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Monday, December 19, 2016

Tech News: Amazon makes it's first drone delivery in England

We've all seen the commercials. 
Amazons cute little drones (I prefer the term quad-copter myself) delivering a package to an Amazon Prime customer within minutes of ordering on the company's web page.

The online retail giant conducted it's first drone delivery test on December 7th in Cambridge England. Delivery to the customer took just 13 minutes from the customer ordering online, and the drone flight from the company's fulfillment center, to the customers residence. The delivery falls under Amazons "Prime Air" trial.* In case you're wondering the order involved an Amazon Fire Stick and a bag of popcorn ;-D


Check out Amazons Prime Air Trial web page for more info on this cool delivery service.

* Amazon is only currently testing the drone delivery service in England. Currently FAA regulations prohibit commercial flights in the US, however Amazon is working with the FAA to seek it's approval in the US. 

Creating and using a System Restore Point

System Restore Points give you the option of going back in time. Since Windows ME (yes...it goes back that far), Microsoft has made it available to users to create System Restore Points in Windows.

Call it an insurance policy if your system starts to go buggy and doesn't work as expected. There are to options for creating Restore Points - Automatic and Manual.


Enabling Restore Points:

1. Choose Start→Control Panel→System and Security.
Under the System link, click Create A Restore Point. You can also get to the System page by typing “System” in the Start menu’s Search box and selecting System from the results list.












2. Click the System Protection link in the left panel and ensure that the C drive Protection is turned on.
You can adjust how much disk space you want the Restore Points to use. You also have the option of Deleting a restore point. if you find you don't have enough disk space and you need to create another one.



3. Click Apply afterwards. Once you click Apply you enable Windows to create a Restore Point anytime a significant change in the operating system occurs. IE - new drivers or a Windows update is installed.

4. IF you need to create a Restore Point manually, simply click Create and give a name to the Restore Point.










Going Back In Time

Now lets say your system goes all weird on you. It's slow or certain programs freeze since your last update. You could use the "Reset This PC" option within Windows 10, but that would take some time. Instead use a System Restore Point to undo the changes that have made a mess with the Operating System.


1. After clicking Next, you'll be shown available Restore Points listed by date created and whether they were created by the system or manually.












2. You can also select Scan Affected Programs. This gives a list of all programs that have been installed since the creation of the last Restore Point.














4. Select the Restore Point and click Next and the click Finish.
Windows will then uninstall any drivers, programs, updates or registry entries after the last restore point was made.
Restore Points do not touch the User folders within Windows. All your music, photos and/or documents are not saved nor deleted. If you need to back those up, I would recommend a USB drive.

















Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Remote desktop software

If you're needing technical support or assistance for a computer issue, and the tech is just too far away to be in person, often they will (or should) offer remote technical support.

Remote support is where you allow the technician access to your computer via a secure internet connection. 
The tech can then examine, diagnose and resolve your issue without having to drive to your home or business. Sometimes it's an easier way to go for both the customer and the tech. 

WARNING: DO not simply give remote access to any person on the phone.Use caution and ensure you personally know the technician or person who you are talking to. Most certified technicians are bonded, and are professional. Pay attention to the screen and what the technician or person is doing. 
Scams exist where a "tech" (usually with a heavy Indian accent) will cold call you informing you that your computer has a dangerous virus and needs to be removed remotely. Be very leary of these type calls and do NOT allow remote access. Here's an example:
Technical support scam 

There are about a dozen remote desktop programs available with various access protocols. Some like LogMeIn and GoToMyPC utilize a web based platform. Others such as TightVNC and TurboVNC use the Virtual Network Computing/RFB protocol.
Some programs are compatible with Windows only. Others can be used within Linux and OSX as well.
I've found that one of the best remote programs out there is Teamviewer

TeamViewer has a great GUI  and is easy to navigate. The on screen menus are out of the way, yet accessible An excellent screen-sharing and file-transfer app that can be used for business collaborations is available. There are two different versions. A licensed paid version for business and a private personal version free for noncorporate use, it gives users precisely the tools they need to share screens securely, send files with a minimum of hassle, control access rights, and even flip which user has control.
It's a secure connection and access is made by the user providing an access code and password.

I highly recommended it.

This article orig posted 8/6/12 @ 3:32pm

Quick Windows hint: Erasing the past with CTL+Z

It's bound to happen. You just downloaded an important file and you move the file from the Downloads folder to your Documents folder.
Whoops...That wasn't your Documents folder! 

Instead of spending the next 15 minutes looking for that rascal. Use this rarely used keyboard shortcut that undoes your last action - CTL+ Z thereby "erasing the past".
Too bad there isn't a CTL+Z for things we've done in real life!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Three simple ways to speed up your Windows PC boot up time

So you turn on the power button to your computer....waiting for Windows to boot.....you see the Manufactures screen......then you see the Windows 10 screen.
Waiting....waiting........you go decide to make a cup of coffee.
You come back.....your desktop has appeared.....but the hourglass is showing....meaning programs are running in the background. Two minutes later....."finally!!"

How often have we gone thru that?
Well....it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, the following steps will trim your Windows boot time from a slow snails pace to a quick rabbit on caffeine.

Removing certain start up programs

In a known fact- longer you have a PC, the more you'll end up downloading programs and software. Some programs that automatically get stored into memory as Windows starts up, slowing the boot time. Printer programs and drivers, antivirus software...and other software.
By removing some of these programs you can speed up Windows boot time.

1. Right click on the Start Menu, and click "Task Manager"
2. When the Task Manager appears, click on Startup - here is where the current programs assigned by Windows to startup automatically.
3.  Right click on the program you don't want to start automatically, and select Disable

Upgrading your hardware

A second way to speed up your Windows startup is to upgrade your systems hardware.
With desktops, your options in doing this are a little more than if you have a laptop. First try upgrading your memory. If you have a desktop or laptop running 4gb of RAM, look into possibly upgrading to 6 or 8GB.

To see the status of your memory usage, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the Performance tab: In the lower-left corner, you’ll see how much RAM is in use. If, under normal use, the Available option is less than 25 percent of the total, an upgrade may do you some good.


Crucial and Kingston are major PC memory providers and Crucial has a memory diagnostic tool to determine what kind of memory as well as Kingston Memory scanner.

Upgrading from a Hard Drive to a Solid State Drive - As SSDs work with flash memory (the kind that are in USB drives) they can be up to 8 times faster than standard hard drives. See my Advantages of SSDs to Hard Drives article for more information on this.

Use Hibernate instead of Shut Down

When you have finished with whatever your doing on your PC, select Hibernate instead of completely shutting the computer down. Choosing Shut Down closes all apps, programs and actually logs you off and closes the Windows session. Hibernate dumps the current state (any open apps and programs into memory) and keeps the Windows session open, thereby starting Windows instantly.



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The lowdown on lithium batteries..... the coolest, & hottest battery for tech

L-ion Batterys, (Lithium Ion Batterys), are a pretty amazing piece of technology and very popular. You can find them in cell phones, pdas, laptops, gps devices...etc.

They hold a "higher energy density" per pound. They pack more punch per pound more than any other battery type. Including Nickle Metal Hydide (NiMH) which can be found in hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight.
Because of that, the automotive industry is seeing l-ion batterys as a replacement for the NiMH batteries. Currently the Chevy Volt & the Nissan Leaf use the L-ion batteries. Other companies are soon to follow. One big issue they have to tackle is that lion batteries don't do well with extreme temperatures.

So how do they work and what is with them exploding in cell phones?

Background

Lithium by nature is an unstable metal however lithium ions are much safer. 
In 1979, solid state physicist John B Goodenough
discovered that by using lithium cobalt oxide as a cathode of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, it was possible to achieve a high density of stored energy with an anode other than metal. His last name is certainly ironic! (are they "good enough"?)

In 1991 the Sony Corporation started commercializing lithium iion batterys and L-ion batterys started replacing nickle cadmium batterys (Nicad) in the late 1990s.

How they work

L-ion batterys work by the same principle as any other battery does. The transfer of electrons between a cathode (positive) and an anode (negitive). The only difference is the chemical composition within the cells. And the fact that with rechargeable batteries the charge is reversed as well.


They're also low maintenance which is a big advantage over other battery types. They require no memory so no cycling is required like the old Nicad batteries.

But they do have drawbacks. L-ion batteries have voltage protection circuits to prevent overcharging and prevent cell voltage from dropping to low during discharge. They contain temperature sensors for monitoring battery temp. If a battery gets to hot, the protection circuit sends a signal to the device to shut down to prevent damage.L-ion batteries prefer a partial discharge rather than a deep discharge.
If the voltage drops down to a certain voltage, the cells are ruined.

What's with exploding batteries?

L-ion batteries hold together positive and negative terminals (cathodes and anodes) along with a polymer that separates the two sides. This is all sandwiched together a tightly wrapped container, but instead of a paste which is found in normal batteries, it's a lithium ionized liquid which is extremely flammable. The manufacturing process creates small minute pieces of metal that float in the liquid. These pieces are removed but the manufacture can't completely remove 100% of these metal flakes.

As you may have seen on the news, Samsung recently recalled the ENTIRE production line of their Galaxy Note 7s due to exploding batteries costing the company over 5.3 billion.

There are two scenarios which can cause a L-ion battery to explode

Heat: The issue lies when the battery starts to get hot, possibly from being on the charger....in someones pockets,,,or left on the dash of a car on a summer day.
When that happens the fluid inside the battery becomes thinner allowing the small pieces of metal to move more freely. If a piece of metal comes in contact with the separator, a short circuit will occur. When a short circuit occurs in a flammable liquid it's not a pretty sight.

Aggressive technology design flaw: Or what you could call "pushing the safety boundary" - Cell phone manufactures are always seeking to push more power into smaller batteries and wanting a flatter battery in the design phase. The flatter the battery the thinner the components must be inside the battery.....to a point where the polymer separators may not be effective in separating the negative and positive sides.

This manufacturing error allowed the plates to make contact and a short circuit followed creating an enormous amount of heat to the point where the battery exploded.





If you have a Samsung Note 7,please contact your carrier directly or call Samsung Customer service at 1-844-365-6197 for assistance. Visit Samsung Note 7 recall for further information.

The hazards and issues with lithium batteries are rare. But for their small compact size, they pack a good punch and the tech industry sees anything smaller with more power a big advantage.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Recovering a lost Wifi password

Okay....so you forgot your Wifi password but you need it for your laptop. 

You know wrote it down on that sticky note but that has long disappeared. You still have access from your phone, but all you see is a bunch of "*******".

Accessing your wifi password

First, before going full frantic mode, check the modem that your ISP provided for you. Usually WiFi passwords are listed directly on the Modem from your Internet Service Provider. If that's not the case you can always reset your Wifi password by accessing your routers web page

But that's alot of work.....you can actually view your wireless password within a configuration file on your Android phone......one caveat....you phone must be rooted.

If you've rooted your phone, open a file manager. If you don't have one, download a file manager similar to X-Plore or Astro from the Play Store.

Open your file manager and locate data/misc/wifi and find the file wpa_supplicant.conf. If you're unable to find it try locating wep.supplicant.conf. 
It's simple text file, so once you tap it your notepad should open it.

This file lists the current networks you have saved on your phone as well as your passwords to the networks.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tech News: Over 1 million Android phones hacked

Over 1.3 million Google accounts, which include photos, documents and email have been accessed by hackers by way of apps which were not available on Google Play Store.

Checkpoint, a cyber security firm, has named the hacking campaign "Googligan" and has set up a website named "Googligan Check Point" for consumers to determine if their Google accounts have been hacked.

The infection begins when a user downloads and installs a Gooligan-infected app on a vulnerable Android device, or by clicking on malicious links in phishing attack messages. Checkpoint states the code is targeted towards Android devices which have The Jelly Bean, Kit Kat, and Lollipop versions of Googles operating system.


Google has since removed the apps from thier Play Store, which contain the malicious code. However the attacks are still prominent as 3rd party websites still list apps that contain malware.









Android users have the option to download unofficial apps from 3rd party vendors and websites, but it is advised not to due to incidents like these.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wireless charging....how it came about....and is it worth it?

Your phones battery shows 5% left, so you head out to the living room and plop the phone down onto the wireless charging matt. It's true...wireless charging has a real "cool" factor....but is it really worth it?....and how exactly does it work?


How it started

Wireless charging is not new, but the technology in in it's current (pun!!) form is. In 1831 Micheal Faraday discovered electrical induction during an experiment using two wires wrapped around an iron ring. He expanded on the idea with the theory of "lines of force", but this theory was rejected by scientists of the day due to the lack of mathematical formulas.
Tesla demonstrating wireless transmission of electrical current
Soon after, Nicolas Tesla brought the idea further in 1890, lighting Geissler tubes and incandescent light bulbs across a stage during public demonstrations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_power_transfer#Tesla







Inductive charging works using an electromagnetic field between two objects. a coil in the pad creates a magnetic field which induces a current in another coil, in the phone, charging its battery. The stronger the magnet and the current in the first coil, the increase of the induction and power transfer. There are two different types of wireless charging standards today; Qi and Powermat. They both use the same inductive charging, however the charging rate and current are different.












Is it worth it?

So it's a real cool technology, but it's more like a *"proof of concept" than a major jump in technology where it can be used to a full potential. So before you plop $10-$30 for a charging mat, think about three main disadvantages which involve wireless charging.

1. The mat is the charging platform....so that still needs a source of electricity. But the phone needs to remain on the mat in order to charge......so much for true freedom.
2. The charge/current will still be weaker and slower than directly plugging in your phone to a charger. On the average wireless pads take 25% more to charge a phone than direct cords.
3. The charging mats create heat.....alot of heat. And heat is the evil enemy of cell phones.

The future of wireless charging

It's still in it's infancy, and wireless charging has a lot of potential, especially in the automotive industry.
Were not talking having your car charge on the driveway charging....we're talking about wireless charging your Tesla WHILE your driving!
The UK has already spent $300,000 investigating the feasibility of "Dynamic charging".....electric roadways which charge the car while driving on the roadway. The UK has setup an 18 month trial for the testing.



So wireless charging has alot of potential, and if you find you're walking down the street and you realize you only have 2% before your phone dies you can stop into a Starbucks for a quick charge (enough to get the phone usable), but in the long run.....you'll probably be better off just buying a longer cord.

*Proof Of Concept is the realization that an idea, technology or otherwise, has practical potential, but yet the application of the idea or technology has yet to be feasible.




 
 
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