1ComputerCare   Bookmark and Share
     
   
     
  2005 Newsletter  
     

Welcome to my annual newsletter, sent to all my favourite clients, which contains:

Printer ink and Consumables

Feedback   please

Routine Computer Maintenance

Free Broadband Check

Keyboard Shortcuts

Malware Defences

Charitable Donations

Equipment Sales - Change of Terms

Anti Virus Software

Hoaxes

And Finally...

Printer Ink and Consumables.

I start with this as it seemed to generate the most feedback last year.  Invariably when you buy a printer the manufacturer advises you to use only their own branded inks to avoid problems.  But the fact is that for everyday printing, any dye based ink will do.  So rather than paying 10 to 30 for a genuine Xerox/Samsung/HP/Lexmark... cartridge, you may choose to spend half as much by buying a re-manufactured or recycled cartridge or a quarter as much by getting a compatible cartridge or having your old cartridge refilled - or a tenth as much by refilling it yourself.  There are many on-line stores which offer recycled cartridges or local shops such as G&C in Tunbridge Wells High Street, PC World at North Farm or Cartridge World in Tunbridge Wells and Brighton. 

However, I have recently started stocking ink myself and I am not aware of any outlet offering better value.  As an existing client I am offering Just Refill reconditioned and compatible cartridges for most common printers and self-fill recharge kits at prices lower than available elsewhere (even on their own Web site).  Moreover, I am happy to visit you and demonstrate the quality and ease of use of these items.  To get an idea of the prices I can often offer:

Canon compatible BCI-3C/M/Y just 1 each           

Epson compatible T040 for Stylus C62 Black just 2 each

90ml colour universal refill kit (including tools) just 4 each

 

These prices are available for clients' own normal use only - my aim is to provide a low price, high quality service to thank you for your custom, not develop an ink selling business.  For items not currently in stock, I may pass on the shipping charge to a maximum of 5 per order for next day delivery, divided by the number of clients I am able to combine together in one shipment.

top

Feedback.

A big thank you to anyone who has recommended me to others, I think I have written to all personally but I want to say here how much it is appreciated.  To help me know what I can do differently to provide a better service, I would really like anyone with 2 minutes to spare to browse over to  http://www.1computercare.co.uk/feedback.htm  and let me know your thoughts, anonymously or not as you prefer.  I have small gifts for the first three people with substantive feedback.

top

Routine Computer Maintenance.

I estimate that about 45% of my work comes from repairing virus damaged PCs, and a further 25% from replacing components damaged by electrical surges.  Both causes are usually easily preventable by maintaining updated virus protection and using a surge protector costing less than 20. 

You are probably aware that, like a car, an annual service will help your PC perform faster and prolong its useful life; also that I am happy to do this from just 45 for jobs booked at least two weeks in advance.  But the normal monthly housekeeping tasks such as:

  • confirming latest anti-virus data files
  • updating Windows and Explorer with the latest critical and security patches
  • removing spyware and adware
  • checking log files for errors
  • clearing temporary files, browser cache and trash

often go forgotten.  So I have been running a trial with a some clients for the last few months whereby I am able to connect to their computer remotely from my workshop and undertake these tasks, perhaps while they are out at work.  This trial has gone well and I am now offering to do this for all.  I am initially charging just 35 for three, monthly checks with a complimentary annual service after eleven months.

top

Free Broadband Check.

Now that most people are connected to the Internet via an always on link which can be used at the same time as the phone at speeds between 10 and 40 times faster than dialup connections, it is easy to let the Internet service provider take your monthly payment without checking for price movements.  But in a fast changing market competitors are frequently trying to get an edge by offering faster speeds at lower prices.  If you are paying more than 10 a month for a standard service now, consider asking me to confirm that you are on the most appropriate package.  There is no charge for this and I am totally independent as I decline any royalties, commissions and kick backs.

If, as a broadband user, you are still having to connect to the Internet each time you switch the computer on, you are probably using a dedicated modem limited to the speed of your USB port.  An alternative would be to connect via a device which itself maintains your connection, saving you from having to reconnect each time.  These devices are called 'routers' as they evolved from devices (about the size of a paperback book) which used to do just that, but now they typically incorporate modems, wireless access points and - most importantly, hardware firewalls.  Firewalls are almost essential these days to prevent unwelcome intrusions, and those which run on your computer are a significant performance drain.  Routers cost about 80 depending on quality and are available from all good PC support folks.  ;-)

top

Keyboard Shortcuts

Whatever you do most frequently on the computer, there is sure to be a shortcut key combination to save a few mouse clicks and some seconds.  If they are not already built in they can often be created easily.  I'd be interested to know which you [would] like to employ.  Those I use most frequently are:

Ctrl/CCopy to clipboard
Ctrl/XCut to clipboard
Ctrl/VPaste from clipboard
BackspacePrevious page in the Web browser
Alt/Print ScreenCopy current window to clipboard

top

Malware Defences.

Most people know how viruses spread between computers often causing catastrophic damage, and that running anti-virus software will, if updated each few days, trap 90% of them before any harm is done; but malware is less well understood as it is a more recent development.  Aside from issues of privacy, malware will cause your performance to degrade and often causes conflicts between itself and the programs you want to run.  For an interesting and informative article check out the Cnet spyware horror stories.  There is no universally accepted definition, but usually malware is generally a collective name for

  • adware - small programs which collect information about you with a view to using it to target advertisements at you for products their intelligence suggests you may be interested in.
  • spyware - small programs which collect information about you (such as your name, which programs you run, which Web sites you visit, the names and addresses of those in your address book, your credit card details etc.), with a view to selling it on to adware producers, spammers and anyone willing to pay for it.
  • jokers - small programs which the author finds amusing to have running on your computer; often particularly offensive to those with children.
  • keyloggers & password grabbers - just another way of collecting information which you probably would not choose to publish.
  • Hoaxes, scams & urban legends - give false information.  In most cases, these are warnings of fictional threats that create unnecessary panic, designed to elicit emotional response.  If you get one do NOT alter your system settings, forward the false warning to others or send money to anyone.
  • screen scrapers - take a snapshot of the contents of your display whenever they think you are looking at something of interest, often with a view to selling the information gleaned on to identity theft merchants, blackmailers or advertisers.

Malware is NOT the same as

  • popups, which are unsolicited windows which appear on your monitor, frequently displaying advertisements, often pornographic.
  • spam - e-mail sent to millions of addresses hoping that 0.1% will respond to their entreaties to buy their wares.
  • Dialers - replace your 0845 number with a premium or international one costing big bucks - check out http://www.bt.com/btprivacyonline/

All these unsavoury items can be protected against, sometimes by simply running free programs in the background, but usually you get what you pay for and commercially produced preventive methods are more effective.  Your arsenal of tasks you run should usually include

  1. one firewall (two is no better than one); cheap ones block uninvited incoming calls, better ones monitor suspicious outgoing calls (as used by some viruses)
  2. one anti-virus product to monitor any unwelcome files or e-mail messages (running two or more is worse than running no anti-virus software at all)
  3. one spam filter - this refiles unsolicited rubbish to your trash without any intervention - typically about 98% accurate
  4. one or two popup blockers - one is bundled in with Windows XP if you have the latest patches applied
  5. one or two malware traps - the better ones are resident, thus preventing infection before it attacks.
  6. a weekly or monthly policy of performing housekeeping or preventive maintenance tasks to block vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

For more information browse over to http://doxdesk.com/parasite/ and follow their links.  Another source of information is Microsoft. 

top

Charitable Donations

A big thank you to all who have given old PCs, printers or just components or cables off old equipment for my box of bits.  I have been able to use some of them to assemble complete systems and the following photos show some presented to Furniture Now.  Click a photo to get a new window with an enlargement.

 

 

A presentation at Lewes No one to pose with this

top

Equipment Sales - Change of Terms

Computers I sell are now guaranteed for 3 years (formerly one year) without additional cost.  If your equipment fails during the warranty period I will, if you wish, handle the process of obtaining and fitting a replacement without charge.  However, most items are warranted on a return to base basis, which means that you are responsible for shipping costs and any follow-up work such as reinstalling the operating system.

Regrettably the over use of the adjective 'strongly' before almost all recommendations these days precludes my using it here, however I would like to forcefully suggest that when buying new, a bespoke computer is much more likely to meet with requirements (especially long term) than one bought off the shelf.  I can often salvage components from your old PC to minimise the cost.  Please visit this page for more information.

top

Anti-virus Software

"A study carried out by security firm Checkbridge found that, on some days, scanning programs missed more than one-third of e-mail borne viruses" according to a BBC report.  The recent technique of virus publishers releasing a stream of variants in quick succession has made the use of heuristics essential - something which some virus checkers do not offer.  A basic grounding may be found on the BBCi site. 

The most commonly used anti-virus software is Norton AntiVirus - one I usually have in stock as many people favour it.  However it has so many features that it is now more of a performance drain than most others.  If you are coming to the end of your annual datafile subscription you will be invited to click through to a Web site when an additional 12 month's datafiles may be bought, but remember to compare the price of that with the new year's software (which comes with a year's 'free' datafile updates) - you may find there's very little difference.

If you decide to change to a different anti-virus supplier, be absolutely certain that you completely remove the current code and reboot before installing the new one.  The following are some alternatives to Norton which you may like to consider

top

Hoaxes

 

Seemingly innocuous, these mass mailings which get forward around waste a lot of resources.  Before you get caught with egg on your face by doing your friends a 'favour' and forwarding a scam, check out a stories bone fides at Hoaxbusters  or  Hoaxkill

It is getting increasingly difficult to differentiate between genuine and spoof e-mails; a good 5 page tutorial showing how to is available at the eBay site.  And advice on how to avoid phishing scams is published by APWG.

top

And Finally...

 

Please note that my normal working hours are 9am to 6pm Monday through Saturday.  I try to avoid visits before 10am to allow anyone wanting to phone me a guaranteed answer, although e-mail usually receives a more considered reply in under 6 hours.  The only phone number you need is 0845 108 0254 - I do put my mobile number on paperwork, but it is there for urgent use only as the line is often bad quality and I'm unlikely to have a pen to hand.  If there's no reply, I may be on another call or with someone; if you leave a message I will return the call when I have finished replying to outstanding e-mails.  If you call after 6pm, please open with the words "I realize you're not at work but this is really urgent" 

 

It is often quicker and easier to resolve an issue when I can see your monitor screen.  If you are familiar with remote access software I can sometimes resolve issues without the need for a (chargeable) visit by connecting to your computer from my workshop while on the phone.  It is advisable to test this before the time you need to use it in urgent earnest - let me know if I may help with this.

 

I try hard to make visits at the appointed time, but without knowing how long the previous call will take it is sometimes hard to be punctual.  If signal strength permits, I phone if I am going to be more than 15 minutes off target.

If you want to receive this newsletter more or less frequently than once a year, or if you receive more (or fewer) copies than you would like, just drop me a line with your wishes:  Eugene@1ComputerCare.co.uk

I'd particularly welcome comments on the format and/or content of this newsletter so that I know what sort of things you would like to see in the future. 

Please let me know if you change your e-mail or postal address.

Thanks, Eugene.

top