Thursday, August 1, 2013

Google Dashboard and Password Security

This week's blog is going to cover two very important things. First, we would like to introduce you to Google Dashboard and second, we would like to remind everyone about the importance of strong and complex passwords. So, let's get started!  Google has a very interesting tool that you should check out called Google Dashboard. This is a where Google gathers information about you and everything that you do. If at some point in time you have authorized Google to collect data on you (knowingly or unknowingly) you will be able to access this dashboard and see all of your activity on the web. Think of this as a personal activity log that is automatically populated. The data is only collected if you are signed into a Google service, such as staying signed into email and browsing the web at the same time. This service tracks the locations that you've signed into your account from, the browser that you were using, the YouTube videos that you've watched, the locations that you've searched for on Google Maps, the calls that you've made with Google Voice, chat logs, and of course, all of your search and browsing history. 

Once again, in order for that data to be tracked, you must be signed into your account as well as authorize Google to do it and you can turn it off. There are multiple ways that you can use this data to your advantage and track what you do on the internet. While the service is kind of neat due to the huge amount of data that it provides, it can also pose a security threat. Here at TechFarmer, your digital security is very important to us. We constantly write blogs and newsletters to remind people about the importance of complex passwords and the importance of keeping the passwords hidden and not written down on a sticky note. Why are we talking about passwords right now when the blog is about Google Dashboard? Because if someone gets a hold of your username and password and your account activity is tracking this data, what can be done with your personal data is endless. Keep yourself safe and prevent account hacking by following one simple rule, create a long complex password that you can remember and change it as often as possible. Contact TechFarmer with any questions that you may have about keeping your data secure, we will gladly answer them! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

TechFarmer Recycles

Did you know that beginning July 1st it is illegal to throw away residential or business electronic devices in Colorado? Senate Bill 12-133 was designed to reduce pollution and prevent hazardous electronic devices from ending up in the landfill. In addition, the bill will also add jobs to the recycling industry. A lot of electronic waste contains leaded glass, mercury and other hazardous materials that need to be disposed of properly. Breaking down electronics is a time consuming task that uses human labor instead of machines to disassemble, sort and route the waste to the proper location for recycling. Not every plastic has the same chemical composition so it must be correctly identified before being combined with other plastics.

Not all electronic recycling facilities are created equal. Some facilities that charge a very small fee or even state that the recycling is free must be investigated. A lot of times the electronic devices will get shipped out to other countries where the precious metals are taken out and the rest of the device is left in a landfill or even worse, anywhere it ends up at. This creates extreme pollution and harm to the earth that we must protect. Other companies that offer similar services might strip out easily accessible materials that will amount to the largest sum of money and ship or dispose the leftover equipment somewhere else. TechFarmer values the environment and we strive to make sure that the technology that we help to support does not pollute out beautiful Earth. TechFarmer recycles electronic equipment by partnering with the nation's best facilities that disassemble all parts and guarantee that everything from the device will be recycled and reused. These are also called EOL or End of Life recyclers. All materials are guaranteed to be separated and reintroduced into the manufacturing chain!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Solar Powered Charging Stations

In our quest to find technology being used for good, we stumbled upon a very neat new gadget. After the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, AT&T jumped onboard with creating solar powered phone charging stations. The officially called "AT&T Street Charge Project" has unveiled 25 free solar powered charging stations across five boroughs in New York City and might add more stations at a later time. Each station has six ports to provide charging for a wide variety of devices. The solar panels are provided by a company that we strongly support called Goal Zero. If you are interested in reading more about Goal Zero, check out our archived newsletter article about "Testing Solar Power".

These charging stations are a great in those inopportune times when the phone battery is almost dead and you have no place in close proximity with a power outlet. More importantly, because these stations are solar and off the grid, they will aid people in charging their phones in times of need, especially if the power in the city is out. Worst case scenarios do happen and it is best to be prepared ahead of time. AT&T claims that these stations will work during all parts of the day, including night as well as in the shade. It sounds like the stations have a built in battery to store solar power for night and shade use.

Because the future is not always predictable, it is great to be prepared. AT&T did a wonderful job in creating something that people can use in the time of need and especially when there is no electricity. In case something does happen, people will be able to charge their devices which will allow them to communicate with others who might be worried and need a status update. As NYC is starting the public solar charging trend, it is still unclear when the rest of the nation will follow. Keep checking the TechFarmer bogs for updates and other technology news!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Electronic Mail

It is very obvious that email has become the way to communicate. Mail as well as fax is slowly fading into the sunset. Email is dominating the business and personal sectors of our lives and because of that we thought that we need to dedicate a blog post to examine it a little closer. Being around since roughly 1993, email provides simple and quick communication between people all over the world. Even though we were unable to find concrete data on the busiest day for email, from personal experience we extrapolated that Monday and Wednesday are very email-heavy. The business community accepted email very quickly due to its simplicity and speed. Communication can be sent across the world to multiple recipients at the same time in lightning speed and of course the same can't be said for snail mail.

As helpful as email is, it also may cause information overload and as research shows, it is responsible for productivity loss. Plantronics performed research into "How We Work" and found out that 83% of the surveyed people use email as primary way of communicating. On the downside, 53% of the surveyed people are overwhelmed by the amount of email that they get on a daily basis. To prevent yourself and others from feeling overwhelmed try to use email in non urgent situations. If something requires immediate attention, it might be best to call. With this said, when sending email, prepare yourself that it might not be immediately answered by the recipient. Also, try to designate specific times during the day where you check and reply to email. This will boost productivity because it will prevent the constant distractions that pull you from doing what you are focused on. Of course this will not be possible at all times, but it is a good to do this as often as life allows.
Additionally, the same research shows that 50% of people that were polled during the research said that a misinterpretation of an email message caused tension. With that in mind, the best way to prevent that is to quickly skim the email before sending it out to make sure the content is easy to understand and friendly. Clarify content that might need clarification. On the bright side, email is saving trees! Imagine how much paper is saved each day because of electronic communication. If you have any additional inquiries about email, give TechFarmer a call, or send us an email ;-) and we will happily answer all of your questions!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Boy and His Atom

Here at TechFarmer, we are always on the lookout for what we call "technology being used for good" and there are a lot of examples of that around and we will be posting more blogs which demonstrate that. Recently, we got very excited by stumbling upon a very unique way that IBM used its research technology to not only entertain us but also make us think about and enjoy science even more. While doing research do develop smaller data storage, the scientists at IBM got a great idea to create what Guinness Book of World Records calls the "Smallest Stop-Motion Film". The film consists of 240 frames that contain 240 still images and the images are taken on a molecular level, or to be exact 45 by 25 nanometers.

This is where it gets really neat! Each still image is composed of individual carbon monoxide molecules that are arranged and rearranged to represent a boy, a trampoline, an atom "ball", and the interaction between them. There is dancing, playing, and even bouncing on the trampoline. The research scientists used a microscope and a very tiny needle to attract the molecules while positioning the oxygen atoms in a specific way so they represent the dots that makes up the objects in the video. In order to tame the molecules, they were chilled to 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. How cool is that?!
If you would like to check out the video, click here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Windows 8

Microsoft’s release of its new Operating System, Windows 8 at the end of October marked a new era for Windows. Ever since Windows emerged with its Graphical User Interface, the general layout of the Operating System has been the same. There has been a traditional desktop for icons and shortcuts, a task bar at the bottom of the screen and a start button to access various functions of the computer.

Windows 8 completely redesigns the interface of the system by changing the Start button into a “Start Screen”. With this new approach, the Start screen consists of tiles much like most popular Smart Phones. Windows 8 is fully compatible and arguably most effective when used with touch screen devices. There is a slight learning curve for this new system. There are new gestures/swipes to learn and getting used to new placement of applications, programs and settings. Once these commands or tasks are picked up on, the operation of the system is very fluid and quick. When Windows 8 boots up, it opens to the Start interface but if you prefer it to resemble the previous versions of Windows, it takes purchasing an additional app to load directly to the desktop.

In addition to the new interface, there have been many performance upgrades and additional features added to it. In past versions of Windows, updates would be displayed when they became available or when the computer is being shut down. These updates would inevitably come at the worst times like in the middle of work being completed or any other time in which restarting the system would be a huge inconvenience. Windows 8 checks for these updates in the background and asks to install them at the login screen now.
After having used and tested the Windows 8 operating system, we are happy to share our experiences and opinions with you. Contact us if you have any questions!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Server 2012

Shortly before the release of Windows 8, Microsoft released a new and revolutionary version of their flagship server operating system, Server 2012. Not only does Server2012 have performance and feature upgrades, it has a radically new user interface.

Server 2012 shares the Start screen with Windows 8. Much like what users are experiencing with Window 8, there is a learning curve involved with Server 2012. While developing Server 2012, Microsoft took suggestions to make a server run faster. They did that by reducing the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and including more command driven management. The administrator has a choice to install the GUI or the Server Core which removes the GUI. This is a great feature for datacenter type environments where a server can be managed remotely instead of the administrator needing to be directly in front of the server.

Much of the advantages of this new server system come from its ability to implement virtualization much more effectively than previous versions. Virtualization setup and control over remote work groups is far more effective than any other server operating system out there.

As with any technology and software, Server 2012 has its advantages and disadvantages. Upgrades are inevitable because hardware will age and will need replacement. At some point businesses will start to migrate to the new Server 2012 operating system and whether that happens today or tomorrow, TechFarmer is ready to move your business into the future!