Oh Windows 8 - you poor soul. You're actually a pretty decent OS (minus the Metro or whatever you're calling it these days interface), but we're about 6 months in, and folks would have you believe it's the second coming of Vista. Well on this you can trust me - it's in no way a nightmare of Vistonian proportions. A quick installation of a handy start menu rebuilder, and you're back to the natural progression of the traditional Windows desktop.
So let's say you're willing to give it a go, what should you do first? Well on initial installation, you're going to probably run into a few "huh?" moments, but I'll go over those in a future blog post. First things first, go to your web browser (probably Internet Explorer at this point), search for "Windows 8 Start Menu," and choose from any of the free or very inexpensive start menu apps.
FWIW, my personal fave is Startisback! for a whopping $3. For you extra "frugal" types, go with the free Classic Shell. Either of them does the job, and unless Microsoft gives you some good reason, you never have to see the new interface until you're ready. There are grumblings that the first major update for 8 (codename: Blue) might recreate the start menu as well, but in the meantime this'll have to do. Couple of simple clicks and there you go, right as rain:
For most of you this is enough to get you going in the wild and crazy universe that is Windows 8. Now what it won't do is get rid of all the preloaded bloatware your new Windows 8 computer came loaded with. For that I recommend you take the thing to the best Computer Repair Los Angeles has to offer - I know the guy well and I promise he'll take care of you! ;-)
Thanks for reading!
I'm not a Geek. I'm your friend. And I'm here to help.
Hey there Readers! Sorry it's been a little while between blogs, but Los Angeles, being the epicenter of water damaged Macbook Pro's, has kept us busy at the garage. Now that the new year is upon us, there's no better time to boost your tech life with some resolutions. Here are 13 Tech Resolutions for 2013:
1. Get a Smartphone. It's not likely to cost you much and if there's one thing our customers never regret, it's making this change. Just. Do. It.
2. Expand Your Tech Universe. You're not a Mac. You're not a PC. You're a human being dammit, and you can have whatever computer/smartphone/media center device you darned well please. I have a dream, that one day, we will be judged by the content of our character rather than the gadgets we are seen carrying. I mean seriously, sometimes it feels like if you don't have an iPhone in Los Angeles, you may as well resolve yourself to dying alone. Is this what we've come to people? Is it? Which takes me to my next thought . . .
3. Give Windows 8 a Chance. Look, it's not perfect. But it actually improves upon the Windows 7 architecture, and a $3 app called StartIsBack will bring back the traditional start menu and regular Windows desktop.
4. Don't Expect Your Printer to Last. You've got one and you probably hardly use it. But after months of ignoring it you need to print something, but it's giving you grief. It's going to cost more to fix than the thing's worth. There are local spots that'll print the stuff for you or you can pick up a new printer at any number of local shops for in the $50 price range. Just accept that this is the normal cost of having a printer and that these things don't last.
5. Backup. You've always thought about doing it. Maybe you even bought some flash drives or an external hard drive to handle the job. Buuuuuuuuuuuut . . . you never actually did anything about it. So now's the time. If you haven't ever experienced data loss, consider yourself lucky and back up. If you have, back up and never experience it again. Keep a local copy and a copy online. If for some reason you can't handle this yourself, call these guys and they'll take care of you. Promise. ;-)
6. Buy Good Antivirus. Stop with the free alternatives. Avoid the Norton's, McAfee's, and whatever preloaded, bloated antivirus cam with your computer. Get a good one. Kaspersky's my brand and I'm sticking to it. Their Mac version is awesome too.
7. Upgrade Your Internet Access. Get a good, fast service. Cable, U-Verse, or FiOS. Anything less is too slow. You'll thank me later.
8. Say Buh-Bye to Windows Vista. If you've still got it, you've held on waaaaaaaaay too long. Windows 7 or 8 is going to outperform Vista on the same hardware and with MS offering discounted upgrades to 8, you really have no excuse. If you've still got XP, you clearly weren't paying attention to last year's resolutions.
10. Start Streaming Media. You've got your big screen TV and you've got your computer. Wouldn't it be awesome to put the two together? There's no magic bullet solution yet. But there are a solutions that bridge the gap. Try an HTPC (a small form factor computer with an HDMI connection to your TV), a streaming box like a Roku or WD Live, or if you've got a Laptop with an HDMI port, you can go that route.
11. Use Social Media to Your Advantage. Yes be involved. Everything in small doses. Don't be this guy.
12. Save Money Shopping Online. With stores like Amazon, Newegg, Buy.com, Staples, and too may others to name, you really are throwing away free money if you're not using Ebates. Sign up for an account and just link to stuff through their website that you were going to buy anyway. FREE. MONEY. Isn't that enough?
13. Invest in a Solid State Drive. They're faster. They're better. And they're faster. They're finally affordable and it's the single biggest upgrade you can give your computer.
So there you have it, 13 tech resolutions for 2013. Do all of them, some of them, or none of them. Technology is an ever evolving thing and as soon as you cross one of these off your list, another will surely appear. Happy 2013!
I'm not a Geek. I'm your Friend. And I'm here to help.
Today, October 26th, 2012, Microsoft officially launched the latest version of it's Windows operating system. They had a fancy midnight launch and everything - although around Los Angeles, the Best Buys and such looked nothing like an Apple Store on the eve of some i-doodad about to be released. Guess good old MS needs some better PR.
For those of you with Windows 7 or earlier, you're looking at yet another radical redesign of the user interface, and most of you are likely thinking to yourself, why? Well, think of Microsoft as a shark. Did you know sharks never stop moving forward, and if they do stop, they'll die? Microsoft has a winner on it's hands with Windows 7. They could've just freshened it up, thrown in a couple new features, added support for newer hardware, and called it a day. But the truth is, with the shift in computing focusing more and more on mobile devices, just like a shark that stops swimming, Microsoft would find itself floating belly up.
So what are they REALLY throwing at users? It's really not all that different under the surface, and this great article from the fine folks at Tech Radar, "Windows 8 vs Windows 7: 8 ways it's different" tells you most everything you need to know, but I'll give you some of the high points here as well.
It's got more support for touch. Yipee, so does Windows 7 and I never use it there either. Touch is for tablet and phones - and you guessed it - the OS looks more like Windows mobile OS. You can, if you're so inclined turn the new touch features off and make it look more like your standard Windows OSes. The start menu's gone as well, but there's a third-party app called Start8 that'll get it back for you should you be unable to survive without it. It'll set you back $5 though. These are the two biggest complaints about Windows 8, that if users wanted a Tablet OS, they'd buy a tablet.
Which gets to the next point. Microsoft is now in the hardware game selling none other than its new Surface tablet. Running a modified Windows 8 made for mobile devices and support for software more like standard Windows software (just nothing legacy, so no, Office 2010 won't run on it). It's presales were all snapped up, but my guess is there'll be plenty of them available in the VERY near future. Looks like a decent enough device that no one will give up their iPad for. Oh yeah, it's got a slide out keyboard too. Nice I suppose.
So what else ya got, right? They've got an app store now too. Original idea, I know. More tight integration with their Skydrive cloud solution. You can sync your Windows 8 settings with it now, which is kinda cool, but it's not like it'll install all your software on every computer you use. The home screen has more integration with search and social networks but it still feels too clunky to really take hold. And now to get to the old control panel, you've got to use these charms things on the right of the screen.
It all just feels like change for changes sake so far. None of these changes are real enhancements. It's not feeling better, just different. It's the enhanced hardware support going forward that'll make someone want to upgrade, but the OS itself is nothing to get too worked up about. Microsoft did this, well, because they had to do something. Even though they run 90% of the worlds computers, the mobile game is turning them into an also-ran in the world of high tech. So they've got to roll the dice on this stuff, or risk just being a company that gets squeezed out of relevancy. They didn't do a bad job of it, they just didn't do an outstanding job of it. They felt like what they were great at, business OSes and Office Suites, weren't enough. Sadly, Windows 8 doesn't feel like enough to make them a player in the mobile space either.
The bottom line is that Windows 8 is ok. Just a small, unenthusiastic ok. It's not another Vista moment for Microsoft. This won't send them down a long spiral to obscurity (although one could argue they're already in it). Windows 7 users have no reason to hurry up and upgrade, and new PC purchasers likely won't have a need to downgrade. But for Microsoft, the big splash they were hoping to make is hardly a ripple. If there is a direction they're going with this, the consumer will likely have to wait until Windows 9 to get it.
If you're apt to stick with Windows 7, I know just the guy to make that happen.
I'm not a geek. I'm your friend. And I'm here to help.
Request Timed Out? - A guide to Internet Services in Los Angeles
We get these calls all the time. My Internet is slow, what can I do? Well, the honest answer is, it's not that simple. Services vary all over this great City of Angels, and honestly, your neighbors down the street with the exact same service may be blazing down the information superhighway (do we still use that term?) while you're stuck behind a fleet of nearsighted octogenarians trying to see who can drive slowest. So while I can't tell you which service is the hand-down best, I can give you your options, and hopefully send you off in the right direction. Most likely your choices are limited to the following: DSL, Cable, Fiber Optics, or Wireless and Satellite.
DSL is the most common service widely available in Los Angeles. Provided by both AT&T and Verizon, the service uses your existing copper phone lines and provides broadband speeds of typically up to 6mbps (megabits per second) max. Pretty decent speeds for general purpose Internet usage. Your basic Internet usage - web browsing, video chat, email and some light downloading should be fine with this type of connection. Now the speeds are not guaranteed and the further you are from the telephone company's nearest hub, the slower your service is going to be. It's still the least expensive, most widely deployed Broadband option around LA, but your speeds will vary and the copper wire carrying your service can easily be physically damaged. Getting AT&T or Verizon to own up to the problem being on their end is an exercise in patience, persistence, and often futility.
Which leads me to . . . Cable. Cable has a much greater bandwidth capacity. The signal does not degrade on distance, and once the service is up, it generally stays up. If you're looking to stream a lot of High Definition Video on NetFlix, this'll be the minimum you'll need. The two major players in town are Time Warner and Charter, neither of which is going to wow you with their customer service, but if you've been on DSL for a while, your new-found dowload speeds will leave you just plain giddy. The service is pricier, but if you feel the need for speed, this'll give it to ya'! Now when things go bad with the service, they can go way bad. If you're in a dense area with a lot of subscribers, the speeds can go down as more users are online. An area like ours, West Hollywood, with lots of big apartment buildings, seems to handle it just fine, but it's still something you should be aware of. If the connection just isn't good, it's unlikely the cable company is going to bend over backwards to rewire your house - it just isn't cost effective for them and they'd rather focus on their other million customers than one complaining one. Sorry, you're outta luck.
Fiber optics are still in limited deployment, but they offer speeds comparable to cable and even better in certain cases. The price is pretty comparable as well. ATT U-Verse (the real U-Verse, not just their crappy DSL branded as U-Verse) can give you some fairly nice downloads in the 12 to 18mbps range and may be available in some areas where Cable isn't an option. It also isn't a true fiber optical solution and still requires copper wire to deliver its signal, and is subject to the same drawbacks as DSL. Still relatively limited deployments in Greater Los Angeles but not an option if you can get it. Verizon FiOS is pretty much the Gold Standard of Internet if you're one of the lucky Westsiders who can get the service. With services offerings currently in the 50mbps range for downloads and reported capability up to 300mbps, cable can't touch them. I'm just hoping we can get them in West Hollywood some day.
So what does that leave? Well if you can't get telephone or cable service where you are, then you don't have too many options left, and the ones you do have aren't that great. If your livelihood requires an Internet connection of any kind, then these guys may do the trick. First take a look at 3G/4G services from the cellular companies like ATT, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. They're a little pricey and they put download limits on their services with fees for every byte you go over. There's also ClearWire service that provides Sprint with their 4G network and has unlimited service. We've got pretty good coverage around the area, so these are likely your best options if you can't get connected any other way, need connectivity on the go, or just want a reliable backup connection. DirecTV, Dish, and Wildblue offer Satellite Internet service. The speed is slow, laggy, and expensive, but hey, they know you've got no other options and you'll take what you can get. Great business plan, right? Mostly these aren't a real necessity around LA LA land, but if you need connectivity even if the cell towers get knocked out, Satellite's the only thing that will still be up when the big one hits. Of course you'll probably have concerns besides Internet service in that case.
So in a nutshell, these are your options. The reality is Cable-based service is really going to give most consumers the best bang for their dollar in the LA area, but if you're lucky enough to get Verizon Fios, that there's your huckleberry. No matter what broadband service you've got, fear not, you'll still be able to watch dopey Internet videos just like this classic here:
Ah, the vaunted data recovery. Your hard drive is cruising along like a well-tuned machine on all cylinders, and then one day, poof, it won't show up. You think to yourself, it's probably no big deal, I mean "it was working just fine a few minutes ago." Well, yes everything works just fine. Until it doesn't. And your hard drive? Well, it doesn't.
We see a lot of dead hard drives in the computer repair business. Being in Los Angeles (or West Hollywood in particular), we see a highly disproportionate amount of large, external hard drives from Mac users with large stores of video data. They typically purchase these drives from LaCie and G-Raid on display at the Apple Store. All their important data winds up on these somewhat suspect drives. And at a higher than average rate, the drives go belly up. One of the biggest offenders is the LaCie "Big Drive."
So what is the "Big Drive." Well it's big because they stick two large hard drives in it and configure it for RAID 0 to have it appear as a single large drive when you connect it to your computer. The two drives also make it about twice as big as a typical external drive. Yeah I know, LaCie really went out on a limb with the name. And that's great if all you care about is having a relatively large amount of storage space while not caring as much about reliability. 'Cuz here's the rub - if one of those drives fails, the whole thing fails. Now if you're one of the lucky ones who bought this thing and only had the enclosure fail, despite its configuration, the data is recoverable. And I'll show you how.
First things first. You'll need to get the drives out of the failed enclosure. It's pretty straightforward so I'm not going into detail on that here. Once they're out, it's a good idea to clone the drives to another drive to work the recovery. There are a million different reasons to do this and it's generally considered best practice, but if it's not an option for you, be extra cautious when you get to the latter steps. We use a handy (and expen$ive) device called a PSIClone from CPR Tools that helps us get that done quickly like so:
Once you've got the drives cloned, time to hook them up to your computer. For these we use a pair of eSATA docks hooked up to a Mac Pro, but plain old USB will do the trick, albeit much slower. Now the software we found to successfully rebuild a RAID on a Mac is R-Studio from RTT Tools. There's a free limited trial available before you commit to buy it (it's around $90, but well worth it)After you've got the drives connected to your Mac, Disk Utility will ask you to initialize the drives. DON'T. That'll likely get your data lost for good. Launch R-Studio and you should start with a screen like this:
From here you click the "Create Virtual Raid" and select "Virtual Block RAID" as the type. Drag your drives to the Virtual RAID, select the correct block size (in this case it was 64K), and you should see the Big Drive partition in the left pane like so:
Double-Click on that partition, in this case it's the one labeled "LaCie Disk" and your files should all be there. Now wasn't that a snap?
Well not really, but you get the idea. Like that tool Kevin Garnett once hysterically screamed "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" And if this doesn't sound like something you'd like to tackle, I've got a recommendation for the best data recovery in Los Angeles, if you catch my drift.
So Dear Reader, if you were one of the unfortunate souls who unwittingly bought one of these ill-conceived disks, all is not lost. Recovery is even highly likely. But if you're in the market for a new drive, stay away from these and always remember, the only safe data is data you've got multiple copies of.
I'm not a Geek. I'm your friend. And I'm here to help.
Go Green by Going Gray - the best way to save on Printer Ink
We all want to save the environment right? It's a good thing I've been told, and I'm inclined to agree. So with Earth Day recently reminding me how Al Gore made this entire blog possible, I thought I'd return the favor and share a little trick I like to use to save some on ink.
Now working in the computer repair industry in Los Angeles, we get a lot of calls for printer repair. The unfortunate reality these days is it's generally much more cost effective to simple replace a printer than try to repair it. Sometimes it's cheaper to replace the thing than to buy new ink for it! Generally the printer companies (HP, cough cough) sell the things at a loss with lower capacity ink cartridges to make the high-margin profits selling you lots and lots of ink down the road. But fear not dear reader, I'm about to show you a little used, but totally easy trick to save a few bucks on ink.
The way most modern inkjet and even laser printers work is they've got multiple cartridges for the various colors they use. The black ones usually are lower priced, higher capacity, and don't go as quickly as the color ones. So we'll focus on that. Oftentimes, even the simplest documents end up having just a tiny bit of color in them, forcing your printer to use all of it's color cartridges. Not only does this make printing slower, but it eats into those color cartridges that much quicker. By defaulting to black and white or grayscale as most printers call it, you'll only use that black ink. So how do you do it? Well this varies by operating system, but it works on Mac or Windows, and it's so simple you probably should've thought of it yourself.
All you've got to do is add another copy of your printer. I'll show you how it goes in Windows 7.
First open the printers dialog and add a printer. Now you're just going to re-add your existing printer, like so:
Save the printer and name it something that'll remind you this is the printer you'll be using exclusively in black and white. Something like this:
After that's all set up, go into the printer properties and set it to print grayscale by default:
Now you can set the Grayscale copy of your printer to be the default or you can select it each time you'd like to print in black and white. In either case, this way makes it far easier to save on ink and more convenient to avoid printing in color when you really don't want it. It's what we in the biz like to call a win-win-win.
So go forth and print in black and white (if you must). It's good for you. Good for your wallet. Good for the environment. It's good for America!
I'm not a Geek. I'm you're friend. And I'm here to help.
World Backup Day Has Arrived!!! - Can you feel the Excitement?
Nothing, and I mean nothing, gives my Los Angeles computer users a panic attack like the thought of backing up their data. Seriously, it's like Tony Soprano watching a flock of ducks fly out of his pool. It's one of those things that's so fundamental to having a computer, and so many simple ways of making it happen, it makes people's heads spin. If I had a nickel for every repeat offender who walks into the shop with a failed hard drive and says, "Yeah, I had my hard drive fail once before and spent over a grand on a recovery," well, I'd have a bunch of nickels. I mean after shelling out a ton of dough on a major data recovery, why on earth would you bother backing up? That's just ludicrous.
But anyway the good folks over at World Backup Day are trying to spread the word that backing up is simple, affordable, and you have no excuse not to do it. So there's a movement afoot here people, on March 31st you need to get moving on that long standing initiative, join in on all the excitement, and back that thing up! Don't do it and you may just wind up an April Fool! Have I convinced you yet? No? Awwwwww, Sad Face :(.
Look there's nothing sexy about backup. It's about as exciting as watching paint dry. But you know when it gets sexy? Yes, you guessed it, when your computer craps out on you and you get to smugly tell the computer repair guy, "Oh yeah, I've got everything backed up," which roughly translates to: "hell no you're not going to squeeze me for an expensive data recovery." That's pretty hot right? Yeah, I thought so too.
Look regardless of operating system, Mac, Windows, Linux, or whatever - there's an easy, and typically free backup solution available to you. If nothing else - I'm a fan of two things: Free and Easy. I'm not going to rehash the numerous ways you can get a backup done, but if you're interested you can check out this post I did about backup some time ago. It's a great read if I say so myself.
The bottom line is that I don't like sad people. Sad people quickly become angry people. Angry people get all bent out of shape when they're told their data is gone unless they pay a whole lotta money to get it back. And I, for one, don't like those kinds of uncomfortable moments. So in exchange for these invaluable tidbits I share with you guys, please, just back it up.
Trust me on this one.
I'm not a Geek. I'm your friend. And I'm here to help.