New computers: I still recommend a fresh install of Windows

Many laptops under $1000 are still cutting corners by not including SSDs, which is practically mandatory if you want a computer that belongs in this decade.  For such laptops, it’s an easy call to make – install Windows fresh on a new SSD drive upgrade, and just copy over any data you need, rather than transfer all the unnecessary crud that computer makers include.

Well, even if the computer comes with an SSD, I would still recommend doing a fresh install, when stuff like this happens:

Lenovo’s hardware is good overall, but mistakes like this can really ruin an otherwise satisfying experience. It’s better to be on the safe side: before you start moving your data over to your new PC, make sure you are starting off on a true clean slate. This guide can help for the more DIY among you:

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Found a solid all-around cloud backup/sync provider.

I’ve been looking for a good vendor-agnostic (so no Microsoft or Apple-provided) cloud backup solution for s for a while now. It also had to have a solid history, have quick phone support, and support file versioning (have multiple time-stamped versions of the same file so you can role back to the perfect one).  iDrive checks off all on that list. I just tried a test call today: dial tone to actual support member in under a minute. So, they’ll be my go-to recommendation for the foreseeable future:



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July 29, 2016 Update

Ah… the Windows 10 free upgrade period ended yesterday… those that decided to stick with Windows 7 no longer need to be tempted or pestered to upgrade. I’ve seen a few messy upgrades over the past year, but surprisingly there were more driver issues than software issues. Rollbacks have been relatively painless, though, with the odd exception. If you haven’t upgraded yet, you will have to pay for the upgrade, which I would not recommend at $150+. Windows 7 and 8.1 will still be supported for a number a years: just live out the life of the machine on your current Windows.

To those that upgraded: make sure system restore is enabled.  Windows 10 is on a much more aggressive auto-update program. If you have an update or driver that causes issues (which is more likely now), you should be ready to roll-back at any time. I noticed System Restore is disabled on many Windows 10 systems (especially upgraded ones).

Back in April, both Microsoft and Google (with their Chrome browser, which I recommend) stopped supporting Vista. As such, I now consider Vista “legacy support”, meaning I don’t keep any Vista-specific drivers or software with me. This means more time and higher service cost. I would advise replacing any Vista (or older!) machines. The same goes for Apple…

Larger Apple products (Macbooks, iMacs Mac Pros) older than mid-to-late 2007 are no longer supported. Smaller Apple products (iPhones,iPads) older than late 2012 are no longer supported. Sadly, that isn’t all. From 2013 onwards, all new Apple products (other than the Mac Pros) have essentially zero upgradability, and very little repairability. As such, I only service Apple hardware made between 2008-2012 – Apple is actively making their products non-serviceable.  Apple service on the setup and configuration side has not changed though: I can still get all your Apple devices setup just right… just make sure you’ve got accidental coverage, and/or pray you never have an out-of-warranty hardware issue.

Lastly, a couple security notes. There was a seriously vulnerability found in “LastPass” this past week.  If you currently use LastPass, I would suggest moving to my password algorithm solution… don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds. I’ll detail it in another blog post. The other security note is regarding ransomware: it is on the rise. If you don’t have some sort of external or cloud backup, you WILL lose your data if you get infected. Backup is useful for much more than this, so if you don’t have backups in place, now is the time. As for prevention, all the software seems to be in beta right now. I’m trying a few, and thus far, Bitdefender is my favorite (interfered with the least number of programs):

Combination Crypto-Ransomware Vaccine Released




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A few tips for Apple users

Having Safari crash on you lately? Try this workaround:

Got yourself an iPad, and it isn’t charging? Lightning cables are quite prone to failure, even the expensive, genuine Apple ones, but especially the cheap knockoffs. Make sure the cable is “MFi certified”, and ideally, get one that is braided, like this highly recommended one:

Your iPad is still not charging? Not all USB chargers are made equal. To charge while the unit is on, the charger needs to supply the iPad with over 10W. Make sure your charger is capable of 2.4 Amp output (it’ll be in tiny print somewhere on the charger)

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Password tips

Another year, another look back at how bad we all are at passwords. I hope none of yours are on this list!

As I’ve been saying for awhile now: if you’re not using a password manager, uses codes and easily memorable phrases (for you) instead.  Here’s an example:

Lets say your bank turned you down for a loan twice, and that’s what you remember them for. Your phrase could be “those stinkers denied me a loan twice”.

As for the code, since having at least 8 characters, one capital, and one number is a common requirement, lets include that in the code, and make sure all phases are long enough. Now, lets say the code is: first letter of each word, with the last being capitalized, and end it with the number “9”. That would make the password: “tsdmalT9”

The password is almost as good as anything from a random password generator, as you can see, but instead of remembering the password, you remember the easy-to-remember phrase, and your fingers do the rest as you say the phrase in your head. This method actually get easier the MORE passwords you have (assuming the phrases are indeed memorable and related to the service you are logging into).

If you find it too difficult, there’s no shame in using a password manager to do it all for you:



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Don’t reply to spam: let this guy do it for you!

In all seriousness, don’t reply to spam emails, especially with your main email account. In all silliness, on the other hand, watch this hilarious TED talk video of a guy who decided play with the scammers:


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Niggles in the Windows 10 upgrade thus far.

The most glaringly and immediate change for those I initially setup on Windows 8.1 and took it upon themselves to do the upgrade is the the Start Menu change. It overrides the “Classic Shell” I installed for Windows 8.1 users with the new Windows 10 start menu. It’s similar, but adds some of the smart tiles on the side of the menu. They both function well, but if your prefer Classic Shell, you can get the latest version here:

What I don’t like about the new start menu and the dedicated search bar beside it is how the search functions. It searches both the computer AND the web, muddying up the search results… especially since it’s the Bing search engine that is forced on you, not Google. Unfortunately, the new Cortana voice search is dependant on it, so if you disable the web search portion, you lose Cortana as well…. but it may be for the best, because…

Windows 10 collects A LOT of data on it’s users. And Microsoft is also porting much of that collection tech to Windows 7 and 8 in their updates, so NOT upgrading is not going to spare you from that.  Now, data collection is fine in-and-of-itself… very beneficial in fact with search relevance… but what concerns me is when companies’ policies and actions don’t match up.  Case in point: You can turn off a number of tracking options in Windows 10, but Microsoft doesn’t honour many of those settings and continues to “phone home”.

Cortana is, like the rest of the new search, dependant on all the data-tracking.  If you don’t care for any of that, you might as well forcefully “Cut the Line” back to Microsoft with this software:

One of the fixes the anti beacon performs may require that you disable your antivirus temporarily.

As for compatibility surprises, the only thing of note thus far is one instance of a printer driver having to be reinstalled after the upgrade.

If you have any questions, or want me to handle the upgrade for you… you know how to reach me 🙂

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Windows 10: In-depth review

Anandtech did a good write up on it here:

There conclusion is much the same as mine, but my recommendation still stands for Windows 7 desktop users: stick with it Windows 7. Desktop computers are easy to overhaul and repurpose.  The Windows 10 free upgrade supposedly (I will be confirming this about a week from now) makes your old Windows product key invalid 30 days after upgrade (if you don’t roll-back). So, if you significantly change the system later, you may be stuck in a situation where neither the old nor the new product key work to activate your Windows.

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Yet another reason to not use Internet Explorer

I’ve tried to ensure all my clients are not using Internet Explorer. This is a classic reason why:

Furthermore, if I set you up on Chrome since Summer 2014, you should also have the AdBlock Plus and Bitdefender Trafficlight addons installed, which makes Chrome even more secure.

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Urgent news for users of Firefox: Update ASAP!

Either click the “hamburger” menu button on the top right, then the question mark button at the bottom of that window for the help menu, then “About Firefox”, at which point it will update and prompt you to restart. Otherwise, get the latest version here:

Why? A big vulnerability was found. Read more about it here:,29783.html

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