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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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Monday
Apr022018

What Is the IPCONFIG Utility in Windows

The Ipconfig utility in Windows is a small, exceptionally useful utility that lets you find your current system’s IP address.

A lot of users think ipconfig is a command prompt command but is in fact a Windows utility that you run from the Command Prompt. In addition to giving you the IP address of the current computer, it also gives you the IP address of your router, your MAC address, and lets you flush your DNS, among other things. It works with several other command line options to give you this information.

You can run the ipconfig command in a normal command prompt window i.e. you don’t need administrative rights to run it.

If you run the ipconfig command with no additional command line options, it will list every single network interface, including virtual network adapters. For your LAN and WiFi adapter, it will give you the local IP address. If you’re connected to the internet via WiFi, you will see the IPv6 and subnet mask values under it. For an Ethernet adapter that isn’t connected to a network, you won’t see any of this information. It will simply tell you that the adapter isn’t connected. Virtual adapters, whether they’re connected or not, will have both an IPv6 and IPv4 address as well as a subnet mask value.

Ipconfig Command Line Options

The ipconfig utility in Windows has the following additional command line options that you can use it with.

ipconfig /all: This command lists IP information for every single network adapter on your system. Unlike the simple ipconfig command, this command shows additional information like whether or not DHCP is enabled, the IP address of the DHCP servers, your local IPv6 address, and when your DHCP lease was obtained, and when it will expire, among other things. You can also use this command to find the physical i.e. MAC address for your system.

ipconfig /release: This command lets you give up your current IP address. When you run this command, your system’s IP address, whatever it is, is freed up so other devices on the network can use it.

ipconfig /renew: This command is usually run right after the ipconfig /release command. Once the ipconfig /release command has ‘given up’ an IP address, your system will need a new one. This command allows your system to get a new IP address. This option, along with the previous one is what you need to run to resolve the ‘IP address conflict’ error you might get sometimes.

ipconfig /showclassid: This allows you to view DHCP class IDs. These class IDs are normally configured for particular applications on a network. As an average user, you won’t be concerned with them at all.

ipconfig /setclassid: This command option is used with the previous ipconfig /showclassid option to set the DHCP class ID.

ipconfig /displaydns: This option allows you to display the DNS cache. The DNS cache is a record of public websites that you’ve visited. It’s a local copy of the website and its public IP address. Basically, when you type www.google.com in your browser, your DNS cache already knows where to find this website because its IP address is saved in the cache.

ipconfig /flushdns: The DNS isn’t omnipotent. It’s prone to saving incorrect information which in turn prevent you from accessing websites. This command lets you flush i.e. clear the DNS cache in Windows and build a new one.

ipconfig /registerdns: This option lets you update your DNS settings. If the DNS has failed to register a name or has failed to connect to a DHCP server, this command can resolve the problem by registering the DNS again.

Wednesday
Mar072018

Wow, Geek Squad has been snitching on you all these years....Anyone surprised?

Geek Squad employees have been working as FBI informants for more than a decade, newly released documents show, revealing a much closer relationship between the two organizations than formerly reported.

While we’d previously known some of the Best Buy workers alerted law enforcement whenever they found illegal material like child pornography on customers’ hard drives, the new documents show that the FBI met with the Geek Squad team at least as early as 2008 and apparently viewed some workers as paid informants.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents last year and released them on Tuesday. The Bureau refused to confirm or deny if it has similar relationships with other electronics repair companies. 

The documents indicate Geek Squad technicians only flagged federal agents when they found child pornography on a client’s computer, so it’s hard to be too upset. Nevertheless, it raises concerning questions about potential violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

Seeking to calm fears, a Best Buy spokesperson told HuffPost in an emailed statement that their technicians do not actively search for such content and only discover it inadvertently. But in at least one instance, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Per the EFF, an illicit image found on the hard drive of Mark Rettenmaier, a California doctor who dropped off his computer at a Best Buy in 2011, was stored on unallocated space on the disk that “typically requires forensic software to find.”

Rettenmaier was tried in 2017 on felony child pornography charges, but the case was thrown out after U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled the FBI warrant that allowed the search of Rettenmaier’s home โ€• a warrant granted based on the image found by Geek Squad โ€• was obtained via “false and misleading statements.”

EFF documents show this wasn’t a one-off case, and that the FBI handled numerous incidents in similar fashion after being alerted by Geek Squad technicians at the company’s repair facility in Kentucky. (The company’s Kentucky Geek Squad City facility handles more serious repairs, including work like data recovery that could require them to sift through a customer’s data.)

Records uncovered as a result of the Rettenmaier case show the Bureau had “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” from 2007-2012, and that some Geek Squad employees were paid between $500 and $1,000 for their help. At least one Geek Squad technician attempted to give the money back and was rebuffed.

In an emailed statement to HuffPost, Best Buy sought to temper concerns about possibly illegal searches, saying the company has both a moral and, in some cases, legal obligation to alert authorities when employees find child pornography โ€• as it does “nearly 100 times a year.”

Customers are also made aware of the policy in writing prior to Geek Squad beginning any repair.

“As a company, we have not sought or received training from law enforcement in how to search for child pornography,” the company said. “Our policies prohibit employees from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer’s problem. In the wake of these allegations, we have redoubled our efforts to train employees on what to do — and not do — in these circumstances.”

“We have learned that four employees may have received payment after turning over alleged child pornography to the FBI,” the company continued. “Any decision to accept payment was in very poor judgement and inconsistent with our training and policies. Three of these employees are no longer with the company and the fourth has been reprimanded and reassigned.”

Sunday
Mar042018

Cord-cutting just hit another record, and cable companies are in denial

The pay TV industry is in the midst of a huge change. Half a million pay TV customers cancelled their contracts in the last three months of 2017 alone, analysts at MoffettNathanson Research calculated this week. That makes a drop of 3.4% from the same period a year earlier, the biggest change since 2010.

This is an undeniably huge deal for the pay TV industry, but executives are still in denial, claiming that streaming services are going to take the place of cable and make everything just fine.

If you look at the numbers, you can see where they’re coming from. MoffettNathanson estimated that nearly 4.6 million customers subscribed to the five leading internet TV services, led by Sling TV, which has 2.2 million customers, a growth of 47 percent year-on-year. Any kind of paying media company would kill for that kind of growth. DirecTV Now, AT&T’s streaming service, has also been off to a flying start, and Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV keep growing. With Disney set to launch its own streaming service next year, the future seems bright for customers who want to ditch cable.

But for the pay TV industry that’s used to monster profits, streaming TV doesn’t promise such a rosy future. The average streaming bundle costs right around $40, with a few add-ons possible for premium content channels like Showtime or HBO. The average cable package, on the other hand, is a little north of $100.

The price difference isn’t because cable companies are able to negotiate cheaper deals with the content owners. It’s because most of those streaming packages are available nationwide, whereas most people are limited to whichever cable company owns their regional monopoly. Competition is keeping the price of streaming services right down to the actual cost of those channels — and in some cases, industry sources have told us that companies are losing money. Especially when you consider bundle deals, like the discount AT&T gives wireless subscribers on DirecTV Now, streaming services might have subscribers, but they’re not generating much profit.

As cable TV stops being a profitable industry, you can expect the cable companies to double down on their last existing revenue stream: home internet. Streaming services are only competitive thanks to the internet, which provides widespread distribution without any regional lock-in, for now at least. A cynic would say that cable companies can see the future coming, and their vigorous hatred of strong net neutrality enforcement is paving the way for streaming TV services to be locked in, much like Charter is doing with its new streaming service.

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