Intel has recently released a CPU and there seems to be a lot talk about it. So what is the big deal? Well, for started Intel's Core i9 X-series is a 10-core processor and is to date the most powerful CPU the company has produced. Additionally, it is currently the fastest on the market (Maybe not for long with AMD's new Ryzen CPU) - the i9 comes in at a little over $1300.00 CAD / $1000.00 USD.
The above processor is their entry level i9 CPU. They have already or will be releasing in September additional more powerful i9 CPU's. They are:
1. i9-7920X, 3.1GHz, 4.4GHz burst, 12 cores / 24 threads
2. i9-7940X, 3.1Ghz, 4.4GHz burst, 14 cores / 28 threads
3. i9-7960X, 2.8 GHz, 4.4GHz burst, 16 cores / 32 threads
The clock speed determines how fast a single thread can be acted upon. The thread count indicated how many threads or tasks can be calculated in parallel. In these respects, the i9 CPU excels.
Due to all that power the chip, depending on which one you are using will consume 112W - 140W and will generate a massive amount of heat requiring a liquid cooling system. The new chips will also be utilizing a new socket and pin set, which means upgrading to the new CPU with your current motherboard is off the table.
If you are interested in learning more about the Intel Core i9 X-series CPU's, PC World has a great review of the processor, breaking it down into its several parts. You can read that here.
As some of you have no doubt heard, beginning on Friday and over the weekend, and I suspect into the week, there have been multiple cyber-attacks executed on multiple computer infrastructures around the world - in what is quickly becoming one of the largest cyber-attacks on record.
The hackers apparently used software that was stolen from the National Security Agency and used it to exploit infrastructures like Britan's public health system and Russia's Interior Ministry, along with thousands of computers elsewhere around the world.
By early Saturday morning, the attacks had spread to over 74 countries. The exploit itself was a ransomware type attack. In simple terms the hackers send out emails with the malicious software attached, the user opens the email and downloads the attachment and the software immediately starts encrypting your data. The hackers say they will give your data back to you for a fee, usually payable by bitcoin. In this particular case, the hackers used a software called Wanna Decryptor, which is an evolved form of the WannaCry Ransomware. The software, the same software that was stolen from the NSA (supposedly, but most likely) was designed specifically to attack vulnerabilities within Windows Servers, which is one of the reasons why it spread so fast.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do after the fact. You either have to pay the ransom, which I highly do not recommend, or you need to start from scratch. If you have all of your important data backed up, the effects, aside from downtime, will likely be minimal, if however, you don't have your data backed up, well. you are SOL. MORAL of the story people, be vigilant and BACK-UP your data.
I also urge you, to not pay the ransom. Not only does this help fund these black hat hackers, which allows them to continues these types of cyber attackers, but there is also no guarantee that when you pay, they will actually give you back your data. Additionally, paying them could put you on their radar for future cyber-attacks.
The Windows 10 Creators Update has been out for a little less than a month now. For some, you might have already received it and for others, you will be receiving the update in the not so distant future so here is what you need to know.
The Creators Update (CU) has a focus on security. Microsoft has integrated a high-level privacy dashboard that makes it easier to manage your security and privacy preference. Additionally, the CU has some other interesting new things integrated into it. For example, it comes with as new 'Paint 3D' app (which is an exciting feature for many), it comes with native video game streaming, a Game Mode aimed at improving gaming performance and Edge support of for eBooks and 4K streaming for those Netflix lovers.
Microsoft is also making some changes to the way we get our updates. For awhile now, many users have been upset by the way in which Microsoft has forced Windows Updates on us. Often, interrupting important work or causing problems. Becuase of that, they have introduced new features to make Windows Updates more tolerable. For Windows 10 Pro, EDU and ENT, they have included the ability to defer Windows Updates for up to 35 days. Yes, they are still requiring us to get the updates, but they are at least giving us the ability to install at a more appropriate and convenient time. You will also be able to add new definitions of when you want updates to install and when you don't. So if you work between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday, you can make sure the updates to occur during that time.
They have included a feature called Dynamic Lock, which uses your computer's camera to automatically unlock your computer as your sit at it. It also uses your phone's Bluetooth to lock your computer when you walk away from it.
Additionally, they have made updated to Windows VR, Cortana, the Start Menu, Display Settings, Theme Support and Windows Defender.
All said, the CU is packed with lots of great features and by all accounts, this is just the beginning. With another large update to happen later on this year, we can expect even greater changes in the future. The great thing about this model of delivering updates is, we don't need to purchase a new OS every time there are significant changes that we want. Providing you already own Windows 10 these great updates will come to you free of charge. And despite the fact that some of the change are missing the Microsoft said would be included, I take comfort in the fact they likely weren't included because they simply were not ready and I fully expect to see them in the coming updates.
sFor anyone who is familiar with Windows 10 and uses it consistently for work, school, or pleasure, no doubt has at one point in time, considered buying a Microsoft Surface. Surface's differ from other tablets because they run the Windows operating system and therefore, are often more familiar than Android-based tablets and in some cases perhaps even more compatible with your daily life and routine. For example, if you worked at a large company that regularly requires you to remote into a server then a Windows based device would definitely be preferable.
Microsoft Surface's are also a really good quality machine. They come packed with a lot of power in that tiny frame - in many cases, they might even be better than your computer at home. However, their significant downfall is the price. The entry level Surface, which boasts an Intel Core m3, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB Solid State Hard Drive is $999.00CA - you might be able to get it a little cheaper if you are a student or teacher. A refurbished Surface with the same specs start at $849CA - from Microsoft.
These are great specs, and having used a Surface in the past you can definitely see and feel that the quality is there, both in terms of its physicality and its function - it runs very smoothly and I suspect for everyday, intense use, it is more than sufficient. But the price makes it unattainable for many. At $999.00CA, not including your extra's, it is hard to justify.
There is an alternative out there, however, that is in my opinion, a competing option, if, for nothing else, it's significantly lower price. The CHUWI Hi10 Pro comes with some surprising specs and to my surprise, runs very smoothly. The Hi10 Pro comes with an Intel Cherry Trail Quad Core, 4GB RAM, and a 64GB hard drive and retails between $300-$400CA. Granted there are some differences. For example, the hard drive capacity is significantly less than the Surface. However, it does comes with the ability to expand storage up to 128GB with an extended card. Considering that, and the many cloud storage options out there, I don't find that to be a real big downfall. The surface has a nice kick stand, which the Hi10 Pro does not have, but again, considering the price that really is not a big negative for me.
The Hi10 Pro is also a dual boot tablet, which means you can boot to both Windows 10 and Android, which is a nice feature if you like using both platforms. The down side of course, the 64GB hard drive is shared between both platforms. You can also get a handy keyboard that attaches to the Hi10 Pro similar to the Surface and you can get a compatible Pen for the Hi10 Pro. I am using both the tablet and the detachable keyboard to write this blog as we speak. Not only is the typing comfortable, but I am seamlessly moving between screens and processes without any hiccups or delays. Understanding that I require my machines to perform well, I have to say that I am very pleased with this tablet.
My one and only complaint is the finger prints. They seem to collect on the screen more than my touch screen laptop for example. But since I am using the detachable keyboard most of the time and I have the compatible Pen, the finger prints have really become a non-issue.
For $300-$400CA you can have yourself a high functioning, highly portable machine at a really great price. If you are looking into purchasing a Windows based tablet I highly recommend you consider the CHUWI Hi10 Pro. I have yet to be disappointed and I feel confident that you won't either.
Malware is a pretty big issue nowadays. Hundreds of thousands of devices are being infected daily, worldwide and those numbers are only increasing with each passing day.
We get malware when we are browsing the internet, clicking on links that we don't really know about, where they are from and what type of damage they might cause us. I think it large part we are so absorbed by how connected the internet makes us feel - it can get instant gratification by clicking on a link to a story that sounds or looks funny, or by clicking on an ad for that new pair of shoes or jewelry you always wanted. We fail to actively and consciously protect ourselves from the dangers that the internet houses. For someone like myself, I am reasonably equipped both with my equipment and software and my mind to protect myself against malware and phishing attacks, although I am by no mean immune. For the average joe, however, who might not fully understand the potential risk, or perhaps they are fully aware but don't really know who to go about protecting themselves, there are simply tools out there that can help.
One that comes to mind this morning is Comodo IceDragon. Comodo IceDragon, aside from having a pretty awesome name, is a web browser that actively helps protect you from malware and phishing scams. Comodo IceDragon has malware scanning in the browser with SiteInspector and it runs through the companies secure DNS service, which is helpful because it means the web browser has access to a constantly updated list of unsafe sites and links. The web browser also hosts a number of easy to use features for things like social media and it is very user friendly. The browser it also free. Visit their website to learn more about Comodo IceDragon https://icedragon.comodo.com/. If you are concerned about malware and your web browsing I highly recommend this web browser.
With around 40-50% of all browser users worldwide using Google Chrome, it makes sense for hackers to target Chrome. Hackers are becoming more and more savvy and executing their hacking techniques with more finesse. Their hacking techniques are looking more and more legitimate and this can spell disaster if you are not vigilant in your computer use.
Chrome users need to be on the lookout when browsing the web and visiting websites that are not secure or trusted. Lately, hackers have been using website exploits in Chrome to try and get you to download or update your 'language pack' that embeds malware into your computer system.
It is going to look something like this:
Unfortunately, the hackers make the premise sound and look so believable it is hard to spot that it is, in fact, a hack. Also, unfortunate, if you do end up falling for this hack your system will be compromised by viruses or malware that could potentially put your system and personal information at risk. It also seems that Chrome and other anti-virus software (premium or not) are not yet picking up on this virus/malware.
If you come across this particular hack close all dialogue boxes and navigate from the website immediately. Simply having the dialogue box show up on your computer prompting you to download or update is not enough for your computer to be infected. However, if you proceed with the prompts, download and execute the file then your computer will be infected.
The best thing you can do is be vigilant. New hacks, viruses, and malware are being released daily and it is almost impossible to keep up with them all. No matter how legitimate something looks, be critically and if you have the smallest sense that something might be amiss, then I strongly suggest you either 1. do your research before you proceed or 2. call a professional who can check the legitimacy of whatever you are about to do.
The biggest and perhaps most notable advantage is speed. SDD will give you significantly better performance than an HDD drive will. Perhaps as important, because the SDD has no moving parts it is a lot more stable and far less likely to experience some sort of shock damage that could compromise your OS or your data. SSD, again because they have no moving parts and much quieter - they run completely silent. AND last but not least, they don't get hot like a traditional HDD, which means less overall strain on your system's hardware and in all likely will prolong the life of your computer. On the outside an SSD looks very similar to a standard 2.5" HDD, on the inside, however, it would look more like Random Access Memory (RAM). SDD are designed with nonvolatile memory chips that can retain the information you store on it.
SDD tend to run a little more expensive than traditional HDD. For example, a traditional 1TB HDD will cost around $99CA, whereas, a 240GB SDD will cost around $150CA. With that being said, however, an SDD hard drive is, in most cases, the most cost-effective upgrade you can do to your computer.
So what should you do with your old hard drive? Well, you should not throw it out. With everything that you gain from an SDD, there is one thing you loose. Storage capacity. Unfortunately, SDD are too expensive to upgrade your computer with large capacity drives, so you should keep your old hard drive and turn it into and external storage device. The first thing you want to do is test your HDD to ensure that it still has its integrity. To do this simply go to any search engine and search for Crystal Disk Info, download and run the program. This program will give you information about your HDD, for example, how many hours are on it and at what temperature it is running. If the program comes back with a 'Good' status then you are set to use your HDD as an external storage device, if however, the program comes back with a 'Caution' or 'Bad' status, not only would I recommend you don't use that HDD to store important information but I would also suggest you back up your data and get your HDD replaced as soon as possible.
If you are going to turn your HDD into an external storage device then you simply need to replace it with an SDD, install the OS on the new SDD, and format your old HDD. You will then need to purchase a dock or case for your HDD. They start around $20CA for a 2.5" case and allows your to connect the HDD to your computer like a traditional external hard drive.
The total cost of upgrade your computer with an SSD at GMF Computers is: $149.95 for the SSD and $75.00 to install it with your OS and backup your data.
Microsoft has released the Windows 10 15002 Preview Build for PC Testers. This preview build gives us a look at what we can expect when Microsoft releases their Windows 10 Creators Update later this year.
In Windows Enterprise, Education and Professional, Microsoft is giving you the ability to pause incoming updates for up to 35 days. They are also giving you the ability to choose whether or not you want to include driver updates in the download package.
It is no secret that Microsoft would really prefer you use their browser as oppose to say Google Chrome or Firefox. In this preview build, we see that Microsoft has made some improvements to their Edge, in the hopes, it will encourage you to use it more often. For example, the tab bar lets PC users see a preview of every tab without actually leaving your current tab. They also make it easier to launch a new tab or an InPrivate window by adding those respective options directly to the taskbar. Edge will also block flash content by default.
Microsoft has introduced settings that allow you to set the amount of blue light that is emitted from the screen. This is important for people who use their computers a lot at night or in dark spaces. By adjusting this setting the light that is emitted will be easier on your eyes and supposedly will assist you in being able to sleep after use, by blocking melatonin.
Not a whole lot has changed with the start menu but there are some things worth mentioning. The overall look and mechanics of the start menu remain the same but Microsoft has added some features. For example, start tiles can now be grouped into folders, there is a new screenshot feature that allows you to capture an area of the screen and copy it to the clipboard, and the Windows Share Experience pop-up lets users quickly pick the app they want to share content to.
Microsoft has made some updates to Cortana, apparently making it smarter. They have simplified and made the VPN access faster. They have added high DPI support for desktop apps.
No doubt, when the Creators update is released this year there will be many more features that are not included in the preview build. A more detailed list and overview of the new features can be found here.
Now that Christmas is over, I am sure some of you have new Windows 10 devices that you are familiarizing yourself with. Whether you got a new desktop computer or a new laptop, here are some efficiency tips and tricks for your new Windows 10 device. While not all of these apply to brand new devices persay, they are good to keep in mind and put into practice when needed. To that end, there are a number of things you can do to ensure Windows 10 is running at optimal performance.
It is important to note, before you start making any big changes to Windows, back up your data on an external device or cloud storage. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to create a restore point in the event something goes wrong. To create a restore point search ‘System Restore’ and click on ‘Create a Restore Point’ in the pop up box at the bottom, click ‘Create…’, type a description into the dialog box and click ‘create’ – Windows will then create a restore point.
Number 1 – Removing unnecessary programs and apps:
Go to Cortana (the search box on the task bar) and search ‘settings’ à ‘System’ à’Apps and Feature’. This will give you a list of app and programs that are running on your system that either came with the computer or maybe you downloaded inadvertently. It is a good idea to get rid of any of these that you either don’t use or don’t want. Simply click on the app and select ‘Uninstall’. At this point in time it might also be a good idea to remove any residual files or Registry entries. To do this you will need to use a third party tool, GeekUnistaller is a good one to use and IObit uninstaller is also a good one to use. Beware however, with IObit Uninstaller; they really push you to purchase the entire suit of IObit software. If you are going to use IObit, install it, use it and then uninstall it.
Number 2 – Optimize Cortana Searches:
Cortana can be a powerful search tools, for both your computers directory and the web. It can also be really annoying– perhaps you want to limit Cortana AI and use it simple as a search tool. The first thing you can do is reclaim some of your task bar by turning the search box into a much smaller magnifying glass. Right click the taskbar à click search à select show search icon. You can also hide the search bar all together if you simply don’t’ want to use it.
You can customize Cortana a little more. Click the search box, on the left hand side you should see some icons, one of which should be a gear which represent Cortana’s settings. If you open her settings you have the option to disable Cortana’s AI, toggle device search history, and toggle online and web searches.
If you type ‘search’ into the search box you can manage how windows actually searches for files on your computer. This shows you which folders have been indexed for searching, it allows you to remove unwanted folders or add folders. It also allows you to move the index to another drive. Additionally, it lets you select specific files types you want to be indexed.
Number 3 – Clean your drive:
If you upgraded to Windows 10 from a previous operating system, it is a good idea to clean out your drive to reclaim any wasted hard drive space. Open up your ‘file explore’ (usually a folder icon on your task bar, if not type file explore into the Cortana)à right click on your system drive à click properties à click Disk Clean up. When it opens select ‘Clean up system files’, this should generate a list of things you can clean up, for example, temporary internet files and the recycling bin.
There is a free tool out there called CCleaner which allows you to clean your hard drive very easily, as well as, your registry, manage startup programs and uninstall unwanted programs.
Number 4 – Start Menu Customization:
The start menu is Windows 10 is not just used as a means to naviagte your computer, but rather it is a tool that can customzied to make your computer experience more seemless and more efficent. In Windows 8/8.1 you needed to leave the desktop environment to access your live tiles and programs, it would bring you to an entirely different screen - it feel very convaluted and sometime frusterating. With Windows 10 however, they have brought that same enviroment to the desktop itself by simply intergrating it into the start menu. Click on the start menu and you will see the live tiles which can be customized by removing, adding, resizing and re-arranging the tiles in a manner that best suits you.
Number 5 – Multiple Virtual Desktops:
This is a feature that might appeal more to business enviroments, but either way it is pretty cool. Have multiple virtual desktops is something PC users have wanted to be easily intergrated into the windows environment - and it is a favorite among OS X users.
To set one up, tap or click on the small icon – or press Windows key + Tab – to the right of the Cortana search bar and this will bring up all of the your open windows. If you scan your eyes to the bottom right hand corner you should see the option to '+ New desktop'.
Virtual desktops are great for organizing and managing all your application and documents. Some of us like to have all of our application and important documents right on the desktop, while others (like myself) have virtuall nothing on the desktop. This new feature with Windows 10 provides with a happy medium and can greatly increase efficency within windows.
Number 6 – Partition your hard drive:
It is always a good idea to keep your data separate from your operating system and applications. That way if something happens with your operating system then your files won’t be directly affected. If you can keep them on a separate physical drive from your OS, that’s great. If not then I would suggest you partition your hard drive. The first thing you want to do is make sure you have enough room on your hard drive to partition it, so head over C drive and see how much space you have available. You want to make sure that you leave enough room on your partitioned hard drive for your operating system and any application you might want to install.
Right click the start button and select ‘Disk Management’ à Right click on the C drive and choose ‘Shrink Volume’. If it were me I would leave at least 50 GB a free space on your operating partition for any programs you might want to download in the future, the rest you can turn into a storage partition for your data. Once you have adjusted your volume size click ‘Shrink’, once this is done you will see an empty space partition beside your operating partition. Right click your new data partition and choose ‘New Simple Volume’, make sure to format using NTFS. When this is completed you can now use the storage partition to store your data and portable applications. You are going to want to properly transfer your files to the new partition so Windows knows where to find them. To do this right click on the file or folder you want to move to your storage drive and select ‘Properties’ à Location Tab à Click move à browse to the location on your storage drive where you want your data to sit and select ‘yes’ to move your data there.
There are a few other things you can do to speed up and streamline your PC. You can download a program called SpaceSniffer that gives you a visual break down of what is taking up space on your hard drive. You can also use cloud storage to keep important documents stored off of your hard drive. Google Drive or One Note are good, however, if you are concerned about privacy and security I would recommend a Zero Knowledge system like SpideOak. You can also build a portable tool kit. There are many portable applications out there that allow you to download an operating file with the application, without actually installing it on your computer. You can leave these apps in your storage drive or keep them on an external device like a USB stick or external drive; alternatively you can also store these on the cloud. Another upgrade I strongly suggest would be to replace your standard sata hard drive to an ultra-fast, more stable solid state drive. These solid state drives don’t have any moving parts in them so not only are they more stable but they are also faster. They tend to be more expensive and don’t have as much capacity but overall they are much better.
I am posting this blog post again for the simple fact that it has shown up in the news again. On November 28, 2016 the San Francisco transit system was hit by a ransomware attack. Read below for the original blog post on ransomware/encryption viruses.
There have been ransomware/ encryption viruses spreading at an alarming rate, with an estimated half a million victims so far. We have seen it here personally, infecting many of our personal computer users and some of our business clients as well. It is called the Locky Virus (other names include, CryptoLocker and many others) and unfortunately, there is nothing that a user can really do to prevent the virus except be vigilant in their computer usage.
The Locky Virus is a ransomware type virus; it encrypts all of your data with the design of forcing you to pay to get your data back, usually in Bitcoin currency. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT PAY. The Locky virus uses a AES 128 military grade encryption, rendering your files unusable and inaccessible, and simply deleting the virus is not enough.
Based on what we have seen the Locky virus is arriving to your system via email, usually with an compressed folder attached. Often times, the email references some receipt or invoice. Sometimes, the email in questions is spoofed, coming from a reputable business or maybe even someone in your contact list, leading the user to believe the email in questions is safe and legitimate. Opening the email and the compressed file themselves is not enough the allow the Locky virus access to your system. When you open the document in the compressed folder however, it will likely ask your permission to run some sort of executable or Macro, which then installs the virus to your system or server.
That is when the work begins. The virus, having been downloaded to your system begins its work in relative secrecy. Slowly encrypting your data without your knowledge. Although, there are signs. Your system may be running unusually slow; programs may take significantly longer to open or execute. One thing about the Locky virus is it hogs your computers resources, your CPU and memory will display signs of exertion. If you look in your computers task manager, under performance and see a program or service that is taking a lot of your computers resources (sometimes masked as a Microsoft program or service), it is best to immediately end that process and delete any files that may be associated with it. Eventually, if you do not realize you are infected or otherwise failed to prevent the spread, you will soon realize you have become a victim of the Locky virus.
As I mentioned earlier there is not much you can do to prevent a ransomware attack on your system. The best thing you can to do is be extra vigilant when opening programs and emails of which you are not 100% percent certain are safe. If you get an email and a compressed folder, even if it is from someone you know, I strongly suggest you DO NOT open it. If you do open a document, for example, a word document and it asked you to download Macros, again, I suggest to don’t and immediate exit that program. Additionally, and I cannot stress this enough, create a back up of your system and important documents and backup your backup. Keep at least one backup that is not online. The Cloud is great and convenient but can be susceptible to infection more so than an offline backup.