Connections from the Turtle Pond

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Good News From Small and Medium Business April 22, 2010

Filed under: PC Workstation — Marty Vik @ 3:54 pm

This is good news from the Small and Medium Business (SMB) world.  As more businesses are feeling the need to grow, they are using technology to help them.  The game has really changed when replacing a PC that is 4, 5 or 6 years old.

Meanwhile, the early indicators for this year show PC sales surging. On Tuesday, Intel, the world’s largest PC chip maker, reported the highest first-quarter sales, $10.3 billion, and profit, $2.4 billion, in its history. After digesting Intel’s results, a number of Wall Street analysts said on Wednesday that the PC market could grow as much as 25 percent this year.

In an article posted at Ingram Micro: Channel Advisor, Neha Jalan, an associate with research firm AMI Partners, says the primary drivers for replacing PCs are the hiring of new employees, hardware replacement, productivity boosts via updated systems, and new requirements for updated software.

The Windows 7 operating system offers more capability and updated software offerings, but requires more memory and disk storage.

To really leverage these new capabilities, SMB is looking to also become more mobile.  Laptop PCs are taking a larger share of all PC sales.  Mobility and other ways to make workers more productive underscore the brisk sales.

So how do you plan to fuel your company’s need for more productivity?  And how soon will PC sales begin to translate into hiring? 

Tell me what you think at MartyVik@MyTurtlePond.com.  Take Care.

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9 Ways to Speed Up a PC December 22, 2009

Filed under: PC Workstation — Marty Vik @ 9:21 pm

Here are 9 Ways to Speed Up Your PC

By following a few simple guidelines, you can maintain your computer and keep it running smoothly. This article discusses how to use the Windows tools to maintain your computer.

Hardware Problems May Cause a Slow Computer

Before you go too far in trying to diagnose a slow computer, make sure that your hardware is in order. That means unplugging your computer from the network (if it’s on one) and restarting. Assuming that didn’t make a difference, a little housekeeping may be in order. Dust accumulates readily in vent holes and inside the computer. Keep the ventilation ports as clear as possible. You can do this with a vacuum cleaner, a Q-tip, or compressed air. You may be surprised by what your computer has accumulated!

Proper airflow is exceptionally important to a computer. Newer processors are very small and powerful, but they can get hot.  If the computer isn’t receiving adequate ventilation – either because the vent holes are plugged with dust and debris, or because the fan isn’t working – you can quickly run into performance problems due to overheating.

Also, don’t assume that the fan you see on the back of the computer is the one you need to be concerned about. The fan you can see is usually associated with the power supply. To be sure, the power supply needs an operational fan and if the power supply fan isn’t working you should replace the power supply, but the processor often has its own fan or cooling system. You need to make sure this is in good working order at all times. To inspect the processor fan, you’ll need to crack open the computer case. Basic hand tools – notably a Philip’s-head screwdriver should do the trick. Consult your owner’s manual for more information on opening the case.

1. Free up disk space

The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk to improve the performance of your computer. The tool identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files.
Use Disk Cleanup to:

  • Remove temporary Internet files.
  • Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
  • Empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
  • Remove optional Windows components that you don’t use.
  • Remove installed programs that you no longer use.
  • Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.

Schedule:        Run weekly or schedule.

2. Speed up access to data – Defrag disk drives

Disk fragmentation slows the overall performance of your system. When files are fragmented, the computer must search the hard disk when the file is opened to piece it back together. The response time can be significantly longer.

Disk Defragmenter is a Windows utility that consolidates fragmented files and folders on your computer’s hard disk so that each occupies a single space on the disk. With your files stored neatly end-to-end, without fragmentation, reading and writing to the disk speeds up.

When to run Disk Defragmenter
Schedule:        In addition to running Disk Defragmenter at regular intervals—monthly is optimal—there are other times you should run it too, such as when:

  • You add a large number of files.
  • Your free disk space totals 15 percent or less.
  • You install new programs or a new version of Windows.

If this is your first defrag, do it after the disk clean up twice, then a disk defrag, and then another disk clean up. It is suggested to defrag your hard drive weekly.

For best results, run defragmenter last after performing all other steps. 

 

3. Detect and repair disk errors

In addition to running Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter to optimize the performance of your computer, you can check the integrity of the files stored on your hard disk by running the Error Checking utility.

As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing (such as file saving) difficult, or even impossible. The Error Checking utility scans the hard drive for bad sectors, and scans for file system errors to see whether certain files or folders are misplaced.

Schedule:        If you use your computer daily, you should run this utility once a week to help prevent data loss.

4. Protect your computer against spyware

Spyware collects personal information without letting you know and without asking for permission. From the Web sites you visit to usernames and passwords, spyware can put you and your confidential information at risk. In addition to privacy concerns, spyware can hamper your computer’s performance. To combat spyware, you might want to consider using Microsoft Windows Defender, which is included in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and is available as a free download for Microsoft XP SP2. Alternatively, there are other free anti-spyware software programs available.

Remove Spyware and Viruses

  • Spyware and viruses are a leading cause of computer slowing.
  • Update and run your spyware and virus software at least weekly.
  • If you do not have tools installed to protect against malware, spyware, and viruses, download a free copy of AVG (free for personal use). Also, Microsoft’s Windows Defender is a widely-used anti-spyware tool that is currently distributed freely for users with a “Genuine” copy of Windows. Windows Defender is also included with other Microsoft services and products such as Live OneCare and Vista.
  • If you have a particularly difficult infection, try using the Google Quick Virus Remover.  It is a free utility that is not a replacement for commercial products, but can be helpful for removing some of the most common viruses.

 Viral and malware infections are often the first conclusion that users jump to, often without scanning their computers. A reasonably competent anti-virus program can usually find some evidence of infection. If you’ve run your anti-virus program and it’s coming up empty, there are a few reputable sites on the Internet that will scan your computer and give you some independent results. Be careful however. Some sites run fake anti-virus scanners in an effort to sell you products you don’t need.

Trend Micro, a well-known name in anti-viral products, has an online scanner you can use to check or double-check the results of your virus scan.

Schedule:        We recommend that anti-virus and ant-malware programs run daily and are always on when you are on-line.

5. Change display settings that take processing power

Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 have settings for visual effects that make working with files,  folders and applications more fun to look at or easier to read.  These include animated menus and transparent windows.  These use the processor heavily and slowdown the PC. Right-click the My Computer icon on the Desktop and click Properties. Click Performance, then Visual Effects.  You can set the options for best look or best performance.  Choose performance and see if it makes a difference.

6. Try a big USB drive and ReadyBoost

If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, you can use ReadyBoost to speed up your system. A new concept in adding memory to a system, it allows you to use non-volatile flash memory—like a USB flash drive or a memory card—to improve performance without having to add additional memory.  This can be helpful.  It indicates a possible need to install more permanent memory.

7. Stop unwanted Start-Up programs.

Disable any programs you do not want load automatically.

To stop unwanted Start-Up programs.

  • Run msconfig.exe
  • Choose startup tab
  • Select and uncheck programs you don’t want to run on startup
    • Open control panel, select Control Panel Home view, Programs: Change Start Up Programs. Make sure you start with your user programs, but look at all programs if necessary.
    • Disable any programs you do not want load automatically.

 

8. Consider adding memory if appropriate

Additional memory can speed up process time.  However, it is not a guarantee.  This option is the first option that definitely costs money.  If the PC workstation is less than 3 years old, consider adding memory up to the maximum suggested by the vendor.  Do not exceed the maximum, it will be unusable and can actually slow down performance.  Also, try to keep all memory slots used with same size modules.  For example, if you already have 2 512meg modules, do not add replace one of them with a 1 Gig module, and bring the total to 1.5 Gig.  Mismatched memory or open slots can also slow down processing.

9. Perform a registry cleaning 

It is not recommended, but you can try a registry cleaner if you want performance.  These tools may increase speed, but can cause a multitude of other errors.  Some errors include stopping the programs you need to work from functioning. Only do this as a last resort.

  • Back up the registry first and take the copy off line. 
  • Make sure you list all programs that must work flawlessly so you can test them afterwards.
  • Follow all instructions completely.  Do not skip steps or try to speed up the process.

Do an internet search on “slow PC”.  There are plenty of people and companies that offer ways to speed up your PC.  Search for “registry cleaner” and you will find software that does it and people that warn against it. In the end, you may find that a computer that is more than 3 years old can be replaced with one that is more capable and faster. You have to be in a position to reload all the software you use. But it can be a lot like moving to make you clean out the attic. Afterwards, the attic is clean and you like the new house better. That just means there is more room to put the new stuff you buy.

Give me a call if you have any questions.

Merry Christmas from the Turtle Pond

 

Tips To Help You Stay Safe While Shopping November 27, 2009

Filed under: PC Workstation — Marty Vik @ 5:11 pm

When I saw the pictures of shoppers standing in the rain so they could start shopping at midnight, I knew I was missing that bargain gene.    I am as cheerful as the next shopper during the holidays.  But standing in a cold rain made my mind wander to a list of things that can go wrong on a shopping trip.  Being sleep deprived, wet and crowded into a line were at the top of the list.

What I did think about was ways to avoid the lines and the problems.  So here are some safe shopping tips if you go to the mall for your gifts.  If you are joining the ranks of cyber-shoppers, I have included a few tips to help keep you safe and secure also.  I hope it helps.

Shopping Mall Tips

Park in well-lit areas, near sidewalks or walkways. Avoid parking near garbage bins or around the sides of a building where the view of your vehicle is obstructed.

Shop with a friend.  This not only helps maintain safety, but it can make the experience more fun.  Take the time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and catch up.  Now that’s good shopping.

Have your car keys ready as you approach or leave your vehicle.  Consider making a few trips to the car to drop off packages instead of collecting a large bundle that you have to deal with.  Make sure you can easily maneuver if you are approached by a thief or carjacker.

Stay alert to your surroundings. Don’t use the phone in the parking lot.  Carrying bags and talking on the phone can distract you.  Make sure you look for potential dangers like people following or cars backing out into traffic.

Consider using the valet service if you are at a shopping center alone at night. If you do, leave the valet only the ignition key. Keep your ID, registration and proof-of-insurance documents in a wallet or purse.

Put packages and bags in the trunk or out of view. Use something to cover the gifts if you must leave them in the back of an SUV or station wagon.

Don’t play the hero.  If you are threatened by a carjacker or thief with a gun or weapon, give up whatever they are requesting and don’t argue.

For more information, contact the Mall Security office for specific tips or see one of these sites:

Saginaw News – Tips to Keep Shoppers Safe

ADT Safety Tips: Holiday Shopping Mall Safety

Security Products: Tips: Stay Safe While Mall Shopping

National Retail Federation Safe Shopping Tips (PDF)

On-Line Shopping Tips List

Here’s a list of tips you should consult when shopping online.

Shop From a Secure PC.  Don’t use a public PC to shop.  Be careful with the shared PC in the family room if it is used by teens or others that don’t follow safe cyber-surfing. Make sure you look for the lock symbol that your browser uses to indicate a secure session.

Protect Your Privacy.  When you shop, make sure you know what the company will do with your name, e-mail address, phone numbers or other information you provide.  Read the Privacy Statement and shop somewhere else if you don’t like what you find.

Shop At Sites You Trust.  Shop at well know sites or vendors you have used before.  Be careful when shopping on-line auction sites or using a search engine.  The price may be better, but it may be false economy if you don’t know who you are shopping with.

Use Your Credit Card, Not A Debit Card.  Credit cards will enforce a liability limit.  Debit cards do not always have the same protections.  Check with your bank or credit union to be sure.

Use Alternate Payment Methods. Consider working with your bank or credit card issuer to get a one-time-use number.  These can be issued so that you do not expose your credit card to any further purchases.  You may also use PayPal which isolates your credit card from the on-line vendor.

Use e-Mail Alias to Cut Down On Spam. Sellers will often require that you post an e-mail address with every purchase.  It is a great idea because then you get an invoice, or further promotions, delivered to you.  But it can be overdone.  If you want to complete the order, but have control over spam in the future, try e-mail Alias.  Just add the vendor’s name to your e-mail address.  This works with Google Mail and Verizon accounts.  Check with your provider.  Here what it looks like. 

Let’s say your e-mail address is JoeBlow @ gmail.com and you are shopping at EarthWormsAreUs.  Instead of JoeBlow @ gmail.com, try JoeBlow+EarthWorms @ gmail.com.  This way, you will get the e-mail and you don’t have to manage hundreds of e-mail accounts in the future. 

Yahoo Tips for Safe Shopping Online

Washington Post Tips for Safe Online Shopping

safeshopping.org Shopping Tip List