Managing a Google account, with all of its various services and settings, has become a difficult task. Apparently Google themselves realized this, and has consolidated many of those settings into a single tool called My Account.
Your Sign-in, Privacy, and Account preferences can all be managed from a central location. There are lots of options, and the sheer number is a reminder of how important it is to keep track of your online activities.
You can find the My Account tool at this link.
Instagram is a great way to share photos from your phone or other mobile device, but it also can be an effective marketing tool for your small business. Before you dive in though, be sure to make note of these tips.
If you have a mid to high end phone, you likely have a good quality camera that can be used for your marketing photos. If you are creating custom graphics on a computer however, you need to remember a few things.
It’s Hip To Be Square
Instagram requires square images. That means that any image that does not have a one to one height to width ratio will not display properly, even after cropping it in the app. If your image originated from a traditional digital camera or scanned photo, be sure to crop it to a square size that contains all the information that you want the viewer to see.
If you are creating an image from scratch, remember that the maximum size of a photo is 2048×2048 pixels, but you generally will be fine with anything that is at least 800×800 pixels. In a program like Photoshop, set your cropping tool to a 1:1 aspect ratio to insure a square image.
Posting is Mobile-only
Because Instagram is designed for mobile devices, you cannot post from the Instagram website on a computer. You will need to e-mail the image to an account that is accessible through your phone (or tablet), so that you can download the image. Once downloaded, the Instagram app can use it for a post.
Instagram is all about photos, but it’s the hashtags that get the attention. Use of hashtags will open up your images to a much wider audience, but it’s good to see which hashtags are getting attention for the type of image you’re posting. Use Instagram’s search function to look up common hashtags, and look at posts you like as well. Make a note of the hashtags that are appropriate for your post, and be sure to use them.
Instead of posting a ton of images at once, consider spreading posts out over the course of a day, or even several days. Rapid-fire posts not only clog up a user’s feed, they rob you of the chance to remind people about what you offer. Spreading posts out will make your posts more attractive and will provide a steady stream of images until your next batch.
A client recently received a call from “Windows IT”, claiming that their computer had sent out some kind of signal that it was under attack. The caller wanted them to allow remote access to the computer to fix the issue. This is a blatant scam.
While “Windows IT” was the name used this time, they may claim to be from Microsoft or another large computer company. These are all scams. Your computer does not send out “distress signals” and anyone who cold calls you claiming to know that your computer is infected is lying.
If the client had allowed the remote access to the caller, they would have exposed all of their data, including pictures and personal documents, to the scam artist. They also would likely have had a fake antivirus program installed that would have claimed to find any number of threats. Of course, all of those threats can be cleaned up by paying a fee.
Remember, never give your personal information to anyone you don’t know or don’t have an established relationship with. While Divergex provides remote access repair services, we only do so with established clients and will never call unsolicited.
I recently had the pleasure of participating in an advisory board for a technical school in Washington, DC. The school is looking to improve the employability of its graduates, with a distinct focus on computer proficiency.
The meeting went very well. It is always encouraging to see professionals come together with the goal of creating greater opportunities for those wanting to learn and grow in a career. One overriding thing I noticed however, is a growing chasm that has supposedly been closed for some time. Here are my thoughts.
The “Digital Divide” as it’s called, or the inequality of access to digital information, has existed since the beginning of the Internet. Many believe that because the Internet is so pervasive, it alone can bridge this divide and level the playing field for those who are less fortunate.
Unfortunately, I am witnessing a distressing trend. It has been said that the explosion of smartphones and tablets, especially among people of lower economic status, is the great equalizer of this generation. Mobile devices have brought the Internet to countless people who otherwise would have limited, if any access otherwise.
As with any technology, the rule of unintended consequences applies. While mobile devices have indeed granted access to millions, it has done so in a way that limits the overall utility of the information that is accessed.
A Narrow View
Mobile devices are basically small computers, and through a web browser and apps, give their owner a wealth of information and capabilities. The downside is that these devices also foster a “good enough” mentality which results in a lack of professional skills that are needed in any modern work environment.
An excellent example is keyboard skills. While schools can teach typing, not practicing those skills at home (because of a lack of a computer) creates a situation where one subconsciously types as they do on a smartphone — namely, in abbreviations, poor spelling, and brief, often unintelligible speech. Certainly their friends know what they are saying, but such a message in an e-mail would not be acceptable in a professional environment.
Speaking of e-mail, it is also telling that many young people do not know how to address and send an e-mail. Apps have given us easy access to messaging through Facebook, Whatsapp, Kik, Snapchat, etc. After the initial e-mail address setup of an Android or Apple account, many never use that e-mail address again, thus forgetting how to use this most basic communication method.
The web is amazing, but have you ever stopped to think about how many websites are not easily usable on a phone or tablet? For example, have you ever tried to submit a job application on a smartphone? How about writing a resume? Not having access to a computer limits the things you can do, mobile device or not. The idea that a mobile device can completely replace a computer is a great fallacy that sadly many of us blindly believe.
As you read this, you may be thinking, “what is he talking about? I use e-mail, the web, etc. every day!” Of course you do – but those in my age group (40 and up) are not the problem. It is the group of young people coming out of high school and looking to enter the workforce who are lacking these most basic skills.
So how do we solve this issue? I think that we need to take a step back and understand that while technology changes, there will always be a basic set of skills and capabilities that all job candidates need to be successful in the workforce. “Hunt and peck” typing is not acceptable, even in environments where a computer is not accessed all day. A mobile device cannot completely replace a computer — proper typing, the ability to create professional documents, and the need to access information in a large format will always be necessary.
We (parents and school systems) have a responsibility to make access to, and usage of computers a priority. The amount of money spent on a smartphone and cell service these days easily exceeds the cost of a basic laptop. We also need to embrace and encourage these skills from an early age. Today’s young people are very adept at picking up new technologies, but it’s up to us to show them just how important a real computer is. A smartphone is great but it is a companion device, not a replacement, especially for someone who is competing for a job.
Here is an interesting story about a laptop battery exploding. If you ever decide to replace the battery in your laptop, be sure to buy a genuine battery from your laptop manufacturer. There are tons of deals out there on sites like Amazon and eBay, but the quality of those batteries is often suspect. Check out the story below for more info:
Today is the day. After almost 13 years, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP, perhaps the most popular operating system of all time. While it was great in its heyday, it has become a mess to maintain and has been greatly surpassed by the speed and security of Windows 7 and 8.
If you are still using Windows XP at home or in your workplace, you are putting yourself at serious risk. It is widely believed that hackers, scammers and other miscreants will attack XP with renewed vigor since they know there will be no new security updates coming along. Do not fall into the false hope that your anti-virus software will protect you. Flaws in the operating system itself can easily slip by undetected, so it is in your best interest to upgrade or replace those aging computers.
You need a plan. It does not need to be complicated, but you definitely need to have a strategy in place. The transition process will take several hours, and you basically you have two choices; upgrade to a newer Windows version on your current computer, or replace the computer. Either way, hire a professional. I say this because there are many potential pitfalls involved in an upgrade or replacement, and a pro will have the skills, experience and tools needed to make the transition as smooth as possible. A pro will also be sure to preserve your data.
Of course, Divergex offers a specially-designed service just for the transition from XP to Windows 7 or 8, starting at $325 per PC (including the cost of Windows). Give us a call at 916-271-6369 or visit our contact page for more information.
Electronics giant Sony has announced that it will be closing 20 of its 31 U.S. Stores. The stores were a showcase for Sony’s products, most notably including televisions, laptops, tablets, phones and of course the PlayStation line. With the recent sale of Sony’s PC business, Sony is doing some serious cutting in order to become a smaller, leaner and hopefully more profitable company. Personally I will miss the Valley Fair store in Santa Clara most. Below is a list of the stores that will be closed, and you can read the entire press release here.
- Tysons, VA
- University Village, WA
- Galleria Dallas, TX
- Forum Shops, NV
- Pentagon, VA
- Boca Raton, FL
- Menlo Park, NJ
- Las Americas, CA
- Camarillo, CA
- Aurora, IL
- Gilroy, CA
- Wrentham, MA
- Pleasant Prairie, WI
- San Marcos, TX
- Cherry Creek, CO
- Dolphin, FL
- Century City, CA
- Valley Fair, CA
- Phildelphia, PA (Comcast Center)
- Central Valley, N.Y. (Woodbury Common Outlets)
So you’ve been good this year and Santa brought you a new computer. Congratulations! Here are ten things to do before anything else.
1. Backup the stuff on your existing computer. You should have this already, but if not, do it now.
2. Decide where you’re going to use your new computer most, then clean that place. Too many computers sit in dusty, cluttered, not-meant-for-a-computer spaces. You don’t need furniture polish. A Swiffer is not necessary. A damp paper towel works fine.
3. Figure out where you’re going to plug everything in. Get a good surge protector. There’s nothing worse than plugging a $500+ purchase into a $2 power strip. Stop being cheap. Yes cheap. Make sure there is no chance of tripping over anything.
4. Turn it on and personalize it. This process can take a while, so be patient. Let the computer do its thing. It will probably ask you a lot of stuff about this trial and that trial. Refuse as much as you can. Do you want anything to start up with the computer? Basically no.
5. Start cleaning stuff off. All those things you said no to? You probably should uninstall them. For some reason Windows PCs always come with crap. It’s even called crapware. You want it gone. Get thee to the Control Panel and remove anything that is not important. Not sure? Ask me or someone else who studies this stuff.
6. Look for an office suite. If your computer came with Microsoft Office, congratulations. Is it a trial version? then that congratulations is a bit more muted. No office suite? No problem. Go to http://www.libreoffice.org/ and give LibreOffice a try. It’s a very capable suite that I use myself. Best of all it’s 100% free to download and use. Download it. Install it. Enjoy it. Consider donating to the cause.
7. Copy your files over. You do have a fresh backup from your old computer, right? Copy it over. Organize your stuff so it’s easy to find. Avoid hundreds of desktop icons.
8. Set up anything else you need to get to work. Install your printer/scanner/other doodads. Test it all. If needed, get Skype going with your webcam. Get your iTunes and iPod/Pad/Phone all set up. Plug in your Android phone so that the computer will recognize it.
9. Sit back and marvel at your accomplishment.
10. Figure out what you’re going to do with this new piece of modern tech, then do it. If you need help along the way, contact Divergex for professional help you can afford.
2013 has been an eye-opening year for me. Most of my clients are small business owners so I get to see first hand the problems they face. I have noticed though that one of those problems is often of their own creation. There is no plan in place to deal with catastrophic data loss.
Businesses that use e-mail marketing services are often faced with one large question – how many people actually opened their message. Many e-mail clients, both desktop and web-based, block images by default, as they are used for tracking and in many cases spam. The unintended consequence of these settings is that the user has to manually choose to show the images for certain addresses or messages.
Google has come up with a way to eliminate that problem for Gmail users. They will now cache email images on their own servers, breaking the tracking capabilities of senders. This means that Gmail will now show all images by default, but it also means that tracking the success of e-mail marketing campaigns will now be more difficult because of the sheer number of Gmail users.
UPDATE: MailChimp, one of the most popular e-mail marketing services, has posted a blog entry with their thoughts on the issue. You can read it here.