If these things don't put your computer in tip-shape then you may need to visit us. Schedule a time to come in HERE
Hands of Support is taking a couple of months to focus on supporting the Baltimore community. We want to help the community upgrade their computer skills AND resumes so they can get that better job or change careers. Hands of Support strives to do what our name says. We want to be the Hands of Support you need to make that jump in your career.
If you'd like more help we want to be there for you. Consider signing up for one of our workshop classes. Receive instruction on how to upgrade your computer skills and sharpen your resume. More details here.
It's always exciting when you bring home a new computer. It feels so powerful and fast; you can't imagine ever needing to buy another one again. Unfortunately, neither your excitement nor your PC's performance lasts.
Whether your hard drive is running out of space or your system takes forever to run simple tasks, it might be worth your time to try and revive it before replacing it. Here are some spring cleaning tips to revive your Windows PC:
Free up disk space
The enormous size of modern multimedia files can eat up your hard-drive storage quickly. What once seemed like a laughable amount of storage, can suddenly become insufficient. But are you using that storage efficiently?
Performance on Windows computers tends to degrade over time, but with a few OS tweaks, you can recover some performance.
Simple hardware upgrades can make your system perform better than when it was new.
While you're tuning up your system for performance, it's also a good time to check your system security.
Cleaning your computer gear not only makes them look nice, but also keeps germs at bay and can help your system run better.
If you've decided to go ahead and buy a new PC, you can still use your old one for some great things or sell it to put some cash back in your wallet.
That's it. Performing some or all of these tips should help keep your Windows PC running smoothly for at least another year. If you have questions on any of these tips, let us know in the comments below.
Earlier this week we talked about Macs vs. PCs to help you make a decision on which computer is best for you. If you are deciding on getting a new computer then that means you are getting rid of an old one. Passwords, emails, bank details and address books - chances are your computer contains plenty of personal information about you.
Though dragging and dropping documents into your computer's trash folder is easy - it doesn't mean they're really deleted! Here's how you ensure your deleted files are permanently disappear from your hard drive.
Trying to decide if you are better off buying a PC or a Mac? We've provided a great comparison infographic for you here.
Let us know your thoughts and which you prefer and why?
The advantages of mail merge is that the feature saves you time and efforts. Producing mass mailings is much simplified, especially compared to the process of preparing individual letters or envelopes to many people. If you follow these simple steps it can save you even more time.
Free Software – Pictures and Graphics Programs
Adobe Photoshop is, of course, the standard when it comes to graphics editing. But, it comes with a hefty price tag. After some research I found a highly recommended alternative called Paint.net. Paint.net offers functions similar to photoshop, without any cost! Between paint.net and PicMonkey (below) I have been able to edit and create all the graphics for this blog and for my personal use.
Paint.net is a great tool to edit graphics. But, to create a graphic, I use an online program called PicMonkey. PicMonkey is a great choice for editing pictures, adding text and fun graphics, borders, etc. It’s very user friendly, quick and easy to use. The majority of the graphics on this blog were created with PicMonkey and Paint.net.
3. FastStone Image Viewer
FastStone Image Viewer is an easy to use program which makes organizing and viewing digital pictures a breeze. It also includes some photo editing features and allows you to create slideshows.
I am an extremely organized (maybe borderline OCD) person so I had to come up with a way to organize my digital pictures or I’d go over the edge!
Free Software – Video Tools
4. Open Broadcaster Software
Open Broadcaster Software is screen capture software which can be used for live streaming and recording. We use this program to create computer tutorials for our YouTube page.
5. Real Downloader
RealDownloader is a free program which allows you to download videos you find on the internet. In this post I go into depth on how I use RealDownloader to download YouTube videos to save them on my computer for later use.
6. VLC Media Player
My expertise in video files and formats is definitely lacking but, I do know that I’ve been frustrated a time or two because my standard player can’t read the file format and won’t play the video. VLC Media Player solves all that. This player is awesome as it can read almost any file format you come across. It can play from files, CD’s, DVD’s and live streaming. In addition, it gives you the capability to convert files to a different format if you wish.
Free Software – File and Data Programs
In this post we review what the cloud is and compare various cloud services programs. Dropbox has been my go to cloud storage option at work and at home for years now. It’s easy to use and the content is accessible on all my devices. In addition, their folder sharing makes it easy to share content with others.
Evernote is a popular program which helps you organize your life. It’s great for jotting down notes, organizing thoughts, keeping notebooks of recipes, whatever! The uses for this handy little software seem endless. I like it because I can capture thoughts and notes, keep them organized and access them from any computer or device quickly. If you’re interested in learning more about Evernote or finding uses for it check out this post.
Free Sofware – Computer Tools
9. Classic Shell
Well, in this post we walk you through getting that classic start menu back using classic shell. I highly recommend anyone using windows 8 or 8.1 who enjoyed their old look installs this program.
While most of us are comfortable with the idea of sharing our files in the cloud so you can access them anywhere not as many are probably aware of how easy it is to work on your own computer remotely. Teamviewer is a powerful free tool which allows you to connect to your computer from anywhere you have an internet connection. (LogMeIn is also a great service if you don’t mind a paid option.)
11. Folder Size Explorer
With programs getting larger and all of us taking more digital pictures filling up your hard drive is becoming a problem we’re all more aware of. However, what’s taking up all of the room on your hard drive? It’s hard to figure out since windows explorer no longer shows you the sizes of your folders. In this post we walk you through how to use Folder Size Explorer to find out what’s taking up all your hard drive space and figuring out what to delete.
12. Mozilla Firefox
When Internet Explorer started having technical glitches and security problems I did some research on alternate internet browsers. While Google Chrome is a popular choice I am conscious of all the information google collects about me and didn’t want to provide them that much more (a hopeless cause maybe). Then I came across Mozilla Firefox. The browser is clean, easy to use and I’ve converted to using it at home and work for a few years now with no complaints.
Free Software – Security Tools
Everyone needs to have an antivirus software. Avast is a free antivirus software that’s just as effective as some of the paid options.
Avira is another free antivirus software with excellent reviews. While you shouldn’t install both Avast and Avira on your computer at the same time, either of these options is an excellent choice to help you keep your computer and information safe.
Note: I’ve recently heard good things from some IT folks about Eset anti-virus software.
Malware is similar to viruses but attacks a computer slightly differently. Therefore, you should always have malware protection on your computer. Malwarebytes is one of the most highly recommended malware protection programs available. I’ve used it to successfully clean up infected computer and trust it immensely.
Which free software and tools do you use the most? Please share with us below in the comments. We love discovering new resources!
You don’t use passwords like the perennial 123456 and qwerty. Or even slightly better ones, like Cassie86 or Cubs1908. Because you put some thought into them, your passwords are better than those, right?
Maybe. But unless you avoid a little-known mistake recently uncovered by password researchers, there’s a good chance your passwords will still be far easier for hackers to crack than you think.
Can you tell how strong a password is?
To see, try to figure out which of these four are a pushover for hackers.
Spoiler: They’re all an easy mark for hackers, even though every one is 9 or more characters long and contains a mix of both letters and non-letters. How can such apparently strong passwords be so weak? The short answer is that they follow some of the most common patterns of composition that people use to create passwords, patterns that weaken them.
Beat the clock
How does a hacker get hold of your password? Most likely, through a breach of a customer database like the one that recently let criminals obtain confidential celebrity photos from Apple’s iCloud. (According to Apple, the iCloud database itself was not breached). Since many passwords are stored in such a way that they can’t be directly read by people, hackers often use software to crack them. The longer it takes to crack a password, the less likely the hacker will succeed. If it takes too long, the hacker may give up and move on to easier prey.
Long passwords comprised of a variety of letters, numbers, and special characters can better withstand cracking software than can short, simpler ones. However, when something about a password’s composition is too predictable — it begins with an upper case letter, for example, or includes a recognizable word — it can be cracked much more quickly.
Games users play
Just how predictable are people in composing passwords? Even when they’re following an organization’s password guidelines regarding length and mix, it turns out, most compose passwords in very similar ways.
In a 2013 study for DARPA (the Federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) called Pathwell, security consulting company KoreLogic found that, among the thousands of users within an unnamed Fortune 100 company, roughly half had relied on just five patterns to compose their passwords and 85 percent had relied on just 100 patterns. (KoreLogic found similar predictability within a variety of other companies).
Here are the three most common patterns KoreLogic found among the thousands it identified in those companies:
• One upper case, then 5 lower case, then 2 digits (Example: Dulith57)
• One upper case, then 6 lower case, then 2 digits (Example: Abugmar64)
• One upper case, then 3 lower case, then 4 digits (Example: Itio1981)
Which of these mistakes do you make?
It’s not practical to try to avoid every one of the many patterns KoreLogic found. But you can still create better passwords by steering clear of some of the most common mistakes people make:
• Starting with an upper case letter followed by lower case letters
• When a password isn’t long enough, adding a letter or two to the base word
• Putting digits, especially two or four of them, before or after the letters
• When a special character is required, using “!” and putting it at the end
• Not using two special characters in the same password
Don’t rely on password checkers
When creating a password, you may be tempted to use online password checkers to test the strength of those you’re considering. Beware: When I tried four of the most popular checkers, How Secure is my Password, Password Meter, Microsoft’s Password Checker, and Kasperky’s Secure Password Check, only Kaspersky’s clearly informed me that the apparently strong password I submitted was actually far weaker than it appeared. Even Gmail’s own password strength tester labeled that password as “strong.”
How to make passwords less predictable
I won’t suggest any compositional patterns here because, once published, they would immediately become a target for hackers. Instead, here are a few rules of thumb to keep your passwords from becoming too predictable:
• Avoid beginning the password with an upper case letter — or maybe even any letter
• Create an acronym using the first letter of each word in a memorable sentence, as suggested by security expert Bruce Schneier — example: t2cmlp,@yh (“Try to crack my latest password, all you hackers”)
• Resist your natural tendency to mimic familiar words and phrases
• Use multiple special characters in the same password
• Don’t always place digits adjacent to each other
A new study shows about 80 percent of middle-skill job openings list some kind of digital proficiency as a prerequisite for employment.
Significant Digital and computer skills have become essential for nearly 80 percent of middle-skill jobs, according to a new study from Capital One Financial Corp. and Burning Glass Technologies.
The middle-skill job segment of the workforce, which accounts for roughly 39 percent of total domestic employment, includes some office assistants, sales representatives, retail supervisors, recruiters and other positions that require a high school degree but may not list a four-year college degree as a prerequisite.
For the purposes of the study, researchers scoured roughly 40,000 job boards and nearly 100 million postings, focusing on positions for which less than 80 percent of postings required a bachelor’s degree and that offered median hourly payment above $15.
The study found that middle-skill jobs that require digital expertise have been growing at a faster rate than those that do not. They also, on average, offer wages that are 18 percent higher.
The market for digitally intensive middle-skill jobs expanded 4.7 percent between 2003 and 2013 and offer an average hourly wage of $23.76, and have continually grown since then according to the study. Nondigital middle-skill jobs, meanwhile, only saw growth of 1.9 percent and offer an average of $20.14 per hour.
And technology-savvy middle-skill jobs have more recently seen growth that slightly eclipses expansion in the high-skill sector, which is made up of chemists, advanced computer systems analysts, doctors and other positions that require highly specialized skills and usually require at least a bachelor's degree or the completion of an extensive training program.
According to the study, digitally intensive middle-skill jobs grew 4.8 percent. High-skill positions saw 4.7 percent growth during that period.
“Many economists worry about ‘hollowing out’ the labor force: losing middle-skill jobs and adding jobs only at the high and low ends of the labor market,” the report says. “It has been clear for some time that technological illiteracy, much less technophobia, is no longer a sustainable option for the modern worker.”
There are more opportunities and more money available in digitally intensive middle-skill positions than in non-digital middle-skill fields.
About two-thirds of all middle-skill jobs require, at MINIMUM, proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel, similar productivity software, or enterprise resource management software like Oracle. Jobs that require only proficiency in such productivity software offered 13 percent higher wages than nondigital middle-skill positions.
Positions that required more specialized, often industry-specific digital know-how offered 38 percent higher wages than nondigital middle-skill jobs, and 22 percent higher wages than the middle-skill jobs that only required simpler software familiarity.
Jobs requiring advanced digital skills "offer the strongest opportunity for middle-skill job seekers in terms of salary and growth as well as career advancement,” the report says. “Effectively, entire segments of the U.S. economy are off-limits to people who don’t have basic digital skills. Even for middle-skill production jobs, such as machinists, eight in 10 job postings require these skills at some level.”
That’s not to say, however, that sales reps and the like should throw their humanity out the window and become robots. While “computer skills” are listed among the study’s most common baseline requirements for digitally intensive middle-skill jobs, communications skills, customer service, organizational skills, problem-solving, planning and relationship-building skills are also included on that list, suggesting a human element is still a major prerequisite for success in that segment of the workforce.
“Employers continue to demand other skills that would be helpful in an office environment, such as communications skills, writing and relationship building,” the report says. “But word processing and spreadsheets are a basic requirement for nearly all office jobs.”
If your computer skills could use some dusting off or you simply don't have any then you should come check out our new Saturday Job-Readiness computer class at the Liberty Rec Center in Baltimore. To find out more go here.
Computer training is an important factor in 21st century workplaces. The importance of computer training can be viewed in two ways. First, it is vital for job applicants to obtain computer training to make themselves more valuable to potential employers and to obtain higher-paying jobs. Second, it is important for companies to utilize computer training in their new-hire training programs and employee development initiatives.
Computer skills are a basic requirement for a large number of jobs. Almost any office job you apply for will require you to possess basic typing and data entry skills, as well as a basic understanding of how to use an operating system. Most office work requires job applicants to be familiar with office productivity software as well, such as word processors and spreadsheet programs. Even nonoffice jobs can require a bit of computer training. Retail cashier positions require employees to operate complex point-of-sale (POS) kiosks. Factory positions may require employees to use computers to log their hours worked or to enter production information each day.
Learning on the Job
Basic computer training provides a foundation on which employees can build new skills on the job. Employees may need to learn how to use a proprietary software program for a new job, for example, or learn how to use an upgraded POS system at work. Learning how to operate software you've never worked with before can be much easier if you already have a solid foundation of computer experience on which to build. Without that, picking up new skills becomes more challenging.
Aside from the importance of job seekers obtaining computer training, small businesses can realize important benefits from leveraging computer technology in their training programs. Using computers to facilitate training exercises may avoid the loss of productivity that usually comes with new employees learning computer systems on the job. Retail operations, for example, traditionally train new employees on POS software operation on the job, which can cause line queues to back up while customers grow annoyed. Using a simulated POS system to provide new hires with computer training in a controlled setting, on the other hand, can give employees the skills and confidence they need to serve customers effectively from their first day on the job.
Computer training can be used for a wide variety of applications, not just for software simulations. Anything that can be taught in a classroom can conceivably be taught via computer. Employees can take ethics courses, job skills training courses, leadership training courses, safety courses and anything else on a computer. Using computer technology to provide continual training opportunities for your workers can steadily increase employees' professional competencies and experience, while accruing the benefits of a comprehensive employee development program to your business.
If you could use some better computer skills to be more competent and valuable at work then spend a quick 3 hours in our computer class. Learn more here.