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By Dan Lhotka

Hard Disk Drives vs Solid State Drives

  This month, I am going to highlight hard drive technologies.  Namely, Solid State Hard Drives.  Hard disk drives have been used in the computer world since the inception of the personal computer, and in that time, their method of operation has been pretty much the same.  Incased in each hard disk drive is a magnetic disk.  A mechanical arm with a magnet on the end of it moves to different sections of the disk, and changes the polarity of parts of the disk.  This is how data is stored on a hard disk drive.  This is also why hard disk drives eventually fail.  The motor that controls the arm could go bad, the motor that spins the disks could go bad, in addition to random electromagnetic spikes that corrupt sectors on the drive.  Over the years, the speed of the disks has been upgraded, the number of disks has increased, and the size of the “magnetic spots” has gotten smaller, making newer hard drives faster and hold more data.  Yet at the heart of it, the basic operation has not changed.

Enter Solid State Drives.  Solid State Drives use flash memory, similar to what you would use in a camera in order to store data.  The benefit of this is that you have no moving parts like you would in a hard disk drive.  That translates to better power consumption, much faster speed, and better resistance to physical shock. 

However, there are disadvantages as well.  First of all is price.  SSDs are expensive, and you don’t get that much storage with them.  A 300GB SSD costs about $250, while you can get 1500 GB HDD for about $100.  More importantly is the longevity question.  Since the SSD is made of flash memory, it has the same limitations as flash memory.  That is that there are only so many “writes” that each sector of memory will support before the sector is no longer good.  SSD companies compensate for this by creating “extra” space in the memory chips specifically for bad blocks, but eventually even that extra space gets used up.   What this translates to is an estimated life space of 5 years for a SSD.  Whereas regular HDDs have been known to last longer easily.

My recommendation?  Have your cake and eat it, too.   Have both a SSD and a HDD on your computer.  Install your operating system and programs on the SSD.  Store data such as files and email on the HDD.  The SSD should ensure that the computer runs quickly, while having data on the HDD ensures that it will last a long time. 

Once again, if you have suggestions on topics for me to talk about for next month’s IT newsletter, please send an email message to newsletter@v2systems.com.

By Dan Lhotka

Internet Safety, Continued

Last month, I talked about malware and how it infects computers.  I also offered suggestions on how to help prevent computers from getting infected in the first place.  One of the things I mentioned was reducing your online presence. 

                By reducing your online presence, I meant be very careful about your online identity.  Give out your personal email address only to people you know and trust.  Get a “junk” email address.  Gmail is free, as is Yahoo.  When going to websites that ask you to create an account or enter in your email address, first I try to give them a fake email address.  I usually use something like asdf@asdf.com.  However, many websites fight against that by sending account activation emails.  You have to respond to an email they send in order to create an account on their website.  In those cases, I give them my junk email account.  Then, I can activate the account and not worry about whether they send spam. 

When creating accounts for access on websites, also watch out when filling in those forms.  Some have a checkmark next to “Please spam me with promotions all the time!”.  Uncheck those.

The bottom line is that when a website asks for your email address, think to yourself “Do I trust them not to spam me or sell my email address to another company”.  If the answer is no, then give them the spam email address.

Another major source of malware and viruses is from peer to peer file sharing services.  Places and software such as BearShare, Limewire, Bittorrent, eDonkey, Gnutella, Shareaza, Kazaa, and others are rife with malware and viruses.   Even Newsgroups (which have been around since the Internet began) have more viruses and malware than real files.  The only safe way to get music, movies, and software is to do the right and legal thing and buy it.  And when I mean buy, get it from a reputable site.  Places like Rhapsody, Pandora, Hulu, Netflix, and so on.

Basically, if you are getting it for free, there is a high possibility that what you get is not what you want.

 

I have created a newsletter at v2systems.com address.  Please feel free to send suggestions on things you would like for me to talk about.  I will make an effort to address anything that comes in, and also be discreet about it.  Otherwise, I will keep blathering on about things that I think are important.

 

By Dan Lhotka

How did I get infected and how do I prevent infections?

One of the things we deal with most often is malware infections.  When I say malware, I am talking about viruses, spyware, adware, etc.  All the things that get into your computer and make it run slow and cause problems.  Malware gets on to your computer through three different methods.

  1. Web browsing – this can be going to a bad site (either through searching, or mistype) or, downloading and installing bad software (either directly, or as part of something else).
  2. Email – this can come from opening a message from someone you don’t know, or opening an message that looks like it is coming from a friend when in actuality, it is spam.
  3. USB – With floppy disks dead, USB keychains have become a popular way to move files from one computer to another.  However, they still have the same security as floppies – which is to say, none.  Plug a USB keychain into an infected computer, then plug it into a good computer, and it spreads infection.

Considering that virus protection companies are in a constant state of catchup with virus makers, it is impossible to totally prevent your computer from ever getting infected.  However, there are methods that can be used to help prevent your computer from being infected.

  1. Make sure Java, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Acrobat are all up to date.  Most of the web infections that happen now a days use security holes in older versions of this software.
  2. Don’t use browsers other than Internet Explorer.  Chrome, Firefox, and the others have been proven to be less secure than Internet Explorer.  I know they are faster than IE, but it’s not worth the risk.
  3. Have antivirus on the computer.  We recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, or Symantec Endpoint.cloud. Microsoft Security Essentials is pretty good, and is free.  Symantec Endpoint.cloud is much better at preventing infections, but it only available for businesses, and does not run well on older machines (PCS older than 4 years old).
  4. When downloading new software, pay attention.  Many “free applications” also come with other junk.  You need to uncheck the extraneous stuff.  Java and Adobe Acrobat both do this.  If at any point it doesn’t let you uncheck the extra stuff, then cancel the install.  No software is worth getting spyware on your computer.
  5. Delete Email messages from people you don’t know.  If a friend sends you an email with an attachment, don’t open the attachment unless you are positive they actually sent it.  I usually call my friends to double check, but most of the time, looking at the message, it is easy to tell what is spam and what isn’t.
  6. Reduce your online presence.  Have two email accounts.  One that you don’t care if it gets spammed, and one that is personal for you and friends or acquaintances.  Your personal one, you give out to no one, and never use it online.  The junk account you give out, but grudgingly.

There are many other methods that help prevent infections, these are just a couple.  Next month, I will try to expand upon what is here.

By Dan Lhotka

An Introduction

 

I do what I do to help people.  I enjoy using my knowledge and ability to help other people with their computers.  It is the fundamental reason why I work in the career I do.  However, I am always frustrated by my inability to help everyone, or provide basic knowledge to help people use their computer better.  I have always entertained ideas of creating something like a newsletter to help educate people, so they have less problems working with computers, and can do basic things to help rectify problems.  Unfortunately, I never have really had the time nor forum in which to put this computer advice.  Until now.

As part of an effort to help promote V2 Systems and develop a better web presence, I will be posting information to our website that will help users with their computers.  Eventually, I will have an email address where you can send questions to that I will address in the newsletter.  I would like this newsletter to be a monthly kind of thing, but we will see how it goes.  With that said, here we go!

-Dan

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