Sometimes, operating system updates can bring a computer to a halt. Normally, they work fine and do what they are intended to do which is fix a known problem. They also can patch a security issue and protect the computer from malicious software like viruses and spyware. The recent Spectre/Meltdown issue forced operating system and hardware makers to release patches for all kinds computers and devices. Some of the patches caused other problems such as rebooting and freezing computers.
One of my business clients called last month when their Windows 7 desktop computer(which runs the company) was rebooting continuously every 5 minutes. Upon arrival I started the computer and it restarted on me as well. I tried Safe Mode and it didn’t restart and now I could focus on the problem. System Restore was disabled so I couldn’t access this Windows feature. After reviewing the Installed Windows updates, I found two which came in a few days ago and this is when the issue arose. They were removed one at a time and once the problematic one was found, it was removed and the computer was back to normal. I did some other housekeeping afterwards and everything is great on the computer now.
Of all the cloud storage platforms out there, I use Dropbox the most. It’s easy to use and reliable. Secondarily, I use Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive as well. All these cloud storage platforms have free versions which offer 10-15GB to you. And of course all offer paid versions which give you oodles of storage. With cloud storage, you are using someone’s computer on the internet to hold your computer files. I would be cautious and not save super-sensitive files in the cloud and always make a local duplicate of everything you have in the cloud just in case they lose it.
Dropbox is installed on many of my computing devices such as an Apple laptop, Linux workstations, Windows 10 laptop, and Android smartphones. I’ve used it for many years and it even works on a Windows 7 virtual machine on a Linux laptop. You can also access your files from the web in case you don’t want to install it on a device.
One time, I was trying to get a file from my Windows 10 laptop to a Linux computer. I saved the file to my Windows 10 dropbox folder and expected to find it on the Linux computer, but it never appeared. After a while I realized Dropbox wasn’t actually running actively on the Windows 10 laptop. Once I stated it, the files synced to the cloud and the file showed up on the Linux workstation.
What cloud storage do you use? Or are you unsure how to use it? Or perhaps you’re afraid of your privacy with your files in the cloud. If you need help, just ask.
I get phone calls and social media messages at all different times of the day for computer repair from current and new clients. I try and answer them if I’m not with a client or involved in a project, but sometimes I have to let them go to voice-mail. I try and return the call as soon as I can with a text message or phone call. People like to know I got their message even if I can’t get to them immediately. The same applies to Facebook and LinkedIn messaging. One Friday I got a FB message from a networker for computer assistance and was messaging her within a few minutes setting up a possible time to meet. Other times I message them back that I’ll get to them as soon as possible and they like that at least I responded.
Another reason is the task they have for me now may not sound worthwhile, but the next one they have may be huge. So I respond to every call and treat them all as important. Even if they just want to talk to a computer pro and it doesn’t turn into a service call, I call them back. My clients like that and appreciate my responsiveness.
I hear from people that they will call a contractor or visit a business to get a quote and sometimes never hear from them. I don’t want to be one of those businesses. If I can’t help them, I tell them and if possible refer them to someone who can.
Every Tuesday at noon you can find me at Rack and Helen’s Bar and Grill facilitating the New Haven Chamber of Commerce Networking Group. This week we had about 14 people and we had about the same number last week. We are an open group which means we don’t restrict attendance based on business categories. As an example, you may see two CPAs at a meeting or two financial people one week. then the next week one CPA and no financial people.
Attendance is another area we don’t restrict. We don’t require you to be there every week, but I have better results the more often I attend. This has made some interesting meeting make-up where some people have been attending for a long time, yet they haven’t bumped into the other people because they haven’t been at the same meetings.
You don’t have to be a chamber member or eat lunch so as you can see, it’s very easy to attend our group. Join us next Tuesday for some great business networking from Noon to 1PM.
A new computer repair client contacted me last month regarding a laptop that had display problems. They could tell the laptop had electrical power but, the screen was blank. When I got a hold of the laptop, It seemed ok in the video area. But as time went on, the video got worse. During troubleshooting I discovered the laptop had built-in diagnostics. I ran them and it found the video (LCD) cable was faulty and this explains the display problems. It got to the point where no video signal was present on the laptop.
I discovered my client had never archived or backed up the user data on the laptop and it had plenty on it they needed back. Pictures, spreadsheets, word processor documents were among their data they couldn’t access now. The other hardware problem was the ribbon cable for the power button came unsoldered while I was working on this old laptop.
Now, there was no way to power on this is a high-end gaming laptop which came with two hard drives. I assumed it was configured in a RAID 1 which is a mirrored array where each drive is a duplicate of the other. I removed one of the hard drives from the laptop and intended to be able to read it on one of my drive cages in my Linux computer. I was startled to discover the data couldn’t be read – although the drive was recognized as being a RAID member. The reason was the user had configured the drives in a RAID 0 arrangement which was meant for speed and not redundancy. Both drives are needed to read the data in a set. Later I researched my problem and the answer may be as simple as connecting both drives at once to my Linux computer. Once this was done, the two drives appeared as individual RAID members and magically a third drive appeared! It was the Windows 7 hard drive and my client’s data was there! I quickly copied the user data to my computer so I could then copy to their external drive when it arrived. Needless to say, they were glad I recovered their data and I was happy to learn another reason Linux is so much better than Microsoft Windows.
Last month one of my business clients contacted me about a Windows 7 Desktop computer that is used to check in their clients and accept payments in their lobby. “Our computer just shut down.” They texted me a picture of the Windows screen after it abruptly shut down one morning. The message stated the computer wouldn’t come out of hibernation and there was a problem with the c:\hibernation file. Oddly, the computer isn’t supposed to hibernate or go to sleep because it is heavily used and needs to be in a constant ready state. They couldn’t click anywhere on the screen to get it back to Windows 7.
Over the phone I had them force the computer to shut down by holding the front panel power button in until it shut down. Then the computer was started and it came up to the Windows 7 desktop. We discussed the problem and I had my client check the Control Panel – Power settings. We found the computer was set to hibernate after a certain amount of time. I don’t recall how much time it was set for but you can set for 1 minute up to hours for the monitor and /or computer. It shouldn’t have been. They set it back to not go to sleep at all. It’s been a week or so and I haven’t heard anything back from them so I think it must be ok.
I had another thought on what might have occurred. The computer case is on the floor and the employee who was sitting in front of the computer may have accidentally hit the power button momentarily. Sometimes, computers are set to hibernate when the power button is briefly touched.
Today I was at the Peking Restaurant around lunchtime picking up my Happy Family carry out. I walked by the Anytime Fitness as I have many times and a man walked out. I found out later he was an owner and I asked if I could see the gym. He said come on in and check it out.
I like to tour fitness facilities because I write a fitness blog on my other web site, shanegrantham.com. As I went through the guest entrance, a woman asks, “You’re the computer guy from the networking groups, right? Shawn? ” I said, ” Yes, Shane and I remember you, too.” Rachele and I both used to attend Georgetown Networking on Tuesday mornings at Georgetown Bowl around 2009-2011. Vic Sockrider used to run it at his bowling alley. Rachele is the other owner of Anytime Fitness. We haven’t seen each other in seven years or so and I wondered how she remembered me. I thought it was Facebook but I found out we weren’t Facebook friends. Then I realized we were connected on LinkedIn and my regular posting might have kept me in front of her. Or maybe she just remembered me from the networking meetings.
Either way, it’s good to be remembered by a networker I haven’t seen in a while and it’s even better they remembered I repair computers.
A computer repair client asked me about protecting against Ransomware. From what I’ve read, Ransomware is a real threat for Windows users but I don’t know prevalent it is. I’ve read articles that say it’s the fastest growing type of malware. I have witnessed it twice a few years ago on two different clients’ computers and I couldn’t recover their files because they got encrypted by the Ransomware. Many articles warn that once your files are encrypted, there usually isn’t anything you can do on your own. Many articles say there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will get your files back.
One defense is to back up your data often and keep a copy off-line (not connected to your computer). Then if your windows computer gets infected, your backup is safe. A second defense would be to use Microsoft Windows less and Linux computers more and that is what I do. Also, keep your windows operating system patched and current as updates are offered to your computer.
I get to work on all kinds of projects for people. One of them recently was a change from my typical service calls like fighting computer malware, troubleshooting a slow Windows laptop or helping with an email problem.
One of my business clients in Fort Wayne wanted their network infrastructure improved to handle faster internet speeds from their ISP. They ordered the 1GB ethernet switch, 1GB router plus a wireless access point with guest access. They asked me to replace their 100MB equipment with these new items and I was happy to help. I programmed the router to match the network address of the previous one and the wireless access point was also configured. I used their existing ethernet cables when I connected all the equipment together.
The new ethernet switch has indicator LEDs which show network activity and link speeds with two different colors. The switch is like a hub which connects all the ethernet devices on the network together. Orange means a link speed of 100 Mbps while green indicates a faster speed of 1Gbps. I noticed that one of the LEDs was orange which meant a slower speed device was connected like an older computer with a slower network card. I traced the ethernet cable from the switch and discovered it was connected to the new 1GB router. The LED should be green and not orange so something was wrong. I examined the ethernet cable and it looked old and it was labeled CAT 5 which means Category 5 which is rated for 100Mbps and not the 1 Gbps the equipment is rated for. One end looked pretty bent and possibly the internal copper wires could be damaged. I found a newer, CAT-5e cable rated for 1 Gbps and swapped it out. Now the link LED glows a pretty green instead of orange. I had my client test the local network and it was much faster when accessing the file server. The internet was also much faster. They were very pleased with the speed and like me they like green better than orange.
Microsoft Windows 10 has a feature for taking screen-shots and saving them to a file folder. You hold down the Windows button (near the space bar) and tap the Printscreen key(labeled Prt Scrn). It’s supposed to save in the (username)\Pictures\Screenshots folder.
One of my business clients has several computers in their company and one of them started losing their screenshot functionality one day. The folder they were supposed to be in was not available. When they tried to do a screen shot like they had in the past, they never showed up anywhere. The original destination wasn’t local, but on one of their servers. Their previous computer person must have set this up because this isn’t normal.
The problem coincided with a DNS problem on this same computer. I couldn’t solve the sudden DNS issue where the Windows 10 computer couldn’t access the server by name any longer. Every other computer could so I knew it was the computer’s problem. Several troubleshooting steps yielded no solution yet other network devices could be contacted by name. The server could be accessed by IP address. The user of the computer needed to find where their their screenshots were going. I finally solved the problem by mapping the network folder by IP address and not the name.
Now the user can find their screenshots in the network folder just as they had in the past.
Tuesday was the New Haven(IN) Chamber networking group at Rack and Helens Bar and Grill. We had some new people show up and one of them was from the first New Haven Chamber Group in 2005. I keep the meeting short (1 hour) and my goal is to get people to know each other by talking to each other before and after the formal part of the meeting. The formal part takes up the bulk of the meeting and consists of a 1 to 2-minute commercial each of us gives to the group. I start the meeting with our guidelines and information. Then Monika from the New Haven Chamber informs us of events coming up at the Chamber like Meet me at 5’s and Lunch and Learns. Tuesday, Monika counted 27 people which ties our record set a few weeks ago.
It’s easy to attend our networking group: just show up! There are no fees and few restrictions.
27 people today!
When I was first invited to FaceBook and LinkedIn they appeared like a huge waste of time. That was around 2007 and now It’s funny how much social media is part of my business in 2018. I use them to promote my computer business, networking groups, and my clients. An interesting thing I’ve noticed is my Facebook “friends” are much smaller in number, but are more active in commenting on my blogs and posts. There are two of my Facebook friends I can always count on to share my two blogs. On LinkedIn, there isn’t any one person who shares my blogs with any consistency. People occasionally do share my blogs, but not a lot.
Sharing pictures of my networking group on LinkedIn definitely gets me more views than on FaceBook. The reason I know this is LI has nice analytics for posts I make. One picture of our group in January had 1100 views and my most recent had 2200 views. The nice thing is the majority of them were people I am not directly connected to, but 2nd-level connections. I don’t think FaceBook has analytics like this , but maybe I missed them.
I had a new computer repair client today with a laptop problem. Their two year-old laptop would charge occasionally but most of the time it wouldn’t. My client had three different AC adapters or otherwise known as chargers and they reasoned one of them should be working. They were convinced that the problem was the computer and asked me to check it out.
First, I examined the laptop’s power connector and it was firm and secured to the laptop. I expected to find it loose because the laptop wouldn’t hold a charge. Next, the AC adapters were tested for proper voltage of 19VDC. Surprisingly, None of them passed my tests! One had a short in the cable and would read 19VDC if it was wiggled and held at the right position. The other two wouldn’t read any voltage no matter how I positioned their cables. I located an AC adapter from my parts inventory and it powered on the laptop and charged the battery.
My client was glad I didn’t need to dismantle the laptop and do any soldering or have to pronounce the laptop dead. I forgot to mention earlier that one of my competitors was going to charge $200 to dismantle the laptop. I don’t know if they would have tried a working AC adapter before the laptop dismantling.
I was working with one of my business clients who was concerned about the Internet speed at their business. One computer was great on the Internet and two of the others were slow. They would pause for seconds before they would pull up a web page or time-out after five seconds or more. The remaining ones were in-between on speed. The local programs running from a server were acceptable and posed no problems on any of the computers. My client called their ISP and the data line up to the modem tested good so I assumed the problem was in my client’s building.
I paid a visit and set up shop in the telco/network wiring closet area so I could observe the network equipment. I looked at the network switch where all the ethernet network connections are concentrated. I didn’t see any lights flashing continuously and rapidly so I didn’t think any one computer was causing the problem by flooding the network with traffic. I restarted the network switch, cable modem and router anyway just to be sure they weren’t hung-up in a weird state. No change happened so I continued.
I ran Wireshark, a network protocol analyzer, on my laptop to watch the traffic on the Local network. I didn’t see anything unusual or a lot of traffic. At this point, I assumed the problem were on the computers and not the network or internet. Maybe it was a malware infection or a configuration problem on the slow computers.
I started analyzing one of the slow computers and discovered it had 12GB of RAM and adequate hard drive space so it should be should be fast. Viruses and other malware were found and removed, but that wasn’t the problem. Maybe the Chrome web browser is the problem so I tried Firefox and Internet Explorer but they had problems, too. The network (ethernet) connection speed is 1GB which is what it should be. A ping command was run to the router for several minutes without a dropped packet and this ruled out the hardware.
The problem was finally found to be a DNS issue and I changed the DNS servers from dynamic to static and set them to OpenDNS servers. That solved the slow web browsing on this computer and the other ones once they were changed. Now when they web browse, it is very fast.
I had a service call recently at one of my business clients. A new DSL router had been installed in place of an old one by a Frontier technician. The internet worked fine for all the computers after the swap and the technician left. The next business day the employees noticed things weren’t working on the internal network and I came out to fix it. I had to change some things on the network devices to repair the problems. I’ll discuss that in another blog.
They also noticed half of the camera’s feeds in the video surveillance system were blank. They assumed it was a network issue like before and asked me troubleshoot and repair. I had no idea how to access the surveillance system’s network interface so the configuration manual was consulted. Before I could get very far in the research, an email alerted me they found accidentally disconnected video cables from Frontier’s visit. Once the cables were re-connected to the Surveillance system, the video feeds all worked.