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Common Repair Policies for Computers Under Warranty | Apple Valley Computers

Common Repair Policies for Computers Under Warranty

Most computer buyers will not complete their purchases without first inquiring about the type of warranty that will cover their new equipment. Manufacturer warranties are pretty much standard for off-the-shelf and custom-built systems; in some cases, refurbished computers may also include a limited warranty offered by the store or the service center. In other cases, electronic retailers may offer service and maintenance plans that can be purchased for the purpose of augmenting equipment warranties.

For the most part, warranties extended by computer manufacturers are comprehensive, which means that buyers may get a replacement system if certain issues cannot be repaired within the coverage period. Warranties typically last anywhere between six months and a year, although companies such as Apple are known to offer longer terms.

The Most Convenient Way to Repair Personal Computers

Even though the personal computing industry dates back to the previous century, its warranty system has never been able to match the convenience that the automotive and home appliance industries provide. Computer owners would certainly like being able to take their devices to a local repair shop and even get a temporary loaner; however, this is hardly the case. With the exception of Apple device owners who purchase special maintenance plans for their Macs, PowerBooks, iPhones, and iPads, most computer warranties require device owners to get in touch with a call center and try to resolve the problem via remote tech support before shipping the computer to a repair hub. A more convenient process is available to those who purchase a maintenance plan since this allows them to take their devices to a retailer that has a service department, but even in this situation, their computers are often shipped to a repair hub if the issue cannot be resolved locally.

Local repair shops such as A Plus Computers in Apple Valley offer a convenient option for computer owners who feel that exercising their warranties will be cumbersome. Quite a few repair and maintenance services can be performed without voiding the warranty, and many issues can be solved a lot faster than when the computer has to be shipped.

The moment a computer owner exercises the device warranty, the manufacturer is bound to perform the required repairs. Should the warranty expire after the issue is reported or while repairs are still being performed, the manufacturer has to honor it.

In recent years, the scope of repairs covered under computer warranties has become limited. If your system has an issue that falls outside of the warranty, contact our repair technicians at A Plus Computers.

Ransomware is the New 21st Century Extortion Industry | Victorville Computers

Ransomware is the New 21st Century Extortion Industry

Ransomware infections were the most painful headaches that information security experts had to deal with in 2017, and the same can be said about this particular cyber threat in 2018. Ransomware has proven to be one of the most profitable revenue channels for malicious hackers and cybercrime groups, and there are various reasons why computer users in the High Desert should be concerned.

The FBI estimates that more than a billion dollars have been paid by ransomware victims in recent years. When ransomware infections were first detected a few years ago, they were a variation of the online tech support scams that prompted victims to enter their credit or debit card numbers to allow a fake virus scan and removal utility to clean their systems. Quite a few hackers and criminals were caught running these scams because law enforcement investigators were able to track merchant processing accounts that the hackers used to accept card payments.

New Ways for Ransomware to Extort Ransom

With the introduction of Bitcoin and later other cryptocurrencies that allow anonymous payments to be made through blockchain technology, ransomware attacks increased exponentially. Although there are multiple variations of ransomware attacks, the underlying mechanism is the same: the target device is infected with malicious code that proceeds to encrypt files with a very strong encoding scheme such as RSA-2048, which means that decryption by brute force methods would be out of the question.

The ransom note displayed in these attacks directs victims to make payments to a cryptocurrency wallet in exchange for the keys needed to decrypt files. While many victims have made payments and received the keys, recent reports of ransomware attacks indicate that hackers are pocketing payments without issuing keys. One of the current problems with ransomware is the level of sophistication that hackers have attained in this regard; they are now able to distribute malicious code that is not detected by antivirus software, and they have learned various deployment techniques from cyber weapons stolen from the United States National Security Agency and the CIA.

The ultimate protection against ransomware is to properly configure systems so that they are constantly backing up data and making it available for easy recovery; by doing so, computer users who are infected by ransomware can ignore the extortion scheme by simply resetting their systems and restoring data from a secure backup. The challenge is to find the right backup solution for your system; external storage will work for some users while cloud backups will work for others. To learn more about keeping your data safe from ransomware attacks, contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley today.
A Future Without Passwords, Thanks to Windows 10 | Apple Valley Computers

A Future Without Passwords, Thanks to Windows 10

Although there is no question that passwords have served a crucial service to society during the Information Age, most security researchers agree that the time has come to look for more hermetic measures of access control and data protection. Tech giant Microsoft has been working on new security measures to replace the standard username and password credentials that have proven to be vulnerable to hacking and identity theft; recently, the company announced a new version of its Windows 10 operating system that is being considered to be the first step towards a future without passwords.

Meet the Newest Versions of Microsoft’s Windows 10

Windows 10 S is a streamlined version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system; it was introduced with the Surface Laptop as a more secure environment for students. The debut of Windows 10 S locked users into installing apps exclusively from the Windows Store for the purpose of preventing malware from sneaking into their laptops. Additionally, Windows 10 S also restricted various operations that could further compromise the functioning of the operating system and underlying hardware.

The new version of Windows 10 S goes further in terms of protecting users by eliminating passwords altogether, and this is possible thanks to the Windows Hello security protocol. Even though Windows Hello has been around for a few years, Microsoft has mostly positioned this protocol, which is meant to provide biometrics security functionality, as an optional feature. With the new Windows 10 S, the feature is configured during the setup stage, which allows users to set up their desktop, portable and mobile devices so that they are protected by fingerprints, facial recognition or temporary PIN combinations.

Solutions Provided by Windows 10

Microsoft is working with other tech firms to establish Windows Hello as a computing standard; the ideal situation would be for banks, e-commerce sites, and cloud service providers to adopt this security protocol so that new accounts can only be created and accessed with fingerprints. Transitioning existing username/password accounts to biometrics will be a more extensive challenge; however, smartphone manufacturers are starting to incorporate fingerprint scanners in greater numbers.

Windows Hello can be enabled in other versions of the Windows 10 operating system. If your device has a built-in fingerprint scanner or facial recognition functionality, it is strongly recommended that you enable Windows Hello. You can also purchase peripheral fingerprint readers that connect to your computer’s USB ports and are meant to work with Windows Hello. If you need help configuring Windows Hello, contact A Plus Computers.
The Importance of Securing Smart Home Automation Networks | Victorville Networking

The Importance of Securing Smart Home Automation Networks

If you have installed at least one smart device or appliance in your household, the chances are that your smart home automation network will continue growing as you add more devices in the future, and this implies a greater security risk. Each time you connect a new device to your home network, you are essentially adding an attack vector for hackers to exploit; for this reason, properly securing your smart home network is essential.

From an information security point of view, a device connected to a smart home network could be just as vulnerable as a device connected to an office network; however, the difference is that individuals are less likely to implement adequate security measures at home than in business settings. Most smart home devices can be installed on a “plug-and-play” basis; this makes them more attractive to consumers, but it also creates a security risk.

Ensuring Security Within Smart Home Networks

When a new device is added to a smart home automation network, it becomes part of the Internet of Things, a massive global network of connected devices that have been of great interest to malicious hackers in recent years. Devices connected to the IoT have their own IP and MAC addresses, which means that they can be indexed, scanned and located; this is the same for computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and wireless printers that become part of Wi-Fi networks when they connect through routers. Hackers are constantly scanning the IoT in search of devices that they can access, exploit and manipulate; one of the dangers of the IoT was exposed in 2014 when Russian hackers launched a website streaming live video feeds of private webcams installed in homes around the world. In this particular case, hackers took advantage of the known default username and password combinations of installed cameras to redirect the digital video stream, and they even obtained the GPS coordinates of the homes where the devices were installed.

The problem with unsecured smart home networks is that hackers have multiple ways to exploit them; for example, if you set up an IP camera or baby monitor to capture photos and send them to your business email address, hackers could be able to figure out where you work, and they can also determine when you are not home. The last thing you want is to let hackers control smart home devices such as remote garage door openers and digital door locks.

If you want to ensure that your smart home network is as safe as it should be, contact the networking security specialists of A Plus Computers in Apple Valley.

What You Should Know About Spectre and Meltdown in the High Desert

What You Should Know About Spectre and Meltdown in the High Desert

In 2017, information security researchers from Google’s Project Zero and from European universities stumbled upon two major vulnerabilities in the architecture of microprocessors manufactured by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and other major chip makers. The two flaws are known as Meltdown and Spectre, and they could potentially present security risks to users of desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones powered by Microsoft, Apple and Linux operating systems.

Major Hardware Vulnerabilities Revealed

These two vulnerabilities could allow hackers to develop malware that would target the way the CPU processes information handled by the kernel, which is the core system of a computing device providing an interface between software applications and the hardware. In essence, an attacker who understands the Spectre and Meltdown flaws could spy on the data being processed within the system’s memory without exception.

The most worrisome aspect of this discovery is that it affects all systems designed to work in the x86 computing architecture developed by Intel, which means that virtually all modern computing devices could be compromised since CPU manufacturers follow the x86 model. The fact that Spectre and Meltdown could affect Linux distributions is of high concern since more than 80 percent of servers around the world run on various Debian and Fedora versions. Major cloud computing operators such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon moved quickly to patch their data centers and protect them against this issue.

Solutions to Looming Malware Threats

Although no malware taking advantage of Meltdown or Spectre has been reported, information security firms and antivirus software developers are rushing to come up with solutions. The burden is on operating systems developers, and it has been problematic for Microsoft thus far. In a bulletin published in early 2018, the company explained that security patches would be suspended until certain antivirus software developers updated their applications to include a specific registry key. As of January 8, for example, popular antivirus suites such as AVG, Kaspersky, and F-Secure had complied with the registry key inclusion as part of their regular updates; however, McAfee and BitDefender Gravity Zone had not, which means that certain Windows users would not receive their scheduled security update for January.

Some Windows 10 users who upgraded their Athlon AMD machines in recent years reported that they could not boot their systems after the January security update addressing Spectre and Meltdown; for this reason, Microsoft froze its AMD patching efforts until further notice.

If your Windows system in the High Desert is having problems with the latest Microsoft updates, contact A Plus Computers for a solution.

Which Browser is the Best for Your System? | Apple Valley Computers

Which Browser is the Best for Your System?

The era of the modern web browser recently celebrated a significant milestone. In 1993, two researchers from the University of Illinois released Mosaic, the first graphical web browser that would later be developed for widespread installation and use. Back then, the web was called the World Wide Web, the WWW or the WEB; after the arrival of Mosaic, this digital information system became synonymous with the internet.

On the day that Mosaic turned 25 years old, Google and Mozilla announced new major versions of their Chrome and Firefox web browsers. Chrome 64 and Firefox Quantum are packed with new features that are clearly designed to compete for greater market share. In the case of Chrome, Google is going out on a limb by providing native ad blocking features while Mozilla is offering greater speed and smoother performance with Firefox Quantum.

Aside from Google and Mozilla, two other major combatants in the battle for browser supremacy are Microsoft and Apple; other worthy fighters include Vivaldi, Opera, and Maxthon. Your choice of browser boils down to two factors: system capacity and your browsing needs. You can always have more than one browser installed in your system since virtually all of them are offered for free. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Chrome: If you are constantly using Google services such as Gmail, Docs, Translator Toolkit, and YouTube, this is the browser you should use, but keep in mind that its extensions and plugins are being deprecated.

Vivaldi: If you find Google Chrome boring on the desktop, this browser will liven things up with improved performance and interesting features.

Firefox: The most recent Quantum version boasts the fastest rendering and performance on the market. Unlike Chrome, Mozilla has no intention of deprecating extensions and other third-party tools for Firefox, which makes it the best browser for customization. Firefox is highly recommended for Linux distributions.

Edge: If you run Windows 10 and use cloud services such as Outlook and Office 365, this is the browser you need. According to extensive testing by Microsoft and third-party reviewers, Edge will go easy on laptop, tablet and smartphone batteries.

Opera: Without a doubt, this is the best browser for mobile devices. Chrome for Android is great for accessing Google services, but the Opera smartphone browsing experience is superior.

Maxthon: There are two versions of this browser: Maxthon Cloud is a desktop app loaded with interesting and useful features while Nitro is a lightweight browser that focuses on speed.

Custom Computer Builds for Cryptocurrency Mining | Apple Valley Computers

Custom Computer Builds for Cryptocurrency Mining

Not a single day goes by without news headlines reporting on the world of cryptocurrencies, which collectively amount to a market capitalization higher than $530 million. As the oldest, most valuable and controversial of all digital currencies, Bitcoin tends to dominate headlines, and this has a lot to do with the volatility of its exchange rate and the way its mining operations have developed over the years.

All cryptocurrencies operate on a blockchain, a peer-to-peer (P2P) software network that serves as a public ledger as well as an authentication tool to clear transactions and set the monetary value of the digital coins. Transactions are cleared by means of complex calculations that require considerable processing power; these blockchain calculations are performed by on a P2P basis by computers connected to cryptocurrency networks, and the individuals who keep these systems operational can be rewarded with digital tokens, this creates the financial incentive known as cryptocurrency mining.

The Big Hype Surrounding Cryptocurrency Mining

Bitcoin mining has become a very controversial activity for various reasons. The original cryptocurrency was developed in a way that makes mining extremely difficult for average individuals; these days, mining cartels control the Bitcoin blockchain by means of outlandishly expensive rigs that consume lots of electricity. Unfortunately, Bitcoin mining has virtually become off limits for individuals; however, this is not the case with other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, which has been developed in a way that makes mining a more democratic operation.

Ethereum is not as valuable as Bitcoin, but its advanced blockchain has prompted financial regulators in Russia and Singapore to develop digital versions of their national currencies. This is a cryptocurrency with a more stable and definite future than Bitcoin, and it does not require impossible mining rigs. In fact, a custom computer build can be easily put together for the purpose of Ethereum mining.

The basic system requirements for an Ethereum mining rig include:

  • A 64-bit version of Windows 10.
  • A motherboard with various PCI slots for the purpose of adding graphics processor units (GPUs).
  • A modern CPU with 4 GB of RAM, preferably DDR4.
  • A power supply unit that provides sufficient wattage to keep the GPUs running efficiently.

The complex blockchain transactions are mostly handled by GPUs manufactured by Nvidia and AMD. These graphics cards should be powerful enough to handle virtual reality games; in fact, gaming rigs are often put to work as Ethereum miners.

In terms of power consumption and broadband access, prospective miners should evaluate their monthly electricity and internet bills and search for Ethereum mining calculators to determine if this would be a profitable activity. For questions about custom computer builds, contact A Plus Computers today.
Personal Computing Trends to Watch for in 2018 | Victorville Home Networking

Personal Computing Trends to Watch for in 2018

As is often the case after every holiday season, High Desert residents who received personal computing devices as presents are happy and enjoying the wonders of advanced technology. Think about previous systems you have used in recent years and how far we have come along since then; as impressed as you might be with your new desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you should expect to be even more impressed in the near future.

With the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just around the corner, tech analysts expect to see an even greater shift towards portable and mobile computing with the possible exception of custom gaming rigs, which are getting a major boost thanks to new and exciting virtual reality titles.

If you plan to get into VR gaming this year, feel free to stop by A Plus Computers in Apple Valley to learn more about custom computer builds. In the meantime, here are some personal computing trends that will likely make headlines in the tech sector during 2018:

Laptops Are Here to Stay

Even though netbooks and tablets managed to make a huge impact in recent years, they have mostly failed to dethrone laptops. Even Microsoft has taken a break from tablets and hybrids to introduce a clamshell Surface laptops, which means that sleek, slim and powerful notebooks will continue to dominate in 2018, but this does not mean that hybrids are over; in fact, speech and gesture recognition technology will make these portable devices even more powerful and attractive.

Touch and Gesture Control

As previously mentioned, the kinetic input will be a major new development for new laptops, and we will likely see more touchscreen, motion and eye recognition sensors. A major driver of this trend will be the incorporation of Android apps that will work with Chrome OS; this will move more new Chromebook model to feature touchscreen technology since users are already used to tactile operation mobile apps. Eye-tracking technology will be incorporated into portable computers that will allow users to open apps and even move screen cursors and pointers by simply directing their gaze.

Low-Power Laptops

Even the fanciest laptops in 2017 could not manage battery life longer than five hours per charge when streaming HD video; however, next-generation processors being developed by Intel and Qualcomm may be able to reduce power requirements by as much as 50 percent this year, which means that new laptops could handle full operational loads for more than 12 hours on a single charge.

Trends in Custom Computer Builds for 2018 | Apple Valley Laptop Repair

Trends in Custom Computer Builds for 2018

Have you made a tech-related New Year’s resolution? If not, you may want to consider making 2018 a year when you will treat yourself to a custom computer build or upgrade your current rig. Building your dream desktop system does not cost as much as you think; in fact, one of the most attractive features of custom computer builds is their low prices when compared to off-the-shelf options.

Although custom computer builds tend to be associated with video gaming enthusiasts, custom desktops can be assembled for any purpose. Graphic designers, musicians, and digital video producers often prefer to build their own systems to suit their needs. In recent years, individuals interested in the potentially lucrative world of cryptocurrency mining have been keeping computer shops busy with orders to build custom crypto-mining rigs. Interior designers are also placing custom build orders for clients who want to make a visual statement with stylish PC cases.

Entering the PC Gaming World with Properly Built Custom Computers

If your gaming interests have thus far been confined to video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and the Microsoft Xbox, 2018 would be a good year for you to get into PC gaming. Video game developers are increasingly shifting their focus to virtual reality, and the titles that have been released thus far are performing better on PC gaming rigs than on consoles. Games such as “Doom VFR” and “Rez: Infinite” have received accolades from critics who have played both PC and console versions, and the consensus is that consoles are not worthy competitors to desktop rigs when it comes to virtual reality.

In 2018, one of the most anticipated video game titles will be “Wipeout,” a futuristic racing classic that is getting a detailed VR treatment to the delight of fans who grew up playing this game on their early Pentium PCs. Current VR horror titles such as “Narcosis” and “Resident Evil 7” have proven to offer a much better experience on PC gaming rigs outfitted with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets.

Getting started with custom computer builds in 2018 is easy; the seasoned PC technicians at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley can help you choose the motherboard, graphics card, CPU, power supply, hard drive, case, and peripherals that will suit your computing needs. All systems are properly tested and benchmarked to ensure top performance, and your custom system will have the advantage of being guaranteed and supported by local customer service.

Optimize Your Computer to Start Off the New Year | Apple Valley Virus Removal

Optimize Your Computer to Start Off the New Year

New computers make great holiday gifts, but not everyone is lucky to find a shiny new desktop or laptop under the tree in December. Being able to start off the New Year with a new computer is an ideal situation for just about everyone; if this is not your case, you still have the option of speeding up your old system with a computer optimization service or an upgrade from A Plus Computers in Apple Valley.

Just about any PC or Mac can be optimized to work as it did when you turned it on for the first time; in some cases, performance can be improved through hardware upgrades so that your system will run even better than it did straight out of the box. If you use your computer for school or business, optimizing it early in January will help you boost productivity for the year.

Start The Year With Comprehensive Computer Maintenance

The level of optimization your computer should get for the year will depend on the configuration of your system, intended usage, and goals; for example, a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 tablet or hybrid can be easily restored to its factory settings after your data has been backed up. PCs and desktops running Windows 7 can be optimized by means of cleaning up old files, repairing the registry, updating drivers, and running a defragmentation utility on the hard drive.

Mac desktops and MacBooks can also be brought back to an out-of-the-box state through various optimization strategies that make the SSD unit more efficient. Reinstalling Mac OS X after backing up your software and personal data is always an option.

If your system can support an upgrade in 2018, you should strongly consider this option. Windows computers are easier to upgrade than Macs, and they may last longer if the memory, graphics card, and hard drive can be replaced with new and modern components. Owners of very old computers that no longer support upgrades can still use their systems for browsing the web if they choose to install a new operating system based on the Linux kernel.

Another reason to bring your system to A Plus Computers in January is to inspect the hardware. Faulty capacitors, dusty fans, bad memory, and ailing hard drives could result in systemic failure and loss of important data. To learn more about computer optimization and upgrade options, contact our office today.

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