Category: Tech Tips


Troubleshooting Tips For Your Computer

Troubleshooting: Everyone’s had a bad experience with a computer at some point: either a program crashing, a slowdown, a virus, or even just computer age. Well, while manufacturers would like you to upgrade often, there’s a better way to keep your computer running for a while longer—especially if you don’t want to move to new equipment or if you’re waiting on a certain feature to come to market. We’ve got the tips you need to do some troubleshooting to your computer!

troubleshooting diagram snippet

Troubleshooting Tips

Every computer system has its fair share of problems but there are always ways to fix those or improve how they work—and slowdowns are no different. Here are a few things we think are useful to help you keep your system running the way it should:

  • Reboot!
    • Rebooting is the number 1 biggest fix to a lot of problems you might have. Rebooting resets a lot of systems and frees up your system memory to be completely reallocated. While it might sound trite, your first troubleshooting task should always be to reboot.
  • Keep your machine free of applications you don’t use
    • The problem with applications is that they bog down your hard drive and can make things run slower than they need to—especially if your hard drive is short on space. Keep it simple: delete and uninstall programs you don’t need so your computer has less to look through.
  • Don’t install programs you’re not entirely sure of
    • This is basic virus safety but it applies to other applications, too. Windows apps have historically been feature-rich but this can lead to bloated programs that do 5,000 things when you only need 3 of those features. Install the right programs—and don’t let your PC bloat.
  • Defragment your disks regularly
    • All systems are subject to fragmentation and fragmentation means that your computer is struggling to find all the data it needs to start a program or open a file. You should be running regular defragmentation on your PC to ensure that it can find those files easier.
  • Clean out the insides of your computer
    • Heat and dust are big issues for computers. Besides the obvious issue of cleanliness, dust, debris, and other obstructions can hold moisture and even bugs that can short out a circuit. Even if those aren’t a problem, dust can make your system run extra hot and that heat can cause slowdowns and cause components of your computer to fail. Keep the inside of your computer clean!

Viruses

While we’re sure you’ve heard more than your fair share about viruses, it bears repeating: viruses are dangerous to your security and can cause your system to run slow, incorrectly, or even destructively. Somewhere around 32% of computers have some sort of infection on them. Keep your virus scanners up to date and keep malware and adware protection on your computer. That will help solve most of the problems resulting from viruses.

Troubleshooting First, Replacement Later

Don’t buy into the idea that you need a whole new system if you’re experiencing slowdowns. The above tips can help you avoid replacement, but there’s something else you should consider: if your PC is more than 5 years old, slowdowns are not only common, they’re inevitable. The rate that hardware is improving means that 5 years is the difference between bleeding-edge and dinosaur. This doesn’t mean your PC is useless, just that it might take a little longer to run the new versions of software or to boot up. This is normal and expected, and shouldn’t cut into your workflow too much.

Either way, using these tips, you should be able to milk a little more life out of your computer, regardless of operating system. Troubleshooting can save you a lot of time and money, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.


Blogging Effectively

Blogging is the thing to be doing in online marketing. The trends in marketing are all heading towards online marketing. While hand shaking and grinning at events is always effective (and word of mouth is still king), an online presence is becoming more and more important. While mobile technology is 7 years old, it’s still in its infancy—meaning that now is the time to get in on the game.

blogging effectively depicted at desk

Blogging is the key to getting into this space. Blogs are well-equipped to do three things for your agency:

  1. Promote your ideas and thoughts on the market
  2. Allow others to join in a conversation about those ideas
  3. Encourage sharing of that content and make word-of-mouth easier to get.

It’s not just a hobbyist thing anymore, nor is it just for revolutionary ideas. You’ll never know the reaction you’ll get from your ideas if you don’t put them out there.

Promote Your Ideas Through Blogging

Blogging is for ideas. You have ideas. Big ones. Whether it’s about how the market is flawed (and your great solution to that flaw) or how someone can make the market work for them rather than working the market, you’ve got something to say about the market somehow. Start saying something big, develop those ideas.

Some of the biggest internet successes all started by seeing a great idea and developing those ideas into bigger things. Their sense of entrepreneurship and intelligence moved them from people with ideas into people with products. Elon Musk moved from having a simple web company into helping found SpaceX and Tesla Motor Company. Larry Page started Google on an idea and some knowledge. So can you!

While you might not quite make that level, there’s room in the market for your ideas on real estate. Blog about them, talk about them, get them on paper and into the public. The thing all of these folks have in common is that they made websites that primarily assist others in achieving their goals. Do the same yourself, and see the results grow.

Start Conversations By Blogging

When it comes to the internet, you need to understand that it’s a primarily social medium. Blogs don’t exist just to detail ideas, they’re made to discuss them and make them better. Every big, successful blog has methods of creating conversations around them. WordPress has implemented a system where you can find content on their site and engage using your account. Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr all have their own conventions on how to share and respond to content.

The key here is that no matter the medium, the form exists to talk to others. Comment sections and conversations on Twitter are important. Invent a hashtag, get people talking, ask for responses. People talking about your idea, especially if you can get your name or your hashtag attached to the conversation, means that you’re getting free press and association with your idea.

Encourage Sharing of Your Blogging

Even if people don’t want to be part of your conversation—say, people are already impressed or just want others opinions for their consideration—at least make it easy and simple for people to share those ideas and articles with others. Promote the ideas on Facebook, Twitter, Quora, wherever you have a social media presence.

Remember when we said earlier that word-of-mouth was the best form of advertising? As the world moves more and more to mobile technology and consumption of media, social sharing and commentary is the new word-of-mouth. In fact, search engines like Google are starting to use social shares through sites like Google+ and other social media to help rank sites in their results—a big factor in getting found online.

Make Your Ideas Live

There are many forms of blogging. Twitter, technically, is a micro-blogging app, which amounts to a series of small posts of ideas you could put up during a lunch break or between appointments. If you find your ideas don’t fit, WordPress.com has a longer form that you can flesh out your ideas on. If answering questions is your thing, Quora is the place to go.

The one thing you shouldn’t do, however, is let your ideas live in your head alone. We live in a big, beautiful world with people who could use them—and who could amplify your idea to your next client.


Home Automation Systems, Apple, and Your Listings

We’ve recently discussed the “Internet of Things” and smart homes, but now there’s some big news from Apple that might shake some things up.

Apple's home automation tech "HomeKit"

What Is Home Automation And The “Internet of Things”?

If you need a quick refresher as to what the internet of things are, it’s a series of gadgets that have been given the ability to connect to the internet for your convenience.

This means that your fridge might have a screen where you log your food levels so you know when to go to the store—and how much to buy. Or, your thermostat could detect if you were home and adjust itself accordingly to save you energy. These features are gaining ground and making sure homes are equipped (or at least ready) for these appliances is a big deal.

The News

Apple announced yesterday during their WWDC keynote presentation that they’re working with some of the biggest names in home technology to get most (if not all) devices onto a single standard of communication. This is a welcome change as the current market is filled with apps for each device, making managing a smart home a little complex.

The list of companies on-screen at the keynote are:

  • iDevices
  • iHome
  • Sylvania
  • Texas Instruments
  • Cree
  • Skybell
  • August
  • Honeywell
  • Haier
  • Schlage
  • Philips
  • Kwikset
  • Broadcom
  • NetAtmo
  • Withings

Now, with the addition of these standards, Siri can control the home with certain commands. The keynote itself used the example of telling Siri “I’m going to bed” to initiate the doors locking, lights going out, and other actions.

There will also be an app (most likely) that will allow you to control all of your devices at once—smoke alarms, thermostats, door locks, and others to start.

If you’re a real estate agent of any kind advising your clients or assessing market value of a home, home automation systems are still valuable, but stay tuned to find out which systems will follow these new standards—and to see how Apple’s new developments will help push the smart home into more common acceptance. This could be big news for the real estate market as well as the consumer market.


The Social Media Cheat Sheet

All of the social media outlets are recommended for your business. They’ve become a force that’s not just for sharing your personal life with your friends but for sharing your professional life with your clients.

Facebook on computer screen
This is how our Facebook looks.

Images, too, have become key to interacting on the social web. As our devices have grown more powerful and visually stunning, the use of images has risen too—to the point of being a necessity.

We don’t need to convince you that you need images, we’re sure—the numbers bear that out. Engagement on photo posts is far, far higher than on text posts. The Internet is a visual medium. But how do you use the images in a way that promotes your business and shows that you know your tools?

Part of it is knowing the image size you’ll need. Below we have a list of image sizes (in pixels) that show the optimal size for images to be seen, clicked, and responded to. All dimensions are listed Width X Height. 

The Big List For Social Media Image Sizes

  • Facebook
    • Cover Photo: 851×315
    • Profile Photo: 180×180
    • Link Image: 1200×627
    • Regular Image: 1200×1200
    • Milestone Image: 1200×717
  • Twitter
    • Header Image (new profile): 1500×1500
    • Profile Photo: 400×400
    • Image for Tweets (recommended size): 880×440
  • Google+
    • Profile Photo: 250×250
    • Cover Photo: 2120×1192
    • Shared Photos: 800×600
  • LinkedIn
    • Profile Photo: 200×200
    • Cover Photo: 646×220
  • Instagram
    • Profile Photo: 161×161
    • Image (Desktop Lightbox): 612×612
    • Feed Photo: 510×510
  • Pinterest
    • Profile Photo: 600×600
    • Pins: 600xinfinite (photos can be as long as you like, but width is fixed at 600px)
    • Pinboard Thumbnail: 220×150
  • YouTube
    • Profile Photo: 800×800
    • Channel Art: 2560×1224
    • Video Thumbnail: 1280×720 (720p resolution if using a screenshot from your video)

Using these guidelines can and will help you to promote your business because you’ll quickly improve your social media prowess and make your business look more beautiful and appealing to the average social user.

Feel free to bookmark this guide to the social media recommended image sizes in case you need the numbers again. Happy marketing!


To Update Or Not To Update

When deciding whether to update or not, users often don’t take major factors into consideration—which could end up costing them a lot of time, money, and their personal data in a worst case scenario, all to dodge the inconvenience of learning a new piece of software. Updating is, in fact, essential to good business practice and good system security.

update needed box

It’s not just older folk that tend to get this wrong, either. While the stereotype of grandma not running her updates on her device because the tools she uses “just work” are justified, you’d be surprised at how far down the chain that goes or just how many holdouts are out there. For instance, you might be surprised to know that as of April 2014, 26.29% of computers are still on Windows XP—a computer system that is officially not receiving any more major updates or security patches. Still more are running Windows 7—almost half of all computers in operation—an older system that is, thankfully, still receiving support. But, why update from something that works? Why change the tool?

The Machine Is More Than Its Design

The furor over Windows 8 (and 8.1) are some of the design choices that it’s made. In response to criticism and market pressure from rival Apple, Windows undertook a massive redesign project that was meant to make it more attractive, more useful, and better adapted to work on touch-based devices like smartphones and tablets. And, when used in that environment, it’s a pretty good system. (Even on a standard desktop, it’s not so bad—we here at Hillsborough Title run the equivalent of Windows 8.1 and we’ve not encountered too many problems.) But, the massively changed interface is confusing people and turning them away from these new systems because they don’t like how it looks.

But, if the computer was only how it looked, then there would be more artists and designers and fewer programmers. The computer is a tool, and the paint is only so important. Would you want to be tasked with selling a home that’s beautiful and luxurious on the exterior, fresh paint, beautiful view, the right location, but had no way to put locks on the doors and windows and had damage from previous burglaries? No—and that’s exactly what older systems represent.

The takeaway: a machine is a tool, and a tool is always more than what it looks like. Don’t let your computer be a beautiful but non-functioning device 

Click The Update Button

So, if you’re serious about security and having the best system that you can, click the update button, both for security updates (like Mac OS X’s 10.9.x updates and Windows’ 8.1 and other security packs) and for major operating system upgrades (like going from Windows 7 to Windows 8; OS X 10.8 to 10.9). If you don’t do these upgrades, you might be left with security holes in the system that allow others to get into your machine, find your personal data (including those things that are private and confidential by nature), and possibly use it for illicit purposes.

If the design is holding you back, be sure to understand: by not clicking the button you assume the risk of those security flaws and holes being used against you. Worst case scenario is data loss and theft, but viruses and malware sneak in through those holes and slow down your computer, as well. Don’t let the paint sway your purchase; the paint can change but the strength of the structure is what you should be concerned with.

The takeaway: Updates are almost always worth it, whether you like the design or not—if you’re concerned about security.

When Shouldn’t I Update?

There are a few instances where updating is not practical—usually if you’re in the IT field and you’re managing a network of computers that must work together. Updates change code and your programs might rely on the old code to work properly (or at all). If your business relies on a tool, be sure that tool is also updated to use the new code or else you might find yourself in a bind regarding your business. If your tools all operate offline and do not require any connection to the internet, you should be safe and won’t need an update (for now, anyway—there are viruses that can communicate through sound these days and infect computers not connected to a network).

Be careful about how you use your computer and make sure to apply all the updates necessary to keep your computer running at top shape and as securely as you possibly can. Maintaining good updates is a great way to defeat bugs and problems like Heartbleed—as the big companies running outdated software quickly found out.

The takeaway: You can ignore updates safely only if you know your computer well enough to not update or if you’re completely disconnected from the internet.


Communication With Clients: Learn To Speak Digitally

iPicnic | ©JD Hancock via Flickr | CCBY
iPicnic | ©JD Hancock via Flickr | CCBY

These days, cell phones and revolutions in how we all communicate and interact mean that older methods of communication with leads and clients are not as effective as they used to be. This can be dangerous for those of us who don’t have a strong background in using these devices or who are heavily accustomed to the tried and true methods employed by professionals for many years.

text message quick response

This isn’t just a long-distance telecommunications phenomenon, either. The evolution of communication has bled into standard communication and has changed not only how we send messages to each other but how we speak, as well—and not knowing the differences can make all the difference.

Rule 1: Be Concise

We’ve noticed that people don’t pay attention to others if they’re rambling. The internet is an enormous source of knowledge, but the overload of knowledge works against it: people don’t have the time to read everything. 

NPR recently took advantage of this principle for an April Fools prank, using the photo and metadata of an article to suggest that people don’t read. Many people protested, commenting about how they do read and how it was offensive for NPR to think that way. However, if you click and read the article, it lets the reader in on the joke. The offended people commenting didn’t read the article. And there were many people offended, too.

The same is true for your clients. They don’t have the time to waste on you if you’re not providing solid information, whether that information is a blog post on your website or a listing. Say what needs said and stop.

The takeaway: speak clearly and quickly; don’t waste time.

Rule 2: Be Prompt

The expectations of communication have changed, as well. Not even 20 years ago, answering machines were common because unless we were very well off, instant replies and instant communication were not expected. 

This has changed. The internet and the ubiquitous nature of cell phones mean that your reply is expected extremely promptly—often within minutes. If you’re waiting longer than an hour to reply, even if just to let them know you’re busy, you’re most likely losing business. To the modern professional of any age, time is money and waiting for excessively long periods of time is detrimental to business.

While this might seem like it’s an invasion of your life, consider how many things you get instantly these days and how you expect quick replies from those companies who have your business. You’re no different. 

The takeaway: respond quickly with solid information—even if only to say that you’ve received the message. 

Rule 3: Be Mindful

The differences that the market faces can seem insurmountable, especially when it deals with changing the way that you do business and how those social expectations have shifted with little warning. But, learning to speak “digitally” in what used to be an analog world isn’t too terribly difficult—just keep your clients in mind, how they operate, and how they define the relationship. If you work to define it your way, you’ll get clients who think like you do—and that number is on the decrease.

Don’t just assume that one way of doing business is best because that’s the way it always worked. Remember, 20 years ago print ads and billboards were more effective than this thing called the internet. Now, computer monitors and phones are the billboards. Things change—and so must we if we want to keep getting business. 

The takeaway: pay attention and adapt.