Top Tech Gifts 2018

1. Apple Watch

The New Apple Watch series 4 has the power to check your heartrate, log your stepcount, calories burned, remind you of what’s on your schedule, send email and text notifications, make calls, use walkie talkie radios, and much more with hundreds of apps available.

Apple Watch Series 4 in Space Grey










The Apple watch comes in a variety of colors that can be mixed and matched with bands and is available from $399. For budget buyers the Apple Watch Series 3 is available starting at $279



Apple Watch Series 3 in Space Grey




2.For Dummies books

Everyone has a little learning to do in some area. This holiday season, help a friend get an edge on their productivity by picking up a for dummies book on their technology. ‘For Dummies’ books are written by industry professionals in an easy to understand and consistent format that makes the learning curve of any topic much easier to get through. Titles include Windows 10 for Dummies, Microsoft Office 2019 for Dummies, Quickbooks 2019 for Dummies, Outlook 2019 for dummies and many more. Books usually range between $20-$35 on Amazon

3. Nintendo Switch


Nintendo Switch

Nintendo switch is a portable game console that enables quick and adaptable gameplay. 2 controllers are always available making multiplayer gameplay available anywhere you go. With titles such as Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Skyrim, the Nintendo Switch is a game console that is sure to please gamers of every kind.

4. Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo introduced a whole new category of tech less than 5 years ago and has already become a bestseller in technology and a must have for any smart home enthusists. The Amazon Echo is a speaker which intelligently answers voice commands and questions, plays music and internet radio, and can serve as the universal remote of your smart home, by changing the temperature, controlling smart lights, playing your favorite show on Netflix with an Amazon Fire TV stick and so much more.

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd gen in Heather Grey
The Amazon Echo 2nd Gen in Heather Grey


The Amazon Echo Plus 3rd Gen

The Amazon Echo lineup includes the Amazon Echo Dot, a small speaker that can fit anywhere currently starting at $29.99, The Amazon Echo is the standard speaker currently starting at $69.99, and the Amazon Echo Plus, with higher quality audio and a built-in Zigbee smart home hub  currently starting at $119.99

For budget shoppers, the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd gen is currently available starting at $19.99 .

5. Tile

We’ve all lost our keys on the wrong day. But with Tile, you are in luck. Tile is a small device that pairs to your phone via bluetooth that can clip on to easily lost items. If you leave an item behind, tile can show you the last location that it was close to your phone. If you are closeby, you can have the tile sound-off to make the item easier to find. Tile starts at $25 but you can currently get up to 45% off on multipacks.


6. Surface Go

Surface Go

Microsoft’s Surface Go is an inexpensive productivity tablet that runs every application in the Microsoft store. Paired with the surface pen it is a great gift for students, and professionals, great for reading emails, browsing the internet and using your favorite apps like Spotify, iTunes, Word, and Excel.


7. Password logbook

Forgotten passwords lead to wasted time following a password reset process, and if you forgot your email password, you can easily fall into a black hole of lost passwords. Today we are lucky to have password management software solutions such as Lastpass, Dashlane, Keeper, and 1Password. However, some users are simply more comfortable with traditional pen and paper. Although this is not the safest solution, as anyone who has access the written passwords can have access to your accounts, a password logbook may serve as a helpful mechanism for our forgetful friends. Amazon currently has passowrd logbooks by the Peter Pauper Press for less than $6

Virtual Reality and the Human Experience in Technology

There is a recent movement that has occurred in the video game world which may be attributed to developments such as virtual reality that attune to our need to connect as humans. Chris Milk, an immersive storyteller in his TED talk “How Technology can create the ultimate Empathy Machine” has been studying the cutting edge of technology use and its ability to make humans understand, feel and empathize. He cites film as the first technological medium in this evolution and later explains how VR builds on this medium by creating an environment that simulates full immersion in the story.

He concludes that Virtual Reality is the ultimate empathy machine and he uses it to tell the stories of immigrants and refugees to world policymakers.

Developments such as VR films have brought a change on how this medium and other interactive experiences such as video games can be used to help people in negative circumstances to be better understood. There has been a recent influx games and experiences that are meant to demonstrate these sorts of human situations such as with cancer, dementia, and mental illness, here are some examples.

That Dragon, Cancer is a video game that explores the story of a family and their son diagnosed with terminal cancer. The game goes through how the family went through this experience and presents poetic representations of the situation to players.

Before I Forget by UK based 3-Fold Games explores the perspective of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. In an article by Mark Serrells, author of the CNET article, “The video game that helped me understand my grandma’s dementia” Mark wrote, “I’d forgotten that people with dementia are also, in their own way, grieving.” This deep empathy is typical of these experiences, rather than watching what happens, the problems unfold as the player interacts with the environment creating a more direct connection between the player and the experience of those who suffer with this condition.

“Games are traditionally power fantasies, a medium in which players are the driving impetus. You solve problems, defeat monsters, save the day. Stripping back that power is, in some ways, a revolutionary act.” This divergence from the tradition of games draws into question whether games have a new genre to fill or are these experiences games at all? I named them empathetic simulations, but would there be a better name? The answer remains to be found should games like this continue to be produced and accepted as titles worth playing and seeing for years to come.





Tech Keynotes

Here come the new iPhones at the Apple September event! Samsung announced their new phones in August. All around us is the thrill of new devices.

It’s amazing how such small devices that didn’t exist in our lives 20 years ago now have millions of users. Year after year, a new lineup of devices is announced with day one sales, rivaling attendance of day one showings at the movies. But what makes these little devices so special?

Smartphones, tablets, and computers are infused with innovation and the latest editions are constantly stretching our idea of what is possible. With all of this popular appeal, we sometimes forget that these devices translate into innovative platforms that can also protect our data for business.

End to end encrypting by iMessage inspires encrypted email communication

Innovative features like Face ID and Samsung Iris scanner provide us a quick way to enter a tough password.

AI s like Siri and Google Assistant introduce us to AI protection.

Image result for siri

Smartphones make innovation fun and exciting, but by learning these exciting technologies we learn new ways to protect our environments from cyber attacks and make our processes more efficient.

Top 3 Technology Misnomers and Misunderstandings Explained

We’ve all had a moment when the right word didn’t come to mind. Technology words are no exception. Using the right word can be the difference between your technician scheduling an onsite call for tomorrow, or resolving the issue remotely today. In many cases, you can dramatically expedite the process of diagnosis. Here are the top 10 misnomers and misunderstood terms in technology we would like you to know, to help us help you.


1. Hard Drive and Desktop PC or Tower

Your PC Tower or Desktop PC is the computer. It is made up of components including the casing, the motherboard, the optical drive, power supply, the RAM, and the hard drive. Often this device is miscalled the hard drive which is a single component. It’s an easy way to worry your technician by telling him ‘my hard drive has failed to boot’, versus, ‘my PC failed to boot’. If your hard drive failed, your technician has to look into restoring a good backup, while, if the PC failed to boot there may be a problem with the power supply or a few other components in the system.

A typical Hard Drive




Example of a Desktop PC/ Tower (Dell Optiplex 3050)


2. Storage and Memory

Although there are a few exceptions (i.e. certain windows errors) Memory refers to data in the RAM, Storage refers to data in the hard drive. RAM (or Random Access Memory) is often referred to as memory but you wouldn’t call RAM storage. As a result, Neither should you call data in the hard drive memory because that data is stored until you access it. Here’s an example:


The story of Little Timmy and the Big Idea… the end…



Yesterday Little Timmy scored a goal in soccer, the memory of the sad look on the goalie’s face (bad luck Bruno) is stored in his mind forever. Today though, Little Timmy has an idea that could forever change the world.

Now imagine little Timmy is a computer. Well, RIGHT NOW he has a Big Idea that could change the world. That Big Idea is in Little Timmy’s Memory (RAM) he is not thinking of bad luck Bruno’s face. Bad luck Bruno’s face isn’t gone though, Little Timmy is not thinking of that face now so it is stored (Hard Drive).

So when a PC is out of storage space, there are no more memories it can store. If a PC doesn’t have enough memory, it cannot think of too many things at once i.e. Little Timmy can’t think of 5 big ideas at once but he has thought of 20 in the past.

3. Cloud Storage and Cloud Backups

Cloud storage builds upon what we know about Little Timmy’s story and adds another layer. Little Timmy’s memories of Bruno’s face are transported far away to a server farm in Ireland. He can still recall the memory but it’s somewhere else. Some common cloud storage services are Google Drive, Onedrive, and Dropbox. Here’ where we leave the Little Timmy’s story today. Cloud storage is volatile.

Cloud Storage’s purpose is convenience: your data accessible anywhere so you can edit, download and upload new files to your cloud storage service. Files can also be inadvertently deleted or overwritten with a bad version if we are not paying attention. That’s what cloud backup is for (specifically cloud to cloud backup).

Cloud Backup’s purpose is recovery: cloud backups copy a version of your file and places it elsewhere where it can’t be touched unless you want it back in a file restore. It saves the files at different intervals, hourly daily, weekly, or even yearly, with multiple versions available to you. Here’s an example:

As a result of cloud storage volatility, there are even cloud-to-cloud backup services available for cloud-hosted email and cloud storage through Barracuda Cloud Archiving Service.

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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Creepy or Helpful?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning has become a hot button topic in Technology. Apple brought us Siri, Amazon brought us Alexa, and Google brought us Google Assistant. But AI capability and purpose goes far beyond your common answer to “what’s the weather like?” and “set a reminder when I arrive at home”. AI is ready to help businesses trace food from farm to store,  give a guided tour through New York City, research the cure to cancer, and to secure our networks. However, AI is something many of us fear. Voices throughout the technology community have expressed their warnings of further research on AI. Stephen Hawking said Artificial Intelligence will be the end of man”. Elon Musk stated, “We are rapidly headed towards digital super intelligence that far exceeds any human”. Should we mind these warnings?

Here’s some history.

In 2011, IBM’s Watson won the game of Jeopardy against 2 top human challengers.

Not only did Watson beat top challenger’s in Jeopardy, Watson brought deep questions about our limitations as humans and the capabilities of machines.

In 2017 Facebook created two AI chatbots, which were trained to have certain likes and pretend to express some sort of grief when they lost what they wanted. In an experiment, the AI’s were challenged to speak to one another and negotiate a trade of balls and books. The results of the conversation are seen below (One AI was called Bob, the other Alice):


Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to


What may seem like a useless conversation was actually the two bots communicating in their own language. The creators shut down the bots as they had no use to humans.

So AI is pretty smart right? But can modern AI beat the Turing test? The Turing test was a test developed by computer scientist Alan Turing (known for breaking the enigma encryption algorithm during World War II) used to distinguish whether a computer is artificially intelligent, it requires that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.

Can you distinguish the Google Duplex AI from a human caller?

OK, Maybe this is all a little creepy.

So maybe we cease to use technology altogether until every programmer vows to never create AI again; their creepy computer voices won’t be able to laugh at us in binary as we post silly human memes across their domain. Do we smash every smartphone? Every smart speaker? Every Internet connected device? Do we stop progress? Was Elon Musk right? Those are all questions for a philosophy course. For now, there are many benefits we can gain from utilizing AI.

Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana serve as assistant AI’s to help keep you organized, and keep your technology working for you in very personal ways.  Read more about them in my Tech Talk on smart things and privacy

Barracuda’s Sentinel AI was build to detect phishing scams so we don’t have to figure it out. It learns the patterns to the emails we send and receive and is able to determine whether a message is a spoof message to or from you.

There are many ways phishing scams can come through. And utilizing AI to assist with detecting it is the best way to avoid falling victim to it.

In conclusion, Modern AI is smart, and keeps getting smarter. The best way to stay ahead of the machines is to utilize them to your benefit.






Updates! Prepare the defenses!

The importance of finding new ways to protect your environment from cyber-attacks is more critical everyday. There are many contenders we use to fight our cyber battles for us: antivirus is the most popular place to start, the sword of cyber security; stopping viruses in their tracks. Then there’s firewall, the fortress of your network, keeping your valuable vaults of data safe from the outside world. Then, there’s spam filters and email security, the troop of armed guards that bring your digital messenger’s back to safety. But there’s one form of security that effects the whole system that often falls into the least concern. Updates.

Updates (or patches) are the foundation of all of your security, without proper updates all defense is a waste.  Your antivirus knight may be the best in all the land, but if he is still fighting with steel while your attackers are fighting with lightsabers, that steel is useless. If your firewall fortress was built with wood (which worked just fine while your attackers fought with slingshots) it won’t hold up when the raiders come with torches (not the firewall we had in mind), update to concrete.

Your operating system provides patches that often provide immunity to some of the most dangerous viruses out there. When the Intel Meltdown exploit was discovered, antivirus, and firewall had no solution to provide immunity to a possible attack through that exploit, the immunity came through in a Windows update.

Wait… Windows updates? you mean those things that make reboots take a half hour. Yes, those. As inconvenient as they may be it is critical that you allow the updates to take place and complete for the sake of the security of your network, and it is now easier than ever to assure these updates can take place with minimal disruption with Automated Business Solution’s MaxxM plans. With a MaxxM plan, ABS schedules your patches and patch reboots, so you don’t have to watch your PC wait at ‘35% complete’ for 20 minutes.

If you want to make sure your patches are always up to date on your network sign up for an Automated Busines Solutions MaxxM plan where you can get updates scheduled.



Top Notetaking and Writing Apps 2018

Getting an idea on a piece of paper seems to be straightforward enough; pick up a pen or pencil, just start writing, right? But when we think of think of  sticky notes, we wouldn’t use those to write a 5 paragraph essay, and we certainly wouldn’t use resume paper for quick notes. We have different mediums for different tasks. We have notebooks that are spiral bound, cloth bound, with a marker, without a marker, loose leaf, in a binder, and hundreds of other ways.So if our paper takes different forms for notation and writing, why shouldn’t our apps?

Here are some of the best of the best note-taking and writing apps this year, and what niches they fill.

iA Writer by Information Architects Incorporated

iA Writer is a markdown editor. Markdown is a new file format labeled .md that is designed for getting into the content of the writing first, and making formatting secondary. Markdown uses quick typing shortcuts to integrate formatting into text rather than clicking through menus.

iA Writer has largely replaced Microsoft word for me in my personal use. It costs only $20 for the full product on Windows (which they just released this year). It is my goto application for writing essays, creating lists, focused story and scriptwriting.

The focused mode is seriously helpful if panels and formatting sometimes get in the way of your thought process. Stop wasting time figuring out how you want the table of contents to look, and get your ideas out into the world.

iAwriter Is available on Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and Windows.


Bear by Shiny Frog

Bear is a very similar application to iAwriter. Bear is also a Markdown editor with a focused mode and typewriter mode. Additionally, it supports and highlights over 20 programming languages all within a simple interface.

I consider Bear to build on the concepts of iA Writer with more features meant for notetaking. I use Bear during study, along side reading materials. Bear offers quick ways to outline notes then make their content easy to find with the ability to create links to other notes and to search through them by connecting notes to hashtags.

Bear is available on Mac OSX, and iOS.

Google Keep

Google keep is very different than the last too markdown editors. If iA Writer and Bear were the digital equivalent to paper notebooks, Google Keep is the equivalent to paper sticky notes. Google keep feels like a quick note taking application, reminders and lists easily searchable with titles and hashtags. You ca quickly place photos and audio recordings in your notes as well.

Google Keep integrates with Google drive so your notes are instantly saved across your devices.

When I used Google keep I was a bit disappointed with its integration with other Google services. Reminders do not sync between Google Keep reminders and Google assistant. Other than this, Google keep does serve as a great note taking app for quick and simple note for general day to day tasks.

Available as a WebApp for Chrome, on iOS, and Android


Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote has come a long way over the years. Starting as a poorly formatted confusing spin off of Microsoft Word and becoming the flagship note taking application of the versatile Microsoft Surface. Onenote can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, with the interface designed off a a binder with dividers. OneNote is packaged in the Microsoft office suite and has features such as shared notebooks, Onedrive integration, and the option to sync or not sync documents across devices. If you need a tool that can do it all when it comes to note taking. OneNote is the jack-of-all-trades tool.

Available on Windows, Android, Mac OSX, and iOS.

Before I conclude this Tech Talk, there are a few honorable mentions that come to mind when it comes to note taking, writing, and reminder applications:

Sticky Notes on Windows 10 gets better and better as time goes on, hidden within the Microsoft operating system, the program just works simply and smoothly.

Apple Notes is simple but has been grown to be closely as versatile as Microsoft OneNote. Apple Notes comes preloaded in Every iOS device with native integration with iCloud, keeping your notes safe and secure.

Microsoft ToDo, although not exactly a note taking or writing app does offer note taking capabilities and is an excellent task manager, I use it often and it is remarkably simple and functional.

Evernote has been widely used for a long time and is certainly a flagship however I have found especially recently that people have been looking for new solutions from Evernote. Bear even offers a feature to migrate Evernote notes to Bear. While it was popular Evernote, like OneNote is a highly versatile all-in-one tool and is still in wide use. Evernote is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OSX.

Microsoft Word is the standard when it comes to writing applications and many use it for notes. I think there’s little I can say that is new on Microsoft Word  since this application has been in wide use since the dawn of Microsoft Office.

Notepad, TextEdit, and Notepad++ still have their place in the world as simple Text Editors, but their age shows. Nonetheless, a simple, tried, and true solution sometimes is all someone needs.



Be a smart fish in a phishing online world

Phishing has become the hot topic word in security today. It is where the majority of modern malware comes from. Phishing scams according to the Microsoft Safety and Security Center are, “[E]mail messages, websites, and phone calls are designed to steal money.” What Microsoft fails to mention is sometimes information is what hackers are after since it can be held for ransom. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself against the 3 main methods of phishing.


Email Phishing

Email phishing functions in some of the most deceiving ways. Official logos can be stolen for use of malicious entities, and email addresses can be spoofed. The best way to protect against this kind of vulnerability is by using a spam filter service such as Barracuda Email Security Service.  Sifting through email otherwise is much more risky. Some ways to detect phishing scams is to check that the email address matches the domain of the sender. For example: Emails from Microsoft should be from rather than a domain like Another way to check is by hovering over links to make sure they are going to what they say they are going to. For example: if a link goes to and when you hover over, another url pops up, this is not a legitimate message. There are many other ways  email phishing can come through. You can learn more and take a free phishing test by Dell Sonicwall here:

Website Phishing

Website Phishing is often associated with pop-ups, but it also comes through links. For example, an ad link on Facebook may lead to a page where malware may exist.To avoid falling for this hook check if there is a small ad indicator (usually labeled ad, adsense, or ads). Use the same procedure with website links as you would use in email links. Be wary of articles along the side or at the bottom of even respectable news sites or local news sites. Look out for attention grabbing phrases such as “You won’t believe what..-“ or “Kanye uses this…-” or “In just 2 days..-“ and similar language. These are designed to be click-bait pulling you to malware or ad-ridden holes of the internet.


Phone Phishing

You or someone you know may have received calls that sound like this. “Hi this is Dell tech support, we found there is a virus on your network I need to remote in to remove it”.

These calls often result in the installation of malware and a possible charge for the false service provided by a fraud service provider.

Dell, Microsoft, and other systems manufacturers will not contact you for a malware infection. If your MSP provider were to contact you in regards to an infection you would likely be working with a technician already introduced to you.

In conclusion, it is very possible to avoid phishing scams just by being a smart fish. If it gets hard to determine however never hesitate to ask your IT technician!

Privacy Matters

Privacy. It’s a minimum requested to service providers when on the web. But what does privacy compromise on the internet? There are a few parts to internet privacy you may have heard of before: Cookies, Private browsing (aka incognito in Google Chrome), and VPN connections. But what does this all mean? Does it really protect you? And what is it protecting you from?

Let’s start with what information is collected

Most information collected is used to send ads that are more relevant to you that you will be more likely to click on. This information is extremely valuable and the relevance of these ads and whether they are clicked on has a direct impact on company profits. This of course is unmalicious in nature. The question is what information are they using and whether you want that information collected.

So, let’s talk about the methods used to obtain this information. Some methods are cookies, and fingerprints.


A cookie is a small file that a website downloads to your web browser that collects data about you. Some cookies are necessary, such as an authentication cookie that tracks whether you login or log out of their site. Other cookies are unnecessary such as third-party tracking cookies, which can be issued by a site other than the site you are visiting.


Fingerprints in this case isn’t the appendage that extends from your hand. Fingerprints are a new form of tracking technology used on the web and you may have heard little about them. Rather than installing a data file tracking data, your device is identified by operating system and a unique tracking key. This means that your use can be tracked across browsers or applications.

So how do we take some control on what data is being collected on us?

There are a few options:

1. Enable private browsing:

Private browsing clears cookies, trackers, and searches at the end of every session.

2. Disable Trackers that integrate into your Operating System and browser

Your OS plays a key role in allowing fingerprint trackers to work. If you disable tracking in your OS this can can help preserve your autonomy from fingerprint trackers.

Here are some places you can do that:



Windows Initial Setup


3. Use a VPN

A VPN connection (Virtual Private Network) has two possibilities that you may have heard of. One is to connect to an office’s network remotely, the other way is to connect to VPN’s designed to prevent trackers from finding your location. This also creates inconsistency in their data. A good choice for a free and fast and trusted VPN connection is Opera VPN. One detail about using this method is it can disconnect local network resources while running the VPN connection.


In conclusion, you are a valuable asset to the internet. Although there are many ways to prevent unwanted data from being tracked, tracking is necessary to use any website. It is best to conclude that your value on the internet is best spent on the applications you feel should be benefited by your presence, and making a point that you value your privacy on the internet does effect change on how the internet evolves.