Posts Tagged ‘Computer Help’

Safe computing for the holidays

December 21, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Taking time off to spend with family and friends is such a treat, but alas for many it is hard to stay away from the computer.  If you are going to do some online shopping, play a new game or check your work email, be sure to practice safe computing.  Your home computer may not have the same protection as work, so before you download that file or visit a new site make sure you are protected.

Protecting your computer

1)  Make sure your operating system is updated and all security patches are installed.  If you are using Windows, go to Control Panel Home, then Windows Update. This page will show you if you are up to date or if you need an update.  If you are out of date, follow the instructions and consider turning on automatic updates.  If you have a Mac, the update is similar to Windows so just follow the instructions.  If you have Unix or Linux, you are probably an expert and know how to patch your system.

2)  Browse safely.  Be sure your browser is current and that you are protecting against malware.  Malware are those nasty intruders that we often call viruses, trojans, worms or spyware.  For Windows, you can use Microsoft Security Essentials.  It is a free Microsoft tool that runs in the background and will alert you when a threat is identified.  Remember no protection is 100%, so you have to think before you click and be prepared to remove infections.

3)  Use a firewall. Firewalls can be hardware or software and screen Internet traffic as a first line of defense.

4)  Use spam filters. Most email programs include a spam and junk filter.  Not only can you trash unwanted junk mail, but you can disable email links (recommended) and be warned of malicious content.  There are many malicious emails that look legitimate so be careful when opening emails and never click on attachments or links unless you are certain of the source.

5)  Download safely. Only download from sites that you know are legitimate and reputable. When you download, save the file and be sure that your antivirus software is set up to scan when you open files.  A good rule to follow when opening anything is when in doubt – don’t!

6)  Have a computer expert you can count on.  If you are unfamiliar with computer protection, be sure to have someone who you can consult for advice and help.  It seems complicated, but there are many tools that are easy to configure that run automatically to keep you safe.  Be sure you are protected so that you can enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends rather than fixing your computer.

7)  Be sure you have a current backup.  Just in case the worst happens, you can restore to your latest backup.

Online information and help is abundant, but be cautious that you don’t get fooled by malware that pretends to offer help.  If you get a pop-up that claims it will remove an infection from your computer for a price, stop and call your expert!

If you need help or have comments/suggestions, please feel free to contact me at: mary@lansystems.com.

All of us at LAN Systems wish you a safe and joyous holiday season.

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Why does China want your gmail account?

June 2, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Google is certain that the latest hacking attempt comes from Jinan, China as a phishing scam to obtain gmail passwords. This type of attack happens all the time, but since senior level US government officials, military personnel and political activists were targeted the intent seems much more sinister. The attacks were common phishing schemes that are not very sophisticated opening speculation that this was testing the water and that the information may be used for broader attacks.

If someone has your username and password, they can hijack your account.  Not only will they have access to your email, but they can change account settings, forward email and send email as you.  If you are unaware that your account has been compromised, the hacker can play havoc with your information and identity.

Certainly, you have heard these warnings: create a strong password, don’t divulge username and password information especially from email requests, use a good anti-virus, have malware protection and keep a good backup. This cannot be stressed enough – create a strong password for your important accounts.  Next, use a two-step verification or authentication whenever possible.  This is another way to prove it is you.  Google uses a strategy where they will send a unique code to your phone that is required to sign in. The problem with this security measure is that it is not convenient as it takes another step and more time. Often users choose convenience over security.

When you use more than one email address and if you send to a mobile device, be sure that you use security measures that adequately protect your information.  The more valuable the information, the more protection is needed. and just like physical security, use barriers as deterrents.  In the digital and virtual world, barriers are passwords, tokens, PINs and other information that only you will know.

To learn more about the Google 2-step verification, go to http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?answer=175197

Social Media Tactics: Part 1

March 31, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]By Katie Sewell, TAG and Mary Hester, LAN Systems

social_media_tacticsBy now you have heard that Social Media is a revolution.  A big change is coming in the way businesses market and communicate their message.  To understand Social Media you have to spend time studying the concept, method and strategy.  Don’t worry if it seems complicated and time consuming at first.  We have a few proven strategies that we personally use to give your social media campaign a boost. We’ll start with Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter – Twitter is a social networking site which enables news sharing and connectivity among people and businesses through short updates. It’s hard for some to understand the Twitter sensation.  Why would anyone tweet their lunch menu or location? There is a great deal of self-indulgence on Twitter and you should always be conscious of your personal safety. Try these few tips to propel you to the top.

1)      Be interactive – reply to and retweet items of interest.  Post articles about you and your company.  Give information of interest to your community.  Minimize the sales pitch.

2)      Use and create hash tags for topics and events.  TAG promoted the 2011 Technology Summit with #GTS2011 on Twitter.  You can use the hash tag term to search and it may “trend” on Twitter which is similar to going viral on YouTube.

3)      Keep it real and meaningful – don’t tweet just for the sake of tweeting.  Automated tweets and pre-canned quotes and messages are obvious. Twitter is a conversation that you have in your own voice.  The voice can be business or personal, but be genuine.

Facebook – If you are going to use Facebook for business, be sure to keep it separate from your personal account.  Being on the Internet is like being in a magnified fishbowl where every imprudent act is available to all and kept forever.  Even with the risks, Facebook can be a fabulous business tool if used wisely.

1)      Create a company Facebook page where you can write about your company values, events and people. Post tasteful pictures and items of interest.

2)      Invite Facebook users to “like” your page.  Remember, it’s about quality here, not quantity. While it’s important to have a high number of “likes” on your company’s page, it’s more important to keep the content fresh and updated.

3)       An important goal to have for your organization’s social media sites, especially Facebook, is to encourage interactive behavior from your users. A good way of accomplishing this is to have contests where a prize is given. When you want feedback and user interactivity, offer a reward or prize that makes it worthwhile for the user to participate. LAN Systems is having a contest for a copy of Microsoft Office Pro 2010 for liking its Facebook page. We’ll let everyone know how it turns out on our page.

4)      Share links and Tag others in your posts and status updates. This creates exposure from both sides. Be polite and considerate when sharing.

5)      Like and or comment on photos, articles and posts. Depending upon your online persona, you may want to avoid controversial topics.  In any case, always review your posts before submitting for content, spelling and grammar.  A typo isn’t the end of the world, but it can be embarrassing.

Once you create your Twitter and Facebook page, it’s important to check on a regular basis. Your company needs to appear to be responsive to the users. Answer messages and keep the conversation going!

Next time, tips for LinkedIn and Blogging.  Until then, please send us a comment or leave a message.

Managing Rows and Columns in Excel

January 27, 2011

Excel[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest author David H. Ringstrom, CPA, www.accountingadvisors.com

Users often hide rows or columns in a spreadsheet to conceal private data, or perhaps just to keep a large spreadsheet manageable. This is a helpful feature in Excel, but many users often go about managing rows the hard way:

Excel 2007 or later: In the Cells section of the Home tab choose Format, Hide & Hide, and then make a selection as to what to hide or unhide.

Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Row or Column and then Hide or Unhide, respectively. 

Hiding rows is fairly straight forward, as you can select the rows or columns, and then carry out the aforementioned menu command. To unhide rows or columns, you must select rows above and below the hidden section, or columns to the left and right of the hidden section, and then carry out the menu command.

Constantly navigating the menus to hide and unhide rows or columns can put unnecessary wear-and-tear on your wrists, but there are some easier alternatives. For instance, these keyboard shortcuts work in all versions of Excel:

  • Press Ctrl-9 to hide a row or , as oppoCtrl-Shift-9 to unhide a row.
  • Press Ctrl-0 (zero) and Ctrl-Shift-0 (zero) to  hide or unhide columns.

In both cases, make sure to use the numbers at the top of your keyboardsed to the number pad at the right of your keyboard.

Many users are particularly bedeviled when they need to unhide selected rows or columns within a hidden area of a worksheet. Typically they unhide all rows and columns in the affected section, and then rehide what they don’t need. Consider this surgical approach in all versions of Excel instead:

  1. Press F5 to display the Go To dialog box.
  2. Enter the address of the cell or cells that you want to unhide, such as A1 if you want to unhide a single row or column, D1:G1 if you want to unhide several columns, or A5:A10 if you want to unhide several rows, and then click OK.
  3. Use the keyboard shortcuts or menu commands I mentioned above to unhide the desired portion of your worksheet.

If you need to frequently hide and unhide sections of a spreadsheet, try the Group and Outline feature instead. First, select one or more rows or columns, and then carry out these steps:

Excel 2007 and later: On the Data tab of the ribbon, choose Group in the Outline section.

Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Data, Group and Outline, and then Group.

Once you do so, a button with a minus sign will appear outside the worksheet frame. Click this button to collapse (or hide) the rows or columns. The minus sign will change to a plus that allows you to expand that section. Or use the 1 and 2 buttons at the top left-hand corner of the screen to expand or collapse all grouped columns or rows in the spreadsheet. To remove the outlining, select the grouped rows or columns, and then choose the Ungroup command on the aforementioned menus.

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based spreadsheet and database consulting and training firm. Contact David at david@accountingadvisors.com or visit www.accountingadvisors.com.

Microsoft Office 2010: The best new features in PowerPoint

September 10, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]For anyone that has ever presented to a group, you know it is essential to be well prepared and have the right props.  For many, PowerPoint is the prop of choice. 

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. With just a little time investment, PowerPoint will make you look like a presentation guru!

When creating the perfect presentation, be sure not make your slides too busy or add too much glitz.  If you want to use sound and video, make sure to add at a place in your presentation where it will complement your message.  Video can be a great introduction or it can be used to clarify your points.  Don’t use sound or video in parts of your presentation where you need the attention of the audience.  Don’t let text dominate your presentation.  Use pictures and graphics liberally as people remember points made through visuals much better than they remember words.

Create interesting presentations

Use built in video power tools – Create extraordinary presentations by embedding video that was created using tools that give a professional multimedia experience.  You can fade, add formatting effects, bookmark scenes, and trim your videos with ease.  Sharing is easy because the embedded video is part of the PowerPoint presentation. You only have to share one file.

Embedded videos can now become part of your PowerPoint presentation

Picture editing made easy – Use new and improved picture editing tools—including versatile artistic effects and advanced correction, color, and cropping tools—to fine-tune every picture in your presentation to look its absolute best.

Built in graphic effects – You don’t have to be a design expert to create professional-looking graphics. Use dozens of additional SmartArt® layouts to create organization charts, lists, and picture diagrams. Transform words into impressive visuals that better illustrate your ideas. Create diagrams as easily as typing a bulleted list or convert text and images to a diagram in just a few clicks. All the tools you need to create stunning graphics are built into PowerPoint.     

PowerPoint 2010 SmartArt Example

3-D transitions and improved animations -PowerPoint 2010 offers new, dynamic slide transitions and animation effects that look similar to graphics you’d see on TV. Easily access, preview, apply, customize, and replace animations. You can also use the new Animation Painter to easily copy animations from one object to another.

Quick and easy presentation management 

Microsoft Office Backstage view – This is the tool palette you see when you select File. This is where you manage your files and the data about them — creating, saving, inspecting for hidden metadata or personal information, and setting options. In short, it is everything that you do to a file that you don’t do in the file.

Compress video and audio – Select File and then Info to compress video and audio in your presentation.  This reduces the file size and can increase playback performance.  Select the quality option from the drop-down choices.

The option to compress media is one of many new features available from the new Backstage view

Customize the Ribbon – Use customizations to personalize the ribbon the way that you want it. For example, you can create custom tabs and custom groups to contain your frequently used commands.  Note:Ribbon customization is specific to the Microsoft Office program you are working in at the time. Ribbon customization does not apply across the Office programs.

Work together from anywhere

Live broadcast – Broadcast your slide show to people in other locations, whether or not they have PowerPoint installed. Create a video of your presentation—including your transitions, animations, narration, and timings—to share with virtually anyone, any time after your live broadcast.

You can broadcast your slide show to people remotely, whether or not they have PowerPoint installed

Microsoft PowerPoint Web App is an online companion to Microsoft PowerPoint which enables you to extend your PowerPoint experience to the browser. View a high fidelity version of your presentations, make light edits, or view your presentation slide show. Use the familiar PowerPoint interface and some of the same formatting and editing tools, from almost any computer with a Web browser.

Microsoft PowerPoint Mobile 2010 enables you to do light editing for your presentations and is especially designed for easy use on your Windows phone. You can even run your slide show right on your phone.

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

If you have any questions or need help with the instructions, email me at: mary@lansystems.com.

Hard drive basics: Data in motion

July 29, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]Today’s electronics go with us everywhere and keep us connected.  We are accustomed to using our electronics while moving, but not all devices are designed to be used on the go. Hard drives have moving parts and that is an important point to remember.

As a refresher, let’s simply look at how a hard drive (sometimes called a hard disc) works.  The drive includes a platter to hold the data, a head to read the data and electronics to control the process.  The platter is mirror smooth and stores the magnetized data. If you have never seen the inside of a hard drive, the surface looks like a mirror.  The head is attached to an arm that rides just above the platter surface.  If the head touches the platter, damage and data lose almost always occurs.  The electronics control the storage and retrieval of data.

Servers, workstations and desktops are stationary units.  You should never move them while the unit is on. When the unit is off, the head is “parked” so that it will not accidently touch the platter.  Vibrations can also cause the head to impact the platter, so it is important not to install computers in areas that can shake them.  For instance, don’t locate computers near air conditioner compressors or other motorized equipment.  If you can’t eliminate the vibrations, consider installing a vibration pad.

Notebooks, laptops and netbooks are often used as mobile devices, but are still susceptible to hard drive damage.  Many high-end or hardened mobile computers have motion sensing protection.  This protection will temporarily stop or park the head to prevent damage.  Sophisticated motion protection is available but adds cost. Vibration pads are a lower cost option.  In general, your mobile computer should be used on a stationary surface.

Camcorders and other mobile devices with hard drives have a suspension system and sensors that protect the hard drive in case of sudden acceleration.  This safeguards the data by keeping the head from touching the platter even if the unit is dropped.  This often works very well, but is not an absolute guarantee that the hard drive will not be damaged.

To protect your data, always use care when operating and make sure you have a good backup!

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

If you have any questions or comments, email me at: mary@lansystems.com.

Microsoft Office 2010: The best new features in Word

July 13, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]Word has become the standard for creating and formatting documents of all types from simple letters to documents with a table of contents, index and glossary. Word has made the task of creating and editing documents easy.  Tools like spell check and thesaurus have made us look smart and polished.  Thankfully, long gone are the days of typewriters, carbon paper and correction fluid.

Word 2010 has bold new features to enhance your document-formatting.  It also bundles mobile features so you can take your documents with you almost-anywhere.  With just a little practice, you can impress everyone with content-rich, visually compelling, professional documents for home, school or work. 

Add flair to your documents and get noticed!

Transform with photos – 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 – Add more visual impact 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. From Font, choose Text Effects and make your choice.

Work with anyone – anywhere, anytime

Easily co-author documents – Word 2010 redefines the way people can work together on one document. 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.

Access your information from more places – Microsoft Word Web App is an online companion to Microsoft Word that enables you to extend your Word experience to the browser. View a high fidelity version of your documents and make light edits as well. Access some of the same formatting and editing tools that are in Word 2010, and work in a familiar editing environment, from almost any computer with a Web browser.

Microsoft Word Mobile 2010 gives you a lightweight editor for your documents that’s especially designed for easy use on your Windows phone.

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

If you have any questions or need help with the instructions, email me at: mary@lansystems.com.

Creating an Outlook signature with hyperlinks

July 6, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]Now that you have your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts all jazzed up, it’s time to add links to your email signature.  You can make a hyperlink to your social media sites and mail recipients can “click” right to them.  Follow these simple steps to add your signature.  For instructions with screen images, go to:  http://www.lansystems.com/Creating-an-Outlook-signature-with-hyperlinks.html

  1. Get your logos.  You will need your company logo and logos for the social media sites to hyperlink.  There are many logos to choose from that are in the public domain.  If you want to use a logo that requires payment or special permission, make sure to satisfy all requirements before using.
  2. Get your hyperlinks.  Go to each of your social media sites and cut/copy the links to that site.  Be sure that you use the links that do not require login to the site.  For instance, when you login to Twitter your homepage is: http://twitter.com/home  For others to see you, use the link to your account: http://twitter.com/LANSystems
  3. Open Outlook and go to Tools – Options – Mail Format – Signatures – Edit
  4. Since graphics/logos and hyperlinks will be added, we will use Word as our editor.  Choose Advanced Edit and you will see a message that an external editor will be launched, select Yes.
  5. Use Word to create your signature.  You can start with a format line above the signature and then add your name, phone and other contact information.
  6. Add the logo, by inserting a picture.  Right click on the logo and choose- Edit Hyperlink.  Add your hyperlink here.
  7. Adjust until you like the look.
  8. Save as Your_Name.rtf.
  9. Create a new email message and check the signature format.  Make sure to verify all links.
  10. Use with all email messages.  And be sure to add logos as you add new social media sites.

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

If you have any questions or need help with the instructions, email me at: mary@lansystems.com.

Getting the most from your IT budget

May 21, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]Especially during tough times, we look to trim our operating budgets.  Efficient use of our valuable resources is just smart business and there are many ways to manage costs without sacrificing performance.  Below are a few ideas that you can use immediately with a minimum of time and investment. 

  1. Recycle software licenses – It’s worth the effort to record all software purchases so you can easily transfer and upgrade licenses.  Start with an inventory of all existing software and then be sure to update as you add and replace licenses.  Often software licenses can be harvested as hardware is retired.  When purchasing, compare the cost of transferable to non-transferable licenses.  Be sure to keep the necessary documentation with your master list in a file.  To save paper, use electronic files.
  2. Optimize printing – Start with evaluating what you print and eliminate unnecessary or duplicate hardcopy.  In today’s office, most paperwork can be saved electronically eliminating the need for a printed copy.  When using electronic records, be sure that your system includes a common repository for all records and a rigorous backup strategy. Additionally, share network printers in workgroups.  Save on paper costs by using lighter weight paper for internal documents.  You can use paper tray selection through Print Properties.  Multifunction printers that print, copy, scan and fax might be a good investment.  Always evaluate printers that meet your needs by using the total cost per page (TCPP).
  3. Server virtualization – Use existing server hardware and add a “virtual” server to improve performance or add features. Virtualization allows you to house two or more “virtual” servers on the same hardware.  You can also consolidate servers into a virtual configuration.
  4. Application virtualization – Separate the application configuration layer from the OS in a desktop environment, reduce application conflicts, bring patch and upgrade management to a central location and accelerate the deployment of new applications and updates.
  5. Desktop virtualization – Rather than using your desktop PC to run applications, use your server to host all applications and data for the desktops.  This client-server model is advantageous in many ways.  You can deploy desktops quickly on a basic machine and may double the useful life of PCs since they need minimum resources. On existing systems, you may be able upgrade your entire system by adding a server without changing any desktop PCs.

For more IT solutions and computer support tips, visit: http://www.lansystems.com

Fighting Spam

March 31, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]

Over 90% of email is unsolicited and unwanted. Junk emails flood the electronic delivery system with messages that we just don’t want and phishing schemes fool millions each year.  These abuses waste time and resources and are one of the biggest productivity drains that businesses face.

Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of all spam but you can manage the problem and protect your business from incidental damage.  Make sure you have a clear email policy and train users so they don’t fall for spam tricks. 

  1. Use a Spam Filter – although spammers work on beating the filter, this is your best first defense.
  2. Never reply to spam, not even to unsubscribe – often this just confirms your email is valid.
  3. Disable automatic downloading of HTML pictures –  spammers get confirmation that you opened the message if the graphics (pictures) are downloaded.
  4. Don’t participate in chain emails – these often harvest email address and many recipients find them irritating.
  5. Don’t respond to email requests that ask for personal information or money – this is the most common phishing scam.
  6. Use privacy settings on your accounts – especially for social media sites, don’t publically list your email address.
  7. Use care when giving your email – if you list your email on any site (or on your business card) remember it increases your chances of being spammed.
  8. Don’t spam others – if you have a eNewsletter or send email information be sure you follow proper protocol and allow your recipients to easily unsubscribe.
  9. Turn off read and delivery receipts and automatic response to meeting requests – these responses are used to validate your email address.
  10. If you receive spam in your inbox, you can forward it with the proper header to uce@ftc.gov.

More technical notes at www.lansystems.com/technotes.html