Everyday Tips from the ComputerMom 

December 2018
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Wow, December already. Such a cliche, but I really don't know how the year passes so quickly! 

Many of you are shopping for a new PC or Mac this month, so my first article details important specs to look for. Next, there is a really scary scam email going around - if you find it in your inbox, please don't fall for it! And lastly, I have some gift related links in my final Facebook Roundup for 2018.

Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, to one and all!


Julie Marto 
PS - ComputerMom tech support might just be the perfect holiday present! Give me a call if you're interested in a gift certificate.
New Computer Specs

'Tis the season for a new computer! Even if it seems you can do everything with a cell phone, sometimes you just need to use a bigger system. When computer shopping season comes along, I get a lot of questions about what specs I recommend - here are some answers. 

PCs - If you  are buying a new PC this year, the most important spec to look at is the hard drive. Regardless of the rest of the system, as long as  your new desktop or laptop has a solid state drive (SSD) you will be happy with it. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

I see a lot of desktops configured with a smaller (128 or 256GB) SSD and a bigger (1TB or more) standard "storage" drive. This is an excellent price/performance configuration, but it requires special set up to direct your data to the larger drive. Most PC manufacturers don't do the actual set up properly - if you purchase a configuration like this, you should definitely have me do the data migration and set up as a drop off service.

Although I have also seen the two drive configuration on some laptops, they generally only have room for one hard drive. In that case I highly recommend that you spring for at least a 256GB SSD. There are systems with smaller drives out there, but they will fill up too quickly. I can often add a larger drive later, but some systems are designed so that they cannot be upgraded. If you are unsure about a specific model, just email me with the details.

Aside from the hard drive, you want an  Intel i3, i5, or i7 processor and at least 8GB of RAM. For laptops, I highly recommend a backlit keyboard.

Macs - If your Mac is too old to be upgraded to MacOS Mojave, it's time to consider replacing it. Apple announced a new  MacBook Air and Mac Mini this fall. The base model of both systems ships with only 128GB of storage - not nearly enough, and neither can be upgraded later. This has become Apple's standard practice, so if you are buying an Apple system make sure you upgrade to at least 256GB, if not 512GB, at the time of purchase.

The  2018 MacBook Air is a better value than the 2017 MacBook, especially in terms of connectivity. Apple now uses a single type of USB port, called Thunderbolt 3, for most functions. The 2018 MacBook has only one port and the Air has two. The MacBook Pro has 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side. Regardless of which laptop you purchase, you will probably have to buy some type of adapter to connect multiple or older peripherals.

As far as iMacs are concerned, the two lowest end models come with 1TB spinning hard drives. You are better off stepping up a level to the fusion drive. Putting a large SSD in an iMac is costly, but as people tend to keep iMacs for a very long time, it might be worth it. Again, Apple makes it difficult, if not impossible, to upgrade the system after purchase, so you are best off buying the most system you can afford.  

Whatever type of system  you are considering, don't hesitate to give me a call if you need some advice. And, of course, I'm happy to schedule a customized flat-rate system migration, which will make your new system work as much like your old system as possible!
Scam Alert!

I hate to use my holiday newsletter to alert you all to a scam, but I have literally had a dozen calls about this email, so I want you to ALL know that, although it is scary and there are some steps you should take, the email itself is a lie.

I've seen a few versions of this mail, but they all appear to come from your own email address, and pretty much read like this (typos and all):

"Subject: Security Alert. You account has been hacked. Password (xxxxx) must be need changed.
I'm a programmer who cracked your email account and device about half year ago.  You entered a password on one of the insecure site you visited, and I catched it.  Your password from xxx on moment of crack: (xxxx)
Of course you can will change your password, or already made it.
But it doesn't matter, my rat software update it every time.
Please don't try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your email account.
Through your e-mail, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the Internet resources.  Also I installed a rat software on your device and long tome spying for you.
You are not my only victim, I usually lock devices and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you very often visit.
I am in shock of your reach fantasies! Wow! I've never seen anything like this!
I did not even know that SUCH content could be so exciting!
So, when you had fun on intime sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I jointed them to the content of the currently viewed site.
Will be funny when I send these photos to your contacts! And if your relatives see it?  BUT I'm sure you don't want it. I definitely would not want to ...
I will not do this if you pay me a little amount.  I think $817 is a nice price for it!  I accept only Bitcoins.   My BTC wallet: xxxxxxx
You have 2 days (48 hours) for make a payment.  If this does not happen - all your contacts will get crazy shots with your dirty life!  And so that you do not obstruct me, your device will be locked (also after 48 hours)
Do not take this frivolously! This is the last warning!  Various security services or antiviruses won't help you for sure (I have already collected all your data).
Here are the recommendations of a professional:
Antiviruses do not help against modern malicious code. Just do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites!
I hope you will be prudent.

If you get an email like this, please understand it is all lies - EXCEPT for the fact that a legit password of yours has been associated with your email address.  The internet security community thinks that this occurred due to a LinkedIn hack, but it could be any other of the myriad hacks that have made the news in the last few years.  The most important thing you can do is to change your password at any site that uses the password referenced in the letter. 

As good practice, you shouldn't reuse passwords on more than one site. As good practice, you should enable two factor authentication whenever possible. If you need some help hardening up your security, just give me a call.  
Facebook Roundup - Holiday Edition

I post a carefully curated selection of interesting articles on my Facebook page. For those of you who aren't on Facebook, or who might have missed my links, here are some of my recent postings:

Smart Speakers from Google, Apple, and Amazon are among the most popular holiday presents this year. This article reviews the offerings from those major players.

I do not, however, have a smart speaker myself. Although I think, like smart phones, eventually everyone will have one, this article details the concerns I have about inviting a corporate entity to listen to everything said in my home.

And speaking of phones, I suspect there will be plenty of new ones unwrapped this month. This excellent article talks about the best way to conserve and preserve your phone's battery over its lifespan.

And don't forget, the end of December also marks the end of Apple's $29.00 battery replacements for selected iPhones. Grab that new battery while you can!