Stan's Chrome-Plated Tech Tips
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Kobe hard at work!
When we're not busy doing computer repair, data recovery, or doing on-site IT for businesses and individuals, well, we're probably playing with the dogs. We've even managed to teach them a couple tricks in the process.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Computers v. Tablets aka Creation v. Consumption
Sunday, January 6, 2013
2013 - New year, New Tech Resolutions!
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.
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.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Data Recovery - The LaCie Big Drive - Big. Fail.
Friday, March 30, 2012
World Backup Day Has Arrived!!! - Can you feel the Excitement?
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Keep your Computer like Fonzie - Cooooool
Monday, February 27, 2012
Server? You don't need no stinkin' server!
I'm not a Geek. I'm your friend. And I'm here to help.
Monday, January 30, 2012
The Nastiest of Viruses - the SST Rootkit
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Google Apps - What it can do for you
Now obviously free Internet email has it's limitations. It's tough to keep in sync across multiple computers, and you can pretty much forget about keeping all your contacts and calendars up-to-date.
Enter Google Apps (http://www.google.com/apps)
This is basically Google's answer to Microsoft's Exchange server for enterprise E-Mail and collaboration. Now the good news for you smaller organizations is that it's free for up to 10 users, but lacks a couple of the most advanced features. Fortunately those features are probably ones you won't be using. The bad news is that if you need more than 10 users, it clocks in at $50 per user, per year. 10 users free, 11 $550 year. Just keep that in mind. The other drawback, it's Google, so they'll be targeting you with their keyword based advertising. Is it a violation of privacy? Probably. Are they fairly secure with your private data? I hope so. Should you feel confident hosting your company's confidential email on another entity's servers? That's really for you to decide, but over 4 million companies, big and small, seem to think it's alright, and if their legal and regulatory groups think it's OK, then who am I to argue?
Now my motivation for moving the Stan's Tech Garage email to Google Apps was not really motivated by the cost (we're still small enough to use the free account), or the Calendar and Contacts sync, or even the seamless integration with my Android phone and tablet (I gotta say that it is awesome though). No, honestly, it was the reliability that sold me. My cheap host's email was going down far more often than I could accept for my business. I registered for an Apps account long before I actually migrated over to it. The last time my hosting company went down, I couldn't take it any more and migrated my account over to them. Google Apps boasts 99.9% uptime. Couldn't really ask for anything more. The only thing I really regretted was not doing it sooner.
Google Apps is an invaluable free (for the time being) tool to the small business. Especially if you're an Android phone user (but it works great with iPhone too), and it runs great on Macs or PCs with whatever standard email program you prefer or right through the familiar Gmail interface. If you don't like ads, I suggest loading up your Firefox or Chrome with the latest version of AdBlock Plus and you'll never even see them. If you use IE, well, you've got bigger problems. Honestly, you can have an enterprise-class email system with Google Apps for just the cost of registering a domain name. Can't really beat that.
I am not a Geek. I'm your friend. And I'm here to help.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Sly as a Fox - Dump IE for Firefox
I'm not gonna mince words - I prefer Firefox. I avoid Internet Explorer. Opera doesn't do it for me. Chrome is decent and I can't fault folks who like it, but me, I'm a Firefox man.
Why you may ask? Well part of it is just a familiarity. Firefox has been around for a while now and when it became apparent that it is vastly better than the slow, bloated, and lacking in custom plug-ins Internet Explorer, I jumped ship and never looked back. IE also had some bad memory leaks early on that would slow your system to a crawl if you left it running for too long, and once Firefox came in and rectified those, I was sold. Did I mention the viruses? Oh yeah, Internet Explorer is far more susceptible to those too. But my favorite thing about Firefox is the add-ons, and I'm going to tell you about some of my faves.
By far and away the most useful of all the Firefox add-ons is Adblock plus, http://adblockplus.org/. This little beauty block all ad content in your browser, including flash videos like youtube and the like. Hate all those annoying banners and videos? Of course you do. Get yourself Adblock plus, and they become a thing of the past.
I also really like download statusbar for a slicker download notification down in your status bar. Fireftp is a great FTP client, for free, built right into Firefox. ChatZilla is also a great irc chat client for the Fox. PDF Download is a great way to manage the way to view PDF files in the browser. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are literally 100's of these, and the best part, totally free. Some of the developers do accept donations, so if you find any of these particularly helpful, I'm sure they'd appreciate your support.
So faster, more customizable, and less virus prone than IE. Sounds like a pretty fair reason to kick IE to the curb, don't you think? We like it so much we load it on every computer we service here in Los Angeles and we recommend it to you Mac users as well.
Now I'm sure I'm missing some great add-ons, so if you've got some suggestions, let me know and I'll update this article. But for now, everybody rock the fox!
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Wireless Network Not Found? - Tips for Solving WiFi Problems
WiFi dead zones are as common as Guinness in Belfast, and just like beer selections there, you've got options with WiFi too. Mmmmmmmm, Beer. What was I talking about? Oh right, fixing your wireless network. Well, the first and most effective option is going wired. Running network cable to the remote areas lacking WiFi coverage, connecting up a wireless access point, and configuring it to extend your existing wireless network. That's the practically guaranteed fix for your wireless woes, but since it's not always feasible run cable, we'll move on to option two.
Option two is using a powerline or coaxial bridge. These devices use your homes existing cabling to simulate a wired network connection when running cable is not feasible or desirable. You connect one of these bridges close to your router and one where you'd like to extend your wireless, plug network cables into both ends, and if it's all working, you should be good to go. Generally, you'll plug a wireless access point into the bridged end and extend your WiFi just as if you had wired it up directly. Now these devices aren't full proof. Homes with older wiring tend to have issues with powerline brindges and various cable providers split their signals at higher frequencies than coaxial bridges can handle. These are definitely worth a try, but if you're going to give these a go, I suggest getting them somewhere with a decent returns policy, if you catch my drift.
The last option I'm going to discuss is the wireless bridge extender. No doubt you've seen some sort of device online or at some store shaped like a big box claiming to extend your wireless network. Generally they're all garbage, but there is one thing you can do that's effective a majority of the time. There's a great open-source project for wireless router/access points called DD-WRT (www.dd-wrt.com) that'll let you turn just about any router (even the super cheap ones) into a Wireless Bridge/Repeater. Get these within range of the original wireless access point and watch your coverage improve, and it'll let you connect wired devices to boot. It's the same type of configuration Apple provides with its Airport Extreme and Airport Express base stations as wireless bridge/repeaters but at a fraction of the price. But the Apple Airport setup is good too (in case any Apple fanboys/girls are reading and are easily offended).
Another little side note about DD-WRT - it'll let you increase your wireless signal way above the manufacturer-imposed limitations. Whether this is a good thing or not I'll leave up to you and I definitely don't advise bumping it up more than a few db's for fear of frying your router. They're set low for a reason beyond the wimpy FCC and their efforts to ruin your life. I generally don't mess with those settings, so if you decide to, do it at your own risk. If your router starts making weird noises, getting super hot, or plain out smoking, I'd set them back to factory defaults.
So there you have it. Chances are any of these configurations can work for getting you the WiFi coverage you desire. Before too long you'll be enjoying a cold beer and the Internet in even the most remote corners of your home. Don't forget one for the guy who taught you how to do it.
This is your man Stan - always rockin' the Wifi for the free world - Out!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Tech Tip - Running Windows Installer in Safe Mode
Ahhhhhhhhh, Microsoft. How you sometimes frustrate me for no apparent reason. Why you don't want the people uninstalling applications from the safe mode of your precious Windows operating systems is beyond me. After all, your good friends in Cupertino don't seem to think the same restrictions are necessary for Macs. But I digress.
I'm not here to harp on the issue, but to give you, dear reader, a very viable workaround. Chances are if your Windows Laptop or Desktop PC is in need of some repair, uninstalling some of the software is necessary. And if you can't effectively work in Windows standard mode, Safe mode becomes your only route. Now there's a very circuitous method of enabling Windows Installer service you can take by editing the registry, but I'm not going to bore you with those details. Our good friends at Windows IT Pro have made a very useful, tiny app called SafeMSI. Download it HERE. I've been successful with this on everything up to Windows 7, so if you need to run anything requiring the Windows Installer service in Safe Mode, this should be your ticket.
So if you're having this issue in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, or wherever you may be, this is your fix. No need for thanks, just send small, unmarked bills. ;-)
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Meet Kobe - the Newest Member of our Team!
Stan’s Tech Garage started out as a single dog Computer Repair Business serving the people of Los Angeles. So what's better than a single dog - you guessed it - 2 dogs! And while Reese will always remain my first love, Mrs. Stan's Tech Garage wanted a snuggly, little, well-behaved buddy for Reese. Well he's snuggly and little, so I suppose 2 out of 3 ain't bad!
We found Kobe through the Jack Russell Rescue who'd picked him up on the mean streets of Pasadena, and he's become a big part of the family ever since. His computer skills are limited to sniffing out crumbs buried inside them, but we decided to keep him just the same. And while he and Reese have had their little dog issues here and there, I think she's really grown fond of him too.
So just like Reese, here's the 411 on Kobe:
Breed: 100% Parson Russell Terrier - The King of the Jacks!
Hair: White with Black and Brown
Weight: A Hearty 25 Pounds
Favorite Treat: Any that fall from the table
Favorite Toy: He's a terrier, he makes for his own excitement
Favorite Place: In bed with Mommy and Daddy
Favorite Movie: Any so long as he doesn't get kicked out of bed
Favorite Actor: Moose (played Eddie on Frazier)
Likes: Food, Playtime, People, Walks, Hikes, Belly Rubs, People
Dislikes: Baths, Being Scolded, Leashes, Bigger Dogs
So that's Kobe. He insists on alerting us whenever someone enters the shop. He may bark or growl, but that's just the terrier in him, he means it as a sign of affection. For real!
So next time you’re shopping for some computer services in Los Angeles (or you’re just at the Whole Foods in West Hollywood), Kobe wants you to come on in an say hi (hopefully with a treat). He may just barely get over the counter, but worry not, he'll make sure you realize he's there.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Can you hear me now? The Smartphone Wars Heat Up!
There's a war going on, and whether you know it or not, you're caught in the middle of it. It's the battle for YOUR ever-important, recurring cell phone bill. And while you may not have any interest in being a pawn in this battle, unless you're still rocking your extra-sweet old school flip phone (ah, simpler times), you're in it. Fear not for this healthy competition between Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia (yes Nokia, that's what the report says, but I guess they're big overseas) will only amount to better products and more advanced features for you to be totally befuddled by.
Why all this hype all of a sudden? Well, Technology Research firm Canalys (I know, I thought they were a movie studio too), came out with this recent report on just which Smart Phones are leading the marketplace in sales for the third quarter. What did theycome up with? Not anything really definitive, but I'll outline some of the high points. There were 9.1 million Android phones sold, 5.5 million iPhones, 5.1 Blackberries, 600,000 Windows Mobile Phones (they did just launch), and 600,000 "others." Now I don't know what other consists of, probably Palm or Nokia, but they really amount to garbage that some cell company will give you for free for signing up. Truth is you don't care about other. If you're the typical U.S. Smart Phone consumer you'll be rocking an iPhone, Android Phone, or Blackberry.
So how do you know which is right for you? Most of it is preference and budget. As a Los Angeles area, technically savvy-type (I have a computer repair business after all), AT&T is just not an option. Sorry AT&T, but around West Hollywood, I can't complete a phone call, much less look up something quickly online. In the canyons, I'm lucky to get a text to go through. I appreciated the iPhone for it's simplicity, apps, and styling, but not being able to make a phone call sealed the deal for me. Bye bye AT&T. AT&T=Biggest. Fail. Ever. I gave it a run using the iPhone on T-Mobile's network, but being locked to the slow EDGE (still faster than AT&T's 3G around Los Angeles) network made having a Smart Phone, well it didn't feel so smart.
Then along came Android. Faster phones. Not being tied to AT&T. 4G Data speeds. Bigger Screens. Cameras with flash and video. Speaking of flash, Android supports it. I was sold. And I have to say, I'm staying. Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 4 is like a work of art, and has the great features, but I had all those features a year before it came out. Then there's still the AT&T problem. Apple has recognized that Android isn't going away anytime soon which is a big reason iPhone will be showing (as yet unconfirmed) up on Verizon in early 2011. Congrats Verizon! Enjoy your once proud network now become slowly eroded. Still, it should be a big improvement over AT&T, at least in the big cities, but as far as traveling Internationally with it, that's a big question mark too.
Still not sure? I'll make it simple for you. For corporate email users, or if you just want a basic smartphone to text and email with and still be able to do a little browsing, blackberry makes a nice (cheap) option. If you're more tech savvy than not, like to be able to tinker and customize your gadgets, enjoy freedom of choice when it comes to cell carriers, Android's your ticket. If you live in an area AT&T gives you decent coverage, want access to the biggest app store currently available, have a big iTunes library, or just want a phone that works regardless of vendor limitations, the iPhone's for you. Also, if you're simply a poseur who needs a status symbol of a phone to make up the your shallow existence, then you're probably not reading this because you had your assistant get in line to make sure you were the first to have the new iPhone. Ass.
Windows Phone, Palm, or Nokia - really? You're still considering them? It's probably not going to happen for you. Just a case of too little (Palm), too late (Microsoft).
In reality you, the average consumer, could care less about how this all shakes out. Unless you're the fanboy/girl type who's so blindly dedicated to one brand that you're entire sense of being rests upon the brand that you've pledged your undying allegiance to being the ultimate victor. If that's the case, you've already lost. ROTFLMAO.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Tech Tip of the Day: Get your Mouse to Snap to It
So for you Windows users out there, there's a quick solution that'll make your mouse action a little smoother. It's a handy little feature Windows has had for a while in the mouse control panel called Snap To. It's available for all the most current versions of Windows including XP, Vista, and Windows 7. We like it so much we make sure to add it to all the computers we repair and service here in our West Hollywood shop.
What Snap To actually does is automatically move your mouse pointer over the default selection. For example, when you close a Word Document, wouldn't it be nice to have the mouse automatically snap-to the dialog box popping up asking you to save?
Yeah, I thought so too. So to activate the snap to feature, you go to the Windows Control Panel and go to the Mouse applet. From there you select the Pointer Options tab and simply check the Snap To option. Then you're all set. From here on out, that mouse pointer will automatically move itself to the default button on a dialog box.
Just like the screen says. What did you think I was lying?
So do yourself a favor before you end up wearing a fancified glove for your wrist problems. You heard me! Snap to it!
As always, coming strong from the 90046.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
You need a backup plan
So today I offer you, Dear Reader, the perfect economically viable solution. One that will cost you a fraction of what that data recovery is going to cost you a fraction of that pricey data recovery. It's something so beautiful in its simplicity, you'll be slapping yourself that you hadn't thought of it first. Backup. That's right, a sound backup strategy will ensure you'll never have to plunk down thousands to get back those wedding photos of you trying to breakdance to the Rob Base classic, "It Takes Two."
So here's what you need - both local and off-site backup. The local backup will get you back up and running quickly in the event of hard drive or other system failure. This strategy typically involves an external hard drive connected to your computer and you can use whatever software or manual method to copy your files to the external drive. Apple users (those with OS X 10.5 or later) have it easy with the built-in Time Machine software. PC users have a number of options, but the one that's easiest to use and I find most effective is Acronis True Image Home.
Acronis is a full system imaging solution that not only backs up your files, but takes a full snapshot of your computer on any schedule you set. It includes a utility to make a bootable CD or flash drive to start your computer up and restore from any backup you like. It even has options to restore your computer to different hardware. That comes in very handy when migrating from one computer to another. We use Acronis in our day-to-day computer service and repair and honestly recommend it without reservation.
So now that you've got the local backup covered, let's talk about off-site storage. You're probably wondering why you need both a local backup and off-site, but in the event of any kind of disaster, you'll be glad you were wise enough to invest in both. While there are any number of off-site backup strategies that can work for you, the easiest and most effective is taking advantage of an online backup service. While there are any number of services out there, none of them are offering 2GB of free online Storage like Mozy.
Now for the average person, 2GB isn't going to amount to all that much, but it'll get a large chunk of documents and photos. Those of you with extensive music libraries should consider their unlimited product. For just $4.95/month or $54.95/yr, Mozy gives you unlimited storage. You'll also be able to access your files while on the go via their online portal, and you'll have a real-time backup going on whenever you're online. This is particularly useful to you laptop users on the go.
So now you'll probably ask, "Does this mean I'm absolutely safe in the event of my hard-drive crashing, Stan?" Well, when it comes to computers, there are no absolutes, but you'll definitely be ahead of the game when it comes to recovering lost data. Maybe it's just like the Doctor's office, but customers tell me how they backup everything but just this one time they didn't and everything crashed. You don't want to be another statistic, so get your backup plan in place, test it, test it again, and 6 months from now, test it again.
There are plenty of other things you can be doing to ensure your data's availability, and I'll be sure to mention them in future blog posts. Now if you've been unfortunate enough to have your hard drive fail, fear not, all is not lost. Come visit our West Hollywood, CA computer repair and service business where we have hardware and software solutions that can recover all but the most severely damaged hard drives (or those pesky Seagate 7200.11 drives with the bad firmware). If you have one of those dead drives, we highly recommend contacting Drive Savers for a free evaluation.
But in the meantime - Back it up.
-Coming at you strong from the 90046, Stan
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
How much is that doggie in the window?
When I opened Stan’s Tech Garage, my first goal was to be able to offer outstanding computer service and repair to the local communities of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Greater Los Angeles, and beyond. But I had an ulterior motive: I really wanted to be able to bring my dog Reese, to work.
Why was this so important? Reese doesn’t know much about servicing Macs or PCs, virus removal, or data recovery, but she’s working on it! What she does bring with her is an instant morale boost in these early dog-days of the business. She also happens to be the best welcoming committee we could ask for. And all it costs us are treats and attention. Even in these trying times, that's a bargain at twice the price. Oh, and she loves other dogs, so if you’re coming by our shop, feel free to bring yours.
So here are the vitals on Reese, since people are always asking:
Breed: ½ Weimaraner (for sure) / ½ German Shorthaired Pointer (we think)
Age: 4 ½
Weight: A very fit 60 lbs
Favorite Treat: Whole Foods Tacos
Favorite Toy: Orbee-Tuff Ball on a Rope, Laser Pointer
Favorite Place: Hiking at Runyon Canyon or in bed with Mommy and Daddy
Favorite Movie: Marmaduke
Favorite Actor: George (he played Marmaduke)
Best Friend: Peanut (Mini Schnauzer)
Likes: Water, Food, Playtime, Other Dogs, Walks, Hikes, Belly Rubs, People (in that order)
Dislikes: Baths, Being Scolded, Extreme Heat, Anyone holding a bag that could potentially swing close to her, Not getting to say Hi to other dogs
That’s our Reesie in a nutshell. She insists on greeting everyone who comes in, so don’t be shy. She may let out a bark now and then, but that’s just her way of saying “Welcome!” Bring a treat and you may just find yourself with a new best friend.
So next time you’re shopping for some computer services (or you’re just at the Whole Foods in West Hollywood), Reesie wants you to come on over. Can you really say no to that face?