Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Microsoft has recently announced the soon-to-be-released Windows 11 operating system, and undoubtedly, history will repeat itself.

Over the past several years I’ve seen countless, old, PCs that were upgraded to a new and improved Windows OS. Unfortunately, many, if not most, of those PCs were unable to handle the upgrades. Understand this: your laptop or desktop was manufactured and sold with the hardware requirements necessary to run the installed operating system. Your old PC may have the necessary specs to run Windows 7, Vista, Windows 8, or Windows 10.

Explanation of terms: Memory, commonly referred to as RAM, is what makes your system work at a certain speed. The more memory installed, the easier it is for your system to run multiple programs in addition to the Windows operating system. RAM is also a significant cost factor for computers. The higher the installed memory goes, so goes the price of the computer.

Storage Space. Over the years I’ve found that many people confuse memory with storage space, The size of your hard drive denotes the amount of data you can store. Many older machines were sold with 250 GB of storage space. Now, it isn’t uncommon to buy PCs with anywhere from 500 GB up to 2 TB. As a point of reference, 1 TB gives you the option of storing roughly: 250,000 photos, 250 movies or 500 hours of HD video. Storage space can also increase your cost, but not to the extent of RAM, and experience shows that most people will never come close to 500 GB of data on their system.

For previous operating systems, Microsoft has recommended a minimum of 2 GB of memory (RAM), in order to run Windows. Many of those older machines were sold with 4 GB of memory, and cannot accept additional RAM. That leaves the consumer with a paltry 2 GB of memory to run their individual programs and web browsers. The result being a slow, plodding computer. And now, for the first time, Microsoft has upped it’s requirements for Windows 11. The new upgrade reportedly need a minimum of 4 GB of RAM. Again, understand that Microsoft only designates RAM amount as the minimum required for their version of Windows. The aren’t at all concerned with your individual programs or speed of use.

Windows 11 is due to roll out as a free upgrade at the end of 2021 and through 2022. (Remember that free isn’t always good!)

I’ve included a link to a small Microsoft program which will tell you if the upgrade will work on your current PC. But keep in mind, the program only cares about their minimum requirements. Use the below link, download, install and run.

Click here for Program~~~~>  PC Health Check app

If you’re not comfortable with the program or have questions, please call me.

Otherwise, history will again repeat itself.

Help Me Out Here

I came across an article this morning in the Key West Citizen newspaper. The article is headlined “Private Florida School Won’t Employ Vaccinated Teachers”. Now bear with me whilst I stray way off the reservation here.

First, some background on the story, which over the course of a week or so, has been carried by many national news services: The school in question is the Centner Academy in Miami, FL. Centner Academy is a private school for K-8, and was founded by Leila Centner and her husband David. Ms. Centner has been a vocal opponent of vaccinations as evident by her frequent posts on Instagram. On April 7th, 2021, Centner Academy sponsored a Zoom call featuring Dr. Larry Pavelsky, a holistic pediatrician from New York. During this Zoom call, Dr. Pavelsky denounced child vaccinations, of any form, and afterwards, Centner Academy sent out a letter to parents stating that the school would not allow already vaccinated teachers to have contact with children, and that they would not consider employment for vaccinated teacher applicants. Aside from the obvious anti-vaxxer stance, Ms. Centner holds the belief that a vaccinated woman, standing in close proximity to an unvaccinated woman, can cause reproductive and menstrual cycle issues for the unvaccinated woman. Needless to say, this announcement created the expected uproar and confusion amongst the parents and general public, with many supporting the schools’ stance.

Now, as a private school, Centner Academy certainly can make such hiring distinctions, right? Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Genetic Information. Covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Seems Centner may have a problem here, but that won’t be decided here, nor is it the purpose of this rant.

Mrs. Lawrence (and many others) have oft remarked about the bizarre directions my mind sometimes goes in, so here it is:

Do Anti-Vaxxers Use Anti-Virus Software on Their Computers?

  • Can unprotected computers become protected by being in close proximity to each other?
  • Does anti-virus software cause autism?
  • Can a computer be autistic?
  • Is an unprotected computer more likely to live a longer, happier life than a protected one?
  • Can children be aversely affected by using a protected computer?
  • Should women wear masks when working on a computer loaded with anti-virus programs?

I wanted to pose these questions to Centner on their Face Book page, but since the story went viral, they apparently deleted their page. But I need answers, so feel free to hammer me!

What’s This Ransomware I Keep Hearing About?

Ransomware is an ever- evolving type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files until a ransom is paid. The malware is primarily inserted through fraudulent links/websites distributed through emails, pop-ups and/or message boards. Once embedded in your system, the malware begins a rapid encryption of both system and personal files. You’ll then see something similar to the above photo, and then a message with instructions to pay a “ransom” for a decryption key. (Security experts state that most ransomware attacks originate in Russia and Eastern Europe.)

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard of some high profile ransomware attacks. Over the past several years, these attacks have targeted government and city offices, hospitals, schools, police departments, and professional services such as attorneys and accountants. Needless to say, all of those situations provide immense access to critical, personal data.

But Don’t These People Run Anti-Virus Software?

Of course they do. But please note the “ever-evolving” aspect of the ransomware. Anti-virus software is traditionally reactive. It struggles to guess what the next evolved attack will look like, therefore, it reacts to these attacks after they’re discovered. Which means, if you’re one of the entities already attacked, you’re essentially a test case and out of luck. Hopefully you have an off-site dat back up in place.

So What Happens If I Get Hit With A Ransomware Attack?

If your system/files have been totally encrypted, you essentially have two choices: wipe the system, scan for malware, and re-install your backup, or, take your chances and pay the ransom. (It should be noted that after several back-and-forths, the FBI suggests never paying the ransom.) That being said, to date, no one, including the best cyber crime minds in the world, has ever defeated a full ransomware encryption.

Recent, high profile victims of large scale ransom attacks include:

  • City of Atlanta
  • FedEx
  • Nissan
  • Colorado Dept. of Transportation
  • Port of San Diego
  • Epiq Global (legal services company)
  • Merck Pharmaceuticals
  • City of Riviera Beach, FL
  • Multiple police and sheriff departments (5 in Maine, Collinsville, AL)
  • Huntsville, AL School District (note that the FBI Cyber-Crime Unit is stationed in Huntsville, AL)

So What Kind of Ransoms Are We Talking About?

They vary. Current demands range from $200 (individuals like you and me) to millions of dollars for corporate, governmental, and professional groups. These ransoms are often demanded in the form of cyrptocurrencies, money orders, or gift cards, with instructions on transactions included.

So I’ll Follow The FBI Advice And Not Pay, Now What?

As previously stated, you’ll need to wipe your system, scan for malware, and reinstall your backup data. Easier said than done. Let’s suppose you’re a city government hit with a ransomware attack. You’d have multiple off-site systems and millions of data files. School districts? Hospitals? Court systems? Even with off-site data backups, which incidentally many recent large scale ransomware attack victims did not have, the costs are astronomical.

SOPHOS, an international security software and hardware company, estimates the average U.S. cost to rectify a ransomware attack at $852,866.00. (They also claim to have the ability to prevent such attacks. (See above re: Anti-virus software.)

These costs include entities that paid paid the ransom, and those who spent a considerable about of time and resources to re-do their systems.

Most corporations and governmental agencies have insurance for these attacks. However, if your local municipality, or school district gets hit with an attack, keep in mind that your taxes go towards those ever increasing insurance costs.

As Joe Average Citizen, Why Not Just Pay?

Can you really trust a criminal? Who’s to say that the decryption key will work? Or if it does unlock your files, can you be certain that you won’t be targeted as an easy mark for future attacks? Keep in mind that these criminals basically have no interest in your pictures of pets and grandchildren. They’re after your money and rely on your value of those pictures. Bottom line: back up your personal data (documents, photos, music, downloads) on an external source!

Thanks A Lot, Now I’M Afraid To Use My Computer!

You’ve probably heard my previous rants about clicking on random links and falling for fake pop-up messages in your browser.

Here’s a quick tutorial on website links:

Most suspect weblinks will have a bogus domain name, or a path that appears as gibberish (hj4;j4`;j4r9rjjlkl). If you don’t recognize either as a site you wish to visit, DON’T CLICK IT.

And once again, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, etc., will never send you a pop-up message asking you to call them!

If you have questions, concerns, need assistance with malware, or help with backing up data, you can call me at 843.314.0596 or email me at jlawcompsvcs@gmail.com.

No, Your Rights Are Not Being Violated

Upset that Trump and some of his most ardent supporters have been kicked off social media sites? Disturbed about social media giants and corporate entities banning certain sites from their platforms? Do you think that the First Amendment is being violated and that “freedom of speech” is under attack? You’re not alone, but do you have a valid argument?

The First Amendment states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But what does that mean? What does it do? Freedom of religion allows people to believe and practice whatever religion they want. Freedom of speech and press allows people to voice their opinions publicly and to publish them without the government stopping them. Freedom of assembly allows people to gather in groups as long as they are peaceful. And the right to petition the government makes it possible for people to lobby the government, point out where it does not follow its own laws, and to sue if a wrong has occurred. “Without the government stopping them.”

Also, there are limits to the freedoms in the First Amendment as people’s individual rights must be balanced against the rights of society.

For example, a person cannot force the tenets of his or her religion on others while trying to practice that religion. Similarly, harmful speech, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded room, is not protected speech, nor is publishing a lie that causes harm to someone.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. are private businesses, and as such, are free to police their platforms as they see fit. They do so under guidelines provided for in their Terms of Services (TOS), which whether you paid attention or not, everyone agrees to upon joining those sites.

Case in point: several years ago my personal Facebook account was temporarily suspended on three different occasions. All three occurred after rather heated debates with members of various “Flat Earth” Facebook groups. Accordingly, I understood that I had violated Facebook‘s TOS and had deserved those account suspensions.

As private social media sites began to remove harmful posts, posts that incited violence, blatantly false posts, and general violations of their TOS, by users counted upon by millions of people for information, several high profile far right activists decided to branch out on their own. And Parler was formed.

For those of you unfamiliar with Parler, it was founded in 2018 upon the premise that all speech would be accepted, and no censorship would occur. In 2020, its’ membership swelled to over 1.5 million users following a mass exodus from mainstream social media, and it became the playground of white supremacists, anti-semites, misogynists, and various other far right, radical groups. Over the past several months, posts on that site included specific threats of violence and death, plans for insurrection, and bizarre conspiracy theories. (See multiple screenshots from Parler below.) Accordingly, Apple and Google, both private companies, opted to remove the Parler apps from their platforms, and several days later, Amazon, another private company, removed the site from their supporting platform.

Violations of the First Amendment? No.

Violations of their free speech? No. Disagree? Here’s a little exercise for you: Remove your shirt and shoes and walk into your local grocery store, restaurant, or any other place of business. When you are unceremoniously escorted from that private establishment, apply that thought process to all private companies.

Caution: Various screenshots from the Parler site include racist and misogynist comments, threats of violence and death, and bizarre predictions.

Welcome!

My name is Jim Lawrence and I’m the former owner/operator of Computer & Software Solutions, Pawleys Island, SC.

Prior to selling that business in 2015, we were accredited and carried an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, we were named “Best of the Year” in computer services in the area.

Now, after more than a four year hiatus, I’ve decided to get back in the game!

As in the past, I intend to offer affordable and personalized services, including but not limited to:

  • Computer repair
  • Data recovery
  • Virus removal
  • Consultation on hardware/software upgrades
  • Personalized instruction
  • Available to speak to civic/social organizations at no cost
  • And as always, no charge if your problem isn’t resolved

My background includes 26 years in Law Enforcement and I’m a military veteran. My training and experience involved Computer Crimes and I hold multiple certifications in cyber security related fields.

I hope to serve you all again, and to keep you informed, and at times entertained through this site and social media.

Looking forward to seeing old friends again.