There isn’t much scarier than seeing your $1K+ Apple computer cease to function. Fortunately, you paid for quality hardware / software and restoring functionality is pretty straight-forward.

Indications that your mac isn’t (or won’t) boot include: a blinking folder icon with a question mark; an infinitely spinning wheel on the apple boot screen; or a frozen spinning wheel on the apple boot screen.

If you have any of these symptoms, the first thing that we are going to do is power off the mac completely. To do this, hold down the power button on the bottom left back of your iMac or the top right of your Macbook. Once it is fully off, turn it back on and hold CMD+R. This will boot you to recovery mode.

From here, you have access to OSX’s core system utilities. Of the options available, select Disk Utility.

In Disk Utility, on the upper right hand side you should see something labeled Macintosh HD. It might have another name depending on whether you or someone else has tinkered with your hard drive.

Click on that tab and then on the bottom right: click Verify Disk. Let that run its course and hopefully everything will come up green. If it doesn’t and gives you an error along the lines of “Backup your data and Reinstall OSX” you better do just that. It might give an error that says that the disk must be repaired. In that case, click the Repair Disk option and let it run. Once it finishes (hopefully successfully), click it again and make sure it comes up green.

Then, to the left, click Verify Permissions. I have never not seen it come up with errors. Once its done, click repair Permissions and let it run.

Now its time to try a reboot. Click the Apple symbol on the top left and click reboot. If it boots to OSX: YAY! If not, we aren’t going to give up that easily.

If that didn’t fix your problem and your verify disk came up green, you may have to reinstall OSX. Fortunately, because of the way that OSX is designed, it shouldnt wipe out any of your data. It will just reinstall system files. BACK UP YOUR DATA ANYWAY!

Get back into recovery mode and click Reinstall OSX. Depending on the OSX version you have, it may ask for iCloud / Apple ID credentials. Go ahead and enter those and continue on your merry way.

If that fails or it won’t let you reinstall, there is another option. Shut down your Mac and start it back up holding the ‘n’ key. Make sure you are connected to the internet! This will download a temporary recovery mode to your computer in the event that your recovery area is corrupted. Try the reinstallation from there.

If THAT doesn’t work, you are probably going to need someone’s disk, or if you are particularly crafty, you could make your own OSX boot media if you have access to another mac.

It’s rare that you would eventually need physical media but it is possible.

 

I hope that this helps some people get their mac’s back up and running again! Feel free to comment or contact us if you have any questions!

“I want to text my toaster!”

Unfortunately, despite rapid and progressive advances in technology we are still unable to create a textable toaster. We can, however, change lighting and temperature in a room; we can play music and stream content to any part of a house; we can even lock our doors and windows with a push of a button 10,000 miles away on our smartdevice.

As wireless technology develops it will be come easier to manage one’s home remotely. This development is not without its risks or shortcomings.

Security:

Cyber-security is fundamental to the equation of the SmartHome; storing information as benign as lighting or as severe as locking mechanisms can have far reaching consequences in the event of a data breach.

Imagine for a moment that a SmartHome service offered to keep your door lock codes on the cloud for ‘convenience’. That service is attacked and breached by hackers who distribute lock codes, home addresses, lighting information (schedules) to the highest bidder.

No doubt most SmartHome service providers will be more security conscious than that, but the scenario is still a valid one. Be cautious and thoughtful when considering a SmartHome security solution.

Financial:

Expensive!

Benefits:

The biggest benefit (and most obvious) is convenience. From the comfort of your couch, you can remotely turn on/off any light in your house and even dim them to a specific level! When you are driving across the country, or around the corner, you can simply tap your phone to lock your door.

In the opinion of these lowly technicians, SmartHome tech does not have a favorable cost/value ratio. Sure you can dim the lights from your couch, but is that worth $300?

Unless you are Bill Gates and have eleven figures in your bank account, SmartHome tech is more of a novelty than a necessity (like the clapper).

Malware doesn’t usually sit idly on a computer; it will run as a background process behind windows where you cant see it. From there, it can monitor your activity and start throwing pop-ups. The first place to check to see if you have malware is through the Task Manager.

If you aren’t familiar with the Task Manager, it is one of the most powerful utilities Windows has to offer. You can access it by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc or by right clicking on the task bar and selecting “Task Manager”.

Once there, you will have all of your system’s applications, services and processes (they are different) at your fingertips. The Applications tab shows you currently running programs that you can see ie. Microsoft Word, Google Chrome etc. The Processes tab shows you all of the software that your computer is using in the background of your Applications. This is where you want to look.

From here, you can see the Process ID, Memory Usage, CPU Usage and a description of the process itself. You can sort by these  values to either list the processes alphabetically or by the amount of resources used. I find it most useful to sort by Memory Usage if your computer is running slowly.

Most processes developed by reputable manufacturers will have a full, and ‘well written’ description that succinctly describes the process’ function. Your first cause for concern is a process without a description or one that is extremely limited. Note, sometimes a valid and reputable process wont have a description. Now its time to Google it! Simply search for the name of the process in question and you will no doubt find dozens of websites that carefully evaluate the process’ reputation.

Lets say that you see a process running called “Hijack.exe”. It has no publisher information and its description is also empty. Upon searching for Hijack.exe you find that thousands of people have identified this as malware. What do you do from here?

First off, end the process. Simply select it and click End Process/End Task. From there, you should run an antivirus scan. If, somehow, your antivirus doesn’t detect it you should open up a Run Dialog with Win+R and type in MSCONFIG.EXE and press enter. Once there, navigate to startup items and make sure that Hijack.exe is not listed in your startup items. (On Windows 8, Startup Items is also in your Task Manager).

Next, restart your computer and get yourself some new antivirus!

Task Manager is an extremely powerful tool that should be used with caution. Some processes are critical to windows functionality and stopping them can lead to the dreaded BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. Google is your friend, and so is the task manager. Become familiar with your normal process IDs so that you can immediately identify a suspicious/malicious one.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or give us a call at the office! =)

 

One of the tech questions I am most frequently asked is, “What is the best Antivirus out there?” To which I respond, “It’s different every six months.”

For the past 6-8 months, I’ve been a firm supporter of Avast Antivirus. It was an antivirus program that didn’t try and intimidate its user’s. It had a simple, intuitive interface and even let you choose “Pirate” as the announcement voice: brilliant! In addition to the well-designed interface, it seemed to be a really solid passive (live monitor) antivirus software. It caught malware when I suspected a computer to be infected and after one or two full scans, it showed the system as clean and I had no reason to believe otherwise.

In the past two or three months however, I’ve been getting a lot of calls about Windows and third party software acting a little wonky/erratic/spooky. Upon inspection, Avast is actually attacking software like Google Chrome! Boot times had slowed, some programs stopped working, malware started slipping through the nets!

What had happened? Why had one of the first ‘layman’s antivirus’ programs begun to devolve into another Norton?

I see a trend. Each year an antivirus program puffs out its chest and touts something about it having security professionals on the design team, or the most current virus profiles and now, the smallest digital footprint. Professionals and consumers flock to it and install it because their antivirus from last year started letting malware through and breaking programs or making their computer very slow. (See where I’m going with this?)

Norton Antivirus used to be the heavy hitter, then it became so resource dependent that it was worse than a virus for a computer. McAfee and AVG followed thereafter. McAfee was the first to fall into disrepair and eventually became as secure as swiss cheese. I recently worked with a client running AVG and it was one of the worst experiences I have ever had with an antivirus program; the details of which I’d be happy to share in a later post or comment thread. After AVG was an assortment of Bitdefender, Windows Security Essentials, Vyper and some others, but none really stood out as much as AVG or Norton. Avast came onto the scene but as I said before, it is in its decline now.

At netEffx, we are currently installing and recommending WebRoot. For the time being, its the fastest, most secure, low-profile antivirus on the market. We’ve installed it in a couple client networks and everyone seems to love it. We also always run Malwarebytes alongside our Antivirus, which I will talk about in a future article.

If you are looking for a quick and clean antivirus software, check out Webroot. It looks to be the new big thing.

When Apple released the iPad in 2010, they were ridiculed. No one expected there to be any need for a giant iPhone without any calling ability. Since then, the tablet market has exploded. Every major tech manufacturer from ASUS to Dell are manufacturing tablets modeled after the iPad.

Rewind 5-10 years and you will see a market of mobile computing that is emerging called ‘netbooks’. Designed to be low profile, lightweight laptops for highly mobile individuals (not unlike tablets). These devices were, and to some extent, still are, extremely low power, tiny form-form factor computers. The netbook market struggled for traction 5 years ago, and it continues to struggle today.

netbook

Tablets overtook the netbook world due to their attractive, simple design, touch screen interface and portability.
If you ask anyone in the mobile tech industry what their thoughts on tablets are, they will likely give you one of two responses; enthusiastically negative or enthusiastically positive. There is a pretty big gap between these two camps. Some see tablets as simple, powerful computers that fulfill their (minimal) computing needs. Others see them as redundant, larger versions of their phones that lack the functionality of a full computer.

As an owner of an Apple iPad and a previous owner of a Google Nexus 7 I find myself in the latter camp. I use my iPad for less and less every day. It simply doesn’t have the customizability or functionality of a computer; nor does it have the convenience of a phone. It sits awkwardly between the two, unsure of what its role should be.
That said, I don’t think this is a problem with tablets as a class; I think that this entire problem revolves around our mentality that a tablet should have a mobile OS, like iOS. In keeping with the Apple ‘ecosystem’, one cannot install OSX apps on an iPad. You can’t save documents to your desktop, there are no folders. You are locked into this ethereal state of app-jumping.

If only there was a middle ground. Something that took the small form factor, touch screen and low profile of a tablet, but the power and functionality of a mobile computer.

Enter the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and 3.

Surface Pro 3

The Surface is incredible. It is a lightweight, touchscreen device in the shape of a tablet but it packs the hardware of a midrange desktop computer AND has a fully featured Windows 8.1 (soon to be Windows 10) installation on it.
Not only do you have a full Windows OS loaded where you can install any Windows program, you get to use Windows 8.1 as it was meant to be used—with your hands. If that wasn’t enough for you, it also comes with a USB port, a MicroSD expansion port and a connector to hook up a very well designed and fully qualified keyboard.
I firmly believe that the Surface is the future of mobile computing. Computing power is going to always be increasing, we have to match that power with user ability. That cannot be achieved through a mobile OS. A simplified OS has its place in small devices like phones or media players. But a mobile computing device like a tablet, deserves a qualified OS like Windows 8.1(10).

We at netEffx will be acquiring a Surface Pro 3 to conduct more extensive trials in the coming week. Stay tuned for more information on them and other new Microsoft Tech!