Tag Archives: featured

Battery Life – I just can’t go on livin’ no mo’… Where’s that charger?!

Time for something we all have to deal with in one way or another. Battery Life. Batteries power our favorite electronics from our phones to our laptops to our remote controls to even our cars to that battery-powered electric cat food can opener/flashlight/MP3 player (patent pending) you saw on TV at 3:00 in the morning.  The biggest issue with batteries is something we’ve been accustomed to but always still hate.  The fact that they die.  How do we make them last longer?

Well, usually it depends on the electronic item itself.  For these examples, we will use consumer products that have screens like cell phones and laptops, as that’s where battery life is a primary concern. Sorry cat food can opener… We’ll get to you later.

CanOpenerCatGif

Electronics use electricity in a number of ways.  Some of the electricity is used to power the processor.  Some is used to power the screen. Some is used to power the hard drive (if applicable.)  Some is used to power the radio antennas so you can connect to the Internet.  But most… most of the power is used to power the screen.

Brighten Up Your Battery!  Turn the brightness down.
Your screen has a series of LEDs behind it or on the side of it like in the picture below.  These LEDs are what brighten and darken your screen.  If these LEDs were turned off, but your screen still remained active (that is, the LCD part still remained active) you could shine a bright light in front of the screen and still see your work, but just barely.

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 360

These LEDs are the biggest battery hog of all the components.  They generally pull the most power and the more light needed, the more power needed.  Much more.  This puts a significant strain on the battery.  If you want to save yourself some battery power, lower the brightness on the product you are using.  It may be a little less convenient, but it’s a whole lot more convenient than being stuck somewhere without an outlet and charger to connect to.

Put a pause on that processing power.
The next biggest culprit, on average, is processing power.  I should put this in with a star, as it is actually the most powerful and prominent puller of power, even more so than your LED screen, but your device is not using its full processing power most of the time, it’s not as much a strain as your screen is.  Processing power takes a huge amount of electricity.  Our devices in our pockets are mini computers – all more powerful than the computers we used to launch our astronauts to the moon.  These little computers take millions of calculations, gives out a result and sends it to a visually stimulating representation on the screen.  All of this takes a huge amount of power, particularly if your device has to work harder than normal. The best way to save this power is to not use it at all while on battery, but if that is unavoidable, then more often than not today’s devices have battery saving features built in.  With one click, you can change your product’s processing speed by dropping voltages applied to the processor and RAM which means less power is used.  This also makes your processor slower, so things may slow down a bit, but only if you’re trying to play a game or something that makes that little computer of yours work harder.

Power Saving

I hate listening to the radio… too many commercials.
Well, not that kind of radio.  A “radio” in the case of a computer, phone, laptop or tablet is a device that connects you to external communications bands in some way.  The more common known ones are Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and Cell radios.  These radios are constantly blasting out or searching for frequencies on its band hoping to either hear or be heard.  This blasting sucks up battery life at a fairly considerable rate.  Turning off any radios you don’t have a use for, such as Bluetooth if you’re not near your car or have a headset or WiFi if you’re in the middle of the jungle, will save you a good amount of power down the road.  Often, if you are in a remote area and you are barely receiving any cell service, it is also a good idea to simply turn your phone on to “Airplane” mode, which turns off all radios.  Turning off the cell tower when you barely have reception will save your battery a lot of strain because when a phone cannot get a good enough signal, it works harder to try and keep/amplify the one that it has.

hidden-cell-tower-2

Tomorrow, we will talk about battery conditioning and how to make your battery have a longer overall life.

Digital Cables – DVI-D, DVI-DL, DVI-I, DVI-Ayayay!

Wires… wires everywhere a wire.  Connecting all the electronics breaking my mind… Well, I tried to make it to the tune of a popular 70s song.  There are many wires and cables out in this world today, and one the has a lot of people confused is the infamous DVI cable. This cable, one of the first all-digital consumer video transfer cables, comes in many forms, and not many people realize it.

DVITypecropped

 

Let’s go down the line on what those different little sets of pins mean:

DVI-D – The “D” stands for “Digital.” Has a single bar on the left, 2 sets of 3×3 smaller pins on the right hand side.  This is used for pure digital connections.  You cannot plug an analog connection (like a DVI to VGA adapter) into a plug like this.

DVI-A – The “A” stands for “Analog.” Has 4 pins around the single bar on the left with scattered pins all throughout the right.   This is used for analog connections.  Most DVI connections have this ability built into other modes, such as the next configuration…

DVI-I Single Link – The “I” stands for “Integrated.”  Like the DVI-D, it has the bar on the left, the 2 sets of 3×3 smaller pins on the right but it also has 4 pins surrounding the bar.  Those 4 pins, in addition to others, transfer the analog signal and can be used with an analog adapter (like DVI to VGA.)

DVI-D Dual Link – Much like the DVI-D Single Link, except now the entire middle is filled in with 9 more pins, giving all 27 slots a fill for a full dual connection.  A dual link card can operate 2 individual monitors out of one DVI port.  You will need a special adapter to take advantage of this feature.  Because it is pure digital, an analog adapter will not work with this type of connection.  To do that, you will need the last type of connection…

DVI-I Dual Link – Just like the DVI-I Dual Link, but you can use it as an analog output as well.  A DVI to VGA adapter will work just fine on a card with this output.

Heat – It’s getting hot in here so take off all your… CPU fans?

Actually, don’t take off your CPU fans.  That would be bad.  But that does bring us to our next topic:  Heat!  We all know heat.  We all run away from it when it gets too unbearable.  We all cower from it in a source of cool water when we can hide from it.  Sometimes, we just go full Simpson and rely on a simple fan:

Reminds me a little of my family in summer…
giphy

But what can’t run away from heat?  Your electronics.  Your cell phone, your laptop, your desktop computer, or anything else with a circuit board and electricity, really.  Heat also happens to be the number one killer of electronic components… next to dropping it in the toilet (don’t ask) and “accidentally” taking a hammer to it.

Keeping your electronics cool is critical to keeping them alive. Electronics can’t really get too cold, so don’t worry about freezing them.  Ways to keep your electronics cool include:

Make sure they have enough air flow around them
Consistent air flow is a good thing.  It keeps cool air moving in and warm air moving out.  Stale/stagnant air is caused by poor circulation, and the only thing that happens is the heat that is dissipated away from the hot box is stuck in the air, giving no cooling advantage.

Ensure that any cooling fans aren’t blocked
If your electronics cooler has a fan/grill on it, make sure it is not blocked.  If the cooling device doesn’t have access to cooler air to push onto the component in question, like a CPU fan on a CPU, then that product has a good chance of overheating.  This is also true if the fan itself is covered in dust.  This is why technically people regard “dust” as the killer, but the real reason is the heat that results from it.  Be sure to give your electronics a good blasting with some canned air periodically.

Uncover those vents
Many electronics have heat vents at the top that allow heat to travel up and out under normal airflow conditions.  This is passive cooling as they simply need to not be covered to allow the air to flow.  If these vents are blocked, heat can and will build up inside the device, slowly destroying it.  Want a good example?  Look at the top or back of your flat panel TV.

Pixels – Full Ultra HD BD HDDVD Hi-Res 1080P 4K OMGWTFBBQ?!

We’ve heard it all before.  1080P.  4K.  Ultra High Resolution. Full HD.  What does it all mean?  These expressions define resolution.

What is resolution?  Resolution is the number of pixels, or spots of color/definition, on a screen.  The higher the resolution, the more pixels on screen.  A black and white pixel is defined as turning a screen section black/”on” or clear/”off”.  This can be seen on old Game Boys or other non-numeric digital displays.  A color pixel is usually defined by 3 colors, red yellow and cyan.  Any combination of brightness and selected color can make a near-infinite number of colors.  This is the kind of technology used on televisions, smart phones, and computer monitor screens.

So what do all these numbers mean?  When you look at a resolution list, you may see a long list of options ranging from 800×600 to 3840×2160 or even higher.  The first number in the pair is going to be how many lines of pixels there are going to be from left to right.  The second in the pair is going to be how many lines of pixels are going to be going up and down.  In the first example, the 800 represents 800 lines of pixels going across from left to right, and 600 represents 600 pixels going from top to bottom on your screen.  This equates to 480,000 visible pixels on the screen.  Take that in comparison to the higher number set we gave you earlier of 3840×2160 with its 8,294,400 pixels and you’ll see how it pales in comparison.

With higher resolution comes greater detail and sharpness.  This is because there are more pixels per sq inch.  If you squeeze more pixels into a single spot, the less you will notice any “block” effects caused by individual pixels.  It also gives you more visible room on your monitor for your applications and icons.  Most programs and images are designed with a certain “pixel height” meaning that your icon is designed to be 90 pixels high, for instance.  If you have a super high resolution monitor, those 90 pixels take up a lot less space than they would on a lower resolution monitor.  In the example above, a 90 pixel square icon would take up over 11% of the screen from left to right and 15% of the screen from top to bottom.  Compared to the 3840×2160, where that same icon would now take up 2.3% and 4.1%, respectfully.

Below is a list of common terms/marketing phrases and their associated resolutions:

640×480 – 480i, CRT TV resolution

800×600 – low resolution, default resolution, fail-safe resolution

1024×768 – recommended resolution, minimum resolution

1366×768 – 720P, 1080i

1600×900 – minimum widescreen LCD computer monitor resolution

1920×1080 – 1080P, Full HD, HD

3840×2160 – UHD, 4K

Below you can see a chart of all the resolution types available.

System Restore – Your best friend. Trust me.

Your computer broke.  It won’t function right.  You got something that it didn’t quite link.  You decided to be brave and play with the registry.  That program from the year 2000 isn’t playing nice with your 2014 machine.  There are many different reasons, and they all have a simple solution.

System Restore.

This lovely little tool found in versions from Windows XP through 8.1 can be useful for fixing any number of issues with Windows by sending your computer to a previous time.  There are multiple ways to access and utilize System Restore and your needed method depends on your operating system.  For Windows 7, the easiest method is the following:

  1. Click on the start menu
  2. In the search box at the bottom, type in the word “Restore”
  3. At the top will be an option to select “System Restore”
  4. Click on it
  5. Click next on the first screen to show up
  6. The screen you will see will list any available immediate restore points.  If you don’t see a restore point you like, you can click on “Show more restore points” at the bottom
  7. Generally, we recommend selecting a restore point at least 3 days before the issues were first noticed
  8. Once you have selected a restore point, click “Next”
  9. Click “Finish”
  10. A window will pop up telling you that once system restore has started, it cannot be stopped.  Take note that this is a critical piece of information – If system restore is halted or stopped for any reason, it could render your computer completely unusable.

Once you click OK, system restore will begin.  Once finished, as long as all goes well, your system will be back to a time it saved and your issue should hopefully be resolved!

Bits vs. Bytes – What your Internet provider isn’t telling you.

So today I was asked “Why aren’t I downloading at 10 megabytes per second! I’m paying for a 10 Mbps connect speed! The fastest I’ve ever seen 2.1 megabytes! What gives?”

Well, he was actually paying for 10 MegaBITS per second. In the world of computing, capitalization matters. 10 Mbps = 10 Megabits per second. 10 MBps = 10 Megabytes per second. In this case, he’s paying for 10 Mbps instead of MBps. So ok, you’re wondering what’s the difference? Well, a lot actually.

A bit is a digit. 1 or 0. A byte is a set of 8 digits grouped into one. 01100110. Now the bigger difference is that when you download something in bytes, it takes 8 times longer to download 1 byte as it does 1 bit (because you’re downloading 8 bits in one byte.) When you’re downloading something, you’re looking at your KiloBYTES per second or MegaBYTES per second. When you’re buying internet, you’re looking at the MegaBITS per second. Why do they do this change? Because “Bits” allows them to use a much higher number than “Bytes.” It’s a marketing tactic. 10 Megabits per second sounds a lot better than 1.25 Megabytes per second, right?

So, theoretically, to get the real number of MegaBYTES your 10MegaBIT connection can download, you take the number of MegaBITS and divide it by 8 to get the MegaBYTES you will be downloading at. In this case, 1.25 Megabytes is your theoretical average. Reaching 2.1 Megabytes on a 10Mbps connection as a download speed probably isn’t a far stretch either, since most companies will give you a speed boost if you’re downloading a larger file.

Wow… this whole bit has got me wanting a bite..

Viruses – Nasty little critters

Oh this is going to be a nasty subject. Viruses. Everyone knows they’re out there (even you, Mac users!) and are infecting millions of PCs and Macs daily. Yes, Macs do get viruses… they just don’t find out that they’ve been infected for much longer.

In this series of posts, we will be discussing the following subjects:

What are they?
Who makes them?
Where do they come from?
What do they do?
What do they do? – Part 1: Botnets
What do they do? – Part 2: Keylogging
What do they do? – Part 3: Remote Contol
What do they do? – Part 4: Scareware/Ransomware
How do I know if I’m infected?
Help! I’ve been infected! Get it off get it off!
How do I prevent it from happening next time?

UPS Power Backups – For those times you didn’t save often enough…

In another post we discussed the importance of surge protectors.  Let’s take it a step further.  Today we are discussing UPS Power Backups, also known as “Uninterrupted Power Supplies.”

In the event of a blackout, power to your home or office is cut off and your lights and electronics will go out.  Generally, the only things that survive the lack of electrons are components with built in batteries like your laptop or cell phone.  But what about your desktop computer that you were just sitting on as you write that critical report?

An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) has a battery within its casing that powers any component connected to it in the event of a power loss.  This can be a momentary loss (how many times have your office lights flickered and everything started randomly restarting?) or a full power outage.  When the power goes out, the power immediately starts coming from the battery to power your components, which are generally the monitor and computer.  No other components should be plugged into the UPS to preserve the usable power life of your UPS.  The bigger the battery, the more time you have to safely shut down your computer and save your work.  Remember though: if you have a high-powered gaming system, the computer will pull much more power and will need to be shut down much sooner than a standard work station, so be mindful of your computer type when you make your decision on Uninterrupted Power Supplies.

Be sure to see a great selection of Uninterrupted Power Supplies by clicking here.

Backups – Because you never know

It cannot be said enough:  Back up!  Back up!  Back up!  Always backup your information.  Always put your most valuable information in a safe place. Hide it in a fireproof safe, but please, always have backups! Have backups of your backups. Have backups for those backups. You can never be too backed up.  Well, that’s not entirely true but we won’t go there.

To back up your digital stuff, you have a few options in today’s world. There are 3 ways we will discuss today:

1. External Backups
2. “Poor Man’s” Backups
3. “Cloud” Backups

External backups are pretty self explanatory. External hard drives. Internal computer drives NOT associated with your main drive. Flash drives. Tape drives. DVDs and CDs.  Anything that holds data that will take a long while to stop working. This is the most common way of backing up your information, and works very well.

The “Poor Man’s” backup is a nifty little trick. If you have web-based email such as Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, or AOL then you can do this. What you do is you take your files you want to save, namely work files or other document files, nothing big, and zip them up into a zip file whose total file size is no more than 20MB zipped. Then, you email that zip file to yourself! That way, if your computer dies out, you’ll always have a backup of those files in your email. **Note: Some web-mail clients block Executable (.exe) files found in Zip files, so change the Zip file’s extension to .txt and then email it to yourself.

The last one being described today is called the “Cloud.” You may have heard this term loosely used from time to time, especially in Microsoft ads. The cloud is essentially storage on hard drives owned or rented by major companies found on the internet. You upload your files to these remote machines, which you will never have to maintain or worry about even seeing, and they will sit there until they expire or you delete the files. One shining example of “Cloud” storage, which is also free to a certain extent, is called “DropBox” and they can be found here: www.dropbox.com

Ad Block – Say no more. See no more.

Ads! Endless Ads! We are bombarded by them daily. They are in our TVs, radios, internet pages, billboards and even our smart phones.

We can try DVR’ing out the ads from TV, but even then you still have to sit there watching everything run in Fast Forward. You can try switching to a different station on the radio, but now-a-days it seems like every radio station plays their commercials at the same time, so you’re always hearing them.

But there is one place you can get rid of them: The internet. To do so, you’ll need to download either “Firefox” or “Google Chrome” and get extension called “AdBlock Plus.” It’s free, simple, light, and does an amazing job at preventing ads from getting in to your web surfing. AdBlock Plus does not just block ads, but actually prevents them from loading into your system, making your web surfing inherently faster because you won’t have to spend time loading up the huge ads. It also makes your computer safer because some ads also contain the malware that infects millions of PCs a year.

Bonus!  All computers sold by AA Computers come with these programs and adblocking built right in!