Do You Really Have To “Eject” USB Devices?

Do You Really Have To “Eject” USB Devices?

Here’s a question we get asked a lot: does it really matter if you properly eject your USB device before you disconnect it from your computer?

Both PC and Mac users struggle with this one.  When you plug in a USB device like a pen drive or an external hard drive, Windows will often notify you that it sees it by flashing a notification in the lower right corner of your screen.  However, on both PC’s and Macs, if you just pull the plug to disconnect it, you will often get a warning that you didn’t “eject” it before disconnecting it, or that it was not safely removed.

Why does it matter?  On both types of machines, even after you have copied files to the external drive and it says the transfer is complete, the operating system is often still talking to the drive in the background, and therefore still using that drive.  If you just disconnect it, you have a greater risk for causing permanent damage to the drive if it’s in the process of talking to the drive and you disconnect it.  It could significantly shorten the lifespan of your drive- or worse- corrupt the files you have already copied to it (and that statement right there is alone enough for anyone who has lost data before!)

Bottom line, If your drive is important to you, and it is used as permanent backup or storage, you should always safely eject or disconnect it before you just unplug it.  To do that on the PC, right click on the “Safely Remove Icon” in the right hand corner and select eject (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/safely-remove-devices-from-your-computer),  or right click on the drive in question on a Mac, and select “Eject”.  Other USB devices like mice, keyboards, and printers do not need to be properly ejected before disconnecting (because they’re not writing data or anything).  As far as flash drives/USB sticks….they’re never great for permanent file storage, so if you don’t properly eject them, don’t be surprised when they die prematurely on you.  The bottom line: eject your devices if you care about what’s on them….but occasionally forgetting to do so isn’t going to kill you.

If you’re interested in more information on this topic, see this PC Gamer article PC (http://www.pcgamer.com/do-you-need-to-eject-usb-flash-drives/), and this Gizmodo article (http://gizmodo.com/does-safely-ejecting-from-a-usb-port-actually-do-anythi-1715969743).

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Mac Users: What Browser Do YOU Use?

Mac Users: What Browser Do YOU Use?

Picking which browser to use on your computer is kind of like picking a flavor of ice cream: every kind is sweet, each one has different flavors and mix-ins, and you have probably already have your favorite flavor picked in your head.  However, the recipes keep changing, and updates and new features come along, and it’s never the same browser for too long.  We haven’t talked about it in a while, so it’s time for a recap and review of the most popular flavors: vanilla (Safari), chocolate (Chrome), and strawberry (Firefox).

Apple’s built-in browser Safari is often the first choice for many: whether they be hardcore Apple fans, or newbies who don’t know there are other options.  It’s clean, simple interface is both easy to use and fast.  Adding a bookmark to the “bookmark bar” just lists the name, with no icon from the page, to give it a clean, unified look.  Bookmarks and pages you’re viewing in Safari can be shared to your iPhone or iPad, which is nice for other Apple devices you might have.  One of the biggest drawbacks for a while was the lack of plugins or extensions….3rd party features not made by Apple….that they refused to allow for security reasons.  Apple has since allowed extensions, but there are significantly fewer offerings than on other browsers.  Regardless- that’s not keeping the power users away who swear by it’s performance, sleek design, and simple use.  My personal thought- it’s still vanilla….or maybe a nice, higher-end “Vanilla Bean”, but still a “no frills” vanilla.

Our “chocolate” variety is Google Chrome.  Perhaps one of the biggest advantages with this browser is the ability it has integrate to with existing Google products and services.  Google has optimized the experience for users of their popular services (think Google Drive, Gmail, Hangouts, etc), to make it fastest, and most convenient to use their browser.  Chrome has a variety of plugins and extensions to make their browser unique to each user- from games to color schemes to toolbars and apps….all easily downloadable from their “Web Store”.  Chrome is nice in that it syncs with your existing Google account, and you can carry your settings and bookmarks with you to other machines you’re logged into with the same account- be it a PC or your cell phone- which is a nice convenience.  One word of caution about Chrome- some users have experienced problems with computer performance when they have a lot of tabs open, specifically with “not-in-use” tabs that have video or streaming content that still seem to be playing in the background, so if you notice performance problems, that could be why.  Lastly, Google has come under fire in the past for being a “big brother” of sorts with the data they collect on their users (they display ads relevant to your search history, etc), so if that kind of awareness bothers you, look at another browser.

The last variety we’re going to talk about is Firefox– our strawberry contender.  Unlike Safari (which is designed to seamlessly integrate with MacOS), and Chrome (which is designed to enhance Google experience), Firefox is developed with the intent to simply make the most universal, fast browser experience, through the open-sourced community that builds it.  In other words, it doesn’t really have a hidden agenda or “thing” to promote- it’s just trying to make the best overall browser experience.  Like Chrome, it too has a vast array of “add-ons” to control the look, feel, and functionality of the program to tweak it to your needs, and the bookmarks and settings can be shared with a variety other computers through a unified login.  It’s highly configurable, and fast for power users, and worth a good review if you haven’t tried it in a while.

So- now to the million dollar question, “which one do you recommend?”.  The answer: all of them.  They’re free, and don’t take a lot of room on your computer, so you should download and try each one.  If you want a more customized experience, look to Chrome or Firefox, and tweak it based on your needs.  There’s also other popular ones we didn’t discuss in detail (like Opera) that are also excellent alternatives to consider.  You might find that banks or other organizations might say they only support one or another, so it’s important to have access to something else if you need it.  Personally, because I heavily used Google products myself, I was drawn to Chrome, but began to notice performance issues in the last few months, so I switched to using Firefox and have been happy since.  At the end of the day, they can all do the same thing, they’re all just about as fast and secure as the other, so it really comes down to preference.  If you haven’t tried one or another in a while, give them a try and post your comments below- we would love to hear what you think.

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Is Your Keyboard Nasty?

Is Your Keyboard Nasty?

Here’s an interesting info graphic from Quill.com: How Nasty is Your Keyboard?  Furthermore, how can you clean it?  This is a great visual to read and act on, but maybe print a copy and leave it on the printer at work so the next guy can benefit from this advice too!  Click on the link to see their detailed advice!

http://www.quill.com/content/index/healthcare/healthcare-resources/how-nasty-is-your-keyboard/default.cshtml

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Get Rid of QuickTime on Windows!

Get Rid of QuickTime on Windows!

If you’re running Windows, there’s a good chance Apple’s QuickTime got installed on there somewhere along the way.  Whether it was bundled with your iTunes installation, or you needed to play a video from an email a while back…it’s probably there running in the background (right click down by the clock in your taskbar and see if you see the icon).  If you have it, it’s time to get rid of it.  Apple has said that they are phasing it out, and no longer supporting the program for Windows based computers- which means they will not be releasing security updates for it, which is a threat for malware and viruses.  Above that, TrendMicro recently published that they have already found some security flaws in the software (http://blog.trendmicro.com/urgent-call-action-uninstall-quicktime-windows-today/).  If it gives you more justification to remove it, the Department of Homeland Security wants you to uninstall it too (https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA16-105A).  Mac users- fear not- as this only affects the Windows version of the program, and the Mac version is still supported.

SO- take this as your queue and remove the program from your computer today before a minor security flaw turns into a malware nightmare later.  For many of you, you’ll be removing a program that auto-starts with your computer, so you might see some faster computer performance too!  If you need help removing it, don’t hesitate to reach out to ask us.

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Beware Of After-Market Charging Cables!

Beware Of After-Market Charging Cables!

We’ve talked about making sure you have safe, legit charging cables in the past (http://canyonero.org/2014/05/15/are-oem-apple-chargers-cables-worth-it/), but it’s so important, it’s worth mentioning again.  Charging cables are expensive, but there’s reasons why it’s important to buy the OEM ones, or ones that are certified by the original manufacturer.  We’re not only talking about the cheap no-name iPhone charging cables on Amazon or Five Below (please, please don’t do it), but we’re also talking about discount USB-C Charging cables that are charging some of the most expensive laptops on the market today.

A few weeks ago, you may have noticed Amazon made news headlines for banning the sale of several non-compliant USB-C charging cables on its website (http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/30/11329848/amazon-usb-c-cable-prohibition).  That decision came after numerous people began reporting that their discount, Amazon-purchased USB-C charging cables were electronically frying their equipment: http://gizmodo.com/cheap-usb-c-cables-could-kill-your-phone-or-laptop-1757115350.  That cheap charging cable just became an expensive problem to fix.

So, is the answer to always purchase the top-of-the-line OEM cables and cords, regardless of the price?  Not always- but if you go cheap on the accessories, beware of the risk.  Make sure that if you’re purchasing something online, you look for reputable brands with lots of positive reviews for the specific product you’re looking at.  If you’re looking for iPhone cables, make sure they guarantee to be “Apple MFi Certified”.  If looking at charging cables, make sure they come with a warranty, and the selling company seems legit (instructions are in well-written English), with ample positive reviews of the product and the company.  When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to review a purchase before you make it!