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Highlights from the Flying Doctor's logbook

Welcome to the
April issue of highlights from the my flights.

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The Flying Doctor specialises in fast response to computer problems for homes, people running business from home and in small offices.

Call The Flying Doctor because we will sort out your computer, web and network issues in a businesslike, sensible way. But, if there’s no affordable cure and it’s cheaper for you to buy a new computer, we will say so.

With 30 years’ experience of fixing computers, there isn’t much that we haven’t seen before. But we’re honest too - if we can’t fix it, we’ll tell you!

Remember we offer free email and telephone support and you can read our collection of
free guides

We’re so sure that we’ll sort out your problems that we say:
if The Flying Doctor doesn’t sort your problem then you don’t pay!


And some more news!

The Flying Doctor is getting so successful that he is expanding his fleet and flying to new destinations to help people suffering from computer panic.

I am creating new operational bases by franchising the business:
Do you know anyone who would like to be their  own boss as a Captain with the Flying Doctor?

With a franchise with The Flying Doctor they can run a successful, enjoyable and profitable business from home.

Get to know about this exciting opportunity: email franchise@theflyingdoctor.biz or go to http://www.theflyingdoctor.biz/franchise with the flying doctor.html

 

This month we look at:


Synchronising computers
If you have more than one computer – say a big machine in the office and a netbook for carrying around, then keeping stuff in sync is about the hardest thing to do. Emails end up all over the place and your favourite internet sites are never on the computer that you are using at the time.

Let's deal with emails first. The basic requirement is to be able to send and read to emails on the road. Reading is easy. Decide which is going to be your main machine – A - and which your occasional email reader - . Now set up the mail system on B to receive your emails but to leave them on the server ( this is usually in advanced settings).

So when you download emails to B they are still on the server and will be received by A as well. Secondly, set a rule to send a BCC of any sent email to your email address. Thus A will also get copies of anything you send. It isn't always possible to send emails from B when away from base as your mail provider might only allow you to send emails from your own broadband line. This is to try to cut down on spam. You can use your ISP's webmail to send/receive or use a third-party system for all your emails.

Internet favourites, bookmarks or whatever are great and save us a lot of time. So it would be good to have them available on all the computers that you use. Again we have choices!

One method is to install a web-based system such as Xmarks that automatically synchronises your favourites with your web-based list. So if you add a favourite it is uploaded invisibly to your web list. When another of your computers goes onto the web, it downloads the new favourite to its local store.

Alternatively, you can use a portable manager that sits on a USB stick and makes all your favourites available to you on whatever computer you are on. Pop 'portable bookmarks freeware' into google.


Out of the Office? Try mobile broadband
Out and about a lot? Need to use your computer? There are two main options:

  • wifi;
  • Mobile broadband (3G).

So what are you going to choose? Well, it can be a pretty close-run thing. Wifi has the advantage in speed, but requires you to find a wifi spot and stay there. With 3G you can be on the move but coverage still has a way to go to get a signal everywhere -  there are big differences between vendors. On the other hand, most wifi hotspots are in public places like coffee shops.

I think what will decide the issue for most UK users is that internet is being integrated into more and more mobile phones. More and more of these connect to computers and can provide 3G directly. Others use a USB dongle to connect but can be bundled in as part of a contract. The best thing is that as we increasingly rely on the internet, the 3G service acts as a backup to your broadband in case that goes down.

Where wifi scores is travelling abroad, where 3G roaming charges can be excruciating.

Passwords
Ugly subject. How much effort should you put into them? How do you remember them?

Well, you do need to think about them if they are to keep you safe. The most common are '123456' and '12345', closely followed by '123456789' and 'password'.  Not clever. So you choose something else - like say 'monkey'. Now that's one no-one will think of! Oh, it's actually the 14th most common in a recent analysis.

Even if you choose an obscure word, then it is still susceptible to  a 'dictionary attack', where a piece of software just tries everything in the OED or similar in a brute-force attack.

So the problem is that we need to have a secure password but not ones we will forget. After all there is no point in writing them down and putting them in your laptop bag.

Now, having one password means that it someone cracks it then everything is exposed. I suggest that you have three or four passwords of increasing complexity. Use #1 for logins where you have to register just to carry on to get a manual or whatever, #2 for networking sites, #3 for sites where you have personal information and #4 for online banking and other sites that you regard as vital. Most people can remember four passwords, but if one is compromised you know those sites on which you need to change the password.

When creating your password, be inventive. As you move up the passwords be longer and more unpredictable. Use Capitals and numbers in random places. Use other characters like %^{ if possible.

Any password can be cracked given enough time and effort. Your mission is for the work needed not worth it to the potential intruder so that they give up and go away. For a forum this is lower than for your bank account, so be proportionate.


Caring for your older computer
Your lovely, friendly and reliable computer is getting a few years old now. It might need a bit of refreshing to keep it in trim.

There are three areas to check - Windows, firmware and hardware.

As ever, back up your data!

Go to windows update (XP: start-programs, Vista & Windows 7: control panel ) and make sure that there are no important downloads waiting. If there are, download and install them. Repeat until everything is on your computer. Now your Windows installation is as secure and robust as possible. Optional updates aren't so important - but see 'firmware' below.

On any computer, the manufacturers of bits of your computer such as the display driver, network connection and similar stuff are always working. You may see updates for these hardware devices as optional updates in Windows updates. If so install them. If you are more confident, then look at the manufacturer's website to see if there are any updates.

Now to hardware - the actual computer. Office PCs particularly act like vacuum cleaners with inside the main  ox becoming the dust bag! This makes them run hotter and hotter, causing them to slow down.

If the case feels hot or the fans are on a lot of the time, might be a good idea to have a quick look inside. On an office machine, unplug it from the mains and remove the left side of the case as you look at the front. Get a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool and get rid of that dust, especially around the  CPU (the thing with a fan on top and lots of cooling fins). Please try to avoid bashing into stuff - I often use a 1inch paintbrush for the harder to reach bits.

Laptops are luckier as they don't tend to be sat on the floor: you can try putting the vacuum nozzle up to any gratings that you can find, but this won't be as effective and please don't try to force the nozzle inside the case.


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