How do I keep my computer from getting infected?

The first line of defense against malware is … you!

You can check whether a file is harmful before you install it. Sometimes you can check before you even download it. VirusTotal (https://www.virustotal.com/en/) is a great website where you can check a file against 40 or so antivirus resources to see if it’s likely to be dangerous. It’s dead easy. A more complete explanation of the site is here: https://www.virustotal.com/en/about/. That page explains how to submit a file for analysis, too. If you do a lot of downloading, you might be interested in the advanced tools, here: https://www.virustotal.com/en/documentation/.

Once you’ve downloaded a file, you can (and should) check it before you install it. So given a choice to Save or Run or Save and Run, the best choice on a file you’re not sure about is Save. When the download finishes, right-click on the file. You will see options to scan the file with your antivirus and antimalware program. Do it! That scan takes seconds!

Even great, safe programs will try to force stuff on you. Sometimes it’s Google Chrome (I’m talking about YOU, Avast! Free) or McAfee Security Suite. (What does that have to do with updating your Java? Stop it, Adobe!) Always choose Custom Install over Typical or Express. Custom Install allows you to decline unwanted programs, toolbars, and search hijacks. Typical or Express installs mean that you accept whatever is offered. Clear the check boxes for the stuff you don’t want.

Evernote: A Great Tool for Organizing Teachers & Students!

GUEST POST:  Posted on June 26, 2013by 

This has been reblogged from my post at PLPVoices 

evernote-logo-300x298If you are not familiar with Evernote, now is the time. Evernote is a free web tool and application that helps you to organize your notes, emails, images, and, well…. everything. It’s hard to describe, but this 50-second video highlights some of the key features and abilities.

Evernote can be a great application for teachers, both to keep yourself coordinated and to facilitate student learning. I want to highlight a few ways that I have employed Evernote not only to make my life a little easier as a teacher, but to help my students and my classroom stay more focused and organized.

First, if you need to familiarize yourself with a quick tutorial, try out the “Getting Started Guide For Teachers.” This will help you with the basics of setting up an account, creating notes, and syncing across platforms. Trust me, it’s very easy and you’ll be up and running in just a few minutes. If you are already a more advanced user, then make sure that you set aside some time to browse their blog and YouTube channel for more advanced tips and tricks!

Organizing myself

Teachers have tons of “stuff” on our plates. Most of it is in the form of emails, calendar events, notes, homework, and to-do lists. If you’re like me, you probably have this scattered across more places than you would care to admit. The great thing about Evernote is that you can use it as the repository for all of that “stuff.”

JENC-EVERNOTE-Screen

The key to Evernote success is that you set up some basic parameters first. Begin by coming up with some categories — don’t worry about being all inclusive, you can always add more later. I started with a notebook for each class that I taught (above). In these various class-related notebooks I stored links to articles, primary source material, books, and more. I also added notes on my lesson plans. This is a great way to organize all of that additional content that I find on the go, as I scan my personal learning network feeds. I’ve also created notebooks for my side projects (my blog, the clubs I organize, my favorite recipes, you name it).

What’s great about keeping a digital notebook of material is that it’s paperless (more green, less clutter), it’s portable (I have My notes on my cell, computer at home, and computer at work – really, anywhere I can access the internet), and it’s readily searchable! Have you ever misplaced that article you wanted to distribute in a large stack of papers? Not anymore!

Using Evernote with students

Evernote is also a great tool for students to organize all of their own content. I encourage all of my students who bring a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to my class to download the application. They can organize all of their notes and handouts in an Evernote notebook – it’s portable, searchable, indestructible (even if you they lose their phone, their data is safe in the Cloud).  In addition to systematizing notes for class, it’s a great tool to use for research activities – students can store images, PDFs, and even hand-written notes (using their device’s digital camera or a free add-on app like Penultimate). Did I mention that hand-written notes are also searchable?!

EvernoteForStudentCollaborationIf a teacher distributes PowerPoints or handouts electronically (I like to do this via PDF — I highlighted my approach in an earlier PLP Voices article about DropBox), these can also be opened and stored in Evernote notebooks. It’s a great way for students to keep all of this material at hand and in one place. When they prepare for a quiz or a test, all of that content is in one location. Likewise, as they prep for a paper or presentation, they have all of their research at their fingertips. Literally. (Evernote can also be a cool collaboration tool — check out the Nerdy Teacher webinar by clicking on the image.)

Another great feature that enhances the student-teacher relationship is that Evernote notebooks are shareable. I like to examine students’ notebooks from time to time (for a grade or just to ensure they are on task). Students with an Evernote notebook simply share it with me. This eliminates the need to collect 85 sloppy, hand-written spirals or three ring binders. Instead, you can access all of their files (whenever you choose) from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Maximum portability.

Should you go Premium?

While the basics of Evernote are free to all users, there is a premium service that costs $45/year. In all honesty, the basic features meet most users’ needs. I was a basic user for over a year before I upgraded. I found that the more I used it, the more I needed the higher upload rates, faster customer service, and, my favorite feature, searchable PDF documents. The upgrade became worth it. My advice here: play with the service for a while and decide whether or not you need the extra features.

Concluding thoughts

What I really love about Evernote is that it is inherently flexible. I find new ways to use it almost every day. I love it that — other than my initial investment of time — I don’t have to put a lot of thought or energy into organizing the digital pieces of my teaching (or personal) life. The search features make everything so readily accessible (whether or not I remember to put it in the right binder or give it the appropriate “tag”). Best yet, it’s free!

Help me, help you! (10 pointers for getting the most out of your tech staff)

helpmehelpyou

“Help me help you!!!”   Yeah, I realize this is a quote from the Jerry Maguire movie, but it is so valid when it comes to technology help.     Here are a few pointers that will allow the technology department to better help YOU!  (and get more tickets closed in a reasonable time frame.)

1.  Please do a webdesk ticket.  This allows us to group locational tickets together as well as prioritize the work for the day.    If you catch me in the hall, I probably won’t remember your computer issue by the time I get back in front of a computer.   (Yeah, I know, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast most days, so help me out here.)

2.  In the ticket, please be as specific as possible.    For example:  “My computer isn’t working” is NOT a good description.   Be detailed.  “My computer locks up everytime I click on Internet Explorer”, is a much better description.    Also, give me as much information as possible both about the problem AND the hardware that you are having issues with.   I would like enough information, so that if I go to your room and you are not in there, I can still duplicate the problem.    Also, let me know what hardware:   “My Teacher computer (a Dell laptop D620 with Windows XP, it has a red Pulaski County Property ID Sticker # of 1205).

3.  I reiterate:  give me the red Pulaski County Property ID Sticker # of whatever computer is giving you an issue.   I can often remote in from another location and fix an issue.   If I can’t remote in, the ticket won’t be closed until I can get to your campus on another day.   Also, having the ID sticker #, allows me to check warranty information before I arrive.

4.  Watch your nouns.    Quite often I get tickets indicating that “my smartboard is not working.” Yet, the issue is with the projector, and not the smartboard.   Again, be specific.

5.  Look through this blog before posting a ticket.   We have several tips and suggestions here that will often allow you to fix the issue yourself.   That is the quickest way to get back up and running.   We are adding more tips, suggestions, and troubleshooting ideas every week.

6.  Phone calls, text messages, yellow sticky notes, emails and catching me in the hall:  These are NOT the way to get your problem resolved.   PLEASE put in a webdesk ticket.   I will get to the issue just as promptly as I can.   Utilizing WebDesk ALSO helps us determine recurring issues with specific hardware or locations.

7.  Include your login and password in the ticket.    No one sees webdesk but the Technology department, so this information is secure.   Sometimes, I will “fix” an issue only to find out later that the computer works fine when I login but does not work fine when you login.    I have a different set of “rights” on our network, and that often allows things to work for me that would not necessarily work for you.   After I fix an issue, I like to login to the computer AS YOU and verify that it works for your login as well as mine.

8.  WATCH your email:   Often when I get a ticket, I will issue a response with either a solution or a question for more information.  This will go to your email.   You can respond directly to the email and our system will automatically update your webdesk ticket with the new information.   But if you don’t respond, your ticket just sits there until I get back around to it.

9.  Please keep the issues related to school hardware as much as possible.   We have well over 2,000 computers and peripherals that we support.   It is really hard to keep these all running when I get alot of “How do I connect my new home wireless printer to my ipad Air” type questions throughout the day.

10.   Check the obvious.    Before putting in a ticket that says, “My monitor is not working”.   Please check the power cable and make sure it is plugged into the wall AND it is securely plugged into the back of the monitor.    And on your computer – REBOOT!   Rebooting a computer will often correct an issue.   Simple but it WORKS!

Thank you – Shelly

 

Software Recommendation: Soluto

SOLUTO:  FREE for home use     Techlevel: 5   FOR HOME USE

*** This post is for your HOME computer ***
Please do NOT install this software at school as it would tend to slow down our network if many of you installed it.

I found a new software solution that I really like.   Have you ever noticed that over time your computer bootup gets slower and slower?    Well, go to http://www.soluto.com/ and download their software.    It is very easy to install and very easy to use.    It basically analyzes all the files that run in startup and tells you which ones you can safely remove.     The really neat part is that it utilizes the social power of the “cloud” – the world of internet users.   It keeps track of what changes you make and uses that information to help determine what others should do when dealing with that same startup application.

I really like it.   (okay, now for the disclaimers.   I like it.  I am a software guy.   I pretty much know what I am doing.  SOOOO…  DON’T call me if you don’t know what you are doing, if this does not work for you, or if you don’t like it.  I can’t help you at home PHYSICALLY, but hopefully some of my posts here will help you).