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African Americans in Technology and Computing

February is Black History Month, so we decided to highlight some African American people who have been major figures in technology and computing. We’ve included links where you can read more about the lives of these amazing people.

  1. Granville Woods (1856-1910): He was the first African American to be a mechanical and electric engineer. He held more than 60 patents. Among his inventions were a telegraph that sent messages between train stations and moving trains and an invention that allowed for voice and telegraph to be sent over one wire.
  2. Garrett Morgan (1877-1963): He held patents for many successful inventions. Among his inventions were straightening hair cream, an improved machine, the precursor to the yellow light on a traffic signal, the friction drive clutch, and a breathing device that was the precursor to World War I gas masks. He gained quite a bit of notoriety when he saved people from a fire and suffered from racism in people boycotting his inventions thereafter.
  3. Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): She was a research mathematician. She was one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist. While a NASA scientist, she performed calculations for orbital mechanics that enabled America’s first space flight. If this story seems familiar to you, that is because she was the inspiration for the main character of Hidden Figures. She also co-authored 26 scientific papers and received an astronaut’s award.
  4. Otis F. Boykin (1920-1982): He patented 27 electronic devices. Among his inventions are the electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM computers, the control unit for the pacemaker, the wire precision resistor for radios and TVs, a burglar-proof cash register, and the electrical capacitor.
  5. Roy L. Clay, Sr. (1929-): He worked on writing one of the first computer codes. He led the team to bring HP’s first computer to market and wrote software for this computer. He established HP’s software development team and then managed HP’s computer division. Now he is the CEO of Rod-L Electronics, a company that he started. He invented the first electronic equipment safety testing device to be certified by the Underwriters Laboratory. He was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Council’s Hall of Fame.
  6. Shirley Jackson (1946-): She is a physicist. She is the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT and the second African American woman in the US to earn a doctorate in physics. She was the first African American to be Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the first African American to be president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she still works today. She has collaborated on over 100 scientific articles.
  7. Phillip Emeagwali (1954-): He conducts research on next-generation supercomputers. His research on the fastest computer on Earth solved a famous unsolved mathematical problem, for which he won the Gordon Bell Prize in 1989.
  8. Marc Hannah (1956-): He is an electrical engineer and computer graphics designer. He co-founded Silicon Graphics and was the principal scientist for movie special effects. In this role, he developed 3-D graphics technology. This is the technology that was used for Jurassic Park, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Terminator 2. For this reason, he is sometimes called the founder of special effects.
  9. Mark Dean (1957-): He co-created the IBM personal computer. He was part of the team that developed the technology that allows multiple devices to be connected to PCs. He led a design team to create a one-gigaherz computer chip. He was the first African American to become an IBM fellow and was inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame.
  10. Kimberly Bryant (1967-): She is an electrical engineer who worked in biotechnology. She founded Black Girls Code. The goal of this foundation is to teach computer programming to black girls aged 7-17. So far, they have been able to reach over 3,000 girls.

Windows 7 Support Ends January 14

What does this mean? On a supported operating system (Windows 8 and higher), if Microsoft learns that there are ways for hackers to get in or other things that aren’t working right (bugs), they fix them. If you have a problem with Windows, you can call Microsoft and they will help you fix it.

On an unsupported operating system (e.g., Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, etc.), these are not fixed. This means that as you get farther and farther past the end of support date, the more likely your computer is to get infected by viruses, not work with various programs and other devices, and have other problems.

What should I do??? Tech Lab recommends upgrading to the most recent operating system. This means that you will not have to upgrade again for a while, and it also means that you are getting the fastest and most secure version.

If you don’t upgrade, you may be able to purchase extended support – for a while. It depends on the type of operating system you have. There are a wide variety of software for servers that can and cannot receive extended support. If you are a company that has Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise, you can pay Microsoft for a longer support period while you switch over. However, Microsoft wants you to upgrade. This extended support will get more and more expensive the longer you don’t switch over. If you are interested in extended support, please contact Microsoft.

How do I upgrade?  The best and cheapest answer is, have Tech Lab or another tech take a look at your computer. 

Some computers can be upgraded, and that is cheaper than buying a new computer.  However, only a tech like Tech Lab will know if yours can be upgraded and how to do it.  If you upgrade a computer that can’t handle the upgrade, the computer will crash and die.  If you don’t know what you are doing when you upgrade, you may lose all your data. 

You can also buy another computer with the new system already on it. However, not all new computers are created equally. Some are slow to begin with and will fall apart and die very quickly. Tech Lab can help you find the best computer to meet your needs that will last a long while and get your new computer set up.

I like Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008.  What happens if I don’t upgrade?  We expect hackers to target Windows 7 computers as soon as support ends.  The farther you get past the end of support date, the more likely your computer will be to get infected by viruses. 

Other companies will also quit supporting Windows 7.  If you buy a new printer or get new software after the end of support date, you can expect those not to work on your computer either. 

I tried Windows 10 and did not like it. Tech Lab can help you set up Windows 10 so that it looks and acts like Windows 7 if you want. Call us at 414-208-4682 to schedule your session with us!

2019 Wrap Up

As 2019 comes to a close, Tech Lab would like to thank you for your business and support. We value you as our clients and look forward to continuing to working with you in 2020.

Shopping Online Safely

As we approach the holiday season, it is common for people to shop online. However shopping online can be dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. Tech Lab has put together a list of 7 ways to keep you safe.

  • Protect the device you are using to shop with. If you are using a computer, make sure it has antivirus software and malware protection. 
  • Protect your Internet connection. If you are on the same connection as other people, you want to be able to trust that they are not going to hack your connection. You cannot trust this on public WiFi (e.g., Internet provided by Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, etc.). If you have any questions about the security of the connection you are using, use your phone’s data. Your own secured home WiFi should be protected as well.
  • To app or not to app?: App shopping can be safer than online shopping, but it can also be a source of scams if you choose the wrong app. If you use an app for online shopping, use the app designed by the company. Check reviews for the app to see how it does. Make sure the company is regularly updating it. Set the app’s security settings the way that you want them on your mobile device.
    • An app that Tech Lab recommends to help you find the best deals is Honey Smart Shopping Assistant. It is available on iPhone, Android devices, and an extension on your web browser.
    • Rakuten is also an app that pays you for your purchases you make online. It is available on iPhone, Android devices, and an extension on your web browser.
  • Make sure you are using a site that you trust to do your shopping. How to know if you should trust the site:
    • Scams tend to appear long enough to get your money, and then they have to move out of town. So first make sure that they are a company. If you know their name from somewhere else and know people who have successfully ordered from there, they have passed this test.
    • You can also check the reviews of a site you have never heard of before. Use other sites to check their reviews and not their own site. They can change the reviews on their site, but it is harder to do on other sites. If you cannot find any reviews on other sites, then these sites are more likely to be scams. If the reviews are bad, do not make your purchases here.
    • For sites whose names you do know, make sure you are on their site. For brick and mortar stores, you can ask their website address in store. When typing the address in, however, be careful. If you type the address and change one letter, you will not go to the website you want. You can also type the name of the store into a good search engine, and odds are that the first link will take you to the site you want to be on.
    • The e-mails that you receive from companies you do not know are the most likely to try and scam you. Do not click on links in their e-mails! Even companies you do know track people who click on their e-mails. It is much safer to go to the website and type in a coupon code there than it is to follow an e-mailed link. 
    • Check out their delivery, exchange, return, and privacy policies. If there is a problem with your purchase, what is their policy?
  • Now that you have checked out the site, make sure the website has been secured. When the site asks for your payment information, make sure that the website address starts with https:// and that there is a padlock by the address. If not, it is not safe.
  • Many sites will ask you to make accounts. Here are some ways to make sure you stay safe with an account:
    • Make sure you choose a good password for your account, especially if you have payment information. Change the password from other passwords you may use. A good password is 10-16 characters long and includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It is not only comprised of individual words.
    • Look at the security settings for your account. Some payment accounts will send you notifications if it thinks it may not be you making changes to the account. Other accounts will allow you to set up multi-factor authentication so that it is not just the password authenticating you.
    • Don’t save your payment information. It is more convenient to save it, but if the website ever gets hacked, your payment information will go to the hacker too.
  • Protecting your payment information:
    • A good online store will accept major credit cards. It will not require money orders or electronic funds transfers (EFTs). If it requires money orders or EFTs, then do not use this site.
    • Credit cards are protected from fraud in ways that debit cards generally are not. Tech Lab recommends using a credit card for online shopping, as opposed to a debit card. Be sure to check your credit card regularly for charges you didn’t make.
    • If you don’t check your statements regularly, you can also use a Visa gift card or similar card. This is also better than a debit card because the amount possible for you to lose to scammers is more limited.
    • There are several services that you can use that will protect your payment information in online transactions. Examples are Paypal, Apple Pay, and one-time credit card numbers. You have less fraud protection with these than you do with a credit card, but it protects the credit card number. This may be a problem if you want to make a return or need to show the credit card to verify your identity.

Finally, consider where you are having your packages delivered and who will be there when they arrive. Some people steal other people’s packages. You can sometimes have your packages delivered to a secured location to protect them, like the local UPS location or to a shipping locker. In other cases, you can put in specific delivery instructions. 

If you run into problems or are not sure what to do please call someone to help you. Tech Lab can be reached at 414-208-4682.

Repair versus Buying New

A question I often get asked is, “Why should I repair my computer when I could buy a new computer for $200?”. 

Computers that cost $200 are made of cheap components; that is how they cut costs. They wear out quickly and they break easily. The technology in the computer is outdated already by the time you get it. Instead of ending up slow over years, they start off slow. You can expect computers with these components to last for maybe a year.

Instead of a $200 computer, Tech Lab recommends buying one that is more expensive but made of better materials.  If you spend $600-$800 on a computer, you can expect that computer to last for five to six years before it gets overtaken by better technology. 

You also need to consider the time it takes to set up the new computer or the cost of purchasing programs for the new computer. If you move your files, passwords, bookmarks, etc. to the new computer, that takes time and materials as well, and if you did not, that may be a time loss as well.

If you do the math on this, a new $200 computer every year will equal the actual cost in three years of a $600 computer and in four years of an $800 computer.  That does not count the cost of programs or setup time.  So you will have at least a $200-$400 cost savings in going with the more expensive computer. 

If you are not sure what to look for in a new computer and would like advice, Tech Lab can help you find the right computer to meet your needs. If you need help setting up your new computer, Tech Lab can set it up just the way you want it and move your files, passwords, bookmarks, etc. to the new computer also. Contact us at 414-208-4682 or through the contact form on our website.

Using Passwords- Part 2

I forgot my password. What do I do now???  This depends on where your account is. For websites that require a password, they will have instructions if you have forgotten your password. Some websites will send you a reset link in your e-mail. Other times, you will answer security questions to prove that you are you. Some websites, if you have this set up, will send you a text to prove that you are you. We recommend setting up security questions and using two step authentication for important accounts like you bank account. I got locked out of my account because I typed my password wrong. Now what??? Depending on where your account is will determine your next step. Some places will ask you to wait a predetermined length of time before you try opening your account again. Other places will have you call a phone number.  How to know if you entered your password correctly? If it doesn’t go through right on the first try, check your password log to make sure that you have the right user name and password. Check whether the site is asking for your user name or your e-mail, and put in the correct one. Check to see if you have Caps Lock on, and turn it off if it’s not supposed to be on. Type the password somewhere else where you can see what you are typing. When you are positive the password looks like what you should type into the box, then copy the password and paste it into the password box. If you use a password manager, you can copy and paste the password directly from the manager.  Passwords can be frustrating to an individual but they help keep you and your information safe.

Keeping Yourself Safe Online Using Passwords

For most of your accounts, you will have a user name (sometimes this is just your e-mail address) and a password to log in. The theory is, by entering that combination, you prove that you are you and have the right to do whatever you are doing (e.g., shopping online, social media, etc.). 

Unless a hacker breaks into your account and pretends to be you. The easiest way for a hacker to do that is to get your password. How can a hacker do this? 

1) You give the hacker your password.

2) The hacker guesses your password. 

3) The hacker tries out various passwords until he finds one that works. 

4) The hacker installs malware or a virus on your computer that gives him your password. 

How can I keep my passwords safe? 

1) Do NOT give your password to anyone. Assume that if someone is asking for your password, especially someone that you do not know, they have bad intentions. The company where you have your account will NOT ask for your password. Only click password reset links when you have requested the reset. 

2) Use antivirus software and malware protection software (see other blog posts for more details).

3) Follow password guidelines:

a. Use uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters. 

b. Your password should be between 8 and 18 characters. 

c. Change your password every 3-6 months. 

d. Don’t use personal information. 

e. Use different passwords for every site. 

These password guidelines are unusable! They are too much of a pain in the neck. 

Yes, you are correct. That is why many sites where you make passwords will make you follow password guidelines as much as they can. 

We recommend using more security for the accounts you most want to protect (e.g., your bank account, etc.). For these accounts, make sure that they have their own password and that you do not share that password. 

A password manager can help as you manage your passwords for many accounts. Your phone and browser (e.g., Chrome, Edge, etc.) can do this to an extent, but we do not recommend relying on them. A password manager can generate a password that you can use that follows password guidelines. It can store usernames and passwords. Once you have an account you can copy and paste them from the password manager so that you do not have to worry about mistyping your password. Examples are KeePass and 1Password. When you change your password, be sure to change it here too! 

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can be very useful tools. When using keyboard shortcuts, you will need to hold down multiple buttons at a time.  The order that you will press them is indicated in the shortcut. You can hold down the first keys of a shortcut as long as you need to in order to find the final key on your keyboard.  The final key will do the shortcut. No matter how long I press Alt or Ctrl or Start, nothing will happen unless I press the final button. 

Alt+TAB: This changes the program you are using to a different program.  If you hold down Alt and press Tab once, you will switch to the program you were last using.  If you continue to hold down Alt after pressing Tab once, you can see the different programs you have open.  You can click on the program you want to go to or change the program by pressing Tab any number of times until the program you want has a box around it. 

Alt+F4/Apple+Q: This closes the program that you are currently in.  If no programs are open, then this will open the shutdown box. 

Ctrl+Page Up or Page Down: This allows you to switch tabs in your browser.  If you can type in a text box, it will not work, but in that case, just click outside of the text box. 

Ctrl+W: This closes the current tab in your browser. 

Start+up arrow: This maximizes the program so that it fills your entire screen. 

Start+down arrow: This minimizes the application.  If the application you are in fills your entire screen, this shortcut will make it the size it was before it was maximized.  If the application you are in does not fill your entire screen, this shortcut is the equivalent of pressing the _ button at the top of your program.  Even though it is open, you will no longer see the program window. 

Ctrl+S: This saves what you are doing.  This is handiest in Office programs, but it also works in most browsers if you want to save a copy of a webpage (e.g., online receipts). 

Ctrl+Print Screen: This takes a screenshot to your clipboard, which you can then paste, as an image. 

Alt: At the top of most programs, there is a bar that says File, several other things, and then Help.  If you cannot see this bar in a program that you are using, pressing Alt will make it show up if it exists in the program. 

Tab: Aside from creating indentations in Word, you can also use Tab to go to the next selection.  We use this most often in a form with many boxes to fill out. After you complete the first box, you can press Tab to go to the next box instead of clicking. 

More options are available on our previous blog post:

Habitat for Humanity

Last week Tech Lab partnered with Onix, Inlanta Mortgage, and AVI Systems to work on a Habitat for Humanity home.  This opportunity was coordinated by Jackson Bubolz of Inlanta Mortgage in Hales Corners and through the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. 

The day started at 8:00 AM.  We broke off into two groups, so unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of Kim Zahn of Brookfield East or Amy Schmidt of AVI Systems.  Amy and Kim’s group worked on laying in vinyl flooring. 

My group, which included several members of the Onix team and Jackson of Inlanta Mortgage, worked on demoing flooring, cleaning up basements, and inventorying building materials. 

In case you do not know what demoing is (I did not), it is demolition.  We literally pried up flooring until it looks like this photo.

No flooring

Once the flooring was up then there were staples sticking up that needed to get pounded down and then cleanup occurred.


Afterwards, we cleaned out basements.  Many supplies and garbage were left in the basements, so we threw out the garbage and relocated the usable supplies.  Our team did this for three basements.  In between, we had lunch provided by Onix.  Afterwards, some of the team went on a walking tour of the neighborhood and the homes that Habitat for Humanity was working on, and some of us kept on working. 

We also sorted usable building materials from garbage and unusable materials.  We inventoried the amounts of usable building materials. Below the tarp is the usable lumber.

Usable Lumber

Thank you to everyone to helped to make the day successful including Michelle from Tech Lab!

Milwaukee area employees of Onix

Spring Cleaning

Spring officially started in March and now is in full swing. The weather is getting warmer, grass is green, and trees are budding. Warmer temperatures bring out more people which may include you. A change in season may have you thinking about the projects that need to be done both inside and outside of your home. Is your computer on your list?

Has your computer been acting slow? Do you have pop-ups when you visit websites? Do you know if your information is secure when you are using sensitive data like social security numbers, credit cards, or banking information? Are your documents and photos being backed up? If they are not, do you know what would happen if your computer is damaged or stolen? Would you lose personal or business critical information? Do you have an antivirus that is up to date? If it isn’t, your computer may not be fully protected.

Maybe it has been awhile, and it is time for a tune up to your machine. Tech Lab can audit your computer’s startup and running programs, and work with you to determine what you need and what you can remove. We can also run virus and malware scans for you and help remove unwanted programs that slow your computer down.

If you are in the market for a new computer or you are looking for ways to enhance your current machine, call Tech Lab and get our opinion! Tech Lab would love to consult with you or your business to solve these or other nagging problems. We can be reached at 414-208-4682 or via email at