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

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.

Legit Sites

Knowing if a site is legit in order to keep your computer secure is a task that you need to be proactive with, regardless of whether you have anti-malware software installed.  Most malware software is only good after the first few people have gotten infected and reports it. Don’t let that be you.

Ensure that you are spelling the website correctly; going to could send you somewhere else when you’re looking for, (Google owns for those who do make this mistake.) When viewing websites from an email, it is best to go to their web page and find the link from there. This is time consuming, but when you are unsure about the email it is safer.  Most spam that carry malware will send you an email that looks like it’s from a trusted site or have a name that is close to the site you seek.

Windows XP End of Life

It was arguably one of Microsoft best operating systems to date.  But like all good things they must come to an end.  Any support from Microsoft with Windows XP comes to an end April 8th 2014.

It is important to note how the following would affect you:

  • Computer will work, Windows XP will continue to function
  • No new service packs, any new major bugs that are found will not be address
  • No windows updates, drivers and minor bugs will cease to be worked on
  • No 3rd party updates, your favorite programs updates may not support the OS

Some computer labs and users still use Windows XP as their favorite program.  With the current versions of windows there have been a lot of changes so I would recommend that you take the time before the expiring date to get familiar with one and upgrade to it.  While Windows 8 is the most current OS, I would current recommend Windows 7 professional in multi user environments.

Other windows OS life cycles

Desktop Operating System 11/4/2013 Current Service Pack End of extended support
Windows Vista Service Pack 2 April 11, 2017
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 January 14, 2020
Windows 8 N/A January 10, 2023


What to Look for in a Computer

Purchasing a new computer can sometimes be daunting.  The sales person at most local computer stores thinks of how to make the biggest commission, not about what would work best for you as a user.  It is better to know what you want before you go into a computer store.

Knowing if you want a laptop or desktop is important; most users today use laptops when they need to type a lot. A tablet or a desktop might be a cheaper option.  There are utilities available that allow you to transfer data on your devices, i.e., “drop box.”  Regardless of the type of system, pay attention to:

  1. RAM: how much?
  2. Hard drive: speed  (higher number than 7200 is better); size is normally not important today.
  3. USB access: most accessories today connect via USB or wireless.

Knowing what type of operating system you want is important. If you have old software, make sure it’s compatible. It may be better to not use the latest and greatest because of the number of bugs that are found. This happened when Microsoft brought out Windows ME and soon after came out with Windows XP.  The newer software was better, but Microsoft came out with Windows 8 only to have the world say Windows 7 is the most stable of the two.

  1. Windows 7 or 8:  (32 or 64 bit)
  2. Home or Professional version: Laptops and shared PC of more than 3 users should use professional.

With Microsoft and Google competing for you to use their free products, you may not need to purchase office applications.  When making the decision to buy software, think about this:

  • Is it more cost effective to just buy the application you need, i.e., Microsoft Word?
  • Most free online applications require Internet access.

Regardless of what you purchase, remember that the technology world is ever changing.  It will be better to spend less on your hardware or software knowing that in two or three years it may be obsolete.

TechTip: Password Management

If you’re like me, you have a password for this and a password for that. With most password security you’re forced to change your password once every 45 to 90 days, have eight characters or more with one being a symbol, one a number, and one being a capitalization. Today there are many password systems that you can use to store your passwords. Your main challenge, normally, is the ability wherever you are to access that password you desperately need.

Having a password format for yourself is helpful so that you can remember your password but others can’t.

Play with Words
If your favorite food is a banana, your password can be B@n@Na82013. This is a strong password and it’s hard for others to figure out but easy for you to remember. How?
You make sure the “B” and “N” in the word is always capitalized and your first two “a’s” are replaced with the “@” sign. Now the numbers is easy — just the current month and year. When it is time to change your password you only have to change the month and year to reflect the current month.
Doing this allows you to know you need to only change the month, if you forget.

To make this more complex you can use even months the word “B@n@Na” and odd months can you “@pPle” or something like that.

Another way you can have a strong password is by spelling the month out and the year at the end like @uguestBanana2013 and when you change it the next month or month after use $eptemberBanana2013. Now I know this is a long password but it helps keep your password strong, unique and most of all easy for you to remember.

Low Cost Internet

Getting low cost internet can be somewhat confusing at times.  Currently, if you qualify, you can receive discounted internet service from Comcast, CenturyLink, and Clearwire (Via Freedom POP or Mobile Citizen).  You may wonder what the difference is technically.

Comcast has the best speed both uploaded and down.  This service is normally available anywhere you have their TV or phone service.

CenturyLink would be the next best thing to get, since they are a DSL provider.  Even if you have phone service with CenturyLink, you may not be able to get service or fast speeds.

Clearwire: Working with both Freedom POP and Mobile Citizen, you’re able to get a broadband connection that works even if Comcast and CenturyLink cannot.  It is important to know that speeds and connectivity with wireless providers can be sporadic.

All three of the providers limit your speed if you sign up for their low cost internet but if you only need to browse the web checking email and such,  this is well worth it.

Free internet hookups

Free cable broadband Internet service is available for organizations providing technology training to community members. The free service is offered within the Seattle city limits, based on the City’s cable franchise agreements with Comcast and Broadstripe (Millennium). For more information and to download a short form to make application, go to our tech web. If you have questions, email Derrick Hall or call (206) 233-5061.