Make your web pages Print Friendly

When you have a web page to print, you don’t want to print ALL of the headers, footers, banner ads and other ‘stuff’ on the page.  You just want to print the main article you are reading.  Here’s a great web browser add-on that pulls out the main article on the web page, makes it reading friendly (enlarges the fonts, etc.) and allows you to print just what you want.  You can remove images and any text you don’t want to print with just a click!

This is a FREE program with more info and download links here:

Print Friendly   (click the ‘Browser Tool’ link on the top right of their website to download the Browser add-on)

When you want to print something, just click the little Print Friendly icon in your browser (Google Chrome, FireFox, Internet Explorer…) and a special Print Friendly Window will pop up where you can do things like remove images and click on any parts you don’t want to have printed.  Easy as that!

Block access to dangerous websites

One way to help stay away from websites that may have malicious content is to use a different DNS (Domain Name System) provider.  By default, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will have you use their DNS Servers, but you can choose your own.  Some DNS providers will make your Internet go faster and/or block known malicious websites.  One of these DNS providers is OpenDNS.  It’s a free service and all you need to do is manually change your DNS settings to use their servers.  You would set your DNS servers to:  208.67.222.123 and 208.67.220.123.  You can find more info at their website at:  OpenDNS.com

Norton ConnectSafe is another good, free DNS filter you can use:  https://dns.norton.com/homeuser.html

One of my new favorite applications! Keep unwanted programs out of your PC.

Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) seem to be plaguing installations everywhere.  When you run the installer for many free applications and updates you download from the Internet, all too often they are bundled with unrelated adware that sometimes is borderline malicious.  Have you ever installed a program, then afterwards discovered that your browser’s homepage has changed and there are a LOT more ads in your webpages?

I was thrilled when I heard about this great program that can help keep these pesky PUPs from infesting your computer!

Let me introduce you to one of my new best friends …… Unchecky!

When you run some installers, they default to opting into installing these PUPs, sometimes even trying to trick you into installing them by irregularly coloring the buttons or with deceptive wording.

Unchecky keeps these unwanted programs out of your computer by automatically unchecking these unrelated offers and even warning you if the installer successfully tricks you into clicking a button to accept an unwanted offer.  Great!

More good news.  Unchecky is FREE and 100% clean of adware!  You can find more info and download it here:

Unchecky.com

 

Is my Internet connection ok?

This past week, I was having problems with my home Internet connection.  It seemed slow and sluggish to respond.  Normally, when I type in a website address in my browser, it appears within about a second or so.  This week though, it was taking a few seconds at least for a website to appear.  Here’s some troubleshooting steps I took to figure out where the problem was:

1 – Reboot your computer – Was it just my laptop?  Often a computer reboot can do wonders to solve simple problems.  In this case though, it didn’t help my problem.  After reboot, I launched a browser…and waited.

2 – Try another computer – Is my laptop the problem?  OK, let’s see if this happens on another computer also.  I booted up my wife’s laptop and checked the Internet.  Seemed sluggish too.

3 – Other problems – I also noticed my ‘smart’ phone’s WiFi connection status showed full signal bars, but was not connected to my WiFi with a “Ready to connect when network quality improves” message.  Pretty ‘smart’.

4 – Try a cable – Is it a Wireless problem? – To make sure this was not a wireless issue (maybe caused by interference?), I turned off my wireless on my laptop (usually a little switch on the side of your laptop or a function key combination like Fn+F5) and connected my laptop to my Internet router with an Ethernet cable.  Same deal.

5 – Speedtest – Houston, we have a problem here.  Let’s run a speedtest to check some numbers and see if it’s my imagination or impatience that’s the problem.  I went to the Comcast Speedtest website at speedtest.comcast.net.  Choose a location and it will give you 3 speed results.  First a ‘Ping’ response test.  It send a packet to a server and measures the speed it gets a response.  On a good Internet connection, this should be somewhere in the 20-50ms (milliseconds) range.  Anything significantly above this range means you could be having Internet problems.  Next, it will measure your ‘download’ and ‘upload’ speeds.  On most Internet connections, the download will be much higher (maybe 10x) than the upload speed.  This is ok, as most of us just ‘download’ data FROM the Internet and don’t ‘upload’, or send much data TO the Internet.  This speed is your ‘bandwidth’ and depends on the speed level you have purchased from your ISP (Internet Service Provider, like Verizon, Comcast, etc.).  The speed here should be close to that number, but often not exact.  That’s fine.  Now, in my case, when I was having the problems, my ping response was about 200ms (bad).  My download was about 5mbps (my Internet package should be 20mbps) and upload was less than 1mbps.  Not good.

6 – Reboot your Internet equipment – Now that we know there is a real problem and it is not just with my PC, let’s check the Internet modem/router.  First thing to do is REBOOT (power cycle).  You may have a modem (the device that is connected to the ‘coax’ (for cable or FIOS) or telephone cable (DSL) that comes in from your ISP) and possibly a Router (has a cable coming from the modem to the router which may have an antenna or two and usually 4 ‘ports’ to plug computers into the back of it.  You may also have a single modem/router combination device (most popular these days).  Just pull out the power cable, wait about 60 seconds, then plug it back in.  If you have 2 devices, plug in your modem first, wait about a minute or two for all of the lights to stop ‘dancing’ and then plug in your router.  My result after this – no change, still slow.

7 – Call your ISP – Not my favorite thing to do, but sometimes a necessary evil.  Call their 800# and talk to a ‘technical support’ rep.  Tell them the above steps you did before calling and hopefully they will check if they are having any system-wide or problems in the area.  They should also check ‘their end’ (check to see if they can reach your modem to see if the lines are ok).  SINCE WE RULED OUT A PROBLEM WITH YOUR COMPUTER IN THE STEPS ABOVE, DO NOT LET THEM DO SOMETHING STUPID LIKE WIPE OUT YOUR COMPUTER (I’ve unfortunately, had customers report phone tech reps have them wipe out/recover their PCs or cause other problems to troubleshoot a problem like this.  Don’t let them!).  Now, in my case, they found the lines were ok and had me do a ‘factory reset’ of their modem/router.  After doing this, the Internet came back to life (see new SpeedTest report below).  In retrospect, I could have done this (factory reset of the modem) myself and avoided the call, but often I have found this does not help (not to mention I have to re-configure my settings in the modem) and the problem could be on their end.  The good news though is that the problem got fixed and I didn’t have to have my lawn dug up to lay another cable (thanks Verizon for that a few years ago) or have to jump thorough a ton of hoops to get it fixed.

A Normal, Speedtest result.

A Normal, Speedtest result.

If your Internet seems slower than it should be or you’re having, VOIP (voice over IP) problems, I would recommend running a SpeedTest.

Still having problems? (or your ISP says it’s not their problem)  Give us a call at Discount Computer Service.  We have experienced technicians that can come to your home or business and clear up any Internet or other problems.  410-366-7300

As always, I appreciate your business and referrals!    -Dan

ebay hack drives home need for Password Manager – here’s a good free one

Here’s the problem

The bad guys steal a large password list.  ok. no big deal you think if they access my ****.com account.  BUT – Since you use the SAME password on about a few dozen websites, the bad guys now have access to lots of your accounts.  not good.

SOLUTION – do NOT RE-USE passwords.  Use a different password for each different website.

PROBLEM – How the heck do we remember dozens of different complex passwords and what websites they go to?

SOLUTION – Use a password manager.  These programs/services keep your ‘list’ of usernames/passwords and make it easy to keep different passwords.  Many automatically fill in the login data for you.

One I really like is Last Pass.  It has a good FREE version and  works with all of your operating systems, mobile devices and browsers.

Help. I’m stuck in Ukraine and I need you to send me money!

Yesterday I received an email like this:

Subject:  Help….Sender’s Name       (the ‘Sender’s name’ is usually someone you know)

Good Morning,

I hope you get this on time!!!sorry to disturb you but i had to send this message to you due to an unforeseen circumstance that my family and i encountered.

My family and i traveled to Yalta (UKRAINE) for a short vacation but unfortunately for us, we had an accident of which i dislocated my right arm and my head got bruised. The driver of the cab passed on due to internal bleeding and the injuries he sustained on his head.I have not been able to reach any one due to the fact that our cell phones,credit cards and some valuable document were all missing after the accident.

Thank goodness, my family are safe but presently in the hospital due to the injuries we sustained.i am only in a public library to reach out for help through this medium since it the only way out for us now!!!!please kindly get back to me as you receive this message so that i can tell you how to help us out……

We depend on you.

— end of message —

This is a popular scam that is able to steal lots of money from your friends and relatives.  You get an email from someone you know – or at least from their email account.  It says they have been hurt, kidnapped or something like that and need you to send help.  Since it’s coming from their real email address, you may believe it and reply.  When you do, you get a reply from ‘them’ and they say they are really in trouble and need you to wire them cash right away.  Since it’s obviously a matter of life and death, you send the money to who you think is your friend in trouble, but really is a criminal in some foreign country.

Don’t fall for this scam.  NEVER wire money to someone using ‘Western Union’ or other similar service for any contact via Internet or email.  It’s a SCAM!

This is another reason it’s important to keep you email account password safe!

The cyber criminals are able to scam people like this because they get access to your email accounts.  If you don’t protect your email account and the bad guys are able to scam your friends or relatives out of hundred or thousands of dollars, while they think they are helping you out…not so good!

How to keep your Windows XP relatively safe when Microsoft stops creating security patches

At least every month, Microsoft creates and releases security ‘patches’ to exploits it finds in it’s various operating systems and applications. April 8, 2014 is the last time Microsoft will release these for Windows XP. If you’re one of the millions of people that are screaming that they’ll have to pry your Windows XP PC “from your cold, dead hands” (ok, I’m probably exaggerating here, but there are many XP die-hards out there), there ARE some steps to take that can keep your computer relatively safe in the post-support era. Will there be any serious exploits found after 4/8/14 (security holes that let the bad guys take over your computer maybe)? Who knows? Since Microsoft will not release any further security patches, though, you are taking a risk by still using XP for normal computing after this date. So you would be well advised to limit your Internet activity and take extra precautions if you are going to keep that XP computer around.
First off, two points to remember:
1 – Windows XP computers will NOT stop working after April 8, 2014. Microsoft even specifically said that they will still allow the activation process to go through after that date.
2 – If you are using a Windows XP computer for a purpose that is NOT connected to the Internet (a computer in an auto mechanic shop running an alignment machine, for example), you have nothing to worry about. You can stop reading now. Go ahead and run your prorams as long as you don’t plug in to the network and start surfing and checking your email.
If your Windows XP computer IS connected to your network/Internet connection, here are some important things you should do (or stop doing) to stay relatively protected (if you are not ok with being just ‘relatively’ protected, please proceed to buying a new computer):

1 – If you’re still using the Interet Explorer browser, STOP using it. There are and have been safer browers and after April 8, it will get even worse. Google Chrome is my favorite. Mozilla FireFox is another good, safer browser.
2 – Your computer should be connected to the Internet behind a router. It should NOT be connected directly to your cable/DSL modem (unless yours is a router also, which many new ones are). Your router serves as a hardware firewall and if there is a security hole discovered in the XP software firewall, this will give you a good layer of protection. If you are still using a dial-up Internet connection, well, there’s probaby no hope for you anyway, so lots of luck to you, you’ll need it.
3 – It’s even more important now to have a good, updated Antivirus program. This may not stop many problems from getting into your computer, but may alert you to them and/or remove them after the fact.
4 – Consider disabling or uninstalling browser plug-ins like Java and Flash. These are the extremely exploit-prone. You may not be able to use Java-enabled websites (unless you temporarily re-enable them), but you’re adding a significant amount of safety with this one.
5 – Use a ‘limited’ user account with Windows. By default, a Windows user is an ‘administrator’, but using a limited user account may limit the damage a malicious piece of software can do to your computer.

You may also want to read my previous article:
What to do with your Windows XP machine once you buy a new one