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 your GMail account one of the 5 million compromised?

This past week, we found out that there was a list of about 5 Million GMail accounts and passwords released by a hacker group.

The good news is that it probably was NOT a hack of Google.  You can check if your GMail account was one of them here:

https://isleaked.com/en

If your account has been compromised, a couple things you can do are:

1 – Change your password right away!

2 – Enable 2-factor authentication!

 

 

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

‘Resetting’ your old Smartphone fails to truly erase your personal data

In a study by security software vendor Avast, they purchased 20 Android smartphones from eBay and were able to recover from the phone – 40,000 photos – including 250 nude selfies, along with 750 emails and text messages, 250 contacts, identities of 4 previous phone owners and one completed loan application.

Users THOUGHT they were doing a ‘clean’ wipe and factory re-install on their phones.  It turns out though that after doing this wipe and re-install, your private data can often be quickly retrieved using generic, publicly available software.

With all of the personal data we store on our smartphones, here’s a safer way to erase your smartphone when you’re ready to move on to a new one.

1 – BACKUP YOUR DATA – Copy your photos off your phone, etc.  Don’t count on getting your data back after doing these steps, so make sure you get all the data off you need before doing this!

2 – ENCRYPT – Go to Settings, click on Security and select Encrypt phone.  Turn on encryption to scramble the data on your device.  Even if the wipe doesn’t delete the data, you’ll need the special decryption key to access it.

3 – FACTORY RESET – Do the Factory Reset in the Settings, Backup & Reset Menu.  Again, this will erase everything.  Make note though that most factory reset will NOT affect the data on your removable SD memory card.

4 – LOAD DUMMY DATA – Take lots of pictures (nothing personal please), make up a few fake contacts, etc.  The more, the better.

5 – FACTORY RESET AGAIN – If the data recovery programs are run on your phone now, the first data that will pop up will be the dummy data we just made up.

If you’re still concerned about your data after this and you don’t have anyone you want to give/sell your phone to, the next step would be to physically take a hammer to your phone or toss it into the Chesapeake (salt water + electronics = no worries about your data getting stolen)!

Don’t forget that your old PC can suffer the same fate!  If you just ‘delete’ your old data, it can be relatively recovered.

As always, if we can help you secure your data or securely erase your old computer, give us a call at Discount Computer Service, 410-358-7300.

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.