Battery Technology Breakthrough

Jul 31
2014

With the increasing computing power and functionality of smartphones, one of the top complaints lodged is poor battery life. That could very well be changing. A recent game breaking technology developed by researchers at Stanford University is said to be able to increase current rechargeable battery capacity by up to 400%.

We are all familiar with the term “Lithium Ion”, which is what most of all current batteries are made of. They have three core parts: an electrolyte, an anode and a cathode. The electrolyte provides the electrons (electricity), the anode discharges the electrons and the cathode which receives the electrons after they pass through the circuit. The problem today is that the electrons cannot be collected efficiently because, currently, anode’s are typically made up of graphite or silicon. However, a pure lithium anode would skyrocket performance. That is exactly what scientists believe they have accomplished. The standard for commercially viable batteries is 99.9% efficiency, which is the challenge that still lies ahead. They aren’t quite at that threshold yet but believe they are on the cusp.

If successful, we could expect cell phone batteries with double or triple the battery life, electronic cars that have the ability to travel 300 miles on a single charge without increasing the cost of the vehicles and the ability to roam longer with our laptop computers.

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CryptoLocker (Crilock): What is this?

Jun 30
2014

Folks, there is a new player in the computer virus/malware game. It’s called CryptoLocker or Crilock for short. This has been around for about a year and is a form of ransomware. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Once this virus establishes itself on your computer, it encrypts files and holds them for a “ransom”. You cannot unlock the files it has encrypted without paying a fee to the perpetrators.

How it gets in: Simply put, the virus will enter your computer through an attachment, usually in an email. If the attachment is downloaded (opened in most cases) the virus then spreads itself throughout your system and then locks down the files on your computer. Unlike some viruses or malware that simply lock up your computer, this one attacks the files on your computer and renders them useless without paying their ransom. Most people have regularly used files on either their personal or work computers, right? They are hoping that it will be important enough for you to pay the ransom. 

How to protect yourself: The very first step you should take is to purchase a good, reliable anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-spyware software program. If you already have one loaded on your computer, make sure it is updating regularly to protect against the latest threats, including CryptoLocker. Next step, make sure to keep all of your important data backed up on a regular basis. Next important tip, DO NOT under ANY circumstance open email attachments unless you know the person sending it. If you get something that looks to be from your insurance company, bank, doctor, etc.. make sure, if you weren’t expecting it, to play it safe and call them to see if it’s legit.

Hopefully none of you will ever have to worry about this. If it happens, give us a call and we will help to the best of our ability.

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Data Breaches: Should You Be Worried?

May 30
2014

Well, the answer to that is both yes and no, which, I’m sure isn’t exactly what you want to hear. We’ve all seen in the news in the last year or so about a lot of the retailers that were hacked. Target, eBay and Schnucks come to mind.  Fact of the matter is, there’s a whole lot of people who, by either pure enjoyment or job duty, try to hack into everything from the biggest retailers and banks to just the average Joe’s email account. Truth be told, it can be very profitable and that’s why most do it. Whether that be from stealing an identity and spending lots of money, clearing bank accounts or selling your personal information to marketing companies, somebody is gaining from it.

This number may scare you a bit, 630,432,294. That is the total number of records exposed in breaches since 2005. Shocking right? What’s even more shocking is that number could be 10 times that amount if it wasn’t for the extremely intelligent individuals who work to prevent hacker attacks on a day to day basis.

If you were exposed in one of the recent big box breaches, most likely your financial institution would have contacted you when the information was received. In fact, most banks and credit unions went ahead and gave everybody new cards and card numbers just to be safe. Here are a few tips to follow regarding breaches:

  1. Monitor your bank accounts – check the balance every day.
  2. Make sure your bank has issued you a new card with a new card number for each one associated with the account.
  3. Make sure you mark any emails that make it into your inbox that are unfamiliar, as SPAM.
  4. Change all of your online passwords – banking, social media, email, etc.

Hopefully it will be a long time until the next one, however, take this as a reminder to be vigilant and be careful where you make purchases.

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Simple Ways to Protect Your Electronics

Apr 30
2014

It’s storm season again and we all know what that means. Lightning, thunder, tornadoes, oh my! Kidding aside, severe weather is no joking matter and puts life and property at risk. Some of that property includes our electronics. Things like TV’s, gaming consoles, DVD/Blu-Ray players, computers, scanners, fax machines, musical equipment and the like are all vulnerable to power surges or being fried from lightning strikes. If you have valuable data on your computer, whether it be business or residential, there are options for keeping that safe as well in the event you need to recover data. 

The first tip is to purchase a simple surge protector to plug your devices into. You may need to purchase more than one depending on the layout of your electronics i.e. multiple devices in different locations of the home or business. This may seem like a big expenditure but trust me, it’s less expensive than replacing all of your fancy stuff. If you need additional comfort, you can always unplug the devices altogether in the event of a severe storm.

There are also home-wide surge protectors that can be purchased and installed at your electrical panel. In most cases, this is not necessary but it would ensure that everything in the home that’s plugged into an outlet will be protected. After a storm, you should check to make sure that it wasn’t tripped. 

As far as data protection goes, you definitely don’t want important information sitting on a computer or server with none of the above solutions in place. In saying that, they are not full proof solutions. If you have a home office with crucial business information stored, you have irreplaceable documents or if your business is vulnerable to power outages or lightning strikes, you may want to consider having your data backed up at an off-site location. Most data centers and IT companies offer affordable and reliable backup plans to ensure your sensitive data is always safe.

I hope these tips are helpful and we hope that you stay safe during this years severe weather season! 

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Spring Cleaning Should Include Your Computer

Mar 31
2014

Well, it’s that time again isn’t it? When we all get crazy motivated to scrub, dub, dust, wipe and get rid of our winter hoarding mess. Some people call it “spring cleaning”. Others, a “purge”. Any way you slice it, your computer should be on the list of things to clean. Really, it should be every 3 months. You would be extremely shocked if you’ve never opened up your computer. The amount of dirt, dust and pet hair that gets sucked into the fan is pretty amazing. I’ve seen some that look like the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean. Crazy. It’s very important to keep the inside of your computer clean. You could potentially ruin the hard drive if the fan is unable to properly keep it cool. It is also a fire hazard. Here are some tips and tricks on how to keep your computer clean:

  • Never spray or squirt any liquid onto any computer part. If a spray is needed, spray the liquid onto a cloth and use that to rub it down. 
  • You can us a vacuum to suck up dirt, dust or hair around the computer on the outside. However, DO NOT use a vacuum for the inside of your computer as it causes a ton of static electricity that can damage the internal parts of your computer. If you need to use a vacuum to clean it, use a portable battery powered one. You can also use compressed air. 
  • When cleaning a component or the computer, turn it off before cleaning.
  • Be careful if you decide to use any cleaning solutions. Some products can harm the computer. Try to always use a little water or severely diluted solution. 
  • When cleaning, be mindful of the knobs or controls and make sure not to unplug anything from the back.
  • When cleaning fans, especially the smaller fans within a portable computer or laptop it’s suggested that you either hold the fan or place something in-between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning. Spraying compressed air into a fan or cleaning a fan with a vacuum may cause damage i.e. back voltage. 
  • Try to limit eating, drinking and smoking around the computer. 

Now that you have some helpful tips to safely clean your computer, I hope that you will put this on the list. It’s very important for the health of the device. You can even call it spring cleaning so it seems more festive and fun!

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