rootkit infection. Do the safe mode thing below and run the virus scans again.

If those things don't work or don't help, try doing them from Safe Mode.

How to get into Safe Mode:

1. Reboot the computer. Just after the initial loading screen and before the windows logo comes up, start tapping the F8 key on your keyboard repeatedly.  If you see the windows logo you've missed your chance, reboot and try again and start tapping F8 sooner.
2. If you did it right, you'll see a diagnostics menu with an option for "Safe Mode" on it. Choose "Safe Mode with Networking".
3. Perform the steps above again.

If your computer is no longer booting all the way into windows:

If you're still seeing the windows logo for a brief amount of time before your computer crashes or reboots, there's hope!

1. Boot into Safe Mode like I described above.
2. Run a disk scan by clicking on the "start" button, clicking on "run", and typing in "chkdsk /f". If you see a black window that's fine, just say "yes" if it asks you if you want to run a scan on reboot.
3. Reboot your computer.

If it's still broke:

1. Boot into Safe Mode like I described above.
2. Open MSConfig by clicking on the "start" button, clicking on "run", and typing in "msconfig". Choose "System Restore" from the tools menu.

Portland Computer Repair, Computer Repair Portland

Click "Launch". Follow the prompts and choose a date from a few days ago to restore from. This will sometimes fix the problem as well.

if it's STILL broke:

1. Remove any new hardware you've installed.
2. Boot into Safe Mode and click on the "start" button, then click on "control panel"
3. Click on "add/remove programs"
4. Remove any new programs you've installed.
5. Install the virus scanners metnioned above and run scans.

Hope that helps! See you next time.

 

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Portland Computer Repair - The real 6th sense

by justin 14. April 2009 08:53

I hate to be misleading with the title of this post but we're testing web crawler functionality and I had to put "Portland Computer Repair" in there. Anyway, I wanted to diverge a little from my usual "computing for novices" direction and just show you something that *I* think is really cool. For years I've been telling anyone who will listen that in the very near future we'll all have heads-up-displays that show us relevant information about whatever we're looking at, powered by the internet and turning everyone into (book-smart) geniuses. I was thinking of powered contact-lenses as a viewing device, or special glasses or at the far-end of believability some kind of actual brain implant, but these guys have gone ahead and done it with a personal projection system which is also a really cool idea. On top of that, they've actually made it FUNCTIONAL. You absolutely must watch this TED demo of the technology at work, as I promise you within 10 years we'll all have something like this (and hopefully it won't look completely ridiculous):

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html

Think about it! How many times have you met someone you've met before and can't remember a thing about them? Awkward, right? Well, with something like this everyone you see will have their relevant information surrounding them, you will instantly know product reviews and price listings just by looking at an item, you'll know the quality of a restaurant's food and service while you're walking past it, you'll know if you're flight's been delayed while you're reading the morning news, etc, etc.

It's a brave new world and, for me at least, I can't freaking wait.

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Portland Computer Repair - A cheap alternative to Office.

by justin 4. April 2009 01:57

It's truly amazing how much money Microsoft pulls in from what is, in relative computer terms, ancient software. For most applications and software you purchase and buy online, if it's more than two years old it's worthless. This rule doesn't apply to Microsoft, though, the latest version of it's Office suite is nearing three years old now, and Windows XP, still the most popular OS by far, is almost SEVEN. The reason for this is that you're basically forced into owning these hobbling, wrinkled old testaments to mediocrity to do your work, right?

Wrong. Well, you're still sort of forced to own Windows if that's all you've ever used, but for Office there are alternatives. Better alternatives. FREE alternatives. Alternatives like OpenOffice, which does everything Microsoft Office does and is way cheaper. By way cheaper I mean it doesn't cost anything. Compared to the current retail price of Office 2007 ($150 for the academic version) that's a pretty suite deal (ha ha, see what I did there?).

You can download OpenOffice for naught a penny here:

www.openoffice.org

If you own a business and want what basically amounts to the corporate version, you can get it for $35 a license (wowza!) here:

www.sun.com

Oh, and if you're just trying to replace Outlook there's a great, free alternative out there for you as well. Thunderbird, by the makers of Firefox. 

www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/

Oh, and just a moment of gloating: I was totally right about Conficker. LOL. Okay I'm done.

 

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Portland Computer Repair - Conficker ain't that scary.

by justin 31. March 2009 08:38

portland computer repair, computer repair portland I'm aware of the media freak-out regarding the oh-so mysterious Conficker worm and it's apparent payload of blowing the back out of your hard drive, poisoning your french fries and killing your dog this April 1st - my advice to you, don't worry about it.

This particular virus really isn't all that much different than a few thousand we've seen this year, it's just a little more streamlined and for some reason the media has got a scary stalker crush on it. You shouldn't be worried. If you're running virus protection (which, if you're reading this blog, you SHOULD BE BY NOW OR SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG WITH YOU) then you're ok. If you want to be really safe, download McAfee Stinger from here:

http://vil.nai.com/vil/stinger/

and give it a run. It'll clean out Conficker if you've got it. Once you've done that, click the Start Button, click "All Programs", then click "Windows Update" at the top and get all the latest updates just to be sure.

After you're done, take a deep breath, relax, and go worry about something real like the economy for awhile. 

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Portland Computer Repair - Keep it clean.

by justin 26. March 2009 05:26

Hey gang - your friendly Portland Computer Repair guy here again. After my last entry about tuning up your computer I feel like it might be a good idea to actually tell you some ways to do that. It's a crazy concept but I think we can roll with it.

First off, temp files build up on your system like barnacles on a pirate ship, and every once in awhile it's nice to clean 'em up. I recommend two utilities for this, both of them free. First is Ccleaner. When you install it, make sure you don't install all the add-on crap, just choose the options like I have here:

Portland Computer Repair

Once it's installed, launch it from the icon it's placed on your desktop, and choose options like this:

Portland Computer Repair Portland Computer Repair

Then click "Run cleaner" and away it goes. 

Next go ahead and do a registry cleanup by clicking "registry" on the side then "Run cleaner". Go ahead and just say yes to whatever it asks you, cleaning the registry with CCleaner is very safe (as opposed to a number of other registry cleaners out there).

Next up we're going to hit your rig with a blast of ATF Cleaner, which sometimes finds a few things CCleaner doesn't. Get ATFCleaner here. Go ahead and launch it from wherever you downloaded it to, and select every option but "Cookies" (most people like to keep their cookies so they don't have to re-login to every website they visit) and click "go".

That should get rid of a lot of the nasty plaque that builds up on Windows over time and keep your system chugging along.  Until next time!

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Portland Computer Repair - You don't need a new computer.

by justin 14. March 2009 04:06

I'm sure you've all heard about Moore's law and the fact that processor speeds (and pretty much everything computer related) double about every two years. For the most part it's true, and it can be tempting to think that you need a new computer each time that happens, but here's the dirty truth that Intel and AMD would rather you didn't know:

Computers have been SO fast for the past three or four years that for the lay-person, none of that progress matters one iota. In fact, high-end machines from four years ago in many cases out-perform brand new ones today just due to the bloated monstrosity that is Microsoft Vista and all the various crap computer manufacturers shove into the system before you buy it.

Portland Computer Repair, Computer Repair Portland I heard a hilarious fact the other day - that Best Buy is actually offering a crap-cleanup service when you buy a new computer from them. So,basically, you shell out good money to buy a brand new computer then have to immediately turn around and pay someone else to clean it up for you. That is some thick, juicy irony and a sad state of affairs.

If you are the kind of person that uses their computer primarily for the internet, email, and document processing (in other words, 80% of the country) then this is all you really need:

  • Processor: Any dual-core processor, 2.1ghz or better.
  • RAM: 1gigabyte is fine forWindows XP (although even 512 megabytes is usually ok), 2gb is pretty much required for Windows Vista
  • Hard Drive:If you're a picture / movie freak, 300gb is good. For anyone else 160gb+ will cut it.
  • DVD: A DVD burner is nice.

Outside of those things pretty much everything else is frills / personal perference. Do you want an SD-card reader for your digital camera? Ok, sure. Do you want a WiFi card to connect to your home network? Ok, get 802.11N.

Never spend more than $1000 on a new computer. The only thing that might change this is if you're an avid computer gamer. Computer gaming is pretty much the ONLY thing out there besides video production or 3-D rendering that requires a beefy system, and if you're a gamer that is almost aLL about the video card. Even a four-year-old system with a brand new video card can usually play the latest games.

My point here is this: When people think they need a system they usually don't need a new system, they just need their old one cleaned up. Junk builds up in the registry over time regardless of how nit-picky you are, system files get replaced with weird versions or corrupted, programs get loaded at start-up that you're not aware of, services are installed that you don't need that run in the background,  etc. Cleaning this stuff up regularly will keep your machine speedy and running like a new one. Case in point, my main work computer that I do absolutely everything on (even play games, 3-D render, and fix other people's computers) is almost four years old (dual-core Athlon X2 4200+) and it still runs like a dream. 

Being a computer repair guy in Portland, even though it hurts I have to sell myself a little :). Call me if you want this done. Tune-ups usually take around an hour (will definitely make your system speedier), complete operating system wipes and rebuilds take about 2 (will make it run like a new computer), or I can build you a new, fully optimized Windows XP computer with out all the crap right out of the gate (runs faster then most new computers). There, marketing mode off.

See you next time!

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Portland Computer Repair - Avoiding infection

by justin 28. February 2009 10:31

Like most techs, the number one thing I run into doing Portland computer repair is virus and spyware infection. My friend and fellow computer geek Tad and I were having a conversation the other day, and he mentioned that in all the years he'd done clean ups for other people he'd never personally had a system infected with anything since like 2001, and I was in almost the same boat. Honestly, to avoid virus infection it doesn't take a great virus scanner (although that sure helps), it just takes a few simple precautions:

1. Always keep Windows totally up to date.
2. Rarely (if ever) follow links sent to you in email
3. Use an email service with a good spam filter like Gmail or Yahoo
4. Use Firefox as a web browser and be incredibly picky about which "addons" you install, especially if you're on a strange site
5. Realize that almost nothing is actually free on the web. For "free" screen savers and "free" fonts you usually end up paying a lot in the long run, usually to techs like me to clean up your system.
6. Make sure your neighbors are computer gurus.*

I've talked about (or plan on talking about) the others on the list, so let's start with #1. If you're using Windows, click on the start button,  click on "all programs", the click on "Windows Update" at the top. Install everything it tells you to. Do this about once a week if you know what's good for you.

If you're using Windows XP, click with the right mouse button on "My Computer" (either on your desktop or on the start menu) and select "properties". That will bring you to a screen like this:

 

 

Under the "system" heading you see something like "Service Pack 3". If it doesn't say "Service Pack 3" or it doesn't say "Service Pack" at all you're in trouble. There are viruses out there that can infect you directly without you having to click on ANYTHING using Windows exploits that were open prior to Service Pack 3. Go to the Windows Update site and install it now.

If you're using Windows Vista, it should say "Service Pack 1". If not, do the same. 

* - interesting fun fact, if you're on DSL or FIOS for a highspeed network connection chances are you're sharing a single external IP address with your neighbors. Internet providers sometimes put everyone on a local network to save their increasingly valuable network addressable IP addresses. This means that any viruses your neighbors may get have the potential for attempting to attack your system directly and with a lot more success than if you had your own IP. Soooo, basically, if your neighbors have bad internet habits and filthy systems then you're at risk. Just like that one guy coughing his head off on your flight to Tucson gives everyone else the flu. Jerk.

See ya next week!

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Portland Computer Repair - Backup, backup, backup!

by justin 13. February 2009 04:59

Saving customer's busted hard drives is always a harrowing process. In a lot of cases, you're literally holding someone's livelihood in your hands, or trying to resusitate their sick child in the form of a screen play or novel they've been working on for years. It can be wonderful to restore this kind of data and see the relief on someone's face, but absolutely devastating to have to break the news that the hard drive is beyond repair.

Hard drives break pretty often. They're basically the only moving part in your computer, and they freaking MOVE.They function like record players that spin around completely 7200 times a minute. Oh, and at like 200 degrees.So fast record players in hell, basically. Frankly, it's a wonder they don't break more often.

For this reason it's incredibly important that you make weekly backups. The problem is that a huge portion of the computing populace has no idea where their files actually reside on the hard drive or how to back them up, and the backup solution built into Windows XP  might has well be another version of Solitaire for all the good it does. Windows Vista's is slightly better, but still no shining star.

Soooo... without further ado, here's my first attempt at a little video to show you how to setup nightly backups to an external hard drive using the free Cobian backup. First you'll need to buy an external USB 2.0 hard drive and plug it in. You shouldn't have to spend more than $70 or $80 on one. They're everywhere, and they look a lot like this. Then, you'll want to follow my step-by-step instructions that I outline in my first ever wacky computer repair video here:

I hope that's pretty straightforward. Comment below with any questions and I'll help out the best I can! See you next week.  

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About Me

Justin
I'm Justin, the head geek and owner of 12:01 Computer Solutions. I've had an unhealthy obession with computers for all my life, and about 12 years professionally. Call me at 503-523-1012 for on-site or drop-off help in the greater Portland area, or remote help anywhere in the world. See www.1201.com for more info!

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