Saturday, February 25, 2012

SSD Upgrade

Noticed that the performance of my HP Pavilion g4-1015dx laptop was lagging so I decided to upgrade the old Kingston SSDNow V-Series drive in my laptop with an Intel 320 Series drive and what a difference! 

To be fair, the Kingston drive was originally purchased in 2009 to breathe new life in an aging MacBook and has since been used in a Dell Mini 10 prior to the HP laptop. It was only a matter of time before there was a degradation in performance. Additionally, the Kingston drive I had was not consumer upgradable. This basically it means that the firmware cannot be updated to support features like TRIM in Windows 7. Plus, with only read/write speeds of 100Mbps & 80Mbps, it was slower than Intel's 270 Mb/s & 90 Mb/s. It was a no-brainer that I need an upgrade. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

TECH TIP: How to Create a Strong Password

When you log onto a computer, send email, check your bank account, or use social media, you can either help or hurt the security of your computer. Your private information can be compromised by using weak passwords.

Here are five examples of weak passwords:
  • Your spouse, partner, child or pet’s name
  • 123 or 1234 or 123456
  • The word ‘password’
  • Your city, college or favorite sports team name
  • Date of birth – yours, your spouse’s/partner’s or your child’s

A strong password will:

  • Be at LEAST eight to ten characters in length
  • Have one or more capital letters (A-Z)
  • Have one or more lowercase letters (a-z)
  • Include one or more numbers (0-9)
  • Include one or more special characters (! * & % $ # @)
  • NOT be a dictionary word in any language
If you want a strong password without having to remember anything complex, choose a word, name or phrase that you can remember and then try shifting one set of keys to the right (or left). It will make your password look like gibberish but be simple enough for you to remember. For example, my name, Eric Logan becomes rtov;phsm (and before anyone wonders, I am not using this as a password anywhere only for the purpose of an example). It can be made further secure by adding uppercase, numbers and special characters: Rt0v;ph$m. I basically substituted numbers for certain letters, randomly captialized some letters and added a special character.  It’s far from perfect but strong enough to slow a cybercriminal down. Microsoft provides a password checker to evaluate the strenght of your password. Click here to test your password.

Furthermore, do not use the same password for everything. Use a different password for each computer or website that you use, but base it off a variation of the same password creation convention so that you alone can figure it out without having to remember it. One variation might be adding additional letters, numbers and/or characters to beginning or end of the password. For example Rt0v;ph$m would become Rt0v;phSm_fcBK for the password for a FaceBook account.

Now that you have created a strong password, you need to protect it. You can easily defeat the whole purpose of creating a strong password if you are careless about keeping it. NEVER share your password with anyone and do NOT write it down and leave it in an open area no matter how well-hidden you think it is. What that means is that you need to stop putting your password on a Post-It note on your monitor or under your keyboard. If you feel that you must write down your password in order to remember it, keep it in a safe place and don't label it as your password.

The bottomline is that passwords provide the first line of defense against unauthorized access to your computer and online accounts. While I just presented one method, you will find that there are multiple methods that people use to create strong passwords. The key is to create a strong password and to keep it safe.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Acer N281G

Recently, I purchased several Acer Veriton N281G nettop as an experiment to replace old, traditional desktops with a cheap, energy-efficient alternative for our Pharos print release stations on campus. So far the experiment has been a success. Low energy consumption, low noise, and less heat has made this a wise purchase.

Nettops are sometimes frowned upon because they are basically desktop versions of netbooks. Compared to traditional desktop computers, nettops are not only smaller and cheaper, but they also consume much less power than desktops. The trade-off is that the hardware specifications and processing power are lower than traditional desktops, which make nettops less appropriate for running resource intensive applications like Photoshop or AutoCAD or gaming. For most people, the Acer Veriton N281G is perfect and the price is a reasonably priced around $250 or less.
The basic specs of the Acer Veriton N281G that I purchased:

  • 1.8GHz Intel Atom D425
  • 2GB RAM
  • 320GB Hard drive
  • Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • WLAN 802.11b/g/n
  • Memory Card Reader

Got a little extra money and want to “beef” it up a bit? The 2GB of RAM is upgradeable to 4GB plus you can also replace the mechanical hard drive that is installed with an SSD. While it came with Linpus Linux, Windows 7 installed on it easily using an external optical drive since N281G, like most nettop computers, does not have one. The Windows 7 drivers were easy to locate on Acer’s website.

Acer N281G Drivers download page

Need a second computer for development and/or testing? A home theater computer (HTPC)? A basic computer for the kitchen? A computer for a child’s room? If you have basic computing needs, then the Acer N281G is perfect. Again, it is not going to be comparable to the latest and greatest computer running an Intel Core i7 processor but for the needs of most it will be more than enough.

Monday, February 13, 2012

From the archives: How Your Wife Can Help You Get New Technology In The Workplace

NOTE: This was originally posted January 17, 2010 on my first personal blog which is in the process of being closed. 

It’s no secret that I am a gadget geek. If it is new, shiny and catches my eye I will eventually get it if I can see some long term value in the purchase. The only roadblock is approval from my wife. Most men are gadget geeks to some extent. That might explain why we sometimes make rash decisions to buy new technology workplace and soon discard it because it is living up to expectations. This is where your wife or significant other can help you make a wise purchase. 

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at this example. You walk into Best Buy and that new, 52-inch Samsung LCD HDTV catches your eye. 1080p. 120Hz. 4 HDMI inputs. Ultraslim design. It’s a major upgrade from the old Magnavox 27-inch tube TV that you currently have. All your friends will envy you. The Super Bowl will look awesome. You even have picked out the perfect spot for it in your living room.

If you are like me, big ticket purchases have to be approved by the wife first. Of course she sees nothing wrong with the current TV. You can turn it on and a picture appears on the screen. Now comes the barrage of questions: Why do we need a new TV? Why do we need one this big and expensive?  Can’t you find a cheaper one? What are we going to do with the old TV? This is when you have to become a salesman to explain all the “benefits” as they relate to HER and not you. That is key.

Keep in mind that she does not want to hear about the difference between 1080p and 720p or how a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio will deliver a cinema-style entertainment experience or how an 80,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio will provide clearer images and more accurate color representation.

Now while you are using all your brain power to think about ways to convince her to let you buy the TV, she is thinking about all the additional costs that you AREN’T thinking about (at least not yet). It’s going to cost to have it properly mounted on the wall. You are going to need to buy HDMI cables. Next you are going to want to replace that old DVD player with a Blu-Ray player. Then you are going to want a new audio system to get that home theater experience. While we are at it, why not get that HD package from your cable or satellite provider. As you see, from your wife’s perspective, the costs add up quickly beyond the initial cost of the TV.

Additionally, she is thinking about how this purchase affect the family from a financial standpoint. Can we afford it without going into debt? Does it mean instead of going to Disneyland we have to go Six Flags for summer vacation?  Most importantly, can she still buy that new pair of shoes at the mall (I had to throw that one in). Get the picture?

Chances are if the final decision is dependant upon your wife’s response, you probably won’t get it. So how do you come out with something?  Easy. Compromise. Maybe you have to get that 32-inch Samsung that is 720p, has a 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and only 3 HDMI ports instead of four. It’s a smaller screen, but you are still getting the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and ultraslim design at a little more than half the cost.

Now take the above scenario and apply it to buying new technology in the workplace. Substitute the 52-inch LCD HDTV with a new technology that your organization is looking to purchase. Substitute your boss or management for your wife. Just as you would do with your wife, you have to justify the purchase. Furthermore, management takes into consideration things that you might not be considering at the moment the same as your wife would do.  What are the extra costs involved with the new technology that are not immediately obvious? What does your organization gain from implementing the technology? How will the new technology be accepted by your users?

In addition, just as you would not try to sell your wife on 1080p, 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, or 80,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio you don’t want to approach management with solely the technical aspects. Just because Intel updated their processor line is not justification enough to buy new desktops. What value will be added is the determining factor. 

As you can see, how you deal with with your wife can actually help you get approval at work. It’s all about making purposeful purchasing decisions over impulsive ones.