We’re heading into the next peak in the solar sunspot cycle, which will top out in the spring next year. Solar flares cause interruptions in radio activity, and can impact internet connections, marginal network boxes like routers and switches, and wireless devices.
In addition to strong radio signals and X-rays, sometimes a solar flare will send a plasma of hydrogen gas into the Earth’s magnetic field, triggering a geomagnetic storm. Geo storms impact the electrical grid and can cause power cuts and surges.
That’s why I recommend top quality surge protectors. Tripplite is my favorite brand. You can get them locally at ERI Electronics on Mottman Rd., or on-line.
Here’s a link for checking solar activity: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/today2.html
I’ve run across no fewer than three laptops and PCs this week that were upgraded from Vista to Windows 7. In all three cases, there was something glitchy going on, like missing device drivers, browser problems, and malware that seemed to get in despite the best efforts of anti-virus and other security software usage.
My conclusion is that upgrading from Vista requires a complete format and re-install of Windows. If you follow just what Microsoft does in the Win 7 upgrade, you’ll probably end up with legacy Vista issues. Sorry I don’t have better news because Windows 7 is definitely where you want to be, but it will be more work than you’re expecting if you’re starting with Vista.
This is the most common question I get. Customers are almost always disappointed with the answer because they expect computers to last as long as major appliances. The typical lifespan for a PC is about 5 to 7 years, and laptops are even less, at about 3 to 6 years. The main driver is software, which continually gets bigger, more complex, and requires faster hardware. The next factor is hardware, which even for the best brands will start to fail after 7 years. Most customers are also unaware of the major jump hardware has taken in the past 4 years or so, with multiple processors (2 or 4) becoming the standard nowadays. Fortunately there are affordable solutions which I detail below. In general though, a new PC or laptop will cost about $600 to $800, but you should not have to spend more than that.
If you have files on your computer worth protecting, most likely you’ve been doing backups one way or another. Usually people get started with backups by simply copying files to an extra folder, thumb drive, memory stick, or external disk drive. When moving to a new computer, more copies get made.
Next thing you know, your backups get duplicated several times over and you end up with dozens of gigabytes of duplicate files. You could spend days or weeks plowing through folders trying to get rid of all the duplicates. Photos especially end up being confusing because cameras are simplistic and repetitive in how they name files.
There’s a solution. There are programs you can run that automatically sort through all your files and do a very thorough job of finding duplicates that you can delete. The one I use is called “Duplicate File Finder”. You can download and install it from CNET’s “Download.com”. It’s easy and safe to install and fairly straightforward to run.
After installing the Finder, it will pop up an online, step-by-step tutorial. The main things for getting started is to 1. Select a location-drive to search, and then 2. click the Search button in the upper left corner. If you are Searching a lot of files or drives, your search could take many hours, possibly overnight. You might want to run this before you go to bed.
A customer with a laptop could not view email in Outlook or view product details when shopping online. I checked for malware, viruses, damaged windows system files, etc. I reset Internet Explorer. We still couldn’t figure it out. Then I started looking at Installed Software. Over time, the customer had downloaded and installed all sorts of what I call “Junk Ware”. Toolbars, Games, Coupon gadgets, you name it. I uninstalled most of it. Problem solved! A lot of this “junk ware” is either buggy, a security risk, or does unexpected things to both Browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome) and Email programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Windows Mail. In general, the fewer installed programs, the better.
(Update: April 2015, I’m no longer recommending Netbooks.) Is your XP computer limping along or losing its battle with viruses? On a tight budget? Think you need $600 or more for a new PC? Well I just bought a new PC with Windows 7, a dual processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB drive for less than $250 ! And it works great! Once again I’m astonished at the progress of Personal Computing. I bought what’s called a “Netbook” from Walmart for $248, $276 with tax and shipping to my door. Netbooks look like small laptops. The screens and keyboards are tiny, but there are simple work-arounds for that. A larger screen can be attached to a monitor (VGA) port on the side, and you can pick up a wireless keyboard and mouse combo from discount stores for as little as $25. The screen on my new Netbook is 10″ and has a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. The brand is Acer, which I’ve had pretty good luck with. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of such a purchase: Pros: Low cost Light-Portable-Small Upgradeable Dual Core Cons: Windows 7 “Starter” Longevity? Small Screen-Battery-RAM Performance WalMart? I’m not a fan of WalMart, but I think deals like this will become more widely available as time goes by. At $250 you are taking a bit of a gamble, as I can’t guarantee that such a computer will last more than a few years. If you’re lucky, maybe 5 or 7 years. If not, maybe only one or two. Even so, I’m still amazed with this purchase. Steve
While power glitches are the number one enemy of most
computers, following in close second is HEAT.
And heat will soon be number one because of the popularity
of laptops. Laptops are especially prone to overheating
because of their compactness and the ease of putting
them on surfaces where they don’t belong.
One customer I know was not feeling well and thought
she could just leave the laptop on the carpet for a
few minutes. Unfortunately she fell asleep, and when
she woke, the laptop was toast.
Desktop PCs need to be cleaned with a small vacuum or
air can at least once a year.
Laptop fans and vents should also be cleaned as often
as possible. Cooling Pads with fans are available for
about $25 – a good brand is “Cooler Master”.
Happy Computing !
I’ve seen many customers get new PCs, laptops, and netbooks
and end up with a crisis within a month because while most
newcomputer have an anti-virus installed, many times it is
either sub-standard, not activated, or not comprehensive.
Also, many new computers come with pre-installed software that’s
invasive, buggy, or infected. I’ve actually seen pre-loaded game software
that I found to be infected on new laptops.
Get new computers set up properly and checked !
Today we’ve been having fun with Geomagnetic Storms. Comcast had widespread outages in our area, and alarm systems are still getting tripped. I’m sure the Spring Monsoon isn’t helping either. Lots of cold, heavy rain, and there’s still snow falling in the mountains. Ah yes, and now it’s hailing. One of my customers told me they’ve not been using their pool until June for the past few years because of the cold springs we’ve been having.
Here are some links to watch the Geomagnetic activity: