I’m always love hearing about new apps for my phone, and today I thought I would share about one of my new favorite finds in the App Store that I think everyone should consider using. I’ve always gotten a lot of spam phone calls on my office and home phone, but in the last year I’ve seen a huge increase in spam calls to my smartphone too. Sure, all of my numbers are registered on the Do Not Call list, (check your registrations here: https://www.donotcall.gov), but that doesn’t stop the calls from coming.
Luckily, since smartphones can run apps, there is an extra layer of protection you can install on your smartphone to try and identify telemarketers. There are several different apps available, both paid and free, and they’ve either been a hassle to use by messing up your address book, or didn’t work at all (and one, Number Guru totally screwed up my voicemail!). However, late last year, a friend on Facebook suggested Hiya, and I tried it out….and am pleasantly surprised. Hiya is available on the iTunes App Store and the Google App Store, and helps you to identify those unwanted calls on your phone before you answer. We’ve all been there….it’s 7:00pm, we’re cleaning the kitchen, hands in soapy water, and the cell phone rings with a random number on it and you question its importance. Here’s where Hiya is great- right as the call comes in, it will identify the call as a “suspected telemarketer”, or “scam or fraud” so you don’t have to rush to the phone. You can even have it block the call altogether so it doesn’t even ring! Now naturally, the service is only as good as their database, but after using it for the past several months, I’ve been pretty impressed. It doesn’t flag ALL calls, but I would say about 70% of them…and for a free, easy to use program, that’s pretty darn good, and I think it’s worth installing. Got another app you suggest or like that does something similar- post it in the comments below….we would love to hear about it!
We recently had a question from a client about power safety in electronics- and it’s not a wonder with some of the recent news stories out there. HP is doing a massive battery recall from unexplained fires, video of a Dell Inspiron lithium battery sparking has made news around the country, not to mention all those Galaxy 7’s that caught fire prompting a massive recall of the product. In this technology-driven world, are we safe when using and charging our electronics?
While we all know that news tends to exploit extremes, it’s important to note that the issues we’re hearing about affect a VERY SMALL percentage of the electronics in use having issues. HP and Dell sell millions of laptops yearly, and the documented cases where power issues have been experienced with their systems is less than 1%. However small the risk, it’s important to note some of the easy things you can do to minimize these problems, and ensure longer life and safety for your devices.
- Use A Surge Protector. Using a good surge protector, or battery backup backup device to charge your devices helps protect your devices from harm. Not only does it protect your device from spikes in the power line from the power company, but good ones can stop power when it senses power problems with the electronic itself. Getting a good surge protector from a known brand name helps to insure that quality control measures were taken into account when the device was manufactured. While they’re usually more expensive, they lessen the chance that you’ll have a faulty device. What’s a good name to consider? Look for Belkin or APC. Going on vacation, or need something for a tight space….we love these portable surge protectors!
- Use Quality Chargers and Batteries. We’ve talked before about the importance of using brand name Apple chargers, and while after-market or non-brand name products aren’t always bad, there’s usually a huge price difference between the brand ones and knock-offs. Why? Like with surge protectors mentioned above, many times the companies who cut costs by using lesser-quality parts don’t have the same quality control, and using that bad product could do damage to your devices. Protect yourself by buying replacement batteries and charging cables from trusted, quality retailers (avoid the Dollar Store or Five Below for cables and car chargers), and discontinue use if it seems hot to the touch or if the battery on a laptop seems to swell or expand. If purchasing for Apple devices, make sure the packaging says MFi Certified- meaning the manufacturer has complied with the developer to make sure it is safe to use.
- Practice Smart Battery Tips. Battery life varies based on the type of battery you’re using. Personally, my laptop is always on, plugged in and charging, 24/7. Despite that, once a week or so, I usually disconnect it from the power cord and let the battery run for a while. Why? While it’s completely safe to keep a laptop plugged in all of the time, it isn’t the best for the battery, meaning over time it could shorten it’s lifespan. Periodically relying on that battery (and unplugging it from the power source), lets it use some of the battery and help encourage a longer life. Often times a device will ship from the factory and say “fully charge before first use”, despite shipping with a minimal charge to begin with. Trust me….it’s OH so temping to use it straight out of the box….but consider holding off for a few hours and charge it up. Again- it’s not unsafe to begin using it right away, it’s just better for the lifespan of the battery to charge it before the first use.
In today’s world, we have become so reliant on the technology and devices around us, that we often forget about how to best care for our devices as safely as possible. Think about all of your chargers in your home: where they’re plugged into, what cords you’re using to charge them, and how old that surge protector or power strip is behind the bed. Use the tips above to do a quick search of your home and identify any changes you need to make; not only will your local fire department thank you, but you just might save your device too!
We’ve all been there….you visit a website, and it’s so overrun with advertisements and pop-ups that you don’t know where to click next to keep reading the actual story you came to the page for. Lately- especially on mobile devices, and when following articles posted on Facebook- these click-bait advertisements quickly take over the entire screen, leaving even the most experienced “web-connesuers” questioning where is legit to click next. If it’s hard for them- imagine how much harder it is for those who aren’t experienced online, and how quickly they can fall into a trap and end up clicking on advertisements that install malware or hijack their machine!
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself online from things like this.
- Install an AdBlocker on your Computer. An ad-blocker is a safe and easy add-on to your machine that will automatically help stop popups and block advertisements from showing on the page. It doesn’t block everything, but it does a good job at getting rid of the masses. We recommend https://adblockplus.org, because it’s free, trustworthy, and reliable. Simply go to the site and install, and it will take care of the rest. There are others out there, but be careful and make sure they’re legitimate, and not spyware or a virus themselves.
- Consider Smartphone AdBlockers. Don’t forget about your smartphone too! There are a few different kinds of protection for smartphones: ad-blockers that work like the ones on your computer, and complete alternate browsers that are built for blocking ads and minimizing distractions on your screen. Apple iPhone users can check out 1Blocker, AdBlock Plus, and AdGuard, while Android users can consider Adblock Browser, and AdGuard. Before trying out these apps, read the reviews in the App Store and see which is right for you and what you would like to block- they each work a little differently, but should significantly help readability on your phone!
- Run A Malware Scan. Sometimes, once malware or spyware is installed on your computer, it will cause popups to be more prevalent and more frequent. We recommend everyone use MalwareBytes and do a scan at least every few weeks to make sure there’s nothing rogue running in the background on your machine. Consider purchasing a license for the program if you want it to periodically and automatically run the scans for you, versus you having to remember to do it manually every so often. Yes, you need to use this in conjunction with valid, paid, antivirus software for the best protection- it doesn’t protect against computer viruses, but is the best spyware remover hands down. We recommend this for all PC’s and Mac’s (yes, Mac’s can get popups and spyware too!)
Setting up these options should help your computer run faster and more efficiently online, and with less distractions from advertisements. It’s sad that in order to increase revenue advertisers have had to stoop to these low levels to get us to see their ads….but luckily they’re easy enough to minimize, if not eliminate with a few simple tweaks to your machine. Don’t forget to share these tips with the less tech-savvy in your life- pass these on to your neighbors and parents- and help them set it up….at the least it will make their browsing experience more enjoyable, and it will probably protect them from potential electronic harm!
I’m sure the majority of us have an old almond-colored desktop computer shoved in the basement, or a good 12lb laptop from the late 90’s sitting in the garage ready to recycle…not to mention your old Motorola Star-Tac with your entire address book still on it if you can find the right charger. The million dollar question: “What do you do with all of this stuff???”
First things first, you have to make sure you get your data off of it….and this is really, really important. Some people just put the old computers out by the curb, hoping it will be tossed in the trash and forgotten forever. Whenever I see these, I personally stop to pick them up and take them home to remove the data off. Frequently, I’m able to bring these machines back to my shop and look at all of their old data, pictures, saved bank passwords, etc….because the owner never removed his personal data before throwing the computer to the curb. Rookie mistake for them- and in the wrong hands, this could end up costing you time and money should you be a victim of identify theft.
It’s not really hard to remove your old data, it just takes a few minutes. Get an external hard drive (or use an online account like Dropbox), plug it into the computer, and drag any personal files to the backup drive. On a PC, grab anything from the C:\Users\ folder (or C:\Documents and Settings\ if it’s an older machine). That should get the majority of your files- but double check the C:\ drive to see if there are any other folders that might have files hiding from special programs (like Turbo Tax). Similarly, Mac users can grab their User folder, which also should have everything they need. Once it’s copied to the new drive, DELETE the files from the original location. Before you turn off that machine, open up any of your internet browsers and reset them to delete the passwords, history, and cookies….and prevent anyone else from getting your saved web information. If you’re getting rid of an old cell phone, make sure you delete your contacts on it first before donating it or recycling it. It’s important to note that these methods don’t PERMANENTLY delete the data off the machine, but should wipe your computer clean enough to prevent obvious data from getting in the wrong hands. If the machine had medical records on it or other data that needs to remain confidential, we recommend bringing the device to a local computer professional who can insure it is professionally cleaned and removed. At Canyonero, we physically destroy the hard drive components to ensure the data is permanently deleted and there is no threat of the data getting into the wrong hands- a service we provide free of charge for our customers.
After you’ve done a general purge of the information you need, it’s ready to be disposed of. Computers and other used electronics don’t do much in a landfill, so it’s best to find a scrap metal place or other recycling center that can take them. Often times, Best Buy will allow you to bring in computers for recycling, or you might find a recycling center that will give you a buck or so for the scrap pieces. Depending on where you donate/recycle it, sometimes they are shipped back in bulk to China, where they are dismantled in a factory and recycled and reused accordingly (which is why it’s SUPER important you remove your data….you don’t know who’s going to be taking it apart!). Here at Canyonero, sometimes the old machines can be made into workable donations for those less fortunate- which is why we’re always happy to take your used computer donations and see if we can help someone in need. (We would also love to know of charitable organizations and groups that could benefit from one of these “refurbished” devices- so if you know of one, Contact Us!)
At any rate….as you start that spring cleaning and organizing, make sure you are aware of what you’re purging, and together we can help protect against data security breaches and keep computers out of the landfills!