Commonly Misused Computer Terms

If you’ve ever had a computer technician look at you funny when you asked them to do something to your computer, you may have been incorrectly using one or many computer terms. Many people assume they know the meaning of some of these terms, and whether used correctly or incorrectly, they are often the biggest source of confusion between technician and customer when it comes to computer repair.

Browser, Web Browser
This is the program you use to access websites on the internet. The most popular browsers at this time include Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Opera.

CPU, Processor
The CPU – Central Processing Unit – is the main brain of the computer. It is the physical component that does all of the computing and data processing for the computer.

The process of obscuring or hiding information so that only authorized individuals can access it.

A firewall is a piece of software that restricts access to and from the individual computer. Ideally, a firewall will prevent unauthorized access from outside sources, but a firewall will not protect you from all malicious software. Firewalls allow for exceptions, which are items that you permit to go back and forth through the firewall without having to ask your permission. Many pieces of malicious software trick you into allowing them as an exception to your firewall.

Format, Reformat
To format a computer is to wipe out all the data from the hard drive of the computer. To reformat the computer is to format it again.

Hard Drive
A hard drive is a physical component to the computer that stores the information for the computer when the computer is powered off. If things are not stored on the hard drive, they will disappear when the computer is powered off.

A log is a file that includes information regarding how you interacted with a website. A cookie is an example of a type of log file.

Memory is not a good word to use when trying to describe a particular component in your computer. Memory can mean RAM (Random Access Memory) or ROM (Read-Only Memory). There is a big difference between the two. Use ‘RAM’ or ‘Hard Drive’ instead of just memory.

The motherboard is a physical component that could be compared to the spine of a human. All components inside the computer connect to the motherboard in one way or another. The motherboard allows the other various components to talk to each other inside the computer.

Many people use the term ‘obsolete’ to mean ‘not the newest’. In truth, ‘obsolete’ means ‘no longer valid or able to be used.’ Obsolete computer equipment includes things like machines that run DOS or punch card computers. Obsolete computer equipment does not include last year’s model of laptop.

RAM, Random Access Memory
A RAM chip is a physical component that affects the speed of your computer. RAM is the place where the processor does all of its calculations. The more RAM you have, the less you tend to see of the hourglass or wait symbol. Think of adding RAM as similar to adding horsepower to your car.

Rebooting the computer is physically shutting the computer off, and then turning it back on.

Spam is the digital equivalent of junk mail received in your mailbox. It is usually unsolicited and sent to many people at once in hopes that even a small number of those people will click on the links inside for whatever purpose the original spam writer desired.

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When Is the Best Time to Buy a New Computer?

Do you seem to always be behind the curve when it comes to purchasing a new computer? Or are you one of those early adopters that purchases new technology almost before it comes out? If you always seem to be the last to know, read on to find out when, traditionally, the best time to buy new computer equipment is.

Desktops and Laptops Are on the Same Schedule

Some may say that laptops are upgrading faster than desktop computers, but the truth of the matter is that desktops are still able to contain the more powerful components due to several possible issues. These include things like heat dissipation and the amount of space certain components take up.

Laptops, in many respects, are technically behind desktops when it comes to bleeding edge speed for their components. Much of this is part of the heat issue mentioned in the above paragraph. Things like processors, hard drives, video cards and other components generate heat. The faster the internal components, the more heat they generate. In an open space like a desktop, that heat dissipates into the “empty space” between parts for easier expulsion from the computer. In a laptop, in order to make the computer so small, they remove all that “empty space” and compact everything on top of each other. This means that any extra ambient heat is not going to dissipate as quickly or easily as if it were in a desktop. By using this logic, laptop components, even if they were of the same family as a desktop component, are usually made to run a little slower.

Chipset Is King

Whether your computer has an Intel or an AMD processor, they use something called a chipset to allow the processor to communicate with the rest of the computer. There are two components to the chipset, and each component talks to different types of hardware within the computer to make the entire thing run smoothly.

Both Intel and AMD will usually introduce their newest chipset versions in January at the CES event held each year. After the introduction, you typically won’t see computers coming out with those chipsets until Q3 of that year at the earliest. During Q1 and Q2, OEMs like Dell, HP, Toshiba, and others will quickly begin to integrate and produce products that use these new chipsets.

What all this means is that spring is ideally the best time to purchase a new computer. Not only has the upcoming equipment been announced, but prices are starting to fall on the current equipment.

Pay Attention to What You Buy

Those of you that are early adopters or like to be on the bleeding edge of everything technological, making your purchase around Q3 to coincide with the new school year can be kind of daunting if you’re not careful.

Remember, since all the new toys are coming out, all the old toys are going to be on sale. Don’t be fooled by a low price on something that is a year old. Also, it is not uncommon for some manufacturers to use older hardware components alongside the newest release; this can cause performance issues under certain circumstances. Always double check that all your components are the latest releases if that is important to you.

Who Wants to Wait Forever?

The most important thing to remember when purchasing a computer is that if you’re always waiting for the next big thing, you’re never going to buy anything. Hardware will always be more powerful than the software that runs on it. Yearly new hardware releases will always be faster and more capable than their predecessors. The person that waits for the latest and greatest will always be waiting. Buy what you want; buy what you need.

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Help! I Lost My Laptop!

Laptops have become almost omnipresent in both the workplace and at home. Now, think about all of the things you store on your computer: accounting files, pictures, sensitive documents, tax information and previous tax filing, music, videos, and more. While replacing the actual laptop itself if it is stolen or misplaced is not necessarily a big deal, what about all that personal information that is now missing?

What Can Happen

In the corporate world, Intel in 2009 found that a single missing laptop cost the corporation about $49,000, including possible sensitive data breaches, loss of intellectual property, lost productivity, legal expenses, and consulting expenses.

In the personal world, some of our own customers who did not have a back up solution have lost years of business data, school projects, dissertations, irreplaceable family photos, and more.

How Do I Protect Myself?

While you can put a password on your laptop, it will only scare away or keep out the least resourceful of people. The easiest, and most obvious solution is to pay attention to your laptop when you have it with you. If you are in an airport, don’t leave it unattended or under the watch of someone you just met a few minutes before. When not using it, keep your laptop in a good laptop bag and keep that bag with you at all times when you are traveling.

Computer Works would like to thank Sophos for information used to write this article.
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Infections in the Real World, Part 6

We’ve talked about infections many times, at our location, in our newsletters, and here on this blog. But you might be asking yourself, just how do real infections act in the real world, without being filtered through a maze of possibilities and opinions that each infection seems to have.

Part 6: The Infected USB Device

What Is the Infected USB Device?

Think about how many USB storage devices you use in a day. Perhaps a flash drive for your homework assignments. Maybe an external hard drive to store your business’ accounting files. Regardless of what you use them for, external storage devices can be and sometimes are infected with malicious software, and many people do not scan their external USB devices for infections before accessing the files on there, and this is after they’ve plugged them into who knows how many different computers.

The Real Life Example

A study by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security discovered in 2011 that the biggest risk from removable storage devices (usually USB devices) was poor decision-making by users. The report found that government employees showed carelessness when using these devices when they were left out in parking garages and offices. Of those that were picked up, 60% of them were plugged into their computer without verifying their authenticity, and that jumped up to 90% when the devices has their department’s logo on them.

How Do I Protect Myself?

Never assume a USB device is clean, even when it ships from the factory. There have been some incidents where good vendors had unknowingly sold contaminated devices, from smartphones to cameras to memory sticks.

If your protection software has the option to scan a device as soon as it is plugged in, enable that feature. It can be a pain in the neck if you’re doing a lot of data transfers throughout the day, but it could save you even more pain if it keeps you from installing an infected file on your computer. If your software does not have an automatic option, open the security software and scan the USB device before opening any contents of the device.

Computer Works would like to thank Sophos for information used to write this article.


Now that our series on Infections in the Real World is complete, tell us what you think? Is there anything else you can think of that we’ve missed?

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Infections in the Real World, Part 5

We’ve talked about infections many times, at our location, in our newsletters, and here on this blog. But you might be asking yourself, just how do real infections act in the real world, without being filtered through a maze of possibilities and opinions that each infection seems to have.

Part 5: The World Wide Web

What Is the World Wide Web?

In a word, the world wide web is the internet. Whenever you click on your web browser to open the internet, you are accessing the world wide web. The internet contains webpages that can provide information and entertainment, or it can contain pages that were created just as a means to distribute malicious software. In a similar vein, websites that are normally safe can be poisoned with malware by unauthorized individuals to infect innocent visitors.

The Real Life Example

Black hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques are the fastest growing threat on the world wide web. Individuals have automated programs that check the news headlines – particularly disasters, scandals, and deaths – and create extremely basic websites that redirect visitors to other websites that are hosting those fake antivirus programs called scareware. Some of these websites are legitimate pages that have been compromised, some of them are small, quick websites put together in a matter of minutes used for nothing more than drive-by downloading the scareware.

How Do I Protect Myself?

Be very careful what you click on, particularly if you are looking for information regarding a breaking news story. Remember, you are the first line of defense when it comes to computer infections! With all major browsers, you can hover your mouse over a link without clicking on it, and near the bottom of the screen, you can see the exact website address it will take you to. If you’re not 100% sure the website is safe, don’t click!

Also, you can fight against redirecting by changing a setting in your browser that will prompt you when a website wants to redirect you to another website. While this may be cumbersome with certain websites, in the long run, it’s best for your protection.

Computer Works would like to thank Sophos for information used to write this article.
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