Archive for February, 2011

Get In Touch With Your Creative Side Using Microsoft Office

February 23, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Not that long ago, the only way to get high-quality, professional materials was through a graphic designer.  Printing was a complicated, expensive process that was left to the print shops.  Each project required assembling pictures, graphics and content that was camera-ready. 

Today, we have access to everything needed to make agency-quality marketing materials with full-color and amazing graphics. Brochures, mailers and newsletters can be printed on-demand or in the perfect quantity to reducing waste and keep the offering fresh.  To save more and reach the online audience, electronic files are brilliant and easy to distribute.  If you have an idea, a good eye and the right tools, you can make magic. 

Microsoft Office offers the right tools with its Office 2010 Suite of Applications.  Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Publisher provide improved and enhanced features for creating and publishing. Many of the features are cross-platform so you can learn a skill in one application and use it in another.  There are a host of classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced users that can be taken in a classroom environment or online depending on your best learning method.  Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and others offer free, online classes that are perfect for the self-learner.

Word is the standard for creating and formatting documents of all types from simple letters to documents with a table of contents, index and glossary. It makes the task of creating and editing documents easy.  Tools like spell check and thesaurus make us look smart and polished. New and improved photo-editing tools let you transform pictures right in Word 2010 – no extra software needed. Change color saturation, temperature, brightness, and contrast to turn a simple Word document into a work of art.  Turn text into visual effects with enhanced text effects and SmartArt graphics. Change basic bullet-points into compelling visuals and add text effects like shadow, glow, reflection, and 3-D in just a few clicks.  With co-authoring, you can edit at the same time as others, even if you’re working from different locations, and keep versions in sync with version control. This is a great way to eliminate typos (ever used a there for their or your for you’re?) by having others review your work for content and correctness.

PowerPoint is not just for presentations, it also makes a great coordinating tri-fold or handout.  Use the same theme for marketing materials that you can leave with the prospect to reinforce your message and offering. Creating your presentation in PowerPoint allows you to gather all your thoughts and ideas in one tool.  You have many slide choices and can move, cut, paste and organize to create a coherent flow of information without leaving the program.  Adding graphics, diagrams, video and sound is easier than ever. 

Excel graphs, charts and sparklines explain trends and comparisons with strong visuals.  Whenever numbers are involved, visuals are powerful tools to simplify the message and give at-a-glance significance. Use sparklines to graphically display data in a single cell.  You can display data in line, column or win/loss format to highlight trends.

Publisher helps you create eye-catching brochures, newsletters, postcards, greeting cards and email messages.  With the built-in and online templates, you can find a style for any publication. The prebuilt building blocks give an assortment of page parts like sidebars, stories and columns for creating professional newsletters and case studies. Add calendars, borders and advertisement blocks for community or school newsletters. Stunning graphics and images are easily added and use OpenType typography for expert typesetting effects.

Get your creative juices flowing! Experiment with different looks and practice with different styles.  Start with a concept and use Microsoft Office 2010 to create brilliant, flawless materials for your home, school or business.

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

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How to Protect Your Computer Against Malware

February 21, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Each year the damages from computer malware cost US businesses billions of dollars. These costs are not only in lost productivity, but permanent loss of critical business data. Arguably, most if not all infections are preventable with the proper understanding, training and protection. Don’t be the next victim, take the steps now to ensure protection and recovery if the worst should happen.

First, let’s understand computer malware. Often the term virus is used to describe all malware. Technically speaking, there are viruses, rootkits, Trojan horses, worms and spyware. The attack method may differ but they are all malicious.

A virus is a program that runs itself and replicates itself. It can affect files or the boot sector and can delete all your data. The “Melissa” and “I Love You” viruses gained global attention.

A rootkit or Trojan horse allows access to your system without your knowledge. Often they look like a useful piece of software but in fact they are back or trap doors.

A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to other nodes. Once on the system, worms do not need to attach to another program and can run themselves. Worms cause a denial of service attack making the network unusable. In general, worms target the network and viruses attack files.

Spyware is computer software that is installed on a personal computer to intercept or take control of the PC. Spyware can hijack a computer and cause serious problems by gathering and transmitting personal data, loading undesirable software or redirecting browsers to malicious sites.

Protecting yourself –

  1. Have a good backup, just in case you need to restore
  2. Use a firewall
  3. Keep your system updated with the latest security patches
  4. Install and update anti-virus and anti-spyware software (see below for choices)
  5. Do not open email from anonymous, unknown or suspicious sources
  6. Do not download files or software from anonymous, unknown or suspicious sources
  7. Do not navigate to suspicious or promiscuous websites
  8. Regularly scan your system for malware (see below for choices)
  9. Worth repeating – be sure that you have a good backup so that you can restore your full system if needed
  10. If you think you have been attacked, act quickly to isolate the infected computer and remove the malware.

You can purchase anti-virus and malware protection or there are many free versions for home users. For anti-virus, AVG, Avast and others have free versions. For corporate anti-virus, we use Symantec Endpoint. For malware, we like Malwarebytes (personal or corporate edition) and Advanced System Care. With so many choices if you like one better, use it. The important point is that you have to have malware/virus protection.

Use a three prong approach to keep your system safe: educate, protect, monitor. Try to understand the types of threats to your computer. The more educated and informed, the better you can protect your system. Monitor for threats and scan your system often. If it looks suspicious, don’t open the email, go to the site or download the file or software.

Please be watchful of the sites you visit, the software you download and the email you open as the threats to your system change daily.