Monday, September 19, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Laptop Rental for Business Event

When you’re planning a business event, renting computer equipment makes more sense than buying and it’s sometimes an even better option than using your own equipment. Rental laptops are great for hands-on classes, exhibition booths and more and it’s much more economical and convenient than buying new equipment when it’s only needed for a short time.

Here’s how to find the right laptop rental for your business event.

Benefits of Renting

One of the key benefits of renting laptops for your event is that they relieve people from the need to bring their own laptops to the event. A full-service laptop rental company will not only provide the equipment, but will also make sure that it’s installed and working properly for immediate use.

Renting also ensures that you don’t have to bother about setting up the equipment. Technicians from the company will help you troubleshoot any problems you face during the event and you can even request a technician to be present at the venue to tackle any issues that may come up.

Renting Give You Flexibility

Renting laptops for your business event allows you the flexibility to choose from a variety of options. For instance, you can rent top-of-the-line equipment, so that your business appears more tech-savvy and professional at important business events.

Perhaps the most important benefit of renting is that it will cost you a fraction of what it would cost if you had to buy all of the laptops yourself.

Protect Your Own Laptops

Renting laptops, instead of using your own for a one-time event like a business meeting or conference also protects your personal equipment from the risk of damage during transportation and use.

Choosing a Rental Company

It’s important to choose the company you rent the laptops from carefully. Check the company’s reputation and credibility as well as their product and service offerings. Choosing a good rental company will ensure that you can look forward to a successful and stress-free event.

Crunch Some Numbers

The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out how many people you are expecting to attend your event. The sooner the rental company has the approximate number of laptops needed, the better your chances are of getting the same type of laptops for all of your attendees. This is especially important in a classroom setting, as it will be easier to give instructions to your students if they’re all using the same machine.

Technical Needs

Find out from presenters, instructors and exhibitors what they will be using the laptops for. Some of the technical specs needed may include the following:

  • High processing speed
  • Large hard drive
  • Maximum memory
  • Advanced graphics cards
  • External monitors and other peripherals like mice

Additional Software Requirements

Find out what operating system you want to work with and any additional base software that needs to be loaded on each laptop, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Suite, accounting programs and the like. A good rental company will load additional software onto the laptops for you.

If the rental company doesn’t provide the custom software that you require, ask them if they can supply a test machine in advance that you can load with the appropriate software, so they can “ghost” the machine and load the additional software on to all of the machines.

Alternately, you could arrange for the laptops to be sent to your company or event location early, so they can be loaded with the custom software prior to the event.

Tried and Tested

Have someone who will be using the laptops, such as an instructor, presenter or exhibitor, test some of the machines prior to the beginning of your event to make sure they are working properly.

Be sure to find out if the rental company will supply spare laptops, in the event that one or more of the machines don’t work as needed due to a hardware or operating system failure.

Appoint a Trouble-Shooter

Your event should include keeping a computer tech on hand to trouble-shoot any small technical glitches that occur. This person should have the contact information for the rental company in case additional machines need to be delivered. Alternately, you could have a tech person from the rental company on hand during the event.

Leasing Makes Sense

When preparing for a special business event, leasing laptop computers and/or other technical equipment makes sense in a number of important ways. Just be sure to choose a rental company that can meet all of your business conference needs.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
An open computer with wires boards being fixed.

Few computer problems are more vexing than when your computer won’t even start. Often there are hardly any clues and too many reasons why a computer won’t turn on. Add to that the fear that something expensive needs to be replaced and you may rightly feel stressed.

Most people fear that all of their data is gone forever when their computer won’t start. A piece of hardware may have failed or be causing a problem but that hardware isn’t usually with the hard drive, the part of your computer that stores your files. Your music, documents, emails and videos are more than likely safe, if unavailable at the moment.

There’s a good chance you can figure out what the problem is and get your computer up and running again. The following troubleshooting guide applies to all PC devices and may help you to fix a computer that won’t turn on.

Fixes for No Sign of Power

If your computer won’t turn on and shows no sign at all of receiving power, (fans, lights), it’s rarely a worst case scenario. Try these steps:

  • Make sure you’ve turned on every power switch and power button
  • Check for disconnected power cable connections
  • Plug your computer directly into the wall, removing any power strips, battery backups or other distribution devices between the computer and the wall outlet
  • Plug a lamp into the wall outlet you use for your computer to verify that the outlet is indeed working
  • If you’re using a desktop, check to see that the power supply voltage switch is set correctly. If the input voltage for the power supply unit doesn’t match the correct setting for your country, the computer may not power on at all
  • For a tablet or laptop, remove the main battery to see if it will run without it. If it does, you need to replace the battery
  • Check the power receptacle on the laptop or tablet for broken or bent pins and bits of debris that might be preventing it from getting power. You may need the services of a professional to fix anything more that’s wrong with the receptacle
  • Replace the computer’s power cable or AC adapter – a common reason why tablets and laptops won’t turn on. This isn’t a common problem with a desktop but it does happen
  • If your computer is more than a few years old, you may need to replace the Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) It’s a battery-powered chip that provides start up information like Hardware settings and costs very little to replace
  • The power button may not be properly connected to the motherboard
  • In most cases, related to a desktop that’s not receiving power, a faulty power supply is to blame. It will need to be tested and replaced, if necessary. However, an ozone smell or very high-pitched noise in combination with no power at all is a sure sign that the power supply is bad. Unplug the computer immediately.+50

Computer Turns on Then Shuts Off

If your computer is turning itself off before the operating system loads, it may be anything from an electrical short to a serious hardware issue. Try these steps:

  • Check to see that the power supply voltage switch is set correctly (see above)
  • Inspect the inside of your computer for issues that can cause shorting. It’s very important not to miss a simple electrical short or you might replace costly hardware unnecessarily
  • Test your power supply
  • If the power button on the front of your computer's case is shorting out or even just sticking, replace it
  • Reseat all internal data and power cable, memory modules and any expansion cards. (Reseating means to unplug or remove something and then plug it back in or reinstall it) Although the keyboard and mouse are rarely the problem, unplug and reattach them as well.
  • Start the computer with essential hardware only to see if it stays on. If it does, reinstall each piece of nonessential hardware, one component at a time and test to see if your computer comes on to see what hardware is causing the problem
  • If your computer continues to turn itself off with nothing but essential PC hardware installed, a POST (Power On Self-Test) card will help identify which piece of remaining hardware is to blame.

PC Comes on but Nothing Happens

If your PC comes on but you don’t see anything on the monitor, try these easy troubleshooting steps:

  • Make sure the monitor is turned on
  • Check for disconnected or loose monitor power or data cable connections
  • Make sure that your computer is coming on from a completely powered-off state
  • Turn the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings all the way up
  • If it still doesn’t work, get help!

The Blue Screen of Death

A STOP error is when your computer starts to load Windows but suddenly stops and displays a blue screen with information on it. It’s more commonly referred to as the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) and is a common reason why a computer won’t turn on.

  • If you just made a change to the computer, such as installing a new program, there’s a good chance that this change caused the BSOD
  • Undo the change using Last Known Good Configuration or System Restore, or Roll Back the device drive to a version prior to the update
  • Scan for viruses
  • Ask a techy friend for help
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
New Computer System With Six Computers

When you’re a non-techy, buying a new computer with a new operating system is only exciting up to the point where you have to start using it. A computer’s job is to simplify your life, not complicate it and an operating system change shouldn’t be the equivalent of a mid-life crisis. Still, most of us “regular” folks do tend to get a bit flustered and frustrated when dealing with such changes.

If it was up to this writer, all computers would have the same operating system for eternity. As this will never be the case, here are 5 simple steps for adapting to a new computer and/or operating system.

Read all About It

You’ll actually have to start using a new operating system to become really familiar with it, but you should also read about it. Simply using a new operating system, like Windows 8, won’t teach you everything you need to know about it and all the hidden gestures and shortcuts. Even with a more intuitive OS like Apple’s iOS, you will learn more tricks by reading about it than you would otherwise.

Familiarity Breeds Content

There’s no substitute for actually using a new operating system. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the screens and User Interface layout on your new computer. Before you can start making the best use of the new OS, it’s important to learn about new or different features. If you need to, make notes as you go along.

Big electronic brick and mortar stores are great places to go to ask questions about the latest hardware and to play around with it. These stores will have a variety of different devices for you to try out that will be running everything from Windows 8 to MacBook. You could also visit an Apple or Microsoft Store to try out the hardware and ask questions of the knowledgeable salespeople.

Transfer Your Files

If you haven’t already done so, back up the files from your old computer and transfer them to the new computer. If you’ve never backed up your files before (shame on you!) there are a few different ways to do it.

 

  • Bootable Backup – This type of backup is sometimes called a "clone." It’s like a spare tire for your car. If the primary drive on your computer dies, you can hook up the clone and reboot the computer from it. The downside is your computer will run slower when booted from an external drive.
  • External hard drive – An external hard drive works by creating an archive of your changed and deleted files and keeps you backed up as you work, provided you remember to plug it in to a port regularly.
  • Cloud Backups – This type of backup is the easiest to create and maintain. After the initial setup the software will automatically keep your computer backed up any time it is turned on and connected to the Internet.

Save Your Bookmarks, etc.

If you use Chrome on the old computer, sign in to your account and save your bookmarks, apps and extensions. When you sign in to the same browser on the new computer, your settings will show up automatically. Any changes made to your settings will be synced across all your devices. However, if you use another browser, you’ll have to sync your bookmarks manually by searching the folders were they are stored.

Update the Antivirus Program

Almost all new Windows computers now come with an antimalware program preinstalled but it probably won’t be updated and it won’t be the best there is, so you’ll need to update it and check the features it has. A good antimalware program should include the following:

  • On-demand malware scan
  • On-access malware scan
  • Website rating
  • Malicious URL blocking
  • Phishing protection
  • Behaviour-based detection

These days, antivirus services handle Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware and more. If you’re not happy with the program that came with the computer, uninstall it install one of your own choosing. PC Magazine rates some of the antimalware programs available, as well as some of the free antivirus tools available.

For the uninitiated, here’s a glossary of some of the terms:

  • Malware – is software intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems
  • Trojans – are often disguised as legitimate software and can be used by cyber-thieves and hackers trying to gain access to your system
  • Phishing – is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by posing as a trustworthy individual or business
  • Rootkits – are a collection of computer software, usually malicious, designed to enable access to a computer or areas of its software that would not otherwise be allowed
  • Spyware – a type of malware that is installed on a computer without your knowledge in order to collect your private information
  • Adware – is software that automatically displays or downloads unwanted advertising material when you’re online
  • Ransomware – a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Laptop Computer

If you’ve decided to buy a new laptop, there are a few things you should keep in mind. By considering the following points carefully, you can decide which laptop will best suit your needs.

The 10 important things to consider before you buy a new laptop are as follows:

The Budget

The size of your budget is, of course, the first consideration when it comes to making any purchase. Determining what you can afford ahead of time will allow you to work with a sales rep to ensure that you get the best machine for your money.

Style of Laptop 

Knowing what you need the laptop for will determine whether you should get a netbook, ultrabook or something that can replace your desktop. How often you will use the machine, if you will be travelling with it and if it will be the only computer you will have are all important considerations. For instance, if you only need a laptop to use while traveling between client locations and going to the office, then a desktop replacement laptop will do the job for you.

Mac or Windows

The decision to buy a Mac or a Windows notebook might be influenced solely by your budget. If you choose a system different from the one you’re used to, you’ll need to determine how much time you want to devote to learning new programs and/or operating systems you’re not familiar with.

Connectivity

Find out if the laptop provides for a variety of network connections like HDMI, USB 3.0 and/or Bluetooth. Buying a laptop with the widest selection of available networking options will make it easier for you to work with any type of device, such as external hard drives, an extra monitor or different Internet connections.

All laptops now include wireless connectivity options. Also look for the number of USB ports the computer has and where they’re located. There should also be an Ethernet or RJ-45 port so that when a wireless connection is not available, you can still access the internet.

Manufacturer’s Reputation

Reading reviews of the different laptop models available will help you to see which brands may have issues and which ones are rated well. Also investigate how service-related issues such as warranties and repairs have been handled. Knowing about other customer’s experiences will give you an idea of what you can expect from a particular company, if you decide to buy from them.

Software Included

Some programs get installed when you install the operating system. If you don’t need or want some of these “extras”, you can uninstall them later. Programs such as Microsoft Office and anti-virus programs are trial versions only. If you want to continue using them, you’ll have to pay for the full versions.

External Devices

Whenever possible, try out the different laptop keyboards. You may need to buy an external mouse and/or keyboard because the touchpad and keyboards on some laptops aren’t very comfortable to use for long periods of time. Also, it’s not a bad idea to have an external hard drive available.

Warranties

Before you buy a laptop, read and compare warranties so you understand what kind of repair service you’re entitled to and what you will be covered for. Most laptop warranties cover hardware problems that weren’t caused by the owner. These include:

  • Defective keyboards
  • Monitor problems
  • Issues with the modem or other internal components

A laptop warranty will usually cover parts and labour and will detail what actions by you that will void it.

What Isn't Covered Under Warranty

The following things are not covered by a laptop warranty:

  • Damage to or loss of data
  • Any problems associated with software, whether bundled or installed by you
  • Theft
  • Damage or breakage caused by owner

When comparing laptop warranties, find out what the term of the warranty is. Choose a manufacturer’s warranty that lasts for more than a year, as long as it doesn’t cost more. An extended warranty is a way to extend the original term and most often adds to the purchase price of your laptop.

 

Retail service plans are offered by the retail outlet that you purchase the laptop from. They are different from warranties as they can be purchased for different time periods, i.e., one, two or three years and may cover more or different circumstances. These retail plans usually offer the best value.

Repair Solutions

Find out if any repairs that may be needed will be handled onsite or if your laptop will be sent away to be fixed. If it will have to be sent away, find out how long you could be without it. The laptop warranty will state how repairs will be completed and whether new, used or refurbished parts will be used. A new laptop that will be repaired with new parts is always best.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Convertible laptop

With so many different types of laptop computers on the market, you may be confused about the differences between hybrid and convertible laptop computers and you’re not alone. The terms “hybrid and “convertible” are often used synonymously but they are unique in one main way.

Most laptops on the market today are not only slim and light, but feature either a rotating or a detachable touchscreen that can be used as a tablet, a notebook or something in between. For 2016, the most popular models are powerful enough to handle all kinds of jobs, give you from 6 to ten hours of battery life on a single charge and the majority of them sell for under $1,000.

Hybrid Laptop

Hybrid computer is a slang term used to describe a portable 2-in-1 PC. The hybrid is a combination laptop and tablet featuring the corresponding functionality of both. It’s also called a “detachable” or “2 in-1.” A hybrid laptop has a removable screen that morphs into a tablet when separated from the keyboard.

In fact, the keyboard is more of an afterthought as the computer components are built right into the screen, which is why it can be completely detached from the keyboard and used as a tablet. The stand-alone tablet weighs in at only one or two pounds.

While 2-in-1 laptops have been around since the early 90’s, the latest hardware improvements have allowed manufacturers to create designs that appeal to most consumers and they can also be easily afforded by most.

Another configuration of a hybrid computer houses the batteries and ports in the keyboard base, making the computer more versatile but bulkier. You may prefer a simple keyboard base that’s lighter and good for extended periods of typing however, you may not get the benefit of an extra battery that way.

Hybrid computers combine both digital and analog components. The analog workings of the computer traditionally handle intricate mathematical computations, while the digital components take care of logical and numerical operations in addition to serving as the system’s controller. This makes a hybrid computer a cost effective way to perform complex simulations.

A tablet that comes with a keyboard built into the removable screen cover is not a hybrid; it’s simply a tablet with a keyboard.

Convertible Laptop

With a convertible laptop, the screen can’t be removed but remains attached to the unit. It is essentially a laptop computer that folds into a tablet. Convertibles are shape-shifters with contortionist-like flexibility, which is their distinguishing feature. The pivoting screen turns around and folds back onto the unit, turning the machine into a rectangular slate. But whether the screen simply swivels around or folds back on its lid, you can have the best of both worlds; a laptop and a tablet.

In tablet mode, a convertible is necessarily heavier and thicker than a regular tablet.

Types of Convertible Laptops

The different types of convertible laptop computers are as follows:

Flip laptops can transform from the standard laptop mode of clamshell, into two convenient shapes. It can stand with the keyboard facing down and the screen right side up facing you or it can be put into a tent-like position with the keyboard facing up to form a tent with the screen, facing you. Both setups are great for watching videos but the first position is best when using the touchscreen.

Pivot/Swivel laptops, as the name suggests, lets the screen pivot or swivel 180 degrees. Pivoting devices allow the laptop to transform into a tablet or stand. The keyboard never faces the surface you place your laptop on but always points up. This minimizes the risk of damage to the keyboard.  

Slide convertibles are more appropriately defined as tablet-first laptops. The screen is made to slide up, revealing the keyboard underneath. In this way, the keyboard is always protected when not in use and can’t be left behind or lost somewhere, since it’s permanently attached to the screen. Slide convertibles are a good middle ground for the best of both worlds, providing a tablet-like interface when you’re standing and a standard laptop mode when you’re at a desk.

More Popular Than Traditional Laptops

Convertible and Hybrid laptops are now so popular that they outsell traditional laptops. The reasons are simple. They’re easily portable when travelling and the features are being constantly improved. Besides having wide, touch screen displays and fast performance, these laptops also look great; sleek and stylish.

Questions to Ask Before Buying

  • Q. Do you want a hybrid or a convertible?
  • A. See above.
  • Q. Do laptops perform well?
  • A. The best ones are as good as any laptop
  • Q. What’s the weight of the model you’re looking at?
  • A. Some detachable screens can weigh more than a typical tablet but they may also have larger displays than other tablets.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Old Desktop Computer

A survey by Statistics Canada in 2011 showed that 46 percent of Canadians and 43 percent of Ontarians had e-waste to dispose of. Naturally, since then these figures have only increased, with some statistics stating that as many as 90 percent of Ontarians have out-of-use electronic devices and only about 40 percent recycle these old devices.

The reasons vary, but you have to wonder how many old computers end up in a landfill. Instead of disposing of your old computer, what if could give it a new life? Try one of these 14 ways to upcycle your old computer into something useful.

Make a Digital Photo Frame

If your old laptop screen is ok and if either the hard drive or CD/DVD drive is working, you can turn your old PC into a digital photo frame using a free app like Familiar. Similar apps like Flickr Slideshow or Picasa are other options that are handy for this task. If you have a wireless connection, you could even display your Flickr photos.

External Portable Storage

If only the hard drive is still working in the old computer, you can turn it into a portable external storage, if you invest in a USB caddy. A USB caddy can be used in two different ways:

  • To retrieve data from an old hard drive and then reuse the hard drive in the caddy as a back-up
  • To create your own back-up solution cheaper than buying a packaged solution from a leading brand

A Second Monitor

If you’re a web professional, have more than one display monitor is very useful. Certainly, reusing your old PC monitor for this purpose is cheaper than buying a new one.

Donate It

A working computer that’s no longer of use to you might be a great help to someone else. Offer it on Freecycle or donate it to charitable organizations like Computers with Causes or Donate Your PC.

Add Extra Firewall Protection

With the right set of tools, you can actually use your old PC as a firewall to stand between your new PC and the Internet. Several Linux-based firewall versions are available as free downloads, including one that requires minimum configuration called SmoothWall Express. You don’t have to know anything about Linux to use it; just download the installation files, create a bootable CD and install the application.

Media Station

Buy a wireless headset and turn your PC into a media player. There are plenty of free and versatile media players and online streaming services and using your old computer for your music library will allow you to keep your new PC or Laptop just for work.

Game Server

If you love playing games, you can configure your old computer to handle web traffic while you enjoy playing on your gaming system.

Printing or File Server

If you have or administer a network of computers, you can use your old PC as a remote print or file server. Alternately, you can use the old laptop storage as the file server for the network.

Video Recorder or TV

Invest in a TV tuner card. A TV tuner card is a kind of television tuner that lets television signals be received by a computer. Most also function as video capture cards that allow them to record television programs onto a disk, much like a DVR does.

Granny Guide

Your grandmother may want to try her hand at the computer but, if you don’t want to trust her with your new PC, your old computer is a good one for a novice to start on. She’ll be happy to browse the internet on the older computer and your young children will be able to play classic games on it, too.

Try New Software

Use your old computer to test new apps before installing them on your work PC. If you’ve wanted to try new software, this is a good way to put your old computer to use, providing it meets the software requirements.

Try Linux

If you use Windows, having an extra computer to play with is a great chance to try Linux. Linux demands much less power, so you may be surprised by how smoothly it runs on your old machine.

Make Money

Dismantle the broken computer or laptop and sell the working parts on eBay. You can get cash for a hard drive, A/C adapters, motherboards, RAM, graphics and audio cards and even an undamaged case.

Donate CPU Time

If you would like to donate to science, you can hook up the old computer to the internet, install a program such as SETI@home to run all the time. The computer just sits in an unused corner of your house and requires a monitor only occasionally. Your investment is only a little electricity and bandwidth.

We’re already living in a time where e-junk is creating landfill shortages, so even if you don’t want to use any of the above ideas, at least recycle or donate your old computer so we can all enjoy a greener future.

Friday, June 24, 2016
Author: Ken Scott

Technology has quickly become a key part of learning in the 21st century. Modern schools are now equipped with computer labs and student laptops. Technology plays a role in every aspect of education as students, teachers and administrators use their computers to gather information, create and express themselves, communicate, work together and track learning outcomes.

Here’s how computer education helps improve student success.

The Future Next Exit

Preparing for the Future

Computers make it easier for students to keep up, while helping teachers improve the way lessons are planned and taught. Students who use computers learn to use word processors for school work, learn computer jargon and strengthen grammatical skills. They can also look up lessons on websites or through email, instead of carting heavy textbooks around with them.

Computers not only improve the way students are taught, but they also prepare them for the future. Even the most basic jobs involve computers. Today’s students will be prepared to fill future job openings because they will be computer literate and classes based on computer education get even more specific. Students can learn to use office suite programs, create presentations and data sheets and learn programming languages.

Improved Student Accomplishments

Students from all grade levels, who use computers, have been shown to attend school more regularly and perform better than students who don’t use computers. They get higher marks on exams and feel more involved with lessons when they use a computer. Computer use at home also helps students to become more focused on their homework, whether collaborating on projects with other students or on their own.

Keep it Simple

Simple and Efficient

The learning process becomes a lot more simple and efficient, as computers give students access to tools and methods of communication that are unavailable offline. For instance, students can check their grades or lesson plans online, communicate directly with their teachers through email or other platforms and they can send work to their teachers from home or anywhere else.

Research

Because of computers, research is far easier than it was in the past. Many of the history books and encyclopedias found in libraries are now available online. As the Internet grows, so does the amount of research that’s available. Students can now research topics in a matter of minutes, rather than the hours it used to take.

Encyclopedias offer vast amounts of information enhanced by appealing multimedia and interactive links. E-book collections offer thousands of texts and a countless number of online articles and journals devoted to every imaginable topic make research efficient and rewarding.

An online resource encourages students to follow pathways of information according to their own interests and so, using a computer also helps to develops self-directed learning.

Teachers, too, have access to thousands of images, diagrams, videos, maps, animation, games and much more, so they can appeal to the different learning styles of individual students.

Creativity and Self-Expression

Computers also play a role in how students express themselves and reflect on their learning. Because of the digital recording functions that are integrated into tablets and other electronic devices, students are able to catalogue the world the way they see it and then add their own viewpoint to already existing collections of knowledge to make their own original creations.

Audio, photo and video editing software and the different ways to post self-created media on the Internet, allows students to contribute to the creation of information, as well as simply access it. This allows their work a broader significance and affirmation and makes students active members of the learning community, either on the small scale of a school’s social media site or in the larger context of the World Wide Web.

Communication and Teamwork

Computers provide students and teachers more opportunities to communicate and work as a team. Learning management systems, such as Blackboard and Moodle, have space to participate in discussion threads and forums, chats and video conferences.

Students and teachers can use the shared functions in office applications to view revisions and add comments in real time, which makes the process of giving feedback more efficient.

Computers also transcend the traditional brick-and-mortar school by provide working adults and parents taking care of children, geographically isolated students and the underprivileged the opportunity to connect and interact with learning communities through online schools and other educational networks.

Student Success Toolbox

Student Learning Outcomes

Computer technology plays a role in how administrators assess student achievements and learning outcomes. Assessment tools such as standardized tests, student portfolios, document headings and surveys, produce information that can be collectively examined by an educational institution to find areas in which a student could improve.

Charts and graphs are generated as information is entered into databases, which allows administrators to identify patterns and make decisions involving changes in the curriculum and budget requirements.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
How to Buy a Computer

The choice of computer types and styles has exploded in recent years, making buying a new computer a completely different experience than it was even ten years ago. There are many things to consider as you research computers to find one you want at a reasonable price.

It’s no surprise then if you’re confused about what to look for in a new computer and you’re certainly not alone. Many of us are in that self-same boat. Let’s face it, technology changes so fast, it’s hard to keep up. What’s state-of-the-art today becomes old news so quickly it can be frustratingly hard to keep up.

In the end, all you really need to know is - will the computer you pick do everything you need it to do? Here’s a simple plan to help you choose a computer that fits your needs

Learning Computer Speak

In order to help you understand what you read or hear from a computer sales person, here’s a glossary of terms you’re likely to encounter when shopping for a new computer. It’s the same whether you’re buying a PC or a Mac.

Computer Router
  • A Router is a small box that allows several computers to join the same network.  Besides wired connections, most modern routers offer wireless connectivity as well.
  • The Processor is the brain of a computer, also referred to as the CPU. Processor speed is measured in gigahertz (GHZ.) The larger the number of GHZ, the faster the computer will be.
  • The RAM or Random Access Memory, is what your computer uses to store information.  Again, the higher the number, the more memory your computer will have.
  • The Optical Drive is the device that can read and write CDs and DVDs.
Wireless Network Card
  • A Wireless Network Card is able to access the Internet without the computer being physically connected to a router. They are rated by their speed. A computer store expert can advise you on the speed you’ll need for your purposes.
  • An Ethernet Port is standard on all computers. It allows your computer to connect to the Internet by physically plugging it into your router.
  • The Operating System is the software that makes your computer go.
  • The Hard Drive is where all files, whether music, movies or word documents, will be stored. Hard drives are rated by size and speed. A computer salesperson can help you decide how much storage you should have for your needs.
  • A Video Card enables you to see what you’re doing on your monitor. Different video cards allow you to do different things, such as use multiple monitors or watch HD movies on your computer.

New or Used

Whether you want a new or a refurbished computer depends a lot on your price range. You can save a lot of money by buying something that’s a year or so old. Naturally, a brand-new computer with a warranty will cost more.

Features You Need

Decide what features and abilities are most important to you. Things to think about include:

  • Do you want a laptop or desktop model?
  • What software do you need the computer to run?
  • Are there peripherals, such as a modem or printer you need to be able to connect to the computer?
  • Compatibility with software or hardware you already have.
  • Your budget.

Portable Vs. Powerful

You will need to decide whether you want a desktop or a laptop. You can also get a hybrid PC.

Today’s laptops are small, lightweight and portable and offer a variety of characteristics that will suit almost any need. Many laptops now feature detachable, convertible screens that can double as tablets.

For a more powerful system, a typical desktop is designed with more core processors and hard drives and lets you add extra devices, if needed. You can connect a desktop computer to one or more large screens, which offers greater flexibility for looking at data, files and videos.

Standard laptops and desktop machines, which are a lot cheaper than they used to be, are also still available. But these, too, start to get expensive if you opt for advanced features like touchscreens, built-in cameras, fingerprint readers and even facial recognition login software. Some of these extra features may be unnecessary. For example, a touchscreen isn’t very useful on a desktop monitor.

Bottom Line

These days it’s not unusual for homes to contain more than one computer or types of computers. Laptops are convenient devices for students and executives who are always on the move. A desktop computer is often chosen to play games or pay bills on.

A reputable computer retailer will take the time to help you understand the features and functions of each of the different computers you’re considering so you can make the best choice for your particular needs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Video Editing for Your Business

In this day and age, businesses that want to make their mark online must learn how to take advantage of multimedia content. It’s what potential customers are responding to on the Internet, and nothing works better than video because it combines the power of visuals, audio, and storytelling to capture the attention of an individual.

However, producing and editing videos can be a tall order particularly for small businesses that can’t set up their own studios. There’s a free video editing software with Windows and there are freeware ones out there, but what they’ll give you are either watermarked files or severely crippled functionality. A business needs a full-fledged commercial video editing software, such as Camtasia Studio 8.

Created by TechSmith, Camtasia Studio originally started as a rudimentary video creation tool used by software demonstrators, but over the years, it has blossomed into a full-featured education/information video tool. Now at version 8, the program’s codebase has been rewritten completely from scratch and includes a whole slew of new useful features (such as multi-track video editing and hyperlinks) as well as optimizations that lessen the system requirements.

How Camtasia Studio 8 Can Help Your Business

To understand Camtasia Studio’s value as a tool for your business, you need to first understand what it was originally used for and what made it so popular in the first place. The first users of the program, or at least the first users who managed to use it for profit, are those who create video tutorials on Youtube.

When Camtasia was first created, it’s selling point is that it can capture screen activity and save it as a video. People who need to attract customers did so by creating tutorials of how to do things, whether it’s tweaking a game, installing a WordPress plugin, or even how to modify a computer’s registry – they used Camtasia to capture what they are doing and uploaded it to Youtube for everyone to see.

It highlights a couple of important things that businesses need to remember: first is that people prefer being shown what to do on a video, as opposed to reading text instructions, and second is that there is value in showing people how to do things. This means if your business has something to do with teaching people or showing them something, Camtasia Studio is the perfect tool. But what if your business relies on something else, such as conventional selling and marketing of goods? Thankfully, the new Camtasia Studio is still useful.

What Camtasia Studio 8 Can Do For Your Business

Version 8 of Camtasia Video is no longer just a desktop capturing application. It is a full-featured video editor that supports all the file formats that you would ever encounter, from MP4 to MOV, to PNG to MP3 and everything in between. You can now create and edit your own videos, for a fraction of the price of more popular video editing software used by big name studios. Additionally, Camtasia has a free trial phase so it is virtually risk-free.

So what can you do with a video editing program? Create your own Multimedia content, of course. It could be something with high production values or something that looks intentionally low-fi, designed to go viral on meme sites. Whatever kind of multimedia content you create, one new feature of Camtasia Studio 8 will be extremely useful: support for clickable hyperlinks on the video itself. This is not a simple text link either, you can turn anything on the canvas into a clickable hyperlink, whether it’s text or part of an image.

This clickable hyperlink will be a very valuable tool in bringing new customers to your fold. Just create a video designed to reach as many viewers as it can get, then stick a hyperlink in there pointing to your website or a newsletter signup and you’ll have an interactive ad that works so much better at driving traffic than a hundred dollar banner ad.

Camtasia also has the ability to include polls or interactive questionnaires straight from the video, which could be useful for gathering feedback or encouraging viewer engagement.

Is It Worth Getting?

The biggest thing that Camtasia Studio 8 has going for itself is the fact that it costs a fraction of what other video editing software demands while offering the same functionality. By virtue of being affordable, it minimizes the cost risk to businesses and makes it a smart move to at least get the trial version, just to see if you can put it to work for your business.

If you just need a simple image editing software for creating a video here and there, Camtasia Studio is still a good deal, as not only will it fill your needs, it also keeps you future proof in case you find yourself with a business that could benefit from a video campaign.

Posted in
Monday, May 9, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Hard Drive Manufacturers

These days, hard drives are frequently overlooked components of a computer. It may be a combination of the fact that the price per gigabyte has fallen way down and people focusing more on the number crunching and polygon-pushing components such as the processor and video card, but hard drives are still a vital component and they do fail over time, catastrophically at that.

When a video card or CPU fails, you can pretty much resume where you left off when you get them replaced. A hard drive dying on you, on the other hand, could mean years of work, data, and software lost in an instant.

So ensuring that you get the most reliable brand is important. In order to find out which one is indeed the best (or rather, to find out which ones had the most failure rate), online cloud service conducted a 3-year study at the end of 2013. Using an equal number of hard drives from different manufacturers, they subjected all to heavy use for 3 years and then assessed which ones had the least amount of failure rates. Based on their testing, here are 4 of the best hard drive manufacturers in the industry:

Western Digital

Western Digital has been around since 1970, after being founded by a former Motorola employee under the name General Digital. Its original products were MOS test equipment, but they eventually became a specialty semiconductor maker.

They changed their name to Western Digital in 1971 and began making hard disk drive controllers in the early 80s. They managed to secure a contract with IBM as the exclusive supplier of the controllers used in the PC/AT. The controller they supplied, the WD1003, was the precursor to the ATA interface that they co-developed with Control Data Corp (which is now known as Seagate) and Compaq.

Western Digital used to be considered as second only to Seagate Technology in terms of sales, but they have since overtaken the competitor after merging with another hard drive manufacturer, Hitachi, back in 2012.

Seagate

American data storage company Seagate Technology PLC was first incorporated in 1978 under the name Shugart Technology. They are known for being responsible for the development of the first ever 5.25-inch hard disk drive, called the ST-506. The prototype had 5 megabytes of storage capacity, which was a huge amount at the time.

They became one of the biggest suppliers of storage devices in the 80s and was actually the most successful until they were overtaken by Western Digital in the last few years. Still, they are a very close second and has also acquired other companies along the way, including Conner Peripherals in 1996, Samsung’s HDD arm in 2011, and Maxtor a little earlier in 2006.

The sheer number of established storage device companies that Seagate has absorbed means that had Seagate not chosen to absorb or buy any of them, this list would be a lot longer than 4. However, they were able to acquire said companies for a reason – even if the other companies are still around, Seagate would most likely still remain on this list.

Toshiba

Toshiba is an odd 3rd placer. The name will be familiar because Toshiba is a Japanese multinational conglomerate with an extremely diversified portfolio consisting of everything from industrial electronics to medical equipment, office tools, and even consumer electronics.

The company itself is bigger than the two previous entries in this list, but their storage products are smaller due to being relatively newer, and because they are focusing more on Solid State hard drives, which is already gaining a huge market share but still relatively niche due to being more expensive per gigabyte than traditional magnetic hard drives.

Fujitsu

Fujitsu’s storage hardware brand, Eternus, may seem new and unknown compared to the other brands above, but the company itself is tenured and considered as the world’s third largest IT services provider based on revenue, after IB and Hewlett-Packard. They’re also the second oldest IT company, having been founded in 1935. In terms of their contribution to storage devices, they are known for being the leader in the research and development campaign that resulted in both the magneto-resistive head and the partial response/maximum likelihood read channel technology. While still a major provider of storage solutions all over the globe, Fujitsu has since transferred ownership of their hard drives to Toshiba.

There are many other storage companies out there, and there are new ones coming along, especially now that solid state devices are becoming viable replacements for magneto-optical drives, thereby shaking the firm grasp that the above companies have in the industry and paving the way for new players in the market. Still, these four companies are established for a good reason. If you’re looking for a new hard disk drive, you can’t go wrong with choosing any of these brands.

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