Winter Is Still Here!
This never-ending Winter has kept people indoors more than usual, and snow- and cold-days have kept kids home from school. This means more computer time for everyone in the family and potentially more issues. I'll be dealing with three of these in this newsletter.
Not that long ago parents could install software on the family's computer that monitored (and limited) web usage and blocked undesirable websites. Programs like K9 Web Protection worked well until every child also had their own personal computer, cell phone, and tablet. Then it became a mess to administer effectively.
The question now is: how does a family protect all the digital devices in its house? The common point for all these devices is your (wireless) router. All network communication flows through this device. Some routers do have basic filtering and monitoring capability, but a more flexible and easier to administer solution is to use a specialized set of DNS servers. These servers are what translate human-readable addresses like www.espn.com to Internet addresses (like 22.214.171.124).
My recommended DNS provider is OpenDNS. Their basic product, FamilyShield, is free. It's a preconfigured set of filters based on feedback from clients, and possibly sufficient for many users. They also offer another free service, OpenDNS Home, which allows for some configuration of the content filtering. Their paid service, OpenDNS Home VIP ($20 per year), allows for whitelisting sites, which allows a parent to lock down the network to small list of acceptable sites.
PC Publican can help you configure your home router with the needed changes to implement a service like OpenDNS, and help configure the filters to maximum benefit.
As many of you may already know, I'm generally not a fan of antivirus software and Internet security suites. The antivirus products often detect issues but rarely resolve them, and the "suites" are often bloated with mediocre (at best) firewalls and other products of minimal use. Many of the companies, like McAfee and Norton/Symantec, will keep charging your credit card even after you un-install their products.
There is one product, however, than I can recommend without reservation: NOD32 antivirus by a company called ESET. It's a best-in-class product, with a small resource footprint, and at a reasonable price. I use this product to protect my work computer. You can find a link below to purchase it from Amazon, or use the link above to get it from ESET's website.
If you don't want to pay for an antivirus I recommend using Microsoft's Windows Defender, which is built into all versions of Windows 10, and will soon be available to Windows 7 and 8.1 users.
PC Publican can assess your existing protection/cleanup applications and help make sure your computer is adequately protected.
I'm often asked by clients if they should bring their computers in for regular maintenance. My quick answer is usually no, as long as there's not an issue (e.g. performance, malware). There are some reasons, however, to consider bringing a computer in even whether there's not an obvious issue.
Laptops in particular benefit from some regular attention. Cooling ports get dirty with use and can cause overheating issues (intermittent shutdowns, graphics artifacting). Because they are mobile, a regular check of laptop disk drive health can determine if drops have caused any damage. Both laptops and desktop computers benefit from a regular assessment of protection and clean-up tools as well as lingering updates of Windows and "helper" applications (e.g. Adobe Flash).
PC Publican provides excellent turn-around time on basic computer maintenance at reasonable prices. Contact us to determine if a "tune-up" is right for you.
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