Archive for the ‘Maintenance’ Category

Why choose me?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I’ve gone on and on about technology issues I’ve read in the news or expounding on other opinions.  Today I’m going to take a different direction and tell you at least one reason why you should be hiring me to do your on-site computer services.

I’ve spent many years working in tech support for various companies and the one thing that I’ve learned (and it took me a while after many mistakes) is that it’s primarily SUPPORT more than it is TECH.  I’d go so far as to say that what I do is more “customer service” than it is “tech support.”  Learning this one detail changed my whole perception of what I do and allowed me to more easily satisfy my customers.

The other skill that I have (and it may not be fully apparent from reading my blog) is that I can speak English.  Now, this isn’t some jab at foreign-based tech support line that your computer manufacturer may have contracted (although it’s often tempting to do so).  It’s the skill that I can translate technology terms and concepts into something you can understand.

If I’m helping you with an issue and I pause for a couple of seconds and stare off into space, I’m not having a seizure.  I’m just searching my brain for the right words or analogy to describe the issue at hand.  Sometimes I have to do this more than once for an individual concept because my first attempt didn’t convey it very well.  I just keep trying until you understand.

I feel that I do a good job reassuring people that they aren’t idiots.  For starters, they are telling me this and I let them know that this is just what I’m good at even if they aren’t.  Think of me like you would your mechanic.  You bring your car to a mechanic because you either don’t know how to fix it or you don’t want to.  A good mechanic will be understanding of the problem and explain what’s going on and what it will take to fix it.  A good mechanic is not going to treat you like an idiot for not knowing what’s wrong.  Cars are complicated machines and if you aren’t a mechanic, how can you be expected to understand the problem?

Besides, chances are you have a skill that I do not and I can appreciate that with wide-eyed amazement.  It’s just computers have become “my thing,” and I don’t feel the need to have to know everything about every subject.  Like yourself, I’ll hire the skills I don’t have or don’t want to use.

More details on the hack

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

I’d blogged previously about the hack that occurred on my site.  Frustrating since I’d not blogged for over a year and everything went fine for three weeks when BAM, I couldn’t do anything.  All the research I had done suggested that this particular hack wasn’t new and would have been fixed long ago (I had sporadically updated the WordPress installation, but hadn’t been too religious about it).

I’ve since found a little more information here and here.  The second link has more  links at the bottom of it for further research.

The long and short of the situation is another lesson as to why we need to keep our software updated.  There really isn’t any excuse to not keep free software updated since there won’t be any out of pocket costs for the software itself.  If your hosting provider makes the upgrade easy (and Dreamhost makes it easy for me), then excuses keep getting fewer.

The same is true for any software you have running on your computer.  From the operating system to your web browser, Flash plugin, Java, productivity software, etc.  Let’s not forget our anti-malware software, either.  It’s ertainly important enough to get its own mention.

Since I’m now blogging a lot more frequently than I had been, I will notice when my WordPress installation needs to be updated and act on it accordingly.  The upgrades are painless for me since I don’t monkey with the code.  Once done, I’ll then download the entire blog site to maintain a local backup in the event some other crazy hack floats around.  Uploading from a backup is easier than fixing a problem once it’s occurred.

Have you started backing up your hard drive, yet?

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Last week I spoke about backing up your data and how most people aren’t doing it.  I’m returning to that because I feel it to be very important.

A couple of years ago Google published a report on hard drive failures that they had experienced. Google uses thousands of hard drives in their systems so they have a good idea as to how often they fail.  Engadget did an article on it here (note, the article is approaching four years of age, but I feel the information is still useful).  One of the details they selected was how the drive technology that’s supposed to warn you of failure often doesn’t.  Basically, you can’t use can use any predictive or sensory technology to tell you something bad is going to happen.  You need to be using some kind of insurance so that when something bad does occur, you have the ability to recover from the disaster.

There are many other details discussed in the original report.  If you’re into a long, dry read, you can find the PDF by clicking here.

So, I emphasize again how important it is to be backing up your data.  Your data are far more important than the rest of the computer and the cost of the “insurance” is far less than the cost of having a professional data recovery service extract it from the failed drive.

When, why, how to upgrade

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

A question often comes up about whether to upgrade your current computer or simply replace it with a newer model.

In my experience, the answer is usually fairly simple.  If what you intend to do is no longer handled by your current equipment, it is generally simplest to replace the whole thing.  There are some exceptions, however.

If your current computer does what you want and you just need to give it some kind of boost, you can often had some RAM for $50-100 to give it some extra speed.  Your mileage may vary as to how much, but I’ve seen it all from incredible increases to only just a little.

Adding or upgrading your hard drive is also a relatively inexpensive option (at least for the drive itself, again $50-100, typically) and gives you more space for all those family photos you can’t seem to delete and may also help speed things up a tad as well.

Once we start looking at other things like video and processor, the option becomes a little more difficult to give a simple answer as it depends upon your computer whether it can be done at all.  Notebook/laptop/netbook computer?  The answer there is almost certainly “no.”  Bargain desktop?  Also likely to be a negative answer as well.

In my own personal experience, when I finally got around to upgrading my computer, so many things had changed that I ended up having to get a new one anyway and could hardly use any of the parts from the old box.  Just as an example, desktop computers can often have capabilities improved or added by sticking a card into a slot inside the box.  I’ve seen the slot types progress from ISA to EISA, MCA, VLB, PCI, AGP, PCI-X, PCIe.  It’s enough to be maddening (and I’m sure I’ve missed a few slot types in there).  I don’t even have to explain what those abbreviations mean (although I made them clickable to Wikipedia articles if you’re curious) for you to understand the frustration.  Suffice it to say that if your card fits in one type of slot, it is unlikely to fit into another type because “they” found a new way to do things and have decided that there was no point in making it easy to continue doing things the old way.

So, answer yourself the question of WHY you are upgrading, then we can look at the WHAT and proceed directly to the HOW.

Before you upgrade, be sure to backup your system (read the last couple of posts for more on this very important task) in case something goes wrong.

Backup offer

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

As I indicated yesterday, I have a package deal for a backup ready today.

What I’ve put together is a simple little package of an external hard drive (minimum of one terabyte [equals 1000 gigabytes or 1,000,000 megabytes]), some software, and two hours of my time for setup and follow-up.  While I admit that the software I’ll be implementing doesn’t have its own cost, it is still be very capable and the exact title depends upon your needs.

This is ready whether you have a Mac or a PC, small office or your home.  I come to you and set it up.  I’ll bring the drive and get started straight away.

Just click through to to get started.  I’ve even added an option for a second drive at the same location, this will also add one more hour to the setup and follow-up time.  If you have other work you wish done, you may add time for that as well.

I’ve priced it at a fair $150 for the first drive and my time.  $125 for the second (and more if you wish).  If this seems extraordinary to you, just think of how much it will cost to recover your data should your drive fail without a backup.  Commercial services such as Drive Savers charge an enormous amount to do this.  If you don’t have a backup, you’re either going to use one of those services or deal with the loss of pictures, documents, e-mails, music, etc. that you may never be able to recreate.  As insurance goes, this isn’t expensive given how much your memories mean to you.