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Archive for October, 2009

It seemed liked a good idea at the time, Google’s got to be thinking right about now. The good idea is Google Voice, which allows users a whole lot of nifty features for making and managing phone calls. For some, such as AT&T, however, Google Voice is a bad idea because Google Voice gets to play by a different set of rules which allow it to invade AT&T’s turf, and undercut its revenue stream.

One of the headaches Google Voice has generated for its parent company is the result of blocking calls to certain numbers. It costs to make calls, and the costs are greater to rural carriers, conference call services, and adult-themed entertainment. The rules for telephone company’s say all call get to pass through. Google Voice counters it is not a telephone company so doesn’t have to play by those rules.

In defending Google Voice’s decision to block calls, Richard Whitt, Google’s telecom and media counsel, tells us: “Earlier this year, we noticed an extremely high number of calls were being made to an extremely small number of destinations. In fact, the top 10 telephone prefixes–the area code plus the first three digits of a seven digit number, e.g., 555-555-XXXX–generated more than 160 times the expected traffic volumes, and accounted for a whopping 26 percent of our monthly connection costs.” Google, one can appreciate, doesn’t see a particular need to subsidize the fantasies of middle-aged single men still living in their mothers’ basements.

Google is promising to implement blocking schemes that are more particular–targeting particular numbers rather than a whole exchange. And, in fact, feels it should be congratulated for exposing “traffic pumping schemes” that drive up the cost of ordinary phone service. I’m guessing AT&T won’t be the first to send flowers.

 

Image Credit: Google

Security’s always a hot topic in the business world, but eWeek.com’s list of ’10 Essential Things Companies Should Teach Employees About Security" comes particularly well timed. Why? Just recently, McAfee posted a survey suggesting that SMBs are spending less on security as the recession continues to force cuts to the budget, yet cybercrime is on the rise. That being the case, now more than ever the onus falls on employees to take certain precautions.

According to eWeek, companies need to go back to the basics when it comes to educating its staff on safe computing. No. 1 on eWeek’s list is the need to remind employees to be weary of email attachments and to only open ones from trusted sources. The importance of creating strong passwords and avoiding shadier sides of the Web also made the list.

One entry that might not have existed five years ago is teaching employees the dangers of social networks. One wrong click can turn into a security nightmare for an IT staff working with a reduced security budget.

What it all boils down to is that workers need to be reminded every once in awhile of the dangers assumed to already be known.

Flickr NIOSH

Every computer collects dust over time. When the computer is running, it creates a field of static electricity, which in turn attracts clumps of dust and hair. These cluttering particles can easily collect around your processor, power supply, and case fans, and can block airflow and lead to overheating. This is why an important part of taking care of a computer is making sure that it’s clean.

To that end, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to clean your computer hardware and peripherals to make your rig look as good as new. We took a 4-year-old computer and thoroughly cleaned it using a few household supplies. All it took was a little bit of patience and a few hours and we managed to get some impressive results. Follow along below to achieve the same cleanliness Zen with your own machine.

And once you’re done, read our guide to giving your PC a professional wiring job!

What you need:

 

  • Compressed air
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Lint-free or microfiber cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Swiffer Dry Refill sheet
  • Masking tape
  • Vacuum with a removable handle and crevice tool

1. Start with Cord Management

First, let’s start with the external cables. Begin by untangling any that have become entwined. Now, grab a soft, microfiber cloth and dampen it with a bit of isopropyl rubbing alcohol, then run it along the length of all of your cords to remove any dust that may have built up (image A). Then, grab a few zip ties and begin organizing your cables in terms of their location in your machine: For example, the wires connecting peripherals reside toward the top; the DVI connector and power supply cord are toward the bottom, and so on. This will prevent your cables from getting tangled over time. Don’t group any power cables with speaker wire. Make sure to put on the zip ties toward the middle of the cords to give yourself some flexibility when you disconnect or connect devices (image B). Now, unplug your cable bundles so they’re out of the way while we clean the inside of your machine.


(Image A)
 

(Image B)

2. Cleaning Your Case

Now, make sure the power supply is turned off, lay your case on its side, and remove the side door. First, you want to inspect the internal data and power cables to make sure they’re all connected and well-fastened (image A). If there are any damaged cables, consider replacing them entirely—do not attempt to fix them with electrical tape. Generally, electrical tape is only used for insulation purposes, not to patch-up wires, and this rule is especially crucial when dealing with the inside of a computer.


(Image A)

Next, you want to get rid of the dust bunnies around your motherboard. Grab a can of compressed air and make sure that the straw is securely inserted. Stand the case upright—when you shoot at it, make sure the can of compressed air stays upright as well (image B). Do not tilt the can on its side or shoot at the computer sideways.


(Image B)

Squeeze the trigger to blast air in the direction of the key components in your case: the crevices in between your fans, the drive bays, connection ports, and any other areas that are plagued by dust and tiny hairs. If you find that you have excess grime or stray dust balls rolling around, you can actually use your vacuum cleaner to deal with them, provided that it’s equipped with a removable handle and a crevice tool. Vacuum away from the motherboard and use it only to eliminate giant dust bunnies that fall to the bottom of the case. Additionally, if you have an air filter in your case, remove it and run it under warm water to remove the dust. Be certain it’s completely dry before re-inserting.

3. Wipe Down Fans

With a different piece of lint-free cloth, wipe down your fan blades, then sprinkle the cloth with a few droplets of 90 or 99 percent rubbing alcohol solution and run it along the inside of your case (image A). Use a Q-tip to clean tight spots like your CPU cooler’s fan blades (image B). When you’re finished and everything has dried, feel free to close up the case.


(Image A)
 

(Image B)

4. Make Your Own Filter

A great way to keep dust from infiltrating your PC is to create your own air filter using a Swiffer Dry Refill sheet. All you need to do is cut the sheet to fit the grill on the outside frame of your case and affix it with a few pieces of masking tape. In this instance, we pasted it between the outside of the case chassis and the front-frame. Be sure to place this filter only where air is being sucked in and remember to replace it every few months (or as it visibly accumulates dust).

5. Clean Your Mouse

Assuming your cords are still unplugged, dampen a lint-free cloth with rubbing alcohol and clean the outside shell of the mouse, paying attention to any residue on the buttons.  It’s important that you exercise caution while cleaning peripherals like an optical mouse—cleaning solutions should never come in contact with the optical sensor at the bottom of the mouse—it could ruin it. Also, avoid using paper towels; stick to lint-free materials so that you don’t risk leaving behind any fluff that could stick to the sensor.

6. Clean Your Keyboard

One easy way to clean gunk out of your keyboard is to turn it upside down over a sink and smack the bottom to knock out the colony of crumbs that have undoubtedly settled in. Run through the keyboard’s spaces with a can of compressed air to get loose crumbs and hairs out of the way, and then use rubbing alcohol and Q-tips to clean grease off the surfaces and in between each key.

For a more thorough wipe-down, you could even stick your keyboard in the dishwasher, though we warn you that this is NOT a solution for expensive keyboards with LCD displays and USB slots—there is also a very real chance that it will destroy your keyboard. Before placing it inside the machine, bundle the cord and put a plastic bag over it, making sure it covers the USB/PS2 plug and that it is securely sealed with a rubber band.

Situate the keyboard on the top rack of the dishwasher so that it is facing down—we want the jets to hit up against the keys and wash off the residue. If your dishwasher has a speed dry cycle, turn it off—if you let the inside get too warm it could warp the plastic or crack the circuit board from thermal expansion. For the first run, we suggest omitting soap altogether, but to remove tougher stains, a pea-size amount of soap is also OK, but use at your own risk. After running it through a light cycle, let the keyboard dry for several days or until all the water has dried before reconnecting it.

7. Clean Your Monitor

Grab a microfiber cloth and gently wipe your screen to free it of dust, fingerprints, and any other smudges. You can make your own screen cleaning solution using a half-and-half mix of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and distilled water, or you can pick up a premixed solution from any computer store or office supply retailer. Under no circumstances should you use Windex or paper towels to clean an LCD screens, especially those with anti-glare surfaces. If you’re using a CRT, use a few dabs of rubbing alcohol to gently wipe away greasy spots from the screen.

Next: Give your PC a professional wiring job!

Have any PC cleaning tips or dusty PC horror stories? Share in the comments section below!

Cisco today announced its intent to acquire ScanSafe, a privately held software-as-a-service (SaaS) Web security outfit based in London and San Francisco.

Under terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay $183 million in cash and retention-based incentives for the security firm. ScanSafe’s services will be integrated with Cisco AnyConnect VPN client, but that’s not all ScanSafe brings to the table. Cisco will also have access to the security firm’s global network of carrier-grade data centers and multi-tenant architecture, both of which will help boost Cisco’s presence in cloud security products.

"With the acquisition of ScanSafe, Cisco is executing on our vision to build a borderless network security architecture that combines network and cloud-based services for advanced security enforcement," said Tom Gillis, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Security Technology Business Unit (STBU). "Cisco will provide customers the flexibility to choose the deployment model that best suits their organization and deliver anytime, anywhere protection against Web-based threats."

Cisco added that it expects Web security to be a $2.3 billion market by 2012, which would explain the company’s aggressive spending as of late. Earlier this month, Cisco bid a whoppng $3 billion for Norwegian video conference company Tandberg and agreed to pony up $2.9 billion to acquire wirless equipment maker Starent Networks.

Image Credit: Cisco

Thinking of going global? It just got a little easier. Voxbone, a Bussells-based provider of international VoIP origination services and telephone numbers will announce tomorrow its global phone number service, iNum, will support high-definition voice calling among VoIP networks, including Skype.

A global phone number is like one assigned by Google Voice: yours to keep wherever you choose to wander. Global numbers came into being when the International Telephone Union (ITU) created the 883 code, which refers to the Internet rather than a country. When the 883 code is used Voxbone gets your call, routes it to the nearest Internet Service Provider (ISP), then disconnects itself so you can use the lower cost service.

The quality of your call depends on the codec used. Skype uses the SILK super wideband audio codec. Voxbone will instead use the HD wideband codec G.722. Voxbone will provide the necessary transcoding. And it plans to offer transcoding for additional codecs in the future.

How big a deal this is depends on who you ask. Robin Wauters of TechCrunch writes: “We should note there is some industry criticism around the concept of ‘HD calling’, which at times gets billed as a fancy new term that doesn’t describe anything earth-shatteringly new or innovative and something which there is no demand for.”

 

Image Credit: Voxbone, Hans Jørn Storgaard Andersen/Wikipedia Commons

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