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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Online Privacy and Tor

Using Tor (The Onion Router) for Online Privacy

In my last post I shared some tips for increasing your browser security, and recommended FireFox for your browsing. Even though FireFox can be setup to send out requests that websites do not track you, other websites do not have to honor this request.

One of your other options to increase your online privacy is to use the Tor Browser. When you browse using Tor, the information you send is encrypted and your IP address is also hidden.

One important thing to note is that simply using the Tor browser is not completely secure, so you may want to do your research before using it.

There are also couple of disadvantages to this method. First, in order to keep your information private, you probably should not use browser add-ons, such as Flash. Steaming in general is not optimized in Tor, because of the way it connects, and you will probably notice slower speeds.

The video from Eli the Computer Guy goes into a little more detail about Tor, but if you would like more information please leave me a comment.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Protecting Your Online Privacy Part 2

Setting Up Your Browser for Better Privacy

In my last post we examined why online privacy should be important to you. The first thing you can do to help protect your online privacy is to change your browser settings. If you're using a PC, Firefox would be a good browser to start with, since you can request that sites do not track you. Please note that this option is not enabled by default, and it is only a request; websites do not have to honor it. If you would like to know how to change privacy options in another browser please leave me a comment and I will write a post on it.
 


You can download Firefox at https://www.mozilla.org 

And here is a good article on PC World that will guide you through setting your privacy settings: PC World FireFox Privacy Settings

Since the do not track requests may not be honored by the websites you vist, you may want to consider some stronger online privacy options. Two options are using third party browser add-ons or using Tor browser, which purposefully hides your identity from other computer. I will explain these options in future blog posts, as well as some of the pros and cons.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Protecting Your Online Privacy

You are Being Watched!

In 2016 it probably doesn't come as a surprise to most people anymore that you may have very little or no privacy online these days. Considering how many people volunteer their personal information on Facebook, for example, maybe online privacy is not a big public concern. Should we be concerned about it? I think so, and I consider privacy a part of online security. One common conception is something along the lines of "If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have to worry." I've never thought this argument really completely holds up to logic, so I'd like to share a TED Talks video with you from Glenn Greenwald that examines this privacy topic in more depth:




If you agree with Glenn Greenwald, and your online privacy is something you consider important, you will want to check out my next blog post for some steps you can take, and free tools to to help protect this aspect of your online security. If you would like to explore the online privacy topic more in depth, please feel free to leave comments and I will be happy to cover this topic more in future posts.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Increase Your Browser Security for Free (Part 1)

Browser Security and Why you should utilize it:

You might be asking yourself why you would need any additional browser security tools, especially if you already have an antivirus program. The most important reason to consider additional protection is that your antivirus program may not adequately protect you against exploits, tools that are purposefully built to take advantage of a vulnerability in your operating system or another program you use.

If the exploit becomes publicly known it will usually be patched by the developers. Before the exploit becomes public knowledge it increases your risk of malware infection and data theft. In order to take advantage of exploit patches it is important to keep your operating system and other programs updated. 

Fortunately for us, there is a free tool that can add an extra layer of security and help protect against exploits that are not yet public knowledge: MalwareBytes Anti Exploit Free guards against malicious behavior, rather than relying on a malware signature base, like standard antivirus programs use. This offers you better protection against unknown exploits. Download Anti Exploit Free at Bleeping Computer

If you've found my blog helpful please share it and leave me comments for questions or suggestions. I will be sharing another free tool to increase your data security tomorrow.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Free Tools to improve PC Security

Your antivirus program may not be enough. 

Yesterday I shared my three favorite free antivirus programs, as well as a video testing all three of them. But it's important to note that an antivirus program is may not enough to adequately protect your PC from malware. All three of the free antivirus programs I mentioned in my last post are pretty good at detecting viruses, but I prefer to have at least one backup to find any malware that may have got past my antivirus. One great secondary malware defense is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free:






The free Malwarbytes version does not scan automatically, so you will need to remember to scan manually. When you download it, you can choose either the free version or do a free trial of the paid version, which will include more features, but is not necessary, in my opinion, although the cost is actually pretty reasonable. If you want the convenience of an all-in-one security suite, then you might consider trying out the paid version. I posted a YouTube video from mrizos testing out the free version called "MalwareBytes vs Malware" if you would like to see some results for yourself. Check out my blog tomorrow for more free tools to improve your PC security (you can subscribe on the main page with your email for automatic notifications).










Malwarebytes vs Malware

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Improve your PC Security with Free Tools

Free Tools that increase your PC Security Part 1

It's important to take steps to protect your personal data against both accidental loss and theft. I would like to start by sharing some free tools that can help make your PC more secure. Most of these free tools have a paid version that usually includes a security package, making things easier for you. It's not as convenient to put together the free tools you need yourself, but you can do it for free. The first thing everyone should have is an antivirus program. There are three free antivirus programs that I use personally, and all of them do a decent job protecting your system.  Here is a video from the PC Security Channel testing all three of them:

https://youtu.be/isZ7wgOjePw

Here are a few of tips for using your free antivirus program:

1. When you first install your free software, pay attention other for programs that will be automatically installed. If you don't need the additional software, be sure to un check the boxes before proceeding.

2. It is recommended to only have one active antivirus scanner. You may want to use other anti-malware programs (more on that in future posts) but antivirus scanners running at the same time on the same system may not work well together.

3. It is especially important to check for updates regularly, if you antivirus does not do so automatically. New malware is being released constantly, so your antivirus needs to be updated to protect you from the latest threats.















Sunday, April 24, 2016

Selecting the the right video card for your computer

Selecting a Video Card

In my last post I wrote about how you might need to install a video card in your computer, especially if you like to play games on it. Today I will show you how to select the right card for your system. As I mentioned in the last post, you don't necessarily need a video card to play all games. Some games will run with the built in graphics, especially if your computer has an AMD CPU with a built in graphics accelerator (GPU). But if you notice your games are running  slow and you've determined that a video card (or new video card) will help, the next thing to do is choose the right one.
If you like to play games, you should probably try to find the fastest video card that fits in your budget. But you also need to make sure it will work with your computer. Also, there's no point in spending a  lot of money for a high end card if the rest of your computer isn't going to keep up with the latest games. For example, if I wanted choose a video card for my old computer, I'm not going to be concerned if it will play Fallout 4, because my computer won't support the CPU or even the amount of RAM needed for that game. Even though my system is pretty old I happen to know I cold play older games on it with the right video card, because I used to play games on a similar system. Any one of my favorite games back then was GTA IV. Rockstar recommends an ATI 3870 card for this game, but that series was released on 2007, so I wasn't even able to find one new. So I started doing my research by looking at some video card benchmarks:


According to this chart, the best card for your money is the Radeon HD 6950, and I actually found this card on NewEgg for $49.99 after a rebate. According to reviews, this card would perform fine for playing the games I could play on my computer. But make sure you look at all the specifications, when choosing a card. I would not be able to use this card in my computer because it needs a 500W power supply, and my existing power supply is only 255W. So if I really wanted the 6950 I would also have to buy a new power supply. Another specification to pay attention to is the actual size of the video card. Before you buy one you may want to open up your computer case and make sure there is enough room for the video card that you want to use, since some gaming cards can be rather large.

I hope these tips have been helpful if you are planning to upgrade your system for gaming. Just remember that if your computer is older you can only upgrade it so much, so you want to do your research and make sure it is going to be worth it. And keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, these days you a can build budget gaming PC with no video card, if you're already thinking of building another one. I have now covered the basics of computer performance. If you would like a more detailed explanation of any related topics please leave me a comment. Tomorrow I will start a series of daily blogs on protecting your computer.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Computer Performance and Video Cards

Do you need a video card? 

In my last post, I discussed checking your computer's CPU performance in task manager, and the possibility of upgrading your CPU. I have already briefly covered testing your internet connection, checking for malware, and cleaning junk files from your system. So you can have a look at my earlier blogs if you need to or leave me a comment if you would like me to go into more detail about any of the previous topics.

Many computers come with built in graphics. While some are better than others, most of them are not suitable for gaming, at least if you want to play newer games and have a decent frame rate. It does depend somewhat on what kind of games you want to play on your computer. If you just want to play games on Facebook, you may not not need a video card. And if you prefer older games you may need a video card, but you probably can get away with a cheaper one. If you want to upgrade your video card it is definitely going to require some research first.

If you like to play video games the first thing I recommend is to check out the system requirements for the games you want to play before you buy them. There is even at least one tool I know of that can automatically detect those settings for you. Although I'm not certain how reliable it is, it did show me that I needed a graphics card to play games, for example. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and use my computer as an example and check to see what games I can play. The first thing I'll do is go to System Requirements Lab and type in the game I want to run. Then I will click the blue "Can I run it?" button, and download an application to check the system requirements for the game. It looks like I won't be playing Fallout 4 on this computer:



This is actually kind of funny, because my computer (not surprisingly) doesn't meet any of the system requirements for Fallout 4! So, in this case, it wouldn't do me any good to look at a video card, because I couldn't even install a CPU that would be fast enough, and the maximum RAM I could install would be less than the 8GB required. And keep in mind these are the minimum system requirements for the game. If your hardware just barely meets the minimum requirements the game is probably not going to perform very well.
Tomorrow I will cover how to select a video card for your system, and a couple of the problems you may encounter when doing so.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Computer Performance (part 2)

In my last post I recommended the first two steps to fixing computer performance issues. Once you've determined that your computer performance is not suffering due to internet connection or malware you are almost ready to move onto the hardware part. I say almost because I forgot to mention one step that I usually do when I check for malware.

I didn't go into detail about malware detection and prevention. There's so much to discuss on that topic that I should probably start another blog just for that. But one important step is to clean up any junk on your computer that can slow it down.

The main tool I use for this is CCleaner. It has a free version, and it's not difficult to use. You can download it here: download CCleaner

There is one option when using CCleaner that I do not recommend, however, and that is the registry cleaner. Making any changes to the registry should only be attempted if you're certain you know what you are doing, to avoid damage to the operating system.


This should really part of step 2, maybe the first part of step 2, because just cleaning the junk from your computer might solve performance issues. If you need more details on step 2 please let me know in the comments and I will start a malware blog where I can take you through the whole process. Otherwise, you are ready for the next step:

Step 3: Check your system to make sure you have enough memory. I'm talking about RAM here, not your hard drive, because upgrading your RAM is one of the most affordable and easiest upgrades to do for your system, once you have determined it is a hardware issue. You will definitely want to do this before you go out and buy a new computer! There are different ways to check your system RAM. You can do it in Windows, but it is going to be slightly different depending which version you are using. You can also use free tools like System Information Viewer, which shows you detailed information about your computer in one place:
The screen is kind of small, and has a lot of information in it, but over on the right side I can see that I have only 2Gb of RAM, and it doesn't appear I have any free slots for more RAM either. Plus, you can see that my CPU is only a dual core, but more on that later. Tools like System Information Viewer are good for checking most of your hardware information all at once. When I mouse over the RAM it tells me more details about it, so I will know what kind of memory to buy if I decide to upgrade. You can download this tool at cnet.com. I didn't post the link because there are separate versions for 32 and 64 bit Windows.

Now, most of us probably know that only having 2Gb of RAM  these days could cause slow performance. But if my computer had more memory, I might not know if was the RAM slowing it down. So the easiest way to check if your RAM is the problem is to open up your task manager:

In fact, when you first notice your computer is running slow, you may want to take a look at the performance tab in task manager. You can see in the above screen shot that my cpu was not doing much at the time. But it shows that it has reserved just over 1Gb of RAM. However, if I started running more things that would increase. So this would be one way to take a look at how much memory you are using, and see if you're using up all your memory. If you would like to know more about choosing memory for your system or installing it, please leave me a comment. I will post more information tomorrow about computer performance, because I think there are at least 2 more steps to determining what your performance issue is (assuming that you didn't find it in the first 3 steps) and then we can continue to look at cost-effective solutions. Sometimes it is better to upgrade, and sometimes it is better just to buy a new computer.





Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do you need more computer performance?

Things that can slow your computer down: 

Computer performance is something I have always had problems with, especially since I like to play games. I'm typing this article on an old computer right now. I actually bought this computer refurbished to replace an even older computer that was still running Windows XP! I don't recommend using Windows XP anymore, since it is not supported by Microsoft, I would be concerned about the security.

My old computer (running Windows Vista) works pretty well at surfing the web, watching videos, checking email, etc. If you notice your computer is slow even during theses tasks, there are a couple of things you should check before going out and buying a new computer. In fact, there are a couple of things you may be able to check for free:

1. Internet Connection: The first thing I would check is my internet connection speed; because even the fastest computers will not do any good if the problem is your internet connection. It's pretty easy to check this. I use a website called speedtest.net
Here is a test I just ran on my computer. It looks like my internet connection is decent right now:


You can see here that my download speed is 56 mbps. While many people certainly have faster internet speeds, I shouldn't be having any problems surfing the web, streaming Netflix or YouTube, or downloading most files at this speed. If anyone is interested in more information on internet connections please comment and I will write a blog post on it soon.

2. Check for Malware: In my experience, one of the most common symptoms of malware is slow computer performance. Unfortunately that is not the worst problem malware can cause. If you have malware on your computer you are risking loss of data (this is why backups are so important) as well as your private information being exposed. So you should check for malware on a regular basis.

Malware is an important topic, and one of the most common problems I have been called for in IT support, so I will be posting more information on what you can do to check for it and protect your system in the future. For now, I will just say make sure you have at the very minimum an antivirus, one or more anti-malware programs, and a firewall, and make sure that you update them and run regular scans.

Note that there are some very good free security programs, so you do not have to spend a bunch of money on this. If you buy one of the big ones keep in mind your license is normally only good for a certain amount of time (maybe 1 year, for example). After that it is important to note if you have not paid to update your subscription your computer is not being protected.

Once you have eliminated the above two issues, if you still feel your computer performance is less than desired, then we will go over the next steps to find out the most affordable and efficient way to solve the performance issue, in my next blog post tomorrow. Please leave a comment if you have a question or anything to add.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Introduction to Computer Tech News Daily


Hi! I'm Kevin Gulley and I have been interested in computers and related technology ever sense my first computer, which was an IBM XT,  released in 1983, similar to this one on the right:

There was no color on mine, just orange and black on the screen. Back then we didn't have windows, so to do anything you had to enter commands in DOS. Fortunately, things have come a long way since 1983!

Computers are much easier to use, and we can do much more with them today. I learn about exciting new computer technology all the time and I would like to share it with you in this daily blog. I will be sharing ways to increase your computer performance, protect your security, and more. I will be sharing some great tools to help you have a better computer experience and showing you how to use them.