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Ways to Conference with Family and Friends

This year, many can’t travel as much as wanted for the holidays, so how can we still stay connected? A lot of people are planning a virtual meet with their family and friends, so let’s talk about ways to do this:

  1. Phone teleconference: 
    • Pros: For older people, this can be a great option, as people know how to answer their phones. For younger people, they can easily be reminded of the meeting by the ringing of their phones. You don’t need to have Internet connection – only telephone service. There is no limit on call length. 
    • Cons: It can take a while to get everyone into the conference if you’re not using traditional teleconferencing software. Cell phone carriers do have limits on the amount of people you can conference in – usually 6 in total is the limit. You are also limited to voice communication, which can make it difficult to involve everyone in the conversation. 
    • How to:
      1. On iPhone, call one person. For every subsequent person you want to add, hit + add call. Dial the person in question, and then hit merge call. Make sure everyone can hear each other, but as long as nothing says hold at the top, you should be good. 
      2. On Android, call one person. For every subsequent person you want to add, hit + add call. Dial the person in question, and then hit merge call. Make sure everyone can hear each other, but as long as nothing says hold at the top, you should be good. 
      3. For other phones, please read the manual as to how to complete this. 
  2. Online teleconferencing:
    • There are a few different options for online teleconferencing. The most popular (and accessible) options are Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Apple FaceTime, and Skype. So let’s talk about the options:
      1. Zoom:
        • Pros: With the proliferation of Zoom for just about everything, many people have Zoom accounts and know how to use them. You can also dial in through the phone to meetings. Zoom is available on all platforms. 
        • Cons: Unless you have a paid account, meetings with three participants or more can only last 40 minutes. With a basic paid account, meetings can be up to 100 participants and as long as you want. For people who don’t know how to use Zoom, it can be difficult to use. 
      2. Google Meet:
        • Pros: Many people have the Google account needed to use Google Meet. Meet is available as an app for mobile devices as well and is automatically loaded on Android devices. You can also dial in through the phone to meetings. You can have up to 100 participants. 
        • Cons: You need to have a Google account in order for the app and the Internet browser to work. Unless you have a paid account, the meeting can only be up to 60 minutes. 
      3. Microsoft Teams:
        • Pros: This app is installed on any computer that has Microsoft 365 installed on it, and it boots automatically unless it’s been turned off. You can keep it on for up to 16 hours with as many as 300 people. You can dial in through the phone to meetings. Teams is available as an app for mobile devices as well. 
        • Cons: Microsoft Teams really does require Microsoft 365 subscription to use. Some people are really familiar with Teams, but some people are not.
      4. FaceTime
        • Pros: This option allows for voice and video, but you also have the option for only audio. Answering it works much like a normal phone call. There is no limit on call length. 
        • Cons: Everyone must have either an iPhone or a Mac computer. You do need to have data or Internet access available. You can have up to 32 people, which is enough for many families. The size of the screen can make it difficult to see everyone.
      5. Skype
        • Pros: Quite a few people have accounts. It also used to be automatically installed with Microsoft Office – and on some devices as well. Skype is free. It works for up to 10 hours and 50 people. It is available on all platforms. You can call phones with your Skype if you have a subscription. 
        • Cons: Skype is clunkier to use than a lot of other online teleconferencing options. You have to be connected with everyone you Skype with. You can only dial into meetings if you have Skype for Business. 

Our recommendation: If everyone is technology-challenged, phone conferencing will be the easiest.  Video calling provides the closest to a real experience and can provide a better experience for some people, as long as the least technologically experienced can dial in to the meeting. 

If everyone in your family is on the same kind of phone (iPhone or Android), using the native app (FaceTime for iPhone and Google Meet for Android) is going to be the easiest. For everyone else, a Zoom call is probably the easiest, especially if someone has a paid Zoom account. However, what you choose will likely depend on the kind of paid accounts people have access to. The person with the paid account is going to have to host the meeting.

While each platform looks slightly different, the procedure is more or less the same. After deciding when you are doing your gathering and what program you will use to connect, the host should create the meeting and share information on how to participate. It’s best to share the entire invitation because while many people can get in with just the link, not everyone enters that way. 

Do you need help setting up the meeting or getting a computer set up for online video conferencing? At Tech Lab, we have worked with many people to get them a webcam and microphone and learn how to use online video conferencing. We would be happy to help you no matter how many people you are trying to connect with. Call us at 414-208-4682.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Ransomware

We’ve talked about scams before – how to recognize them and how to protect yourself from them.  Today Tech Lab wants to highlight ransomware. 

What is ransomware?  Your computer has valuable files on it – files you need and files you don’t want other people to see.  Files that you might pay to get back.  Somehow or another, you get malware on your computer that encrypts all those files.  The hacker has the key to encrypt your files and will unlock your files if you pay the ransom.  That is ransomware. 

The longer you do not pay, the higher the price goes.  You may be able to get it back without paying the ransom if you hire a cybersecurity firm, although this is unlikely.  Even if you pay, you may not get the files back.  Most will though.  If you do pay, whatever you get back may take work to recover.  If you do not pay, your files are deleted for good.  If you do pay, you are more likely to get targeted for this kind of attack in the future. 

Who is a target for ransomware?  Individuals have been targeted by ransomware, but lately businesses have become a prime target.  For businesses, ransomware can be devastating.  For example, governmental offices and healthcare facilities are known to have sensitive data that they need, so they are high-value targets. Small businesses who are attacked may have to close their doors.

What should I do if I am targeted by ransomware?  First, verify that your files have been encrypted.  If you have a plan about what to do, follow that plan.  If you need the files, we recommend paying sooner rather than later.  Know, however, that if you do pay, you are more likely to be targeted for ransomware in the future. Contact your local police. Call your IT provider. If you do not have one, call 414-208-4682 and Tech Lab can help you with your recovery.

How can I protect myself from ransomware?  Make a plan of what you would do if you had this problem. Share this plan with the people who need to know. Purchase cybersecurity insurance to help you cover the costs for when you are attacked. Be very careful about what attachments you open for e-mails.  Be very careful about the links that you open from e-mails.  Make sure the other people at your office do the same. 

Use antivirus software, and scan your computer regularly for viruses.  Use malware blocker software.  Make sure to keep your computer, programs (especially your browser), and apps updated.  Make sure that your e-mail systems have good spam filters, including protections such as SPF, DMARC, and DKIM. 

Back up your computer.  Back it up to a hard drive (and don’t keep the hard drive plugged into the computer), and back it up off-site.  If you have a backup, you may not have to pay the ransom because you will have unencrypted versions of your files. 

If you need help protecting yourself from ransomware, please contact Tech Lab at 414-208-4682. We can provide you with antivirus, malware protection, help create backups, and help you make a plan to be protected.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month- Hacked Accounts

This week Tech Lab will focus on how to know if you your accounts have been hacked. It is a good idea to have both an antivirus program and a malware program installed on your computer to help keep you safe. If you do not have either of these, call 414-208-4682 and we can set you up with what you need to help keep you protected. The scans will be run for you so you know you are always protected.

Signs your account may have been hacked:

  • You get replies to e-mails you didn’t send.
  • People you know ask if you sent them emails or other messages.
  • Your e-mail says that you sent e-mails that you didn’t send. 
  • You get alerted to activity on your account, and you know it wasn’t you.
  • You are positive you typed the correct password, and you still can’t open your account.
  • You get an e-mail saying that you changed your password when you did not.
  • Others tell you that you have been hacked.
  • Transactions appear on your financial statements that you did not expect.
  • Posts that you didn’t write appear. 

What do I do if I notice these signs?  There are usually security settings on the website where you can see what devices have logged in as you.  Log them out if you know it’s not you. 

Then, change your password to something you have never used as a password before. If you have accounts with the same password, change those as well. 

Facebook and many other large companies have a page, “I think I’ve been hacked.”  Go there, and follow the steps recommended. 

Check the security settings, and see if you want to make them stronger.  If you are not getting notified about logins, you may want to be.  If multi-factor authentication is an option, consider that.  Scan your computer for viruses and malware. 

Have your financial institution send you texts when you are making large purchases.  Also when your contact information or alerting choices have changed. 

If you think you have been hacked and need assistance resetting your accounts, call Tech Lab at 414-208-4682.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Phone Scams

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Tech Lab has a series of blog posts sharing ways to stay protected from cyber criminals.

These are some very common phone call scams Tech Lab has seen:

  1. The IRS calls you.  You owe money on your taxes, and you will go to jail if you do not pay. 
  2. Social Security calls you.  Your identity has been compromised. 
  3. Your utility company calls you.  Your power will be turned off due to non-payment. 

Why this is a scam: The IRS, your utility company, and Social Security do not call you for matters of this nature.  They will send you a physical letter.  There are several letters before you get threatened with problems. 

Hang up immediately with the person who called you!!

How to know this is a scam: Then if you wish you can call the company who claimed to call you with a number that you find on the Internet or in the phonebook or on your billing statements. If you find the number yourself, you will be sure to reach someone at that company who can look up your information. 

What to do: When you have been called, do NOT give your payment information over the phone. Do NOT give any other information to them or verify what they say is correct!

Only when you initiate the call should you give payment information, and be sure that you are calling the number of the company.  If you already gave your payment information over the phone and suspect that it is fraudulent, verify that you did not make a payment to the company expected by calling their number that you have obtained on your own.  Report the transaction to your payment companies as fraudulent, and change your payment information and password.

If you need additional assistance navigating this situation, call Tech Lab at 414-208-4682.

My Internet isn’t working! + Questions to ask your ISP

In today’s world, a large percentage of the workforce is working remotely or has family members going to school virtually. Since so much of the population needs to work or do school from home, Internet issues are rampant. Whether you work online at home or in the office, connectivity plays a big role in your productivity. Now is the time to make sure that your Internet will do everything that you need it to do – before you can’t go to the work meeting you’re supposed to attend and your child misses class for the entire day.
Tech Lab helps our clients with internet issues on a regular basis. We look at and install technologies to ensure a strong internet connection. We make sure that the internet works fast – and everywhere in your home. Tech Lab may add access points, extenders, and more depending on the setup of your home. But before calling us to work internally at your house, you’ll want to make sure your Internet Service Provider (e.g., Spectrum, AT&T, etc.) has done their job.

First, if your Internet is out, run through these troubleshooting steps:

1) See if the Internet is working on a different device. If it is, then the problem is with your device. Troubleshoot the connection if you are on a computer using the computer networking prompts, and if on a mobile device, turn off and on the WiFi. Then try connecting to the network

2) If the Internet is not working on a different device, see if the network is showing up at all. If it is showing up, try and connect to the network.

3) If the Internet is not working in all cases, unplug the modem and router for 3 minutes, and then plug it back in again. Wait 5-10 minutes for it to finish restarting. Then try and connect to the Internet.

4) If the Internet is still not working, odds are good you have a service interruption. Call your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and let them know it’s not working.

These are additional ideas to try as temporary fixes to your internet problem if it is working but slowly.

1) Plug your device directly into the router with an Ethernet cable.

2) Move your device closer to the router.

3) Turn off the Internet on other devices (e.g., mobile) when you need strong Internet. Sometimes other devices are accessing the Internet when you don’t know it and use a lot of your network.

If you are having chronic issues with your Internet, you will want to call your ISP too. Let them know what problem you are experiencing, and they will do what they can to fix it. Some questions you may want to ask include:

1) What is my Internet package?

2) Can I upgrade my Internet package?

3) Can you replace my equipment?

If your ISP cannot fix it, and if you have a good connection to your modem, call Tech Lab at 414-208-4682, and we can work with you to improve your home connection.

Looking for your files?

I can’t find the file I just saved.  What do I do???

  1. Were you on this computer/device when you saved it? Generally, if you were not on this device, then it won’t be there. Consider also if you saved it to a USB or external drive, or the Cloud because these show up differently on a computer. 
  2. What program did you save it from? If you open up that program, file> open, sometimes you will see Open Recent, and you will see it. If not, just hit open, and it’ll probably show you the file and where you saved it. Most of these will show you where it last saved to. Some just show you where it typically saves to. 
  3. If it doesn’t appear there, are you sure you saved it? A lot of programs will give you a notification, are you sure you want to quit without saving? Assuming you hit yes, no problem, it should be there. If you hit no, it won’t be there. There are some programs, usually older like Notepad that won’t prompt you. 
  4. Let’s talk about where the program tends to save things. This is all the files that are in your user profile. If you did this logged in as someone else, you should log in as the other person. Most programs save in here, though not all. If you downloaded something from the Internet, it will usually save to Downloads. If you have a Word document, it will usually save to Documents. If you are working with pictures, it will usually save to Pictures in this folder. Sometimes you have to go further into the folder, like iTunes makes a folder in Music. Be warned, however, that some programs don’t want you to be able to find the files, and so will scramble them so you can’t find them in this way or the following way. If that’s the case, you should still be able to find it in the program.
  5. I don’t know what the file is called… Well, when files are renamed, it should tell you. But if you know roughly the time you last saved it, then you can sort the files by saved date. This means that you have to know where it would be saved to, and you have to know about when you saved it. 
  6. If you have no idea where it is, you can run many searches in a variety of places. You have to come up with a starting place. On the computer, C: drive searches everywhere on the computer you might have saved it. If you have additional drives where you might have saved it, you’ll need to run an additional search for each of these. Network location, mobile devices, various places on the Cloud – all of these will require their own search if you think your file could be hiding out somewhere there. Be sure to click on Search Tools and make sure that it searches all the subfolders as well. 
  7. Searches usually require some fragment of the name, which means that if you are having trouble finding it, it can be useful to change the title of the search to something else you might have called it or to type the name of the file extension (e.g., .docx for a Microsoft Word file). Instead of name, you can also search by type of file, date you last saved it, or size. Another way to widen the search is to search the file contents. To do this, in Search Tools, click on Advanced Options, and then click on File Contents under In Non-Indexed Locations. 
  8. Doing a search of file contents on the entire computer can be extremely slow, and it often comes up with many, many results. It’s better to choose a smaller part of the computer if you can and to narrow the results by type of file and modified date as much as you can. If you are still unable to find it with those parameters, consider widening it a bit or rephrasing. Consider also looking elsewhere. 
  9. The principle of search works on pretty much every platform. Your mobile devices and Cloud storage will also have searches, but those searches are unlikely to have the advanced features that search on a computer does. Still, you can look for advanced search features. You will still be able to search by name and if you know it, by file extension. 

Still can’t find it? TL can find it for you. Call us at 414-208-4682!

Cloud Storage Solutions

Today there are many different options for Cloud storage. We will discuss what some of the most popular options are and their pros and cons. 

  • Google Drive:
    • Size availability: 15GB free with a free Gmail account but paid accounts give greater amounts of space
      • Space is determined by where the document is housed and not by what has been shared with you
    • Resources needed: The Google Drive was traditionally based on the Internet. Now mobile apps exist to access Google Drive. There is a program that will allow you to access and use the Google Drive as if it were a drive on your computer and you can access across all of your devices.
  • Microsoft OneDrive:
    • Size availability: 5GB free, but paid accounts give greater space, and you can buy more. 
    • Resources needed: Windows 10 computers come preloaded with Microsoft OneDrive that you can access as if it were a drive on your computer. Each Microsoft account has its own access to OneDrive. OneDrive is also the default location for any files saved in Microsoft Office. Mobile apps also exist to access OneDrive across all of your devices. 
  • Apple iCloud:
    • Size availability: 100GB free but can pay for more
    • Resources needed: iPhones and iPads automatically back up to the iCloud through the Apple ID that you used to access them. It is possible to access the iCloud through an app directly on your iPhone or iPad. If you access the iCloud through this drive, it acts much like a typical drive on a computer. 
    • Only available for Apple devices
  • Dropbox:
    • Size availability: 2GB free but can pay for or otherwise get access to more
    • Resources needed: There is a Dropbox app available for mobile devices and for computers. This program acts more like a folder than a drive. You will need a Dropbox account to use it. 
  • Amazon Drive:
    • Size availability: free photo storage for Prime Members, plus 5GB, but you can pay for more space
    • Resources needed: There is an Amazon Photos app and an Amazon Drive app available for mobile devices and for computers. The Amazon Drive app acts much like a folder. The Photos app is more customized for photos. 

Before choosing any of these solutions, Tech Lab highly recommends reading the license agreement. Dropbox owns anything that is put onto it. This may make it not the best place to store confidential documents. 

You can share files with other people in Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. When you share a file with someone else, generally this does not count against their space. The user has the ability to download a copy of it, in which case it would count against their computer’s space, or to save a copy to their own account. This is a great way to keep access to something you fear you might lose. However, when you save a copy, the changes are no longer synced in the document. 

Internet required

Because these are Cloud solutions, these generally require the Internet to work properly.  It is possible to make the programs available for use offline, but when you make changes offline, these changes will not be reflected in the files online until the device where you have made the changes goes back online. 

It is also possible to download the documents from the Cloud as files to your computer. However, if you do this, changes will no longer be synced with the Cloud. 

If you have questions on any of these options or need help setting up a cloud solution, contact Tech Lab at 414-208-4682.

Need a Faster Internet Connection?

You made sure you have the right size internet package from your provider. But are you getting what you paid for?

When you perform a proper speed test, are you getting the speed you are supposed to be getting? 

Many sites have speed tests. Here’s one:

Speed tests are meant to be performed with a computer hooked directly into the modem.  You plug an Ethernet cable into your computer, and you plug the other end into your modem.  Then you run the speed test.  If you are not getting the speeds you are supposed to be getting according to your ISP, then you need to talk to your ISP because something is going wrong with their equipment. 

If all that is adequate and you are still having issues, that’s where Tech Lab comes in.   There are several things we can do to increase your Internet speed:

  1. We can put in a (better) router. 

Most ISPs will not give you a router.  Routers provide improved signal strength.  If you are close to your modem and are having speed issues, this would be the first thing we would do. 

  • We can move the router. 

Your router gives off signal strength in a circle around it.  If your router is set on the edge of your house and you can’t get signal on the other side of your house, we can move the router to the middle of your house, and you are likely to be able to get signal on both sides of your house.  This is also better for the security of your Internet network, as it means that your neighbors aren’t getting your WiFi. 

  • We can put in access points. 

If your house is bigger than your router can account for or you have walls that interfere with the signal (e.g., brick, concrete, or metal), then access points are the way to go.  These extend your wireless network. 

Not sure what the problem is?  Tech Lab can find the bottleneck.  Call Tech Lab today at 414-208-4682, and we can evaluate your space to find the problem. 

Slow Network Speed?

Now that we are all at home, working, doing schooling, streaming movies or TV shows, doing online gaming, etc. on the Internet, some of you may have noticed that your Internet just isn’t doing the job. Maybe it’s too slow.

Tech Lab can advise you to make your wireless Internet faster.

Let’s first talk about what your Internet Service Provider (ISP) does.  Examples of ISPs in the area include Spectrum, Charter, and AT&T.  This is the company you purchase Internet service from:

  1. What kind of package you are purchasing from your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? 

There are a wide variety of Internet packages that you can buy from your ISP that will give you different speeds.  Different options will be available in your area. 

Regular streaming requires at least 3Mbps, while 4K streaming requires 25Mbps. Gaming requires at least 4-8Mbps but will get better response from 10-25Mbps. If you are getting less than this, you will experience long times of “Loading…” to the point that you are not experiencing a seamless experience. Some graphics-intensive websites, like social media with videos that often play automatically, will also give you trouble. You also need to consider upload speed in your Internet package as well.

Next you’ll want to consider how many devices are being hooked up to the Internet. In most cases, the speed you get is divided among the devices you have that are hooked up to the Internet. Most devices that are hooked up to the Internet will go on the Internet automatically to refresh its content or update, so even your smart home devices and the computers and cell phones you are not touching are probably using some of your speed. Not sure if you have a high enough package? Give Tech Lab a call at 414-208-4682, and we can advise you.

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.