With everyone now doing remote schooling in addition to remote work, we’ve been hearing about quite a lot of people having internet and WiFi issues lately. Here are some things to consider when you’re trying to nail down the source of the issue:
Raw Internet speed does not mean everything. We see a lot of people indicate that they have “1000 Mbps” or “Gigabit” speed that they have paid Comcast or Verizon a princely sum for, and yet they are still having issues. Often, internet bandwidth is like water pressure. You may have good pressure coming into your house from the street, but if your pipes are clogged you may not get good pressure in most of the house. This is usually due to interference or distance from your wireless source.
Make sure there aren’t any issues with your service provider in the area – the infrastructure is under more pressure than any time in history right now, and some of that translates to slow speeds or loss of connectivity in certain areas. If your issues are long-term and Comcast / Verizon aren’t seeing a problem on their end, the issue is most likely with the reach and strength of your wireless network.
WiFi can be a finicky thing; many things from kitchen appliances to the building materials in your walls can block or interfere with it, and your service provider will typically install your Modem / Router in a location that is convenient for them, not necessarily where you will get the best signal coverage. Good WiFi is also dependent on not only the device sending out the signal, but the device receiving it. Although a smartphone or high end laptop might have no trouble, cheaper devices like printers can be very inconsistent with their behavior on weak signals. To make sure you get a good signal throughout the house, additional equipment is often needed. Many people make the mistake of going with range extenders (or boosters, as some people know them) which are fraught with inconsistent behavior and the constant need to switch networks manually depending on where you are in your house.
Most of the time, we get the best results out of Mesh WiFi systems. The way these work is pretty straightforward – instead of one wireless router, you get a few different access points that broadcast WiFi and share their connection with each other. All of these points talk to one another and automatically and seamlessly connect you to the nearest one with the best signal, without you having to go out of your way to connect to a different network like you might have to with an extender. These devices come from many brands and in many shapes and sizes, and we’ve had experience with quite a few of them.
For newer homes, we tend to recommend the Eero Mesh WiFi System. In our experience, it tends to have the best stability (not as many strange dropouts or anomalous behavior) and is fairly easy to manage with its well-featured app. When it comes to older homes, we use the TP-Link Deco P9. Not only does the P9 have similarly good reach with its wireless coverage, but it tends to deal with older homes’ building materials (which usually aren’t conducive to good WiFi) better with a somewhat unique feature. In this case, they can use the electrical lines in the home to communicate, so even if they’re spread a bit thin or there’s a lot of interference between each access point, they can maintain their connection. We’ve recently found, however, that in rare cases they don’t interact well with newer, more sensitive circuit breakers – so any home with electrical work done in the last twenty years is ill-advised for use with this system.
If you’re the do-it-yourself type, these systems are not too hard to set up and get going effectively. For everyone else, we do this frequently and can certainly help you.
Backing up your data is probably one of the most important things you can do if you own a computer. Yet so many people never back up their data, and the ones who do may not do it consistently. Sometimes, we just have too much on our plates to concern ourselves with another routine, sometimes we’re just lazy, but other times, we just don’t know where to start. Sometimes it takes a major loss of valuable data to kick a person into the mindset that data backups may even be necessary. In fact, some people will lose everything and still not take future precautions. Even worse is when some people fall into the mindset of “It couldn’t happen to me!” Whatever the reason is, it’s important to know that there are backup solutions meant to fit in with busy schedules, many of which require no effort on your part.
The Manual Backup:
This method of backup is usually the easiest to do, but also requires the most discipline to do regularly, thus making it (potentially) the least reliable. Simply dragging and dropping (or copying and pasting) files and folders from a Mac or PC to a second location can do the trick. Backup locations can vary by reliability and cost, from a simple flash drive to a cloud storage subscription, but the end result is the same: if your computer dies on you, the information will be safe elsewhere, as long as the backup is recent. This method has plenty of pitfalls in exchange for its simplicity – questions such as “What exactly are you backing up?”, “How often?” and “To where?” can certainly affect how effective this solution may be. Another question one might ask themselves when exploring data backup options is “Will I be diligent enough to routinely back-up my data?” It’s up to the user to decide whether they have the discipline to keep up with this method of data backup. If you have very specific files that you want to keep safe and you have the time to devote to creating a manual backup, this method may be the right one for you.
There are many programs out there that can back up a computer either on demand, constantly, or on a set schedule. Some of them, such as Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft’s File History, are even built right in to your computer. Features aside, the requirements of such programs are typically the same across both Mac and PC. Typically, they involve nothing beyond a simple, high capacity storage device, such as an external hard drive. An automatic backup is often the quickest method available once its initial setup is complete, as it can run without any input on your part and can move even large sums of data more quickly and efficiently than you can manually. Automatic local backups run at a particular time of choosing be it daily, weekly, or even monthly. Depending on how much data is being backed up, this can take a relatively short amount of time. The downside of such convenience, as with many things that are automated, is the sense of complacency people tend to get into. External hard drives can fail just like the ones inside your computer. Unless you check in on your backup every so often, you may find that your safety net was cut months ago without you even realizing it. Even with automatic backups at your disposal, you will still want to establish at least a semi-frequent check up to make sure your important data is still safe. If you are looking for an easy, low effort solution for your data backups and can remember to frequently check on your backup storage system, the automatic local backup might be the solution you need to keep your data safe.
A local backup can prepare you for almost any situation – from a virus to a corrupted operating system, and even in the event of complete hardware failure. However, what happens if a real-world disaster occurs? In the event of a fire, a flood, or some other serious catastrophe, the loss of years of irreplaceable information can be just as bad as the loss of physical property. For these situations, one of the only truly viable options is a cloud backup. A lot of people find the cloud very confusing, but it’s actually quite simple. It’s simply a bunch of computers owned by a company that you are renting some space on. Think of it like any physical storage rental; if you have some prized possessions that you want to keep safe, or you simply do not have enough room to store everything, you can rent storage from a company to hold them for you. The advantages are obviously that, should anything bad happen locally, your data will be safe elsewhere. Also, since the cloud is connected to the Internet, you can access the information stored there from anywhere, so long as you have your username and password handy. Additionally, like most automatic local backups, cloud storage backups can occur on a regular schedule without any upkeep or direct involvement from the user. On the down-side, for any reasonable amount of storage, most services require you to pay a monthly subscription fee, and should you stop paying, you may lose access to your information. Backups made to the cloud also can’t be as complete as a good local backup. If one of the most important things to you regarding your data is keeping your settings, apps, and software safe in addition to traditional files such as pictures, documents, and emails, this may not be the option for you, or at least, should not be the only option you use. Another thing to consider is that these backups also tend to take longer since the speed at which you can back up your data is ultimately limited by the speed of your Internet connection. Finally, while the issue of complacency and false security for the previous method are definitely still a potential concern, cloud services, since they’re managed by a professional company that you are paying a subscription to, will typically notify you much more persistently if something is amiss. Thus, only the most negligent disregard of their warnings will leave you at risk. At the end of the day, the cloud option’s greatest strength is the fact that it’s decentralized, and thus not in any one place. If you have multiple devices that you need to access important files from anywhere, or if you live in a place that is prone to leaks, storms, fires, or any other natural disasters, the cloud backup option would be advisable. If you live in a place where your internet connection may not be the best, or you are on a budget and cannot fully commit to a subscription fee, then you may want to look at a local backup solution as your data backup choice.
Nobody likes to think that it could happen to them, but the reality is that the loss of data could happen to anybody. Most of the time, it’s not due to the user’s negligence, but rather an accident or sudden failure of hardware. The future is digital; most of our most important files from family pictures and professional resumes to email correspondence with clients can be lost if not properly copied over. Gone are the days where a kid can use the age-old excuse of “My dog ate my homework!” Nowadays, it’s more like “A virus killed my computer!”.
It is important to any user of a computer, Mac or PC, to treat their data as something precious. You only need to lose it all once. It is up to the user to take preventative measures to ensure that their life doesn’t come to a halt in case of computer failure. Take a look at your data and your schedule to figure out what type of backups are right for you!
If you want to protect your data and want to know which solution may be the best for you, give us a call at RGB Computer Solutions at 781-749-1130 to see how we can help you keep your precious files safe!
If I asked the average computer user “What part of a computer makes the biggest difference in speed?”, what do you think the answer would be? Most people would argue that the Central Processing Unit (or CPU) would determine that. And in a lot of cases, this might be correct – the CPU does determine how fast a computer gets basic jobs done… Others might say the amount of memory affects the speed. Once again, this is not bad information – after all, how much Random Access Memory (or RAM) you have influences the workload that your computer can handle. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, CPU designs were taking huge leaps ahead, and programs, even basic ones, were using more memory with every new version. That computer you bought even a couple years ago would soon feel sluggish and outdated, as technological improvements would continue to drive the market forward.
In the span of twenty years, computers have gone from the steam locomotive to the jet airliner in terms of how powerful and sophisticated they are. However, there is one component that everyone neglects – one that hasn’t grown at the same rate of speed as those above: the hard drive. Most modern hard drives are still very similar in design to their predecessors from the 80’s. Although they have continued to increase in storage space, modern hard drives haven’t gotten a whole lot faster. While most components of a computer are electronic in nature, a hard drive is still mechanical – it relies on physical moving parts and a spinning disk to read and write information. Every time your computer starts up, loads a program, or opens a file, the hard drive is tasked with finding and reading that data. Multiply this by thousands of individual files to be read and you can see where a slowdown occurs. The CPU and RAM don’t have this limitation – they can read similar amounts of data in the tiniest fractions of a second. We call this a bottleneck – where one slow car on the off-ramp leads to an entire traffic jam. Your computer can only go as fast as its slowest part.
So, what’s the solution for this? If manufacturers could make hard drives significantly faster, they would have. Competition drives innovation in the technological market. So, as propeller planes couldn’t go any faster, they invented the jet. A different type of drive altogether, the Solid State Drive (or SSD), has been around for a similar period of time as the Hard Disk Drive. However, they have only recently become inexpensive enough to be practical. Major companies have recently begun to see the advantages of using said types of drives. Apple has been using them as the standard drive of choice in the MacBook lineup for several years now, and Microsoft has been putting out advertising campaigns advising PC buyers to opt for systems with these drives.
For the vast majority of computer users, modern CPUs and RAM have been powerful and plentiful enough for some years now. While technological advancements have come to the these particular parts, the hard drive that supplies critical data has been the limiting factor. Even older systems can feel snappier and more responsive than their brand new counterparts when equipped with these new drives. And when the relic from 2009 can run circles around a computer 10 years newer, there should be no question as to which of your parts should get a face-lift.
With the Fourth of July right around the corner, many people are already planning to visit their local Fireworks displays. Many of those people, whether they know it yet or not, will want to photograph the event but don’t know how to capture firework photos. Here are some tips to help you get the right shots, even if your digital camera happens to double as your phone.
The first suggestion most will probably figure out the hard way is to turn off the flash – while this may seem obvious when you think about it, many people forget to do so before the event, and the last thing you want to do is miss a great shot because you didn’t have your camera settings properly prepared ahead of time. Even in situations in which you are trying to catch moments with scenes in the foreground and the fireworks in the background, you should still leave the flash off or risk underexposing the fireworks – as your camera focuses on the well-lit foreground, it will often reduce exposure and your fireworks will appear dark.
The second suggestion is to consider investing in a tripod or some sort of stabilizer. Many smartphone cameras these days have a sort of “image stabilization” functionality which is meant to reduce shake and blur during a shot. However, even the best of this technology can prove to be imperfect, especially when dealing with low-light situations or objects that are themselves moving. A stable mounting apparatus can save you a lot of hassle in any situation, really – but can be absolutely necessary in cases such as these. Even if you don’t want a full-fledged tripod, many smaller solutions exist which can mount to poles, railings, or other such objects for the same effect.
This third tip is a little more technical – reducing your camera’s ISO. Many modern smartphone camera apps and digital cameras allow you to adjust the camera’s ISO manually, however nearly all of them are set to automatic by default. For those unfamiliar, the ISO is essentially the camera’s sensitivity to light – having a high ISO is typically very useful in low-light situations, where the camera sensor has to be as sensitive as possible to pick details out of the darkness. In fact, many cameras these days are judged in a large part by their ability to do this, so many leading smartphones tout their low-light camera prowess. However, in this situation, it’s usually advisable to lower the ISO drastically to avoid overexposure and camera noise – since the target of your shot is going to be much brighter than the surrounding sky.
The fourth tip may not be immediately apparent, but it is definitely important. Disable High Dynamic Range (HDR) if your camera supports it. HDR is a technique that takes multiple exposures during a shot and blends them together to enrich color and light sources, and balance out the dark and light sections of the image, to more closely mimic what someone’s eyes might see in the same situation. This type of technique does not work well on moving objects, never mind moving objects of shifting brightness.
The nest suggestion may seem a little impractical if you’re a smartphone photographer, but consider adopting a wide-angle lens. If you’re using a DSLR, this is pretty straightforward so long as you have the right lens attachment for your camera. However, even smartphones can be equipped with an inexpensive clip-on lens for use in capturing larger scenes. Many of such lenses are available on online retailers such as Amazon for relatively short money.
As many flagship smartphones in late 2017 and 2018 have been coming with dual rear-camera designs, there are some important considerations to make when preparing to take photos with such devices. First off, if you’re using a wide-angle lens, make sure you test the lens before use. Depending on the device and firing mode, typically only one of the cameras is really active at a time. Secondly, confirm what mode you’re planning to use beforehand. If your camera is in “Portrait” mode or set to 2X, there’s a good chance it’s using the secondary lens, which is usually better for capturing detailed pictures of people or objects at a distance. It may seem counter-intuitive, but with the size of the scenes being photographed, the telephoto lenses are not typically a good option.
Finally, the last suggestion is somewhat open ended – try some exotic shooting modes. Many smartphones possess at least a few shooting modes beyond the standard camera mode, and some even possess a mode specifically for fireworks. Beyond this, third-party apps or plugins can increase the functionality of your camera even further. To name a few useful non-standard functions of most cameras, you have options such as burst mode, which rapidly captures multiple shots in a short period, long exposure mode, which keeps the shutter open for a longer period to let in more light, and time-lapse mode, which compiles a group of single shots taken over a long period of time into a sort of fast-motion video.
In the case of burst mode, most newer smartphones and cameras have this ability baked right in, and can use it to great effect in allowing you a frame-by-frame compilation of an event for viewing as-is or narrowing down the perfect moment.
For long exposure mode, many cameras have this ability, but often even the newest smartphones need a third-party app to make this work. Long exposure shots are almost like multiple pictures laid over one another – light sources, even weak ones, become more pronounced and moving objects appear blurred or seem to drag along the shot. Play around with the exposure times from a couple seconds or more to see what works for you, but make sure the camera remains as still as possible during the exposure.
With time-lapse shots, some cameras have the ability, but many do not. Likewise, many smartphones require a third party app to use this function. Like long exposures, time lapses look best when the camera is kept as still as possible during the shooting, so a tripod or other device is necessary here, however the results can be quite impressive.
Always be sure to test your settings beforehand to ensure you’re properly prepared, and if you download any apps or try any new functions, give yourself some time to get used to them. Everyone at RGB Computer Solutions wishes you a safe and happy Independence Day!
A question we get asked fairly often is, “How long is my computer expected to last?”. While a fairly difficult question to answer with any certainty, we can often estimate it based on the system we’re looking at. In the case of some inexpensive models, replacement might come sooner rather than later, while pricier computers are often expected to earn their money’s worth. As any Mac owner probably knows, there are no “inexpensive models” in the Apple lineup, and many underestimate the longevity of their systems. Some people believe that they are missing out on something groundbreaking and new, while many more misread strange behavior from an aging system as signs of necessary replacement. Many factors can contribute to that feeling of “oldness” and some of them are more straightforward than others. We can help you by breathing new life into an old mac!
Large photo, video, and music collections are fairly prolific among Mac users, and we see far too often a Mac completely filled with such data. Macs have a long history of shipping with insufficient storage in the more basic configurations, and when every step up in storage adds another couple of hundred dollars to the price tag, we can be reluctant to invest in such things. However, doing so can save a lot of trouble in the long run: Having a hard drive too close to full can result in severely depreciated performance and responsiveness, even on newer Macs. If you manage to completely fill a drive, you might experience persistent notifications indicating such, as well as an inability to download updates or add new programs or data. Keeping a drive too full for too long can also shorten its life and contribute to further problems in the future.
Although it’s often hardly a second thought on whether or not to update your devices, many people never update their Macs, either intentionally or, more often, unintentionally. Although staying completely up-to-date is not expressly necessary, getting too far out of date can result in certain applications failing to update themselves, or in more extreme circumstances, applications ceasing operation outright. A common example of this is when a Mac released in 2012 or before has never been updated, Safari, Google Chrome, and other web-browsing programs can no longer display certain websites properly, because the old version of Mac OS they’re running on has been discontinued. All software ceases support eventually as companies move their efforts to newer versions. When they do, continuing to use an older version can inevitable cause problems.
Speed and Responsiveness
This type of issue is often the most glaring of all – when your Mac takes forever and a day to get going, and then another eternity to do anything once it does. Having too many programs running at once, having insufficient storage, or just having a particularly slow hard drive can all contribute further to this feeling. This problem has a wide variety of causes and can be difficult to pin down, but once fixed, can make your Mac seem like brand new again. With a lot of old Macs, it’s also possible to upgrade them with more memory, larger hard drives, or fast solid state drives, sometimes even including options not available at the time of purchase. Technology is always advancing, and having even one hurt leg can make the fastest horse slow to a crawl.
The truth is, even systems nearing ten years old can still be useful and there is nothing inherently wrong with sticking with an older Mac. The type of Mac you have will obviously affect the solutions available to you, and we’ve put together a short list of some problems and potential fixes. You can check out our website at this link to see our compatibility list. When confronted with strange behavior or limiting factors, it can be very valuable to understand what might be happening and how such things can be overcome, especially when the impulse to “just get a new one” can run you more than a thousand dollars.
One of the situations we see far too often these days is when a user runs out of storage for their data. With digital photos and videos being taken at ever-higher qualities and resolutions, it’s most commonly a case where a person’s camera habits fill up their phone’s space. Even when that isn’t an issue, it’s very easy to simply install too many apps, buy too many movies, or have too many songs – and you’re back in the same predicament. It’s important to consider how much storage you should be looking for depending on your habits, and what types of storage options may fit your case best.
When it comes to smartphones, many of the major manufacturers have thankfully begun to increase the storage available in the base models of their flagships – which are the models most people purchase without a second thought. Even Apple, one of the longest holdouts, increased the storage on their base model iPhone to 32 GB with the iPhone 7. Major Android phones such as the Google Pixel or LG G6 also offer a base storage of 32 GB, or in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S8 or iPhone 8, a hefty 64 GB. To put things in perspective, during the days in which most phones were coming out with 16 GB of storage as the standard, between a quarter and a third of that was already occupied by the manufacturer’s default software straight out of the box. Factor in an HD movie or two, never-mind any apps, games, music, or photos – and you were already out of space. A few phones supported the option of expanding the storage with a Micro SD memory card, but most often the phones that needed this functionality most didn’t have it, and many of those that did went unutilized as people were not aware of the capability.
That brings us to the question – how much storage should you be looking for in a phone? Everyone uses their phone a little differently, so we will be going over a few scenarios we see most commonly…
If you’re the type of person who uses your smartphone strictly for phone calls, or you find yourself mainly browsing the web or checking your email, then look no further than the base offering of storage; none of these functionalities take up or benefit from having a lot of space, so you can feel free to save your money and go for the 16 or 32 GB options. Especially with the 32 GB option, even if you find yourself taking the occasional picture or video to share on social media, you should still be covered – just remember that even relatively infrequent usage can really add up over the two years or so that most people have their phones.
For those who find themselves reaching for the camera app more often than not, or those simply looking to watch movies or store large music libraries on their devices, it can be especially valuable to get extra storage. If you travel frequently, or simply love taking photos and videos, then a 32 GB option is probably a little too lacking for your needs. For these cases, a 64 GB option (or possibly even a 128) could make or break your camera or entertainment habits – especially with how much higher the quality (and thus storage needs) pictures, videos, and music have gotten. Considering many movies use up a few Gigabytes per hour of video at even lower qualities, it can be very easy to run out of space quickly. Items like individual photos or songs may not use up much space on their own, but when many people have thousands or even tens of thousands of such files, the impact can become apparent fairly quickly.
For more than a few out there, their smartphone has become their primary computer – they do nearly all their work, store much of their information, and organize much of their life with it. Some have a collection of data the likes of which dwarf even the previous scenario, and much of the time, they have an app list several pages long. We all know at least a couple people who fit this description, and who are always looking to expand their phone’s functionality with this app or that. For those people, the models with the largest storage available should be a consideration. In the case of many phones, the top models max out around 128 or 256 GB – more than sufficient for most of even the heaviest storage needs.
Finally, for all the cases listed above, it’s worth mentioning that your phone’s internal storage doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) be the only form of storage your phone has access to. Cloud storage is ever popular among users of both iOS and Android devices alike, since it’s whole purpose is to be “available anywhere” that you have an internet connection. Getting a healthy amount of storage from Google’s Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud can not only ensure your data is safe in the event of damage or loss of your current phone, but can also help ease the transition from an old phone to a new phone when upgrading. Most plans are fairly inexpensive for an ample amount of space, to boot. Beyond this, both Google and Apple have been finding new ways to address the space problem in their phones by leveraging cloud storage as a means to take some of the burden of some of the most common files, such as photos and videos, off the devices themselves. iCloud and Google Photos, for example, can store the original, highest quality shots in the cloud and delete or store only a low-quality version that takes up less space on the phone itself, thus allowing you to view the original quality image on demand without having to sacrifice the space to accommodate it.
Many people today would find themselves lost without their smartphones, and a few practically run their whole lives with them. When two years have passed, it can be very easy to go to your cell carrier or local electronics store and simply pick up the first familiar option you see – but you should stop and think about it, first. Ask yourself questions: do you fit any of the scenarios above? How much space does your current phone have? Is it at its limit or have you barely scratched the surface? Depending on your answer, the question of which model is right for you can change. Even if you’re not sure how to check, this question should be one of the first you ask – most technicians can do so pretty quickly. As always, whether you’re stuck with a phone that’s almost full, or are simply trying to pick out a new one, RGB Computer Solutions is here should you ever need help or advice.
We’ve all been there at some point before – sometimes your computers, televisions, or tablets just don’t seem to get a good connection in certain rooms of your house. Whether you’re just trying to check your email or browse the web, or you’re streaming HD Netflix videos, that ever-present “Poor Signal” notice can be a huge annoyance. For some, this is easily remedied by a better router or a WiFi extender. For some, however, the solution is not so simple. For those more difficult cases, a new WiFi system has been making its rounds into the consumer market lately: Mesh WiFi. If you’ve never heard of this technology before, it’s not surprising; Mesh has only been widely available in the consumer market for a short time. Whether you’ve heard of it or not, however, you’ve definitely used it somewhere before. Most large businesses and public locations, from Hotels to large Retail Stores and Sports Stadiums use Mesh to achieve their massive and contiguous WiFi networks; in such places the same WiFi signal is available throughout the area, and remains strong wherever you go.
There are many causes of spotty WiFi performance, and some are more common than others. Although WiFi can be affected on some level by anything down to the weather, there are some consistent barriers to signals that will often be present all the time. Naturally, one of the most common barriers to WiFi is simply distance – houses with large floor plans and a lot of space will naturally defeat WiFi as you move away from the router. However, there are specific types of construction that will pose a greater impediment than just empty space: structures like chimneys or stainless steel kitchen appliances can cause deadspots, as can older construction materials like horse hair or chicken wire wall supports present in many colonial-era houses common to New England. In many cases, even other wireless devices can cause interference: devices like cordless house phones, bluetooth accessories, and neighbors’ routers.
Mesh networks work to counteract these issues by providing signals from multiple sources in order to provide a blanket of coverage throughout a wide area. Like range extenders, they use more than one broadcasting device to push signals into otherwise dead spots, but unlike range extenders, they use the same network throughout. Where range extenders usually broadcast a second network merely connected to the first, requiring users to switch networks in certain areas, a Mesh system keeps everything under one name and devices switch automatically. This ensures continuous connectivity to the strongest source available.
When it comes to home WiFi, it can be a real chore for even experienced users to find the right balance of coverage and the most appropriate solution for their situation. This is why we at RGB Computer Solutions have so much experience in home networking – we’ve dealt with some of the most extreme situations for many of our users in the past. So, if you ever find yourself in that situation where you just can’t seem to get a good signal, give us a call; we can find the solution that’s right for you!
One of the situations we see far too often these days is when a user runs out of storage for their data. With Macs and PCs, storage is definitely on a higher scale from many other devices out there, but many of the problems are the same – too many programs or too much data can quickly fill any storage you may have on your computer. Just as many underestimate how much data they can accumulate in a couple years with a smartphone, many underestimate how much can be accumulated over the life of their computer, which in some cases can go beyond a decade. Although most will never make it to that ten year mark, most systems are kept for several years anyway, and thus the storage needs can far exceed even the most extreme cases elsewhere. You can avoid this problem by choosing the right amount of storage for your digital needs.
The most common group of users to encounter this barrier are definitely the Mac users out there. Especially with how tightly focused many art schools, musicians, and graphics design careers are on the Mac ecosystem, their users, on average, store a great deal of their music, photos, and other media on their Macs – whether for work or personal use.
The problem is exacerbated further by the most common Mac configurations, namely the MacBook line, having relatively small hard drive capacities. The reason for this is that the types of storage many Macs and premium PCs use is much faster and delivers a much more snappy experience, at the cost of being more expensive than their more standard counterparts for a given amount of space. The base model MacBooks frequently have only 128 GB of storage available, and that’s what most people go with without a second thought, as it is the most inexpensive option. While this may sound like a lot, especially when compared to the smartphones we carry with us everyday, it’s important to consider the fact that, on average, many of these Macs are not only far more expensive than their smartphone counterparts, but their users also tend to keep them far longer, as previously mentioned. That’s to say nothing of the fact that many Mac users store complete backups of their entire iPhone’s content on their Macs, in addition to everything else. When you take that factor in by itself, you can see why this amount of space may prove to be insufficient rather quickly.
With PCs, the lines aren’t so clear-cut. With how many different manufacturers there are out there, each producing multiple lineups of different types of Windows-based devices, the narrative tends to break down a little. Many desktop computers and laptops, especially in the lower and middle-range, tend to come with a whole 1 Terabyte of storage as standard. This is far more than most people really need, but is the most cost effective option for a lot of manufacturers. Paradoxically, as you get into price ranges closer to the high-end, and more in line with what you might pay for a Mac, the storage starts to decrease in many models, especially the thin-and-light laptops people are so fond of these days. As mentioned in the case of the MacBooks, this more expensive form of storage starts to become much more common in the higher-end systems available. These types of drives, called Solid State Drives, are much faster and more durable than their classic Disk Drive predecessors – even many older systems can see a huge boost in speed and responsiveness with this type of drive under the hood. However, the price tradeoff is again apparant – every step up in storage will typically run users a good deal of money, thus discouraging people to go any higher than the most inexpensive option.
In our experiences over the years, we tend to see a few situations that stand out most commonly, with the bulk of people falling into three distinct scenarios…
One of the most common cases is, of course, the people who mainly use their computer for web browsing and email. For those that do most of their work online, keeping only minimal collections of documents, pictures, or other files on the computer itself, the storage needs are pretty minimal. With the proliferation of video streaming services such as Youtube, Netflix, and Hulu – or just as commonly, music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Google Play Music, many who do most of their work online can get most of their entertainment online as well. Users who fit this bill can expect to need very little storage on their systems, and often even the smallest options will be more than sufficient. An entire class of computer has been built around this scenario, the most well known of which being Google’s Chromebooks – a type of computer that is most often cheap, fast, and lightweight, with minimal storage options that instead rely on the cloud and internet services such as Google Docs to do most of the heavy lifting.
This next case usually encompasses those who store large collections of data on their computers. Be it pictures or videos, music or documents, they are often rather similar to those in the above scenario in terms of how they use their computers from day to day. However, there will often be times in which they might find themselves storing or editing pictures from their cameras or smartphones, or perhaps even dabbling in video editing. Those of us who fit this category will want to invest in the larger storage options available, depending on the computer in question. While the average photo only takes up a tiny fraction of the space on your system, over the course of years (or even decades!) it can be very easy to build up a collection of tens or even hundreds of thousands of photos or other important files. With most systems coming with a 1 Terabyte drive, you’re guaranteed to get a good deal of mileage for your needs. Although, depending on how much you have, you may need even more space over time. Of course, if you’re looking at a Mac or higher-end PC with more limited capacity drives, you should definitely opt for some of the larger options, despite the extra cost, since more storage can easily make the difference in the computer’s viability for the future.
For some people, their computer essentially IS their job, for all intents and purposes – their livelihood and all their work is done through it, and all their files and documentation are exclusively stored there. This is especially true for those in a career in (or going to school for) design or creative fields such as photography, cinema, 3D modelling, or manufacturing. The software for this type of work is usually quite expansive on its own, and many of the files users will work with daily will be quite large. Between RAW photos and high-resolution video, or complex 3D models and textures, even shorter projects can take up a great deal of space. This doesn’t just apply to the professionals in these fields either; very often, even hobbyists and amateurs will encounter problems with not having enough space for their passion. Even when it comes to more casual usage, modern video games can take up a lot of space, too – some modern titles encompass more than 50 Gigabytes a piece. If any of this sounds like you, you’re best advised to go with the largest options available to you. You may even want to consider external forms of storage such as the Cloud or external hard drives. For a relatively modest fee, you can expand the space available to you dramatically.
Beyond just providing more storage, both the Cloud and external hard drives can provide an exceptionally important quality – backup. Especially for the latter cases, having a backup of your data is paramount. Computers can break, hard drives can die, and certain malware can even take your files hostage and hold them for ransom. Even if it has never happened to you before, it can happen to anyone – and in the case of the first two problems, it will happen eventually.
Whatever your situation may be, choosing the right amount of storage for your computer can be more significant than any other detail in a new purchase. It’s important to remember that the computer is a tool, and it’s what that tool is used to do and create that is the most important. Of course, if you’r ever unsure of your needs or are simply looking for some advice, feel free to talk to us at RGB Computer Solutions.
When we think of smartphones and driving, the first image that unavoidably comes to mind is that of someone texting while driving. We’ve all seen it happen, and even the law agrees that it is a tremendous risk – any cell phone use, even besides texting, is illegal for young drivers. Even with this fact however, the distractions and bad habits still seem to get the better of many – even following the law’s entry into practice, we continue to hear about terrible and preventative accidents all the time. Fortunately, there are plenty of countermeasures and software dedicated to assisting parents with promoting safe driving habits for their children.
Many of these apps give users a good number of options for monitoring, safeguarding, and promoting good driving habits.
The first option is one of more basic utility, and also one many people even besides young drivers could benefit from. Most Android phones include a “Driving Mode” function, and iPhones, too have a Do Not Disturb driving mode. Although the functionality varies from phone to phone, most devices at least allow you to auto-reject incoming calls and texts with a configurable message to keep distractions to a minimum.
Drivesafe.ly is an app designed to mitigate the issue of texting, specifically, when you’re on the road. This app combines an intelligent text-to-speech functionality with a handy auto-responder to keep you or your child from having to pick up the phone and interact with it to read a text message. It reads the inbound text message aloud to the driver either via the phone’s speaker or (if you have a vehicle equipped with this) a bluetooth hands-free system. Users can even set a response to be automatically sent out upon receipt to the sender with a configurable message, removing the need to reply.
Another app which comes with even more utility is TrueMotion Family. This app is for more advanced users, but it comes with a fairly hefty sum of features. Not only does it allow users to see where their family members are, it also allows them to see how they got there. Additionally, it tracks whether the phone was used to text or call while driving, even going so far as to track instances of speeding. It rates drivers based on these factors, and provides valuable insight into where even experienced drivers can improve.
For either experienced drivers or the inexperienced, distracted driving can be a very real problem – especially when they’re the ones doing it. Whether you find yourself tempted to look at a text when you’re driving, or you’re simply picking up a phone call, it can be helpful to have some assistance in avoiding dangerous driving habits. As always, if assistance is ever needed in choosing the right solution to fit your needs, we at RGB Computer Solutions are here to help.
As many users of older Macs and PCs are probably aware, there is a rather finite amount of time most companies will continue to support their software products and operating systems. Long term support for older versions of software and operating systems can be hard to find.
In the case of Microsoft, each version of Windows has a sort of “shelf life” that usually lasts around eleven years, during which time Microsoft moves from adding new features to just patching bugs and security problems. Eventually, the version reaches a point called “end of life”, wherein Microsoft releases one final update and then ceases work on the product.
Former Windows XP users are probably the most well aware of this, as XP still had a massive share of users when support for it ended in 2014. It was so widely used, that Microsoft had to extend their deadlines (twice!) to give time for the adoption of newer operating systems by XP users to reach acceptable levels. This has become relevant once again, as Windows Vista is the latest on the chopping block. Thankfully, not many people still use the ill-fated operating system, and most of its users have since moved to the more stable and well-designed 7, 8, and 10. However, there will definitely be some people left behind by this shift. Not to mention, a pretty large sum of people still use 7, which at the time of this writing has less than three years left. As with XP and Vista before it, once this deadline comes around, Windows 7 will stop receiving updates and security patches. These types of patches help keep people safe from major threats and security holes such as those exploited recently by the WannaCryptor Ransomware virus. Thankfully, with the advent of Windows 10, Microsoft has abandoned their previous release strategy, and are simply going to add new features to and update Windows 10 indefinitely.
On the Mac side, things aren’t so cut and dry. Apple does not exactly support older versions of Mac OS X, instead releasing major bug fixes for the current version between major releases. However, versions come out much more frequently than with Windows, with a new Mac OS 10.xx being released almost once a year. Not to mention, upgrades to the new versions are free, which is a move Microsoft has only made once, for users of 7 and 8 to move to Windows 10. Because every system running Mac OS is made by Apple itself, as well as the reasons listed above, Apple decides on update support by the Mac models instead.
Sometimes there’s a very real limitation, either in technology or design, for Apple to cut out support on a new update for certain models. For example, when Apple switched to Intel processors over a decade ago, the new version of OS X released at the time wasn’t compatible with the older Macs running IBM chips. Similarly, several years later, certain Macs weren’t “64-bit” compatible – as a result, they too were left behind. In some cases, certain Macs might be supported by an update, but simply don’t have the specifications to handle it. This time, the decision seems to be a bit more arbitrary in nature. However the line has been drawn pretty clearly – No Mac made before the end of 2009 can update any further than 10.11 El Capitan.