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Welcome to the Pittsburgh Tech Guy!  Your local source for good, dependable technical support and information!  Keep up with the latest Tech news here!

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Sunday
Mar042018

How To Find Your Laptop Serial Number For Service And Driver Downloads

All laptops, regardless of manufacturer, have serial numbers. These serial numbers are unique for each laptop and differ from the laptop series number. A laptop serial number is used to identify your particular laptop. The serial number may be used when you need to take the laptop in for servicing, or it might be useful if you need to download drivers. Normally, a laptop serial number is mentioned on the bottom of a laptop and in some cases, e.g. HP, you might have to remove the battery to read it. It’s almost always a sticker and rarely is it printed on the actual laptop case. That said, stickers fade with time. If you need to find your laptop serial number, you need a more reliable way to find it. You can use PowerShell instead.

Find Laptop Serial Number

Open PowerShell and run the following command;

To find Powershell, in Windows 10, go to Cortana and search powershell..

gwmi win32_bios | fl SerialNumber

The output for this command will be the serial number for your laptop. It may be a simple number or it may be a mix of numbers and letters. There’s no fixed length for how long or how small a serial number will be. It depends on how your laptop manufacturer allocates them.

You can of course still look at the bottom of your laptop if the sticker is still intact. The PowerShell method is best if the serial number sticker is inside the battery slot or if the sticker has faded over time, or if you don’t want to flip your laptop over.

Wednesday
Feb282018

6 ways to delete yourself from the internet

If you're reading this, it's highly likely your personal information is available to the public. And by "public" I mean everyone everywhere. And while you can never remove yourself completely from the internet, there are ways to minimize your online footprint. Here are five ways to do it.

Be warned however; removing your information from the internet as I've laid it out below, may adversely affect your ability to communicate with potential employers.

1. Delete or deactivate your shopping, social network, and Web service accounts

Think about which social networks you have profiles on. Aside from the big ones, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, do you still have public accounts on sites like Tumblr, Google+ or even MySpace? What about your Reddit account? Which shopping sites have you registered on? Common ones might include information stored on Amazon, Gap.com, Macys.com and others.

To get rid of these accounts, go to your account settings and just look for an option to either deactivate, remove or close your account. Depending on the account, you may find it under Security or Privacy, or something similar.

If you're having trouble with a particular account, try searching online for "How to delete," followed by the name of the account you wish to delete. You should be able to find some instruction on how to delete that particular account.

If for some reason you can't delete an account, change the info in the account to something other than your actual info. Something fake or completely random.

new-screen-delete.png

Using a service like DeleteMe can make removing yourself from the internet less of a headache.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

2. Remove yourself from data collection sites

There are companies out there that collect your information. They're called data brokers and they have names like Spokeo, Whitepages.com, PeopleFinder, as well as plenty of others. They collect data from everything you do online and then sell that data to interested parties, mostly in order more specifically advertise to you and sell you more stuff.

Now you could search for yourself on these sites and then deal with each site individually to get your name removed. Problem is, the procedure for opting out from each site is different and sometimes involves sending faxes and filling out actual physical paperwork. Physical. Paperwork. What year is this, again?

Anyway, an easier way to do it is to use a service like DeleteMe at Abine.com. For about $130 for a one-year membership, the service will jump through all those monotonous hoops for you. It'll even check back every few months to make sure your name hasn't been re-added to these sites.

3. Remove your info directly from websites

First, check with your phone company or cell provider to make sure you aren't listed online and have them remove your name if you are.

If you want to remove an old forum post or an old embarrassing blog you wrote back in the day, you'll have to contact the webmaster of those sites individually. You can either look at the About us or Contacts section of the site to find the right person to contact or go to www.whois.com and search for the domain name you wish to contact. There you should find information on who exactly to contact.

Unfortunately, private website operators are under no obligation to remove your posts. So, when contacting these sites be polite and clearly state why you want the post removed. Hopefully they'll actually follow through and remove them.

If they don't, tip number four is a less effective, but still viable, option.

4. Remove personal info from websites

If someone's posted sensitive information of yours such as a Social Security number or a bank account number and the webmaster of the site where it was posted won't remove it, you can send a legal request to Google to have it removed.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-29-42-am.png

You may have to exercise Google's legal powers to get your personal information removed from a stubborn site.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

The removal process could take some time and there's no guarantee it'll be successful, but it's also your best recourse if you find yourself in such a vulnerable situation.

5. Remove outdated search results

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-12-24-am.png

Google's URL removal tool is handy for erasing evidence of past mistakes from the internet.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Let's say there's a webpage with information about you on it you'd like to get rid of. Like your former employer's staff page, months after you've changed jobs. You reach out to get them to update the page. They do but when you Google your name, the page still shows up in your search results -- even though your name isn't anywhere to be found when you click the link. This means the old version of the page is cached on Google's servers.

Here's where this tool comes in. Submit the URL to Google (there's also a submission form for Bing) in hopes it'll update its servers deleting the cached search result so you're no longer associated with the page. There's no guarantee Google will remove the cached info for reasons, but it's worth a try to excise as much of your presence as possible from the internet.

6. And finally, the last step you'll want to take is to remove your email accounts

Depending on the type of email account you have, the amount of steps this will take will vary.

You'll have to sign into your account and then find the option to delete or close the account. Some accounts will stay open for a certain amount of time, so if you want to reactivate them you can.

An email address is necessary to complete the previous steps, so make sure this one is your last.

One last thing...

Remember to be patient when going through this process, and don't expect to complete it in one day. You may also have to accept that there some things you won't be able permanently delete from the internet.

Wednesday
Feb282018

Where and How to Buy Cheap Ink

Buying cheap ink is a choice you should make with your eyes wide open. Third-party cartridges cost less than the manufacturer brands, which is why people buy them. A list of third-party retailers currently selling remanufactured ink cartridges is below.

But even if you ignore the dire warnings from the original printer vendors about voided warranties and subpar print quality, it can be difficult to tell whether the third-party ink you buy is any good. We can't give you any promises, but we can tell you how to shop smarter for cheap ink. 

Go with a big name

One time-tested method is to shop at an established retailer (online or brick-and-mortar) that guarantees the quality of its products. Obvious examples include office supply chains that carry their own branded third-party ink cartridges, such as Staples and Office Depot. Staples.com has an Ink & Toner Finder that can tell you whether your model is covered, as does Office Depot. If you find compatible ink, you can buy it online or check for inventory at your local outlet.

Do your homework

If you’re eyeing products from a vendor you haven’t used before, ask questions. A reputable online ink retailer should be open about how they source their inks. Carrot Ink, for example, claims, "every Carrot Ink brand product that hits your doorstep has been manufactured under stringent ISO 9001/2000 standards." If a particular site offers reviews, check to see whether previous shoppers are complaining about common problems like clogged print heads or low-quality print jobs.

Check the vendor's website or ask the support staff how thoroughly the company inspects used cartridges. “Do they look for cracks? Do they test the electrical characteristics of the cartridge? A cartridge can look fine but have a broken electrical component, and then it won’t work,” Tricia Judge of the International Imaging Technology Council told us in 2008, when we first published this article. The vendor should also test the cartridge after the refill, Judge said.

Check the warranties for cheap inks

Finally, understand your options if your ink cartridge arrives defective or produces mediocre prints. A survey of some of the vendors shown below indicates that vendors are ready to stand behind unopened cartridges for 30 days to a year, though they may charge restocking and shipping fees for returns. 

Once you open the ink, however, it's yours. Of the third-party vendors surveyed, Databazaar was willing to refund an opened cartridge if it still had 70% of its ink supply. In other words, you can't be sleazy and use the entire cartridge before deciding it's no good. 

List of Third-Party Ink Sellers

Wednesday
Feb282018

Amazon Buys Video Doorbell Maker Ring in Home Security Push

Amazon has added a new asset in its quest to conquer the smart home market. The e-commerce giant has acquired Ring, a vendor of video doorbells and security cameras.

Amazon has agreed to spend over $1 billion on the acquisition, according to Reuters.

In an email, an Amazon spokesman told PCMag: "Ring's home security products and services have delighted customers since day one. We're excited to work with this talented team and help them in their mission to keep homes safe and secure."

A Ring spokeswoman said that the Ring brand will remain.

The acquisition occurs as Amazon has been pushing its smart speaker Echo  products into consumer homes. Powering them is its voice assistant Alexa, which can answer queries and control other smart home devices like light bulbs, door locks, and power plugs.

Amazon and Ring didn't offer details about the deal, but the two companies will probably integrate their products. Video doorbells and security cameras from Ring can let you view incoming visitors or intruders over your smartphone.

Last November, Amazon also launched a new "in-home delivery" service. It works through the help of a smart door lock that delivery workers can use to drop off packages inside your home. The Ring acquisition may very well end up playing a role in that service, too.

However, Amazon is far from the only company in the smart home space. One of its biggest competitors is Google, which is also selling a smart doorbell product through the Nest brand. Like Amazon, Google has been promoting its smart speaker products, which are powered by the company's own virtual assistant software.

Sunday
Feb252018

How ad-blocking works in Google’s Chrome browser

Google, as promised, has launched the Chrome browser ad-blocking feature it has touted for nearly a year.

Although not the first such effort by a browser maker, Google's decision - effectively a pre-emptive strike against even more users turning to independent add-ons for killing online advertisements - has both import and impact by virtue of Chrome's dominance.

With more than 61% of all browser users running Chrome as of January, according to analytics vendor Net Applications, when Google's browser whispers, the web listens. Sites that instead tune out last week's move do so at their peril.

Just what is Chrome's ad blocking - Google likes to call it "ad filtering" - really all about? How does it work and what's the reasoning behind it?

All good questions. We've got the answers.  Click here for the full article to find out!

Sunday
Feb252018

Are you using a Pwned Password? Find out

Pwned Passwords are half a billion real world passwords previously exposed in data breaches. This exposure makes them unsuitable for ongoing use as they're at much greater risk of being used to take over other accounts.  Fortunately, there is a legitimate site that you can use to see if your password is one of them.  Simply check here.