Sunday, February 15, 2015

Passion for Linux / Open Source Computing - Joe Collins

Why am I so passionate about Open Source computing? Because it is one of the few really good things going on in the world today. Open Source simply means Free, as in free to use, free to share, free to modify, free to scrutinize for errors and security vulnerabilities and most often, free of cost. The Linux kernel is at the heart of the Open Source movement. It is the engine that drives it along. Do people make money off of Linux? You bet! No one is getting rich, though. When you look at a Linux Desktop, what you are seeing is the work of thousands of people all around the world. Many of them do it in their spare time and get nothing but the satisfaction of knowing they're contributing to something that helps people.

So, why do they do this? It basically comes down to ethics. If I make a copy of a Windows or Mac program and share it with my friends then I'm a pirate. MS and Apple developers want you to pay to use their software and you'll have to buy a new license for each device you put it on. The source code is not freely available; it's proprietary, therefore it would be illegal to attempt to modify one of these programs to fit your needs or the needs of your company. This kind of secrecy means that even a qualified computer programmer may not know exactly what any given application is actually doing. It is quite possible that a nifty little app you downloaded to help organize your music collection just might be sending personal information that has nothing to do with music back to somewhere you don't know to be used by people you don't know for purposes you don't want to know about. This sort of thing happens all the time. It's called malware because it is malicious in its intent. Getting rid of this stuff is a huge pain and often trashes the entire system in the process. Open Source software is subjected to intense code revue by the community. Any app that does more than what it's supposed to do is flagged as bad and not allowed to be distributed. Period. This is one of the contributing factors that make Linux computers very secure. Could someone get a virus on a Linux machine? Sure, but they'd have to work at it awful hard.

Linux is available in many different flavors called distributions. Basically, a distribution is the Linux kernel bundled with all the other software needed to make a usable operating system. There are well over 100 to choose from. Some are general purpose desktops while others are very specific to certain user’s needs. Linux Mint and Ubuntu are the most popular and Mint is generally considered the number one distribution these days.

If one were to take a Windows computer and manage to get through the install process for Linux Mint, they'd end up with a very familiar desktop that comes ready to go with all the basic tools one might need to do everyday computing tasks. It's generally compatible with files you may already have so you're not starting from scratch here. Your office documents, music files, digital pictures and videos will all be supported . Yes, there will be a learning curve and the Linux system is different from anything you've used before but I have come to believe that Linux's computing philosophy is essentially how computers should have been run from the start. It's not so much that one has to learn Linux as much as it is that one must un-learn Windows or Mac when making the switch. It's funny, my kids use Linux every single day and they have more about it than Windows. As a matter of fact, they complain if they have to use a Windows machine. They hate it. They've learned Linux from the start and that's what they're most comfortable with.

Ubuntu 14.10 on Dell XPS

I've been goofing around with Linux for the last ten years or so but it has only been in the last year that I have seen an explosion of interest. I have helped several people make the transition from Windows to Linux as their main system and every one of them is very pleased. Actually, I'm sort of surprised by that because I figured someone would end up not liking it and going back to Windows or Mac but it hasn't happened yet.

Linux already runs your household devices like your smart TV, cell phone, DVR, Wi-Fi router and it runs most of the Internet but it has never caught on in a big way on the home Desktop. It's a niche market for sure but one that is growing. There is a world community of people out here ready and willing to help you get setup and keep your system going. All you have to do is ask. The more people who use Linux, the better it will be... That's why I have posted about it here and elsewhere.  It doesn't take much to get started - an old Windows XP machine will work nicely! Linux Mint is free to download and burn to a DVD for installation. It will cost you some time and a blank DVD. Hey, use a DVD-RW and you can erase it and use it for something else if you don't like Linux. What do you have to lose? Come join the fun!

*This article was written by my friend Joe Collins on another forum and is reposted here with his permission.*
Please visit Joe's EzeeLinux website here:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ransom-ware Viruses - Do NOT Pay Them!

There is a new breed of viruses out there now known as Ransomware. Basically, what they do is encrypt all of your data files - your pictures, music, letters, spreadsheets, tax returns, etc. - and offer to sell you the UN-encrypt key for a price.

This is another one of those things where an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. If you've heard it from me once, you've it a million times - BACKUP YOUR DATA FILES!

Winston Churchill once said, "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

I guess I'm fanatical about it (not to mention anal), but consider this - you can buy a new computer, but you can't buy a copy of your stuff!! If you have questions or need assistance with a backup plan, please contact me at your convenience. It is always a pleasure to help people preserve their precious files. Please don't be one of those folks who find out how precious they after they're gone.

Great article on Ransomware from NBC at the link below.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Roanoke Va House Calls

Call 540.330.4279 to schedule a House Call with Roanoke Computer Doctors. Quality, affordable computer repair service solutions for your home or office in the Roanoke, Virginia area.  Computer Repair Service and  maintenance, Virus / Spyware Removal, Networking, Data Recovery, Backup Solutions, Operating System Install / Upgrade, Websites and Blogs.

If your computer is becoming more sluggish every day, a virus or system corruption could be the cause. Don't wait for your data to be compromised - call Roanoke Computer Doctors today for a free diagnostic.

540.330.4279 /  Roanoke Computer Doctors

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Roanoke Computer Doctors - Computer Repair Services in Roanoke Va - Schedule a House Call

Salem Computer Doctors has expanded to Roanoke, Va as Roanoke Computer Doctors. Please visit our Facebook page and feel free to call anytime for quality, affordable computer repair service solutions for your home or office. Roanoke Computer Doctors - We Make House Calls!  540.330.4279

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is Microsoft Making 2 Big Mistakes?

Will Microsoft’s move into tablet sales alienate the computer manufacturers that made their fortune? They don’t HAVE to put Windows on that new hardware!

With the economy being what it is (and has been for several years), the open-source community again offers up Linux distros, most of which are FREE, as alternatives to Microsoft’s cash-cow.

David Meyer posted an article this week on the opening door for Linux.

I have used Linux as well as Windows for several years. What usually holds Windows users back from migrating to the free operating system is the learning curve.

Having spent some time with the early preview releases of Windows 8, the learning curve is going to hit us anyway. For starters, 8 doesn’t have the familiar “Start” button we’ve embraced since Windows 95. Took me a while to figure out how to navigate using the new start screen!

With a learning curve thus being inevitable, this could be the widest door-opening yet for Linux to cross the threshold. The other option would be to hold on to Windows 7 (and for some of us, even XP) for a few more years.

More to come on this subject for sure.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Losing Internet in July?

Over half a million computers could lose their internet connection after July 9th due to an infection.

The story lists a site you can visit to (hopefully) correct the problem. Make sure your anti-virus definitions are up to date, and your firewall is turned on.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Computer Service Roanoke Va - Data Backup

In my opinion, no computer service is more important than Data Backup!

Please note that this article is geared toward Windows users.


Use this info at your own risk. I cannot and will not be responsible for any problems or damage incurred as a result of your use.

The single most valuable and important thing on your computer has to be your DATA!

Therefore, the single most important aspect of computing is BACKING-UP that data!

You can always buy another copy of Windows, another copy of Office, or even buy a new computer – but money won’t buy your data files that you didn’t back-up before a hard drive dies.

Any file that you create is a data file - letters you’ve written, spreadsheets you’ve created, presentations you’ve prepared – not to mention those priceless moments in time captured digitally and downloaded from your camera. If calamity strikes – hard drive crash, lightning strike, flood, fire – these files can’t be replaced.

Please don’t wait to start a backup plan until all you can do is wish you had one sooner!

ANY backup plan is better than NO backup plan. The best backup plan is the plan that works best for YOU!

Suggestions for a very simple way to back up your data files:

Get all of your data files organized.

If you have quite a few, invest some time organizing. An hour invested in organizing your files now will save you YEARS over time searching for them all over your hard drive.

I recommend putting ALL of your data files under ONE FOLDER. This will greatly simplify the backup process.

Windows has a “My Documents” folder under XP. Under Vista and Windows 7, your User Account (“either “yourname” or “User” or “Owner” under the folder “Users”) so that would seem a good place to put everything. This folder (or a sub-folder underneath it) is also where you should save the new files you create.

For the sake of example, let’s use “OWNER” as YOUR data holder folder.

Under this folder, there are several sub-folders - “Pictures,” “Videos,” “Music,” etc. If you have data that you wish to create a new folder for, have at it. Again, whatever works best for you to help you organize your data files is good.

Now that you have all those files under “OWNER,” consider that there may be other files you’ll want to save. For instance, if you have a lot of websites you visit frequently saved in your “Favorites” folder. If you use another browser, such as Firefox, Chrome, etc., be sure you know how to backup your bookmarks! If you use financial software such as Quicken or Quickbooks, open up the program and make a backup files to a folder called either “Financial” or “Quicken” or whatever rings true for you under the “OWNER” folder.

Additionally, if you use Outlook or Outlook Express (or another mail client) for email, contact information, notes and your calendar, you’ll want to backup these data files, too. These have similar functions but the files are saved differently, so let’s address each individually.

Outlook data is saved in a single file called OUTLOOK.PST or a similar filename with a .PST extension. You’ll need to find out where Windows stores your OUTLOOK.PST file. Here is a Microsoft Link that will help you:

Outlook Express data is stored in an assortment of files. The address book is in either a .PAB or a .WAB file, depending on which version you’re using. Here is a Microsoft Link that will help you backup Outlook Express data files:

Most of this type of data is stored under the “Local Settings” or “Application Data” folders, but its best if you know exactly where they are, how to back them up, and how to restore them.

After getting all of your data files under one folder, the next step is where to back them up. What are you copying the files to?

I would recommend you make multiple backups on multiple media!

One each on magnetic, optical and Flash media.

1) A USB Flash Drive

2) A CD or DVD or Blu-Ray burner (optical media)

3) An external hard drive (magnetic media)

A very important word of caution about USB Flash Drives or “thumb drives” – they are great for temporary storage or transporting files, but do NOT trust them as a sole source of backup. If you’ve ever walked across a carpet and touched a doorknob, releasing a static spark – you know the shock that can give YOU! That same shock could wipe out everything on your Flash Drive. Do NOT use a USB Flash Drive as your sole backup disk, or you could be very disappointed. It’s happened to me, and thank goodness I had the other 2 backups!

A CD or DVD or Blu-Ray burner is a great backup option. A CD will hold approximately 650 megabytes of files, so if you have more than this, you’ll have to divide up the sub-folders. A DVD will hold approximately 4.5 gigabytes of files, or roughly 7 times that of a CD. Dual layer DVD’s twice that. Blu-Ray discs will hold substantially more.

An external hard disk gives you a couple of great options. You can copy all your data files to the external HD. You can then sync new or modified files to the external HD using software to ensure that the data files are synced automatically, which offers a hands-off method of constant backup. I recommend Karen’s Replicator, GoodSync or SyncBack software for this purpose. You can search for those names in your search engine of choice and download the free programs.

My recommendation for your external hard disk - if you have a laptop, get a 2.5” hard disk and put it in an external enclosure. If you have a desktop, get a 3.5” hard disk in an external HD enclosure. This will give you another backup option. In my opinion, the best!

You can now clone your entire hard disk (operating system, productivity software and all programs you’ve installed, plus all your data files) to the external, and then sync new/modified files automatically. This will give you an exact copy of your computer’s internal hard disk! Given this scenario, if your computer’s internal hard drive crashes, the external can be removed from the external enclosure and put into your CPU to replace the internal. This will allow you to be back up and running again in as little as 15-20 minutes! This is much simpler and quicker than shopping for another hard disk, replacing old with new, then formatting it, installing Windows, locating and installing device drivers, installing all your programs, and then copying your data over. If you’ve ever done this, you know it can take hours! Free cloning software? Look for Casper and Easeus Todo Backup. Casper has a FREE trial version which is only good for 30 days, but you only need to clone your drive once!

You can also choose to use your external hard drive to backup only your data files as described above. It is not necessary to have Windows (or any OS) on the external HD.

Finally, format your external drive for the NTFS file system, used by Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7. Most hard drives come either unformatted or formatted for FAT to be compatible with earlier operating systems like Windows 2000, Windows ME or Windows 98. If you’re using another Operating System, format the external drive with the formatics indigenous to your OS.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a TON of cure” where data is concerned. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Computer Services - Avoiding Viruses

Of all the computer services we provide in the Roanoke Va area, by far the most popular is virus removal.

Quite often of late I’m asked, "What can I do to prevent a virus infecting my computer?"

The simplest answer I can offer is - do NOT click on any “Pop-Ups!”

Virus protection has become so good lately that the virus writers have to “trick” you into basically inviting them into your computer. They rely on human nature – our wanting to get rid of what's blocking us from doing whatever we’re doing by clicking on the red "X" or the "Cancel" button. When we do this, we send a user-generated response which opens the gate on the firewall, and the virus just walks right in and sits right down.

So how do we g rid of the Pop-Up without clicking on it? Use the old "Ctrl-Alt-Del" key combination - a menu appears, one of the options is "Task Manager." Simply highlight the Pop-Up, and click "End Task." This will prevent the user-generated input the virus requires to infect your computer.

Should you get a virus infection, please call or email us to remove the infection and get your computer up & running again.

We can be reached at (540) 330-4279 or by email at

and please visit our website at

It is our pleasure to offer quality computer services in the beautiful Roanoke, Va area.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Computer Repair Services in Roanoke Va

"Computer service" is a term that has come to mean many things recently. Services now vary greatly - building computers, upgrading, maintaining, repairing them, networking, backup methods and data recovery.

It is our intention at Salem Computer Doctors in Roanoke, Virginia, to provide all these services and any others necessary to the communities of Roanoke, Salem, Vinton, Va and surrounding area.

Check back here for new posts on subjects like viruses and spyware (and how to prevent them from infecting your computer), setting up a data backup program, and much more - from things we can do for you to simple things you can do yourself.

We also provide web development services including website design.

You can reach us by phone - (540) 330-4279 - or email
and please visit our website at
It is a pleasure to provide the computer service needs of your home, office or organization.