Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Use Ready Hosting!

For years, I have used for my business web hosting.  They were one of the cheapest web hosting companies when I first signed up.  However even though they're competitors have drastically cut costs, ReadyHosting never reduced their fees.

Despite paying higher fees, I stayed with them out of loyalty because I liked their services and being able to readily contact tech support when needed.  But that loyalty has come to and end.

In an attempt to reduce expenses, I decided to cancel my web hosting account since I've been using this blog as a means to share information.  While there are still some advantages of keeping the old website active,  I decided there weren't enough reasons to justify the expenses anymore.

So this morning I contacted their billing office to inform them of my desire to cancel the account and was told that they would do so and would refund the unused portion of my balance after they deducted an EARLY CANCELLATION FEE!

I've been a loyal customer for nearly a decade.  I could have moved the account years ago to one of the cheaper hosting companies, but didn't out of loyalty.  And now, they want to charge me an early cancellation fee?  Unbelievable!  The fee may only be $35, but it's the principle of the matter that really gets my goat!   Especially, since I only had 30 days left in the current subscription!

Needless to say, I won't be recommending Ready Hosting to anybody else any time soon.  If you need domain names or web hosting accounts, go to (which by the way happens to be my GoDaddy reseller account). But don't go to!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How to Run Scan Disk

Scan Disk is one of the built in computer programs that can be used to check for errors on your computer. It can also fix many of those errors.

Basically, it scans your computer files, allocation tables, and the surface of your hard drive to look for errors. When it finds them, it tries to fix them (if the you have that option checked).

It can take up to an hour to run this program and you don't want to be doing anything else on the computer while it's running. Like Defrag, you should also run this program once a month.

In Windows XP, Microsoft renamed Scan Disk to Error Checking. They also changed it so you had to reboot your computer to make it run. 

Close all programs on your computer and follow the steps below to run Scan Disk (or Error Checking).

Windows XP

1. Double LEFT click MY COMPUTER to open it.
2. RIGHT click on the "C" drive and select PROPERTIES.
3. Click on the Tools Tab.
4. Click on the button that reads, Check Now next to Error Checking.
5. Place a check mark in both boxes and click START
6. Click YES on the message window that pops up
7. Restart your computer

Windows Vista & Windows 7

If you're computer is running Windows Vista or Windows 7, then note that Scan Disk has been renamed, "Error Checking" - but it's the same program.  Follow the steps below to run Scan Disk (a.k.a. Error Checking) in Windows Vista and 7:
  1. Click the START Button and then COMPUTER
  2. Right click on the C-Drive and select PROPERTIES (you should see a new window like that below.  If you don't, repeat this step until you see the window below).

  1. Click the tab that reads, TOOLS
  1. Under the heading, Error-Checking, click the button that reads, CHECK NOW
  1. Click CONTINUE on the pop-up message
  2. Make sure there are checkmarks in the two boxes and then click the START button 
  1. You'll have to wait a few minutes for another window to pop up, but when it does, click the button that reads, SCHEDULE DISK CHECK
  1. REBOOT the computer
Scan disk should start when the computer is rebooted.  If it doesn't, repeat the steps 1-6 and try again.  

It will take about an hour for it to complete. There are 5 stages in this process and the last stage takes the longest.  I like to run scan disk while I'm sleeping or know I'll be off the computer for hours.  When Scan Disk is complete, you see your computer desktop again. 

Tips for Buying a New Computer

Buying a new computer can be daunting - especially if you're not familiar with all the terms and specs that are listed.

This article will help you help you understand those terms and what's important in making a computer buying decision.

Whenever you buy a new computer, you first have to decide if you want a laptop or desktop computer. Below is a list of pro's and con's for each.

Laptop Pro's:

  • Portability (which is great if you travel a lot)
  • Wireless connections allow you access to your email away from home
  • Less space is needed

Laptop Con's:

  • Smaller keyboard, and monitor
  • No mouse (but one could be attached)
  • Only one internal hard drive and CD/DVD drive (some people need more)
  • Printers, scanners and such are usually not connected all the time
  • Harder to fix and upgrade
People who use the computer a lot, don't like the smaller monitor and keyboard. There's no number pad on a laptop keyboard - and for some people, that's a bit of an annoyance.

Also, some people prefer the mouse over the touch pad or pointer. You can always hook a mouse up to a laptop, to solve that problem, but it's an extra step.

One way to solve all those problems, is to get a docking station and connect a full size keyboard, monitor and mouse to it. That way when you're home and want to work on the laptop, you can attach it to the docking station and have it function more like a desktop computer.

However, using a docking station means that you need more room and extra peripherals (monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.). It also means that you need to have a permanent place set up with this equipment.

Desktop Pro's

  • Full size monitor, keyboard, and mouse
  • Usually more processing power and speed than laptops
  • Ability to have extra drives installed (hard drives, CD/DVD drives, etc.)
  • Printers, scanners, etc. are always connected
  • Better sound and speakers
  • Easier to fix and upgrade (not necessarily true with laptops)
There are many more advantages to owning a desktop computer. But the biggest downside is that you don't have the portability. And if you travel a lot, this can be a problem.

Minimum Requirements

We all have different computer needs. Therefore, what I look for in a computer may not necessarily be what you need in a computer. But there are some general guidelines that you'll find helpful when shopping around.

Before buying a new computer, you need to know what you intend to use it for. For example, if you only see yourself doing some word processing (writing letters, etc), and email, then you don't need a lot of processing power.

But if you see yourself wanting to store a lot of digital pictures, music, or do a lot of graphic work (photo and video editing), then you do need a larger hard drive and more processing power than most people.

If you're a gamer (you'll also need a lot of processing power).
When buying a new computer computer, keep in mind that the following things will affect the speed of the computer:

  • CPU speed (I'd recommend a minimum of 2GHz to everybody)
  • Memory (the more RAM, the better, but at a minimum, you should have 1 GB)
 There's a couple of things that affect the speed of a computer, but nothing that most people need to be concerned with. The main thing to keep in mind, is that you always want to get the most memory and fastest CPU you can afford.
These are the two things that will affect the price of the computer the most.
I also usually recommend getting the largest hard drive you can and to make sure you have at least a CD-RW drive installed.
So regardless of your intended use, this is my list of minimum requirements for every computer user:

  • 2 GHz CPU (I personally prefer Intel or Celeron over AMD)
  • 1 GB RAM (but more is better if you can afford it)
  • 500 GB Hard Drive (you'll want more if you do a lot of graphic work - especially video)
  • DVD-RW drive (you'll want a DVD-RW if you work with video)
  • Network card (sometimes listed as LAN or NIC)
  • Wireless card installed (if buying a laptop)
If you're buying a desktop computer and like to add a lot of extra stuff (like more hard drives, CD-Drives, etc.) then you'll want to get an ATX desktop computer as opposed to a micro-ATX.

Also keep in mind that most new computers today, do not come with a floppy drive. Getting a thumb drive (or flash drive) will make things a lot easier if you want to swap files between computers.

While it's true that computers can become outdated fairly quickly, I usually tell my clients to plan to get 5 years out a any computer. So when buying, it's a good idea to have a 5 year vision in mind of your computer needs. This will help you get the most for your computer.

Computer Basics

Working with computers isn't that hard - if you understand the basics. But just about the time you learn them, Microsoft and others decide to make changes (just about the time you get things memorized).

This page was created to help folks are who are new to computers as well as help re-educate those who faced with some of the changes before them.

Computer Basics

In short computers are made up up both hardware and software components - and they all have their own name.

The Hardware components things you can see and touch. The monitor, keyboard, mouse, tower, cable modem, router, printer, scanner, etc. are all examples of hardware.

The Software components are the programs that are running on the computer. The Operating System (OS), Norton, Roxio, Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. are all examples of software.

In order for your computer to work properly, these components must talk to each other. And it's not uncommon to have a break in communication between hardware and software.

Software Drivers (also called, Device Drivers) are small software programs that tell the computer how to talk to the hardware (or work with it). Every hardware component on connected to your computer (even the ones inside the case that you can't see) need drivers to function.

When creating the software or driver, the programmer needs to specify which operating system the program can run on (which is very time consuming). For this reason, programmers will stop programming their newest creation to work with older operating systems (like Win95 or Win98).

Because of device drivers and other hardware changes, any hardware you buy will also have restrictions associated it with it.

This is why it is very important to make sure any hardware or software you buy will work with your current system (if you're upgrading or adding things to it).
Any time you buy hardware or software, you need to check the "Minimum System Requirements" on the box. This list of specs will tell you if that component will work on your current system.

If memorizing your computer specs is difficult, then you may want to write them down keep them in your wallet so you'll have them handy when you are thinking of making a purchase.

The specs you need to know are:
  • CPU Speed
  • Amount of RAM installed
  • Hard Drive Size (and available Space)
  • Operating System
Depending on what you're buying or upgrading, you may need to know some other things too - but the list above should answer most of your questions.

Input Devices

These are the components that you use to talk to your computer. The mouse and keyboard are the most common input devices. But some people have others including a microphone, or digital drawing pad.

Basic Terminology

When you turn on your computer it goes through a boot sequence. Most people refer to this as booting up the computer.

When it's finished, you will see your start up screen (also called, desktop). You can liken your computer desktop to a physical desk you sit at. Everything on it has a name (icon) and performs some function (program).

The background image or color is called, "wallpaper"

The small image files are called, "icons" - and they are shortcuts to programs. Common icons include the "Recycle Bin", "Internet Explorer", "My Computer", etc.

The horizontal bar the bottom of the screen (usually blue or gray) is called the, "taskbar". The lower left button the task bar is usually the "Start" button. On the right side, you'll usually see the clock and some other icons.


Nobody ever tells you this when you buy a computer, but they need maintenance to keep running smoothly (much like your car).
Scan Disk, Defrag, and Disk Clean Up are three maintenance routines which should be performed at least quarterly.

Deleting old messages from your email boxes and emptying the recycle bin is also important for maintaining your computer.

Buying a New Computer

Folks are always asking me what they should look for when buying a new computer and what the advantages are of having a laptop over a desktop.

For tips on buying a new computer, click here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Getting Help With Qwest Internet

This post is intended to provide quick links more than share information. Many of my clients use Qwest for their internet service  and when there's a problem, it can be hard to find the right pages and links to get help.  So I thought I would list them here.

Qwest Quick Care Software

If you ever need to re-install Qwest Quick Care Software, click here.This software is pretty handy for diagnosing internet connection problems.  So if you use Qwest, it's a good idea to download and install it you haven't already. 

Qwest Online Chat Support

Talking to tech support can be a very frustrating experience.  Not only do you have to keep up with all the automated phone redirects, but then you end up talking to somebody in India you can't even understand.   For this reason, I much prefer to chat online with tech support instead of talking to them on the phone.  It's easy and I don't have to try and decipher through anybody's accent.  Another advantage of chat support is that they can see your internet connection and even connect remotely if necessary.

To chat online with Qwest Tech Support, click here.  At the top of the page, you'll see an image of a person with the text "Need Help, click here to chat".

Talk a little or a lot with Qwest long distance

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Google's 411 Service

Are you one of those people who still likes to use 411 to get a phone number?  If so, you need to discover Google's 411 service ... which does the same thing as your phone company, but it's FREE.

Check it out: 

All you have to do is add this toll-free number to your cell phone directory or home phone speed dial (or post it on a sticky note next to the phone).


Calling this number will help connect you to the person or business you're trying to call.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cablone Intenet Scam - Beware!

This morning I received an email (supposedly from Cableone) saying that my email settings (POP3 and SMTP) had been changed.   Of course, my initial reaction was one of alarm.  I didn't know if somebody had hacked my email account or if Cableone was making changes. Below is a copy of the email I received.

SMTP and POP3 servers for mailbox are changed. Please carefully read the attached instructions before updating settings.

Then I took a closer a look at the web link (URL) in the message.  Of course, I couldn't figure out at first what "Google Groups" had to do with my cableone email .... but then I took a closer a look.  If you read it carefully, you'll spot the word, "forrestgump" ... which let me quickly identify the email message as a hoax.

Another big tipoff is that if you look at the last bit of the email link, you see ""  - that is a huge clue that this is a scam.  If you click this link, it will download some type of executable file to your computer ... most likely a virus or malicious program of some sort.

So this is one email you definitely want to ignore and delete ASAP!  Hoepfully the explanation above will also help you better identify these type of hoaxes and scams in the future.