March 3rd, 2017

Spring Clean Your Computer Inside and Out

 

computer spring cleaning

It’s spring cleaning time again. Here at LD, we love that there’s a designated season to tidy our cupboards, closets, dressers, drawers and more. Without it, we aren’t quite certain we’d ever tackle the mess.

While you’re at it this year, why not also clean something you likely use almost daily: your computer? We’re talking inside and out, including both those cluttered files and that physical grime.

We offer these tips to get you started.

Spring Cleaning Inside Your Computer

 

computer spring cleaning

We mean ‘inside’ in the digital sense, of course. All those little ones and zeros sure can become a tangled mess.

1. Delete, Back-up & Update Files: The first step in digital spring cleaning is going through all your software and data files, keeping only what you need and use. Remember Marie Kondo’s wisdom from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: unless you love it, lose it.

[Need help knowing what you can do without? Ask an LD expert in store.]

One option for tidying away large but important files, like family photos, is to store them on an external hard drive. You can also back files up on “the cloud,” which is really just a hard drive in another location. For this, consider using iCloud, Google Drive, or a similar service.

Finally, many too often ignore operating system and software update requests. But spring cleaning season provides a great opportunity to start fresh. Oh yeah, and don’t forget empty the trash. On your desktop, that is.

2. Clear Cookies, Caches & Spyware: Slightly trickier than removing unnecessary or excess files you’ve added yourself, is eliminating those added by others. This includes tracking software like cookies and spyware. Don’t worry, there are easy ways to clear it all. Possibly the best approach is to run top-notch security software that monitors your computer for unwanted files. There are also free security programs that work in a pinch, like SpyBot.

Clearing your browser history is also a fresh idea for spring. Sure, some cached website data may actually improve your web experience, but too many from sites you rarely visit will slow you down. So it’s good to return to a blank slate. No matter your browser, you’ll find ‘history clearing’ options in the settings.

3. Run A System Optimizer: Let’s face it, we aren’t all tech savvy or patient enough to keep our computers running ship shape. Luckily, for those who prefer to resolve errors, crashes, and freezing automatically, while also speeding up their computers, there is system optimizing software available.

Spring Clean Outside Your Computer

computer spring cleaning

A dirty computer is unsanitary and just plain icky. So cleaning your computer’s exterior is a must. 

1. A Squeaky Clean Screen: It’s important to keep your computer monitor clean, but using regular glass cleaner or wet cloth is not recommended. Show your monitor some due respect by using specially-designed cleaning cloths and fluids. But also, don’t forget to give your computer’s entire exterior a good, old-fashioned soapy wipe down.

2. De-Crumb Your Keyboard: Especially if you’re the type to snack at or near your computer, your keyboard probably has more than a few crumbs stuck inside. These may seem harmless, but over time they can wear out your keys. To remove them, you can start by simply tipping your keyboard upside down and shaking, or by vacuuming if that’s easier. Afterward, wipe it down and consider adding an invisible keyboard shield.

3. Blow Away Internal Dust: This “outside” technique requires getting a bit deeper in your computer. If you have a desktop tower, it should be relatively easy to open with a screwdriver. For laptops, consider watching how-to videos or speaking to an LD Expert first. Once you’re inside, the best tool for getting dust out is usually a can of air. Don’t want to open your computer up? Blowing air into the cooling fans helps, too.

For clarification or more tips on spring cleaning your computer, speak to an LD Expert today. To make a purchase, shop London Drugs in-store or online.

Happy spring cleaning, everyone. 

ALSO: DEALING WITH ONLINE “PHISHING” SCAMS



February 10th, 2017

LD Experts: Think Cyber Security Is Mainly About Viruses? Go Phish!

The internet is always changing.

Just ten years ago, most of our time online was spent sitting down in front of monitors at home, school, or work, often communicating over email. We still have desktops and email, of course. But now we can connect anywhere with smartphones and other smart devices, while social media changed how we communicate forever. (Check out London Drugs on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to see how much we love our social media!)

The More Things Change…

But the old saying also applies: the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example, one thing that will probably always be true of the internet is there are serious cyber security threats lurking on it. The problem is, many of us have not kept up with the emerging modern threats.

For a lot of us, the first thought that comes to mind when considering cyber security is still ensuring we have up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Important, indeed.

But as LD Expert Matt Simpson explains, the biggest threat facing computer users today may be phishing scams.

What is a Phishing Scam?

Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) scams are automated messages containing threats to your computer that are sent to your email, social media, or even your text messaging accounts. They’re called that because they are cast out into the wide internet like a baited hook, hoping to catch consumers unaware.

With fishing in real life, you don’t expect to catch every fish in the lake, or even every fish that see or touch the bait. But if you have patience, you’re likely to catch something. Similarly, the hackers and internet ruffians who create phishing scams don’t spend a lot of time working to get your specific information. They just sit back and hope for the best. This is part of what makes phishing scams different from old-fashioned email con scams that involved a series of messages sent back and forth.

Also like fishing, phishing works because the bait looks so safe and appealing. That’s because phishing messages look just like something you would receive from a friend, family member, or even a company or institution you trust, like your bank. Often, they actually do come from a trusted source. It’s just that their account has already been corrupted by the same automated scam. Phishing messages also contain contents you might expect to receive from those sources. Something like, “Hey! How are you? Check out this funny video!”

But once you open the link, or provide any information, it may already be too late. Your entire computer can instantly be corrupted and your online and real identity can be stolen.

A Recent Example

Early in 2017, Google Gmail users were attacked with a new and very sophisticated phishing scam. It arrived in an email that appeared to be from a friend. When they opened it and clicked on the link inside, the normal Gmail sign-in window popped up.

Many users immediately signed back in, assuming they had simply been logged out for one reason or another. The problem was, it wasn’t a real Gmail sign in prompt.

It was a very convincing copy.

As a result, Google is now making changes to their email service. They’ll be blocking all Gmail attachments in JavaScript, which was the file-type used in this scam.

What To Do About Phishing Scams?

For tips on what to do about phishing scams, we turn to Matt, our LD Expert on cyber security. His first bit of advice is to simply be vigilant.

“Be mindful of what you’re doing,” Matt says, “Don’t punch in your banking information to a site that’s like ‘www.I’m-going-to-steal-your-information.com.’ It’s never quite that blatant, but it’s actually usually a lot more blatant than you would expect. Scammers sort of bank on long URLs being hard to read and people often don’t look at the URL.”

You can also utilize the anti-phishing extensions to help you identify potentially dangerous web addresses. This option is usually found in the security settings of your web browser. Another option is to make sure to purchase internet security software, which goes far beyond a basic anti-virus.

“Anti-virus will only protect you from viruses. But internet security will still protect you from viruses, has a firewall, and has anti-phishing measures. It also has anti-spam measures, which is still quite a pervasive problem,” Matt says.

Still, some might question why it’s important to buy an internet security system when there are free versions available online. According to Matt, it’s all about response time:

“If you go with any of the big name brands, they all have faster and more effective turn-around times for new problems than the free services. They have more effective auto-update procedures, as well.”

Final Advice to Avoid Being Phished

Here are Matt’s final thoughts on cyber security, anti-virus, and how to avoid a phishing scam’s hook.

“If a website is asking for your password and you’re not sure why, just don’t enter it. It’s not what people want to hear, exactly, but a lot of phishing scams bank on our complacency.

So a lot of the solution just has to do with us being a bit more educated and vigilant. Because, a lot of the time when we get people in the store with malware or ransomware, it’s because they’ve done something without really paying attention to what’s happening.

It’s sort of sad, but true.

I love selling people good anti-virus products. But if I can get someone to walk out of the store with the idea of being a little more aware of what’s going on, that’s actually a bigger win in terms of cyber security.”

The internet may be changing all the time, but a few things won’t.

There will always be someone online looking to cause you harm. You will always be safest if you stick with professional internet security software. And London Drugs experts like Matt are available in-store to answer your questions or help you resolve any cyber security problems you may have.

 

Matthew Simpson has been a manager with the London Drugs Computer and Audio/Video Departments for many years. He loves tea, but not coffee, and is usually the tallest guy in the room.

Matthew is an avid movie buff and he can almost always tell you the name of that guy that was in that movie you love.  (And also answer all your questions about computers and electronics, of course.)



November 23rd, 2016

Top Gifts for Techies

It’s the last weekend of November and before long you’ll have holiday parties to attend and travel plans to make. So why not get your shopping done early? 

xmas-shopping-2016-blog-1200x630

Starting with last week’s Top Gifts for Busy Women, we’re posting weekly gift guides for different groups, including everything from stocking stuffers to show stoppers.

This week, it’s our gift guide for techies. Whether he or she works or studies in IT or is just keen to test out all the latest in tech, we’ve got you covered.

Tech Gift Guide

Here’s our guide to help you buy a cutting-edge gift for the techie on your list.

1. VR is (Finally) Real

Tech Gift GuideSadly, much of the tech we dreamed of as kids remains unavailable. Despite coming close last summer, we’re still waiting for hoverboards like the one Marty McFly rode, and let’s not get started on lunar hotels. Sheesh.

But it’s not all bad – 2016 finally brought us virtual reality, or VR, headsets. Still, it’s important to know that not all VR is the same.

On the top end are the most potent VR sets, like Playstation VR, which require powerful nearby tech, in its case a Playstation 4 and PS4 camera, to run truly stunning experiences. They’re great for those really ready to invest in VR, or who’ve been ready for decades.

For others, there are awesome, amazingly affordable VR headsets that utilize your smartphone to play the thousands of downloadable VR games from your preferred app store. And speaking of childhood memories, there’s Mattel’s updated VR View-Master, offering fun for kids aged 7 to 99.

2. Super Smart Homes

 

Tech Gift GuideUntil recently, about the smartest home tech devices were robot vacuum. Those are still great (and even mop now), but today there are many home tech devices available.

Nest is a pioneer in connected homes. By pairing with your smartphone and adapting to your needs, their original smart thermostat made thermostats cool in 2011, which had been hard to imagine before. Now they also offer a smart smoke detector and a security camera.

But smart homes go beyond even that. There are also smart outlets available to reveal exactly how much energy each appliance uses and when. Not to mention internet-connected smart doorbells, air quality sensors, and multi-cam security systems.

There are even smart light bulbs now. No, really.

3. Join the Stream

Tech Gift GuideThese days, virtually all techies use “streaming media.” It means playing audio or video content without downloading it. Instead, their device simply receives a ‘stream’ of data.

This innovation allows access to massive digital libraries, like those on Netflix and Spotify. It also allows more flexibility at home about where to play your content, as you can also stream from one device to another.

As with all tech revolutions, there are tools that make streaming easier. For streaming video to your TV, there are devices like Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku devices.

For streaming any saved media, there are media hubs. For streaming to your existing stereo equipment, there are Bluetooth audio receivers. Meanwhile, wireless in-home audio systems can stream sound to every room, and portable wireless speakers stream music anywhere.

4. Run a Gadget Play

Tech Gift Guide

If there’s one thing no techie can resist, it’s the allure of a shiny new gadget. Believe us, we’ve tried.

It could be something simple, like an aluminum stylus. Or much more elaborate, like an ultra compact PC that fits in the palm of your hand. Oooohhh.

We all know techies love their smartphones. So help keep them charged, super chargedcharged in the dark, or charged on the go.

A great option for scatterbrained techies is the Tile tracking system that virtually eliminates the worry of ever losing one of their wonderful toys. Oh, and don’t forget cords and adapters. Techies love those. Just ask what they need, but be prepared for a list.

For more gift-giving advice for the techie on your list, speak to an LD Expert today. To make a purchase, visit London Drugs in-store and online.

We’ll be back next week with a top gift guide for foodies. See you then! 



August 11th, 2016

LD Experts: Best Tablets for Back-to-School 2016

back to school 2016 tablets

Last week, our LD Experts covered the best school laptops of 2016. But what if you want a device that’s more practical for schoolwork than a smartphone, but lighter and generally cheaper than a laptop?

Of course, you’ll be interested in tablets. These days, that also includes convertibles or hybrids – with hideable or detachable keyboards. That way, they function as either a laptop or a tablet, as needed.

But which are your best options? As always, that depends on your needs and also your budget. Here are some of the best tablet options for 2016.

READ MORE



August 5th, 2016

LD Experts: Best Laptops for Back-to-School 2016

London Drugs School Laptops Guide

Returning to class, whether it’s grade school, college, or university, is always part-thrilling-part-daunting. If choosing a new laptop is among your 2016 concerns, our London Drugs Experts can help.

First, consider what you need. Mainly web surfing and word processing? Keep it light and low-priced with good battery life. Running deep data analysis or, you know, video games? Step up in screen size and processing power.

That means there are two broad categories of back-to-school laptops. Let’s call them essential and advanced. Below are four recommendations for each category spread between the most popular laptop brands.

No matter what you do in 2016, London Drugs has a laptop for you. Here are some of the year’s best options.

READ MORE



May 2nd, 2016

LD Experts: May the Fourth Be With You

may the fourth be with you london drugs

By Matthew Simpson, Computers Manager

May the 4th is here! It’s that special time of year where we all gather together to celebrate Star Wars! It’s a big year for Star Wars fans, with the release of The Force Awakens and the upcoming Rogue One. Needless to say, it’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan! Let’s take a closer look at some cool stuff we’ve got in-store to help with the celebration of your favourite franchise.

READ MORE



November 23rd, 2015

Researchers Have Discovered the Perfect Password That’s Also Easy to Remember

password

Nope, it’s not “password,” sorry. Back to the drawing board….

The perfect password must be both secure and memorable. And that creates a big problem for just about everyone.

That’s because very secure passwords—like “{mk_S*b0r2xZ;9YW”—are also very hard to remember.

And very memorable passwords—like “password” or “12345678”—are also very insecure.

The perfectly secure, perfectly memorable password is rarer than the unicorn, writes Alexandra Petri: “Like the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, the philosopher’s stone…no one has ever found it, and some doubt it exists at all.”

unicorn

Not so fast, Alex. Two researchers from the University of Southern California have recently discovered what they call the perfect password solution: a randomly-generated poem. You know, something like:

A peanut never classified
expected branches citywide

Huh? Like many great ideas, on first glance this one seems bizarre. Marjan Ghazvininejad and Kevin Knight got the idea from the popular Web comic XKCD, which showed that a password composed of four random words—like “correct horse battery staple”—is both more secure and easier to remember than the typical alphanumeric jumble that most people consider a safe password.

correc-horse

xkcd.com

This is because there are 327,868 words in a standard English dictionary. It is very difficult for even a powerful algorithm to calculate the correct relationship between random words. To guess the correct sequence, says Knight, a computer would have to test billions of billions of billions of possibilities before it hit on the right one.

To increase the cryptographic complexity, the researchers took it a step further. They proposed a password comprising between six and eight words, selected randomly and arranged in a short poem of two lines. Then they designed a computer program to ensure that each password’s governing metre is rhyming iambic tetrameter. (This is what gives it the beat of poetry, making it a cinch to remember.)

A tidy market compromise
agreement oysters butterflies

Read too many and the minds starts to reel, but the poems are often whimsical and fun, hinting at some deeper relationship between individual words.

His tariff curbing studio
includes a gripping cameo

A cookie Interpol survey
by Telecom hotel today

Polanski visible inside
pergola torturing a bride

Martina needle satisfied
ancestral readers nationwide

These passwords may seem odd, but they are very, very secure. At current computer speeds, Knight estimates, cracking them would take around 5 million years.

The researchers have created an online generator that creates these little poems. Take a look for yourself and see what happy accidents it spits out.

random

NOTE: The site is for demonstration only. Because hackers could potentially download all the poems and try them out, you shouldn’t use one as your password. (Try substituting some words in and out if you want to create your own.)

Another way to get a unique secure poem is to enter your email address here. Their program will send you a secure password, then automatically delete it from their server.

Happy secure computing!

 



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