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New experiences, new jobs, new long term plans have got back in a bit of blogging mindset. Check out the link to see how I’m taking my computer support strategies to the next level.
I was updating a customer’s website to use HTML5 video instead of flash with Flowplayer and was wondering how well an older browser would display the new markup. I opened up Adobe BrowserLab and pointed it at my client’s testimonials page. When the screenshot of IE7 on Windows came up without any video thumbnails, I was disappointed. Then I became suspicious that the screenshot was not accurate and tried the IE9 on Windows screenshot. Turns out that when you compare the real screenshot of IE9 on Windows to Adobe BrowserLab’s screenshot, BrowserLab isn’t properly rendering the videos.
BrowserLab is a great tool for previewing what your website will look like in a different browser on a different platform but it isn’t a replacement for actual testing.
Most people probably don’t need to be told this as a blog is usually updated pretty regularly. However, it happens sometimes that you may have several blogs or you just created a WordPress site and figured that once it was up and running that you didn’t need to do anything with it anymore. This is not a good idea. You should log into your blog at least every week to get the latest updates to WordPress, plugins, and themes. If you don’t, you risk leaving your blog unprotected from the latest security exploits and it is only a matter of time before your blog is hacked and some changes are made that you don’t want made. Hackers will often insert code into your site that will present users with pop-ups or redirect them to sites they don’t want to be on. Sometimes they even infect the user’s computer and do the same things there. When Google and other search engines try to update their index and crawl your site then will see the infections and start telling people not to visit your site. This lowers your traffic and hurts your PageRank and your site’s reputation. Your position in searches will go way down as it is no longer a very friendly site to visit.
There are a couple things you can do to prevent this from happening while you are away. You can install the WordFence plugin and have your site scanned on a regular basis. You can install many different plugins to backup your blog so that it is easier to fix if you are hacked. I’ve heard good things about BackupBuddy (paid) but I personally use the free WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin. I’m just cheap. I know how to restore and modify databases and re-upload my files. If you aren’t a very adventurous computer user you may have more peace of mind with BackupBuddy as it makes the whole backup and restore process very simple.
To close, you should check in with your WordPress site frequently just because the web is not static. Things change and you need to change with them. This is really true for just about any site in general. As an added bonus, if you maintain your blog or site on a regular basis you will be rewarded with higher search rankings and higher traffic. Search engines love sites that are constantly staying fresh and relevant.
My computer is not loud. But I get this question a lot. Your computer is usually loud because the case is full of dust. Over time, dust collects inside the computer case and clogs up the air flow through the computer. This insulates the components and makes it very difficult for the fans to keep the computer within its operating temperature. The computer then runs the fans at high speed to try to bring the temperature back down. If the computer cannot bring the temperature down, it may then slow down the CPU so that there is less heat being produced. The user sees this as their computer getting slower. If left in this condition for too long, the user runs the risk of damaging their computer or experiencing power failures. When the temperature gets too high the machine will either destabilize and start crashing or will shut itself off very abruptly to avoid damage.
I recommend users get the inside of their computer cleaned every year or so. If you are in a particularly dusty environment you may want to do it sooner than that. Just listen to your computer. It if sounds like it is straining, then it is. Also, if your computer is getting clogged with dust in less than a year then you may want to consider an air filter for your work space as this isn’t good for you either.
To clean out your computer case you will need only one of the following tools:
If you have a warranty that would be voided by opening your computer case then do not open your computer case unless you wish to void your warranty. Contact your warranty provider to find out how to go about cleaning out your computer. At the very least you can clean the dust that is accessible from the outside of the case.
DO NOT USE A VACUUM! unless you know what you are doing.
The strong magnetic field produced by a typical vacuum can damage the data on a common magnetic hard drive. If you wish to use a vacuum then make sure the motor is as far from the computer as possible and use the longest hose attachment you have. I do not know of any reason why an SSD would have problems with a magnetic field but using any device that produces a strong magnetic field (ie. motor) near a computing device of any kind will be done at your own risk.
Is it just me or is everyone else sick of turning the volume up on a video so that you can hear the dialogue only to have a commercial or the next video in a playlist blast your kids and neighbors with the latest new car feature while you fumble for the volume level control? YouTube goes to all the trouble of converting your video into a dozen different sizes to fit your screen but leaves the audio untouched.
So you don’t want to scare away your users by modifying their precious home made videos? Fine, then volume level the ads that you run to match the volume of the current clip. You could even offer it as a paid option to your advertisers because if they don’t know how to do it properly then they would have to pay someone to do it. Right now there is no point in advertisers trying to hit a particular volume level because there isn’t a target to hit. Users are submitting their videos with widely ranging average volumes and high highs and low lows.
Give uploaders and advertisers the opt-out of volume leveling but apply it by default. Publish what the target volume or volume range should be. Give users a heads up if the next video is going to be significantly louder in the next 5 seconds. Pulse the volume controls or something. Maybe only do it when the client’s time is after 8pm. Something has to be done. How has the industry not figured this out yet. How have advertisers and users not demanded this yet? Their commercials are jarring people out of an enjoyable experience and I know that is not what they mean to be paying for. It is so doable and yet such an unexplored practice.
The main goal is to free up the technicians’ time to allow them to spend more time innovating new systems and software instead of troubleshooting the old ones. Part of the total cost of ownership in this case is the opportunity cost of the lost software and product development time not just in dollars but also in moving the company strategically where it needs to go to survive. Total cost of ownership is a concept that has been the downfall of many through the ages. A great warlord was known to give elephants as gifts to his enemies. They would accept out of pride but would be brought to ruin by the cost of maintaining such a massive ego…err…creature. Instead of supporting their army or people, they would pour their wealth into maintaining this symbol of power and wealth until it was all gone.
Every computer on the internet needs some sort of active protection. Norton is one of those products that has been around a long time. I’ve been using Norton products for over 10 years and I’ve been using and supporting users of Norton Internet Security since it was released. I’ve not always been a fan of Norton. When I first came across it, I knew little else. I had heard the name a lot and consequently used it by default. Good old marketing doing its work. Within a few years I found myself troubleshooting Norton products quite a bit. They had a tendency to get a bit wonky. They also tended to be a bit difficult to remove. Eventually I discovered the Norton Removal Tool which was released by Norton to make life a little bit easier for the folks like myself who were stuck with supporting it out in the field. After a few clients’ computers had some emergencies as a direct result of a Norton glitch, I embarked on a journey to discover which product I was comfortable using and recommending. I swore off Norton for several years and tried Avast, Malwarebytes, PC Doctor, Webroot, AVG, McAfee and Kaspersky on various computers but mostly my own.
Within the last couple years a friend of mine has been giving me 1-year licenses for Norton Internet Security and Norton 360 to give to my clients and friends. I started of installing it on a few inconsequential computers at work. After a year with no problems, I started giving them to my clients whenever they needed antivirus protection. I was impressed by how much had changed in the intervening years. Symantec has put a lot of effort into streamlining the user experience and slimming down the application itself. It no longer brings computers to their knees like it used to. I’ve had none of the old problems with instability or installation and re-installation. There is very little configuration necessary to make it work in your environment. There are no applications in our business environment for which I’ve had to spend any abnormal amount of time tweaking the firewall.
It really has been a much better experience this time around. I don’t mind giving copies of Norton Internet Security away anymore. I know they will only serve to strengthen my relationships with my clients. As for the pricing for those of you who don’t have well-connected benefactors, they have fairly standard pricing. It isn’t a rip-off. There is truth to the saying “You get what you pay for” and it is only that much more true when it comes to security. There are companies out there with a bit more competitive pricing but Norton is a great contender once again.