Take the Lag Out of Your Load (Apple Remix)

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Last week, Stephanie posted about speeding up the start up time on Windows computers, so I thought I would do the same for my fellow Apple fans. When turning on a computer, some applications will attempt to open on start up or log-in. These applications can be a major part of why it takes so long for your computer to start. If you're getting frustrated with how slow your computer is when starting it or logging in, here are some tips to speed it up by removing these applications.

Step 1: Remove Unwanted Start up Items

Besides log-in items which run when every time you log-in to your Mac, there are system wide start up applications and daemons which run when the system boots (before you actually log-in). These items can be found in the folder /Macintosh HD/Library/StartupItems/.

This folder is usually hidden, so the best way to view it is to use SHIFT + COMMAND + G from Finder and just type in /Macintosh HD/Library/StartupItems/. Move any of the items which you feel are unnecessary or might be causing problems out of this folder, reboot and check to see whether the start up time has improved. Remember not to delete them in case you need to copy them back later on and, are absolutely sure they are not critical applications.

Step 2: Remove Unwanted Log-in Items

One of the simplest ways to get to your desktop more quickly is to remove applications and processes which automatically start when you log-in. While removing these items may not decrease the actual start up time, you’ll see your desktop more quickly once you've logged in as normal.

It’s worth creating a copy of the log-in items preferences file first, which is at ~/Library/Preference/loginwindow.plist. The reason is that if you subsequently want to re-add any of the items, simply copy the original loginwindow.plist file back into its original folder.

To prevent log-in items from running, follow the steps below.

  1. Open System Preferences and select Users & Groups
  2. Click on your user name in the left hand window pane and the Login Items button on the right hand side
  3. Remove any items (such as iTunesHelper, Spotify, Skype, etc.) from the list using the - button to prevent them from running
If you have lots of applications in the list, removing them from the Log-in Items list should speed up your Mac considerably.

You can also prevent any application in the Dock from running at login as follows.

  1. Right-click on the application icon in the Dock
  2. Expand the Options menu and uncheck Open at Login

Good luck, and speed be with you. 

Say Goodbye to Pesky Ads

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I felt obligated to get this blog post out there before you all start resorting to these type actions in response to all those annoying ads. They never fail to crawl their way onto our favorite sites. The good thing is that it is quite simple to fix most ad-ware problems and the method I discuss in the blog should fix 90% of all ad-ware troubles.

One reason that ads are often an easy fix is that ad-ware programs are very easy to spot in your programs list. If you go to your 'Control Panel' and click on 'Uninstall a Program' a window will pop up with all of the downloaded programs on your computer. Most of the low level ad-ware programs will have very bad grammatical errors, like no spaces and random capital letters, in the program names. Here are some examples:
     salescheakker
     sAlesmagneT
     PrincecouPon
If you encounter any of these programs in your list, it is a safe bet to just remove them by clicking on them and then click 'Uninstall.' There are some ad-ware programs that aren't as easy to identify at a glance but you can spot them by looking for key words. Key words that should catch your interest are words like 'shopper', 'buy', 'price', 'coupon', 'sales'. Here are a few examples of those type of ad-ware programs.
     buy and browse
     Shopping Helper
     Price downloader
With these programs you can always double check the sincerity of the programs by going to  http://www.shouldiremoveit.com/ and most likely there will be someone out there searching about the same program.

Unfortunately with ad-ware you cannot stop at just uninstalling the program from your computer. When ad-ware is downloaded onto your computer it will often make itself part of your browser by becoming an extension and changing your browser start up settings and your search engines. These problems are very easy to fix and below I show you how to do it on Google Chrome as an example.
   






I hope this blog was helpful and that it can resolve some of the ad-ware issues that you are having. If there are still problems remember that you can bring your computer up to the help desk and we can get you all set up!

Take the Lag Out of Your Load

Posted Posted by Stephanie Grzenia in Comments 0 comments





Do you find yourself waiting for what seems like an eternity for your computer to start up? Maybe you’re even able to complete puzzles, read whole books, or conquer countries in the time it takes to get everything loaded. As fun as those activities may be, wouldn't it be nicer to just have a computer that loads in a timely fashion? A slow start-up can be caused by several things: full hard drives, viruses, hardware problems, or the like. One of the main causes however is lots of items on start up. Do you notice when your computer first loads that you get a lot of pop-ups from spotify, skype, messenger, the weather app, etc...? All of these can be slowing your computer down. Pulling up these applications on startup, especially large files, can take a lot of processing power from your computer. Below are some easy steps you can follow to clean up your start up list and thereby make your computer faster.

Step 1: Open up “msconfig”

Msconfig deals with various start up settings and boot options as well as some device drivers and windows services. If you’re using windows 7 you’re going to get to it by clicking on the windows symbol at the bottom left hand corner of your screen and typing “msconfig” into the search bar. That should bring up a listing titled "msconfig.exe", click on it to open it up. 



If you’re using windows 8 you’re going to go to your tile screen (you can get to it by clicking on the bottom left hand corner of your screen) and typing “msconfig”, that’ll bring up a page that looks like the image below. From there you can click on the "msconfig.exe" icon.



Step 2: Go to the start-up tab.
Opening msconfig will bring you to the general settings tab. We want to switch to the startup applications and for that we’re going to go to the tab labeled “Startup”.



Step 3: Remove those pesky applications

From here we can start our cleaning. Uncheck the boxes for things you won’t need pre loaded like Itunes, Spotify, Skype, Google taskbar, etc… 

**Warning: some programs are needed on startup in order for your computer to function properly. When removing programs from here only remove those you are 100% sure are not needed! Removing some programs may cause your computer to get stuck while it's loading or even kill your computer completely. If you are unsure about a program it is always best to google it first.**



By taking these applications off start-up you’re not removing them completely from your computer, they will still load when you open them from your desk top, it just doesn’t have them running when you first start your computer. You may notice some apps that don’t necessarily pop-up when you start your computer but they are still listed as being loaded when you first log on, for example Itunes. Turning them off can speed up your startup and your overall computer speed because they may be running in the background and taking up processing power the whole time your computer is on.

Once you have deselected the unimportant start up applications, click apply and then okay. That will close the window and a new one will pop up saying you need to restart your computer for these changes to take effect. You can restart now or wait til later, either way you should notice a change in the number of pop-ups and speed of your computer during your next startup.

Happy Computing! 

Windows 10

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As of January 21, Windows 10 is official people. Microsoft revealed a wealth of new business and consumer friendly features, as well as improvements to the operating system. Windows 10 is poised to do to Windows 8.1 what Windows 7 did to Windows Vista. In addition, Microsoft is reaching for a cohesive experience across all Windows 10 devices including PCs, Tablets, and even the Xbox One.

Putting the Windows 7 into Windows 10



Windows 10 will receive enhanced functionality for its Start Menu, bringing in UI cues from Windows 7 (thank you Microsoft). The Action Center (Windows 10’s notification center) is receiving improved functionality, such as Windows Phone 8.1-esque quick action buttons that let you activate features (such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) with a single click. Notifications in the Action Center will be able to be expanded.

"Cortana, Make things easier."



As anticipated, Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant will make the jump from Windows Phone to Windows 10, assuming control of many of the operating system’s search features. Cortana, which will get her own place next to the Start button in the desktop taskbar, can perform many of the same basic tricks she does in Windows Phone. Cortana can be interacted with via text or natural voice queries, just like on mobile devices.

Still based off Microsoft’s cloud-based Bing brains, Cortana can answer basic queries like “Will I need a coat tomorrow?” or how much it costs to attend the University of Washington, as Belfiore showed in live demonstrations. But Cortana’s also been tweaked for more useful PC-like interactions. She can scour your local machine, OneDrive account, and even your business network to find files based on natural language queries. Belfiore showed off the capabilities by asking Cortana to “Find PowerPoint slides about the charity auction” and “Show me photos from December.” The digital assistant surfaced the desired information nearly instantly.

That sounds pretty handy, and there are more playful commands, too: Telling Cortana to “Play my music” launches the music app, while asking her to “Please be quiet” silences the music. Nice!

Continuous, Cohesive Windows

Windows 10 for phones will basically act like an extension of your PC, featuring universal Windows apps that share the same central heart and design as their PC counterparts, as well as newly universal notifications that synchronize across Windows 10 devices.

Since many of Microsoft’s apps—including Outlook—have their heads in the cloud, changes you make to a universal app on one device will be immediately reflected on other devices, as Belfiore demoed by actively editing Calendar app entries simultaneously on a PC and a phone.

Microsoft’s bringing the same cloud-centric, universal app experiences to its core Windows apps as well, all powered by OneDrive on the backend. The Photos app will create albums from all your devices, intelligently removing duplicates and burst photos. A revamped universal People app will collate your contacts, while the Music app is also receiving a universal overhaul. As rumored, Microsoft will add support for you to put your music collection in OneDrive within the next month or two, so you can listen to your tunes anywhere. Maps will also be receiving Cortana integration, and she'll be able to remember where you parked your car.

THIS. IS. SPARTAN!


Also new to Windows 10 is Spartan: A new, clean-looking, lightweight browser built around a new rendering engine.

The Spartan browser includes a note-taking mode that lets you annotate a webpage, then share your marked-up, commented-on version with others using Windows 10’s native Share feature. There’s also a clipping tool so you can save portions of websites directly to OneNote.

Spartan also doubles down on the mere act of reading on the Internet. The browser integrates an updated version of the stellar Reading Mode found in Windows 8’s Metro Internet Explorer app. Reading Mode strips all the ads and sidebar crud out of webpages, formatting articles so that they appear similar to a book. It’s a wonderful thing. Spartan also taps into the Windows Reading List app, so you can save articles to read later, synchronizing the list across multiple devices. Unlike the Reading List app in Windows 8, the one in Windows 10 will let you save content to read offline.

Cortana is also being integrated directly into Spartan. "Because she knows you, she can help in more nuanced ways,” Belfiore said, showing an example where searching for “Delta” in his address bar popped up information for the Delta flight Belfiore was scheduled to take later. Cortana will also pop up when you visit a restaurant’s website, surfacing directions as well as information about the restaurant’s menu, hours of operating, and Yelp reviews.

Xbox, Now on your PC


Microsoft’s also bolstering Windows 10’s gaming chops by deeply integrating Xbox capabilities into the operating system. A new Xbox app essentially looks like a more fully fleshed-out version of SmartGlass, letting you chat with your Xbox Live pals, view your achievement information, or access game DVR clips. The app also lets you like, share, and comment on game clips.

But Windows 10’s new gaming chops is about more than merely expanding Xbox’s footprint. While you’re playing traditional PC games, be it in Steam or otherwise, a new Windows key + G keyboard shortcut brings up an interface for saving snapshots and 30 second video clips of your adventures, which then brings you into the Xbox app to share it. Games don’t directly have to support the functionality as it’s being overlaid directly by Microsoft in Windows 10.

Microsoft also wants to enable more gaming experiences regardless of the device you’re using. Fable Legends players on Windows 10 and Xbox One will be able to play with each other, and you’ll be able to stream your Xbox One games directly to any Windows 10 device, though it sounds like it will be limited to local networks only, similarly to Steam in-home streaming.

Surface Hub


This has nothing to do with Windows, but it's a major—and unexpected—hardware announcement from Microsoft: The company's rolling out the Surface Hub, an 84-inch, 4K, touch-enabled display for office collaboration. You can read the full details here.

HoloLens


And the Surface Hub isn't even the craziest hardware announced by Microsoft today. That honor goes to Windows Holographic, a set of technologies—a headset, new Windows 10 technology, and a HoloStudio dev app—that brings some insanely intense augmented reality capabilities to Windows. You'll definitely want to check this out.

All for the Low, Low price of Free!

You read that right. Taking hints from Apple's releases of its OS X operating systems that come without a price tag, Microsoft is offering existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 users a free upgrade to Windows 10 for their respective devices. This offer is valid for a year after the launch of Windows 10. The launch date of Windows 10, however, remains unannounced.

Demystifying the Cloud

Posted Posted by Alyssa Anderson in Comments 0 comments

Demystifying the Cloud

Have you ever wondered where your files go when you save information to the Cloud?  We use platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Google Docs every day without pausing to think about where our information is going and how we know it’ll be there when we need it.  Cloud storage isn’t complicated to use or understand, so let’s demystify it.

When we send information to “the cloud” we are actually referring to servers owned and operated by specific companies.  YouTube, Facebook, Google and many other companies have invested millions of dollars in storage technology so that their users can store and retrieve information anytime, anywhere.  Cloud storage and cloud computing are quickly becoming efficient ways to work and communicate and many businesses are eager to enter the market.

With such a demand for cloud storage, the competition is tough.  Only the most reliable companies with the best reputation can compete among the tech giants.  The best companies store your information in more than one location to create a physical backup, encrypt information during transfer, and use backup power generators to keep the servers running consistently.  With so many cloud companies to choose from, companies can’t afford to lose your information.

Here’s an example:  Say you want to back up your family’s photos from your latest vacation.  Once you choose a service provider that supports the type of media you wish to upload, you then determine how much information you want to store.

 Videos and images require more storage space than text and documents.  While some storage providers offer a limited amount of storage for free, more storage often costs more.  Storage providers base their options on a sliding scale based on the needs of the consumer, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what you’re willing to pay.



This diagram details how your information
 travels to various servers and databases.

Once you choose the provider, it is then necessary to understand that not all providers store your information safely.  While most companies invest significantly in protection systems to keep your data safe, hackers are continually attempting to compromise the information of others.  Your provider will often encrypt your information when transferring files to another location- a necessary protection in today’s tech environment. 

With luck, your family’s photos will remain safe and accessible for the future.   It is, however, important to understand that the information you view on the internet (ex. streaming movies, audio, etc.) stays on the internet.  When we utilize these services we only have rights to view content- we don’t actually own it.  This means that when you work and save content online with Microsoft Office 365, it stays there.  That's why it's important to save to some concrete device.  If for some reason you lose your Microsoft license you also lose your right to edit those documents.

While cloud storage and computing are quickly becoming the norm in society, it is important to understand the long term implications of data storage.  Your digital music or book collection will disappear with you when you leave this earth unless you give someone your username and password.  The same can be said of cloud storage- while your information may still be stored somewhere on a server, no one will have access to it but you. 

With that said, please don’t hesitate to take advantage of some of the wonderful cloud storage and computing services out there.  Just be wary of the hands you leave your information with and mindful of the permanence of information in a world we’re only temporarily in.

Written by:  Alyssa Anderson

¡Habla Conmigo!

Posted Posted by Erin Hasler in Comments 0 comments

The Google Translate app available for Android and iOS phones is already an extremely helpful app and it just became even more so. A new update for the app has brought big changes that will allow bring more ease to translating when traveling abroad.

The app now has the capability to translate signs and other written materials into the user's native language using the phone's camera. Even better is the fact that this is done without using an internet connection, which can be very pricey if you are not in your home country. This update will make navigating train stations easier, not to mention the ease it will bring to ordering food.


Another cool feature of the update? Live translation of a conversation. All it takes is for the user to set up which two languages are being spoken and after the initial set up it recognizes which language is being spoken when. Say you need to ask a French speaking person something, you select English and French as your two languages, hit the microphone button and start speaking. The app will take your speech in English and read out the appropriate translation in French. This can go back and forth until you have the information you need. For now they only offer a few different languages, but Google says they plan to roll out more soon.
My co-worker Kory and I did a test to see just how well this feature works and we were pretty impressed. I spoke in English and she spoke in Spanish. Once we figured out the initial set-up process things went pretty smoothly. The only real complaints we had were that you have to really enunciate, otherwise it would not necessarily understand what you were saying, but that tends to be a feature of most text-to-speech technologies.

So, for all you students who are about to study abroad, or plan to in the future, you are in luck! Don't worry about buying those translation guides, just download the free Google Translate app! Enjoy this new ability to hold conversations with people who speak different languages and don't worry about going into the wrong restroom in the bus station! Just hold up your phone to double check which it is! Good luck all you world travelers!

What to Expect in 2015 - Tech Edition

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2015 promises to be a great one

2014 was a memorable year in the tech industry. We saw the emergence of smartwatches, 4K televisions began sprouting up from everywhere, Apple finally made a big-screened smartphone with their iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and fitness trackers became common place for many. People continued to use their smartphones & tablets more frequently than ever before and the term "selfie" was officially added to the dictionary. While 2014 gave us a lot of great things to enjoy, 2015 promises to introduce some technologies that might begin to completely transform the way our society operates. We will be looking at three huge trends many expect to set the tone for tech in 2015: The Internet of Things, 3D Printing, and Smart Machines.

The Internet of Things (IoT)


Many of you have probably heard this term used before, but you may not know what it means. The Internet of Things is regarded as the inter connectivity of unique devices that operate under similar systems & processes. Right now, most of our devices are not necessarily connected with each other, but rather allow us as people to connect with other people. The Internet of Things hopes to provide an even richer experience for consumers where all devices in their daily lives not only connect together, but more importantly make our lives even easier and more efficient.

Imagine when you wake up in the morning your home not only communicates upon your request of your schedule for that day & the weather forecast, but also based on your sleep patterns that your fitness tracker gathered during the night realizes that you are stressed and need a cup of coffee as you wake up. With the Internet of Things, this would be possible. Instead of daily checking your stock of produce and milk in your refrigerator, one that was connected with the Internet of Things would send you notifications to your phone when your supply gets low. The grand vision of the Internet of Things is a web of connected devices that all interact with each other and provided a seamless experience across all aspects of your life.

3D Printing


As college students, we all know the frustrations of printers. The cartridges are expensive, they break all the time, and we use them primarily to print 50 page research papers we pulled two all-nighters to complete. YUCK.  Thanks to the ingenious minds of people much smarter than I, a new generation of printing has begun to arrive, one that doesn't require expensive cartridges and that prints more than just paper. Say hello to the 3D Printer!




Now thanks to this new emerging technology, we can print essentially anything. Pencils, phone speakers, even cars! This technology uses synthetic strands of material that it weaves at high speeds to form these three-dimensional objects. While at first these processes would take hours, even days, to complete, recent innovations have reduced this time frame down to merely minutes in some cases. The most exciting thing about 3D printing is the potential that exists for the breadth of objects that could be produced. Imagine never having to go buy another replacement part for your computer, car, or television again. Instead of driving out to a retail store and paying their marked-up price for the part, you instead use your 3D Printer to print the part in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the cost. Obvious issues are present such as copyright concerns, integrity of the product, and the high up-front cost of the printers, but one thing is for sure: one day your next toothbrush might just be printed before your very eyes.

Smart Machines


The last trend you should expect to see take off in 2015 are smart machines, specifically artificial intelligence. I'm sure many of you have seen the movie iRobot starting Will Smith. If not, check it out sometime at your nearest Redbox or Hastings location. The movie envisions a world where robotics has advanced so much to the point that we become almost completely reliant on them to perform daily activities like driving our car, making coffee in the morning, & even national security. While some believe this will never in fact become reality, we are starting to see advancements in robotics that might disagree. Check out this video for a glimpse at the future.


Medicine is not the only way robots could be used in the future. Education, retail, food, telemarketing, customer service. The list goes on and on! Great research and testing will have to continue to take place in order for smart machines to truly replace the efficiency and diversity that most humans have to practice to perform these tasks, but rest assured smart machine technology will one day be among us. It might not be a robot named Sonny that is searching for its purpose in life, but it just might be the next thing that asks you the question "Would you like fries with that?"

Just wait....it's going to happen one day.