Great iPhone related product I just stumbled upon… Tile

Every once in a while I see a product that is so simple, yet so useful and I think, why didn’t I think of that?

Tile is one of those products. I can’t name the number of items I lose track of on a regular basis. Car keys. Remote Controls. My cordless house phone (yes, I still have home service).


A Tile is a small plastic chip you can attach to just about anything that might get lost or stolen. If you lose or misplace the item with the Tile on it, you can use the Tile app on your iPhone to locate it. The screen will show you bars that get larger as you get closer to the object. There’s also a function to make the Tile beep if you prefer to find it that way.


The range of a Tile is about 50-150ft from your phone. In most cases that’s not going to help you find a stolen item. But according to the Tile site: “If any other Tile user’s phone is within 50 – 150ft of your Tile, you will receive an update with the location of your Tile. When this happens, you will see a pin on the map view for your Tile. This essentially makes the range limitless once there are enough Tile users in your area.”


The Tile app allows you to add 10 items to each account, and you can share access to those items with friends, roommates, coworkers or whoever else you decide you can trust.

Initially the Tile app will only be available for the iPhone, because it uses Bluetooth 4.0 and Android devices haven’t caught up to that standard yet, but Tile is planning an Android platform when they do.

The company is currently raising funds to get Tile manufactured, but they are letting people preoder them until July 23rd at $18.95 for one Tile, with package deals for larger amounts.

How to find out if your Android is vulnerable to the Masterkey exploit

It was recently reported that a 4 year old bug could put 99% of all the Android devices in the world at risk for malware infection due to an exploit called Masterkey. Evidently Google has known about this vulnerability since February of 2013 but decided to put the fix into new software updates rather than offer an individual patch right away.

That means any Android device that hasn’t received a new software rollout since February is potentially left wide open to this malware infection.

Google released a statement yesterday claiming they scan every app for the Masterkey exploit before they allow them into the play store., so Android users have nothing to fear.

If you want to scan your android device just to be sure, you can  go to Google Play and install the Bluebox Security Scanner  application from there. The app will let you know if your device has already been patched.


If you are one of the unlucky users who haven’t been patched, there’s not much you can do but wait until a patch is released other than remain extra careful in regards to new application installations, especially if they come from sources outside the Google Marketplace.


What is Adblock Plus and why you should use it

Adblock plus is a free, open source plugin extension that blocks pop ups and ads that appear on web pages. It works with the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera web browsers.

To show what Adblock plus can do, I searched for “computer repair norwood ma”. The ads in the beige box at the top left  and the ones down the right side are paid ads, not search results, which can make it difficult to tell that my website,, is actually the #1 google search result for those keywords.

This shows the results of a search for “computer repair norwood ma” without Adblock installed.

Watch what happens after I install Adblock. It’s very clear with the ads gone which sites are actual search results instead of paid ads.
Here are the same search results with Adblock installed.

I highly recommend using Adblock plus if you visit sites that are cluttered with ads or open a pop up every time you refresh. The installation is quick and setup is easy. There are advanced options but most people don’t have to configure a single setting and your ads will be blocked in no time!

Simply click the install link on the Adblock plus page.


Next you click the ADD button to allow the installation.

pcoverhaul-adblock-installpage2That’s all there is to it, Adblock Plus has been installed and should be blocking ads and popups.



I have antivirus software… So how did I get infected?

I get this question all the time. “I have anti-virus software, so how did I get infected with a virus”?

Each anti-virus company has its own list of malware, which they call their “definitions”. Every company releases updated definitions regularly, usually once a day but sometimes several times a day.

Each company also has its own rules for identifying a virus that isn’t in the definitions list. If a file acts a certain way or loads itself into a certain folder, for example, your anti-virus may alert you that the file could be a virus. It also sends a message to your anti-virus company with the details about the potential new virus (the name, location and behavior). Since many of these alerts are false positives, each company has to investigate every new report before they can update the definitions.

A simple way to envision this is to imagine that every virus out there looks like a square, so your antivirus software checks every file you open or download that looks like a square. If a new virus is released that looks like a circle, it may slip through. Once the antivirus software starts looking for squares and circles, the next wave of viruses may look like a triangle, and so on. New viruses tend to stay a step or two ahead of the antivirus software.

There is usually a 24 to 72 hour window of vulnerability when a new type of threat is released. During this time, your anti-virus company must learn of the threat, perform an investigation, and then release definition updates to detect the threat.

So what can you do to help protect yourself?

There are both paid and free versions of antivirus out there, and it’s up to you which you choose to use, but make sure you do have some type of antivirus software.

Keep your antivirus updated. Most companies try to update in the hours when your computer may be turned off, so make sure you haven’t missed updates.

Check that the automatic scans are running on the schedule you have set them to run, whether it’s daily or weekly or a certain day a week.

Scan manually once in a while. Especially if you are visiting sites that would be considered higher risk-  adult (xxx) sites, gambling sites, and sites where you can get pirated versions of software, movies or music  are more likely to infect you than mainstream sites.

It is also important to always double check before clicking on an unknown link whether it’s on a website, private message, social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or in your email. If you are unsure whether a link is safe, copy the link and paste it into the search box at the free online link scanner.

If you do find yourself infected, I offer virus removal service at a flat rate.

Cloudsweeper – Find out how much your gmail account is worth to a hacker

Take a second to think about all the data that resides in your email accounts.  Most of us don’t realize how valuable the data in those emails could be to a hacker. Emails that contain password reset links, for example, are like cash to a hacker.

Cloudsweeper is a tool created by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago that scans your gmail account for information that a hacker might find valuable and puts a dollar amount on it.  The researchers are studying how people use and reuse passwords.

To use Cloudsweeper, click on the Account theft audit link.


Just click the Scan Gmail Account button to continue.


If you’re not logged into your gmail account, you will be prompted to do so at the next screen. Keep in mind you ARE giving these researchers a chance to scan your emails. if you’re uncomfortable with that, you shouldn’t use this tool.


Now Cloudsweeper will scan your account and let you know which accounts a hacker could gain access to using the information in this gmail account and how much they could potentially be sold for.


 I have multiple gmail accounts, which I use for different purposes. Here are the results for my personal account.


The gmail account I use for business was worth a bit more.


In both cases my information alone was worth $15.

Cloudsweeper also gives you the option to either wipe those passwords away permanently or encrypt them so only you will be able to access them, even if someone gets into your account later.


Cloudsweeper will scan the email again, this time just for passwords.


Depending on the amount of mail you have the scan can take a few minutes. The results show every email account that’s associated with some kind of potential password. Here were my results.


You can redact the emails, which erases them completely, or encrypt them. I chose to encrypt mine. because I may need access to them again in the future.

pcoverhaul-couldsweeper-password-cleaningI had a very large number of passwords to encrypt, so it took over an hour. When it was done, it reminded me to back up or print my text key and/or QR code, because without these I will not have access to those passwords in my email in the future.

pcoverhaul-couldsweeper-password-doneI took the extra step of removing the access permissions in my gmail account so cloudsweeper would not be able to read my email again. If you would like to do the same thing, or just want to know which applications have access to your gmail, see my post on revoking permissions in gmail accounts.


Which apps have access to your gmail?

I use multiple gmail accounts every day, some for personal use and others for business. In the course of trying to sync address book or importing contacts to services like Plaxo and Linkedin, I have allowed multiple companies to access my gmail data. And then I forgot about it. All this time those sites have still had that access!

Today I was trying a mail scanning tool called Cloudsweeper that checks your gmail account for sensitive information and tells you how much it would be worth to a hacker. When I was done, I realized I really didn’t want the app to have permanent access to my gmail account. So I decided to see what other apps have had access to my gmail all these years.

To find out which apps can access your gmail, log into your gmail account and click on your gmail user icon in the top right of the screen, then choose Account.

pcoverhaul-gmail-accountThis screen shows lots of options, but the one we want to click on is Security.

pcoverhaul-gmail-settingsAt the bottom of the screen,  under the heading Connected Applications and Sites, Click on the link for Review permissions.


Now you are shown a list of all the applications you have ever given permission to access your gmail account. In my case, Cloudsweeper is in the middle of the page. Just click revoke access and you are done!


Windows XP Support ending in 2014 – What it means for you

A large number of my customers are still running Windows XP on their computers. Many of them have an older computer that came with Windows XP, and some  do not want to learn a new operating system. Others are running software  that is not compatible with newer versions of Windows. Whatever the reason is, XP users seem to love it and do not want to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.


Microsoft has announced that support for Windows Xp will end on April 8, 2014. What exactly does that mean?

You have probably noticed the balloon in the system tray near the clock from time to time telling you new updates are ready. These are the free updates Microsoft has been creating to patch security holes, and you won’t be getting them for Windows XP after April 8, 2013.

updates xp


You can keep using Windows XP just like you did before, and download all the old updates, but make sure you have an antivirus product, update it frequently and check to be sure it’s running scans regularly. New security holes are discovered all the time and without new patches from Microsoft your system is going to be vulnerable to them.


In addition to stopping security updates, Microsoft technical support will no longer help you with your XP problems. Microsoft doesn’t want to teach new techs older operating systems, so you will have to call a local computer repair shop like mine if you need help with Windows XP.

Windows XP will become more and more unsecure over time as new vulnerabilities are found. Hardware manufacturers will stop making drivers and software for XP as well, so replacing a damaged printer for example, will be impossible.. Third party software vendors will also stop making software and games that will run on XP at some point.

If you have software that will only work on Windows XP, you can still upgrade Windows and use those programs in Windows XP compatibility mode. This feature is included in the Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows 7, and creates a virtual Windows XP installation in the new operating system. You can run all your old programs and play all your old games, while gaining the security features of Windows 7. It’s like having a computer inside a computer, right on your desktop.


Most long-time users of Windows XP that switch to Windows 7 are very happy and find the transition to be easier than they thought.

Microsoft is hoping that Windows Xp will account for 10% or less of its market share by the time it ends support.

If you need help upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8, please contact me and I will do all the heavy lifting for you.