Broadband Issues

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Over the past month I have received an increased number of calls relating to broadband issues in the Torbay area.

All of the issues have been with BT lines.  Whether your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is BT, TalkTalk, Orange, Post Office, PlusNet etc.  They all use the BT phone line.  The problem is that if you have an issue you can be charged between £99.99-£130.00 if the fault is found with your equipment or due to the use of secondary phone line/s.  The rule of thumb is that any fault from your main BT socket back to the external connection (telegraph pole) and beyond is BT’s responsibility.  However any issues inside your home can result in you being charged, so it is important to be certain before asking for your ISP to arrange a site visit.

Things to try if you are having problems:

  • Turn your computer and router off for 30 seconds and then back on.  Its simple but it does often work!
  • Your property will have a main BT socket, which is the first connection that your property has to BT.  This can normally be identified as it will often have a BT logo on it, also the main socket will have a split in the middle.  So if you have broadband or phone issues you are best to connect your devices to the main BT socket to check if they are still present.
  • BT lines require the use of microfilters for each socket you have devices connected to.  The microfilter basically separates the telephone and broadband signal so they can be delivered to the  specific device.  Failing to have these connected can result in interference that may interrupt broadband usage and cause issues during phone conversations.
  • Also try replacing your filters.  You are normally provided with a few when you receive your router.  They are white matchbox sized units with a 2” cable attached. Please note: Virgin Media or mobile broadband services do not require microfilters.
  • You can also phone your ISP to ask if there are any known faults in the area and to ask them to test your phone line.

If you get stuck or need some advice please get in touch.

Losing your Homepage

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This month I thought I would cover a minor but annoying problem that I often have to resolve when called in to deal with more serious issues – your homepage being changed to something else!

Your homepage is the first page that appears when you go on to the internet.  It is very easy for this to be changed, it can be done by a virus infection, a toolbar installation, and it can also be changed during a many software installation (always check tick boxes during installations).  That briefly covers how it can happen but how can you change it back?  The easiest way to do this is to go to the website you would like as your homepage and then do the following in Internet Explorer: Go to the top left of your screen and click ‘Tools’ (Internet Explorer version 7 & 8) or the Cog icon (versions 9 & 10).  From this menu select ‘Internet Options’, a separate menu will appear, near the top of this click the ‘Current Page’ button.  Now click ‘Apply’ at the bottom right of the menu, then click ‘OK’.  Close Internet Explorer and when you reopen it you will have your new homepage.

Internet Explorer comes built in with Microsoft Windows, it has had many issues in the past but has got a lot better in versions 9 & 10.  Internet Explorer 10 is available for Windows 7 & 8 only.  It is the best version yet and has the highest built in security currently available, which has been a long time coming as previous version were easy to exploit.  The most popular browser in the world is currently Google Chrome, which is my preferred choice, it is fast, secure and easy to use.  If you need any help changing your homepage or other browser settings please get in touch and I will guide you through it over the phone or via email.

We now have a new Facebook page that will be kept up to date with news, current issues/warnings, hints/tips and provide links to our previous articles.
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As always please get in touch if you need any help, Ian.

Getting to grips with the Windows 8 Start Menu

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This month I thought I would explain how you can customise the Windows 8 Start Menu.

The Windows 8 Start Menu is made up of tiles that are links to programs, folders and settings.  The key is to remove tiles that you do not use/want and add tiles for the ones that you need.

To remove a tile go to the Start Menu and right click on it and from the toolbar that appears at the bottom, then select ‘Unpin from Start’, that tile will now have been removed.  You can repeat this process until you have only items on your start menu that you actually want.

Programs will automatically add themselves to your start menu, however if you cannot find a program you think is installed simply go to your start menu and type in the name of the program (you do not have to click on anything, just start typing the name and the search box will appear).  When you find the program (whether it is via the search on the start menu or on your desktop) right click on the program and select ‘Pin to Start’.  This program will now be added to your start menu.  Note that any newly added tiles will appear on the far right hand side of the start menu.
You can move tiles to different locations, for example grouping similar tiles together.  You can do this by holding your left mouse button down on a tile and while holding it move the tile to another location.  You will see that other tiles will make way for it and when you release the mouse button it will stay where you have left it.

If you are struggling with the Windows 8 Start Menu please give me a call as I can have it configured in a way that you will find a great deal simpler.

Finally, the Windows 8.1 update will have now been released (17th October 2013) unfortunately it was not in time to include a review this month but next month I will provide a mini-review of what the update brings.  If you have Windows 8 then you will be able to update to 8.1 for free via Windows Update.  Have a great October, Ian

Become an iOS Wizard – A selection of useful tips for the iPad & iPhone

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This month I thought I would cover the Apple iPad & iPhone, the mobile devices that gave the world a new approach to modern day computing.  I have put together a list of what I think are the most useful things to know about your iOS Devices.

Zooming In & Out: This is common knowledge but the iPad and iPhone have smaller screens so zooming in is required at times.  Many apps support this feature – to zoom in place two fingers on the screen and slowly move then away from each other, do the opposite to zoom out.
Moving Apps:  If you want to move your app to a different location on the screen simply hold a single finger on the app you want to move and then drag it to another location.  Any app already there will kindly move over!

Deleting Apps: To delete an app you no longer want hold your finger on the app for around 2 seconds.  All the apps will start to shake and you will see that many of your apps now have an ‘x’ in the corner, press the ‘x’ on the app you wish to delete.

Switching between apps: Instead of returning to the main screen when switching between apps you can bring up a special screen that allows you to switch between your recently used apps instantly.  To do this double click the home button, this will then display a section along the bottom of your page with your recently used apps.  Press the app you would like to switch to and it will take you directly to it.

Closing apps when not in use: Often apps will run in the background or sometimes crash.  It is possible to stop them running.  To do this double click the home button and on the section that appears hold your finger on the app you want to ‘Stop’.  The apps on this section will now have an ‘x’ in the corner which when pressed will stop the app from running in the background.  This is also handy if your app stops work, which can happen and then allows you to start it again from scratch.

If you ever get stuck please feel free to call or send us an email – we are always happy to provide free advice and doesn’t cost you a penny!  We specialise in supporting customers with Servers, Desktops PCs, Laptops & Tablets.

Windows 8.1 Update and a New Scam to be aware of

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As mentioned in last month’s article the free Windows 8.1 update was released in October.  It brings a few new features to Windows 8 which are a welcome addition but there are still a few annoying things that have not been sorted.  One thing that a lot of users didn’t like was that Windows 8 took you to your Start Menu rather than going to your Desktop on boot up.  You can now set it to do this by going to your desktop and right clicking on the bottom taskbar, then select Properties.  On the menu that pops up go to the ‘Navigation’ tab and on the list of options put a tick next to the ‘When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start’, then click apply.  This can give a more familiar experience.  Other features are tweaks and customisations that I don’t have enough time to go into here.  If you have Internet Explorer stuck on the full screen version email us and I will explain how to change it to the desktop version permanently.

SCAM:  A new scam I have been made aware of by a customer is a telephone call claiming that their PC had a non-genuine version of Windows installed, and asking for payment to correct the issue.  You would not a phone call from Microsoft or any other company for that matter relating to this.  If in any doubt please give me a call.

We have been doing many upgrades and new installations of Desktops and Laptops for customers in light of Windows XP’s support expiring in April 2014.  If you need any advice regarding an upgrade or new purchase please get in touch.  We supply laptops with 12 months warranty – which is an onsite warranty.  Our Desktops are custom built using the most reliable manufacturers unlike the type sold in high street stores.  These come with a 2 year onsite hardware and labour warranty as standard.

As always if you have any minor or major queries please get in touch.  I would like to wish all the Beach Hut readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Ian.

Windows 8 – A Brief Verdict

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Windows 8 has now been out for over a month and in that time I have been using it daily so thought I would share my opinion.

Despite being considered an ‘expert’ with computers, when I initially upgrade to Windows 8, and was greeted with the new Metro (Start) Menu, I found myself frustrated with not being able navigate through the new system at the speed I am used to.  Happily after around twenty minutes of configuring the new setup I felt more at home and was enjoying the new experience.
Windows 8 really is just Windows 7 with a facelift and a few extras!  This isn’t a bad thing as Windows 7 has proven itself to be a reliable Operating System.

The Good: The new Windows 8 Metro menu is very nice to look at and lays your programs & apps out nicely.  Windows 8 boots (loads) very quickly and the whole system performs tasks swiftly.  So far, after a month of usage it has not crashed or had a technical issue.  The new Windows ‘Store’ is full of some very good apps.

The Bad: Slight learning curve and disorientation at the new layout, configuring it initially is a bit time consuming – but the effort is worth it.

The Ugly! Your old programs may not be compatible with Windows 8, and could mean they would need to be uninstalled and if still required, replaced with newer versions.
So is it worth upgrading?

I think it is a good upgrade option, especially as Microsoft are currently discounting the upgrade version. You can upgrade from Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7.  Before buying, I would recommend having a look on YouTube for a guide to ‘Windows 8 Metro’ just to get a feel for it and decide if it’s for you!    If you are running Windows Vista, the upgrade would be a good idea, as Vista is plagued with issues and Windows 8 would give you a more stable platform.  Whatever version of Windows you have, I would recommend that you have at least 2GB of memory (RAM).

You can download the Windows Upgrade Advisor from the Microsoft Website , this will check your current systems compatibility, which is free of charge to do.
If you have any queries please get in touch.  Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Ian.

Giving Windows a New Theme

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This month I am covering something that I had done on my own computer recently – changed my Windows Theme.  Unfortunately the procedure is only applicable to Windows 7 & 8 systems, sorry XP & Vista users!

Windows Themes are basically visual changes mainly to the desktop background, but they also sometimes alter the colour of the taskbar, borders and sounds.  The nice thing is that you can pick a theme that you like and it will often have several desktop background as part of the theme which will change every so often.  For example, you could select a New Zealand theme and have your desktop background changing every 5 minutes to a different scenic view of their wonderful landscape.  Not every bodies cup of tea, but I quite like it!

Okay, so how can you do this:

Right click on an empty space on your desktop background, from the menu that appears select ‘Personalise’.  On this screen you should already see a few themes like ‘United Kingdom’, ‘Earth’ or ‘Flowers’.  These you can simply left click on and enable that theme.  Now to find others, select the ‘Get more themes online’ option.  This will open an internet page where you will see a selection of themes you can add to your own version of Windows.  To do this simply click the ‘Download’ option under the theme you would like and click ‘Run/Open’, this will then automatically add and enable this theme to your own desktop.  The themes can have 10-15 different backgrounds in each theme, so will give a changing look to your system.

You can also look for themes under the categories on the left of the page e.g. ‘Automotive’, ‘Animals’, ‘Art’, ‘Movies’ etc.  At the top right of the page you can also search for specific themes like ‘Ferrari’ or ‘Beaches’.  You can always change a theme by repeating the procedure above and selecting a different one.

As always give me a call if you get stuck or need advice on anything technology related.  Ian.

A Burning Desire

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This month I am recommending another free program that I have been using for a few years.  It is a CD and DVD burning program and is compatible with all Windows versions (XP and newer).  The program is called CD Burner XP and is available from the developer’s website:  The installation is fairly straight forward, but being free it does offer to install an additional program, so just make sure you tick the ‘I Do Not Accept’ when you get to that section and then you will not get that included!

The software allows you to create CDs and DVDs, these can be audio or data (pictures, documents etc).  You can also copy discs straight to another.  A nice feature it does have is to create ‘Disc Spanning’ discs, which is the process of spreading data that would otherwise be too big for one disc onto multiple discs.  So if you had 11GB of pictures and only 4.7GB capacity DVDs the Disc Spanning feature would break the data between 3 discs for you, so you can just click burn and just change the discs when prompted.  Having to do that manually is a pain and can be time consuming.

Please let me know if you need any support with this program.  There are a huge range of free programs on the internet and some real gems but there are many that are totally rubbish and may even infect your system or change settings without your knowledge.  Please let me know if you are looking for a free program for a specific purpose and I can let you know what would be safe to use or even try it for you first!

January has been a very busy month and I have dealt with all sorts of common problems and had some new challenging problems too, which I really enjoy!  Any problems either large or small please get in touch.  Have a good February and March.  Ian.

Windows XP Support ending, what does it mean for existing users?

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Windows XP was released in October 2001.  You may or may not know that Microsoft is ending support for the XP operating system on 8th April 2014.  This does not mean that an XP system will stop working but means there will not be any more updates for it.  Most importantly it means that there will be no more security updates for vulnerabilities in XP.  These exploits could come in the form of a virus or hacker gaining access or control of a PC/Laptop.  Currently if an exploit is found an update could be release to block that specific security flaw, after the April deadline that will no longer be the case.

What does this mean in real terms?

At present Windows XP is 33% more vulnerable to viruses/hackers than Windows 7 & 8, this is also at a time where Microsoft is actively monitoring hacker exploits and vulnerabilities for XP.  After April 2014, (for XP) this percentage will undoubtable increase and the security updates will never come and exploits will remain unchallenged indefinitely.

XP systems will still be protected by Anti-Virus software, which actively monitors your PC for viruses.  This will still provide an element of security, however I feel XP owners will really need a premium internet security package that incorporates a firewall to stay secure.  The Firewall acts like a doorman for your computer which controls data that comes in and out of your PC.  From April 2014 the XP Firewall will no longer have an up to date configuration on what new threats it should block.  Most free Anti-Virus programs do not incorporate a firewall and therefore will use the built in Windows XP Firewall, creating a risk.

This is a short article and I have to cover things briefly but attempt to make them understandable, which I hope I have.  If you have any concerns please get in touch by phone or on email.  Ian.

Ergonomics – Are you sitting comfortably?

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Happy New Year!

As it is a New Year, I thought I would cover one of my own New Year’s resolutions, which I often fail to achieve – the correct posture!

Being ergonomically correct when sitting at your computer is very important, if you are not, it will mean certain areas of your body are working harder than they should be to support you. This might not sound very important, but it can lead to back pain, strains and even cause/contribute to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). As I write this I have just realised I am slouched over my desk, leaning toward my keyboard (which is 30cm away from me), perched on the edge of my chair, with one foot on top of the other, whoops! So before I continue, I will practice what I preach!
I have included a picture with guidelines so you can clearly see how you and your equipment should be positioned.

Obviously some of these options may not be practical, my advice is to try and do as many as you can. A few years ago I went on a training course relating to Ergonomics and we were told to remember that your limbs should always be at right angles starting from your feet, the knee/leg/hip area, arms/elbows, with your back and neck straight.

Ergonomics does not just apply to desktop computers. Using laptops and tablets carry more issues as they are more often used on sofas, in bed etc. This means your body generally has less support, so your muscles have to work harder. I always remember from Biology class, if you hold a glass of water in your right hand, every muscle I your body is working to support and balance the additional weight.

Listen to your body, if it feels uncomfortable, then it is likely to be causing that area of your body some harm. Although the harm is minor, repeating this for certain periods daily could lead to something longer term that may affect other daily activates.

If you have any questions, or need any advice on what measures you can take please get in touch. Ian.

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