Hacks that endanger your safety

OOOps, Yahoo is admitting to being hacked again; this time it is a double whammy.  They are alerting their customers a fair bit after the damage was done.  They are also being as private as they legally can be about it; “if you or your information was involved, we will contact you with details”.  Details?  If account information fell into the hands of persons or entities outside yahoo proper and you happened to be one of millions of people who store their investment portfolio, investment account information, email account information, or personal information on their servers (to make day to day news, financial, activity, etc. easier), then that information may well have been compromised yet again.

Let me be clear, if you are one of the folks whose information was involved, the damage may have already been done, or it may be used in a month or a year.  I know it is tempting to maximize the convenience offered by services like Yahoo financial, or Bing, or Google, or Scott Trade, or any of hundreds of convenience services provided out in the web; but, we (the consumers) need to be mindful of the fragility of our personal information and therefore careful whom we trust it to.  The more information a service collects, the more attractive it becomes to hackers (thieves by any guise) looking to make big money quickly.

Your personal computer(s) represent a target containing information that might allow cleaning out one family; Yahoo’s servers represent a target containing information for more than a million families.  Even if it is harder to get into Yahoo’s computers, isn’t it clear that it would be worth the effort?  Now most of us have heard of someone who’s personal computer was compromised (causing the wise sufferer to cancel credit cards, change passwords, change account numbers, etc.); it seems a small step to me to understand why hackers would put forth the effort to raid Yahoo or Bing, or any of the other service holders out there.

Now comes the painful part; if you are alerted to the “event” within 24 hours, you have a real good opportunity to prevent any real damage.  You will experience a lot of anxiety and inconvenience to protect yourself, but you can stop it all before any permanent damage is done (you would hope).  On the other hand, if you aren’t alerted to the event until 6 months or a year have gone by (heck, one week would be bad let alone these longer periods), the damage could already have become painfully obvious by the time you are alerted.

All of this brings me to two points; one, choose carefully what you put on “helpful” websites; and two, be careful which of them you trust.  When one of the big banks was hacked a few years back, they alerted clients on the next business day after they found out; Yahoo, started alerting clients last week for a hack that occurred last year.  As consumers, we can pressure these companies into better practices through choosing carefully whom we do business with.

As always, if you have questions, Benediktson Computer is delighted to answer your questions before you have problems and ready to help after the trouble has started.
Benediktson Computer, Inc.
Help@benediktson.com
(575) 956-9723
and check us out on facebook.

Web Advertising part 3

Web Advertising Part 3.

In this installment I will try to describe what is perhaps the most important step you can take to get search engines to favor your web presence; keeping it alive and relevant in the electronic eyes of those search engines. This is important for numerous reasons but let us focus on this one aspect first. The search engines preview content continuously so they can instantly show you relevant responses to your queries; in doing so, they visit web pages (remember when we registered our page(s) with the search engines) to verify that the page is still relevant and to see if it has changed. A couple of impacts occur as a result; if nothing has changed, the score for the page is reduced based on, among other things, how long it has been since the page was changed. If it has changed, the search engine will re-score the page based on the new content and then on its over all content including words, tags, descriptions and so forth.

This score I am talking about is a measure of what sorts of things the content of the website is relevant to. The search engines are completely mechanical in their scoring; no human interference, no human intuition, simple brute force data collection and tabulation combined with a measure of how fresh that data is, and how well the website embodies certain measures of accessibility (does it optimize for different devices, does it provide alternate text for non-text items, does it contain multi-media content and other factors are valued). Now, each search engine is a little different, each one scores differently; but, the intent is the same. The search engines provide quick direction to websites that are most relevant for the search criteria provided by a user; in addition to websites that have paid to be included in searches for some or all of the search criteria. Exactly how important each aspect is varies with different search engines; but, that freshness is always an important factor. You don’t really want to be shown websites that haven’t changed in five years (is that company still operating if their website hasn’t changed?) and this is one part of the score we can influence easily.

Over time, what you provide or how much you charge for products and services may change; updating your website to reflect that is a great idea if only for this reason. Bonus, updating that website also creates new interest on the part of the search engine and serves to potentially increase your score simply because your website is showing life, growth, freshness! As time goes on, you may get new improved media items to replace old ones or think of better ways to describe your offerings; don’t be shy, this is all positive in terms of increasing the score of your website. If you join a new organization pertinent to your offerings, add a link to that organization, get them to link back to your page, add a post or a paragraph to your page describing how this relationship improves your offerings. All of this keeps your website alive and interesting to the search engines and consumers alike.

I wish to offer a cautionary note at this point; particularly if customers use your website regularly for reference or their commercial or personal activities. Changing the overall structure of your website, which may keep it fresh, may also cause some frustration for your customers. Adding and enhancing content is one thing (a positive thing); but, making major changes on a regular basis can prove frustrating to folks for whom your website is a regular resource. Keeping the navigation of the website consistent and the type of content consistent can go a long way to maintaining customer loyalty. If you are thinking about providing an entirely new type of content, this is a good place to create a new website and then provide a link to it (the new website) on your current website (remember to provide an obvious return link on the new website). A quick tip; most hosting plans allow for free subdomains which can be a great place to test new content, new business ideas, with only your time as an investment as far as web presence is concerned. If you need help with this concept, your hosting help line or favorite consultant is likely to be very familiar with this and related topics.

Keeping your website and other web offerings up to date is one of the easiest tasks you can undertake and it offers numerous advantages related to why you created a web presence in the first place. I recommend that you set aside time each month to review all of your web assets with an eye to making small improvements on a regular basis; and remember the web itself is constantly changing, growing, and adapting to the demands of a huge audience; you can grow with it and prosper.

Web Advertising Part 1

Web Advertising Part 1.

This will be a multi-part project from me; this week, in part 1, I will discuss building up the base or basic infrastructure. There are some assumptions I will make; some familiarity with web browsing, links, basic navigation on the web, and an understanding that web pages represent one form of inexpensive advertising. Many of the tools or features I will discuss are available at no charge or you can choose to pay fees to enhance their impact; I mostly recommend the “at no charge” part of these tools. I will leave it up to the user of such tools to calculate whether or not paid advertising is of positive value for them.

Step one (perhaps already done by most) acquire a name (domain or domain name) for your primary website and arrange for a place to host it. For a commercial website, this might entail registering a catchy name (benediktson.com for me) and buying web hosting (maybe $8.00 / month – perhaps less or at no charge). I prefer web hosting that includes email service so I can set up equally catchy named email addresses (help@benediktson.com, john@benediktson.com) that help with company recognition and simplify the whole branding part of advertising. A quick word about these names; my example is a ‘.com’ (top-level-domain) but many others exist for improved identification and name recognition. For example ‘.biz’ for a business, ‘.net’ for networking providers, ‘.org’ for organizations, or the very common ‘.com’ for commercial. If you are looking to avoid annual fees, you may choose a sub-domain provided “under” someone else’s name (john.computer4u.com, or john.mt.gov).

Step two is to identify services that already are providing websites or web-presence’s for you, or would if they knew you existed, and claim or take control of these sites or presences. This can require some research and some luck; but, trust me, it is worth the effort on your part. Google provides a contact page or website for every business (sort of); find yours and take ownership of it so you control the content on it and can link it to your website from “step one” above. Facebook, Yahoo, Bing, and a host of special interest groups and service providers also provide similar services. Yellowbook provides a range of services, many at no charge (in the hopes you will also buy some of their advertising products); this is one way to get your business phone number (assuming you have one and want it to be easy to find) published so that it appears in web searches. As much as possible, you want to add references from all of these back to your website and to each other (remember to try and put consistent information on each of these).

Step three is to contact organizations that provide recommendations or assistance in the field you provide service or products for. If you are an attorney, for instance, there will be numerous professional groups that you could join and many of them will assist you in being easier to find for those interested in your specific offerings. There are also a few commercial groups who provide lists of specialists, referral services, etc.; you may wish to exchange links with some or all that you can find. In each case, you want to get accurate information about you and what you offer (including your website address and email address maybe) in their listings.

Step four is to go to each of the major search engines and register your webpage with them. There are services that will do this for you (usually for a fee) or you can spend an hour some evening and learn about all the other services these engines can provide to you while you describe your offerings to them. These are designed to be used by non-technical people and should represent no unusual challenges. Okay, there is one challenge involved, you will need to think about your offerings and how your would-be clients view those offerings so you can tell the search engines which kinds of queries they should recommend you (your webpage) as a response.

With these four steps initiated, you should have several “pages” displaying your name, desired contact information, and information about services, products, or whatever that you offer. There may be opportunities to improve these as time and feedback suggest or add new ones as you become aware of additional services. As much as possible, all should link to your website and you may choose to link your website back to some; particularly if they provide additional information or incentive regarding you and your offerings.

In part 2 of this series, I hope to explain how to make your web presence more attractive to the search engines and help you advance up the list the search engines provide.

Web Advertising Part 2

Web Advertising Part 2.

I have been told that it is an arcane art getting your webpage selected for prominent display by the search engines (getting the first listing or on the first page) and that it requires the efforts of a highly paid professional. I reject this notion; my experience has shown that a few straightforward and common sense tactics can get any web page favored by the search engines. The various search engines are sufficiently open about what they “score” highly for selection. Recently, Google and Bing posted notes regarding changes to their scoring schemes; both now favor pages that include content for the vision challenged in addition to favoring “living” and “dynamic” pages.

This is good news all around. The web has become very visually oriented; to the extent that, until recently, the sight impaired, and those with limited motor control (and a vast array of other situations that create challenges to experiencing web content) experienced the web in an extremely reduced quality. Whatever the reason you are building a web presence, providing your message to the maximum audience is desirable. Being mindful of the newer guidelines for the search engines not only helps you get higher on the page but also allows you to include more of the potential audience. A marketing specialist can help you get a higher percentage of reached individuals to engage with your content, while building pages that the search engines favor helps you reach a larger audience; both factors are extremely important in forming a successful campaign.

There are simple things we (as builders of the website or blog) can do to achieve favor within these new guidelines. When posting a photograph, try fully describing both the photo and its association with the text or other materials surrounding it; often this can be entered as text in the “alternate text” field associated with the photo. Similarly, when embedding a video or a table of numbers, or a graph, fully describe it and how it applies to the material it is meant to enhance or exemplify. If you are using WordPress, media items (photos, videos, sound recordings, charts, etc.) can easily be annotated as you place them from the media library with a title, a caption (visible to all), alt text (used by screen readers, search engines, visible to those requesting text mode or whose browser settings prevent picture loading), a description (available to same group as alt text). All of these can assist in getting search engine favor and in helping to identify the importance of that media to both the search engines and all viewers. A quick hint for WordPress users; if you will use a media item multiple times and want different annotation, create multiple copies because the annotation stays with the library entry, not the “instance” on the page.

As you format the “page” remember that we want the page to be dynamic; in this case I refer to the ability of WordPress and other page layout products to format the page differently to optimize its appearance and function for various kinds of viewing devices (smart phone, tablet, PC, Mac, etc.). This can involve choosing larger fonts (14pt and above recommended for the small displays and the visually impaired); avoiding hard to read fonts (artsy but more difficult to read for all), and good white-space balance (this is many things but it amounts to adding white space to make paragraphs easier to spot, photos, tables, and graphs easily identified with the text they enliven but not jammed into, and more). Understanding that the page will be reformatted based on the viewer’s device might lead to using larger or smaller elements (media or text); but, generally the use of a moderate sized and easy to read font for all text will go a long way here. Breaking up parts of the page to separate different thoughts you are expressing may also assist the reader (particularly after the dynamic page layout engine shapes it for small displays).

In addition, you want to include “tags”; this is your chance to give the search engines words or phrases that you think your content explains or is the answer to. If someone was searching for “this tag” I want my page provided at the top of the list or prominently in the list. This makes “tags” an important consideration and a powerful tool to get your page presented to those searching for your offerings. Depending on what tools you use to create your pages, “tags” will be available in different ways; in WordPress, each post and each page has a field that you can paste your tags into. A quick step back; when we were filling in the alternate text and description fields for media earlier, we would like to include (smoothly, artfully) those same tags in the descriptive text for those media. Back to “tags”; these are not sentences, the search engines are looking to match a key word or 2, maybe, 3 word phrase and the “tags” themselves are primarily here for the search engines. It is extremely rare for a viewer of a page to dig in deep enough to ever see the tags associated with it.

Now that we have some content on our webpage, hopefully very attractive to reader and search engine alike, it will help to go to the various search engines and “register” our page. In this step the search engine is, once again, informed of the “tags” for our intended content and audience and you may choose to pay for higher placement or for advertising space. Some of the engines will allow you to enter a description or even a lengthy briefing designed to grab attention to your link(s) and provide business and or personal information (address, hours, phone numbers, email address, etc.). This is a process you can do or have a service or even an app do for you; I prefer doing it myself as it often gives me hints about what the search engine is looking for and what other entities are doing that might be in competition with me.

In part 3, I hope to discuss keeping your page alive; strategies and the need for updating the content on your page.

Wifi Signal issues

For those of you who have wifi that works perfectly all the time; Lucky you!  For the rest of us, I have done some research and wish to share some of what I have learned.

Simply enough wifi is wireless internet via radio signal; as such, it works great if you are in direct sight of the signal source and less well otherwise.  Wireless a,b,g,n (standard wifi) all operate at 2.4ghz radio frequency; so do cordless phones, microwave ovens, some remote controls, bluetooth devices, and IOT (internet of things) devices.  Wireless Dual Band and wireless ac wifi (the newer standards for wifi) operate at 5ghz and 2.4ghz or (under user control) at just 5ghz; some cordless phones (expensive, new) and broken microwave ovens can emit 5ghz signal (if your microwave significantly interferes with your wifi, it would be a good idea to consider replacing that microwave – it can mean its radiation shielding is breaking down).  In the future I expect to see a lot more devices using 5ghz transmission; but, not in the narrow band used for wifi.  As a rule of thumb. A given quality of signal (speed and reliability of wifi) requires half as much power at 5ghz as it does at 2.4ghz; radio signals at these frequencies do not bend, do not go around corners (thus my earlier comment about being in direct sight); but, they do bounce off some materials and will penetrate with some loss others.

What will wifi signals bounce off? Most metal surfaces, some types of rock (generally with metallic content), foil backed insulation, aluminum foil, tin cans and similar objects.  What will wifi signals go through? Most wood surfaces and structures, craft-backed insulation, plastic encapsulated insulation, bare fiberglass, rockwool, paper based insulation, and, to a lesser extent, gypsum board (sheetrock).  What will simply block wifi signal? Brick, tile, adobe, rock, cinder block and similar materials are excellent at blocking most radio signals including wifi.  Of interest is that 5ghz will penetrate materials somewhat more readily than 2.4ghz and can work even after going through a 6″ adobe wall but with greatly reduced speed and reliability.

What do I do if I can’t get my wifi to cover the entire area where I want it?  First, look at relocating the source (usually your wifi router); often you can get better coverage by moving it to a more central location.  Second, try getting it up higher; on the floor all wifi behaves poorly. (I know I hate the trial and error method too; it takes time and effort).  Next, you can try reorienting the antenna(s) on the router and, possibly, increasing the transmit power of the router (many routers have variable output settings -high,medium, low), or adding better antennas to your router.  If you still don’t have what you want for coverage, you can use network over AC wiring devices (plug one device in next to your router and run a cable to it, then plug another one in near the device you want to have internet access and connect it by a cable from the plug-in device), or you can use one of the newer wifi range extender devices; these come in a wide variety in order to deal with most any situation.  Sometimes it will take a combination of devices to cover a large building or area.

If you have a lovely southwestern adobe house, rejoice!  You are pretty well protected from stray radio emissions, but your internal wifi area may be restricted to one or two rooms unless you are quite creative and go to some effort to expand your wifi area.  In large homes it is often necessary to run network cable and use multiple routers to get good signal throughout; this is where a network or cabling professional can come in handy.

Contact Benediktson Computer

We can be reached by phone at 575-956-9723;

if we are busy, please leave a message and someone will get back to you shortly.

You can also reach us at help@benediktson.com

 

Our New Mexico address is

Benediktson Computer, Inc.

2311 Ranch Club Rd PMB# 402

Silver City, NM  88061

 

Our Montana address is

Benediktson Computer, Inc.

110 Sunset blvd

Bozeman, MT  59715

Benediktson Computer, Inc.

Custom Computers

Networking:  wired or wireless

Friendly Onsite Service and Support

Computer Hardware and Software Demystified

Microsoft Registered Refurbisher

Web Hosting and Email Solutions

Home Entertainment systems

Computer maintenance including malware removal and data recovery.

Member Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

 

About Benediktson Computer, Inc.

Benediktson Computer, Inc (BCI). is a small family run business.  We were incorporated in January of 1996 and have been serving Bozeman, Montana and the surrounding area continuously since then.  We specialize in helping small businesses and individuals use modern electronics to assist them and their business.  Primarily, the business has been built up through on-site service and personal support.  We also assemble and setup custom computers for clients; complete with personal tutorials, software configuration, printer and camera setup, or whatever it takes to get the equipment working smoothly for the client.  As internet service providers have not advanced email and hosting services with the market, 4 years ago we started providing websites and email services to our clients.  Originally, the majority of our efforts included equipment maintenance and repair and we still provide those services; primarily for Windows based systems.

A little about Benediktson Computer, Inc. (BCI); BCI is composed of my wife (Karen), my daughter (Anna), and I (John).  My wife Karen and I are in the process of becoming snowbirds with Silver City, New Mexico being our primary winter residence and Bozeman, Montana being our primary summer residence.  Naturally, we will be traveling back and forth a bit in the summers and hope to do much of our customer support using remote access, phone support, and other distance coping abilities.
Our fees are based on time and materials with initial consultations and site surveys generally at no charge and actual service, upgrades, repairs billed at $85 / hr in 6 minute increments.  Within Grant county we don’t charge for travel to your site; only for the productive time spent in your service.  Over the years we have developed access to a number of suppliers for materials and when local suppliers can’t provide materials at a competitive price, will provide those materials as needed to our clients at nationally competitive rates.