Tech Tip

Oldies but goodies updated

As Brainstorm comes to an end, I decided to write an update to the oldest article I could find.  Technology changes every day and what was important years ago may not be relevant or needed today.

In an article produced in June 2004, it was titled, “What type of internet should I get?” It is still true that you need to know the audience for which you want to filter.  For fewer than 10 computers, I would recommend using Microsoft’s Family Safety software.  You can pay for a license if you like, but if you are using a Windows computer this software is free.

In the future, if you have a question on how to fix, configure, or use something,  you can always do one of two things: Use  a search engine to find out more about the subject or simply contact me at

Topic: What type of internet filter should I get?

When choosing an internet filter, think about the following items:

  • Who are your users? Users doing research or just browsing the net?
  • Are you managing 10 or fewer computers or a large lab?
  • Hardware you are using, older machines may run slower.
  • Hardware or software device? Software can slow your computer down.
  • Do you plan to expand your lab in the future?

Internet filters are great to keep users from accessing sites you don’t want them to access from your computers.  Most internet filters would work great when you’re using them at home because you’re managing just the one computer.  In a public computer lab, you normally have several computers that you have to maintain.  If you are managing fewer than 10 computers then you can use any of the software filtering companies out there such as Cybersitter or NetNanny or ContentProtect.  The cost for these types of software filters cost from $29 – $39 dollars and they normally have nonprofit and academic discounts.

If, however, you’re looking to manage more than 10 computers or you’re trying to save time when it comes to updates you may look at some hardware or proxy type of options.  Proxy solutions would require a server with proxy software installed on it.  The problem with the proxy solution is you might disable other types of access to the internet; also your initial configuration could take time.  With a hardware filter solution it would filter each piece of traffic from the internet


When do you need a Static IP?

This question has been asked several time in the last 30 days. so I decided to write about it.  Most devices connected to the internet will never need a static IP address.  Think of an IP address like your telephone number, any time someone dials your number your phone would ring.  This is good for someone who is trying to find you but bad for a person who is trying to hack you.  Most devices that connect to the internet receive a private dynamic IP address under what we call IPv4, this is slowly changing to IPv6 because we have run out of available public IP4 addresses.

Common IP address types – IPv4 and IPv6

IPv4 is mostly used for small private networks, this is being phased out and replaced with IPv6.  Compared to IPv4, the most obvious advantage of IPv6 is its larger address space. IPv4 addresses are 32 bits long and number about 4.3 billion devices. IPv6 addresses are 128 bits long and number about 340 decillion devices.  In short, you can have more devices communicate on an IPv6 network

Common IP address usages – Static or Dynamic

Static address is commonly used when devices are located in several locations and they need to communicate with each other or a device that you want everyone to be able to access.  An example: if you run your own mail or file server, just like the phone number analogy, you would want people to find you.  Dynamic devices can be harder to locate on a network because they may have a different IP address each time the device is connected.

Internet filters

When choosing an internet filter, think about:

  • Who your users are: Are they doing research or just browsing the net?
  • Are you managing 10 or fewer computers or a large lab?
  • Hardware you are using: Older machines may run slower.
  • Hardware or software filtering: Software can slow your computer down.
  • Do you plan to expand your lab in the future?

Internet filters are great to keep users from accessing sites you don’t want them to access from your computers.  There are many filtering methods out there. I would recommend starting with Microsoft Family Safety. This software is free with Windows 7 thru 10,  but you have to download it.

If,  however,  you’re looking to manage more than 10 computers or you’re trying to save time when it comes to updates, you may want to look at  hardware options.  One hardware option would be a proxy solution, which would require a server or an appliance.  Going with this solution,  you need to remember that software you install on the computer will not automatically see through the proxy.

If I upgrade my device it would be faster?

This is the most considered question when upgrading:  If I upgrade my device, will it be faster?  My professional answer is maybe.  There are many factors to consider when you do upgrade any software/firmware.

If you are upgrading to fix a bug in the system, then there is a chance that doing so will improve your use but if you are upgrading to a new version of an operating system or firmware, your system may become slower.

Most software/firmware will improve on new devices (normally manufactured within the last year) but anything older than that most likely will slow the device down.

Unless there is an annoying bug in the current version of the device or you are instructed to upgrade due to some security reason, I would wait.


  • Make sure the device you are using has been manufactured in the past year.
  • Back up your files.  Some devices require you to restore back to the original state of the system,  from the time when you bought it.
  • Note everything for the first week: speed, bugs, etc.
  • If you have the resources, get the system with the upgrade already in place.

New tech? Do this with your old stuff

‘Tis the season to be festive and prepare for a new year.  During this time of the year,  you may receive new technology equipment:  a computer, a phone, a tablet, or something else electronic.  You may decide at that point to get rid of your old device. Do it properly!

Old technology equipment should be recycled and not placed in a landfill.  Older technology can be used by someone who has never used it before.  Organizations, such as InterConnection, can be a great place to take your old technology where it can be properly recycled or reused.

Get the most from your limited data connection

When you’re on a limited data internet connection, make sure every megabyte  really counts.  Some providers will charge you for going over,  while others will slow your internet down to an unusable rate.

Disable Plugins

Many websites include embedded Flash content, often for videos or advertisements. This Flash content can be fairly large in size. To prevent Flash content from loading, you can turn on the click-to-play plugin feature in your browser. When you access a page containing content that needs plugins – usually Flash or something else – you will see a placeholder. Click the placeholder and the content will download and play.

Disable Images

The image size on most websites today are a lot better than websites in the past but they still do take up a lot of bandwidth.   You should disable image usage from automatically loading.  Understand that some sites you may visit are image heavy, so this will cause the site your browsing to look strange.

Limiting browser updates

While it is recommended to always keep your browser up to date, you don’t want the browser to start updating when you need the data most for something else.  You should disable browser updates, but ensure that you perform the updates manually on a regular basis.

Limit general updates

To ensure that the computer does not download a new update when it’s not convenient to you, set Windows Update to prompt you to download updates and not download them automatically. (Open the Windows Update control panel and click Change Settings.)

Disable or Manual sync, Sky Drive, Google Drive, Drop Box, etc.

You should also look into your other data applications such as Sky Drive, Google Drive, Drop Box, etc.  Disable automatic syncing, but you will need to run syncing when you need that system.

Final thoughts

You can disable many other functions such as your antivirus, but some functions you want to keep active in spite of the data consumption needs.  You can leave the functions you disabled until you have a faster or more data available.  You should at least once every 30 days go to a public site such as the library to allow your system to get all the updates that you missed because everything was disabled.

Text message to the world?

Video applications are great tools to stay in touch with friends and family around the world.  Did you know that with a smart phone you can stay in touch?  You can send text messages to friends and family as if they are right next to you through smart phone messaging applications. Most of the major computer applications have a smartphone version allowing you to chat with friends and family.  These services are normally free to send or receive messages as long as you have Internet access.  If you do not like texting, most of the popular applications support text, phone and video calling.  It’s recommended you use a WIFI connection if you’re going to use the phone or video service.

Popular ones are

BYOD Policy

In today’s technology world there are many reasons why you could allow users to use their own devices for work.  As a technical person, it makes no business sense to have tools that I purchase for myself and my organization that must be used on a separate device.  If you allow users to use their own devices, be  aware of where data is stored. What if that device is lost or stolen? How would this affect you? Do you have a policy applicable to a person using that device?

Areas you should consider when writing up a BYOD policy are:

  • Anti-Virus software: What is your policy for this?
  • Password security: Is there a password to access the device?
  • Backing up data: If anything is stored locally to the device, how is it backed up?
  • Firewalls: Can the device be accessed remotely?
  • Access to your system: Is there a policy for physical device security?
  • Expectation of privacy: Should the user give you permission to access the device?
  • Work related expenses on a BYOD device
  • Special Software: Who owns it? How does it get installed? Who supports it?

Can your computer breathe?

Yes, your technology equipment needs to be able to get fresh air like us humans needing to breathe.  When technology gets too hot, things can just shut off.  It can be a bad thing.  For example, if you’re writing a letter on your computer and the computer shuts down, the letter can become corrupted.  If your device is performing updates and turn offs, this can cause the device to become unusable.

You should not use your laptop in bed. Most laptops have their fans on the bottom or on one of its sides.  Comforters and large blankets can block the fans, making it hard for the laptop to stay cool.

Desktop computers should have an internal cleaning.  Dust can accumulate inside of the computer, causing the ventilation system to not run well.  I recommend opening a computer every year or two, and vacuum the insides out.  Be careful not to unplug or move anything but also note that the inside of a computer should not fall apart if you use a vacuum cleaner hose to clean it.

Most mobile devices do not have a good ventilation system.  You should not run into a problem when charging them, but because they have a tendency to get warm you should not overuse them while they are charging.  Just like a regular computer they have a CPU and power source that gets hot.  Since they don’t have a good ventilation system, they could get hot, causing damage the mobile device.

In-house vs Cloud Server

Deciding if you want an in-house or cloud server can be complicated when deciding which is best for you or your organization.

Cloud servers normally have an advantage when it comes to startup cost or ease of deploying certain technologies on a large scale.  Most cloud providers don’t charge you extra for upgrading the hardware to current models, but if you weigh your cost over the course of a few years,  things can add up.  In most cases, you are responsible for the software and sometimes also the operation.

If you have large amounts of data, don’t need to access files remotely, or have custom applications, it is best to host them locally thru your own in-house server.  There will be a higher startup cost because you have to purchase everything, but you can use the hardware for much longer than recommended, which allows you to save money.  One way to reduce the startup cost is to finance the hardware purchase.

You should identify how your organization will handle:

  • Email or Exchange (email, calendaring, collaboration)
  • File share (storing your data)
  • Printer service (users can print directly if it’s a small organization)
  • Custom Applications (special programs)
  • Internet (with cloud you still need Internet at your organization’s office)
  • Who will manage all of the above?
    • Hardware along with replacements
    • Software along with upgrades and configurations needs

Once you know how your organization will handle the above, you can then evaluate which type of server you like, Cloud or In-House.  The good thing about both technologies is that they are interchangeable. You can even elect to have a hybrid of both worlds.