All posts by Philip MacKethan

A Message from your Computer Guy with a Bow Tie.

All good things must come to an end, even Windows 7. After January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or support for PCs running Windows 7. So what are your options…

1) Buy a new computer with Windows 10.
2) You can purchase a copy of Windows 10 and upgrade your PC so long as it has the basic requirements.
3) If you have Microsoft Office 365 Business you can upgrade your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 for free.

You can continue to use Windows 7, but once support ends, your PC will become more vulnerable to security risks. Windows will operate but you will stop receiving security and feature updates. Support for Internet Explorer on Windows 7 devices will also be discontinued on January 14, 2020.

How do you know if you have Windows 7? Look in the lower left hand corner of your computer.

Colorful Microsoft Flag = Windows 7
White Microsoft Flag = Windows 8 or 10

HDD Terminator

I just received my new hard drive crushing tool.  It is called Pure Leverage Crusher.  It has a simple but very effective design.  As I have told many of my clients, the best way to make sure that no data can be recovered from your old hard drive is to damage the cylinders inside.  Some people will take a hammer to their old HDD and work out their frustration while others will use a drill.  I always felt that these methods, though effective, were labor intensive.  So I was so glad to have found the Pure Leverage Crusher.  Rather than my trying to explain it in words, I will let these pictures tell the story.

Your typical Hard Drive
The Crushing begins
From Another angle
The end result
Lets try a HDD from a laptop
This was much easier to do
It didn’t stand a chance.

Mesh Networks – They Just Work!

My mission statement is, “Strive to empower my clients through my support, not enslave them to my service.”  Some say it is a bad business model but the educator in me says, “Who cares.”  It does, however inspire me to write about mesh networks.

Without getting technical, a mesh network system, like Eero, Linksys Velop, or Netgear Orbi, is the best solution to total WiFi coverage in your home with minimal setup and maintenance.  It just works!  However, it is not cheap ($200-$400 for a starter set).

Why does my mission statement make me think of mesh networks?  Because every time I install a mesh network for a client they never call me with WiFi problems.  I may hear from them for other reasons but never the WiFi.

Other advantages to the mesh networks…

  • No need to run cables though the house.
  • No need for multiple WiFi names (like MyWiFi and MyWiFi-Ext) that you get with range extenders.
  • Setup is simple through the use of an app on your phone.
  • Management, if any is needed, is also simple though an app on your phone.
  • Internet speeds are consistently good no matter which device you are closest to.
  • No need to rent a WiFi modem from Comcast or whomever.

Let me talk a little about that last one.  Since the mesh network essentially takes over your WiFi system it is advisable to disable the WiFi signals on the modem of your internet provider.  Not only because it will not be used, but also because having two devices broadcasting WiFi signals in close proximity to each other, can have an adverse effect on performance.  So, unless you need that modem for telephone service, I would advise getting rid of it and buying a basic modem for about $60 and save yourself the monthly rental fee (~$11/month).  Calculating a little ROI on that, depending on which mesh system you buy, you could see a savings in as few as three years.

I could get into all the other useful features of the different systems, like network security, guest networks and parental controls but I will leave it with the fact that it just works.

A new SCAM attempt to add to my experience list

This is a recent email conversation that I had with what started out sounding like a potential new client. As the conversation continued over a few days I became more and more suspicious of a SCAM and ultimately ended it after doing some research. This post is kind of long but I hope by including the entire dialog others will be able to avoid similar scams.
Day 1
An email arrives from Donald Doggette (pn3962975@gmail.com)
Donald: Hello, My name is Donald Bowers I got your information online for computer repair services, Let me know if you can do this? and do you accept credit card as method of payment? Hope to hear from you soon
At this point I am not thinking SCAM but I do think it is odd that his email is from Donald Doggette with an odd email address and he calls himself Donald Bowers. He also uses broken English. But I’m game to see where this goes.
Me: Hi Donald, Thank you for reaching out to me. Please tell what kind of computer repair you are talking about and where you are located. Yes I do accept credit cards and look forward to doing business with you.
Donald: Thanks for the response. I would need your help i have 20 used HP pavilion 500-281 desktop running window 7 pro,I want them wiped and load to window 10 can you handle that?….if Yes i need you to tell me what is the total cost estimate for this service and I want them done in your location i have make arrangement with a driver that will bring them and also pick it up as soon as it’s ready.Cause i won’t be coming in with the driver due to my current health status. I’m currently under intensive care in preparation for my surgery,I will need your address and your full name for delivery.. I’m doing the booking since the whole surprise is my idea and i will be responsible for all payment.
Note that he does not give me his location, uses more broken English and the use of a driver is odd. So now I am suspicious but still curious. I am actually thinking that the 20 computers may be stolen. So I continue.
Me: Hi Donald, I would be happy to help you with this project. Just a few more questions.
1) Are all 20 computers identical?
2) Do you already have the 20 Windows 10 Pro licenses?
3) Will you need me to install any other software?
4) What is your time line?
Please keep in mind that I work out of my house. Handling this project here is not an issue but I wanted to make you aware.
Donald: Hello Thanks so much for the swift responds. to answer your question all the 20 computer are not identical and i don’t have window 10 licensees so Please i will need you to do all that for me so kindly get back to me with the total cost Estimate so we can proceed forward..
He really wants to know the total cost and is in a rush for such a large project. Major Scammer Flags. In retrospect I see that all his answers lead to a bigger more costly job.
Me: Hi Donald, The cost for Windows 10 Pro is $XXX per computer. The cost for Windows 10 Home is $XXX per computer. I will need you to pay for this up front.
Since the computers are not identical I will have to perform the install individually. Not a problem just more time consuming. I will install Windows 10 up to the welcome screen (Out of Box condition). For that service I charge $XXX per computer. This can be paid when you pick up the computers.
Donald: Hello that sound good so can you let me know the total cost estimate so I can make a deposit Upfront and i will be balancing you ones the job is done
At this point I know it is a scam. He still has not answered half my questions and he is unable to do the math to calculate the total. But I am still not sure what the scam will be. So I continue.
Day 2
Me: Hi Donald, The total charge to install Windows 10 Pro on 20 computers is $X,XXX. This includes the 20 licenses and my labor. I will require an initial payment of $X,XXX to cover the cost of the licenses before I begin the work. The balance of $X,XXX is to be paid when you, or your driver, pick up the computers.
Please call me to finalize the details.
Donald: Hi Thanks for the info. I want you to know that your estimate cost meet up with my initial budget for the computer repair service and I am ready to make a deposit payment of $X,XXX. What is the name of merchant you process Credit cards payment through and it’s % per charges. The reason I ask was because I don’t feel comfortable using merchants like PayPal or Square. i’ve had issues with them in the past for double charging and late remittance so please before i will send you my credit card information to process for the charges i will need a little favor from you?.
I am still not sure how he will try to scam me but that fact that he wants to avoid PayPal and Square sets off all kinds of bells and whistles.
Me: Hi Donald,
I use the square.
Day 3
Donald: I don’t feel comfortable using merchants like PayPal or Square. i’ve had issues with them in the past for double charging and late remittance. Can you look into a different merchant to take my card? I know they might request a set-up fee or some form of tax, so i will be responsible for all form of expense resulting from it Unfortunately I can only make payment with my credit card. Can you obtain a credit card merchant and have them set you up to accept credit cards? Here are couple merchants i know they are reliable. phoneswipe.com, ipaymentech.com, ipaymentinc.com, Elavon.com, Chase PaymenTech, Clover.com, Merchantone.com, Gravitypayment. You can signup with clover.com they are fast convenient and reliable. In 48hrs after you sign up machine is sent to you and up running and they clear funds 24hrs once charged on my card.i will be responsible for all form of expense resulting from it
Finally I decide to do a little digging around to see if this is a common scam. I searched for some of his verbiage but did not find any matches. Finally I stumble upon some common a PayPal scams. I believe his plan was to find a merchant that I was not using, send me an email with a link to that system so I can set up an account. However the link will take me to a fake site where I naively give them all my checking account information. Pretty scary, right? So I asked again for a phone call.
Me: Hi Donald,
Please feel free to call me to discuss this further.
Donald: Hello, I want you to know that it would have been more easier for me to make the reservation over the phone but dr advice me to stay away from phone calls until after my surgery so i can only be reach via email or text at the moment. Sorry for the inconvenience.
At this point I decide to play coy to see how aggressive he would get.
Me: Hi Donald, I am sorry to hear that. Good luck.
I never heard back.
For more information about this type of SCAM and others, please check out this link. I am convinced that he going to try #17 but with a different merchant.

The Amazon Dash Button

I recently install a new gadget. The Amazon Dash Button. A conveniently located device that allows you to order a common item at just the push of a button. In this case, toilet paper. I have strategically place this button on the inside of the closet door were we store our extra TP. Yes, I buy my TP online thanks to the fact that GP Kroger stores only sell the jumbo size rolls. Don’t they know that most of us have old houses around here where jumbo rolls do not fit into the dispensers?

Buyer beware! Compare pricing before choosing this convenient device.  I bought one for Tide and Kleenex but Amazon’s prices were to were close to Kroger’s.

Never thought I’d use a hammer to fix an iPad.

This is a first for me. A friend of mine stopped by for a visit and mentioned that her iPad was all funky. When I asked her to explain, she showed me that the colors were all crazy. I noticed right away that the display was damaged and suggested that she must have dropped it recently. On the contrary, she hit it with a fly swatter over a year ago and the color issue only began yesterday. After laughing about the fly swatter I decided to see if there were any suggested fixes for such a problem, short of sending it out for a new display. Immediately Google presented a number of posts and videos where people were fixing this issue with a hammer. That’s right, just like the one in the picture. So we watched a couple examples and low and behold, the place to tap, and I mean tap lightly, was in the exact same place where her display was damaged. So I pulled out my handy dandy hammer and began tapping. Low and behold, within four taps the color returned to normal. That’s one for the books or Facebooks.

Upgrading to a Solid State Drive (SSD)

My computer is six years old and its tiny 150GB hard drive was maxed out. So I finally pulled the trigger and decided to upgrade to a 500GB Solid State Drive (SSD). For those of you who do not know, a solid state drive is like an over grown USB thumb drive but it goes inside your computer where your old hard drive use to be. It does not have any moving parts or spinning disks so its ability to read and write information is infinitely faster. Well maybe be not infinitely faster, but 3x to 5x faster. Not bad for $185 in parts.

The upgrade took about 3.5 hours but only needed about an hour of my attention. The other 2.5 hours were spent on the hard drive cloning process, which did not need my involvement. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the cloning process was and even though I ran into an error during my first attempt, it was quickly remedied. That is the good news. Here is the better news. My computer now runs faster than it did when it was new. It takes less than 10 seconds for it to fully boot. Not just to show the desktop but to finish loading all the background programs as well. Additionally, all my programs load and run much faster. I’ve taken the waiting out of my computer experience.

Now keep in mind, I bought this computer with the best processor available at the time. That is why I was able to get six years out of it before getting frustrated with its performance. So if you have an older computer with an i5 or i7 processor and want to buy some more time, I highly recommend this upgrade.