Ink Subscription Plans

Here is a question that I get often. Should I do the ink plan when I buy a new printer? If you are not familiar, most printer manufacturers now offer a plan to keep you supplied with their ink. They will monitor your printer and automatically send new cartridges when your current cartridges are running low. They typically charge you an amount monthly like $3, or something similar to cover the cost based on your usage. 

This can be helpful since you can actually budget your ink usage and not have to shell out close to $100 when your ink finally runs out. It is also nice not to have to worry about ink and it just shows up at your door. But there are a few things to consider before you actually go down this road.

 Once you sign up for these plans, you CAN’T just go to the store and purchase ink if your supply doesn’t arrive in time or if you get a defective cartridge. You can only use the ink that they supply. I had a customer that had this happen. His current cartridges dried up because he hadn’t printed anything in a while, so he decided to just run to the store and buy some ink. His printer would not accept the store-bought ink even though it was made by the printer manufacturer. He had to wait for his shipment from the manufacturer.

You must keep your printer connected to the internet to use the ink plans. If you disconnect from the internet and use the USB connection your printer will not work.

If you cancel your plan, the cartridges you currently have will not work. You have to go to the store and buy ink. All ink plan cartridges belong to the manufacturer and the empties must be returned to them.

There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to these plans. If you do a lot of printing, you should buy a laser printer. The cartridges for laser printers last a lot longer so you will run out less often and you should have plenty of time to purchase more when your printer notifies you that the cartridges are low.

Another newer option is the “tank” printers that don’t use cartridges. Instead, they have a tank for each color ink, and you just fill the tanks from ink bottles which are a lot less expensive. This seems like an efficient way to do this. I have seen a few instances where the tank gets clogged and this can be a hard thing to fix, but this is not a common problem. 

If you need a new printer and just have questions about what brand or what type of printer to buy, call me and we can discuss it. There is no single answer. It depends on your needs and your usage.

Desktop Dos and Don’ts

I have talked a lot about how to keep your laptop running great, but I haven’t spent much time talking about things to keep your desktop running smoothly. Here is a list of items to consider when placing and working with your desktop. I recently did a video about this.

One of the most important considerations for desktop longevity is the location of your desktop. Many desks come with a cabinet for your tower, so you don’t have to look at all of the wires that are connected to it. If you have a cabinet like this in your desk, make sure it has some openings for air flow. Even though desktops usually have a lot of room inside the tower they can still get very hot and start to damage the components. There are fans in the tower to move air and keep the computer cool but if it is sitting in a closed cabinet that air has nowhere to go.

Some people have their computer tower sitting next to their desk. This solves the airflow issue but opens you up to other possible issues. Make sure it isn’t sitting in direct sunlight all day. This can also cause overheating.

 Make sure your computer tower is not right under an open window. If it rains the computer could short out due to the moisture. Being right below a house plant can also be a problem if the water leaks out of the plant.

Regardless of where you keep it, make sure the area is free of dust and dirt. This is especially important if you have pets that shed. The holes in the computer tower are there for airflow and your computer could overheat if they get clogged. Inspect the tower occasionally for excess dirt in the airflow holes. If the holes look clogged up you should disconnect everything from the computer, take it outside and use a can of air to clean it up. You can even take the cover off and blow out the inside. As always, I am more than happy to help with this if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself. Doing this every few months can keep your desktop computer running smoothly for years.

Lastly, make sure that regardless of where it is located that it is plugged into a surge protected power strip. This is one of the biggest issues with computers. If there is a power surge due to lightning your computer could be destroyed if there isn’t a surge protector in the way.

Is My Internet Down?

How can you tell what is really going on with your internet? Is it the router? Is it just your computer? I get these questions a lot, so I decided to break down exactly what you need to do to get the answers and get your internet working again.

Is it your Router? – To determine this, you need to do some homework before your internet goes down. Whether you have a modem/router that was supplied by your internet service provider (ISP), or you purchased your own equipment, it is important to know what it looks like when it is working correctly so you can easily know when it isn’t working.

When your equipment is working correctly, look at the lights and maybe even write down what lights are lit up and what color they are or even take a picture with your cell phone. With this information, you can easily look at your equipment and know that there is a problem because the one light on your Comcast router is orange instead of white for instance.

This is the first question I ask when someone calls with internet issues. What lights are lit up and what color are they? If the lights look different, your first step is to restart your equipment. This is usually done by pulling the power cord out and then plugging it back in. Just know that it will take a few minutes to completely boot back up, just like your computer. Many times, this will fix the issue. If the lights are still not correct, now is the time to contact your ISP for help.

Is it just my computer? – If you check your router and it seems like it is working properly after a restart, it might be a problem with your computer. If you have other devices connected to the internet, are they working properly? This is the easiest way to tell if it is a computer problem. Maybe your computer just lost its connection to the internet. 

Here are the icons that show internet connectivity. Look in the bottom right corner on the taskbar:

Descriptive graphic of internet signal icons

Based on this picture, if you should be on wifi and you are not, just reconnect it. If you should have an ethernet connection, check both ends of the cable. Many times, these simple things will solve your problem. If it still won’t work, call me and I will help you troubleshoot further.

Does Unsubscribe Really Do Anything and Should I Use It?

I get these questions a lot and my answer is always the same. It depends on the actual email. I know this isn’t the straightforward answer people are looking for, but it is the best answer. Here are a few situations and whether or not to use the unsubscribe button.

If you are receiving multiple emails from a real company, and by that, I mean the email address matches the company name (the email says it is from Target and the email ends with then you can use the unsubscribe button and hopefully within a couple days you will no longer receive email from this company. According to The New York Times: “Marketers have 10 business days to honor your unsubscribe request. After that, it’s a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act for a sender to continue emailing you. If the emails keep coming, you’re well within your rights to mark them as spam using your email client’s built-in Spam button.”

If you know the email is not from a real company, meaning the email address does not match the company name, you should not click on the unsubscribe button. When you receive an email that is a phishing scam or some other type of scam there is no point in clicking on unsubscribe. Here are the reasons that you do not want to click unsubscribe in a scam email.

  1. Many scam emails come from stolen email accounts. Since they keep stealing new email accounts, unsubscribe will have no effect. It is a waste of time.
  2. Many times, the unsubscribe link will be the same link as any other link in the email. Clicking on it could cause damage to your computer or install malware. I suggest you never click any link in an email that could possibly be a scam.
  3. By clicking on a link in a scam email you are letting the scammers know that your email is a valid email, and you can end up on even more lists.
  4. Scammers don’t follow the rules.

How do you stop scammers from sending you email? You really can’t stop them if they have your email address, but you can reduce the number of scams that hit your inbox. Always mark scams as “junk” or “spam.” These filters learn over time what you don’t want to see and eventually most of the scams will go there instead of your inbox. This can also cause the email address they use to be flagged and blacklisted. This can slow them down but since they usually steal accounts or make fake accounts this will not stop them.

So, if your inbox keeps filling up with emails that you don’t want, you can unsubscribe to a couple real emails per day and your inbox will eventually look cleaner. You can also mark the scams as spam/junk and over time your inbox will receive less of those emails also.

If you are not sure if an email is real or not. Contact me and I can teach you how to tell the real from the fakes. I have also made a few videos about this, check out this playlist:

While you are there please subscribe to my channel!

How Scammers Can Use Your Email Rules, sometimes called Filters, Against You.

This is something that I have seen many times. A scammer will somehow get access to your email and then they can send emails from your account without you even being aware of it. In fact, they hide it from you. They can carry on conversations with others right from your email and you will never see it.

First let me explain what rules are in email accounts. These are instructions to help you manage your email. You can set up a rule for instance, to move any email from “John” to the folder “John.” These rules can be very helpful if you receive a lot of email and there are some that you need for future references but don’t necessarily need to see them when they arrive. I always get an emailed receipt when I buy anything from my computer supplier. I don’t need to look at these emails, I just need them for documentation if I am ever audited. So, I set up a rule that anytime I receive an email from Micro Center those emails will be moved to my Micro Center folder.

Scammers can do the same thing in your email. They can send an email to your employee that says “Please pay this invoice” in the subject line. In this email they will tell you to follow this link and pay this invoice for them. They can set up a rule that says any email that has “Please pay this invoice” in the subject line, delete the email. They can go into the trash and keep corresponding with your employee about this and you will never know about it.
This is a basic description of how they do it, but you get the idea about how they can steal from companies by using this tactic.

So, how can you protect yourself from this type of scam that has cost many companies a lot of money? The first thing is to make sure your email password is complex and not similar to other passwords that you have and use 2 factor authentication. If you can keep the scammers out of your email you don’t even have to worry about this.

But it is still a good idea to check your rules occasionally to make sure there are not any new rules that can be used against you. I had a customer that was one of the recipients along with others in their company on an email from one of their customers. Suddenly she was not receiving these emails any longer while everyone else was still getting them and they could see that she was listed as a recipient in the emails.

We verified that there was no issue with her email, she was receiving emails from everyone else except this one person. Then we checked her rules in Outlook on her computer and finally logged in online to her email and checked the rules there. When we checked online there were some new rules set up that she was not aware of and didn’t set up.

The scammers were using her account to try to divert payments to another bank. Luckily, we caught it, and no money was sent to the wrong bank. We then deleted these rules, changed her email password, and forced a sign out on all devices. We also made sure there were no rules in anybody else’s email account in the company and we instituted 2 factor authentication to ensure their email accounts remain safe.

If you are familiar with email rules, you should immediately check to ensure there are no extra rules in your email accounts. If you do not know anything about rules and don’t know how to check for fake rules, here is a video where I walk through how to view your rules in Outlook, Outlook online, and Gmail, most other web-based email accounts work similar to these. Check with the company that supplies your email or contact me.

If you would like to receive the Email Scambusters Monthly Report, sign up at the link below. It is a two-step process. Sign up and then click the payment link. The cost is $49.99 per year which is less than one cup of coffee per month. If you need more information give me a call.

Which box is my router and what are those other boxes in my IT room?

I get questions like this a lot. Usually when someone calls me because their internet is down or there is some other problem with the systems in their small business. When this happens, I try to explain what their router might look like, and I ask for a description of the other boxes so I can help them solve their problem over the phone.

When my regular customers call me with these types of issues, I can easily tell them to restart this or that box. The reason for this is that I usually label all boxes in their IT room the first time I am there. This is a big help regardless of who calls me from that company.

Many times, these issues happen when the “boss” is not there and so they instruct their employees to call me for assistance. Since everything is labeled, I can quickly diagnose the issue with their help. This can save the company a lot of down time and money since I can help them fix their issue remotely instead of having to go on site.

I have even had customers send me pictures so I can tell them what the boxes are. This works sometimes, but I might need to know what the wires are connected to and how they are connected so dealing with this before there is an issue is very important.

If you have a business and you don’t know what every box in your IT room does, let me know and I will explain each to you and even label them so you will be ahead of the issue next time the internet goes down. I can also help homeowners with this, but they usually don’t have as many boxes, so it is usually easier to diagnose things.

Many times, when people move into a brand-new home, they will find that it is partially wired for internet connections in some rooms. The wires might be in the basement and connected to each bedroom and even the kitchen and living room. The problem is that they don’t know what they need to get all of these wires connected to their router. This is also something that I can help with. I can even label each connection so they will know in the future which wire connects to which room in the house.

This is something I really don’t talk about much, but it is an important service that I offer. If you need this type of help let me know.

Parental Controls

The school year will be ending soon, and it got me thinking about all of the parents that still have to work while their kids are home alone. I am sure most parents leave a list of chores or other things that must be accomplished during the day, but many kids will just end up on the computer wasting their time; However, there is a tool that most of us have in our homes that can help keep the computer time to a manageable amount.

What I am referring to is your router. Just about every router sold has some type of parental controls built in just waiting to be enabled and set up. These parental controls can help you limit the amount of time your kids spend on the internet, limit where they can go by blocking certain sites and also certain types of sites, and also set up schedules for when they can use the internet.

I have had customers that used the scheduling function to make sure their kids are not on their tablets after bedtime, you can even set it up to allow more time on the weekend. Some have blocked Facebook or any other social media site until after dinner time to allow time for homework. Most routers have built in filters to restrict any sites that have certain adult content on them. Many have a list of categories that can be checked off to restrict certain content.

If you are not sure of the capabilities of your router, you can google the model number and parental controls and you will probably find a list and instructions. If you don’t know how to access your router, these instructions should cover that also. Even though they are called “Parental Controls”, small businesses can use these to limit and protect their employees and guests while they surf the internet in their businesses.

Most people don’t take full advantage of these high-tech machines. By spending a few minutes setting up your parental controls, you can gain some peace of mind when you are away, and your children are surfing unsupervised.

These controls are not foolproof and might not be perfect fits, but they can help in many situations. If you need more controls than what your router might offer, or you need help implementing this kind of control, please contact me. I have helped many people gain control over when their children go on the internet and what they are able to see.

Urgent Public Service Announcement!!

In the past few weeks, I have had many people call me because “Microsoft popped up on my computer and told me to call them because I have multiple instances of pornographic malware on my computer.”  If they try to click away from the popup, it starts yelling the warning at them and threatening them that if they shut off their computer, they will lose all of their documents and pictures.

Here are a few things you should know and share with anyone who is in danger of believing these pop ups.

  1.  Microsoft will never popup on your computer and tell you to call them.  Neither will Dell, HP, Apple or any other tech company. 
  2. These popups are cookies that are hidden on the internet waiting to scam anyone that happens to click on the wrong item.
  3. They work off of fear and they hack your browser which seems to lock your computer.  Sometimes you can go to the task manager and quit your browser.  If you can’t quit your browser, you need to do a hard reset. (Press and hold the power button for at least 15 seconds until all lights and sounds turn off) Once you turn your computer back on, open your browser but don’t allow it to restore your tabs; this will only bring back the browser hacker.
  4. They are trying to get you to let them on your computer.  They can only do this if you call them.  Once on your computer they can do any number of things; Plant a keylogger, steal your passwords, add a pre-windows password which will disable your computer unless you pay hundreds of dollars to them, or they might add a few free tools and try to charge hundreds of dollars to clean up the malware.

I have checked out many computers after getting this popup and none of them received any damaging viruses from the initial popup.  The only time there was damaging viruses and malware was after they called the number and allowed them on their computer.   

Here is my video about this. It includes a video of the pop-up.

Why do I have two different wifi connections?

I was at a customer recently and they had a router that broadcasts both the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz frequencies. The router had been set up with the 5.0 being named for their company and the 2.4 was named guest. Each had a different password. They also told me that their printer could not see their wifi but could see their guest network. Even though the printer was on the guest network one of the computers on their network could print to it.

They had recently switched to a new internet service provider and the new company just shipped them a new modem/router and gave them basic instructions on how to get it online. When they saw that there were two frequencies, they assumed it was two separate networks, so they named the 2.4 to guest because they figured the higher number was the better network for their business.

Based on this interaction and the many questions I have received about this I decided to completely explain the difference and how to best use your wifi if you have both frequencies. Th first thing to know is that they are not two separate networks but two different connections to the same network. It is kind of like taking a winding road or a straight road that both take you to the same place.

A 2.4 GHz connection travels farther at lower speeds, while 5 GHz frequencies provide faster speeds at shorter range. So, in your home or office it is helpful to have both. In many home situations the 5.0 GHz connection is used for gaming since these computers and consoles are usually stationary and probably set up near the router. If that is the case the 5.0 GHz connection will be faster which is needed for gaming. But if your gaming machine is not close to your router you might want to use the 2.4 GHz connection to ensure you won’t drop the signal.

When setting up the wifi on phones and laptops I usually tell people to connect to both networks and save the password on each so that as they move around their home or office, they will get the strongest signal at the time and place where they currently are. If you use your wifi on a patio or in your yard you will most likely want to use the 2.4GHz for this since it travels farther.

Now let’s address why their printer didn’t show up on their 5.0 GHz network. Many older components and also many smart devices only see the 2.4 GHz networks. Since these devices don’t need the higher speed and are always stationary, they don’t add the 5.0 GHz capability which probably saves them a few dollars per unit when they are manufactured. Hopefully they pass some of this onto the consumer.

Last year I was setting up a mesh wifi system for a church and they had a number of thermostats throughout that were all managed by a phone app, so they needed to connect to the wifi. While I was setting up their router and mesh system there was a setting that allowed me to combine both the 2.4 GHz and the 5.0 GHz into a single connection. I thought that might avoid confusion in the church about which one to connect to but the combined signal with both frequencies could not be seen by those thermostats, so I had to go back and remove that setting and list both frequencies separately.

I mentioned guest networks in the first paragraph but didn’t really explain them. A true guest network is just a tunnel out to the internet. When someone connects to your guest network, they cannot see your computers or printers. Usually, they can’t even see other computers that are connected to the guest network. This is very important for companies, so their computers are not compromised by hackers through their guest network. Most routers come with a guest network that can be turned on to keep guests’ connections walled off from your network.

If you are not sure if your guest network is separate from your main network or if you need any other help with your wifi network, let me know. I have helped many individuals and companies fix their networks by adding guest networks and expanding the networks with mesh wifi systems.

Think you will understand better if you watch a video? Here is a video version.

Your Current Operating System is No Longer Supported. Please Upgrade Your System or Replace It with a Newer Model.

Whether you use a Mac, or a PC you could get a message similar to this and after that your computer might not run properly and over time many applications might not work. The first question is “why is this happening?” Followed by “What can I do about it?”

Why is this happening? All computer makers are continuously in a battle with hackers that are trying to find vulnerabilities in their systems. This is also why you constantly receive updates. When these vulnerabilities are discovered the operating system (OS) maker creates a software patch to improve the weak area of their software. At the same time these OS makers are trying to enhance the user experience of their OS. Eventually they can no longer keep patching the software and need to replace it with a stronger version. They also must keep up with newer hardware components, so they need to keep these in mind when making the changes. 

Once the software maker realizes they can’t keep up with fixing the holes in their current software, they create a newer version. When this happens the newer version may have capabilities that require a certain processor speed or memory amount that older systems don’t have. These companies decide that they can no longer protect the older systems since they have moved their resources (employees that create the patches) to protecting the newer systems. It always comes down to money. There have been very large companies that have paid these OS makers to continue to support their computers because they have too many of the older systems to be able to quickly replace all of them. But since the rest of us are not paying for this service, our older machines will eventually fall to the side and become obsolete.

What can I do about it? Regardless of the type of system you have; it is important to keep up with these updates and accept it when they roll out a new version (maybe not immediately, but within a few months). By always running the newest version you are keeping your system safer, and you can take advantage of any new features that come out. If you are not sure if you are on the latest version here is how to check. 

On a Windows computer, right click on the start button and choose System. On a Mac computer click on the apple and then about. This will show you the windows or OS version.

Even if you keep your device on the latest and greatest version you may eventually get to a point where your computer will no longer accept the updates due to not having the proper processor speed or not enough memory. If this happens you need to seriously consider getting a new computer since you have probably had your current one for many years. You might be pleasantly surprised at the increase in speed, picture quality and other improvements that a new system can provide.

I have seen many smaller companies and even individuals that are running an older version of software and don’t want to have to purchase a new version since the current one suits their needs. This could be one reason to keep your old system and use it just for this one application. I would not keep using this computer for anything financial or even to go onto the internet. Many times, the older software might run on the newer OS but sometimes it might not. If you do plan to only use this computer for software like this just know that if (when) your computer dies you will then be without this program so you might start looking for a contingency plan in case something happens.