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Evernote

It’s not often that I find a smart phone app worthy of recommendation. It’s even less common for me to discover one that I personally use with consistency. Many available apps are novel at best, while countless others are just a waste of space, destined to dishevel your Blackberry or iphone’s menu and memory. A notable exception, however, is Evernote. At its most basic level Evernote, as its name suggests, is a note-taking application for pc’s and phones. But it’s capable of a lot more. It provides a centralized repository for just about anything you want to keep track of. In addition to providing the user with the ability to save their typed thoughts, reminders, and other ramblings, you can save voice recordings, photos, and documents. Since your entries are saved to the Evernote server you need not be concerned about gobbling up precious memory on your handheld. What’s more, your notes are available from any internet-connected computer, pda, or phone. Did I mention it’s free?

Identity Protection Companies Not Perfect

Remember those ads from LifeLock with the CEO displaying his social security number claiming they could protect clients from identity theft? You can check out the full story here.  Despite his promises of the security ofLifeLock, Todd Davis has had his identity stolen 13 times and was forced to step down as CEO. Use common sense with your personal information but often, even that is not foolproof. Your information is held by your bank, doctor, credit card companies and the list goes on and on. I would recommend checking your credit reports at least once a year as most states allow you to get it from all three major credit reporting agencies for free. Don’t leave your financial future in the hands of others!

To check out your credit reports, click here.

Warning: Old copy machines

As an IT consultant it takes a lot to surprise me when it comes to data breaches; however, this one got me. I know that copy machines are basically overgrown scanners with a printer attached but did you know that some machines buffer the pages you copy to an internal hard drive? Here’s the kicker – sometimes these pages do not get deleted from that drive. So if you upgrade your copy machine, sensitive date from your network could be compromised via this hidden Trojan horse.

I’m also appalled that copy machine manufactures have an option that will delete this information from the hard drive as they are created but in most cases it costs extra. Like seat belts in cars, this should be a standard design component and not an option.

Starting from Scratch

There are many benefits that come with starting from scratch.  By that, I mean a fresh install of your operating system (OS).  I don’t care if you get your PC from a local IT supplier or one of the big names (Dell, HP, etc.).  All of the brand name manufacturers score many contracts with 3rd party software vendors like Symantec, McAffee or PC Doctor, not to mention the numerous proprietary apps that each manufacturer installs to “assist” the user.

The basic install of Windows XP or Windows 7 should have about 45 processes running after boot up.   This process count should include an anti-virus and or anti-malware application and local backup application – the “bare essentials”.  If you have more processes running, they could be valid but you shouldn’t need much more than 45 processes.  Given my 10 years of experience, most of the major manufacturers will have you, out of the box, running around 60-70 processes!  If you are not a nosey user like myself, then you will most likely will not do anything to kill/uninstall these services.  Nor should you have to do this in my opinion.  You are not intentionally purchasing these applications; rather you are forced to manage these on your own.

Folks, these applications are using valuable resources and you need to take them back!!  99% of these “proprietary” applications are already built into Windows.  Thanks but no thanks, manufacturers.  Anything that Windows does not inherently manage internally probably isn’t a huge concern for most users.  Running applications like Ccleaner, Malwarebytes and the recently released Microsoft Security Essentials are commonly used add-ons to the basic operating system.

The next major concern is backups, Windows can address file restore inherently with Shadow Copies.  You also have System Restore for the OS.  Talking to your Greystone consultant can offer more advanced online and offline options as well.

Returning to the subject at hand, “Starting From Scratch”, I highly recommend, permitting time and your confidence level, reinstalling the OS before you start to personalize the existing OEM install (Original Equipment Manufacturer is the software received with your purchased computer that provides the pre-loaded applications).  This gives you the opportunity to dictate everything that is installed from the very beginning.  After addressing anti-virus & malware, then backups, you should be set and running a lean and mean OS that will reflect the hardware that you purchased.

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