Why so plain?

This entry is posted before I start to make changes to the default WordPress Appearance template.

In time this will be replaced by a new design that looks more like the other tKnowIT sites and materials.

Easy to add new features

like the easy upgrading feature of WordPress, adding new features or Plugins is also easy. A few clicks and the Google Anaytics plugin is now running

Easy to update

WordPress is easy to upgrade. When you are in the admin console WordPress will tell you if there is a newer version available and given the right information it will automatically upgrade your site to the latest version

Choosing your next laptop

Should you go for a PC or a laptop? Or even a netbook, tablet or all-in-one? This month I am going to cover laptops.

Many people are now choosing a laptop for home or work use rather than a conventional desktop or tower personal computer (PC). Laptops or notebooks are the more common names given to portable computers. Some vendors will call them laptops whilst others will call them notebooks.

In recent years their prices have fallen as manufacturing costs have fallen whilst at the same time their power and speed have risen. This means that laptops are now a sensible alternative to a PC in many cases.

With a laptop you have everything in one compact and portable box. Simply open the lid, turn it on and start typing and clicking away. For £400 – £500 you should get a good laptop running windows 7 and capable of surfing the internet, communicating your emails and performing typical office application tasks – and with enough horse-power to run the dreaded internet security software too. There are machines at lower prices but in my experience they tend to get exhausted more quickly and you start looking for that open window to throw it out of in a shorter time than something with a better specification.

In addition to the laptop itself you will need to add an Internet Security Suite and I recommend you choose a 12 month subscription service rather than one of the free anti-virus only alternatives. You may also need to purchase some Office software such as Microsoft Office, although you may decide to go with a decent free alternative such as OpenOffice. Some people prefer to also use a conventional mouse rather than the touch pad. If you already have a USB printer then you will more than like find this will be compatible with the laptop.

laptopSo why are some laptops much more expensive than £500? Well, as with cars, size, speed and features make a difference.

To help narrow down your search there are a few things to consider.
First narrow down your search to either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows Professional. You only need the latter if you plan to connect the laptop to a network which provides server based services. Then you need to decide if 32-bit or 64-bit is important. 64-bit windows 7 will allow you to have more than 3GB RAM memory but if you have a lot of existing software you wish to reuse on the new machine then it may not run on the 64-bit version.

RAM? 2GB as a minimum and 3GB if you choose the 32 bit edition of windows 7. 3GB or more if you go for windows 7 64-bit and can afford it.

Do you need a keyboard that includes a number keypad. If so then that’s another narrowing of the choices.

The next decision is about screen size. Laptops range in size from about 11” to 21”. Below 11” and it’s technically a NetBook, above 19” – I’d say you need to think again or buy a suitcase with wheels on. The decision is typically between 15” or 17”. You should also consider the screen resolution – in addition to size there is a resolution to each screen; the higher the resolution the more you can fit on the screen without having to scroll up/down-left/right – but you may have to squint to see it.

If you plan to play fast moving games, work in CAD or publishing packages then a machine with dedicated graphics is preferred and in some case essential. Typically a laptop (and even PC) will utilise a part of the ‘shared’ memory of your system. i.e. it will eat into the 3GB of system RAM if you have 3GB RAM. If you choose one with a dedicated graphics capability it will indicate this and quote how much dedicated RAM it has. It is also likely to have a more powerful graphics processor in additional to the system processor.

Narrowing down the machines based on main processor is more difficult. Selecting from the Intel range only there are numerous models. The new ranges are identified as core i3, i5 or i7. Each offers more performance at greater cost. At the moment I’d say a core i3 will suit most common users and a core i5 for those who need lots of windows and programs all running at the same time all day long.
There are also older processors such as the core2duo which will do a great job and the Pentium DualCore which will suffice for general internet/email users with a little word processing and spreadsheeting to do.

Battery life may also be important to you. How long do you need it to run when away from a mains supply? The newer processors improve battery use times but manufacturers may then fit a smaller cheaper battery with less run time to keep costs down. 3 hours+ should be appropriate for most.

Which brand is best? Difficult to answer. Many people will only comment on their dissatisfaction with a particular machine rather than sing it’s praises and recommend it to others. Over the years I have sold and/or setup numerous brands for home and business purposes and I tend to find that specification helps a great deal. In no particular order HP/Compaq, Lenovo, Samsung, Acer, Sony and Dell have all proved to run well for several years with the odd glitch here and there.

And what about Apple? The Macbooks run a different operating system. Some say this is a good thing. People who use Macs and Macbooks tend to have more affection for them than a windows based machine user – in my experience.
In business circles those in the publishing and design industries tend to swear by them. On the other hand it may be more difficult to find the range of programs and games you are familiar with on your windows machine. However a Mac is ‘currently’ less likely to be infected with Malware and you can surf the web, communicate emails, play games and write documents. You are limited to one brand, Apple, and the prices tend to be high but the specifications reflect this.

Internet attacks: Reducing the risks

Sadly the war against computer infections is not showing any sign of an end – if anything attacks are increasing in both volume and complexity. Malicious software, more commonly termed Malware, comes in many guises and is no longer simply a ‘virus’ which most people term the infection on their computers. Trojans, worms, bots and various other names describe more accurately how the infection gets into the computer and what it then does once it has made itself comfortable. The latest ‘breed’ of infections tends to be a mix of several elements to maximise their effectiveness to spread, do damage to systems, and elude detection & removal.

Most people who use computers for work and pleasure don’t care what they are called, how they work and just want rid of them. The two big questions I get asked ask are ‘Why do they do it?’ and ‘How do we stop them infecting my computer?’

The answer to the first question is money. In the past it could be said that it was down to kids competing to hack into a company for ‘bragging rights’ or to find free stuff (checkout Hollywood films ‘Hackers’ and ‘War Games’). Now it is generally criminal enterprises and, if the media is to be believed, state sponsored.

The second question is more difficult to answer. In the past an anti-virus program with a monthly update was enough but now full-blown internet security suites with, in some cases, hourly updates are recommended. Certainly I recommend you ensure you have an internet security suite, preferably a paid-for rather than free edition, and it should include anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware and hopefully features to block spam and phishing attacks.

Some of the newer techniques do reduce your risks of getting your computer infected and do minimise the number of ‘pop-up’ screens asking for your advice about what to do about a file attempting to access the internet which has a cryptic name and no further information to help you decide. But that’s the problem it’s asking for your help and if the kids are driving the computer then they just click yes to anything because they know it reduces the risk of things getting blocked that they are trying to download, install or run.

So, what else can you do?

  1. Make sure your internet security suite features are running and up-to-date.
    (some products now give a traffic light style status with green as good)
  2. Make sure your operating system, is up-to-date, the auto-update system is running and is updating without errors.
  3. Apply updates to any programs you have installed such as MS Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash Player and Java.
    (Many people ignore the messages indicating there are java updates or adobe updates. If they come from an icon in the bottom right of your taskbar (MS windows) then they can generally be trusted. If you receive an email suggestion there are updates and to click a link then steer clear. Applying updates to Java and Adobe products is particularly important at the moment as many attacks are now exploiting ‘vulnerabilities’ or security weaknesses in these products to launch an attack on your system.)
  4. Don’t open emails from unknown senders. If you have to then try to determine if any links look safe –they could be phishing attacks. Hovering over a link in the email that promises to take you to your bank login site will typically display the real ‘URL’ for that link which will have no association with your banks normal website. The other thing to remember is that most banks never send you a link that will ask you to click it to update your details. If they suggest you have to check your details then go directly to the normal login site with your browser instead.
  5. Use caution when using social websites like Facebook and MySpace. Numerous attacks are now exploiting these sites to publish false links on your friend’s wall, page, etc. It may claim to be from a friend with the promise of a funny photo or video clip when you click it. Suspect it if your security software starts alarming you, suspect it if it takes longer than expected before anything happens and immediately run a security scan if it claims to need to download a new program or codec to be able to display or play the file.

If you are an Apple Mac or Linux user then sadly the time when you could say you weren’t a PC so they couldn’t infect you is coming to an end. The security firms are increasing the chatter related to attacks that can affect these systems too.

SmartPhone users – watch out for the ‘dodgy dialers’ that plagued computer users in the bad old days of dial-up internet. Some SmartPhone operating systems have been hacked allowing the attacker to make the phone dial premium rate numbers. 

The important thing is not to panic though. Make sure you have done all you can but if your system does get infected then take action to have it cleaned as soon as possible and quarantine any emailing, memory sticks, external hard drives, etc. until you have the green light.


E-Mail Tips: keeping your mailbox safe and tidy

Last month I discussed changing your email address to one that was independent of your ISP. This month I will hopefully give you some useful tips on how to keep your mailbox clean and free of spam.

Create folders to store emails from the same category. Read an email and then either delete it or move it to the appropriate folder.
Depending upon the email program you are using you may also be able to set rules or filters which will automatically move emails from certain people or organisations into a specific folder.

Regularly empty your Bin and never use it as a folder to store files that you’ve read but may wish to refer to later – some people do this and wonder where their emails went if they run a PC clean-up utility.

Think twice before opening an email from an address you do not recognise. Look at the address and also the summary/subject field to help you decide if it looks like a legitimate email. E-mails offering free gifts are generally not genuine. If in doubt – delete!

If you have a junk folder or spam filtering service then use caution when checking the contents of these folders – but do check them as genuine emails may fail some of the tests and get deposited there. Use whitelists to make your filtering service bypass the normal checks for people you know well and, more importantly, trust.

Be careful when trying to remove yourself from a mailing list. Lawful mailing lists will have simple instructions that will remove you from their systems but the dodgy ones may take this as a confirmation that your address is live and start sending you more unsolicited email and share (or even sell) your address with others. The easiest way to avoid problems is to use a mailbox rule or add the address to the spam filtering services blacklist so they always disappear from your main inbox view.

Turn off the reading pane or preview pane. Just like opening an infected email can lead to an infected machine, so can having these turned on make it easier for an infection to enter your computer.

Create a disposable email address. Even if you have a web-based email address with google, yahoo or Hotmail it can be useful to have a second address that you can enter on websites that are likely to then deluge you with emails that you don’t really want to receive. Keeping it as a web-based address also reduces the risk of downloading an infected or boobie-trapped email to your computer.

Never reply to unsolicited emails. Simply delete them. They are generally from automated systems and if you reply then you are only confirming that your email address is live and they can send you more rubbish and pass on your details to others.

Moving away from your reliance on ISP Email services

A fair number of people I encounter feel that they are unable to move to an alternative Internet Service Provider (ISP) because they will lose their e-mail address. You may want to move to another ISP for better service, a better price, a better package including phone calls, along with numerous other reasons.

The best way to minimise your dependence on a specific ISP is to create an independent email account (or accounts). This could be a Google, yahoo or hotmail address which you can create and use for free and can be accessed through webmail or through your computer’s email client program. The other way to obtain an independent email account is to register your own domain name. For example tknowit.net, bluebeardesigns.co.uk or yorkshirelad.com. These can cost you less than 20GBP a year with email accounts included.

Once you have created your new email address you should send everyone (you wish to keep in touch with) an email from this account asking them to use this address in future. You will also need to go through all your mailing list subscriptions to ensure you still get your special offers from the supermarkets and money saving tips from the likes of moneysavingexpert.com.

Within a month or so you should find that everyone you want to keep in touch with have got the message and are corresponding via your new email address. The only things arriving in your ISP provided mail box will be spam emails, phishing attacks from your bank -that you have never had an account with, and your ISPs bill.

At this point you should feel more independent and more confident to move to another ISP offering you a service that meets your needs and pocket.


Solving Broadband Internet Problems

Most homes and businesses that use computers and the web will now be using broadband services rather than dial-up to access the internet. The vast majority will be receiving this service through the telephone landline, especially in the Ryedale area, although cable and 3G mobile services are also available in some areas of the country.

There are a number of things that can go wrong with your ability to access the internet. The internet service providers will ask you to go through a list of steps to try to resolve the problem. Hopefully the tips below will help you resolve your problems or even get a better connection than you have at the moment.

Broadband Router

First, start with the basics. Check the lights to see which are flashing, or not and where all the wires go. Typically there is a power light, which should be lit, a DSL light which should usually be lit (not flashing) which signifies there is broadband present, and an internet light which will either signify internet traffic or that the router has logged into the service. If the DSL light is flashing or off then there is no chance of an internet connection.

Check your phone line and listen for noise. If there is noise and it’s not likely to be down to a poor phone then call BT and ask them to do a phone line check as it’s noisy. Until a problem with a noisy line is resolved then it is unlikely that you will have a reliable broadband connection.
Check that all phone outlets with a phone, ringer, alarm or sky box connected have a micro-filter between the phone and the phone wall socket. The filters stop interference between the phone and broadband services.

Remove all phones and just try the router connected into the master socket through a filter.

Remove the front of the BT Master socket and connect a filter into the test socket behind it. The Master socket usually has two screws and a split across the centre of the front plate. Unscrew and pull forwards gently.

Leave your router switched on if possible. This allows BT’s systems to automatically optimise the connection speed and reliability of your connection. Although your ISP may not be BT, in the Ryedale area your underlying service is likely to be provisioned by BT.

Install an ‘iPlate’ to increase speed. This is a cheap device that fits on the BT Master socket and can improve connection speeds and quality. They’re less than £10 and are approved by BT.

If none of this works then you can then call your ISP and sit in their queue or call someone local, such as tKnowIT, for other suggestions.

Cloud Computing Services

Need to expand capabilities without increasing overhead?

Cloud computing keeps costs down.


Need to improve communication and collaboration without draining IT resources? Dream of a truly flexible platform to fit your IT needs? Wish you could have it for a predictable, low monthly cost and reduced capital expenditure? The Microsoft® Business Productivity Online Suite can help.

The Business Productivity Online Suite is a set of messaging and collaboration solutions hosted by Microsoft. It can help:

  • Decrease your infrastructure spending while increasing communication capabilities.
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  • Scale your business with a click. The flexibility of hosted cloud computing means that you can deploy the solutions you need, when you need them. 

It’s enterprise-level services at a reduced overall cost. Put the Microsoft® Business Productivity Online Suite to work for your company today.

All for less than £7 per user /month.

Call tKnowIT today to setup a free 30 day trial.

Tel: 01653 908069 or 01653 698905




Microsoft Office 2010

Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2010

Success starts at home with Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2010, the essential programs families need to complete school and household projects efficiently. Give kids the academic edge with Word 2010 and PowerPoint® 2010, featuring ready-made templates
for creating reports and presentations fast and dramatic effects that add originality to any assignment. With Excel® 2010, you have the spreadsheet tools the pros use, including features that simplify tracking expenses and creating a household budget. Organize home projects in OneNote® 2010 to access your notes, files and resources in one easy spot. All the programs share a consistent look and feel,
so you can move smoothly between home finances, class presentations and other everyday tasks with exceptional results.

Microsoft® Office Home and Business

Microsoft® Office Home and Business helps keep life and work in sync at a price that’s easy on your budget. Tackle your busy agenda efficiently with powerful email, scheduling and task list tools in Outlook, ® helping you stay in touch with customers, family and friends with more flexibility and less in-box clutter. With the sophisticated features in Word and PowerPoint,® you’re equipped to create professional reports and presentations that command attention. Your productive hours aren’t confined to your office, so Office Home and Business gives you the freedom to work from home, at your desk or on the road.

Microsoft® Office Professional

Power your business with Microsoft® Office Professional, comprehensive software and support to help you stay organized, connected and competitive. As your company grows, so do your needs. The tools in Office Professional
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With your projects organized using Microsoft® Office 2010, you’re prepared to manage your business the way you work best. Keep tabs on finances and day-to-day operations with less time and effort. Easily upload your files online so you can stay connected to work from virtually any PC with an Internet connection or a smartphone with Outlook® Mobile 2010,* helping you communicate and work with employees and customers flexibly — in the office, at home and in between.

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