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ComputeThisOnline.com Newsletter 2
As daylight-saving time ends, take a few steps

Well, it's that time of the year again. It's the end of daylight-saving time. This year it began on Sunday, March 8, at 2 a.m. and ends on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 2 a.m.

We adjust the clocks ahead one hour in March and move them back one hour in November according to the instructions "spring forward, fall back."

But it's not all about getting an extra hour of sleep in the morning, there's more to it than that.
Daylight Savings Time
Some time ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission decided that the day everyone changes their clocks forward (or backwards) would also be a great time for everyone to check the batteries in their smoke detectors.

Apparently, there were a lot of deaths that could have been avoided had the smoke detectors been working, so they started using the clock change days as a reminder to everyone to check the batteries. And it turns out that the plan apparently saves lives. I don't know what the statistics are,
but I'm sure a patient Google search will tell you just how effective the whole thing is. But what it won't tell you is what all that has to do with computers.

Leave that to me!

Continue Reading >>>

As a computer fixer, I see all types of preventable issues in my day-to-day travels. Many issues (such as checking the batteries in the smoke detector) could have been avoided had the computer owner just checked the system a couple times a year and performed a few basic maintenance steps.

With that thought in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to follow the CPSC's lead and advise everyone to use the clock changing ritual that we go through twice a year as a reminder to not only check the batteries in your smoke detectors. Go over your computer and perform some basic checks and maintenance. Lots of issues can be avoided if people would do a few simple things just twice a year.

I'm sure at this point you are probably thinking that maybe that is a good idea but what should we check? I mean the smoke detector thing is easy. Just swap the battery with a new one and you're done, but aren't computers a little more complicated than that?

Well, yes. But don't let the fact that your average PC has quite a few more things to check cause you to procrastinate. I'll go over a few of the basics that really should be looked at and you'll see just how easy and painless it can be.

First and foremost, you need to have a backup system in place. You really should be backing up on a daily basis, but if you just can't bring yourself to do that, then at least do it twice a year when we change the clocks. When your hard drive dies, recovering something is better than nothing.

Next, check for dust. I'm not talking about dusting the keyboard and monitor I'm talking about the air-intake grills that are all over your machine. These things need to breathe and over time these intakes get clogged with a blanket of dust that can quite literally choke the life out of your system. Check all the intake grills and remove any layers of dust that you find.

Check your power strip and battery backup and remove any old power cords that are no longer in use. Often, old devices that are no longer in use, have power transformers that still use power even if the device itself isn't plugged in.

Power up your computer and check the start up routine. If you have a whole row of icons that show up next to the clock and the system takes forever to boot up, then run MSCONFIG and uncheck everything in startup except your antivirus.

Which brings us to the antivirus. Make sure it's up to date! If your antivirus has been flashing at you that its subscription has run out and you have been ignoring that for the last six months, now's the time to deal with it. Go to http://free.avg.com and install AVG. It's free, does the job and keeps itself updated.

Get in the habit of checking these things and you may just avoid an expensive service call some time in the future.

Having trouble with something? Give me a call and I'll be glad to help.

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Sean@ComputeThisOnline.com
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ComputeThisOnline.com Newsletter 2
Get ready to Blastoff!

Anyone can set up their web browser to start at whatever page they choose. Whether you are using Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome the process is very similar - navigate to the page you would like to see every time you launch your web browser, click the Tools Pull Down menu, click Options and then click the "Use Current" button to set the page you are looking at as your home page. Then, every time you launch your web browser, it launches and displays your favorite web page as your start (or home) page.

But how does one decide what page to set up as their start page?

One option is to use the page that came loaded with the machine when you bought it but that isn't very original. Plus, that option is frequently loaded with ads and offers designed to sell you more stuff to go along with your new computer.

Another option is to use the Portal Page provided by your internet provider. The issue with that solution is sometimes the portal pages (take the newly merged att.yahoo page for instance) can get so overwhelmed with the sheer volume of viewers that the page takes forever to load. Plus (even though the page is "customizable") the ISP portal page doesn't always give you what you want and frankly it can be hard to tell one portal page from another.

Enter the "Blastoff" network.

Every now and again a new web system comes along and changes the way we do things. We saw it with AOL first (AOL is responsible for single handedly introducing more people to the internet then every other internet marketing method combined (remember all those disks that used to come in the mail?)) and then, over time, with sites like MySpace, Face Book and others. Hell, even Google is so everyday that it has actually become a verb. That’s a part of speech! How many times over the last year have we heard of someone "Googling" something. 

Anyway, the newest thing to hit the internet is a system called the "Blastoff Network" and what a fine start page the Blastoff page makes!

Blastoff!

Continue Reading >>>

So, what is it? Well, simply put, Blastoff takes advantage of all of that extra horsepower that new machines are coming with along with the high speed internet connections (like cable and DSL) and  gathers together into one customizable start page loaded with lots of cool content (you can really see the difference in a Blast Off page as compared to your typical portal page). 

The page consists of a handful of customizable panels each containing things like multiple information sources, news, sports, music and video sites, games and even a way to link up to Face Book. 

Sign up is free and users are encouraged to set it as their start page and then customize the content to their liking (much the way most portal pages are set up) but Blastoff offers some real incentives for joining other than access to good content in an original format. They have a mall section with over 300 hundred well known stores (Like Best Buy, Target and Macy’s) and some serious savings offers (even cash back) when you shop online through the Blast Off mall or if members of your network shop in the mall.

I’ve been enjoying the rather interesting collection of games and I also like the feed from Hulu. They give you access to a ton of classic shows like News Radio or even The Office and switching from one applet to another is pretty smooth. 

The whole Blastoff site is pretty resource intensive meaning that if you have an older machine it won’t load and run as smoothly as it would if it were running on something brand new but that goes without saying doesn’t it?

The site encourages everyone to sign up and invite all of their friends with the obvious intention to grow virally. I’ve been using the site for the past couple of weeks and I like it so I’m going to go ahead and invite everyone to take a look. If you like what you see, sign up! It’s free and has promise – take a look at http://my.blastoffnetwork.com/smccarthy75 (my invite page, no hyphens!), watch the videos and then click the “Join Today” button if you are so inclined.  

Let me know of any significant savings and I’ll tell you about my new cell phone I ordered from Blastoff, It should be here any day now.

Sign up for free!
Sean@ComputeThisOnline.com
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ComputeThisOnline.com Newsletter 2
Say hello to Mint for organized finances!

Personal computers have always been good for keeping track of finances. There are plenty of programs, such as Quicken, Microsoft Money, Quickbooks and Turbo Tax out there to help with the task, and most online banking systems do a pretty good job, too.

With all the different programs out there, it can be confusing just deciding where to start and then (after shelling out hard-earned cash for the right software) setting up your program can be a challenging.

There has got to be a better way and I think I may have found it.
Mint.com
Fire up your Web browser, head over to www.Mint.com and take a look around. This free service is one of those rare sites that really delivers quality content without the spyware, annoying ads, viruses and other “gotchas” that often plague other free sites. After spending a week or so checking it out I have to admit I’m impressed.

So, what is it? Mint.com is a personal finance site that gathers all your financial information into one place so you can see exactly where all of your money is coming from and where it’s going.

The operative phrase here is that “it gathers” the data. It works by itself immediately after signing up, and when you are done, all of your accounts are summarized and displayed in one place. No more logging into multiple sites to see where you stand.

Let me run through it real quick.

Continue Reading >>>

Once you connect to Mint.com and read up a bit click the free get started here button, you will be asked for your e-mail, ZIP code and a password to use.

Click the next button and you will be asked for your first bank’s URL or Web address. Enter your bank’s online banking information and repeat the steps for all of your accounts.

You can enter your online banking information for your checking, savings, all of your different credit cards, your auto loan, mortgage, even your PayPal account.Mint.com

Once all of your accounts are added, Mint will give you a summary of what the balances are, the interest rates and (most importantly) where all of your money is going from all accounts at the same time. There is even a free iPhone app that works with Mint, so you can have all of your information at your fingertips when you are out and about.

I know many of you are reluctant to use online banking for fear of identity theft, let alone giving one Web site all the information it needs to access all of your accounts.

In fact, I’m sure that right now people are reading this thinking I must be crazy to even suggest it.

However, as you may or may not know, I am a certified identity theft risk management specialist, and I do know a thing or two about these matters.

And (after careful research and consideration) I can tell you that Mint.com is secure. The Web site has an enormous amount of information regarding Mint.comsecurity, but what it boils down to is this: when you create your account you are anonymous (all you enter is email, ZIP code and login information - you don’t even enter your name). The site uses the same level of encryption the banks use, and all of the information is “read only,” so even if a miscreant got hold of your login information, they may be able to see how much money you spent at Starbucks this month, but they can’t do things such as move money around or even see any of the actual account information (such as names, PINs or account numbers).

But why bother? I actually have known about Mint for a while now but put off checking it out because I didn’t really see a need. I can see everything I need to see by logging into each of my accounts and looking, so why do I need a site like Mint?

Well, as soon as I set up my account, I realized I was looking at a winner. There is something to be said for having all of your information available summarized in one login screen, and some of Mint’s tools (such as the budgeting and analysis stuff) are really helpful to understand where the hell all the money goes every month.

Maybe, just maybe www.Mint.com can help even me get my financial act together.

Sign up for free!
Sean@ComputeThisOnline.com
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http://www.facebook.com/TheMouseWhisperer

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Identity Theft Risk  Assessment Presentations & Solutions. On site and Remote System Support
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