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How can you get better performance with your Internet connection?

You’ve seen the scam artist advertisements for software programs that do nothing more than install junk-ware on your system.

TV Ad for software that did little to help novice PC users

The thing to remember is that many times your PCs Internt connection is slow becausee of your DNS provider.

Now you might be thinking “what is DNS John?” and I would tell you that this is a good question .

DNS means Domain Name Service. It operates on your computer’s port 53 and acts as the phonebook for the Internet. Here’s how…when you want to order a pizza for dinner, you may have to look up the number to the pizza place online or from an ad that they placed on your doorknob. You do not instinctively know the phone number to the pizza place and that’s okay. It’s normal.

Well in the same way you do not have every phone number that you may need in a day memorized, computers do not keep a track of every possible web site you might want to go to in a day stored in them either. Sure, some days you may bounce from a cable news site to a cable weather outlet to an Internet storefront and finally finish up at an Internet movie house like Youtube.

All of these have an IP address and yes, the sites you visit the most often you might want to save their IP addresses in your hosts file. This can be found in a Windows system in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts (and note that this file DOES NOT have a file extension).

You can save them in this format:

tech.jchampion.com            50.87.150.160

Now for you to have a better list of sites that are available worldwide on a DNS server. You are no doubt using one of the ones that your Internet service provider told you to use. These DNS servers may use tricks so that in the event you mistype a domain name, you are redirected to a relatively safe site that is hosted by the ISP or the DNS service provider. Any link that appears on these pages that you click on, make money for the service provider and likely put some sort of tracking cookie on to your computer to follow your movements to similar sponsored sites across the vast internet.

One way to speed up your experience and maybe avoid the whole tracking thing, is to use a new DNS provider. I’ll bet you did not think that you could do that but you can?

Simply go your Internet settings on your computer (Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections and choose whichever icon matches your Internet connection). Right click on this icon and select properties. Now select Internet Connection version 4 from the window that pops up and then click on the properties button that highlights directly below that selection box.

Another window will pop up that will give you some options on things to fill out. Leave the top of this window alone if your Internet/network connection is working fine. What you want to fill out is the section that says “Use the following DNS server addresses” — and now you get to fill in any of a series of numbers you like. It looks like this:

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you'll want to fill out.

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you’ll want to fill out.

The IP addresses to populate those boxes are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

Google also has a DNS service that is available for the public to use and you can certainly use their IP addresses, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 . With these addresses you get away from your ISP’s control but at the same time Google does not provide any level of service to help control or customize your own experience.

A list of other IP addresses for publicly accessible DNS services are listed here – just be sure to check the companies providing the IP addresses that you can use before you use them. You never know what information they could be pushing you to. There is such a thing as DNS poisoning and it is bad.

By bad..I mean that you could think that you are paying for an Amazon or Bank payment service and instead your traffic is directed through JimBob and Bubba-Sue’s scam site that culls your credit card or payment information before passing it along to Amazon or your bank so your purchase goes through and you are unaware anything went wrong, until you see your credit card bill or get that dreaded call from credit card security services.

It’s something to be aware of but do not be afraid. Forge ahead.

My goal in giving you this information is to teach you how to improve things for yourself without needing to spend money on software that does nothing but further bog down your system and worse, entices you to remove files your computer needs to run.

Have fun, be smart, and be independent. There will be more tips coming soon!

 

 

A new blog from me to help you help yourself in a step by step fashion

On this new site I am seeking to provide step by step help and guidance in doing things that sometimes seem too difficult to attempt individually.

Here is the latest post from this new blog called TechTips4Me.com

http://techtips4me.com/?p=20

Create a button to kill a pesky or stuck Chrome browser section

browsersSo..you go to a site to read an article on rooting your Android/Apple phone, you get creative and want the lyrics to a popular song, or you visit a news link to some new media site that you’ve never heard of before but it has a news item that you are interested in and it happens…a popup window in the middle of your screen and it is asking you to some task before you leave (and that includes clicking on a “CANCEL” button on the popup.

First off–DON’T CLICK ON ANYTHING within that browser window. Nothing there is good for you or your computer. Most of these sites are made with CSS, HTML5, and Javascripting. JavaScript has a feature that is deployed in every version and you cannot block it easily, called onUnload().

So no matter where you click on that page or even if you CTRL-ALT-DELETE, you may be subject to something being loaded on to your computer screen.
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Another scenario is that Chrome for some reason is just stuck and will not respond to your mouse clicks and you need it dead NOW!

Okay…I hear you…much in the same way we created a shortcut to kill off Internet Explorer under similar circumstances, we can create a shortcut for your desktop or taskbar that will immediately terminate Google Chrome and it will not trigger any onUnload() event that can harm your system.

So to stop myself from reinventing the wheel, I want you to go over this previous posting — http://tech.jchampion.com/?p=16 and follow the steps to the letter.

The only thing that we are going to change the command you paste into the command line area from “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T” to “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM chrome.exe /T”

If you want to understand what all your instructions mean it is simple – taskkill.exe is the Windows commandline command to terminate a task by either process identification number or by name.

/F means to force it dead
/IM means the image name to kill
/T is telling taskkill to not only kill the program but any child programs that may have opened up as a result

This is quick, painless and easy. Just follow the steps from above and if you want instructions on all of Taskkill’s options use this TechNet link —

This works in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008r2, and Server 2012.

As usual…if you have any questions about this–just ask! Find me on Facebook, Twitter (@jachamp) or via this blog.

john

Windows 8 Tips and Shortcuts

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

One thing is definite in the world of IT: change.

Windows 8 is a massive step away from the way we were doing things just four or five months ago. As our laptops and desktops age, and we turn to retail sales outlets to provide us with our much needed “tech fix,” we also get saddled with Windows 8. While it is possible to downgrade your system to Windows 7, provided the company who made your system provides drivers for each component, it is simply easier to adjust and roll with Windows 8.

Now I’m not a fan of the OS. It’s got a learning curve and while it’s not ridiculous, it’s not exactly intuitive. So the trick is to make Windows 8 work for you and you alone.

Here is the first step… getting your start menu back. There are three ways to do this. Methods 1 & 3 are free. Method 1 requires you to do some keyboard work. Steps 2 and 3 require you to download and install software on to your computer that will create a start menu for you.

1) a) right click anywhere where there is empty space on your Windows task bar (that’s the thing on the bottom of the screen with the icons for all over your open and running programs).
b) hover your mouse up to the Toolbars and select New Toolbar from the resulting Window.
c) copy and paste this line and paste it into the select folder Window that pops up: %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and click on Select Folder.
d) Now you have a no-frills and free Start Menu with a list of your programs. You will have to move it over to the corner of the Task Bar wherever
you want it to reside.

2) Go to Stardock.com, pay $4.99 and download Start8. Install it and you’re good to go with something very similar to your old Windows 7, Vista, or XP start menu. It comes complete with file histories to make it easier to open files that you think are lost on your system.

3) Go to and download a free copy of ClassicShell. It not only gives you a Windows Start menu but it also gives you a chance to get rid of the Metro UI start screen. Again…it’s free and it works.

If you find anything else pretending to do the same thing, please be careful. A lot of malware is disguising itself as a free start menu or Metro UI interface remover.

Next time..we’ll talk about keyboard shortcuts that you can use to speed up your Windows 8 and maybe even your Windows 7 experience.

Windows 8: What It Is and Why You May Not Want It

I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Mostly because things have been in turmoil here at Casa de Campeogni. So today we are going to unravel Windows 8; what it is, how it works, where the experts say it is going to lead us to, and more importantly…do you need to run out and get a copy or if it comes on your new computer, do you need to wipe it out and downgrade back to Windows 7.

Hardware to firmware to EFI to the OS loads

Block diagram of the Intel and Microsoft UEFI firmware interface. This is stopping people from installing Linux on brand new computers the user has purchased.

First things first, if you are putting Windows 8 on an older system with an older motherboard and know how to properly configure your firewall, you’ll be in good enough shape to use it. I’ve been playing with it now since Beta 2 and I’m okay with the way it looks and feels. If you really want (or like me need) a “Start Menu” there are a couple of excellent utilities. The first is Start8 by Windows Blinds manufacturer, Stardock. It’s a $5 investment and in my humble estimation, worth it.

Option #2 a free version of a tool called Classic Shell created by a group of developers at MIT. It’s available at Sourceforge.net (links to both will be at the bottom of this article).

Functionality aside, let’s take a look at what is in it for Microsoft if you have a newer system and choose to stay with Windows 8. The crux of this argument is a replacement for your 30+ year old basic input output system (aka your BIOS). It’s old and it’s well passed its time in the sun. In the beginning it was never meant to be upgraded or flashed. Over the years, we just figured out ways to upgrade (flash) it and with that came a whole host of users who broke their computers (that is what happened to my last Sony laptop).

UEFI, uniform extensible firmware interface, is an upgradeable, programmable piece of software that runs before anything else does. With its current design and its current schema, when Microsoft and Intel (the only two companies planning the UEFI future currently), decide to ramp up the security and close off the Windows garden, and get updates on software signatures and approved license keys you’ll hear talk about using this to stop viruses, malware, spam, botnets, and other bad things we all loathe. When that happens, and it’s not a matter of if it will happen as much as it is a matter of when it will happen), many pirated copies of software will also cease running. Many bootleg copies of music, movies, or images will no longer be accessible. The possibilities for this technology is endless.

Sure..it’ll be Microsoft and Intel who will be doing the lion’s share of the work initially but with AMD, HP, Dell, Apple, and many many others onboard and the list growing, it is simply a matter of time before all major software manfacturer’s start paying the WinTel ransom to block their pirated software from running.

So…that’s part one of my theory on UEFI. If you have one, please let me know and I’ll post your 2¢ on its own separate post. I’ll write more about this issue next week…and I promise…no more long outages.

Do you really benefit from Adobe’s monthly licensing plan?

Adobe Creative Cloud logo

Adobe Creative Cloud logo

So Adobe Creative Suite 6 has arrived and with it, yet another effort by a software company to lock people into long term fee payments plan. First off…this plan is great for the student, amateur, or professional who needs access to Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, or one of the many programs included in this package for $49.99/month (fee may change).

But once you sign up for this service, you are probably not going to be able to use this right away. Right now it is taking Adobe 48 hours to send your serial number to you. It will make you feel like one of the students involved in the Adobe Education program.

Moreover the costs for this plan seem to be aimed at the user who will upgrade every 18 months or so. Where does this figure come from? I’m glad you asked.

49.99 (let’s call it an even $50) x 18 = $900 but that $900 would cover the costs of the basic CS Web Premium package. Additional software and access will cost you more.

Let us now ask outselves, when is this plan advantageous. The answer is easy…if you do the occasional photo edit or the infrequent web design, you will benefit from this plan as you can subscribe to complete your task and let the subscription lapse when your project is over.

If you are a regular graphic or web editor, then it is easy to see where you would benefit from buying a physical copy of this software.

Adobe tools are the de facto standard for professional photographers, video editors, graphic editors, web developers/designers and programmers, aa well as instructors and military medical instructors.

So plan on seeing more of these types of plans from other software companies. Plan on seeing more frequent, say yearly, updates from the big three, Adobe, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Can you implement your own privacy notice and have it work?

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Privacy is never simple when the Internet's involved

I have seen a lot of people posting notices to their Facebook profiles similar to this one:

***PRIVACY NOTICE:
Warning–any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental, public or private structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you DO NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/ or the comments made about my photo’s or any other “picture” art posted on my profile. You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee(s), agent(s), student(s), family or any personnel under your direction or control. The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law.

UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE
It is recommended that other members post a similar notice to this or you may copy and paste this one. Thank you. This is now a publicly traded site, protect yourself.

While a part of me wants to be optimistic and say that you should use this to protect yourself, I can tell you that much of this will do you very little good.

The reason is actually very simple. Whichever site that you visit is not your property. It belongs to the site’s creator and/or owners. As such, the site should have its own privacy policy.

You must understand that when you visit a website the resources made available to you on that site, reading material, news, information, files, data access, images, whatever, are owned by either that site’s creator or a 3rd party originator. By entering on to this site and accessing this data/information you are agreeing to abide by the Terms of Service (TOS) and End-User License Agreement (EULA) plus its privacy policy.

This policy takes into account the information it needs or has promised its investors, advertisers, or others, that it would acquire.

So therefore by simply visiting a site, you are giving the owner of that site permission to implement its privacy policy, EULA, and TOS and if you do not agree, then you have an obligation to leave the site immediately.

It’s a simple choice that you must make. For more information, Google search the terms ‘privacy policy’, EULA, and ‘TOS’ and you will get a better picture of how this works.

Are you watching what you fill out?

Some of you may have noticed the bombardment of “take our survey” notices from just about every website and retail store. There is a reason for that and it has nothing to do with your satisfaction.

Federal law states that in order for a company to market to you legally, especially by phone, there must be proof of an existing relationship. So if you walk into ABCD Hardware store or vist 12345 .com online (don’t visit that site — it’s just an example), and pay with a one time use credit card and leave no phone number and give them a throw away email address, then the company’s relationship with you ends at that sale.

This is not what corporations want. They want to be able to know when you’re pregnant before your family does. They want to know when you’ve lost your job before you’ve told your wife. It’s that simple.

So the best thing to do is not fill out any of these online or phone number surveys. These are ways that one of my more nosey aunts used to prime me for information about what was going on in my family’s house and this is essentially what every company wants, more information about you.

It’s information. Isn’t it time you tell corporate America that your information and life is none of its business?

Time to clarify what Geico, State Farm, and OnStar are selling you

No to in-car monitoring

Progressive claims this tool is used for discounts only

“You’ll save with our snapshot discount,” “State Farm has identified you as driving a vehicle with OnStar built into it. We are offering you a discount for having this service.” and there are many other examples of this.

Let us get to the heart of what this is.

For those of you who like to drive all over town but tell your insurance carrier that you drive to work and back only, these devices will root your out and you will receive a hefty price increase instead of the promised price decrease.

Someone would have to be nuts to allow any insurance company to monitor your activity, your driving habits, or let OnStar share your driving information with anyone. Why?

Simple…if you have ever heard of the term “red lining,” which is taking the crime statistics from any community and drawing a red mark on a map and anyone living or working in those areas get to pay higher car insurance rates because you are more at risk than someone who lives and works in a more affluent part of town.

That means that, in terms of odds, you are more likely to have something happen to your insured vehicle. It also means that the insurance company is more likely to see a claim from you.

So enter this world of “snapshot”,”OnStar”, and the various other devices insurers are trying to dangle in front of you attached to a word, “discount”, in order to get you to bite.

And enough people are biting on this lure and companies like Geico, Progressive, State Farm, All-State, and many others are trying to do anything to get you to let them spy on you more than they already are.

But the information that those devices record about your driving habits are tied into your computer. So if you change cd’s or the radio station while driving, if you change lanes without signaling due to a driver or animal moving into your path, or even something as innocuous as braking too severely will count against you and your discount will eventually morph into a significant rate increase.

From the Snapshot provider’s website about the device:

“Data We Collect:
The Snapshot device records vehicle speed and time of day, and when the device is connected and disconnected from the vehicle. It also records the Vehicle Identification Number upon installation. Other information, such as miles driven and rates of acceleration and braking, is derived from the speed and time information recorded by the device.”

Think about this…insurers tie your credit record into your auto insure rate. They tie in things like non-fault accidents into your rate. That’s not to mention the number of times you’ve been uninsured or placed into a high risk pool.

In short…don’t do it. Keep insurers out of your car unless of course, you are the perfect driver and you never drive anywhere except to home and work or home and school.

And for the record…this is, in my opinion, a polite way of asking “can we please put spyware on to your car’s computer to monitor you?”

Are you still using PC Anywhere?

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A Breach is coming your way

Why? Have you ignored the requests from Symantec about ceasing useage of this product because of Symantec’s code breach? If you are unaware…read it from a trustworthy news source.

It’s simple…Symantec had its code stolen. The thieves tried to extort money out of Symantec and Symantec got caught trying to initiate a sting. So the code base for PC Anywhere is about to be made public.

That means that any hacker with a knowledge of compilers can, and will, create a tool to gain entry into your home or work systems. It means that your data is at risk of being compromised. It means that your credit card information and other vital information that could embarass you, that you keep on your computer, is likely to be stolen.

Do you need an alternative to PC Anywhere? You should’ve said so. I’ll cover that aspect tomorrow.