Give the Geek A Break

We were delighted to be featured on the great Freaky Frugalite blog this week, with a post about our service. Take a look below. 

Tech Support for the Tech Support, or, give the geek a break

I had to reformat *another* one of our computers this week. The Windows Updates ALONE took THREE days, a staggering wait, I think. I am the chief tech support person in the house, and now that everyone has his or her own computers, troubleshooting all the electronic gadgets sometimes feel like a full-time job. I just don’t have that kind of time anymore, maintaining the family’s digital lifestyle! I’m starting to think about out-sourcing some of the stuff. I’ve already subscribed to an automated backup service, which lifts a big weight off my shoulders. When my computer got a virus and my blogs were later hacked (twice!), it was a ton of work rebuilding everything.

Not everyone knows how to manage all the in’s and out’s of PCs and other devices. And not everyone has the time anymore to fix it all and still have a life! So if you are one of those folks, here’s a little tip: Get tech support help! Ever hear of Virgin Digital Help? The company is very impressive. They handle everything, and I mean everything – Laptops, routers, smartphones, hardware and software problems. They remove viruses, fix slow computers, set up email, set up Internet games, home networking, fix Windows errors, everything. What you do when you have a problem is give them a call and describe your problem.

Virgin Digital Help will diagnose it, suggest a solution, and fix it remotely. No hauling your stuff to the shop. No mailing your computer to the warehouse.

Prices are outstanding. The “pay per fix” cost starts at $30. I think that’s an exceptional bargain. When your computer has a virus, this is a STEAL, believe me. I would have gladly paid them to remove my computer virus had I known about Virgin Digital Help then. I lost several work days, fixing my computer. $30 is nothing.

Or, if you think you need a partner on standby for help, Virgin Digital Help has support plans at $15 a month. That’s less than a New York pizza. And it’s better than harassing the geek in the home with all the computer problems. ;)

So next time you have a tech need, check them out. I am definitely bookmarking the site!

Tech Fixes You Wouldn’t Necessarily Think Of

We’ve all been there; your tech is damaged or won’t work, you don’t have any fancy specialist equipment in the house and you don’t know what to do. Well, have no fear. There are a number of things you may have lying around that can help you get your tech back into tip top shape. Here’s a few of our favourite repair methods you may not have thought of. 

Hard drive in the freezer

Has your hard drive given up the ghost? Act quickly and you won’t necessarily lose all of your files. Head to the kitchen and grab a couple of – good quality – sealable sandwich bags. Place the hard drive in a sandwich bag, then in another. You really, really want to prevent any moisture getting into the bags. 

Once the hard drive has been in the freezer for around 12 hours, take it out, put it into your computer and as if by magic it will boot. Take off the files you need quickly as the drive will almost inevitable crash again. Repeat the process as necessary. 

The cold compresses parts of the drive that may have spun out of shape, or begun to rub, hence breathing short lived new life into your damaged drive. This is, however, an emergency 

Waterlogged phone in rice

We’ve discussed this fix before on the blog, however it’s one of our favourites, and something we’ve all had to use at some point in our phone-owning lives. 

If you drop your phone in the bath, the sink or the pool – or if you spill your drink all over it – all is not lost. Firstly, do not under any circumstances attempt to turn the phone on. 

Open the phone up and drain the excess fluid immediately, taking out the battery and SIM card. Run to the kitchen and grab a Tupperware and some rice. Fill the Tupperware with rice, throw the phone in, pushing it well into the rice, and leave overnight. The rice will absorb the liquid left in the phone and – hopefully at least – will restore it to its former glory. 

Vaseline on Screen

Got an unsightly scratch on your phone or MP3 player screen? Annoying, isn’t it? Don’t worry, your favourite lip moisturizer is on hand to help. 

Dip a tissue in a small amount of Vaseline and wipe it on the affected area. Once liberally applied, use a clean tissue to buff the screen, ensuring the Vaseline is all gone and you should notice that the scratch is far less visible than when you started. Ok, it won’t repair the screen, but it makes a difference without costing a fortune. 

Vodka on a DVD or CD

If you’re finding that the movie you’re trying to watch is skipping, or won’t play, it may be that the disc is too dirty for the laser in your DVD or Bluray player to read. 

Instead of using a t-shirt to wipe the grime off, potentially making the situation worse, grab a bottle of vodka. Take a swig (only joking) – take a soft, clean towel and drip half a measure of the vodka onto a small area. Use this vodka soaked towel to clean the disc in small circular motions. The alcohol will remove any grease that has found its way onto your disc, and you’ll be free to watch or listen in peace. 

Twitter Tips for avoiding spam

We were delighted to be featured on Leader Post this week, with our article on protecting yourself from spam on Twitter.  Take a look:

Twitter continues to be a breeding ground for cybercriminals. Just this week a wave of twitter spam emerged which infected 500+ Twitter accounts in just hours, a media release from Virgin Group says. These tweets were designed to look like helpful links to check for viruses and spyware. Instead, victims were forced to install spyware that stole their personal data while hijacking their Twitter accounts to push more spam out to their followers.

Virgin Group’s new Virgin Digital Help service offers the following tips:

You account has been hijacked when:

1. Tweets you didn’t post appear on your profile;

2. There’s a drastic change in your number of followers;

3. You get an email from Twitter notifying you of account changes you didn’t make.

If you encounter any of the above:

1. Change your password;

2. Check the “Applications Tab” under your account settings and revoke any unrecognized third-party apps;

3. Delete any unauthorized tweets and scan your computer with a TRUSTED antivirus vendor (www.avgfree.com is a free option)

To defend against such attacks:

1. Don’t click on links in Tweets and DMs from people you don’t normally interact with;

2. If a link in a Tweet or DM is simply too irresistible (“Is this you in this photo?”), discard it;

3. Make sure your security software is up to date.

Virgin Digital Help comes to Pinterest!

                        

We’ve launched on Pinterest!  Those of you with your fingers firmly on the pulse of social media may be aware of a new social network called Pinterest.  This website allows users to take photographs from across the web and ‘pin’ them to boards, much like you would pin messages to a message board offline.  This concept has really taken off, and we decided we wanted to be a part of the fun. 

Therefore, we’re proud to announce Virgin Digital Help’s very own Pinterest account.  Here we will be pinning images on a daily basis that take our fancy, including what tech we cover, helpful hints and tips, as well as things from the wider world of tech that we think are worth sharing. We’ll also be posting each week’s blog to a board, so you can catch up with archived posts on everything from iPhone tips to keeping your computer virus free. 

We’re following all the major players in technology, such as CNet and Mashable in order to be able to bring you the hottest news and tech information. 

Are you on Pinterest? Follow us and we’ll be sure to follow back. If not, let us know via Facebook or Twitter and we’ll send an invite your way!

Cut down on your power use. Save the world, save your cash.

Everything we do these days involves using power. Browsing the internet, taking a shower, cooking – even reading a book has become an electronic pastime. With all this energy consumption going on all over the place, what can you do to not only save energy, but also save a few pennies?

Turn things off

When you no longer need to use your devices, turn them off. Leaving your PC or laptop on sleep or standby costs you money, harms the environment and doesn’t do your machine any good at all. There are longstanding myths that turning your computer off every day damages it, but this hasn’t been true for years. Nor is it true that turning a computer on and off uses more power than leaving it on. 

This is a no brainer, really, but a real fundamental if you want to be more eco friendly around the house and prolong the life of your devices. 

Rechargeable batteries

The initial outlay may be bigger – you need the batteries and the charger – but the benefits outweigh this expense by a million miles. The image of rechargeable batteries in the past has been that they don’t hold charge, they run out of power after 15 minutes and they take an age to charge up again. While this may have been true then, the technology behind them has advanced light years in the intervening time. 

With each battery having a lifespan of 500 charges, rechargeable batteries are perfect for saving money, saving power and slowing the growth of landfills. 

Energy monitors

Without getting up to check – how much power have you used in your home in the past week? Don’t know? Don’t worry, most people won’t. It’s for this reason that energy monitors could be a great addition to most homes. They tell you exactly how much power you’re using in real time, giving you the chance to make visible cuts in wasted power. The Energy Saving Trust estimate that using an energy monitor in your home will cut your power bills by between 5% and 15% in the first year. 

Print on both sides of the paper, reuse scrap paper

If you have a printer at home, there are a huge variety of ways you can save energy and money without compromising on quality or convenience. Always print on both sides of the paper, reuse any scrap paper for documents that aren’t important, buy recycled printer cartridges and – again – always power your printer down when it’s not in use. There are even eco fonts that have tiny holes in them to reduce the amount of ink you use when printing. Follow these tips and do your bit for the environment. Your wallet will thank you. 

Helpful technology

Remember the visions of the future television used to show us? Charming robot butlers attending our every whim, cars that drove – sometimes flew – themselves, mirrors that offered fashion advice? Well, we’re in the future now, and last time we checked cars are still badly parked, robots are working in factories and mirrors remain boringly predictable.  

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome gadgets just waiting to add some futuristic wonderment to your home. We’ve put together a rundown of our current favourites. 

The LG Smart Manager Refrigerator


(Image: The Guardian)

‘What can the LG Smart Manager Refrigerator do?’ we hear you ask. It would be quicker to ask what it can’t do.  This is the closest thing to fridge perfection we have known so far. It scans barcodes in order to help you track what you’re eating, suggest recipes and build shopping lists. It can recommend things to eat based on your age, gender and BMI. You can even shop for food straight from the fridge itself. This is the nearest we have ever come to living in The Jetsons.  With a price tag of around $2,000, it’s not in everyone’s budget, but there’s no denying that as far as fridges go, it’s pretty cool.

Oh, and its inbuilt blast chiller can completely cool a bottle of wine in less than ten minutes. 

The Sleeptracker Pro-Elite Watch


(Image: Craziest Gadgets)

The Sleeptracker is the perfect piece of kit for those who have a hard time waking up.  Worn like any other watch (albeit whilst you’re asleep), the Sleeptracker monitors your movements and pulse to wake you up at the perfect moment in your sleep cycle. The company claims that any alarm clock that wakes you up whilst you’re in deep sleep is just contributing to your feelings of tiredness. The Sleeptracker waits until the optimum moment to wake you up, then strikes. Now we’re just waiting for someone to invent slippers that can make tea. 

The Samsung Navibot SR8845 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

(Image: Expert Reviews)

The Navibot is almost the holy grail of household gadgets; a hoover that does the hoovering itself. With 37 onboard sensors that build a virtual map of your home and a dust/dirt/hair capacity of 600ml, you can program the Navibot to clean either small areas or the whole room, then just sit back and watch it go. 

Sound Asleep Pillow Speakers

(Image: Sound Asleep)

The wonderfully named Sound Asleep pillow is an interesting idea that integrates two of our favourite things: music and sleep. Plug your MP3 player into your Sound Asleep Pillow, and the pillow’s built in speakers will help lull you to a deep and satisfying sleep (which you can then end at the opportune moment with your Sleeptracker Pro Elite watch). Obviously you’re not limited to music, you can also play audio books, hypnosis and the like. The company’s site claims the pillow can help cure insomnia and ease tinnitus, which only adds to how neat an idea this is. 

Tech in 2012

2012 promises to be an exciting time for technology, with many new products in the pipeline to be released this year. Last year we saw an influx of e-readers, tablets and other gadgets designed to make life simple, and this is set to continue this year with new versions of the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle in the offering. 

Technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last ten years, with the iPod paving the way for more and more outlandish designs. Keyboards, mice and video game controllers have become obsolete as gadgets rely solely on touch screen technology. 

Major players in the internet industry, such as Google, will also continue to developtheir collection of new technology, with rumours of a Google tablet in the works to go directly head to head with the iPad. Time will tell if this will be the tablet to finally give the iPad a run for its money. 

We thought we’d give you a rundown of some of the most hyped tech gadgets on their way this year:

 

Amazon Kindle Fire

Amazon’s Kindle is the most famous example of an e-reader, an electronic devices which allows you to store and read books. You have probably seen people using them on public transport - it’s popular with commuters  because of it’s super portable nature. 

The Amazon Kindle Fire seems set to tear up the tablet market, honing its e-reading capabilities to also serve as a low-budget colour tablet.  Aimed squarely at those wanting the functionality of a tablet without the budget for an iPad, it will be interesting to find out how this fares. 


Apple iPad 3

Hot on the heels of the iPad 2, the Apple iPad 3 is one of the most talked about pieces of tech since the iPhone.  Would you believe the first iPad was only launched at the beginning of 2010? Combining video, internet, apps and music it serves as a ‘laptop’ in your hand - simplifying the laptop’s design by making the keyboard and navigation touch screen. 

Many things have been rumoured for this latest incarnation of the classic tablet, including 3D and 4G, but it seems that Apple will keep things typically under wraps until its official release. 

 Apple iPhone 5

The iPhone is well on its way to becoming one of the most popular phones in the world. Taking the brilliance of the iPod touch it adds the ability to phone your friends, and is perfect for keeping connected on the go. There has already been iPhone 3, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 and most recently the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S was released in late 2011 and featured a faster processing time and a much better camera.

The iPhone 5 release is expected to be a much larger redesign, with improvements to both the physical design and the inner workings too.

Many people have reported that Steve Jobs worked on iPhone 5 project before he died, which may be his legacy.

 

Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo have managed to brave several decades of technology advances, seeing off competition from such lauded gaming consoles such as Dreamcast, Sega’s late 90s console hailed as a pioneer in gaming. Designed to win back hardcore fans,  Nintendo’s sixth console, the new Wii U is a touch screen controller where you can play a game even when the television is off, and is like a combination of the Nintendo DS and the Wii. With full HD graphics and a 6.2 inch screen this will be enjoyable viewing. The release date is rumoured to be around the second half of 2012, with pricing is yet to be announced. 

Best gadget gifts for Christmas 2011

Stuck for ideas on what to buy this Christmas? Unsure which gadgets will make the best gifts? There are so many gadgets out there buying a suitable present for a tech fan can seem a little overwhelming. 

To help you on your way, we have looked into the best gadgets out there this Christmas and listed our favourite four below.  We hope that picking something from this list will truly impress your friends and family!

iPad 2

The iPad 2 is a tablet developed by Apple which allows you to search the web, download apps, access email and play music too. 

The iPad 2 is lighter, faster, thinner and better than its predecessor, the iPad. The iPad 2 is 8.8mm thin, has ten hours of battery life, built-in apps, front and back cameras for FaceTime video calls and HD video recording, i0s 5 and iCloud (which stores your content online). There are over 140,000 apps made for the iPad, available on the App store

It costs £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi, £479 for the 32GB model and £559 for the 64GB version. If purchasing an iPad, don’t forget to buy a cover or case to protect the screen. Half the fun is finding the right cover, which will make an excellent stocking filler!

Kindle 


The Kindle Keyboard 3G is a pretty impressive gadget. For £149, it holds the biggest selection of any ebook store in the UK, meaning you are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing one of the 900,000 books, including best sellers and new releases. You can carry up to 3,500 books in one go. The battery life lasts up to two months, even when using  3G wireless. 

There are no contracts and fees so you can download books anytime, anywhere. Amazon is selling more books in Kindle ebook form than in print these days, and the trend is increasing, so now is the perfect time to show a loved one what they are missing!

iPhone 4 


The iPhone 4 is an excellent smartphone, which is easy for anybody in the family to use.

Like the iPad, it is primarily controlled by the user’s fingertips on the multi-touch display, which is sensitive to heat contact. 

The most noticeable difference between the iPhone 4 and its predecessors is the design, which is a stainless steel frame that acts as the device’s antenna. Its 3.5-inch (89 mm) LED backlit LCD with a 960×640 pixel resolution is marketed as the “Retina Display”. 

HD Video recording and editing makes filming fun - perfect for capturing Christmas memories. You can organise apps into folders for fast access to your favourites, check your mail, and so much more. There are hours of fun guaranteed!!

Kinect for Xbox 360

 A hands-free motion control device for the Xbox 360, this device allows players to control games using a combination of body movement and spoken commands without having to hold a controller in their hands. 

In order for this game to work properly, you will need a fair bit of room to move around freely - you don’t want to knock over the Christmas tree!

If you already own an Xbox 360, then all you need to purchase is the Kinect sensor itself which retails around £95 which comes with a bundle of games. If you do not own an Xbox 360, then you will want to pick up a Kinect console bundle, which retails from £129.99. 

There are plenty of games that will keep you active, ranging from dance to football suiting all ages. A good gift for the family, it will keep you entertained over Christmas. 

How-To: Back up your music library

                      

Everyone at some point has experienced that panic associated with making sure your desktop music collection is safe. Even just a few years ago, backing up your music files often entailed a lengthy and laborious process involving an external hard drive.  These last few years however have given rise to a type of storage known as the cloud.  To simplify this, it means that you can upload your music to the internet, making it easily accessible wherever you are.  

 

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