Gifts for Your Favorite Techie Part 4: Game Consoles

So your TV is upgraded and your streaming media device does everything you could ever want. What’s a good fun gift for you? A game console. These days, there are more than ever. What makes a good one? That depends on what you want.

Looking for portability?
An image link to the Nintendo Switch game console.

Only the Nintendo Switch offers it. The full-console offers gaming from wherever you are, including your own living room. Pause your game and pick it up in bed or on the bus. Buyer beware, however. The Lite version is only a portable and unable to hook to your TV.

Looking for a really deep back-catalog?

While not as capable as its big brother, the PS4 Pro, the Slim has the same access to the PS Network, including all of the retro titles available for download there. The Slim can stream in 4k, but cannot natively play its games in 4k, so if you’re in this for picture quality, the Slim isn’t for you. Try the PS4 Pro if you want both the Playstation Network and high quality native graphics.

Looking for incredible graphics?

What it lacks in back catalog, it makes up for in robustness. While the PS4 Pro comes close, nothing beats the XBox One X in sheer graphic beauty. While the XBox and XBox 360 titles are currently limited in availabilty, Microsoft says they will soon bring more of them to their online offerings.

Looking for that authentic retro experience?

There’s good news for you, as well. Both the Sega Genesis and Super NES have re-released versions this year. The Super NES Classic comes with 21 games, including Super Mario World. At nearly twice the price of the Sega Genesis Mini, though, it’s likely a gimmick for Nintendo Fanboys only. Or you could buy the aforementioned Genesis Mini. With twice the retro games at half the price, it’s a better deal for your retro game fix.

Once you have your lovely new game console, give Cherry Tree Technology a call! We’ll get it plugged in, connected to your network, and playing nice with all of your other devices. Make your post-Christmas gaming as pain-free as humanly possible.

Gifts for your Favorite Techie Part 3: Streaming Media Devices

Last time, we talked about Smart TVs. While those are a great option for many, not everyone wants to replace their television. If you want to keep your current TV, but still want streaming options, then this list is for you! Streaming media devices make great gifts. They offer you many of the same features as a Smart TV, but in a small device that can be added to any TV you already own. There are many options on the market. Everyone who makes devices seems to have made their own. But which one will make your techie smile?

If you still have your 1080p TV:
Image link of the Roku Express.

The Roku Express is the most budget friendly streaming media device. It doesn’t have 4k compatibility, nor will it sync with Alexa. But for watching Netflix, Hulu, or even Prime Video, it gets the job done. At a mere $29, it will fit into nearly every budget for gifts, too.

If you’re after bells and whistles:
Image link of the Fire TV Cube. A super powerful streaming device, for those on your list who are picky about their tech gifts.

The Fire TV Cube has nearly every update that a streaming media device might need. 4k compatibility, voice commands, and even the ability to sync with any other smart device in your home (assuming they’re Alexa compatible). Built to seamlessly integrate into your smart home, this is definitely the streaming media device for you if you already have your home set up for smart devices.

If your techie is also a gamer:
An image link of the Nvidia Shield TV. This would make a great gift for those on your list who are both gamers and movie fans.

The Nvidia Shield TV. will let you stream games via both Google Play and GeForce Now. It’s compatible with most current Bluetooth game controllers, or you can buy the Shield controller (sold seperately). While it’s not as robust as a standalone game system, it’s definitely far more gamer friendly than any other streaming media device. Look for more exciting streaming device/game system developments from the Shield in the future.

As always, if you have your heart set on a seamless, easy Smart Home, but don’t know how to get set up, we’re here to get your favorite tech gifts working the way they should. Cherry Tree Technology can get your network working, so you can play.

Gifts For Your Favorite Techie Part 2: Smart TVs For Every Family.

Now that you’ve got your network in order, let’s take a look at some other gifts. Today, we’ll consider some of your best options for a new Smart TV.

When it comes to big gifts for the whole family, a Smart TV can’t be beat. The right one will give you access to countless hours of movies and shows with your loved ones. Choosing the right one, however, isn’t always easy. Much like many other tech industries, the TV industry likes to use jargon in their descriptions. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting.

We hope this breakdown helps you choose your gifts well.

Best Budget Smart TV:
A linked image of a TCL Series-4 Smart TV. Smart TVs may be unconventional gifts, but they're sure to bring joy to your giftees.

If you want a new Smart TV for the Holidays, but don’t have much to spend, this 43″ TCL Series-4 is your best bet. Less than $250, but a whole lot of bang for your buck. While not as crisp as a higher-end model, this TV gives you everything you need to stream whatever you like with good picture quality and sound.

Best Overall Quality for the Price:
A linked image of an LG OLEDB8P 4K Smart TV.

Though of course there is always debate around these sorts of things, because taste is subjective, this LG OLEDB8P series television is consistently ranked highly by reviewers. The price is middle of the road, but the quality is definitely high. OLED TVs have better brightness and broader viewing angles than LCDs or even QLEDs. They deliver quite a lot of visual impact.

Best High End Picture & Sound:
A linked image of a Sony Bravia Master Series OLED TV. Widely considered the best Smart TV of the year, this will be the most coveted of Smart TV gifts this year.

If your budget for tech gifts will stretch, the very best rated picture and sound this year are available in the Sony Bravia Master Series. In sizes from 55″ to 77″, this TV would make an ideal focal point for a home theater.

After You Make Your Choice:

With 15 years of experience with home entertainment and networking, Cherry Tree Technology can help you set up all of your gifts once you get them home. We can install network cables, set-up your wireless network, and even make sure all your smart devices are playing nice with one another.

Gifts for Your Favorite Techie Part 1: Things to Make your Network Happy

A photo of Christmas gifts, wrapped in white speckled paper and decorated with fir branches and pine cones.

Christmas is sneaking up on us. Time to start thinking about what to get your loved ones. Got a tech junkie in your life? These gifts should fit the bill.

Your router and modem. They sit in the corner and do their job well. Usually, you only think about them when a hiccup occurs. But if you need more from your network, an upgrade will keep your shows streaming and your gamers gaming far into the future. Most people think they’re too mundane to give as gifts, but a techie will love a better connection.

Modems

Your cable modem, along with the speed you pay for, is the first make-or-break bit of home network technology. If you’re trying to give the gift of increased speed to yourself and your family, this is the place to start.

If your internet plan is 600mbs or under, the best modem for you is most likely to be a Motorola MB7621. This modem is Docsis 3.0, so it’s not bleeding edge, but it’s more than enough for most families.

Modems and routers as gifts? Surprising, but useful.

If the techie in your life has already subscribed to gigabit and needs a modem to match, then this will be one of the gifts they remember. The MB 8600 is a much faster modem, useful for anyone who has more than six devices running on their network. If bandwidth is what you need, this modem and a gigabit connection have you covered.

Routers

The modem and the internet plan are in place, great! Now to get that amazing speed to all your devices! For that, you need a router. Which router you want will depend on many factors. Among those are what speed your network is, how many devices are on it, and what you use those devices for. Though routers aren’t traditional gifts, they really can make your techie happy.

The average home network has approximately 5-10 devices running at a time. Streaming media players, laptops, tablets, phones, even doorbells can all take their share of the network bandwidth. You want to make sure you have enough to keep everyone happy. For most families, even those who have up to 25 devices on their network, the Netgear Nighthawk is a solid choice.

Trying to give gifts to gamers who need even more speed than that? The best bang for your buck will be something they can keep a long time. High speed, stable, and able to cope with whatever you throw at it. For that we recommend the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000.

As always, if you need any help installing and configuring your lovely new tech, Cherry Tree Technology is here to help. Call us to help set up your new modem, router, network, or anything else. Because freeing up time to spend with your techie is worth more than any of the gifts you could buy.

Antivirus for Your Home Computer: How do you Pick the Right One?

Most of us understand the need for an antivirus program on our work PC. Business information is valuable in a way we all understand. But what about your home computer?

There are many different types of antivirus (AV) software available. Free ones, paid ones, active monitoring ones, and those that only scan on demand. How does one make sense of the options? We’re here to help!

What is Antivirus Software and What Does it Do?

Antivirus software has been around for several decades now. In fact, the very first attempt at antivirus was made in the 1970s. As bad actors have gotten more sophisticated over the years, so too have our efforts to fight back. The first attempts were viruses designed to spot and remove other viruses. Deployed after an infection was spotted, they spread through the system and removed the specific virus they were made to fight.

These days, antivirus is usually a program installed on a PC, rather than a worm designed to clean up after bad actors. Generally speaking, the program searches through your installed data to make sure nothing you have saved is going to do harm to your PC. The very best programs monitor your actions in real-time. They often warn if you’re visiting a suspicious website. Real-time monitoring can even prevent clicking on a link that might download malware.

Even the best monitoring software can make a mistake, of course, so most modern antivirus also runs periodic scans. This helps identify suspect files and isolate or remove them. Removal before damage is done isn’t as good as stopping the malware from being installed, but it’s a good second best. The very best modern AV software will allow outside monitoring — alerting a trusted computer repair tech if something dangerous has appeared on your PC.

Why Does this Matter at Home?

At home, the data you have is not generally of monetary value. Though important on a personal level, we often don’t think about our pictures or music collections as data that could be lost. Most people only start worrying about protecting their home computer once it’s too late. A virus, a worm, or ransomware could erase those memories in an instant. At which point, most of us would be willing to pay nearly anything to get it back.

How do I Pick Good Antivirus Software?

These days, the antivirus market is flooded. We’re spoiled for choice. Back in the Wild West days of the 1990s internet, there were two credible choices: McAfee and Norton. Oh how the mighty have fallen. These days, both programs have become so bloated that they actually harm computer performance. They’re also no better at monitoring (and often worse) than some of their lesser-known counterparts.

At home, due to budget concerns, many people stick with free antivirus. There are tons of options out there, of course, and many of them are somewhat useful. Microsoft Security Essentials is the example most people think of. But being well-known doesn’t always mean something is the best. In fact, the antivirus we recommend is Avast. They do offer a highly ranked free version, but for ultimate peace of mind, we recommend the paid version.

Avast antivirus logo. Orange amoeba shaped blob with a lower-case letter "a" in the middle, followed by the word "avast" in black text.

Paid versions of antivirus often offer advantages over their free counterparts. In the case of Avast, those advantages include protecting your webcam from outside spying and allowing a trusted PC repair technician (like ourselves) to remote in with your permission. Repairs and virus removals that used to require your PC and your tech to be in the same place can be accomplished remotely.

Avast is affordable, reliable, and well-trusted. The developers are constantly updating, providing new virus definitions and more reliable operations. It has been trusted for 30 years to stay on top of malware and other threats. There is a reason Avast has more clients worldwide than any other AV company. We would be happy to work with you to get your PC protected by Avast. Call today for a tune-up, and let us install peace of mind on your PC.

Network Questions? Not Sure Where to Start? We Can Help.

These days everything from our entertainment center to our security system relies on a home network. A reliable, high quality network can spell the difference between happiness and hair pulling. From your modem and router to your streaming media player, there are a lot of things to consider. You’re ready to get started, though you may not even know where to begin. This is why personalized home network set-up help can make a huge difference.

A confused looking brown-haired woman in a pale blue button-up shirt.  Let us take the confusion out of your home network!
Why do I need a network?

Almost every device we use day to day requires an internet connection. Your computer, streaming media player, tablet, and phone are just the beginning. Do you have a printer? An e-book reader? A smart security device such as a doorbell, cameras, or a door lock? Are you considering adding other devices in the future, such as light controls or a fridge that will keep your grocery list up to date? Maybe you just need to figure out what devices will work for you, because you’ve lost track of what’s available. Once you have all these devices, though, how best to make sure you’re getting what you paid for?

A reliable wireless router and a high quality modem, together with the appropriate internet service, will keep your devices working seamlessly. No more pausing mid-stream on your favorite shows or losing your connection to the printer. Obviously no device will work 100% of the time, but if issues do crop up? You’ll have someone to call who can help get you back up and running. We can help with more than just those things. Selecting devices, buying a new computer, even installing antivirus software — we’re a full-service home IT company that will take out all the guesswork.

Decoding your needs:

When you set up a home network, there’s a lot to consider. We here at Cherry Tree Technology have been helping clients set up their networks for 15 years. We take into consideration things you might never think of. We’d love to help you optimize your home network for your needs. Contact us today to see what the right help can do for you!

Antivirus scams are a growing problem. How do you spot one?

A rendered image of a person sitting at a laptop with a large stop sign on screen. The sign reads "fraud alert". These sorts of screen hijacking pop-ups are often used in antivirus scams.

Over the past few years, scammers have begun posing as antivirus companies. Sometimes, they send you pop-ups, claiming you have a virus. Sometimes, they call. Here’s how to know if the alert is real and what to do.

Pop-up virus alerts

If you get a pop-up telling you there’s a virus on your PC, you should think before you click. Do you recognize the program? Is it trying to send you to a website? Is there a phone number? If you don’t recognize the program, that’s a red flag. A phone number or external link? Also a red flag. Reputable antivirus programs, such as Avast, will never ask you to call a number or go to a website to scan.

The biggest red flag of all is asking for money to remove the virus. While a good antivirus program will often have a subscription cost, it will never demand money for virus removal.

Antivirus phone calls

Unless you have a managed service provider (MSP) or pay a local IT firm (like us!) to monitor your antivirus, you will never get a call about viruses on your PC. Any strange person claiming to need access to remove a virus from your computer is probably a scammer.

Before you agree to allow someone access to your computer over the phone, use caution. Ask yourself: do I know this person? Is this a company I trust? Did I contact them, or did they call me unsolicited? If they claim to be from a company you trust, tell them you need to call back, and then contact that company’s customer service line. Never call back a number that you were given in the unsolicited call. They can easily pretend to be a reputable company when they answer their phone.

I already gave them access, now what?

If you already fell for a scam of this sort and need help with your computer, please contact us! We can help you get your computer back to normal if possible, and help you find an appropriate replacement if not. We can even install Avast for you, which will mean you have a reliable antivirus program in place for the future.

SSD or HDD? De-mystifying your computer storage choices.

Picture of a red-haired woman in a blue shirt looking confused. Choosing between an SSD and a standard hard drive can be very confusing.
In the past several years, storage media has come a long way.

For nearly 25 years, there was one option for internal storage on your PC. While the sizes, connectors and spin speeds varied, all internal storage was done on a hard disk drive (HDD). Over the last 10 years, however, there has been a quiet revolution. Enter the SSD, or solid state drive. These days, new computers can come with either type of storage, or sometimes both. What are the differences, and which is best for you?

What is a hard drive?

An HDD or hard disk drive is a fairly old type of technology. It consists of a spinning disc and several heads to read it. It stays inside your computer and holds all of your files and programs. These days, you can get a hard drive in a wide range of sizes, though most consumer models are between 1 and 4 TB or terabytes. That’s a vast amount of room, which will be major overkill for most home users.

What is a solid state drive?

A solid state drive, or SSD is also a type of computer storage. However, an SSD has no moving parts. It’s made up of many interconnected tiny silicon chips, and as such can access the data much faster. While much more expensive for the storage capacity at this point, the SSD has many advantages, especially in the area of speed.

So which is best for you?

Which you need, or indeed whether to have both, is a question we get from a lot of clients. This explanation should remove some of the mystery.

While a traditional HDD must spin up and rotate to access the data stored upon it, an SSD has no such need. The speed is limited more by the type of connection it has to your processor than the time it takes to read your data. Because of its speed, an SSD is a very good drive to have your operating system or other frequently used programs on.

What would Cherry Tree Technology recommend?

Here at Cherry Tree Technology, we recommend an SSD for most clients. Most users never need the extra space granted by a standard HDD or a dual drive system. If you’re a gamer, photographer, engineer, or have a large collection of media, a dual drive system may make sense. If you still have questions, please contact us. We’d be happy to help you ensure your computer storage media is working for you, not against you.

Galaxy S10 Fingerprint Lock Can Unlock with any Finger

The external packaging for a Samsung Galaxy S10. White box with black lettering.
A British woman has discovered that a simple screen protector can defeat the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S10.

Because of the way the Galaxy S10 reads fingerprints, a simple screen protector can be enough to defeat the security. While Samsung touts their scanning method as more secure, it’s actually been thwarted multiple times so far. The first time, it was undone with a $450 3D printer. This time, the exploit seems to be more serious.

This is far from the first time Samsung security has been called into question. In 2017, the Galaxy S8 facial recognition feature was hacked with a photo. The vulnerability, one which had been common to all facial recognition, was solved by other companies more than 5 years earlier.

Though all of the previous exploits were problematic, they needed planning. You can’t 3D print a fingerprint or print a photo of a person unless you know them. This exploit is far simpler and more serious. Almost everyone keeps a screen protector or case on their phone to prevent damage.

If keeping a screen protector on your Galaxy S10 is all that it takes to let anyone unlock it with their finger, no one’s phone will be secure. Samsung needs to address this vulnerability as soon as possible. This sort of issue could well kill enthusiasm for the phone.

We here at Cherry Tree Technology take the security of our client data very seriously. If you have concerns about the security of any of your devices, from your router to your PC, contact us. We’d be happy to help you ensure only you can access your information.

Scam Calls: Fake Virus or Support Calls, and Why They’re Dangerous.

Image of a hooded figure on a black background with lines of computer code floating around them. Scam calls and why they're dangerous.
Scam callers can be dangerous to more just than your bank account.

These days, one seems to get more scam calls than real ones. Car warranty calls, health insurance calls, even fake creditors. It’s so frustrating. This is especially true when strangers call you about your computer. A reputable company will never call you out of the blue to warn you of an issue. Any cold caller who tells you that you need to pay them money, or worse, allow them access to your computer does not have your best interests in mind. It takes vigilance to protect yourself from scam calls.

Viruses and trojans are a concern for any internet connected PC. Most people with malware infections, however, find out by running a local virus scan. Unless you are paying someone to monitor your antivirus, no one will call you to warn you of an infection. If a stranger calls you about it, it’s most likely a scam call.

It’s not just your money at risk.

While most scammers who call to tell you your computer has been hacked are after money, some are even more insidious. Access to your computer can provide a dishonest person with more than the money you pay them. They can see all of your files, install malicious software, or even copy your passwords. A particularly sneaky scammer can do a lot of damage.

Think about the sorts of information you type in to your browser on a regular basis. Banking information. Names. Addresses. At tax time, your Social Security number. Although your computer is usually safe behind your router or firewall, allowing a scammer to access it lets them past all lines of defense.

Your antivirus software, firewall, home network and router all work together to protect you. They’re like the immune system protecting your information from attack. When you allow a stranger into your computer via a screen sharing or remote access program, it’s like stabbing a knife straight through all the layers of protection. It’s much easier to infect the computer from the inside, just like it’s much more likely for a cut to get infected than your skin.

What should you do if a scammer calls you? Contact us! We will be happy to help repair the damage to your computer. We’ll even evaluate your protection and help you be safer in the future. After 15 years in the repair business, we know a thing or two about how to keep you safe.