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Thoughts for Thursday (01/27/2022)- Thoughts on Computers and Tech Stuff

It appears my “Thoughts for Thursday” (TFT) has become a monthly endeavor lately, so as this is my first of 2022, let me begin by wishing a Happy Belated New Year to everyone.

I’m doing my best to remain optimistic for the New Year, but so far it is looking far too much like the Old Year for me. Covid has decided to hang around for a while longer, like a holiday house guest that doesn’t know when to pack up and head home. (C’mon Aunt Kathy! Your Begonias need to be watered.)

I won’t spend today’s TFT wading into more Pandemic/Masks/Vaccines/Arguing/Politics/Insanity/WhatTheHellisWrongWithPeopleI’msosickofit conversation. I can save that for another time.

Today, for once, I wanted to discuss something I honestly know about (pretty much, the only thing I know about) Computers and all this Tech Stuff.

A brief recap to catch up any new readers here: Computer Greeks (Located at 12222 S Harlem Ave in Palos Heights and Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm) opened in May of 1996, and if my abacus is still working correctly, that means we are approaching 26 years in business. By my estimation, 26 years is a long time for any business to be around and in the world of computers and tech stuff, it is many lifetimes.

When the world was young and the store was new and filled with joy and hope (not like today), computers were still somewhat rare, the internet was only starting to develop a wider audience as it would still be another 5 years before even ½ the population was online.

Today, we carry the internet around in our pockets and often take for granted the wealth of entertainment, communication, and information that it provides.

I try to tell my kids how lucky they are and how things used to be (not that they ever listen to my priceless words of wisdom). After describing how I walked 6 miles to school up hill both ways, I then mention how we waited in line to use a pay phone to call our parents when we needed a ride home. How if someone spouted some random bit of information: did you know that Mikey from the Life Cereal commercial- the one who’ll eat anything, died from Pop Rocks when his stomach exploded? (That was a real thing by the way). You had no choice but to accept it because you couldn’t just pull out your phone and Google it.

When I was a kid, I thought thunder was two clouds bumping together (Like my mom told me!) for years before finding out it was a lie. If only I had the internet at my disposal the way every toddler does now on their own personal iPad.

Even typing out this “Thoughts for Thursday” would have been a much more tedious task involving feeding sheets of paper into a typewriter, changing ribbons, and the liberal use of “White Out”. I am so glad I took typing in High School; it is genuinely one of the things that I appreciate every day that back then, I thought was a waste of time unless I became a secretary.

Ah, the good old days!

But now It’s 2022, and if you’re reading this, you most likely have a computer, a phone, a tablet, a desktop, a laptop, a smart tv, a ring doorbell, a refrigerator with a LCD screen, a Google Home, or ask Alexa questions daily. The age of information and technology is possibly the most incredible change in our lifetimes.

Information and knowledge is so valued, that I can remember when a set of Encyclopedias would cost thousands of dollars, were sold by door-to-door salesman, and required financing to purchase. I can also remember needing to write a book report on Lichtenstein and being unable to find the “L” volume that someone had failed to put back in its place.

So, it’s great that we have all of this wonderous technology at our fingertips,

(Quick comment here- We have “Fingertips”, but don’t “Tipfinger”, but we don’t call them “Toetips”, and yet we Tiptoe?)

but there is a cost and a responsibility for being connected to the digital world. You must be willing to accept a near complete loss of privacy and a constant risk to your security when you live with the technology of today.

Your personal information is online for the viewing. Your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license, and so much more are easily discoverable for those who want to. Our credit card numbers are bought and sold online like a flea market. This is just the world as it is, but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

There literally isn’t a day that goes by, that we don’t get a call at work from someone who has been “Hacked”. Now this isn’t the “Hacking” we might picture from the movies, with someone using super advanced technology to find out your passwords and get into your accounts. This is more accurately described as Tricked, not Hacked.

When you get a call from “Microsoft” telling you Windows is going to expire and won’t work anymore if you don’t call them right away, that isn’t getting “Hacked”.

When you’re browsing the internet and suddenly, a Window pops up saying your system has been compromised and is virus infected and you need to call the 800 number on the screen immediately, this isn’t getting “Hacked”.

When an email shows up in your inbox telling you that you have a refund coming for an overcharge by your antivirus software, so you let the nice man at the end of the email have access to your accounts to send you the money, this isn’t getting “Hacked”.

99.9% of these cases that we take care of follow a very similar pattern. Something: a phone call; email; pop-up window; telegram; happens to scare you, you react without thinking, give a “helpful” person on the end of the phone remote access to your system, and then all hell breaks loose.

At the point that they try to charge you for “fixing” your system, or worse yet, extort money from you by locking you out of your own computer, you realize this was a terrible mistake.

As much as I understand we don’t normally expect this level of deceit and lies when dealing with people, you need to be aware how often it happens and make intelligent choices.

Don’t believe strange phone calls, emails, or windows that mysteriously show up on your devices, I don’t care if the person says they’re Bill Gates himself.

Don’t allow strangers, ever, to have remote access to your devices. This is like giving your address and garage code to some guy on the street.

Now don’t get me wrong, remote access is an invaluable tool to provide support and correct computer issues and I use it every day, but I’m a Freakin’ Tech God who has a local business that’s been around for 26 years that is beloved by customers and the community for generations. People can trust that what Uncle Steve says is the truth and what I promise to do (and not do) is going to happen.

So be aware, use your common sense, and when in doubt- call us before doing anything. I would rather take 100 phone calls from people asking if something is ok, than 1 from a person after the fact.

The second part of your responsibility to yourself and your technology, is properly maintaining your devices. Your desktop and laptop computers need regular attention if you want to be able to use them as safely and trouble free as possible. How often Uncle Steve?

I often compare it to your furnace and air-conditioner, once a year.

It was 20 degrees below zero yesterday and my furnace worked hard to make sure my family and I were toasty warm in our humble home.

Do you think that I ignore it, cross my fingers, and hope it turns on when these winter temps come around? Not a chance. I have it cleaned and inspected every fall to ensure I have the best chance of getting through the winter without any disasters.

You need to treat your desktop and laptop computers in the same way.

Your computer turned on just fine this morning? That’s great, but wouldn’t it be nice if you knew it was properly updated, that your security patches and protection were current and working correctly, and that it was running as quickly as possible?

That’s what regular computer service can help you enjoy.

Now don’t get me wrong, having your systems serviced every year doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance of having problems anymore than having my furnace serviced every fall means it can’t give me issues, but we are trying to give ourselves the best possible outcomes by doing what we can.

This is how we typically treat life itself.

I look both ways before crossing the street to make sure I have the best chance to get across safely. I use my turn signal when I drive, go to the dentist every 6 months, have my oil changed regularly, and try not to eat leftovers after more than 7 days. (My wife says 3 is the max, but I hate wasting food:

True story: a few weeks ago, I ate an entire plate of chili cheese dip (I’m not proud of this), that I found in the fridge thinking it was 4 or 5 days old. When my wife got home, she saw what I had done and couldn’t believe it, not because I ate the entire thing, but because it was from New Year’s Eve- 14 days earlier.

I survived, but it wasn’t something I would do again.)

I do all these things because it’s what I can control in my life to try to minimize the disasters that I’ll have to deal with.

I can’t help you with your car. I can’t help you with your dental problems (I could try, but you probably wouldn’t want me to). I can’t warn you about your far too old leftovers hiding in your fridge, waiting for the unsuspecting late-night hunger to strike you when you’re most vulnerable.

But I can help you with your computers, your security, safely backing up your important data and pictures, and any questions or problems that might come up involving all this Tech Stuff.

If you can’t remember the last time your desktops and laptops were gone through, give us a call (we have records for all this stuff). You can bring in your systems or even schedule us to work on them remotely (remember, we’re the trustworthy people it’s ok to let on your computers).

How much does all this incredible quality service and priceless peace of mind cost Uncle Steve?

(Insert shameless sales pitch here)

Our Safety and Security Scan Service is priced this week at only $79.00.

As always, Stay Safe and Stay Well

Uncle Steve

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