Your Passwords Must Have Length and Complexity

What you know about password security is probably wrong, is the title of an article I came across at FierceCIO:TechWatch. It really caught my eye and I think it is important that I pass the most important part of this article on to you:

Passwords that are longer than eight characters are a must, and they should also involve a good mix of upper case characters, numbers and symbols. In addition, a level of randomness is required too, which automatically precludes any word or combination of words found in the dictionary – FierceCIO:TechWatch.

There are so many people that I know who use very simple passwords and do not ever change them. It is a hard sell to get them to change there way of thinking and to change their passwords. If anything, please use the advice given above for those accounts that are super important to you! If you don’t, you are postured for potential compromise of the account.

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Typical Sounds A Hard Drive Will Make When Failing

During all my years of working around PC’s I have learned to not only monitor for the visual cues of the onset of problems; but to also monitor for the audio cues, as well.  For example, if I am assisting someone on a PC that may be experiencing problems, I am lost if there is not a hard drive LED light to monitor the activity of the hard drive.

Just this past week, and I plan to elaborate further in another article, I assisted someone with removing data from a hard drive that was diagnosed by a computer tech as being dead. When I got hold of the drive, I performed an old (and very questionable trick), to get the drive to spin up; and, performed a little known desperation move to actually retrieve the data.

Hard Drive Failure

Again, that is another story, but there was a very noticeable sound when I fired this drive up. It was a sound, based on my experience of being around PCs, that definitely was not good. The drive was emitting a periodic clunking noise which indicated a problem with the head mechanism in the drive. Believe me, I am no tech expert, but when I heard that sound I knew the drive was on the verge of death.

It is easy for me to describe the sound, but what are the typical sounds a hard drive will make when failing?

To give you an idea of how a hard drive actually sounds when it is failing, I encourage you to visit the web site Data Cent. They have actually recorded the sounds of failing hard drives, from a variety of manufacturers (such as Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung, Hitachi/IBM, Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Quantum).

If you are someone that is working toward becoming a computer tech, I encourage you to visit the Data Cent site [ HERE ] to hear the excruciating pains being emitted from these hard drives. When you get to the site, turn up your speakers and click on the small arrows to hear the sounds. Once you hear those sounds, you will not forget them…

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Get The Real Scoop On Printer Ink Cartridges

I do not think I have to tell you that printer ink cartridges are expensive and that you have options out there to “supposedly” save you money; such as, refilling the cartridge (with a kit), buying recycled cartridges or buying generic brand cartridges.  But, are you really saving money by using any of these options?

Ink. Nozzles. Cartridges

If you want the real scoop on printer cartridges and whether the alternatives out there (as I have indicated) are worth your time and money, then you need to read “Ink. Nozzles. Cartridges” .

This article, “Ink. Nozzles. Cartridges” is from a tech that I have great respect for and I totally agree with his analogy and advice on this subject. You do not see many techs write about printer issues, including  myself, due to the fact we despise printers. They can be hard to troubleshoot, hard to work on and just knowing you get the printer at a cheap price and pay big time in the long haul for ink is a big turn off in my book.

I would like to hear your input on printers and whether or not cartridge refill kits, recycled cartridges or generic cartridges are worth it or not???

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Symptoms of a Failing Computer Power Supply

I have been doing IT for many years, working with hundreds of PCs, and I cannot remember having to replace the power supply in any of the computers I managed. Probably was just a stroke of luck on my part.

Power Supply

Recently that stroke of luck changed.  Have you ever heard that things happen in threes?  In this case, three was the magic number.

The following computer power supply failures occurred within a period of 3 days on 3 different computers that were around the 3 year mark in age.

First, my niece… Her PC would not boot.  Power was present to the monitor and other peripherals; however, no power to the computer. Suspected and later confirmed it was the power supply.

Second, my brother… His PC would not boot.  Power was present to the monitor and other peripherals; however, no power to the computer. Suspected and later confirmed it was the power supply.

Third, my PC… The domino affect. First symptom that I noticed began about a month ago. On occasions I would walk away from my computer, returning  an hour or two later to discover that my computer had shutdown and booted on its’ own. Second symptom was more recent. Following a boot of the computer I would go online and suddenly a lockup would occur to the point that nothing worked other than manually powering down the PC. When these two symptoms occurred, I often rebooted and worked with no problems and would not experience these symptoms again for days. Third symptom that occurred was that the computer would suddenly shut down. Then came symptom number four… Power was present to the monitor and other peripherals; however, no power to the computer.

Here are some symptoms you may experience that could indicate that your power supply is failing. Diagnosing power supply problems can be difficult; however, once you start seeing more than one of these symptoms, put the power supply on your troubleshooting checklist.

  • Circuit breakers popping when the PC is turned on
  • System startup failures or lockups
  • Noticeable change in how long it takes for your PC to boot and shutdown
  • Spontaneous rebooting or intermittent lockups during normal operation (small brownouts)
  • Memory Errors
  • HDD and fan simultaneously failing to spin
  • HDD file system corruption
  • USB devices power issues
  • Overheating due to fan failure
  • Electric shocks that are felt when the case is touched
  • Smoke
  • BIOS beeping codes detected

During the course of all that I was experiencing, I was leaning toward the power supply being the culprit and had prepared myself early on. As soon as I started experiencing the first round of hiccups, I made sure I had a backup of all of my data (which I religiously perform on a regular basis anyway). I also went to the computer manufacturer’s website to explore power supply problems and to determine if there were any specs on the power supply in my computer, and if there was any information available on how to remove and install the power supply.

The computer I own is a Hewlett Packard multimedia PC with a 300 watt power supply. What I found on the HP site for my PC was awesome. It showed, step-by-step, the removal process (with pics) and even a video on how to remove the front and side panels of the computer, where the power and drive leads for the power supply were located and what to be cautious of (such as static electricity).

Power Supply

I have been inside of computers many times and knew pretty much the rundown to remove and replace the power supply; however, something as simple as removing the case panels was a major help. When it came time to remove the power supply in my computer, the homework paid off. I had the panels off of the PC, the power leads to the motherboard and drives disconnected, the drives pushed forward to create working room, and the power supply removed within 10 minutes. All together, in my case, removal of (6)-six screws were involved. Note: While I was inside the case of the computer I performed a thorough cleaning, as well.

To replace the power supply, I ended up going from a 300 watt power supply to a 400 watt power supply made by Dynex (through Best Buy). The form factor of the Dynex matched my system perfectly. There are numerous power supply options available on the market (see here for an example)

Dynex Power Supply

Following the replacement of the power supply in my computer I noticed (2)-two remarkable improvements. My computer starts up noticeably faster and shuts down noticeably faster. For example, it took me 1.5 to 3 minutes to boot up prior to the replacement.  Following the replacement of the power supply, my computer now boots to the Windows 7 desktop in less than 1 minute.

In the end, diagnosing a failing power supply can be a challenge, but eventually the symptoms of things to come will rear its’ ugly head. Just be prepared, have your data backed up, and do some research.

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Off Topic: Wisdom from a Farmer

My family has a farming background and when these words of wisdom, from a farmer, was sent to me by a friend, I just had to pass it on.

Old Farmer’s Wisdom

“Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.”

“Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.”

“Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.”

“A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”

“Words that soak into your ears are whispered…….not yelled.”

“Meanness don’t just happen overnight.”

“Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.”

“Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.”

“It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.”

“You cannot unsay a cruel word.”

“Every path has a few puddles.”

“When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.”

“The best sermons are lived, not preached.”

“Most of the stuff people worry about,
ain’t never gonna happen anyway.”

“Don’t judge folks by their relatives..

“Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.”

“Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.”

“Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.”

“Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.”

“If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.”

“Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

“The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’.”

“Always drink upstream from the herd.”

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.”

“Lettin’ the cat outta the bag
is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.”

“If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence,
try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.”

“Don’t pick a fight with an old man.
If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.”

“Live simply, love generously, care deeply,
speak kindly, and leave the rest to God.”

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Is magicJack’s VoIP for you?

magicJack – A device that you plug into your computer’s USB port that enables you to use your broadband internet connection to make FREE local and long distance phone calls. A phone line (standard RJ-11) plugs into the magicJack from a phone. Initial cost is typically around $40 dollars [ CLICK HERE ] the first year, then $20 a year thereafter. There are other pricing packages available, as well.

magicJack

magicJack

Is magicJack’s VoIP for you?

Recently while browsing in the local RadioShack, I could not help overhearing a man and woman asking the salesperson a lot of questions about the magicJack. What they wanted to do was replace the landline phones in their home with a magicJack and this salesperson was laying it on heavy; making it sound like this $20 device was the “ultimate” solution to replacing their landline phone service.

After detecting skepticism from these folks, I could not take it any longer and piped in. I said, “Listen, I have been a magicJack owner for over a year.  It does work; however you need to know this about magicJack”.

  • This device is dependent on the speed and reliability of your broadband connection and your computer. If the broadband connection and/or computer is under heavy load, then expect problems.
  • This device depends on your computer being turned “on”; however, the service does have voicemail which can be forwarded to an email account (in the event the computer is turned “off”).
  • Call quality can vary; however, on my setup the call quality is better than cellular and most of the time as good (sometimes better) than my landline. Again, this varies, based on the factors previously reflected.
  • I have experienced occasional software issues with the magicJack software, which is driven by the magicJack device itself. Often a reboot of the PC will make it behave itself. When you get this thing, get everything plugged in and follow the registration instructions to setup your “new” phone number.

  • This device will not work through the phone jacks in your house. The salesperson was definitely giving that impression. One thing you can do, is purchase a cheap cordless phone and plug the main base into the magicJack.
  • Services included are FREE local and long distance calls, FREE voicemail, FREE call waiting, FREE Caller ID and FREE Directory Assistance.  Again, this all varies based on factors previously reflected; however these services are included.
  • You are going to see thousands of “pros” and thousands of “cons” on this device. For example, [ SEE HERE ] .  All I can tell you is, it works for me.
  • You are going to read where magicJack computers may analyze the phone numbers you call in order to improve the relevance of the ads you see in the magicJack software.  In other words, this could be a privacy concern.
  • You are going to find at the magicJack.com website, it is geared toward marketing; not tech support.

Is magicJack’s VoIP for you?

In this particular case, I set up a “win-win” situation for these folks (the customer) and the salesperson.

Replacing your landline phones in your home with magicJack, is not a good solution; unless you are living on bread alone (which did not appear to be the case here). Using magicJack to supplement other services you have is a good solution. For example, I dumped my long distance and use MagicJack to make my long distance calls, which is really not that many compared to other people. We also have pay-as-you-go cell phones and can use them in a pinch, if necessary.

I then turned to the salesperson and asked, “What is your return policy? AND, If these people buy this and do not like it can they bring it back to YOU? At this point, I really got the look. Once that was out of the way, I told these people, take this home and play with it and play with it a lot.  If it does not suit bring it back to this guy. They ended up buying it!

To my readers, magicJack does work; however it depends on many variables. If you want to play with one, go to Walmart to buy it.  Their return policy is probably the best around. If you can’t wait and want a decent buy, then check [ HERE ] .

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Are You a Faceless Manager Hiding Behind Email?

When managing people it is of the utmost importance that you make an appearance before the people that you are managing, on the main deck of the boat, to prevent the boat from going adrift. It is important to get out there once in awhile and mingle with the backbone of whatever it is you are managing (whether it is an office, a company, a computer network, etc..). I am finding that the days of the Captain going down with his ship are over. In today’s world, it is all about me, and that so called Captain (of today) will let the whole crew sink first.

In today’s age of going paperless, we are also heading toward going faceless. What to do I mean when I say that? Where you work, can you put the Manager’s face with the email? OR Have you not seen the Manager’s face in a long, long time; except for easy stuff like an office party? If either is the case, then your office has went or is going faceless.

Faceless management is becoming the trend. You end doing your job based on email communications and email directives. Is this frustrating?  You bet… It leaves out any opportunity to ask questions “face to face” or to make decisions “face to face”; instead you may email a question back and due to the faceless manager getting so many of these emails, your response back is going to be at best, very wishy washy. The faceless manager is going to tell you that email communications are part of making the office or company more efficient; which is just plain BS.

To me email was intended to provide short bursts of productive information; not lengthy wishy washy directives that become the main level of communication within an organization. Once this practice is accepted, everyone will start doing it, and in the end it will cause inefficiency and low morale. It will absolutely get out of control to the point that you cannot stop it.

I have been on both sides of the fence as being someone that was part of the backbone and someone who eventually had a role in managing the backbone. To become a good manager, no matter what it is you manage, do not hide behind email and become a faceless manager.

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