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Tips

Function Keys

Function keys photoMany of my customers ask me “what is the use of Function keys on my keyboard?” Or “what do the F1 through F12 keys do?” It’s true, these keys sit at the top your keyboard but you may have hardly used them. Yet Function Keys can help you use shortcuts and special functions and although they have default primary and secondary features, they are also capable of performing many other functions when used in combination with keys like Ctrl and Alt.


On many keyboards, each of these keys will have additional functions like multimedia, sleep/wake etc. However, in this article we will talk about how to use them across browsers and MS Office.

F1
Almost every program comes with a help menu and pressing F1 while on the program will bring up this Help menu. Pressing F1 with the Windows key brings up Windows Help and Support.
Also: SHIFT + F1 reveals the formatting within a Word document; CTRL + ALT + F1 displays your PC’s Microsoft system information.

F2
F2 is considered an edit key. To rename a file in File Explorer, select the file name you want to edit, press F2 and type the new name. Alt + Ctrl + F2 opens the Documents Library within the MS Office suite.
Also: SHIFT + F2 to copy text; CTRL + F2 to choose the print preview command; CTRL + ALT + F2 to choose the open command (file menu).

F3
In File Explorer press F3 to search for specific files and folders. Pressing F3 in almost all browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox Mozilla and Microsoft Edge allows you to search by launching the Find bar. Shift + F3 toggles between lower case and upper case for selected text in Word.

F4
F4 is known as the great escape key. Pressing Alt + F4 immediately closes the current program without saving it. Good for an emergency as it can be used to close browser windows you don’t want others to see! In Microsoft Edge, F4 takes the cursor to the address bar.

F5
To refresh the active window in most common browsers, press F5. Use it on PowerPoint to start a slide show or to open the Find, Replace, Go to dialog on MS Office programs.

F6
F6 can be used like the Tab key on Windows desktop to toggle from the desktop files to the taskbar and the system tray icons. It can also be used to bring the focus to the address bar on most browsers. In Microsoft Office programs, it toggles between the menu items and workspace.

F7
The F7 key is commonly used to spell check and grammar check a document in Microsoft programs such as Word, Outlook, etc. Shift+F7 runs a Thesaurus check on the highlighted word. Within Mozilla Firefox, pressing F7 enables “Caret browsing” – this is a feature which allows you to navigate a page just like a document in MS Word or any other word processing application. You can move the cursor between lines using arrow keys and can select the text or click on any link using your keyboard.

F8
Within Microsoft Word, press F8 to select a word within the text. Keep pressing F8 to extend the selection, also using the arrow keys. SHIFT + F8 shrinks the selection. ALT + F8 opens the Macro dialogue box.

F9
Pressing F9 refreshes a document in Microsoft Word. You can also use it to send and receive e-mail in Microsoft Outlook.

F10
Shows and hides the Menu bar in Mozilla Firefox browser or highlights the menu bar within an open application in Microsoft Office programs. Pressing Shift+F10 is the same as right-clicking on a highlighted icon, file, or Internet link.

F11
Opens and closes full screen mode in File Explorer as well as in all modern internet browsers. In Microsoft Excel, Shift + F11 adds a new sheet and Ctrl + F11 adds a new macro to the workbook.

F12
For all applications within the Microsoft Suite: F12 opens the Save As window on an open application, Ctrl + Shift + F12 is equivalent to Ctrl + P (print function), Ctrl+F12 opens a document, Shift+F12 saves the document (like Ctrl+S) and Ctrl+Shift+F12 prints the document.

Do note that some keyboards' F1-F12 keys include additional functionality when used in combination with the Fn key. For example, if the F11 key has a blue "Stop" sign under it, pressing Fn + F11 will stop the music you're listening too. The additional functions available with the use of the Fn key will differ depending on the brand of keyboard you are using. Do check your computer's documentation or the manufacturer's website for specific details on which features are available on your keyboard.

How to use Automatic Updates in Windows 10

Microsoft is constantly updating Windows 10 with new features, security patches and general system adjustments. To keep your PC in good condition (including minimising the risks of malware and viruses), you’ll want to make sure these updates are being implemented. Remember that Windows 10 is a large and complex piece of software, which needs to be constantly tweaked to maintain optimum performance and correct any little bugs that can enter into systems.

Windows Update is the software that checks to make sure that Windows and the driver software that runs displays, peripherals and printers work the way they were intended. It also adds new features to existing software such as OneNote, the Edge browser and the operating system itself. Unsurprisingly, security is the most frequent and important type of update as it limits dangerous attacks. It therefore goes without saying that Windows must be kept up-to-date.

Very occasionally updates may cause things to stop working, or even create new problems. In fact, last December, a small update affected internet connectivity for about 2% of users. The fix was simple though – a simple restart instead of shutting the PC down and turning it back on again. But for the most part Windows Update is definitely something we recommend.

When Windows 10 launched, automatic updates were the default setting. This means that unless you have changed the setting manually then you’re already receiving the updates as soon as they come out. You can check to see if this is that case by typing “Windows Update” into the Cortana search bar (or by clicking on the Start button, then Settings, then Updates and Security).

Once the Windows Update window is open, it will tell you if any updates are due and when they are scheduled to take place, which is usually outside of active hours (you can customise your active hours if 8am -5pm doesn’t work for you). If you want to see if there are any new updates available then click the Check for Updates button.

One thing you really need to check is whether your PC is running the latest version of Windows 10. Go into the Cortana search bar next to the Start button in the bottom left hand corner of your screen and type WINVER then Enter. This will give you the Version number, which should be 1703 (at the time of writing 14/09/17). If not, you need to hit that Check for Updates button as you’re not using the latest version.

We’re only a couple of weeks away from version 1709 (Fall Creators Update), which has some exciting new features that we’ll be looking at over the next month or so.

Cool Windows 10 apps

Colourful windows 10 logoSince the launch of Windows 10, there has been a huge rise in the number of apps available on the Windows Store and it’s still growing. This is our selection of favourite apps, some of which have actually been around for a while. They are fun but more to the point, they are all FREE!


Star Chart (contains in-app purchases)
Hold your tablet up to the night sky and it becomes - in real time – a brilliant star finder. If you are curious about a bright star, point your device at it and Star Chart will tell you what it is. It displays all the planets of the solar system, including the sun and the moon and if you tap on an object it will display facts about it.

Great British Chefs
This app provides over 300 recipes, for cooks of all abilities, from great chefs such as Marcus Wareing and Tom Aitkins. It features a handy shopping list tool so once you’ve selected your chosen dishes, the ingredients can be added to your shopping list. There is also an app for kids –
Great British Chefs Cooking with Kids.

Phototastic Collage (contains in-app purchases)
This app offers a simple way to create eye-catching collages from your photos. It includes templates of greeting cards to which you can add images and you can also enhance photos with colours, drawings and stickers. There are loads of colour effects and frames to choose from and you can even create photo albums – great for holiday photos or to remember baby’s first year.

Fresh Paint (contains in-app purchases)
This is a fun and creative way to unleash the artist in you! It’s a painting app (best used on a tablet) that provides realistic oil, watercolour, pencil, pastel and pen tools as well as a selection of canvas styles. You can even use one of your own digital photos as a base for your artwork. It features a fan button to "dry" the paint and cleaning your brush in the water is fun as the 'liquid' turns the colour of the paint you put in it.

TuneIn Radio
If you’re a radio fan, this app is a must as TuneIn has the largest selection of real radio stations from around the world. You can listen to your favourite talk shows and podcasts live and on demand and enjoy live coverage of sporting events, concerts and more. It’s also possible to filter the thousands of stations by language.

Elements - The Periodic Table (contains in-app purchases)
Tap on any element and you get a detailed breakdown that includes, among other things, physical properties, images, a short history of the element and details of what it's used for, as well as links to websites for further reading.

Top Free Software

This week we thought we’d have a look at some of the top FREE software available for your PC.

BACKUP: EaseUS ToDo Backup Free
Computer users should always perform two types of backup: one for files and documents, and the other for the system. EaseUS ToDo Backup Free is reasonably good at both types of backup and is straightforward to use. It can back up everything from selected files and file types to entire partitions or drives and includes cloning tools for upgrading from one drive to another. It provides you with backup scheduling options and support for incremental updates so backups are kept as small and efficient as possible. When restoring data, EaseUS Todo Backup gives a timeline of the date and exact time of backups so you can easily pick a point in time in which to find a backed-up file.
www.todo-backup.com

OFFICE SUITE: WPS Office Free
Available completely free of charge (although there are ads associated with certain features), WPS Office includes tools for word processing, presentations and spreadsheets and is fully compatible with Microsoft document formats. It includes hundreds of free fonts and templates and has a clear, easy to use interface. All of the most common tools and options are intuitively placed so you won’t spend ages searching for the setting or tool that you need. It even allows you to convert PDF files into Word format.
www.wps.com

PHOTO EDITOR: GIMP
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a brilliant photo editor for Windows. It has many excellent tools that are on a par with those you'd find in premium (and not free!) photo editing software, with more being added all the time. It has just about all the essential photo editing tools, features and commands that most users want: special-effect filters; exposure controls, and colour controls, such as hue/saturation; replace colour, bucket fill, paintbrush, eraser, selection tools, etc.
www.gimp.org

MEDIA PLAYER: VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player has a simple interface and is compatible with almost all video and audio formats. It supports DVDs & Blu Rays, plus MPEG and DivX streaming and can play videos as they're downloading, so you can watch the beginning of a film and then decide whether it's worth downloading in full. It can also search for album covers and a playlist function allows you to play multiple films one after the other.
www.videolan.org/vlc

Image Editor: Paint.NET
This is an image and photo editing software for PCs running Windows. It has a clean interface with support for layers, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. The program includes everything you would expect to find in an image editing package, but there are plenty of surprises considering that this is free software.
www.getpaint.net

Cloud Storage: Dropbox
Nowadays storing information in “the cloud” is pretty much the norm. Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage, which isn’t much, but you can increase it by referring friends and other tasks. Dropbox offers an app for every major device so you can take your files anywhere. It’s also easy to share files with others, and the service has a great interface on the web and desktop. Whether you use it for backup, as a cloud flash drive, or for setting up shared folders with others, you can’t go wrong with Dropbox.
www.dropbox.com

PC Cleaning / Management: CCleaner
Over time, Windows builds up useless files that take up space. CCleaner is our favourite disk cleaner and the foundation to a clean Windows 10 system, but it also has many more useful features inside its toolkit.
Aside from cleaning the caches of all kinds of software, CCleaner lets you easily
disable startup programs, find which files are taking up the most space, clean up your messy context menu, and create a quick text file of all installed programs.
www.piriform.com

Browser: Google Chrome or Vivali
Although Microsoft Edge comes pre-installed on Windows computers, there are several excellent free alternatives which can often be faster, have more options, and in many cases, be more secure than Edge.
Chrome is an extendable, efficient and stable browser that takes up the minimum of screen space. It has many easily obtained and installed extensions as well as support for parental controls. Admittedly it's not brilliant on machines with limited RAM, and because it is developed by Google, you might be uncomfortable with the ways in which your browsing data may be used.
www.google.com/chrome

If you haven’t tried Vivaldi, you should give it a go. You might be surprised by how much you love it, as a backup browser if not your main. Since it launched in April 2016, it has grown a great deal and is becoming increasingly popular. It offers great flexibility, and features such as web panels make it attractive as a browser option. However, you may find it a bit slow compared to other browsers and the unfamiliar interface takes a bit of getting used to.
www.vivaldi.com

Windows 10 Short Cut Keys using Windows Logo key

Our keyboard shortcuts articles seem to be very popular! So here are some useful keyboard shortcuts you can use within Windows 10. Note that these keyboard shortcuts are all used with the Windows Logo Key.

Windows logo key (open or close Start)
Windows Logo Key+A
(open Action Centre)
Windows Logo Key+C (open Cortana)
Windows Logo Key+D (display and hide the Desktop)
Windows Logo Key+Alt+D (display and hide the date and time on the desktop)
Windows Logo Key+E (open File Explorer)
Windows Logo Key+G (open Game Bar when a game is open)
Windows Logo Key+I (open Settings)
Windows Logo Key +L (lock your PC or switch accounts)
Windows Logo Key+M (minimise all windows)
Windows Logo Key+Shift+M (restore minimised windows)
Windows Logo Key+O (lock device orientation)
Windows Logo Key+R (open the Run dialogue box)
Windows Logo Key+S (open Search)
Windows Logo Key+T (cycle through apps on the Taskbar)
Windows Log Key+U (open the Ease of Access Centre)
Windows Logo Key+V (cycle through notifications)
Windows Logo Key+X (open the Quick Link menu)
Windows Logo Key+comma (,) (temporarily peek at the Desktop)
Windows Logo Key+Pause Break (display the System Properties Dialogue box)
Windows Logo Key+Ctrl+F (search for PCs if you are on a network)
Windows Logo Key+Tab (open Task View – repeat to return to where you were)
Windows Logo Key+Ctrl+Enter (open Narrator)
Windows Logo Key+Plus(+) (open Magnifier)
Windows Logo Key+Esc (Exit Magnifier)
Windows Logo Key+Up arrow (maximise app window)
Windows Logo Key+Down arrow (minimise app window)
Windows Logo Key+PrtScn (take a screen shot and save it in the Printscreen folder, which can be found in the My Pictures folder)

If you’re not used to using them, keyboard shortcuts might seem like a waste of time and even thinking about memorising which shortcuts do which functions can be a little daunting. But remember that not every shortcut is worth using for every person. Learning and using the ones that are most important to you is a great way to make the most of using Windows 10. Focusing on just a few common shortcuts and integrating them into your daily use will soon become second nature.

Summer holiday internet safety

The school summer holidays are now in full swing. At the time of writing this, the weather thus far has been far from ideal for the kids to be outside all the time, so it’s inevitable that they are spending more time than parents would like on their computers and tablets. And the more time they spend on their machines, the more time they may spend browsing and exploring on the internet and “chatting with friends” on social media.
So how do you monitor what they are doing and how do you keep them safe? It’s not easy, so start with some basics such as setting boundaries and rules for your children from a young age. Then get involved in finding out more about the kinds of online interests that they have by asking them to show you how to do various things online. It can be fun and is also a way of spending more time with them. They will probably even like the fact that you’ve taken the effort to ‘catch up’ with them.
You can also:
  • Ask them questions about what their friends do on-line, ask them to show you the newest and best websites and apps and ask what their favourites are.
  • Ask your children to tell you about all their email and instant messaging accounts and what the passwords are, thus allowing you to monitor their activities. Don’t feel guilty about it - you’re only giving them a false sense of security by letting them believe that privacy exists on the Internet.
  • Ask them to “friend” you on all their apps. This may not go down well but it could be one of the conditions for you allowing them to access social networking sites.
  • Talk to them about cyberbullying – ask them if they know what it is and if they, or any of their friends have ever experienced it?
  • Talk to friends, family and other parents about how they help their children to progress and keep safe in their digital world.
  • Ensure you know how to use parental controls on computers, mobiles and games consoles, privacy features on social networking sites, and the safety options on Google and other search engines.
  • Install software designed to keep children safe online, for example Qustodio, which helps you monitor web activity, blocks inappropriate content and sets a time schedule or limits how much internet time is allowed each day.
  • Make sure they know not to click on links in emails or instant messages, that they are aware of using strong passwords (which they should share with you) and are not turning off antivirus programmes and firewalls.
Further helpful information can be found on the NSPCC and Cbeebies websites: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/article-internet-use-and-safety

Upgrading a slow computer

Is your computer sluggish? Or maybe it no longer supports the games you play? Whatever your reasons for needing to upgrade to a better hardware, there are primarily three things you can upgrade on a computer: the hard drive, the RAM memory, and the video/sound/graphics cards.

Upgrading your computer’s RAM
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the temporary storage memory used by your computer. The more programs you use, the more RAM you need, and the slower your computer will be if you don’t have enough.
Adding RAM is often the cheapest upgrade you can make to speed up a slow computer. Although it may have had more than enough RAM when you first bought it, after a few years it will have trouble keeping up with the demands of the latest programs. Greater RAM means that the computer won´t have to rely on the hard drive for memory and with more memory, you will be able to operate more programs and software simultaneously.
When upgrading the computer´s RAM you must identify the type of RAM it is using. To do this, right click the Start button, then click System and you will see the Installed Memory (RAM) information. As a rule of thumb, if you have a 32-bit system, you will need 2GB of RAM. If you have a 64-bit operating system, we recommend a minimum of 6GB of RAM.

Upgrading your computer’s hard drive
Movies, music, and all those Steam games you bought in the sale will quickly fill your hard drive space. Upgrading your hard drive may also be a requirement when you need to perform a system update, a software update, or run a new operating system. Hard drives tend to become less effective and reliable over time, therefore, if you have used your hard drive for a long period of time and don’t want it to suddenly stop working, thus, putting your valuable information at risk, you should consider upgrading it.

SSDs have read and write speeds many times greater than classic hard disks. Before purchasing an SSD, do check that it's possible to get inside your computer and that yours is compatible with the SSD. If it's just a few years old, it probably is.
Really old models might not have support for SSDs (but a computer that elderly isn't going to be worth upgrading anyway!).

Upgrade your desktop’s graphics card
A graphic card basically turns processed data into video signal before sending it to the output or to your display. You may need to upgrade your graphics card if you have problems with your current card, for a better performance (especially for gamers) or to support dual screens. NOTE: This mainly applies to desktops - it is not possible to change a graphics card in 99.9% of laptops.

Windows Vista end of support

In our last article, we spoke about the ransomware which crippled, amongst other large organisations, the NHS, mainly because their computer systems were still running the hugely outdated Windows XP operating system. In fact, any computer user who is still using Windows XP is at risk of being struck by any type of malware or ransomware, by which we mean that all their data, including photos, coursework etc, could be lost forever.

Well this also applies to anyone still running Windows Vista on their PC. And there are many people out there. Mainstream support for Windows Vista actually ended on April 10, 2012, but Microsoft continued to offer support options and updates as part of its extended support phase. However, that came to an end on 11
th April of this year.

Microsoft has confirmed that "After April 11, 2017, Windows Vista customers will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates. Microsoft has provided support for Windows Vista for the past 10 years, but the time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources towards more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences."

Windows Vista will continue to work after 11
th April, but if new security vulnerabilities or bugs are found - and believe me, that will happen - Microsoft will not issue updates to fix them. Some programs will continue to work and you can still run security software to keep your device as safe as you can, but fact of the matter is you are basically putting yourself at risk.

The longer you stay with Windows Vista or XP, the higher the chance of you becoming a victim of cyber-crime. Cyber-criminals target out of date operating systems due to their vulnerability, therefore updating your operating system will safeguard you from these external threats and help keep your system more secure with continued Microsoft mainstream support and patches.

Another thing to consider is what will happen to Windows Vista support when it comes to popular programs. Google, for instance, stopped supporting Windows Vista in the Chrome browser nearly a year ago, and Mozilla is now doing the same thing with Firefox.

For those of you who do wish to upgrade to Windows 10, our next article will cover buying new or refurbished PC’s and laptops, on which this latest Microsoft operating system is installed.

How to Use the Parental Controls in Windows 10

In our last article, we explained how to set up a child’s account in Windows 10 with the aim of being able to protect and monitor their on-line activity using the parental controls. With your child’s account added, you will be able to set up appropriate website, app and game restrictions for their age, set PC time limits, and review their recent activity using the Microsoft family Safety website. Their settings will apply to any Windows 10 device that they sign in to.

To begin, you need to add your child's Microsoft account to your family by signing in at account.microsoft.com/family. Choose Select a child to view or edit their settings, then select Add. Then enter the email address your child uses to sign in to Windows 10 and click on Send invite. Your child needs to accept the invitation, which will arrive in their email in-box.

Once you’ve added your child’s account, you can start applying the relevant settings from the Family Safety website:

  • The Recent Activity settings will collect your child’s on-line activity and email it in the form of reports to you. You can disable this setting if you so desire, but I would recommend keeping it enabled.


  • You may also want to consider the “web browsing” category. You can “block inappropriate websites” and there is a check box to restrict your child’s web browsing to only websites on the allowed list, i.e., you can allow and block websites. If you elect to “only see websites on the allowed list,” this will be where you can add websites to the “Always allow these” list.


  • The next category is to limit apps and games from the age of three up to twenty, or not at all. Note, as you change the age, the ratings will also change. You can explicitly allow or block apps and games, just as you would with websites.


  • Finally, you can choose when your child uses the computer. You can decide how early and late they can use it, as well as how many hours per day. This means that even though your child may be able to use the computer throughout the entire day, you can still limit how many hours they’re allowed to use it.


Keep in mind that if you add an existing account to your Microsoft Family Account, you won’t be able to monitor it until you verify it via email. Until you do that, your child can log into the computer and it will not be monitored by Family Safety.

Windows 10, Adding a child's account

The Internet is a scary place and keeping your child safe online can often be a daunting prospect. Luckily, Windows 10 offers access controls, time limits and activity reports, including reports on the websites, apps and games your child uses. You can set up individual user accounts for each member of the family with their own unique passwords and then tailor the controls and restrictions to the age of your child. It’s relatively easy to set up a user account and then protect and monitor their activity in just a few minutes.

To get started, you need to create Microsoft accounts for your kids, which you then can add to your family at account.microsoft.com/family. Once you've added them to your family, you'll be able to choose the additional limits and permissions you want your kids to have. When your kids sign in with their own accounts, they can personalise their desktop and explore apps and games and in addition, their family settings will be applied to any Windows 10 device they sign into.

To set up a child’s account in Windows 10, open Settings, then Accounts, then click Family and Other Users in the left side panel. From here, you can either add a new family member, which gives you the option to set parental controls on your children’s accounts, or simply add a new user. If you choose 'Add a family member', each person you add will need to have their own Microsoft account. (You can create Microsoft accounts from here by clicking the 'The person who I want to add doesn’t have an email address' link).

For extra security, you will need to enter a telephone number. This way if you’re ever unable to access the account, i.e. if it is hacked or you forget the password, you can have a code sent to your phone that will let you reset it.

On the next screen, there are options to have Microsoft recommend apps and other such advertising techniques. I would suggest unchecking these boxes. It’s entirely up to you, but considering this is a child’s account, I don’t believe that either of these options are relevant.

Once you’ve set up your additional accounts, the next time you reboot or log off your PC the new users will appear to the bottom-left of the login screen.

With your child’s account added, you can set up and configure their account settings using the Microsoft Family Safety website. We will cover this and
How to Use the Parental Controls in Windows 10 in our next article.

How to back up data on Windows 10 PCs

Our last article warned about the rise in Ransomware attacks and how, if your PC is attacked, your data will almost certainly be destroyed and lost forever. In addition, the everyday hazards of spilling water on a laptop or suffering a hard drive failure can also result in disaster.

You can take steps to protect yourself by ensuring you have at least one external backup for your important files and that this backup is performed on a regular basis. In fact, many business users should have two or three backups, all kept in different locations.

There are two main types of backup that you can use to keep your important data safe. The first is ‘file backup’, which allows you to make copies of the files stored on your PC.

File History is a handy tool in Windows 10, which allows you to perform regular, scheduled copies of the data on your PC and store it on an external drive.

To set up File History you’ll first need to ensure a secondary drive is connected to your PC:

Click the
Start button then the Settings button (it looks like a gear and is found in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu). Then click Update & security > Back Up > Add a drive and then chose the drive you’d like to use as a backup.

You can now choose which files you want to back up:

Click the S
tart button then the Settings button. Click Update & security > Backup > More options > Add a folder. Choose a folder you want to back up then click on Choose this folder. If you add the wrong folder or want to remove a folder from the backup list, click the folder in the Back up these folders list then click Remove.

You can change how often a backup occurs, as long as the drive is connected:

Click the
Start button then the Settings button. Click Update & security > Backup > More options. Click the dropdown arrow beneath Back up my files, then click frequency options.

You can also change how long the backups are kept on the drive or network by clicking the
dropdown arrow beneath Keep my backups, then click a time limit.

REMEMBER THAT ONCE YOUR BACK UP IS FINISHED, YOU MUST DISCONNECT THE EXTERNAL BACKUP DEVICE FROM YOUR PC TO PREVENT RANSOMWARE FROM ATTACKING IT.

The other type of backup is a ‘system backup’ or a 'system image'. This is more complicated as it involves making a backup copy of the entire Windows operating system running on your PC, as well as all your programs, files and settings. If this is something you wish to carry out, give us a call.

Windows 10 app to block downloads

Microsoft is expected to roll out its Windows 10 Creators Update to the public this April (at the time of writing this article, the exact date has yet to be confirmed). It will include several bug fixes as well as an impressive feature which will let you block installation of WIN32 Apps and Software, otherwise known as EXE based applications.

Microsoft has confirmed that users will “now have the option to control what type of apps can be installed on your PC.” Basically, once the feature is turned on, if anybody tries to install a software which is not from the Windows store, it will give a warning saying:
You can only install apps from the Windows Store. Limiting installation to apps from the Windows Store helps to keep your PC safe and reliable.

The option is available under
Settings > Apps & Feature > Installing Apps > Choose where apps can be installed from. From here you can choose to only allow installation of Store apps, choose to be warned when installing a non-Store app but allow their installation, or choose to allow installation of apps from anywhere.

If you decide to only install apps from the Store, you will see a warning when attempting to install a non-Store app. “The warning will direct you to the Store where you can download an alternate app if available,” Microsoft has said.

The option is disabled by default, but it could be useful if you want to purposely prevent users from installing new programs, for example, in schools and businesses, and if you have multiple users on your computer, they will have to ask for a permission to get the installation done.

In addition, restricting the installation of Win32 programs should hopefully add an extra layer of security to help prevent malware from reaching a Windows 10 system, since many virus writers continue to rely on legacy desktop apps to spread infections across computers. But do note that it won’t provide a complete block on malware installation.

Other updates will include, amongst other things: improvements to Edge; more focus on 3D creativity; PC gaming improvements; a new Night Light which makes colour temperatures warmer at night so it’s easier on your eyes and easier to get to sleep right after using the computer, in theory.

So how do you get this update? If your PC is already running Windows 10, you should receive the Creators Update automatically since it's an update and updates in Windows 10 are installed when they're available. However, you can check for updates manually by going to Start, Settings (the cog icon), Update and Security, Check for Updates.

Keyboard Shortcuts Updated!

Many of our customers have been asking for a recap of the simple keyboard shortcuts that we published a while ago. So here we go:
Shortcuts using the
CTRL key:
  • CTRL+C (Copy); CTRL+X (Cut); CTRL+V (Paste)
  • CTRL+Z (Undo the last operation); CTRL+Y (Redo the last operation)
  • CTRL+P (Print); CTRL+S (Save)
  • CTRL+A (Select all text)
  • CTRL+O (Open a file)
  • CTRL+F (Find text in the current page/document)
  • CTRL+Home (Move the cursor to the beginning of the document)
  • CTRL+End (Move the cursor to the end of the document)
Slightly less well known but just as useful are:
  • CTRL+RIGHT ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the next word)
  • CTRL+LEFT ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the previous word)
  • CTRL+DOWN ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the next paragraph)
  • CTRL+UP ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the previous paragraph)
  • CTRL+SHIFT with any of the arrow keys (Highlight a block of text)
  • ALT+TAB (Switch between open programmes)
  • ALT+F4 (Close the active item, or quit the active program)
  • ESC (Cancel the current task)
The following are shortcuts work for most internet browsers:
  • CTRL+T (open a new browser tab); CTRL+W (close the current browser tab)
  • CTRL+L (select the browser address bar)
  • CTRL+D (Bookmark the current website)
  • F11 Key (full screen mode). Press F11 again to return
Some new Windows 10 shortcuts:
  • Windows key + A: Open the Action Centre.
  • Windows key + S: Open Cortana in text mode (to type in the search bar)
  • Windows key + C: Open Cortana in listening mode (like saying "Hey, Cortana")
  • Windows key + E: Open File Explorer
  • Windows key + F: Open the Windows 10 Feedback Hub
  • Windows key + Ctrl + F: Search for PCs on a network
  • Windows key + G: Open the Game bar
  • Windows key + H: Open the Share sidebar
  • Windows key + I: Open the Settings menu
  • Windows key + K: Open the Connect sidebar (for connecting to new Bluetooth devices)
  • Windows key + L: Lock your computer

Laptop Care

Following on from our last blog, now that your new computer has been properly set up, it’s vital that you take care of it. A laptop computer is an expensive piece of equipment – there is no point in spending all that money, only to find that in just a short time, it is damaged and you need to spend more money on getting it fixed. Don’t forget that the manufacturer’s product guarantee provides cover for mechanical and electrical breakdown but is usually only for a year and may not cover parts or breakdown due to carelessness.
Dim It
The LCD display on a laptop uses a huge amount of battery. To make the battery last longer when the laptop is not plugged in, turn down the screen brightness to the lowest level your eyes can bear. Windows laptops include power plans for maximising battery life, but you can also customise your laptop’s power-management features. Setting shorter times for when the display turns off and when the laptop goes into sleep will help your battery last longer.
Cool It
Due to their small vents, laptops can easily overheat when kept in small cases and using your laptop on your lap can prevent ventilation and make matters worse. Try using a lap desk or a laptop cooling pad that doesn’t conduct heat or block the laptop's vents.
Back It Up
Lots of movement puts computer components at risk, which means that laptops suffer much more wear and tear than desktops. This increases the risk of hard drive failure, so do ensure you back up the data on your laptop to an external hard drive, USB memory stick, or the cloud on a regular basis. Portable hard drives are good for backing up data when you are out and about.
Bag It
If you often carry your laptop about with you, you should invest in a laptop bag, preferably one with a built-in padded sleeve. If you want something less conspicuous, place your laptop in a stand-alone sleeve and stow it in your backpack or briefcase.
Acclimatise It
When your laptop is moved from a cold to a warm environment (and vice versa) don't turn it on until it reaches room temperature. Sudden temperature changes can cause condensation and moisture to build up inside the laptop, which could damage the internal components.
Track It
Thousands of laptops are reported stolen every year. It is worth investing in tracking software, such as prey from www.preyproject.com, which can locate a registered laptop once it connects to the Web, thus increasing your chances of recovering your laptop.

Should you experience any problems with your new computer, please contact us. We’re here to help.

Phishing Scams

This week I want to talk about Phishing Scams. Phishing is a way in which fraudsters try to obtain your computer user names and passwords, and from there be able to access the rest of your online life.
Most of these scams come in the form of emails, although they can also arrive via text message, instant message, posted letters or phone calls. They will claim to be from organisations such as Internet Service Providers, banks, PayPal, eBay, Google or Apple. They will look genuine with the all the right icons, trademarks, copyrights and fonts that you’d expect to see.
The emails and text messages normally contain genuine-looking links to the relevant, but of course bogus, websites, asking you to simply login to the secure page of the website with your email address and password. Some may ask you to install a piece of software to do a security scan (installing viruses or keystroke loggers along the way).
Once your details have been “phished”, crooks can then use this information to commit crimes such as identity theft and bank fraud. They may even use your details to target you deeper by earning your trust in such a way as to convince you that they are from organisations such as the police or the fraud office. This is called “Spear-Phishing” because they already know their target.
Phishing isn’t restricted to just individuals - businesses are also targeted using specific requests for information or quite often legal or tax threats.
What can you do to stop it? The short answer is not a lot - crooks use systems that work. So, while you can’t stop them sending you the email in the first place, you can be aware and proactive. If you receive an email from, let’s say, PayPal that looks suspicious, you should forward it onto their fraud team who will inspect it and try to stop the crooks from using that email server. Almost all big companies will have an anti-fraud team that you can contact.
Other things to be aware of are:
  • When responding to emails, phone calls or texts, never give your login or personal details.
  • The email address that appears in the ‘from’ field of an email is not a guarantee that the email came from the organisation that it claims to have originated from.
  • Contact the organisation that has sent you the message by using a phone number that you have personally sourced. Speak to them directly to confirm if the message is genuine.
  • Use the spam filter in your email program to mark the message as spam and delete it. This ensures that the message cannot reach your inbox in future.
  • Never respond to a message from an unknown source. Take care not to click any on links to web pages. Even unsubscribe links can be bogus.

Dangers of IoT

In our last article, we wrote about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it is being used to create a “Smart Home” by connecting IoT ready devices to the internet and controlling them with your smart phone or computer.

However, a lack of security in IoT devices, just like in desktop computers and traditional mobile devices, can potentially offer an easy way in to your network and allow hackers to access, collect and misuse your personal information. Many hackers are moving away from businesses and governments, which nowadays have highly reliable internet security, to easier targets. And they don't come easier than the IoT connected smart home with its growing array of web-connected devices, from clever fridges which notify you when you are out of milk (yes really!) to thermostats and smart lightbulbs.

The Internet Society warned last year that: "The interconnected nature of IoT devices means that every poorly secured device that is connected online potentially affects the security and resilience of the internet globally."

So how do we protect ourselves from our networks becoming compromised? The first and most important thing is to change default passwords as soon as we buy an IoT gadget. NEVER use default accounts or passwords as many of them are posted on the internet. In almost every article we write, we reiterate the necessity of a strong password for your computers, bank accounts, email accounts etc – it should be made up of letters, numbers and punctuation (“iwantaCheeseSandwich4lunch!” is a brilliant example except that now most the Fenland Citizen readers know about it!!). Well the same applies to any IoT device you decide to connect to your network.

Simple tools such as Bullguard's IoT Scanner software can also help spot weaknesses. In addition, BullGuard has also published an IoT manual that gives a checklist on what to check and how. (www.bullguard.com/blog/2016/06/internet-of-things-consumer-devices.html).

Other ways to increase IoT security is to keep product software and firmware up-to-date and to buy only from trusted brands like Philips or Nest.

It is also important to be aware that, in the rush to bring new products to market, some manufacturers of IoT devices add on privacy and security features after the fact, rather than including them in the device at the outset. One of the reasons why some IoT devices are cheaper than others is that manufacturers cut corners on security which is akin to putting cheap tyres on an expensive car.

Internet Of Things

You may have heard the term "Internet of Things" (or IoT) but wondered what it is. In short IoT is the concept of connecting different devices to the web and to each other. This can include anything that has an on/off switch such as washing machines, coffee makers, smartphones, tablets, doors, light switches, coffee makers and many more. These objects or “things” are embedded with software, sensors, electronics, and network connectivity, allowing them to complete tasks and communicate with each other without any human involvement.

One of the ideas behind IoT is to create a Smart Home where objects such as thermostats (in the UK, most energy companies are rolling out Smart Meters), lights, fridges, door locks, toasters, washing machines etc can all be connected to the internet and controlled by your smart phone or computer. IoT also applies to the use of smart devices outside of the home to automate processes, such as roads that alert drivers to spots of black ice or recycling bins that tell the council when to pick them up.

So how does the Internet of Things work? Well, it is made up of three major components: the things themselves; the networks connecting them together and the data flowing between each of the devices. By collecting and analysing this data, the devices can establish patterns of interest, so that users can act upon the data via their mobile apps.

One of the most popular pieces of Internet of Things technology currently available is the Nest, a smart thermostat that is connected to the internet. The Nest learns your household’s routines and will automatically adjust the temperature based on when you’re home or away, awake or asleep, hot or cold, to make your house more efficient and help save on heating and cooling bills. The mobile app allows you to edit schedules, change the temperature when you’re away from home, etc.

There is also the Philips Smart Bulb, which lets you programme and control your lights from your smartphone.

IoT has been described as a world changing revolution that will affect industrial sectors, the home and eventually the entire world. But be warned, the
smart home might not be quite so smart when it comes to security.

Cyber criminals must be rubbing their hands together with glee knowing that there are an estimated twenty-five billion devices, including desktops and laptops, online, with separate research stating that 70 percent of IoT devices are unsecured. Connecting even more of these devices creates new, and heightens existing, security risks. In fact, there have been recently reported web attacks that used compromised connected devices, from webcams to printers, to knock out several popular websites.

So what should we be doing to protect ourselves and our homes? We’ll talk about this in our next article.

How to speed up your laptop

Laptops are fairly limited in what you can do to make them run faster and this is mainly due to space. Unlike desktops, laptops are generally designed for moving around and are therefore much thinner and lighter. This sacrifice means there’s very little you can actually replace. But there are several things you can do to speed them up.

Upgrade Your RAM
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the temporary storage memory used by your laptop. The more programs you use, the more RAM you need, and the slower your computer will be if you don’t have enough. If you have a 32-bit system, your machine will only support a maximum of 3GB of RAM. If you have a 64-bit operating system, we recommend a minimum of 6GB of RAM.

Install a solid state drive
Hard drives are the biggest cause of slow speeds. SSDs have read and write speeds many times greater than classic hard disks, and whilst they are not cheap, the performance benefits can be felt throughout your laptop. Before purchasing an SSD, do check that it's possible to get inside the laptop and that your model of laptop is compatible with the SSD. Do note that switching out the SSD in your laptop will void your warranty.

Uninstall unused programs
New laptops come with a whole load of programs you will never use (you probably don’t even know they exist). To remove them, open the Control Panel’s Programs and Features page and look through the list of installed software. Uninstall those that you do not need, but do be careful to leave programs that your laptop’s hardware needs (in general their publisher will be listed as the PC maker’s name or as Microsoft).

Delete temporary files
Temporary files, such as cookies and browser history build up on your computer every day and can remain on your hard disk, slowing the computer down. To free up hard drive space, delete these files by going to “My Computer”, and select your local drive (usually C:\). Select the “Windows” folder and then open the folder titled “Temp”. Right-click on the folder, and in the “View” options, choose “Details”. Select all the files that are older than the current date and delete them. Then empty the Recycle Bin on your desktop.

Run a disk defragment and a disk clean-up
Disk Defragment is a way of reconfiguring how your hard drive stores information for maximum efficiency. Disk Clean-Up searches through the system for unnecessary large files such as temporary Internet files, program installers, etc. In Windows 10, both “Defragment & Optimise Drives” and “Disk Clean-Up” can be found within the Windows Administrative Tools programme. Or simply search for them using Cortana.

Video Streaming

Streaming is a way of watching films and TV via the internet. Although traditionally done on a PC or laptop, you can watch on your normal TV, games console, smartphone or tablet. As long as your broadband is fast enough, why buy the latest Blu-rays or box-sets when you can have them streamed to you instantly. But with so many streaming services available, which should you choose?

Netflix offers more than 3,000 movies and TV shows, with several series, such as House of Cards, being exclusive to Netflix itself. Film-wise, it is mainly back catalogue stuff. If you have a 4K TV, Netflix has a selection of TV shows and movies to watch in this resolution. The Basic Plan (watch on 1 screen, Standard Definition) costs £5.99 a month; £7.49 for the Standard Plan (watch on 2 screens, full HD) and £8.99 for the Premium plan (watch on 4 screens, Ultra High Definition). The first month is free.

Amazon Prime Instant Video is part of a brilliant package – Amazon Prime. For a £79/year subscription you get the full Amazon Prime Instant Video service (members can watch thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost), music-streaming, free delivery on on-line purchases, unlimited cloud-based photo storage and a load of books on the Kindle store too. Subscription to Amazon Prime Instant Video alone (a more limited selection of content) costs £5.99 per month. If you don’t want to subscribe at all, it is still possible to rent and buy content - you just pay per film. Prices vary - from £3.49 (SD) and £4.49 (HD) for rental and £9.99 (SD) and £13.99 (HD) to purchase. Amazon, like Netflix, has exclusives, such as the new Jeremy Clarkson car TV show (coming soon).

Now TV is a service offered by Sky for those without a satellite dish or who want something more flexible than a conventional TV package. If it's movies you're after, you certainly can't get much better for the price as it offers 800+ films and up to 16 new ones each month. The picture quality, however, is not good. There are various pricing structures to choose from depending on which package best suits your needs.

Google Play is an Android app that allows you rent movies to stream or download via a web page, Android phone or Android tablet. The app is free and movie rentals start at £1.49. Renting a film is simple: you log in to your Google account which has either credit or a credit card attached, then you just click on Rent and the movie is yours. You have 30 days after making a purchase to watch rented movies. Once you start watching you have 48 hours to finish watching the film although you can watch the film multiple times throughout that period.

Laptop Buing Guide

Going off university or college without a decent laptop is akin to refusing to take pads and pens. However, don't just buy whatever is on sale; you need the right laptop for your specific needs. As there's a wide variety of sizes, features and prices, choosing the right laptop can be a challenge.
Let’s start this week by looking at the internal components of a laptop.
Processor – CPU
As the "brains" of your computer, the processor does influence performance, although the choice will depend on what you need to do. If you're looking for a standard laptop with the best combination of price and performance, buy a Core i3. Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs will be better for multitasking, multimedia tasks, high-end gaming, but are more expensive. Try to steer clear of computers with Celeron, AMD E1 or C1 processors as these are mainly found in cheap systems. Cheap sounds fabulous if you have a small budget but be warned that the majority of these PCs have VERY limited specifications.
Storage – Hard Drive
This is the part of the laptop on which all your data is stored. Most people struggle to fill a 250GB Hard Drive with photos, programmes and music since the average size of a photo or MP3 is about 4MB. In other words this means you can store about 62,500 photos or MP3’s on a small 250GB Hard Drive. If you play around with video files however, 250GB will be hugely insufficient and you should look to 1,000 GB drives which can store about 24 hours of HD video.
Memory – RAM
RAM is fast, temporary storage that Windows uses to load both itself and whatever it is you are doing at the time. So if you are surfing the internet, you are using some RAM for Windows, a little more for the web browser, a little more for your anti-virus program, etc. 4GB is the bare minimum amount of RAM you should have in a laptop, 8GB is ideal.
Wi-Fi
Make sure you get a laptop with at least 802.11N Wi-Fi standard, rather than the older 802.11g.
Battery
You’ll undoubtedly be spending a lot of time in locations where plugging in a laptop is difficult, therefore you’ll need at least 6 hours of battery life, with 8+ hours being ideal. But be realistic, sitting in the library watching cat videos on You Tube with the brightness turned up to 11 or playing a video game will eat battery life in no time.
Get the right OS & Software
Check with the university about software requirements as they may need you to have a specific type of software or operating system. Windows 10 is the most popular and versatile operating system. Also check with the college or university before you buy Microsoft Office as you may be able to get it SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper through them.

Is online banking safe?

A question I am asked almost every week. And rightly so. But yes, online banking is safe with the proper precautions. The following are tips for how to safely bank on-line.

Go to your bank’s website by typing in their URL – NEVER CLICK ON A LINK IN AN EMAIL
Hackers can access a bank account by tricking a user into thinking they're logging into their account when actually they are not. This technique (phishing) is often carried out via an email informing you that you need to change your online information, verify a purchase, or something else that would make you log into your bank account via a link in the e-mail. In reality, the link takes you to a fake page that will log your account information.

Make sure the page is secure when entering data
A web page that encrypts data displays a small lock either next to the address bar (top left of the screen) or in the bottom corner of the window. In addition, the URL will start with https:// instead of http://. When you go to your bank login page, check that you see this lock before entering your username and password. If there is no lock, DO NOT log into the page.

Never send usernames, passwords, etc. through e-mail
No bank will ever ask you to send personal information via email. E-mail is unencrypted and could be read if intercepted by a third-party.

Be cautious where you log into your bank
It is advisable to only log into your online bank page while at home.
Your workplace may employ methods of monitoring you while online. Someone with access to these logs would be able to see all keystrokes, including usernames and passwords.
When on an open wireless network it's important to realise that all information being sent to and from your computer to the wireless router can be intercepted and read by someone nearby. We would
NEVER recommend on-line banking over an open wireless network (ie at a hotel or in a restaurant).
Be aware when logging into a computer you're not familiar with – it could intentionally or unintentionally log usernames and passwords.

Use a strong password
Here I go again!! But I cannot emphasise enough how easy passwords are to crack. PLEASE do not make it easy to guess such as your child’s/pet's name. Your banking password should have numbers, special characters and upper and lower case letters. Most banks now also provide you with a card reader or an app for a 2-stage authentication log-in .

Make sure your computer is protected
Finally, it's always a good idea to keep your personal computer protected with an anti-virus. When an attacker attacks or infects a computer they could install a keylogger - a software program or hardware device used to monitor and log each of the keys a user types into a computer keyboard.

Jargon Buster Part 2

Several months ago we published an IT jargon buster, with a promise of more to come. So here it is!

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol (process) over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The 'S' at the end of HTTPS stands for 'Secure'. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.

Operating System (OS) is the software that communicates with the computer’s hardware thus allowing applications to be run on it. It manages resources such as memory as well as access to devices including hard drives and keyboards. Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are operating systems.

Streaming Media refers to media content, audio or video, which is received by and presented to the user at the same time that the provider is delivering it. In other words, it has not been downloaded beforehand. Netflix, Amazon and the BBC are all providers of media streaming.

Toolbar is a user interface feature consisting of a strip of icons, buttons or similar controls. Usually found at the top or the sides of an interface window, they offer a quick way to access frequently used controls without having to go through a full menu system.

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a type of cable connection used to connect an external device, such as a printer, scanner, mouse, keyboard to your tablet or computer.

IP Address (Internet Protocol Address) is a number assigned to every device that connects to a network, whether it’s a home network or the internet. Every single device must have an IP address otherwise they will not be able to communicate to anything on a network.

A
Server is a high-end computer that sends out information to other computers, either through the internet or a network. Because they are commonly used to deliver services that are required constantly, most servers are never turned off. Consequently, when servers fail, they cause the network users or company many problems.

Firewall is a program or service designed to prevent unauthorised access to a computer or network over the internet.

Download means to transfer a file from the internet to your computer. For example, each time you visit a web page on the internet, you download the information on the page, including any pictures, to your computer. The term download is often associated with pictures, songs, videos and programs.

YouTube Parental Controls

Our kids are growing up as part of the internet generation and, if they are anything like mine, love watching videos online. As much as we would love to let them loose on YouTube to watch their cat videos, there is a huge amount of rubbish that kids shouldn't have access to, despite it being vetted for extremely explicit offensive content.

The good news is that YouTube has a "Safety mode" setting—its version of parental controls. It doesn’t guarantee to prevent all content of an explicit nature from reaching your children's eyes, although it is better than having nothing at all.

To enable YouTube Safety Mode in Your Web Browser
    IMPORTANT!! To prevent your child from turning safety mode off, you must log out of your Google / YouTube account by clicking your username link in the top right-hand corner of the browser window to lock the setting for the browser you are using. If you have multiple browsers, you need to open each browser and repeat this process to make sure Safety Mode is turned on in each one.

    Enable YouTube Safety Mode on Your Mobile Device
    Safety Mode may also be available on your mobile device's
    YouTube app. Check the settings area of the mobile app to see if it is an option. The process for locking the feature should be similar to the process above.

    NOTE AGAIN: YouTube warns parents that the Safety Mode feature is not 100% reliable and some offensive content could get through its filters.

    YouTube has released a free mobile app called "YouTube Kids" designed to provide a safer viewing experience for young children. Its built-in features make it harder for children to view the type of videos parents don't want them watching. It also blocks many search terms that young people might type in that parents find inappropriate.
    Other features of the app include a parental "timer" which allows parents to limit how long their children can use YouTube Kids before the app automatically turns off as well as an option that allows parents to turn off search.

    Buyer Beware

    When buying a new computer cheap does not always mean cheerful. There are some computer manufacturers who have started selling VERY cheap laptops and netbooks, which sounds fabulous if you have a small budget. However, the majority of these PCs have VERY limited specifications.
    Two thirds of the cheap PCs recently on sale at one of the big out-of-town outlets did not have enough hard drive storage to let Windows 10 update to the latest version without the purchase of additional storage items. They have 32 Giga Byte eMMC drives, often sold as little Solid State Hard Drives, which is a type of disk often favoured because of the speed increase you can get with them, but they are very much not little Solid State Hard Drives
    . These are in fact the same type of chips that you’ll find in USB or Camera SD Cards, meaning they are slow. This, in my humble opinion, makes them not fit for purpose.
    To quote Microsoft, who have mentioned this in the system specifications for Windows 10,
    “Small storage devices, like devices with 32GB hard drives or older devices with full hard drives, may need additional storage to complete the upgrade. You'll see instructions during the upgrade telling you what to do. You may need to either remove unneeded files from your device, or insert a USB flash drive to complete the upgrade.”
    Not only do these aforementioned laptops have insufficient hard drive storage, they also have, by today’s standards, a tiny amount of RAM, just 2Gb! And what’s worse is that there is no way to upgrade either the internal storage or the RAM!
    So, how much hard drive storage and memory (RAM) should you need as a minimum when buying a new computer?
    Storage or Hard Drive - this is the part of the laptop on which all of your data is stored. It is measured in Giga Bytes. Each Giga Byte (GB) represents 1000 Mega Bytes (MB). The minimum we would recommend is 128GB, on which you can store about 30,000 photos or MP3’s. If you play around with video files, you should look to 1000 GB drives, which can store about 24 hours of HD video.
    Memory (RAM) – this too is measured in Giga Bytes. RAM is a fast, temporary type of storage that Windows uses to load both itself and whatever it is you are doing at the time. So when you surf the internet you are using some RAM for Windows, a little more for the web browser, a little more for your anti-virus program, a little more for the nice picture on your desktop, etc. The rule of thumb with the current generation of laptops is 4GB of RAM is good start and more is obviously better.

    Jargon Buster Part 1

    The computer world is filled with jargon that isn’t always self-explanatory. Here’s a quick overview of some of the terms you may come across when using your computer. Be advised that we have simplified things here — it isn’t an in-depth look at any one term.

    Add-on - a software program that helps improve your experience on a website by providing multimedia or interactive content. Adobe Flash is a software add-on that allows Internet users to watch flash movies or play flash games.

    App - short for application, is any type of computer program. Applications have existed for as long as computers, but the term 'app' is now more associated with software on a smartphone or tablet.

    Bookmark – a way of saving a web page's address. Within most browsers, press Ctrl + D to bookmark the page you are viewing.

    Browser - a “door” to the internet. Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are all browsers.

    Cookies - are simple ’text files’ containing two pieces of information: a site name and unique user ID. Cookies are nothing to be scared of, they exist simply to make your interaction with frequently-visited sites more enjoyable. Without cookies, online shopping would be much harder. Cookies are nothing to be scared of, even if the prompts asking for your permission can be make you feel wary.

    Search Engine - a software program, available through the Internet, that searches documents and files for keywords then returns the results of any files containing those keywords. The most popular and well-known search engine is Google.

    URL - Uniform Resource Locator is the location of a file on the web. When you type the address of a web page into your browser, you are typing a URL. An example of a URL is http://www.diamondbyte.co.uk, which is the URL for our website. You would type this into your browser’s address bar to get to the intended website.

    CPU/Processor - Central Processing Unit of the computer. The CPU manages the instructions it receives from hardware and software running on the computer.

    RAM - Random Access Memory is a hardware device that allows information to be stored and retrieved on a computer.

    Hard Drive - a device that permanently stores and retrieves information. Your Operating System is stored on your hard drive, as well as all software programmes, such as Microsoft Word.

    Motherboard - the heart of a computer. It is a circuit board which distributes power to the CPU, RAM and all other computer hardware components and allows hardware components to communicate with one another.

    Look out for more jargon busters in future blogs or visit our website using the URL mentioned above!!

    Keyboard Shortcuts

    Keyboard shortcuts are an easy way to do things faster, however many computer users don’t use them as they find them hard to remember. So why don’t you have a go at learning the following simple shortcuts- you’ll be surprised at how much easier you’ll find using your computer!
    Let’s start with some simple shortcuts using the CTRL key:
    • CTRL+C (Copy); CTRL+X (Cut); CTRL+V (Paste)
    • CTRL+Z (Undo the last operation); CTRL+Y (Redo the last operation)
    • CTRL+P (Print); CTRL+S (Save)
    • CTRL+A (Select all text)
    • CTRL+O (Open a file)
    • CTRL+F (Find text in the current page/document)
    • CTRL+Home (Move the cursor to the beginning of the document)
    • CTRL+End (Move the cursor to the end of the document)
    Slightly less well known but just as useful are:
    • CTRL+RIGHT ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the next word)
    • CTRL+LEFT ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the previous word)
    • CTRL+DOWN ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the next paragraph)
    • CTRL+UP ARROW (Move the insertion point to the beginning of the previous paragraph)
    • CTRL+SHIFT with any of the arrow keys (Highlight a block of text)
    • ALT+TAB (Switch between open programmes)
    • ALT+F4 (Close the active item, or quit the active program)
    • ESC (Cancel the current task)
    The following shortcuts work for the majority of internet browsers:
    • CTRL+T (Open a new browser tab)
    • CTRL+W (Close current browser tab)
    • CTRL+L (Select browser address bar)
    • CTRL+D (Bookmark current website)
    • F11 Key (Full screen mode). Press F11 again to return
    There are shortcut keys within File Explorer:
    • F3 Key (Search for a file or folder within File Explorer)
    • ALT+ENTER (View the properties for the selected file or folder)
    • F4 Key (Display the Address bar list in File Explorer)
    Windows also has its own shortcut keys:
    • WIN (Display/hide the Start menu)
    • WIN+D (Display the desktop)
    • WIN+M (Minimise all open windows)
    • WIN+Shift+M (Restore the minimised windows)
    • WIN+E (Open My Computer)
    • WIN+F (Search for a file or folder within My Computer)
    • WIN+F1 (Display Windows Help)
    • WIN+ L (Lock the keyboard)
    And finally, in Windows 10:
    • WIN+any of the arrow keys (Snap current window to the left, right, top or bottom of the screen)
    • WIN+S (Search the web and Windows with Cortana keyboard function)
    • WIN+I (Open Windows settings)
    • WIN+TAB (Open the new Task View interface. Only the windows from your current virtual desktop will appear so use the virtual desktop switcher at the bottom of the screen to switch between virtual desktops)

    Master The Power Of The Mouse

    Happy New Year! Our first blog of 2016 eases us gently into the new year. No scary warnings or technical jargon! Just some helpful tips on using your computer mouse.

    SHIFT + mouse click
    To highlight all or part of the text on a website or in a document, simply click the start point of the paragraph you want to select, then hold the SHIFT key, while you click at the end point of what you want to select.

    Select with double and triple click
    Any word can be selected by double-clicking on it. To highlight an entire paragraph, click the mouse button three times on any word within that paragraph.

    Use the right-click
    If you have selected text and now wish to cut or copy and paste it elsewhere, right-click the highlighted item, cut or copy it and then right-click anywhere else to paste it. An even easier way is to drag the highlighted text while holding the right mouse button, and drop it in the chosen place by letting go of the right button.
    Bottom of Form

    Make the most of the scroll wheel
    We all know that a mouse wheel allows you to scroll up and down on a page. However, it can also do a lot more:
    • To open a web page in a new tab, click the wheel over a weblink on a web page.
    • Zoom in and out on your screen by holding down the CTRL key and scrolling up to zoom in and down to zoom out.
    • Within most Internet browsers, press the SHIFT key and scroll down to go back to the previous web page. Press SHIFT and scroll up to go forward again.

    Manage the open window with the mouse
    Double-click the top title bar of any window to maximize it or, if it is already maximized, to make it smaller.

    Customize your mouse
    In Windows 10, go to Settings, Mouse & Touchpad, then chose Additional Mouse Options. Here you can:
    • Select a pointer speed.
    • Change the size and colour of the pointer.
    • Tick the “Snap To” check box under the Pointer Options tab. This option automatically moves your mouse to the default button within a dialog box. For example, if you delete a file or close a window, a dialogue box appears asking if you are sure you want to perform the task. With the “Snap To” feature on, the cursor automatically moves to the OK button - all you have to do is click the left mouse button if you agree.

    Steps Setting Up a PC for the First Time

    It’s Christmas and you’ve decided to treat the kids/your partner/your parents/your grandparents/yourself* (*delete as appropriate) to a new PC. “Hooray” they cheer as they unwrap their surprise – “we want to use it NOW!”
    Oops. You see, unlike most electronic devices, which can be plugged in and used immediately, Windows PCs need to be properly set up. There are a few simple actions you should undertake when you first turn it on to make it safer, faster and better prepared for the future.
    Install Windows Updates
    Depending on when Windows was installed on your computer, there may be many updates, some of them large, to download. Connect the PC to the Internet, go to Settings, then System and Security > Windows Update > Check for Updates. Your system will search for updates, which you will need to download and install. Reboot your computer and do it again… and again… until the update check fails to return new entries. Be patient, it may take some time.
    Customize
    Do create a user account and password. Only forgo this step if you're 110% sure no one else will want to gain access to this PC. Ever. If the computer is to have multiple users, it really is a must.
    You may also need to set your language, time zone, and clock and calendar. We would also advise adjusting the power settings, especially if you've got a laptop that is unplugged while in use. The "high performance" pre-sets will run the battery down faster.
    Install an Anti-virus program
    As we’ve mentioned numerous times in previous blogs, keeping your PC safe from malware and viruses is crucial.
    Clean out the cr*p…
    Large PC manufacturers install software on their computers at the factory. These "extras" are referred to as bundleware, bloatware, shovelware, and perhaps the most accurate, cr*pware. Download PC Decrapifier, a FREE tool that scans your PC for known bloatware, then allows you to delete it all in one click.
    …then fill it up again!
    Of course you needed to make room for your own stuff! Although we can't decide for you what software you need, no PC is complete without at least an office suite like Libre Office, a photo-editing tool, a media manager, Web browser and e-mail. And there are free alternatives for almost any program you might need – see next!
    FREE Alternatives.
    For popular and FREE Windows applications, such as web browsers, system tools, media applications, and cloud storage programs, go to www.ninite.com. Tick the programs you want to install, click Download Installer, and Ninite will download a single .exe file onto your system. Run the downloaded Ninite installer and it will automatically download each program you selected, installing it in the background. It’s brilliant.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our customers.

    How To Keep A Good Digital Reputation

    As children get older it is inevitable that they will start using social networking sites. Within these sites they will be encouraged to share all aspects of their lives – thoughts, opinions, feelings, pictures etc. – thus creating digital traces of themselves across the internet. However, what they probably fail to realise is that the internet keeps a record of everything we do online. In other words, it creates an “online reputation”.
    It is vital for children to understand how to manage their online reputation because once information is uploaded to the internet, it can be very easily and very quickly shared around. This in turn could affect their friendships, leave them open to cyber-bullying and even affect their job prospects (many employers and university admissions teams check social media profiles when researching candidates). Yet a digital footprint is incredibly difficult to remove.
    You can help your child keep a positive presence online by ensuring they understand the long-lasting effects of their internet activities and that their online reputation is created not only by what they post about themselves but also by what others post about them.

    • Emphasise the fact that it’s almost impossible to keep things private online. Even friends or family members could pass on messages you’ve asked them not to.

    • Children should never post anything online they don’t want thousands of people, including their family, to see.

    • A computer screen may give the illusion of distance between them and the other people they are communicating with, however being online is the same as living in the real world.

    • Always ask permission before tagging a friend online and never post inappropriate pictures. Watch out for photos tagged by their friends and remove any that are offensive.

    • Stop & think before posting a comment online. They could end up hurting someone or being hurt themselves. It is easier for comments to be misunderstood when typed rather than spoken.

    • Ask your child to tell you about all their email and instant messaging accounts and what the passwords are, thus allowing you to monitor their activities. Don’t feel guilty about it - you’re only giving them a false sense of security by letting them believe that privacy exists on the Internet.

    • Ask them to “friend” you on all their apps. This may not go down well but it could be one of the conditions for you allowing them to access social networking sites.

    • When your child stops using a social networking site, deactivate or delete their account.

    Keeping Your Family Safe On-Line

    Keeping Your Family Safe On-Line

     

    The internet is a fantastic resource with its millions of websites, apps, games and online communities, and just like thousands of other parents, I want my child to learn how to use it safely and responsibly. Unfortunately, it’s nigh on impossible to watch what our children are doing every minute they’re online. The increase in use of mobile devices in particular makes it even harder to keep tabs on what they’re watching or playing when they are out of sight. So, how can we help our children to stay safe on-line?

     

    • Start discussing online safety at an early age. Explain that just like the real world, there are safe and unsafe things on the internet. Some good questions to make the point are: If you leave the house, would you leave the front door open? Would you tell a complete stranger all your deepest secrets? 
    • Talk about protecting private information and never sharing passwords with anyone, even friends. Advise them that for extra protection they should create different passwords for different sites.  
    • Try to avoid having your child use the computer or device whilst hidden away. It is best to set up a computer in a family room with the screen facing outwards.  
    • Do read website and app ratings before allowing your children to visit or download them. If you wish to see which websites your child has been visiting, look at the browser history.  
    • Let your child know that it is perfectly OK to tell you, a teacher or another adult they trust if they are not happy about something they’ve seen or been asked to do whilst online.  
    • Ask them not to download files (music, games, movies or pictures) or install software or apps without asking. Turning off in-app purchasing capabilities on all devices should help.  
    • Ensure parental control software is installed on your devices. This will restrict the sites your child can access and prevent them from sharing sensitive information, such as name, age, address, phone number etc. Should your child accidentally access an unsuitable website, delete it from the 'history' folder and add the address to the Parental Control Filter List.  
    • It is important to install internet security software on all devices and make sure it is regularly updated.
     

    For further helpful advice, we recommend the following websites:

    http://www.kidsmart.org.uk/
    http://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety

    Back Ups Part 2

    As mentioned in the last blog, this week I’d like to focus on how to back up your entire PC system. Losing the data on your computer can be devastating. At best, maybe you’ve lost your finely crafted CV; at worst, you’ve lost every photo of your children through the years. It’s terrifying to think that one day you could lose all your data, but it doesn’t have to be the case if you regularly back up your hard drive.
    File History in Windows 10 is our recommended way to create a full backup. Not only does it automatically create backup copies of your files, you can also use it to restore all your files if you ever lose them, restore a single file or go back to an old version of a file.
    Before you start, you will need to buy a good external hard drive, of which there are 2 types:
    • Portable hard drives are easy to transport and are powered by your computer’s power supply.
    • Stationary hard drives tend to stay in one location for most of the time and require an external power source.
    Once you have plugged in your hard drive, you can start your back up:
    • Open the Settings app in Windows 10, click on Update & security, then chose Backup from the menu on the left hand side.
    • You can now select the drive you want to save the backup to – your external hard drive should be listed in the drop-down menu. Click on it and voilà, File History is now backing up your data!
    • An on/off slider will now appear under a new heading called "Automatically back up my files."
    File History will back-up all the folders in your User folder, so to add other folders, click on More options under the on/off slider and scroll down to "Back up these folders." Add a folder by clicking the "+" at the top of the list. You can also specify any folders to exclude from the back up so that they don't take up too much space on your drive.
    Also within the More options section, you can adjust how often the backup is performed and how long the backups are kept for.
    For added security, we also recommend that you:
    • Back up regularly. After an initial full backup of the entire system, set up automatic backups, which store only what has been changed or added, thus saving disk space.
    • Test your recovery plan. There is nothing worse than discovering your backup doesn’t work!
    • Always complete a full back up before installing new programmes, updates or drivers.

    Back Ups Part 1

    Our home computers contain some of our most precious data, from photos to financial records to school and college work. But all it takes is a fire, theft, a virus, a drink spillage or an inexplicable hard drive failure for all this data to disappear for good. Most of us know that we should backup, but we put off doing it for various reasons. So the aim of this week’s blog is to hopefully convince you to back up at least part of your computer: the data that matters most to you, the data that cannot be replaced.

    For a quick, simple and cheap solution to back up part of your computer, we advise:

    Cloud service
    . A real benefit of cloud storage is that it creates a copy of your files in a physically separate location. You can access the files from practically any computer with an internet connection and you can also keep files in sync across multiple devices. Start by signing up with a simple file-syncing service – Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive are our favourites. Most services provide you with between 2.5GB to 10GB of free space, which is probably all you'll need if you're only backing up some files. However do bear in mind that most cloud storage services sync files in a certain folder on your computer. This means if you delete a file in that folder, it will disappear from your online storage as well.

    USB flash drives
    . This is a simple way of backing up selected files. Just pop one into your PC - there are slots on the side of your laptop or on desktops these slots can be found at the front or the back of the machine. You then use Windows Explorer to copy files from your computer to the removable drive. Tip: A simple way of doing this is to “drag and drop” the files using your mouse. Then remove your USB flash drive and keep it somewhere safe, as far away from your PC as you can!

    Just remember that these two methods back up certain files, but they're not sufficient to get your PC or laptop back up and running if your hard drive fails or your computer is damaged or stolen. Making a backup of all the files on your computer is a little more complicated and does take more time. In our next few blogs, we will focus on this process using “File History” and “Back Up and Restore” which are easy to use backup utilities built directly into Windows 10.

    Top Internet Browsing Tips

    Tabbed Browsing
    When browsing a website and you spot a link that interests you, you can open this link in a new tab so as not to interrupt your reading. Hold down the Ctrl Key and left-click on the link. Alternatively, if your mouse has a wheel, click the wheel on the link. To open a new blank tab, press Ctrl + T.
    http:// and www
    When entering an internet address, you don’t need to type http:// or even www in the URL bar.
    Move between the fields of a web page
    If you are filling out an online form or other text field, press the Tab key to move to the next field and Shift + Tab to move back a field. This also applies to buttons: Press the Tab key to highlight a button, then press the space bar or Enter to “push” the button.
    Know your Internet browser shortcuts (Internet Explorer & Firefox)
    There are dozens of shortcut keys that can be used with Internet browsers, such as:
      Use Internet search engines to their full potential
      If you can’t find what you want, try putting the text in quotes. For example, searching for 'computer help' without quotes returns results with "computer" and "help" anywhere on the page. However, if you search for "computer help" with the quotes, it only return pages with "computer" and "help" next to each other.
      Try alternative browsers
      Most computer users use the default browser that comes included with the computer. However there are other alternative browsers that are free to download and use and may have features your current browser does not include. Our favourites are Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
      Make sure your browser is up-to-date
      Keeping your Internet browser up-to-date is important for both security and ensuring that web pages load properly. Most providers should automatically download updates and prompt you when they are ready to install.
      And now for some fun ones:

        2 Factor Authentication

        While many people might not yet know the term “two-factor authentication,” there is every chance that you have come across it when you want to check your email, or perhaps your bank statement on-line. Having a password alone unfortunately isn’t as secure as it used to be and if someone gets your password, they can access your account without any fuss. Even having a strong password doesn't completely protect you. Two-factor authentication can help solve this problem.

        But what exactly is Two Factor Authentication (or 2FA)? Basically it requires not one but two pieces of privileged information before giving access to an online account. It works on the basis of “something you know and something you have”, ie when using your bank cash machine, you insert your bank card (something you have) and enter your passcode (something you know).

        2FA can be a little time-consuming as most major sites and services offering 2FA do it as an optional security feature, so you’ll need to dig around in the security settings of each account to find it. Much also depends on your willingness to ensure a higher level of security as you’ll need to prove your identity every time you log into a protected account from a new device.

        However, 2FA does make it much harder for hackers to gain control of your accounts. For example, a hacker trying to access your email account has your email address and even your password, however doesn't have the second element of the authentication process, which in most cases is a unique security code that's sent directly to your mobile phone via text messaging.

        Most major services support two-factor authentication when you attempt to log into your account from a new machine:

        Google/Gmail sends you a 6-digit code via text message. It also works with the Google Authenticator app for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry.

        Apple sends you a 4-digit code via text message or Find My iPhone notifications when you try to log in from a new machine.

        Facebook’s two-factor authentication is called "Login Approvals” and sends you a 6-digit code via text message. It also works with apps like Google Authenticator for Android, iOS and BlackBerry, as well as the "Code Generator" feature of the Facebook app.

        Dropbox sends you a 6-digit code via text message, although it also works with Google Authenticator and a few other similar authentication apps.

        Microsoft sends you a 7-digit code via text message or email. It also works with a number of authenticator apps. Windows Phone users can download Microsoft’s own authenticator app from the Windows Store.

        Yahoo! Mail sends you a 6-digit code via text message when you attempt to log in from a new machine.

        Some tips for Windows 10

        In the last blog we looked at some of the new features in Window 10, such as Cortana, Virtual Desktops and Print to PDF. So this week I’d like to give a couple of Windows 10 Tips & Tricks.
        Natural Language Searching
        Searching with Cortana, both by text and speech, has been simplified. She isn’t just for searching the internet – if you ask her to “Find pictures from August”, you’ve got your photos from August on your screen as quick as a flash. You can even ask her to open programs on your PC by saying “Open Edge”, “Open iTunes” or “Open Word” etc. She’s clever enough to recognise most programs or apps on your PC by name. She can also tell you what’s playing on the radio - just ask her “What’s playing”. You can ask her things in the normal way in which you speak, so asking “Will I need an umbrella tomorrow?” will bring up the weather for tomorrow and asking “Is it going to be sunny next week?” will give you a 5 day forecast for the following week.
        Using Right Click Button
        People seem to forget that that there is a right mouse button! This has a whole host of uses in Windows 10. For example, you can right-click on the Start Button and get a list of previously hidden shortcuts, including Control Panel, System and Device Manager. If you right-click on a program on your Task Bar, you will see a list of options appropriate to that program. So if you right-click on File Explorer, you get a list of recently opened folders.
        Wi-Fi Sense
        One new feature I’m a bit wary of is Wi-Fi Sense. Its purpose is to manage wireless connectivity for you, however it will automatically connect you to any unsecured open Wi-Fi network and any other network that the people in your People App have connected to once you are within range. This has the potential to be brilliant in a world where only nice people surf the internet for videos of cats playing piano, but sadly that’s not the world we live in. You can turn off this potentially huge security risk as follows:
        1. Open the Start Menu and launch Settings
        2. Select Network & Internet, then Wi-Fi and then the Manage Wi-Fi option.
        3. Turn off Connect to suggested open hotspot and Connect to networks shared by my contacts.


        Windows 10 brings awesome levels of awesome!!!

        unknownSince its launch a fortnight ago, I’ve been having a great time exploring all the new features of Windows 10. Here are some of those features that you may have missed.
          I’ve been using third party tools like Cute PDF for years, however with Windows 10, Print to PDF is there and works just like it should have done years ago. All you need to do is press Print, choose Microsoft Print to PDF as your printer option, give your PDF file a name and choose where to save it. Simple!
            For years you’ve been able to copy your desktop with the PrintScreen button, but now Microsoft has added Video Recording. While this is predominantly aimed at gamers, it’s also useful for making tutorials for training purposes. All you need to do is press the Windows key+G in any programme and it starts the Game Bar. Then press the big red button to record whatever you’re doing on the screen.
              If you’ve got a microphone (most laptops have these built in), click on the little microphone icon (located at the bottom of the screen, left hand side) and ask your new digital assistant almost anything. She’s pretty clever and you can ask questions like “tell me a joke”. (Most are awful by the way but she did come up with “How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?... A Fish.”). If you haven’t got a microphone, you can just type the questions.
                This is basically a very handy function allowing you to have multiple full screen desktops. For example, you can have different Edge browser windows open on different desktops. It sounds weird but give it a go - you might find a use for it. All you need to do is press the Windows key and the Tab key and you’re away.
                  Sitting next to the clock is a useful Notification Centre, allowing you to catch up with your emails or any messages your PC may have given you. Windows 8 did a similar thing but the messages just disappeared, annoying if you missed one. You can also easily get to your settings, such as Bluetooth, from here or put your PC into tablet mode.
                    All the core apps, such as Mail, Calendar and Photos, have been GREATLY improved over the Windows 8 versions. The Weather app was really good on 8 and that still has its charms, as does the News app.
                    I shall continue to tinker with Windows 10 over the next few weeks and will look into some Tips and Tricks for my next blog.

                    Don't Cross The Streams!!

                    lego-music-dude
                    Music streaming is a fantastic alternative to music download services. You can access millions of songs from your PC, mobile device or home audio system without the need for spending hours downloading tracks. This means you don’t need to carry your music collection with you and you won’t use up valuable hard drive space.

                    But with dozens of music streaming services out there, which one do you choose? Here’s our pick.

                    APPLE MUSIC launches on 30th June. It will be an app combining a song and music video library and a 24 hour live internet radio station called Beats 1. It draws from two sources - your iTunes library of downloads and ripped CDs and also from the 30 million plus songs available from the iTunes Store. Siri has also been programmed to work with Apple Music.
                    Cost:
                    Approx. £9.99/month (to be confirmed).
                    Available on: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV, Android phones.

                    SPOTIFY has 30 million tracks in the library. You'll find many major artists as well as plenty of smaller bands. You can create your own playlists as well as export and share playlists with your friends. It recently rolled out podcasts, videos, news and activity-based playlists. Spotify Running matches music to your running tempo to keep you motivated during your run.
                    Cost:
                    FREE ad-supported service (audio adverts interspersed between songs).
                    £10/month for Premium service (no ads).
                    Available on: PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Samsung SmartTV.

                    DEEZER offers 35 million tracks, Facebook integration, recommendations based on listening habits. A laptop is the best way to use Deezer, although the mobile apps are easy to navigate once you know the layout.
                    Cost:
                    FREE ad-funded service.
                    £9.99/month (no ads).
                    £14.99/month for the Elite service.
                    Available on: PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, BlackBerry.

                    TIDAL offers 25 million tracks, sharing of music as well as offline listening. It’s ideal for anyone who misses CDs and the quality they used to bring. You’ll need a decent set of headphones or expensive audio equipment to make the most of the high-fidelity sound quality.
                    Cost:
                    £9.99/month for Tidal Premium.
                    £19.99/month for Tidal Hi-Fi (take out the free trial to decide if it’s worth paying for). Available on: PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android.

                    Also worth considering are Google Play All Access and RDIO, both of which give access to over 30 million songs at a reasonable monthly cost.

                    As all of these services offer free trials, why not sign up for each one consecutively? It'll give you several months of free music, by the end of which you'll know which one is right for you. DO REMEMBER to cancel at the end of each free trial to avoid paying for the next month’s subscription.

                    Tips to Keep Your Data Secure on the Cloud

                    For those who are unfamiliar with the term “cloud storage”, it is essentially a way of saving information to the internet. Cloud providers store your files, photos etc to an on-line location, thus offering an alternative backup to conventional methods of file storage. Using cloud storage, you can not only access but also share your files from any computer anywhere in the world since all you need is an internet connection.

                    But can you be sure that the information you store on the cloud is safe? The short answer is, for the time being, no you can't. However, you can take some protective measures:

                    1. Keep Your Computer Virus-Free.
                    It is imperative that your computer is virus-free otherwise you run the risk of revealing your cloud logon details. Make sure your virus scanner and anti-malware software is up-to-date, and that you run your anti-virus scanner on a regular basis.

                    2. Read The User Guide
                    If you are not sure what cloud storage to choose or if you have any questions as to how a particular cloud service works, read the user agreement of the service you are planning to sign up for, however boring you may think it is. Be aware that your cloud service provider must also keep your data as safe and secure as they can. A good provider will be able to offer several secure backups of your files, all stored in different locations. If the service provider only has one storage location, or if they reveal the exact physical whereabouts of their servers, their security may be compromised.

                    3. Be Serious About Passwords.
                    I know you’ve heard me banging on and on about it in previous blogs, but so many people still do not take password security seriously. Did you know that 90 percent of all passwords can be cracked within seconds?

                    4. Avoid Storing Sensitive Information
                    The best way to protect any highly sensitive information is to keep it well away from the virtual world and use an alternative storage solution.

                    5. Use An Encrypted Cloud Service.
                    Some cloud services provide local encryption and decryption of your files as well as storage and backup. It means that the service takes care of both encrypting your files on your own computer and storing them safely on the cloud.

                    XP Rip

                    On 8th April 2014, Windows XP reached its “End of Life”. This meant that Microsoft stopped providing security updates or technical support for Windows XP, which instantly made the system vulnerable to a huge array of new threats. Indeed, almost immediately, scams and fake software updates began to and continue to plague XP users.
                    Just as importantly, not only did Windows XP machines start becoming less and less compatible with newer devices, most software makers have now also stopped ensuring that their product works with Windows XP. In fact, only last week Windows XP users have been reporting that after signing out of iTunes they’re no longer able to get back in. Although as yet unconfirmed by Apple, this is probably due to an upgrade in the way the iTunes App securely communicates with the iTunes Store. Furthermore, although Google extended support for Chrome on Windows XP after Microsoft stopped issuing security patches on XP, it has been announced that this support will cease at the end of 2015.
                    Users who ignore the warnings and continue to run Windows XP are playing a very risky game. Unfortunately, this irresponsibility then becomes everyone else’s risk because their systems end up hosting and distributing malware and viruses. Continuing to use Windows XP on the public internet is very much like going out in public with a virus and coughing on people.
                    So what should you do if you are still using an XP machine? The best tip I can offer is to run as far away as you can from this insecure, creaky and obsolete operating system. There are 2 basic options for switching to a more secure and less outdated operating system: 1) upgrade your existing computer or if your existing computer is too ancient to upgrade, 2) buy a new or second hand one.
                    Upgrading to a Windows 8 PC is the best option however can be a little pricey for some. In which case, buying a 2nd hand Windows 7 computer is the next best option.
                    The advantage of upgrading your operating system or buying a new one is that later this year Microsoft will offer free upgrades to Windows 10 for Windows 8.1 users and then for Windows 7 users. (Please note that the free upgrade is only available for the first year the software is available). Although no exact date has been given, Microsoft has confirmed a summer 2015 launch for Windows 10 in the UK.

                    What do all those numbers mean?

                    We are constantly asked by our customers why buying a laptop has to be so complicated. So this week I’m going to try to help out with a little guide on the 3 main things to consider for when buying a laptop.
                    Processor – (CPU)
                    This is the brains of the laptop. It does all of the calculations that make everything from a web page appear on your screen to a game play. The first thing you’ll need to consider is whether you need low battery usage, speed or both. Intel (a CPU manufacturer) makes the low battery usage chips a little easier to see by popping a letter ‘U’ on the end of the chip name. Speed on the other hand is a lot harder to tell. The easiest is to look the processors name up on an independent website, such as www.cpubenchmark.net, which lists all processors, thus making it easier to gauge which is right for you (a score of 1500 is about average).
                    Storage – Hard Drive
                    This is the part of the laptop on which all of your data is stored. It is measured in Giga Bytes. Each Giga Byte (GB) represents 1000 Mega Bytes (MB). Most people struggle to fill a 250GB Hard Drive with photos, programmes and music because the average size of a photo or MP3 is about 4MB. In plain terms that means you can store about 62,500 photos or MP3’s on a small 250Gb Hard Drive. But if you play around with video files, 250GB is no where near enough and you should look to 1000 GB drives, which can store about 24 hours of HD video.
                    Memory – RAM
                    Confusingly this is measured in Giga Bytes too. RAM is a fast, temporary type of storage that Windows uses to load both itself and whatever it is you are doing at the time. So if you are surfing the internet you are using some RAM for Windows, a little more for the web browser, a little more for your anti-virus program, a little more for the nice picture on your desktop, etc. The rule of thumb with the current generation of laptops is 4GB of RAM is good and more is better.
                    There are other things to consider, such as the size of screen or whether you want touch screen or faster graphics cards but these are more about personal choices.

                    GO WIRELESS WITHOUT BEING CARELESS

                    If you have a laptop, smartphone or tablet with wireless connectivity, you can access the Internet using Wi-Fi or wireless networks in public places such as cafés, airports and hotels.
                    Here are some tips to enjoy the convenience of public Wi-Fi whilst helping protect your privacy.

                    Turn off sharing

                    Ensure you disable sharing settings on your device before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. Tablets and Smartphones don’t share at all but laptops do, therefore when you connect to a public network, make sure you select the public profile.

                    Avoid Automatically Connecting to Wi-Fi Hotspots

                    If your device is set to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi hotspot, not only will this allow it to connect to public networks without your permission, you may also be connecting to malicious networks set up specifically to steal your information.

                    Confirm the Network Name

                    Hackers can set up fake Wi-Fi networks to attract innocent public Wi-Fi users. If you’re in a café, hotel or other public place and you’re not sure that you’re connecting to the official network, ask. Staff should know the name and password of the official network if there is one.

                    Check the network is secure

                    Wireless networks might require a password or other security key, or they might be unsecured and open to anyone with a wireless adapter close by. Make sure you connect to a secure network; Windows warns you if it’s insecure by using a yellow shield, Apple tells you it’s secure by putting a padlock on it.

                    Don’t type in credit card numbers or passwords

                    The measures mentioned above can provide some protection against identity thieves who prey on wireless networks. However, a hacker with the right tools can use the same public network to see everything you do, including the websites you visit and any passwords or information you type. It's like inviting someone to peer over your shoulder. To be truly safe, never use public networks for banking and shopping.
                    One more thing about wireless networks: if you've set one up at home, you should secure it too to avoid anyone within range of the signal accessing your personal files. No offense to your neighbours!
                    We were recently asked by a customer if we could write this column regarding security advice on connecting to public Wi-Fi. If you would like me to write about something specific in a future column, please email me at wisbech@diamondbyte.com

                    Laptop top tips

                    This week I thought I’d give some advice on keeping your laptop running spick and span.

                    Your laptop is an advanced bit of kit, worthy of special care and attention. That doesn’t mean looking after your laptop is difficult though as my top tips below should explain.


                    Dim It
                    The LCD display on a laptop sucks battery life like you wouldn’t believe. To make the battery last longer when the laptop is not plugged in, turn down the screen brightness to the lowest level your eyes can bear.

                    Windows laptops include power plans for maximizing battery life, but you can also customise your laptop’s power-management features. Setting shorter times for when the display turns off and when the laptop goes into sleep will help your battery last longer.

                    Cool It
                    Due to their small vents, laptops can easily overheat when kept in small cases and using your laptop on your lap can prevent ventilation and make matters worse. Try using a lap desk or a laptop cooling pad that doesn’t conduct heat or block the laptop's vents.

                    Back It Up
                    Lots of movement puts computer components at risk, which means that laptops suffer much more wear and tear than desktops. This increases the risk of hard drive failure, so do ensure you back up the data on your laptop to an external hard drive, USB memory stick, or the cloud on a regular basis. Portable hard drives are good for backing up data when you are out and about.

                    Bag It
                    If you often carry your laptop about with you, the most useful accessory you can buy is a laptop bag. For maximum protection, it is advisable to buy a bag with a built-in padded sleeve. If you want something less conspicuous place your laptop in a stand-alone sleeve and stow it in your backpack or briefcase.

                    Acclimatise It
                    When your laptop is moved from a cold to a warm environment (and vice versa) don't turn it on until it reaches room temperature. Sudden temperature changes can cause condensation and moisture to build up inside the laptop, which could damage the internal components.

                    Track It
                    Thousands of laptops are reported stolen every year. It is worth investing in tracking software, such as prey from www.preyproject.com, which is able to locate a registered laptop once it connects to the Web, thus increasing your chances of recovering your system.

                    Part 2 of Our Speed up your PC feature.

                    Last time we advised about deleting junk from Internet Explorer, defragging your hard drive and removing unwanted programs. Here are some more simple ways to speed up your PC:
                    • Run an Anti-Malware Program
                    We find that nowadays people get an awful lot more problems with Malware (software which is specifically designed to disrupt a computer system) than the more traditional virus issues. This is mostly down to Microsoft doing a better job of fixing exploits and making significant security improvements to Windows. If you’ve clogged up your PC with all sorts of gremlins, you should run an Anti-Malware program such as the excellent Malware Bytes Anti-Malware from www.malwarebytes.org. Just go to their website and install the free version, this should do all that you need to do for now. Once it has finished downloading the latest updates, run a full scan and follow the on-screen instructions. If it finds something, don’t panic - just follow the on-screen prompts once it has finished the scan.
                    • Install more Memory
                    When it comes to memory (RAM) your computer will always want more. This will be the hundredth time I’ve written this paragraph and it still comes out as technobabble, so please dear reader brace yourself as I’m about to spout numbers at you! For 64 Bit versions of Windows 7 and 8.1 PC’s and laptops you need to have a minimum of 4Gb of RAM. For 32 Bit versions of 7 and Vista you should be looking at having a minimum of 2Gb. For everything to run as nicely as it can, you should realistically double the minimum amount of RAM. HOWEVER, if you’ve never done anything inside a computer before, do seek some help with regards to the purchase and installation of memory as it can be fairly complicated.
                    • Install Windows 8.1
                    Windows 8 received a lot of bad press when it was first launched - some of this was fair, some was not. Microsoft got much right with Windows 8 as it is significantly faster and far more secure than Windows 7. And if you can’t get past the big chunky icons, simply install a piece of software called Classic Shell from www.classicshell.net (this makes Windows 8 look like Windows 7). Personally I stopped using Classic Shell when the Windows 8.1 update came out. But I digress. Windows 8.1 is so much faster than 7 at start-up, it beggars belief.

                    Top Tips To Speed Up Your Computer. Part One.

                    Every now and again your computer needs a little TLC. Most creaking computers are slow not because they have a slow processor but because they are full of junk files and haven’t had routine maintenance run on them. Here are some simple ways to speed things up.
                    1. Delete junk from Web Browser.
                    Temporary files are continually being created by your PC, mostly by the web browser you are using. The reason is that should you ever return to an internet page, it doesn’t have to download the pictures again. These temporary files are easy to remove - simply click on the Tools cog icon within the web browser, select Internet Options, then click on the Delete button. Just ensure you read all the options and that you are happy with your choices (the default options are normally fine).
                    2. Defrag your hard drive
                    When you keep data (pictures, music and documents are all types of data) on your PC, it is stored in little pigeon holes on your computer’s hard disk. Each time the files are accessed, they grow and shrink in size and sometimes have to be broken apart and thus end up fragmented around the hard disk. When this happens (and it always happens), your computer has to spend more time putting all the pieces of the file back together when you next need it. To defrag within Windows 7, go to the defrag tool located in Start Menu\Accessories\System Tools\Disk Defragmenter. Within Windows 8.1 type Defrag. This will bring you to the tool and all you then do is “Analyse Disk” and it will tell you if it needs to be done or not.
                    3. Remove unwanted programs
                    If you’re one for installing hundreds of different programs on your PC before finding the right one, that’s fine, but if you don’t use it, uninstall it. Some programs will often have a launcher program waiting in your dock to fire up just in case you decide to play a file. These programs take up valuable memory and processing time and can be a major cause of slow PC’s. Go to Add/ Remove programs in the control panel and get rid of the ones you don’t use anymore (IMPORTANT: make sure you installed it and it wasn’t installed by the PC manufacturer as this could cause lots of problems. If you are not sure, leave it alone).
                    There will be more speedy tips in a fortnight.

                    5 Reasons why PC Gaming is better than consoles.

                    I’ve been playing video games since my parents bought me a computer in the early 1980’s and I’ve had almost every console that Sony, Nintendo or anyone else has ever made. However for me, nothing beats gaming on a PC. Here are some of my reasons why:
                    • Cost
                    A half-way decent PC that’s comparable in quality to the latest consoles will set you back about £500. OK, so that’s about £150 more than the latest PlayStation but hear me out. Most PC games are about £20 - £30 cheaper to buy on release than PlayStation or Xbox games. You can also get big savings throughout the year in sales from Steam, EA or G2A. In addition, the online site “humble bundle” regularly offers great deals on PC games. There’s also a myriad of free-to-play games, from first person shooters such as Team Fortress 2, Flight Simulators like War Thunder and the biggest ones such as League of Legends.
                    • Backward Compatibility
                    PCs are completely backwards compatible with older games, and with sites like GOG you can always have another crack at an old game, something that the latest generation of consoles from Sony & Microsoft can’t offer.
                    • Upgradability
                    PCs are infinitely upgradable meaning that games can look amazing graphically. The latest generation of consoles struggles with displaying a full HD picture in lots of games, something PC’s have been doing for years. A relatively standard desktop from the Windows 7 era can play most games with the addition of a graphics card for about £100.
                    • Social Gaming
                    Compared to console sales, there are 27 million daily players of League of Legends and about 7.5 million playing at any given moment, and best of all, it’s free to play! Another big boy in PC gaming is World of Warcraft, which has been running for 10 years now and boasts 10.3 million subscribers.
                    • The Oculus Rift
                    The next big thing in video gaming is coming next year - the Oculus Rift. This is a totally immersive virtual reality headset with full high-definition graphics and 3D head tracking. If you ever wanted to escape into a fantasy world, this will be the way to do it. It’s coming to PC and Mac next year (not consoles funnily enough).
                    Oh, and one more thing? You can do your homework on them!

                    Top internet shopping security tips

                    As the festive season is fast approaching and many of you will be buying Christmas gifts on-line, I’d like to give you some tips on trying to keep safe when internet shopping.
                    • If you don’t know the website, stay clear. This may sound a little obvious, but if you don’t know who the retailer is, are you sure you can trust them? Make sure you’ve either heard of them or that they’ve been recommended to you as safe. Don’t trust website reviews from people you don’t know but in the event that a particular online retailer is the only place to get what you want, make sure you check that you’ve got plenty of contact details such as a name, phone number and postal address.
                    • Returns Policy. Make sure the retailer you buy from has got one and that you know what it is.
                    • Make sure the retailer has a secure website. When you are at the checkout and before you type in your credit card details, do check the security of the website. There are 2 ways of doing this: firstly look for a padlock in the web browser’s address bar; secondly check that the address in the address bar starts with https:// (the ‘s’ stands for secure).
                    • Use a credit card. Avoid using a debit card online as you will have significantly less protection than using a credit card. In addition, some credit cards will give you free extended warranties.
                    • Split your email addresses. You’ve quite possibly got 2 email addresses already, one for work and one for home. You should consider at least 2 email addresses for home use, one for all the social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and another for shopping and banking. That way if your social media address gets hacked, it won’t be as much of a security issue as the shopping/banking one. We’ve always recommended free email addresses which are available from Microsoft but Google, Yahoo and Apple offer similar services.
                    • Set a serious password. Coming up with a good password that is easy to remember and yet strong can be quite hard. The best passwords are made up of phrases, upper and lower case characters and punctuation. So for example “iloveShopping4shoes!” or “iwantaCheesesandwich4lunch!” would work really well (although obviously not now as I’ve just told 10,000 readers!).