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New Personal Computer Concepts for 2017 | Apple Valley Computer Installation

New Personal Computer Concepts for 2017

Computer manufacturers started the New Year with lots of style and intriguing proposals at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One strong trend noticed by CES attendees in Las Vegas is that the traditional concept of a CPU tower desktop is no longer dominant in terms of personal computing.

Judging by the trends observed at CES, the future of computing is not exclusively mobile. The desktop computer has not entirely gone away; however, it has considerably changed in terms of function and performance. The new models will appeal to users who are undecided about going completely mobile or who are not entirely attuned to the idea of having multiple computing devices. It is worth mentioning that professionals who wish to take advantage of “Bring Your Own Device” policies at the office are looking for solutions that are equally powerful and portable, but not necessarily mobile.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most intriguing personal computers at CES 2017:

Intel Compute Card

Chip manufacturer Intel surprised everyone at CES with a computer that is about the same size as the credit cards you would use to pay for your groceries at the Apple Valley Albertsons. Although the Intel Compute Card will be primarily marketed to manufacturers of smart home appliances, users who get their hands on these devices will be able to connect them to peripherals such as monitors, keyboards and pointing devices by means of USB-C connectors. Although Intel did not reveal specs at CES, this computing card can run on Windows or Linux and will perform as an entry-level desktop.

Samsung Chromebook Pro

Microsoft Surface tablets and hybrid notebooks have not really had much competition from Chrome OS devices, at least not until now. The new Samsung Chromebook Pro ios priced at less than $500, and it is the most interesting Chrome OS piece of hardware currently on the market. The touchscreen of this hybrid has a rotating hinge that can turn a full 360 degrees; plus, it has a highly sensitive stylus input system for graphic artists. Gyro sensors and accelerometers make this machine ideal for users who are into video games. The bonus feature is the latest version of the Chrome OS, which can run nearly all Android apps.

Razer Project Valerie

This large, heavy and powerful laptop has three screens that deploy via a robotic mechanism. Tech journalists are not sure what to make of Project Valerie, a gorgeous piece of hardware that consumes battery life at an incredible pace; not a very portable laptop but impressive nonetheless.

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year 2017 from Apple Valley Computer.

Major Computer Retailers Under Fire for Unethical Repairs | Victorville Custom PCs

Major Computer Retailers Under Fire for Unethical Repairs

An embarrassing investigation by two television news stations is making computer owners in Apple Valley and the High Desert happy to have local repair shops.

Malware Installed by Unethical PC Repairs

It all started in the middle of November when an investigative journalism team based in Seattle purchased six new computers and took them to a local Office Depot for a checkup. The reporters were investigating claims by computer owners that Office Depot technicians were making up issues to charge customers for repairs they did not perform.

Prior to taking the new, out-of-the-box desktop computers to Office Depot, the reporters asked a PC security firm to check them out. There was nothing wrong with the machines; however, the undercover cameras of the KIRO-TV news team recorded Office Depot technicians who claimed that the devices were infected with malware, a repair that would cost $180.

What makes the Office Depot news really egregious is that a technician who had enough of the unethical practices went on camera to explain not only how the swindle works but also that it is pushed by upper managers who demand high “sales” quotas from their workers.

To add insult to injury, a Fox news station affiliate in Boston purchased various new laptops for its journalists and staff, and they also took them to another major retailer to get them checked out. FOX25 visited various Office Max locations in the Boston metropolitan area, and the results were similar to the Office Depot in Seattle: brand new devices were diagnosed with malware that did not exist, and which cost at least $149 and nearly $200 to repair.

The Dangers of Bloatware

Some computer manufacturers are known to install applications that could be considered “bloatware,” which could slow down the system or take up storage space. Depending on the preference of the computer owner, bloatware can be removed or replaced by better software options, but it should not be treated as malware for the purpose of unethically extracting money from consumers.

It is important to note that major retailers such as Home Depot and Office Max are in need of a steady stream of income due to the astronomical expenses they carry in order to stave off competition. This explains the demand for technicians to reach quotas, but it does not justify making up computer issues to perform fake repairs.

Local computer repair shops such as A Plus Computer in Apple Valley do not have the constraints of the aforementioned major retailers. Our diagnostic service is free, and our virus removal plus PC tune up services are much more affordable than those offered by the major retailers.
Should You Get a Hackintosh, Is It Illegal | Apple Valley Computer Repairs

Should You Get a Hackintosh, Is It Illegal

As the Apple brand grows stronger and more popular, its products are becoming more expensive. Apple is a California company; as such, many residents of Apple Valley and the High Desert are attracted to its products; nonetheless, more people are increasingly motivated to explore the so-called Hackintosh scene.

Hackintosh is a tech slang term that describes a non-Apple computing device that is powered by a version of iOS or Mac OS. There are two motivations behind the Hackintosh concept: some are tech enthusiasts who are passionate about tinkering while others are fans of Apple products which are unhappy with the high prices of Macs and MacBooks.

Hackintosh Projects for Your Custom PC

The most common Hackintosh projects are desktop towers powered by Intel processors and graphics cards with a rendering capacity that is at least above average. Building a Hackintosh requires a fair amount of work; aside from putting together the hardware components, you have to get into the kexts, which are the equivalent to Windows drivers, so that they can properly run the System Management Controller. Failure to code the kexts may result in slow or unstable systems, overclocking issues and overheating.

If the Hackintosh project is for a laptop, failure to configure the BIOS and System Management Controller may result in a poor user experience and only an hour of battery life.

There have been attempts by some people to commercialize Hackintosh projects. The most infamous was Psystar, a Miami company that tried to argue its case before the United States Court of Appeals and lost. There is also a Stanford University student who is planning to sell what he calls HackBooks, $325 refurbished laptops that come with instructions to install Mac OS X. While the student does not intend to ship the HackBook with the operating system itself, he would perform all the hardware and BIOS modifications so that buyers are not burdened.

Is Hackintosh Illegal?

As to the legality of Hackintosh projects, everyone needs to realize that they are considered copyright infringements and violations of Apple’s End User Legal Agreement, which states that operating systems created by Apple can only run on Apple hardware. This does not mean that a SWAT team will break down your door to arrest you for using a Hackintosh, and Apple is not likely to track down a person who installs the company’s operating system into non-Apple devices; however, many Hackintosh projects are known to be unstable and taxing on the hardware.

If you need the processing power and high performance of a Mac, you may be better off looking into a custom-built computer powered with a legal copy of Windows or Linux. The look and feel of Mac OS can be replicated, and even some tasks such as the app launcher can be emulated to get the full Apple-like experience. If you want to learn more about custom computers, contact A Plus Computer.
Why Malware Infections Increase During the Holidays | Victorville PC Repairs

Why Malware Infections Increase During the Holidays

If you notice that your antivirus or internet security software seems to be more active during the holidays, you are not alone. In fact, you may see more notifications and alerts about threats being detected and contained this year in comparison to 2015.

A recent report published by Enigma Software, developers of the popular SpyHunter security application, explains that malware threats in 2014 were more than 40 percent higher during the holidays than throughout the rest of the year. In 2015, the rate of malware infections jumped by more than 80 percent during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Dangers of Cyber Attacks over the Holiday Season

The most active time of the year in terms of malware happens to be the four days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the busiest shopping days of the year. Malware infections rose by an astonishing 118 percent during the 2016 Cyber Monday, and this is not very surprising to researchers who see a correlation between increasing sales and online security issues.

Information security experts have been observing the heightened threat environment between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and they have detected certain patterns of activity preferred by hackers and cybercrime groups. Phishing emails and Trojan attacks that deploy ransomware is two of the most common attacks seen during the holidays. Cyber criminals know that most shoppers enjoy getting coupons from their favorite stores via email; this explains why fake emails purportedly sent by major retailers are often used to deploy malware and steal personal information.

Protecting Your Social Networks

Social networks are increasingly being used by cybercriminals to direct the unsuspecting shopper to phishing websites. The way these attacks start is with a Facebook post or a Twitter update that promotes holiday gifts; the message prompts readers to click on a link to be taken to an e-commerce site that has been actually set up to get people to input their credit card numbers and other personal information that can be used for identity theft.

Security researchers have also noticed that cybercriminals use social networks to promote sites that offer a free download of a game or a short video; this is the Trojan that unpacks malicious code and installs keyloggers or ransomware applications.

If you reside in Apple Valley or elsewhere in the High Desert, make sure that your computer is protected by an antivirus program or internet security suite before you start your online holiday shopping. If you suspect your system has been infected, contact A Plus Computers as soon as possible to discuss a solution.
Upgrading Your 2012 MacBook Pro | Apple Valley Computer Laptop Maintenance

Upgrading Your 2012 MacBook Pro

Tech giant Apple recently announced the release of its new MacBook Pro, an ultra-slim and powerful laptop with a few advanced features. As sleek as the new MacBook Pro is, it is not without disadvantages that stem from Apple’s proprietary hardware philosophy.

Differences Between New & Old MacBooks

The new MacBook Pro has something problematic in common with the Retina line of MacBook Pros that came out after 2012: this is a personal computing device that cannot be upgraded and does not offer much in the way of standard ports. For this reason, even the most ardent Apple fans are sticking to their 2012 pre-Retina MacBook Pros which happen to be one of those rare Apple products that users can upgrade, modify and connect with many peripherals.

As far as computers go, the 2012 MacBook Pro is a rare treat. If you own one of these portable computers in Apple Valley or Victorville, you should consider yourself lucky that Apple took a different direction with this particular MacBook Pro, which may not be as skinny as the products in the Retina catalog but has lots of features and can be fully upgraded.

Four features make the 2012 MacBook Pro a classic:

  1. A removable, optical CD/DVD drive
  2. Easily replaceable battery
  3. An abundance of connectivity ports
  4. Standard RAM

The 2012 MacBook Pro may feel heavy and cumbersome by today’s standards, but it has an upgrade ability that makes it very powerful. All MacBook Pros, from the Retina line to the 2016 version, have an interesting fabrication scheme that makes them ultra-skinny. The processors and the RAM chips are glued to the logic board; this makes them nearly impossible to upgrade.

Upgrading Your MacBook for Modern Use

If you are the proud owner of a non-Retina 2012 MacBook Pro in Apple Valley or Victorville, you can bring it to A Plus Computer for a nice upgrade that will put it on par with the 2016 models. The two most common upgrades involve boosting RAM to 16 GB and replacing the optical drive with a solid state drive.

Unless you are actively and frequently using your MacBok Pro’s DVD drive, you can always connect an external version instead. The solid state drive and the RAM upgrade will make your old MacBook much faster; fast enough for you to keep for many more years.

With a battery that can be easily replaced and standard ports such as SD, audio, Ethernet, USB, and FireWire, the 2012 MacBook Pro is highly sought after by graphic artists, filmmakers, musicians, and recording engineers. For this reason, this classic laptop is bound to command high collector’s prices for years to come.
Known System Registry Issues in Windows 10 | Victorville Computer Repair

Known System Registry Issues in Windows 10

When Microsoft released Windows 10, many users expected a next-generation operating system that would make all the bugs and technical issues of yesteryear disappear once and for all. Although Windows 10 is certainly very powerful, it is still a disk-based operating system that is bound to run into errors and issues, particularly when running legacy software applications.

What is the Windows 10 Registry System?

Windows 10 still uses the Microsoft System Registry paradigm from previous versions; in essence, this important component of the operating system stores all the settings and configurations made directly by users or by software applications. An easy way to understand the Windows Registry is to think of it as a series of building blocks that are added, removed or modified by users or third-party software as time goes by.

The Windows Registry is prone to a couple of problems: bloat and system errors. Bloat happens over time; system errors are sometimes caused by coding issues within Windows itself or by third-party applications that may not have been thoroughly tested before their release and end up corrupting certain files and creating errors.

Fixing System Registry Errors

Windows 10 users who installed the Anniversary Update can run the Microsoft System File Checker, which scans the operating system to eliminate corrupt files and fix registry errors. This utility must be accessed from the Command Prompt as an Administrator, but it is not always able to fix all errors.

One registry issue that has been reported by Windows 10 users involves a specific dynamic link library file related to the Hardlock driver. This Windows driver is used by a number of CAD and engineering applications protected with anti-piracy features. The error message specifically mentions a file named hlvdd.dll, which cannot be found. To fix this issue, the Hardlock driver must be repaired reinstalled, and the System Registry has to be corrected.

Sometimes the System File Checker will not be able to fix a System Registry issue; in this case, the Deployment Image and Servicing tool must be used. While some users will choose to run a commercially available utility to clean the Windows 10 System Registry, this type of tools are known to provide temporary fixes. It is better to let a professional computer repair technician look into the System Registry and focus on correcting specific items instead of wiping out all of the old entries and settings.

If you have System Registry issues with your Windows 10 desktop, laptop or tablet in Apple Valley or Victorville, get in touch with A Plus Computer.

Malware Statistics From Around the World | Apple Valley Computer Security

Malware Statistics From Around the World

Did you know? If you use a desktop, laptop or tablet in Apple Valley or elsewhere in the High Desert, you are more likely to fall prey to certain types of malware, specifically browser modifiers, adware and Trojan horse attacks. Such is the information compiled by Microsoft in its 2015 Security Intelligence Report, which analyzes threats to cyber security on an international level.

Contrary to what is routinely reported by news headlines, there has been a slight decrease in global malware activity in 2015 after many years of steady growth, but there is an important factor to consider in this regard: a substantial number of individuals living in the developing world access the internet through Android-powered mobile devices, which malicious hackers have not focused on with the same intensity as machines that run Windows and other popular operating systems.

Types of Malware Attacks

Browser modifiers are the most common malware threats in the United States. These are usually small pieces of malicious code designed to hijack a web browser by changing certain settings such as the default home page. The most typical method of delivering this malware is by enticing internet users to click on pop-up windows. Nearly 10 percent of American internet users are infected with this pesky malware, which is typically used for building illicit traffic and stealing personal information. In France, 14 percent of computers are infected with browser modifiers.

Adware and Trojan horse attacks each account for more than four percent of malware found in U.S. computers. Trojan horse attacks hide malicious code within packaging that seems legitimate such as emails or fake advertising. Many Trojans are used to spread adware, which slows down computers with web spam; however, Trojans are being increasingly used to deploy dangerous ransomware attacks. Russia is the country where this type of attack is more prevalent; 20 percent of Trojan malware infections were detected in 2015.

From 2014 to 2015, exploit kits were the fastest rising type of malware around the world. Exploit attacks seek vulnerabilities in operating systems and software applications that connect with web servers. The goal of the attackers who use exploit kits is to have a client computer connect to a malicious server so that they can spread more malware. Exploit kits are more common in Canada.

If you notice your browser home page frequently changing, or if you see strange pop up ads come up very frequently, contact A Plus Computer in Victorville for a malware scan and removal. In some cases, your antivirus program will not be able to remove a threat if you inadvertently granted permissions by mistake.
Overclocking Vs. Custom Computer Builds | Apple Valley Computer Repair

Overclocking Vs. Custom Computer Builds

PC manufacturers follow a certain hardware architecture that has not changed since IBM introduced the x86 formula for desktop computing in the 1970s. Since then, the motherboard combination of processors, RAM, ROM, and graphics cards has ruled the market.

Understanding PC Hardware Functions

The central processing unit (CPU) remains at the heart of all personal computing devices from desktops to laptops and from tablets to smartphones. When CPUs are installed on motherboards along with other components, the manufacturer sets a certain clock rate, which determines the amount of operations per second that the device will be able to handle. In essence, the CPU speed is what dictates the performance of the device according to the rest of its components, physical constraints and the computing purpose.

Overclocking is a hardware practice that goes back to the mass production of desktop PCs in the 20th century. Hardware enthusiasts and hackers who studied the x86 architecture as it relates to CPUs found out that they could increase the factory clock rate to make their devices faster. Just like automakers set electronic limiting devices to restrict the high speeds of sports cars, PC manufacturers set processor clock rates according to safe operating speeds. Unlike automakers, however, PC manufacturers do not make it so difficult to override processor speed.

Unlocking Potential with Overclocking

In essence, overclocking involves manually increasing the CPU clock rate so that it runs faster. This practice gained initial popularity in the early 21st century as there was great interest in PC gaming; it even sparked a small subculture that attempted to push CPU boundaries while compromising system stability and risking a meltdown of motherboard components due to inadequate cooling.

Many of the early overclocking enthusiasts were also into PC gaming, which helped to develop an interest in custom-built systems. Some computer shops advertise gaming systems as being overclocked, which is more of a marketing claim than an accurate statement. The CPU clock rate can be set from the BIOS, but doing so without adequately compensating the rest of the components invites failure.

When A Plus Computer delivers a custom computer build for clients in need of powerful systems, the PC is not overclocked as such. The CPU clock rate will run faster than off-the-shelf systems, but it will be adequately set and compensated with proper ROM and RAM as well as cooling and graphics processing performance. A builder of custom computer rigs is essentially a PC manufacturer who sets the proper CPU clock rate.
What You Should Know About Chromebook Repair in Apple Valley | Laptop Security

What You Should Know About Chromebook Repair in Apple Valley

It has been a few years since tech giant Google introduced its Chromebook initiative; since then, several school districts in California and other states have adopted Chromebook as their new personal computer solution for students.

The classrooms using Chromebooks these days find them to be a nice alternative to the Macs, iPads and PCs that have been traditionally used in American schools. Just like with the computing devices of yesteryear, school districts have come to realize that Chromebooks are not impervious to technical issues.

Repairing & Maintaining Chromebooks

Chromebook repair is something that school districts and individual users are bound to run into at some point. Some Chromebook models are incredibly affordable, which makes them more likely to experience some sort of hardware issue. In Wisconsin, for example, a school district has paid more than $30K in Chromebook repair fees over the last two years. This is actually not bad at all; most of the problems are related to broken screens, faulty charging ports, keyboard issues, and system board trouble.

In Indiana, a rural school district found a major issue with Chromebook touchpads that simply stopped working. This was identified as a manufacturing error that could be repaired under warranty. This school district has also found some issues with Chrome OS itself, but most of them have been solved by technicians who can perform hard resets or reach into advance settings to “Powerwash” the Chromebook so that it behaves as a brand-new device.

Chrome OS Brings Data Backup Advantages

Chromebook users have a repair advantage insofar as the operating system and personal data; since Chrome OS basically forces users to store their files and settings in the cloud, resetting the system back to factory status is simpler than the old Windows reformatting techniques. This does not mean that Chrome OS will never become buggy or choked up over time; this is something endemic to just about all operating systems, including Android, which is also developed by Google and may one day merge with Chrome OS. Thankfully, these operating systems are designed with a certain philosophy that allows quick recovery.

Many of the standard laptop repairs will apply to Chromebooks, and they are usually inexpensive unless the sleek, ultra-thin models are involved; these may require replacement parts that tend to be costlier.

If you are having issues with your Chromebook in Apple Valley, bring it to A Plus Computer for troubleshooting and repair.