Solid State Drives

About a year ago I put a solid state drive (SSD) in to my system and I was stunned at how big a difference it made in performance and boot up time. Prices for SSDs have continued to drop and I have started to offer them in my basic computers with very impressive results.

In spite of the fact that traditional mechanical hard drives keep getting faster they still aren’t fast enough to not be a major bottleneck in performance. Solid state drives being completely electronic with no moving parts eliminate this bottleneck, even on older computers.

The only drawback to SSDs is cost per gigabyte. A traditional hard drive 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes) in size costs about $100. A 120 gigabyte SSD runs about $130 for 880 fewer gigabytes. The SSD is MUCH faster but only has about 10% of the storage of the traditional hard drive.

However, most of my customers are only using 50-60 gigabytes, on average, even with pictures and games so 120 gigs is plenty of space. Even if you are using over 100 gigs you could get an external traditional 1 terabyte hard drive and off-load data to it to make a 120 gig drive usable.

The performance gains when using an SSD are nothing short of amazing. 7 – 10 seconds to boot up Windows 7. Applications like Word or Excel snap open briskly in 2-3 seconds. Everything you do is quick and responsive. Simply put, the computer works the way you have always wanted/expected it to work. Quick without any undue hesitation.

The only thing an SSD might not help is Internet web site speeds because that’s more a product of your Internet connect speed and ISP quality than computer speed.

If you want a fairly cheap method of upgrading your computers speed look in to getting an SSD. Cost to do this is about $200.

The Dark Side of Windows 8.1

I finally get to write about something other than email scams!! Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that with Windows 8.1 those searches you do for files and stuff on your own computer will be logged and sent to Microsoft so they can send targeted advertising to your computer as well as any web sites you go to. I quote from a fine Infoworld article on Windows 8.1 —

“Unless you make Smart Search dumb, you not only hand Microsoft a complete history of all of your local computer search terms, you open your machine up to even more lovely ads, doled out on the Search results pane. If you search for “flugelhorn” on your local computer — not on the Web, mind you, but on your own computer — the results that Windows 8.1 shows you will include advertisements for flugelhorns on eBay and Amazon (no, I’m not joking — try it), local flugelhorn manufacturers, flugelhorn party consultants, and no doubt some day flugelhorn addiction services.”

It’s bad enough that when you search on Google or Bing they log it and then target you with ads and such but those are free services and they do need to make money somehow and you don’t have to use a search engine if you don’t want to. But with this Microsoft is invading your personal computer and logging local searches. No thanks! I will stick with Windows 7.

Here is a link to the article for the more curious among you.

USPS email scam

USPS email scam this time. Talks about trying to deliver an item and failed due to bad zip code and that it will be returned unless I pick it up. There is of course an attachment they want to you run to print a “label” so you can pick up this “package” that contains an executable file that will undoubtedly infect you with something nasty.

Email scams

The rate of fake emails intended to sucker me in to clicking links that would infect my computer or having attachments that do the same has picked up considerably recently. I am now receiving 3-4 emails a day of this nature.

It’s pointless to try to list each individual scam as there are now so many. Bank transfers gone awry. Shipment delivery fails. Fake government notifications.

You should be suspicious of any email that wants you to click a link or open an attachment, no matter who it is from.

It would seem most people are indeed being suspicious as I don’t get many calls for malware/virus infections these days, but I feel I must keep reminding people to remain vigilant. These attack attempts aren’t going away any time soon and tend to get better as time goes on.

Email scam

Today I received an email from “Verizon” about my account. I don’t have an account with Verizon so I knew this was a scam.

All the links point to a web site that is definitely not Verizon and directly opens up some HTML code. I can see someone who DOES have a Verizon account blindly clicking one of the links and getting infected.

It’s getting so you can’t trust any email that looks like it’s from a major corporation.

Another email scam

Another new clever email scam. These guys get smarter all the time.

I received an email purporting to be from Google telling me that they blocked a phising attempt and that I had to paste the provided URL (web address) in to my browser to “validate” my email account. The provided URL goes to a Google Docs spreadsheet to make it look legit and it does actually go to Google Docs spreadsheet. The problem is that spreadsheet has a macro/script that infects your computer.

Mistyped Internet address scam

I typed in an address for a web site I go to from time to time but I mistyped the name. The site with that mistyped name redirected me to a page that told me I needed to upgrade my media player with red letters that said “Required”. As an IT professional I knew it was bogus but I can see how so many of my customers have been fooled in to installing this malware. They made the page look just like a page you would see on Nothing actually said Adobe but most people wouldn’t have noticed that.

Be careful what you believe to be legit or allow to be downloaded to your computer from the Internet. There are indeed times when something needs to updated but that info will come from a legit site, not something you got to by accident. Also look for brand names to identify legitimate downloads. Generic terms like “media player” and “video player” are red flags.

Example, if your Adobe Flash Player needs to be updated then any site claiming to be an update site for Adobe Flash Player would have the word Adobe all over it plus it should be at

How to Spot Email Scams

A good column written by John Dvorak over at the PC Magazine site talking about email scams. He provides a list of things to do to determine if it is bogus or not. They are:

1) Does the information come from a shady source? Is there a reference to someone you do not know? Is the wording about the original source vague and breathless, such as, “This came to my attention after I was told that…”

2) Was the message cut and pasted from someplace else?

3) Did someone tell you to pass the message far and wide to everyone you know?

4) Is screwball stuff misspelled?

5) Within the post, is there a disclaimer? (The best one is: “This is not a hoax!”)

6) Does it seem plausible on the surface but your gut tells you it is bogus? (Your immediate BS meter is always correct! Fine tune it.)

7) Does it somehow encourage you to make a fool of yourself by either posting the hoax or passing it along to others? If you are asked to take action out of the blue by a casual acquaintance, then it’s likely a hoax.

8) At the end of the day, is the hoax idiotic when you really look at it closely?

The full article an be read here:,2817,2412537,00.asp

Email PayPal Scam

A PayPal scam this time. I received an email purporting to be from PayPal. It was sent to the correct address and looked exactly like emails I get from PayPal. It said the transfer of $13,438.62 was being held for security reasons and to click the “Accept” or “Decline” buttons.

Oddly the transfer was listed as being to I think I know what email addresses are valid at my own company. Also one sentence had incorrect English.

The buttons both went to the same non-PayPal address where I am sure they would either infect my computer with some sort of malware or would have tried to get my login information for PayPal.