Powerline Adapters example from manufacturer Trendnet.com.

Powerline Adapters example from manufacturer Trendnet.com.

Wireless technology has improved dramatically in the last few years. Laptops have pretty much always come with wireless adapters, but now many desktops come with a wireless capability as well. Initial wireless technology wouldn’t provide the performance needed for a desktop computer but that isn’t the case anymore. For gaming, streaming and other bandwidth intensive tasks, however, a wired connection is more desireable. With smart TV’s and internet ready Blu-ray/DVD players, a wired connection will provide significantly better performance, especially for streaming in high-definition. There is one problem people often experience. They do not have a wired ethernet port available in the room where they now desire a wired connection because unless their home has been specifically wired for it, the only ethernet ports available are in the room where the router is. For this problem, a powerline network adapter might be the solution.

Powerline adapters allow your network signal to travel through the electrical lines in your home. See the video below from TP-Link a manufacturer of powerline adapters.

Most powerline adapter kits come with 2 adapters and 2 ethernet cables. Add-on components are available from most manufacturers if you would like to add more connections. The one unknown when considering powerline adapters is whether the connection will work in your home. Your home’s unique circuitry layout and circuit breakers can affect the ability for the adapters to make a connection. For this reason, always make sure you are able to return the product for a full refund if it doesn’t work. Most of the time it does, so don’t let that discourage you. Additionally, the age of the home can be a factor because you must have 3-pronged outlets.

Powerline adapter technology has grown and improved significantly in the last few years. To get the best performance make sure you choose a powerline adapter that has gigabit ethernet ports. Here are some highly-rated options from different manufacturers. These options are for the kits referenced above. The kits come with easy-to-follow instructions to make setup quick and easy even for novice users.

ZyXEL PLA5215 Amazon     Newegg

TRENDnet TPL-408E2K:  Amazon     Newegg

TP-LINK TL-PA6010:  Amazon     Neweg

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Office 2013 Quick Start Guides

If you are familiar with Microsoft office products but need a little help adjusting to the 2013 versions, Microsoft has produced these free Quick Start Guides to help you make the transition (or see if you might want to).  There is a separate guide for the following products: Word, Excel, Publisher, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint, Visio, One Note, and Project.  Each is a multi-page .pdf file that you can download and save for future reference.

Office 2013 Quick Start Guides

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Stay Safe, Keep Browser Add-ins Up-To-Date

In the article, Java Is The Biggest Vulnerability for US Computers at CSOOnline.com, Maria Korolov shares how the threat isn’t necessarily due to the browser add-in application itself, but that users are not keeping add-ins like Java up-to-date.  Browser add-ins like Java, Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader are necessary for many of the functions users want when using the internet.  These applications can make users vulnerable to cyber threats in a couple of ways.  First, if the application itself has a security flaw that criminals can use to gain access to their computer.  The second threat isn’t directly from the application itself but from fake update prompts that lead the user to malware infection.

In order to protect yourself you need to keep these and other similar applications up-to-date.  But, you should be cautious when clicking on a pop-up that claims to be an update.  The best way to avoid a fake update is by going directly to the application’s website.  Searching for the product using Google (or another search engine) can still lead you in the wrong direction if you do not read the link web address carefully.  I just did a search for “Java update” and at the top of the search were two ads: one was linked to dwnload.org where I could download Java but by doing so I would have been susceptible to allowing other programs to be installed as well, one of which was Conduit, a known malware I have had to remove for users many times.  There is a disclaimer on the page: “The download manager might recommend you to install the InternetHelper Toolbar (powered by Conduit/Bing). You can decline to install it.”  But why download it on that site and run the risk failing to decline malware.  The second choice was downloadzone.org which offered an old version of Java and an “additional software” disclaimer that was at the bottom of the page in fine print.  Find out more about  PUP’s (Potentially Unwanted Programs) in a blog post from Emsisoft called Top 10 Ways PUPs Sneak Onto Your Computer. And How To Avoid Them.

To help you avoid these kinds of scams the links below will take you to legitimate websites for these add-in products.  To save time for future updates, add them to your bookmarks/favorites list (How to: in Chrome  or Internet Explorer) or add a shortcut to your desktop.  Doing so will make updating a lot easier which will help you stay safer and up-to-date because you will be more likely to do it more often.  Remember the companies that offer these add-ins for free will often package other software or toolbars with their products in exchange for advertising revenue.  While these items are not considered malware, many users do not want them so read carefully and uncheck the box if you do not want the tool bar or other product they are offering.

Java Update link
Adobe Reader Update link
Adobe Flash Player Update link

 

 

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A great resource for Apple ID information from @erikeckel at @TechRepublic.  Your Apple ID controls much more than your iTunes account.

Get the answers concerning common questions about Apple IDs – TechRepublic.

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Tips for Safe Holiday Online Shopping

Be safe from scams, fraud and malware by following these tips from @BusinessWire and Dell SecureWorks @dellsecureworks  for safe internet browsing or shopping on Cyber Monday or any day of the year.

Tips for Safe Holiday Online Shopping from Dell SecureWorks | Business Wire.

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Kim Komando gives a breakdown of the various scams out there:

If you have money, valuables or even just good credit, you can bet that lots of crooks would love nothing more than to steal it right out of your hands. Thieves and scammers have been around since the beginning of time, but these days, their tools are more sophisticated than ever. The scammers literally have hundreds of ways to trick you online and offline, but there are three scams that scammers love the most.

via 3 scams that can fool anybody | One Page | Komando.com.

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Think twice before buying those shiny — yet extremely cheap — Ray Ban glasses advertised on Facebook. There’s a good chance they’re fake.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study by two cybersecurity researchers who studied more than a thousand Facebook ads and found that almost a quarter of them are for counterfeit items such as Ray Bay sunglasses, Louis Vuitton bags, and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

Read more… 24% of Facebook ads are for counterfeit goods, study finds.

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There are times when a malware infection needs extensive work to remove it. Then there are other times when the fix can be pretty easy and a user can save themselves the hassle and money of taking their computer to The Computer Monkey or another technician for removal. As of now an infection of the ICE Cyber Crime Center ransomware is one of those times. A very intimidating screen comes up trying to scare you into thinking you are suspected of some sort of cyber crime and need to pay a fine to “unlock” your computer and avoid prosecution — and it claims you only have 48 hours to do it before the prosecution begins.  Here is a detailed article from Malwaretips.com demostrating 3 different ways to remove this infection.  It is from a June 2013 post, but a friend of mine had a computer with it yesterday, so it is obviously still out there.

The ICE Cyber Crime Center removal guide from Malwaretips.com

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In the article “4 Questions to Ask Before You Give a New App Access to Your Data“, Rob Pegoraro reminds readers how easy it can be to turn over personal information about you or your friends if you are not careful.   The questions are not really tech-related, but logical questions when you consider these app developers are in business to make a profit and they make that profit from us buying and using their apps.

My rule of thumb when answering an app’s privacy-related questions is to say no and set things up as tight as possible unless I am unable to use a feature that I want to use.  At that point, you have to consider the information that must be given up, how it may be used and whether you are willing to give it up for that feature.  Just remember, you cannot “unring” a bell.  If you allow an app to have access to your contacts it will probably access them immediately and use the information before you have a chance to disallow.  It is better to start off with very tight controls that you can loosen if you choose to later.  As long as the app doesn’t force you to allow something in order to use the app, you can go into the apps privacy settings area  of the device later and loosen the control.  These settings may be in the app itself or under settings on the device.  Since we are on the topic of privacy, location services is certainly another area to be considered.  Here is an apple knowledge base article that explains how locations services works and shows how to make changes to the settings.

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Parents Need to Know: App Watch

The following is a list of apps that parents might not want their kids using.  Information links are included so they can read about them and decided for themselves.  Click on the app name below to read more information about it.  Most of these links are from Thirdparent.com.

Some of these apps are worse than others.  Just because the app is on the list doesn’t necessarily mean that kids shouldn’t use it. It could be that there are simply features that parents need to be aware of so that they can modify settings or consider if it is age- appropriate.   Ultimately, it is up to the parent but parents need to know.                                                                   

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