What must I save with my computer?

Some weeks the article I write comes easily and some weeks I have to mull it over for a few days, start and restart a few times and so forth. This week’s article is of the latter; my aim is clear but how to deliver that aim in a fashion most people will understand is not. At issue is what should we save when we buy computer software, apps, operating systems, etc. Should you be concerned when the “things” I recommend aren’t included with your purchase?

Why do I suggest being so careful with these licenses? Without proof of ownership, you will be put in the position of having to buy it again; very much like paying a second time for something you already have.

Any purchase that includes software should include license information; this may be a number, or code, or a sticker, or certificate that embodies proof of license to use. This is usually the only “thing” that is important to keep (I’ll discuss an exception later) and it is extremely important that this proof be kept. In most cases the media needed to reinstall can be obtained if and when that becomes necessary; but you will need to have that proof of purchase, or license information for the install to succeed.

Fortunately, the license information (whether it is a sticker or a sheet of paper, or a small card) is usually quite small and easily stored (also easily lost); however, this is where many computer owners get in trouble. You really do need to identify and save that original item, or information. If you buy online, it may come in an email (yes print that and save it, yes create a PDF of it and put it with other important documents); such emails really (in my opinion) should be saved as a file on your computer and included in your backups (shove it up to the cloud too). I have also taken the step in some cases of photographing the license certificate and sticking that up in the cloud.
(Important note: just keeping the email is not good enough; it is real common to lose emails over time. Almost guaranteed you will lose the necessary email in the event that you have to reinstall something)

Please note, you don’t own software; at best you own the privilege of limited use of the software you purchase. It is this distinction that leads to what I see as a serious problem currently infecting the computer Industry. What if my purchase did not include any such materials? You buy a computer and there is no sticker attached to it with the license information for Windows or OSX; there is no license information for the productivity suite that came with it (microsoft office for instance), and there are no installation disks included either. Two things; either the software you have acquired is not legitimate or the license information is embedded in the product. Let us assume the latter; in this case you need to immediately make installation or recovery disks (very much like a backup) before there is any opportunity for something to go wrong (if you are lucky, there is a routine for doing this all prepared for you).

One of the ways I choose between computer manufacturers is to look and see if the product comes with restoration media (or original install media) AND license materials; if it doesn’t, I am highly unlikely to make the purchase. In my mind, my having to make the media will cost 3-4 DVD’s and a few hours of my time; a machine that costs $100 more but includes these things is the better buy.

Even at today’s prices the purchase of a computer or laptop involves a significant amount of money; please make an informed choice when buying. If in doubt, let us help. It just takes a phone call.

1 phone, 2 numbers?

Another week and another challenge. The desire to have a cell phone answer calls for 2 numbers came up this week. It isn’t a new problem for us; we provide service to folks in several different parts of the United States and have used a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) solution for a while to make our phone a local call for our clients.

This week my choice of antiquated phone services caught up with me and the local cellular providers were unable to port in my phone number to a new phone; the solution was to get a new number, but, my clients are all accustomed to my old phone number. So, I went searching for a solution that would let my clients call the number they know and reach my new phone (which just happens to have a new number).

The cell company wasn’t going to provide a solution because they couldn’t find a way to bring in the one thing that was important to me; that phone number. I found 3 solutions (I am currently implementing 2 of them) and they were all quite cost effective. The first solution was to port my old number into a VOIP system and set it to forward to the new number. It turns out that the VOIP people are accustomed to dealing with older phone services and were able (with a 5 day delay) to port in the old number and I setup two (2) call forwards to the new number so my calls would arrive at the new phone and number regardless of where I was in the porting process.

I also found two other solutions; one with Google Voice. Google voice is an interesting service; it requires that you have a google account (these can be acquired at no charge) and provides an answering service for the chosen phone number. This answering service can either take a message or forward the call to your choice of cell phone numbers or land line numbers (does anyone remember land lines, phones connected to a wire?). There are a couple of things to know before we all jump out and sign up for this service; first, porting in an existing number costs $20.00 (a one time cost) and second, this service answers calls like an electronic secretary. That is, it takes the call and asks for the person to state their name before forwarding the call. Based on how the calling person answers, it will then forward the call to all numbers it has been programmed to forward to or takes a message from the caller. If it takes a message, it can email that message, or alert you to check for the message on your google account or a few other options.

Another Service I found (that had good reviews) was Sideline; Sideline is a tad more transparent than Google (no robot secretary asking for the caller’s name) and may require a $0.99 fee each month (no fee depending on which features you use) but can also port in your well known phone number and forward it to your choice of phone numbers. The one gotcha involved with sideline is that your original account number must stay with sideline (so don’t use your important well known number to setup the account unless you intend to leave it connected to Sideline). When all is setup, the caller calls your number, it is automatically forwarded to your chosen destination number and the sound quality is like any other call; the only difference is that the incoming caller id indicates that it is a forward.

In any case, you can, with these services, setup one cell phone to answer 2 or more numbers and go about your daily activities only needing to carry one phone. Naturally, each of these services can do other things for you and which service you choose might depend on which one has additional features of interest or need for your business. If you have questions or want assistance with other technology issues please call Benediktson Computer, Inc. At (575) 956-9732 or email to help@benediktson.com.

Internet Privacy Laws change?

Extra, Extra, read all about it!  Internet privacy under assault!  Net neutrality coming to an end!  Typical reporting by the main stream media; not necessarily true in this case.  Yes congress, under pressure from ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) and some commercial interests, have passed a bill that could allow ISP’s to release traffic information; but not user or source identities (unless a court order asks for that).  However, this very information has been available to advertisers, spammers, and similar such ilk for quite some time.  In order to access this kind of data, they merely had to pay the owners of the destination websites to provide their traffic information.

First off, this isn’t happening immediately; Congress is not in direct control of the behavior of ISP’s.  This is the provence of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and it will require a rules making on their part in order to change what ISP’s can and cannot divulge and how much remuneration may be charged.  Back in 2015 the FCC, responding to law changes a few years before, performed a rules making resulting in the current privacy and net neutrality rules.  In summary:
As a refresher, that rule, which the Commission passed in Feb. 2015, sets down three bright-line rules for internet service providers:
. Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
. They may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, application, services, or any classes thereof.
. They may not favor some internet traffic over other internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—no paid prioritization or fast lanes

Oddly enough I don’t see any reference here to net privacy and I am not trying to confuse the issue; rather, I am trying to make a point, that the FCC continues its support for the safety of the internet user and his or her choice for a desired level of privacy.  The new law opens the door for the FCC to allow (at the FCC’s sole discretion), through new rules, for the ISP’s to have the same opportunity to make money from describing internet traffic in bulk to potential buyers as the web hosts have had for many years.

Any time the FCC makes or alters rules, there exists the potential for unanticipated consequences; but what those consequences may be will have to wait until the FCC acts.  In the mean time, very little has changed in the last 2 years regarding our privacy, access to information, priority of traffic, or safety while surfing.  If you have questions about how the laws impact you or your business, please call Benediktson Computer at 575-956-9723 or email us at help@benediktson.com