Tech Tip: Choosing the right computer solution for you

#TechTip Find the tech solution that works for you. A Chromebook isn’t for everyone but for those always online it’s a great option.

There are now many more options out there for you instead of the traditional computers from the past.  Desktops and Laptops used to be the only real choice in your computer, but now you can choose between desktop, Laptop, Tablet, or Chromebook.  In addition there is also Smartphones and media centres and gaming platforms which do much of the work of computers for you as well.

How do you choose what is right for you?

Lets take a quick look at where each computer could be useful to help you make an informed decision:

Desktop: Yes, you have heard many times about the end of the desktop, but they are not dead yet.  Why would you want a desktop?  There are a few reasons.  First is how customizable desktops are.  You can purchase a decent desktop and add whatever additions you want, or you can build from scratch everything from the processor to hard drive to graphics processors.  If you wanted multiple media drives, DVD Burners, Blu-Ray players, additional hard drives, you can install them all in a desktop.  If you had software that you needed to run all the time, a desktop or server can be left on all the time and provide significant cooling to keep it running properly.  Yes they are fixed in a location,  but if you work in one spot all the time then there isn’t much of a difference.

Laptops:  Still popular are laptops.  Between Laptops, Ultrabooks and Netbooks, a portable computer with all the power of a desktop still is the go to computer for getting work done.  While not as customizable as desktops, the ability to do all your work everywhere and anywhere you want is still appealing.  Businesses have not had time to adjust to the shift to tablet computers, so for business, laptops are still pretty much required in order to get a lot of work done.

Tablets:  Becoming more popular over the last few years, Tablets have the ability to be more portable than a laptop and provide many of the features that a laptop would require.  Originally its acceptance was for entertainment and personal use as the iPad made it popular for watching shows and playing games on a bigger screen than could be seen on a smaller iPhone.   Businesses have started the shift to tablets, but as mentioned, many businesses are not there yet, and some software still works better on a laptop.  The trend from both personal and business is to shift to screens of all sizes either through responsive web design or apps for specific platforms.  The future is most definitely in the Tablet world.

Chromebook: The Chromebook, which is based on Google’s Chrome Operating system is a shift from the traditional laptop.  While it maintains the look and feel of a laptop, there is very little in the way of storage on the device.  Instead, the system boots up quickly and uses Google’s interface to access everything.  Essentially it needs to be connected to the Internet at all times to really work.  While not for everyone, it definitely serves a market of those needing to stay connected online with a device that has a fast boot up and automatic virus protection.  Its cost is also a huge draw as it is usually cheaper than most laptops.  Using Google’s array of services, you can do everything including email, web browsing, file management and document management all through Google’s core group of web apps.  It’s definitely worth a look if you want an inexpensive system and use Google’s products.

There is a growing list of Smartphones and media centres that can also manage some of the tasks normally associated with a computer.  For example, Smart TV’s have become common instead of the exception in new TV purchases.  For those that have  a Netflix subscription, or enjoy browsing YouTube for content, a Smart TV could be a great add in.  similar, Google’s Chromecast can add computing power to a TV, as well as most new gaming systems, including the XBOX One and PS4.

There is also the growing field of wearable technology, but that is in itself a whole other blog posting.  When you make a choice in the new year about a new computer, look at your lifestyle, your needs and wants, as well as budget requirements.  May your 2014 be wonderful as well as connected!

 

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Tech Tip: Use a Password manager to keep track of all those different logins

#TechTip Use a password manager to record all logins and have 1 master password to access it.

As we continue on with our theme this week of password safety, Lets talk about how to keep track of all those passwords.

Previously, we discussed about how many passwords you need.  As stated, its strongly suggested you have a different password for each online portal you access.  The reason of course being if one of your passwords is compromised, it won’t affect all of your online platforms.  Changing one password isn’t too bad;  changing 50 or 100 would be torture!

So with so many logins and passwords, how do you keep track of them all?

I strongly recommend getting some password management software.  Yes you could always go for the good ol’ notebook with everything written down, but what happens if you lose that book?  You can also keep track of them in a document or spreadsheet file.  They would be backed up, but not necessarily secure.  Unless the file is encrypted or password protected, then it is vulnerable to prying eyes.  Even if you do have an electronic document that is encrypted, searching through many logins could be arduous to find that one login you need.

There are a number of great programs available to help you manage your passwords. Lets take a quick look at some of them.

KeePass

KeePass screenshot

KeePass screenshot

Personally I am a fan of KeePass Password safe.  It is a program that requires a password to open it up and houses a database of all the logins, passwords and site URLs for the web portals you visit.  It stores lots of information, and allows you to generate a random password based on the criteria you ask of it.  So if you are having trouble thinking up random gibberish for your passwords, let this program take care of it for you.

You can sort your password into categories, such as for home, work passwords or online stores to help keep things organized.  If you have lots of passwords, there is also a search feature which will let you find your login credentials easily.

This is also one of the few programs that works on most platforms available.  It is free and Open Source, and there are versions that work on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone/iPad, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, as well as a portable version designed for USB drives.  They may have slightly different names for the different versions because each version is created a little differently to work with the Operating System it is designed for, and some are compatible with slightly different versions of the database, so do a little research with this one depending on what platform you have.

LastPass

Another popular program for managing your passwords is LastPass.  There is both a free version as well as a premium version which includes a mobile component.

Where KeePass is solely a single database of your passwords, LastPass also integrates with an online portion that manages and syncs up your passwords.  The database may be synced online, but the password key to unlocking it is always stored locally so there is little to no risk of having it hacked online in the cloud. It shares similar traits to KeePass, but can also track the sites you visit so it can auto populate logins and passwords where needed.

LastPass has gone to great lengths to have it work on as many browsers and operating systems as possible so you can be comfortable using it on multiples devices, even if they are different technology.  The premium cost is around $1/month

 

Ironkey

We will go into more depth on the Ironkey in a future blog post.  For those that know I am a fan of the Ironkey for its security, but it too also has a password manager built into it.  Like LastPass it can detect what site you are visiting and auto populate the login and password info you need.  It also has a virtual keyboard that can pop up so you can enter passwords using your mouse, thus preventing any key logger malware from detecting your passwords.  The Ironkey solution will be talked about more soon, so stay tuned for that.

Now you know a little more about how to keep your logins secure, and keep your passwords safe.  While it may take a while to go through and adjust all your passwords and log the entries into your password database, doing it once and only once is a savings than having to worry about doing it everytime you one and only password for everything is compromised.

Check out our blog again soon for more tips on security online and password protection.