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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in computer lessons

Everything You Wanted to Know About Hard Disk Drives

What does a hard drive do?
Information storage is the hard drive’s main responsibility. Think the electronic version of the old office filing cabinet. Everything you keep on your computer is on a hard drive. Not just documents, emails, contacts, favorites pictures, music and videos. Your programs, your preferences, your printers, your settings, even your operating system—they’re all stored on your computer’s hard drive.

If your hard drive is damaged or fails, you can lose it all. This is the sad truth and unfortunately we still see this 10+ times per week. Which is why most smart people have a backup system. They get another hard drive and copy all their important files onto that.

 

How big of a hard drive do you need?
Everything that can be saved on a hard drive is measured in terms of its size. Text is very small, pictures are larger, music is even bigger, and video is the biggest of them all.

A hard drive is like a scale. It doesn’t know the difference between things that are on it; it only knows their size. But instead of kilograms, a hard drive measures things in terms of megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB.)

Roughly speaking, a megabyte is 1 million bytes, a gigabyte is 1 billion bytes, and a terabyte is 1 trillion bytes.

What does this mean for you?

If you need to transfer files between computers or a drive to back up just some of your files, you can get by with a smaller drive (such as a 500GB External Hard Drive).

If you want to back up your entire computer, or even several computers, or if you store a lot of video and audio files, you’ll want a larger drive (such as a 1TB or larger Network Attached Storeage System - NAS for short).

 

Will your drive work with a PC or a Mac?
Most Hard Drives PC Pitstop sell works with either a PC or a Mac. Some drives are already formatted to work with one or the other. But any drive can be reformatted to work with either type of computer.

IMPORTANT: If you reformat a drive, every single file on that drive is erased. So make sure you copy your files somewhere safe before you reformat.

It’s more difficult to use the same drive on both a PC and a Mac. The short answer is, they’re not really compatible. The more detailed answer is that, in a few specific circumstances, you can do a few specific things. 

What are the different types of hard drive connections?
There are four basic ways to connect your hard drive to your computer:

USB
This is the most common connection type. There’s no set-up at all. Just plug it in. The computer recognises the drive, and you’re able to read and save files almost instantly.

FireWire
Plug-and-play like USB, Firewire 800 is significantly faster, making it popular with those transferring video files.

SATA
This is the standard connection for internal hard drives. Offers the highest file transfer speeds of any format.

eSATA
A less common, high-performance connection most commonly found in PCs. An eSATA connection performs at speeds that most closely resemble an internal drive.

 

How important is hard drive speed?
When you start your computer, open a file, listen to a song, or do just about anything else, you use your hard drive. The discs inside the drive spin. The faster they spin, the more quickly your computer can find the file you want.

So a drive rated at 7,200 rpm will be faster than one rated at 5,400 rpm. What that means for your day-to-day use will vary. With external drives, you’ll hardly notice a difference. With internal drives, the difference will be slight with smaller files and applications, but will be obvious with larger files and applications - and all of this adds up.

Should you choose internal or external?
An internal drive provides built-in storage at top speeds. An external drive gives you greater flexibility and expanded storage whenever you need it.

Each choice has its benefits and drawbacks.

Internal drives have to be physically installed and configured by a PC Pitstop Trained Technician opening up your computer. But your files and programs are stored directly on your computer; they’re always there whenever you need them.

External drives are connected to your computer via plug-in cables. This lets you take files with you, transfer them to other computers, or instantly add storage to your computer or network without too many technical hurdles.

 

How much can I store?

Here are some averages to give an idea of what you can store on which size drive.

  Digital Music (MP3) Digital Photo's (JPG) Digital Video's (MP4)
500Gb 25,000 Songs 160,000 Photo's 500 Hours
1000Gb (1Tb) 50,000 Songs 320,000 Photo's 1000 Hours
2000Gb (2Tb) 100,000 Songs 640,000 Photo's 2000 Hours

 

 

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Posted by on in Repairs

 

Why do computers slow down?

A question that we get asked all the time here at PC Pitstop is why computers get slower over time. This can start to happen within a year after you get a new PC, but usually it happens in just a few short months.

Since we all use our computers for a whole range of different tasks and activities, there isn’t one single reason that pinpoints why this happens.

The thing is, when you first get a new computer and boot it up it works lightning fast. That’s because it doesn’t have anything on it except the bare bones operating system. 

Regardless of whether you have a PC or Mac, over time as you download files, install software, add printers and surf the Internet etc, your computer gets bloated with files that hog system resources.

In addition, there are many other things that contribute to a slowdown. Here is the most common issues we find:

1. Hard Drive Corruption

The hard drive is the electronic equivalent of the old office filing cabinet. It's really is an amazing piece of technology that has helped propelled our world forward into the information age. A typical computer can hold anywhere from 150,000 - 300,000 high quality photographs or over a million documents or books.

All of this information is tightly packed ingeniously onto a disk and into a tiny enclosure, which looks suprisingly similar to that of the old record player. The information is stored in magnetic form on top of the disk and this is where the complexity starts to become its own undoing.

The problem is, corruption can occur from power surges (power spikes), brown outs (power dips), static electricity (from carpet, clothes and other fabrics), solar flares, cosmic radiation, vibration, bumps, knocks, computer viruses, software errors and even the layer on the magnetic disk changing over time.

 

2. RAM

Not having enough RAM is like not having a big enough table to work on. You can only have so many items on the table before it get clutted and full. The computer does its best to keep going without crashing - moving things around - but to do so - it slows down even further. Solution - the more RAM the better! RAM is cheap these days and the more you got - the more the computer will be able to use as a super fast temporary storage place.

 3. Spyware, Viruses and Unnecessary Software

These programs all need attention - they run in the background and all want to steal a little bit of time from the CPU/Processor (Think information pump).
This all stacks on top of each other and adds up very quickly. Typically we remove 500+ pieces of spyware and virus related programs on EVERY computer we service (our record is over 20,000!). PC Pitstop have an award winning and unique 5 stage process that removes all spyware, viruses and nasties that even the best AntiVirus protection leaves behind.

4. System and Software Updates

If you are updating your software regularly, this will take up space and more system resources - contributing to the slow down even further. Interestingly enough, if you were to wipe the computer in year 3 and put all the original software back on - it would be as fast as the day you brought it. However this is not exactly secure or feasible way to run your computer. Updates are mostly security and bug fixes that go a long way to protect your computer.

 

5. Mechanical Hard Drives Slow Down With Age

If you have a standard hard drive (not SSD) your hard drive will slow down and fail over time. Being mechanical - this is the nature of their design and cannot be avoided without upgrading to a Solid State Hard Drive (SSD). Solid state hard drives are reasonably new and more expensive than their mechanical counterparts but wow - they work really really fast. I MEAN REALLY REALLY REALLY FAST. For the single most impressive upgrade you can do for your computer - get a SSD Hard Drive. You will love the difference and never look back.

Now I have painted a picture of why computers slow down - how do you fix a slow computer?

Easy - just like your car goes in for a 10,000Km service - your computer also needs regular tuning up as well. For power users and businesses - minimum every 6 months and for the rest of us - every 12 months. This is what the big department stores will not and do not want to tell you. It is in their best interest for you to get annoyed with your computer to the point of frustration within 18 months - that you go out and buy another one.

 

A tuneup finds and fixes problems, spots bigger problems (before they occur and cost you more time and money), removes virus and spyware infections, scans and repairs your hard disk, installs necessary security updates and is also a perfect time for you to engage a PC Pitstop Trained Technician to ask any questions that have been niggeling at you or to fix other issues that you have been putting off.

Your computer is an investment - and for most of us - a very important tool we use every day. It pays to be proactive with your investments - instead of waiting for the day when everything grinds to a halt and you have lost some or all of your important data. Unfortunately we still see this every day.

SO - drop in and book in for your routine computer tuneup at PC Pitstop - 10 Bellbowrie Street Port Macquarie - 02 65 841551.

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Windows update pc pitstop port macquarie

Courtesy of Microsoft Corp

Every Windows product has a lifecycle. The lifecycle begins when a product is released and ends when it's no longer supported. Knowing key dates in this lifecycle helps you make informed decisions about when to upgrade or make other changes to your software.

End of Support

End of Support refers to the date when microsoft no longer provides automatic fixes, updates or online technical assistance. This is the time to make sure you have the latest available updates or service pack installed. Without micorosoft support, you no longer receive security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal your personal information. 

Windows XP

Latest update or service pack: Service Pack 3

End of mainstream support: April 14, 2009

End of extended support: April 8, 2014

 

Windows Vista

Latest update or service pack: Service Pack 2

End of mainstream support: April 10, 2012

End of extended support: April 11, 2017

 

Windows 7

Latest update or service pack: Service Pack 1

End of mainstream support: January 13, 2015

End of extended support: January 14, 2020

 

Windows 8

Latest update or service pack: Windows 8.1

End of mainstream support: January 9, 2018

End of extended support: January 19, 2023

 

Windows 10

Latest update or service pack: N/A

End of mainstream support: October 13, 2020

End of extended support: October 14, 2025

 

Support for windows 7 RTM without service packs ended on April 9, 2013. Be sure to install Windows 7 Service Pack 1 today to continue to receive support and updates

All updates are cumulative, with each update build upon all of the updates that preceded it. A device needs to insall the latest update to remain supported. Updates may include new features, fixes (security and/or non-security), or a combination of both. Not all features in an update will work on all devices.

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pc pitstop port macquarie bellbowrie streetpc pitstop port macquarie bellbowrie street 2

PC Pitstop has outgrown another location! So we packed up everything and moved just 400 Meters around the corner from our old store to our brand new location at 2/10 Bellbowrie Street Port Macquarie.

We needed more room - twice as much in fact and our lovely customers needed more room to park - the solution - this brand new state of the art facility with easy street and pitstop parking. 

The team loves the new location - bigger check-in bench, workshop space for 24 devices to be reapired at once, conference and training facilities, boadroom, dedicated staff relaxation room, kitcken, fully ducted air conditioning and state of the art alarm and video survelance facilities.

The upgrades will see PC Pitstop porpelled into the next 10 years of service. We not only invested in the businesses future growth - but that of the communities. We love doing business in Port Macquarie and our team love having a comfortable place to work! Thank you for all of your support in the past and we look forward to seeing you in the new store soon! Come say hi!!

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Why We Think Norton Internet Security is the Best Virus Protection for Everyday Users

We use and recommend the latest version of Norton Internet Security on a regular basis and it's the only virus protection software we sell instore.

Why?

If you're looking for a traditional security suite, with essential features like antivirus, firewall, antispam, parental control, and phishing protection, it's a great choice, and it's one of PC Mags Editors' Choice suites.

But wait, why should you pay for a security suite when modern Windows versions already include an antivirus and a firewall? Here's the deal. Yes, the built-in firewall does a good job hiding your computer from outside attack, but it doesn't exercise control over which programs can access your network the way third-party firewall components do.

If you're using internet banking on your computer...you need Norton Internet Security.

And, because this...

 

LOL.

Point made.

Get your Norton Internet Security software from PC Pitstop today and we'll even install it for you.

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Funny Computer Memes & What They're Trying to Tell You

First up. What is a meme?

meme
miːm/
noun
 
  1. 1.
    an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.
  2. 2.
    an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.
     

Thanks Wikipedia.

Now. Here's a few memes created to teach you a lesson. 

PS. It's ok to have a giggle!

1.

7-our-computer-is-slow-funny-meme

LESSON: Less is more. The more unnecessary toolbars you add the slower stuff will happen.

How do they all get there? Not without a little help from you. If you have the Ask toolbar for instance, it might have been installed when you did a Java update and failed to uncheck the optional little box that asked you if you wanted to install that particular toolbar.

If you’ve installed one of the free antivirus programs, like AVG, it will install its own toolbar into your browser. Have you joined an on-line photo sharing site? You probably got another toolbar then as well. You get the idea?

None of those toolbars are absolutely essential and your browser will generally be much happier without them. How many different 'search' buttons do you really need?

2.

IE9-Faster-Downloading-of-Chrome-Or-Firefox-Nerd-Computer-Interwebs-Funny-Motivational-Meme

LESSON: Pretty self-explanitory.

Internet Explorer sucks.

Use Firefox or Chrome as your default internet browser.

Just remove IE9 altogether.

3. 

song-chart-memes-repair-shop

LESSON: Avoid doing the RED.

Really.

Unless 'buddy' agrees to pay the bill and replace all those memories.

Remember 'the poor man pays twice'....know when it's time to call PC Pitstop.

4. 

Mom-Vs.-Normal-Computer-Savy-People

LESSON: Too many unecessary words. Get to the point for a better search result.

Read this >>> ARTICLE <<< to search Google like an expert. It's good.

 

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Keyboard Shortcuts for the Modern User

lcyt7krgj7ufkor6zrqb

 

Want more?

web-keyboard-shortcuts

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PC Pitstop iphone and smartphone repairs

PC Pitstop iPhone Repairs    Smart Device Repairs

Dropped or damaged your

smart device - iPhone, iPad
or Samsung Device? 
Most repairs same day!

Get a quote >>   |   Learn More >>

 

PC Pitstop Computer Repairs

PC Pitstop Workshop Repairs   Workshop Repairs


We locate the issues & 

determine the best way
to fix them. Most repairs
completed within 24 hours

 Get a quote >>   |   Learn More >>

 

PC Pitstop Computer Tune-ups 

PC Pitstop Computer Tune Ups   Computer Tuneups


Over time you will notice your 

computer slowing down. Time
to book your computer for its
yearly service and tuneup.

 Get a quote >>   |   Learn More >>

 

 PC Pitstop Business Support

PC Pitstop Business Support   Business Support


PC Pitstop provide reliable

small business solutions so
you can focus on delivering
exceptional customer service!

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 PC Pitstop Virus and Spyware Removal

PC Pitstop Virus & Spyware Removal  Virus & Spyware removal


Most computers are home
to hundreds of viruses and 
information stealing bugs.
Stay protected & up to date.

Get a quote >>   |   Learn More >>

 PC Pitstop Home and Business Onsite Support

PC Pitstop onsite Home and Business Support    Onsite Support


PC Pitstop can provide you
with onsite assistance in your
home or office at time that suits
you. Most areas only $99/hour

Get a quote >>   |   Learn More >>

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PC Pitstop Speciality Lessons

Stop banging your head on the desk trying to figure that pesky computer problem and ask for a Speciality Lesson from your PC Pitstop Trained Technician.

These 1hr in-store, one-on-one lessons can cover many topics that may be troubling you, such as:

  1. Basic Computer Use – start-up, shut-down, navigation, etc.
  2. Internet Use – effective searching, basic facebook, etc.
  3. Photo Filing – uploading from cards or devices, sorting and basic editing
  4. Windows 8 Use – introduction to the metro interface
  5. iPad Use – how to use your device, apps, etc.


Make the best use of your time and come with a prepared list of questions. Your Technician will answer as many of them as possible and show you how...and show you again! BOOK A LESSON TODAY.

 


 

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Posted by on in Helpful Hints

Learn the Lingo :: Computing Acronyms

i3, i5, i7: Newer types of Intel Processors, i5 is Dual Core, i7 is Quad Core
ADSL: Home broadband through the phone line, currently the fastest way to access the internet
ADSL2+: A faster version of ADSL
AGP: Accelerated Graphics Port, connection on older motherboards for graphics cards
Blu Ray Drive: Will burn and play CDs and DVDs will only play Blu Ray Discs
Blu Ray Writer: Will burn and play CDs, DVDs and Blu Ray Discs
CPU: Central Processing Unit or Processor, comes in two brands either Intel or AMD. Known as the "brain" of the computer, essential for computer to run. More often than not faster processor = faster computer.
CD Writer: Will burn and play CDs not DVDs
DDR1 DDR2 DDR3: Various types of RAM (memory)
Dual Core/Quad Core: Different types of processor, Quad core mainly used by gamers/ hardcore users.
DVD Reader/CD Burner:
Will play DVDs and burn CDs
DVD Writer: Will burn and play DVDs and CDs
DVI: A higher quality computer to monitor connection, wider than VGA plugs and often white in colour
Ethernet: Cable used to connect computer to a network or modem for broadband
GB: Gigabyte, unit of measurement for hard drive or RAM size, 1GB = 1024MB
HDD: Hard Drive Disk or Hard Drive, used to store data on a computer, size measured in gigabytes or terabytes
HDMI: High Definition Multimedia Interface, the newest kind of computer to monitor cable, High definition quality, also carries audio, is usually used to plug a computer into Plasma or LCD screens and is used in Game Consoles and Blu Ray players
IDE or PATA: Older connection on motherboards for connecting hard drives or disc drives, wide flat ribbon cable
Mb: Megabyte, unit of measurement for hard drive or RAM size
MB:
Motherboard, the main part of a computer which all other parts plug into, often the most expensive part of a computer to replace
PCI: Connection on motherboard for connection Sound Cards, USB cards, dial up modems etc
PCI Express: Connection on motherboard for Video Cards
PCIMIA or ExpressCard Slot: Slot on the side of laptops for connecting an expansion card, usually wireless or extra USB ports
RAM: Random Access Memory, necessary for computer to function More often than not more RAM = more speed; comes in 512MB, 1GB, 2GB etc
SATA: Newer connection on motherboards for connecting hard drives and DVD or Blu Ray Drives
Serial/Parallel: Older connection for printers, modems etc
SSD: Solid State Hard Drive, newest type of HDD. Contains no moving parts which avoids many of the problems of standard HDDs and runs at faster speeds
TB: Terabyte, unit of measurement for Hard Drive size, 1TB = 1024GB
USB: Universal Serial Bus, used to connect devices such as iPods, Cameras, Printers, Keyboards etc. to computers, is either USB 1.0 (older computers), USB 2.0 (modern computers) or USB 3.0 (newest computers)
VGA or D-SUB: The most basic plug for connecting a computer to a monitor, the two plugs are often blue coloured
Video Card/Graphics Card: Used to send the signal from the computer to the monitor, can be either part of the motherboard or a separate card, the more powerful the video card the more graphics intensive games you can play, plus improved performance from CADD, Video Editing and Photo Editing programs
Wireless (Wi-Fi): Used to connect computers to a modem for broadband
Wireless Broadband: Internet for people on the go using mobile phone signals and networks e.g. Telstra/Optus sticks, mobile phones or other devices

Plus there are thousands more!
We try to SPEEK NO GEEK but if your PC Pitstop Trained Technician uses language you don’t quite understand, just ask him to explain the lingo and he’ll happily talk you through it!


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1onsite

Benefits of Onsite Service

Onsite computer support is a premium service that gives you access to PC Pitstop Trained Technicians in your home or workplace. Many businesses only discover the real value of onsite computer support after they have experienced a major IT breakdown or disaster. However, more often than not, these IT issues can be prevented or at least minimised through regular servicing, regular maintenance and the right infrastructure and planning in place.

Convenience: In some situations it can be inconvenient or unpractical to disconnect all the cables of your computer and bring it in store for repair. With onsite computer support, a professional can visit you at home or at your workplace, usually within 24hrs of your request.

Better Knowledge of your Systems: Onsite support, especially at business visits, gives PC Pitstop Trained Technicians better access to your entire system – how it is set up, how it works, its inefficiencies and also how the users (the workers) interact with the system. This enables a more complete assessment of the businesses needs and allows for smoother integration, upgrades, and training or maintenance schedules.

Onsite Service is best for the following situations:

  • Installation of a new modem or setting up a wireless router
  • Setting up a home/business network, sharing printers and sharing files
  • Troubleshooting faults that are environment related
  • New computer setup - Help setting everything up, just the way you like it
  • One on one Lessons - at your computer, in your own time
  • Setting up backup systems
  • Fault finding specific internet problems
  • Scheduled maintenance on business servers and workstations

*Pickup and Drop off - For a fee, a trained technician will pickup your machine - take it to the workshop, repair, then deliver it back to you and set it up again.

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So good I had to share :: 10 Ways to be Computer Literate


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So Justin James from TechRepublic says there are 10 Things you Have to Know to be Computer Literate. Of course there is so much to know and it depends on what your use of the computer is actually for that determines your capabilities, but this little list is pretty handy for general users.

 

1: Search engines

Using a search engine is more than typing in the address, putting a couple of keywords into the big text box, clicking Search, and choosing the first result. While that may work, it won't give you the best results much of the time. Learning the advanced search, Boolean operators, and how to discern good results from bad results goes a long way toward enabling you to use a computer as a powerful research tool.

HOW TO BEST USE GOOGLE: http://searchengineland.com/guide/how-to-use-google-to-search

 

2: Word processing

Word processing is one of the oldest uses for a computer. And it continues to be extremely important, even though in many ways its functions have been put into other applications. (For example, people may write more emails than documents, but the task is nearly identical.) It is tough to claim to be computer literate if the basic functions of word processing -- like spell check, table creation, and working with headers -- are outside your capabilities.

HOW BEST TO USE WORD: http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/word/

 

3: Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets were the killer application that got a lot of people willing to pony up big bucks for a PC in the early 1980s. Spreadsheets offer incredibly powerful analysis possibilities... if you know how to use them for more than storing the holiday card address list. (Okay, I use Excel for that too.) Being able to use formulas, references, and macros can turn a "grid of numbers" into actionable information in the hands of the right person.

HOW BEST TO USE EXCEL: http://spreadsheets.about.com/od/excel101/a/Excel_beg_guide.htm

 

4: Browser basics

It is almost painful to watch some "computer savvy" people operate a Web browser. The most obvious goof is going to a search engine to type in the address of the site they want to go to. But folks are unaware of a lot of other things they do that make the Internet more difficult than it needs to be. Mastering techniques like opening links in new windows, using bookmarks, editing URLs to perform navigation, clearing the browser cache, and understanding common error messages will give you access to a world of unlimited information instead of keeping you stuck with only what Web site designers make obvious.

HOW BEST TO USE YOUR BROWSER: http://www.getconnectedtoday.com/getconnected/browser

TIP: PC Pitstop recommends the use of Google Chrome

 

5: Virus/malware scanning

Much of typical computer maintenance is automated or unneeded at this point, but it is still essential to understand how to check a system for nasty bugs, spyware, and other malicious applications. While the scanning tools come with real-time monitors, something can still slip onto the system before the scanner has the right filter for it. So it's critical to know how to trigger a manual virus/malware scan, as well as how to use alternative systems, spot signs of an infection, and other similar tasks.

>>> PC PITSTOP’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING VIRUSES & SCAMS <<<

 

6: Common keyboard commands

If you do not know how to copy/paste without a mouse, you are not computer literate. Sorry! Every operating system has some universal keyboard commands, and while knowing them won't add 30 minutes back into your day, it will take a lot of the "friction" out of using a computer. Learning these commands is more a matter of routine than anything else; a short tutorial done once a day for a week will probably be enough to put you in the habit, and it will make you a happier user.

HOW BEST TO USE YOUR KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS: http://lifehacker.com/5836288/six-keyboard-shortcuts-every-computer-user-should-know

 

7: Basic hardware terminology

It is tough to have someone help you with a problem when you tell them that your "hard drive" is unplugged, when you really mean "the computer." There are a number of common hardware misunderstandings out there, and while some are understandable (for instance, confusing a NIC with a modem -- the cables look similar and they serve the same purpose, networking), knowing basic hardware terminology is a must-have skill to be a savvy user.

>>> PC PITSTOP’S COMPUTING ACROYNMS <<<

 

8: Simple networking diagnosis

Networking problems create the most common trouble with most computers. While you don't need to be able to program a Cisco router, you should know how to:

   - Determine your IP address
   - Verify physical connectivity to the network
   - Check that you have a logical connection to the network
   - Find out what path network traffic takes to get to its destination
   - Translate from DNS names to IP addresses

HOW BEST TO DIAGNOSE YOUR NETWORK: http://www.wikihow.com/Find-the-IP-Address-of-Your-PC

TIP: PC Pitstop is here to help with all yur networking issues. Call to book an onsite today: 65841551.

9: How to hook it up

Despite the color coding of connections and the fact that most cords can be plugged into only one hole, tons of people still can't hook up a computer. It is tough to claim to be computer literate if you can't even get it hooked up and turned on without some help.

>>> PC PITSTOP’S DEKSTOP CONNECTION GUIDE <<<

 

10: Security/privacy 101

It is a dangerous world out there! You absolutely must know how to protect yourself from attackers on the Internet and keep your personal data private. Everything from knowing to check a link before you click it to verifying that encryption is being used to transmit sensitive data to researching sites before giving them your personal data are all critical skills for the modern computer user. If you do not know how to keep yourself safe, you need to learn how.

HOW BEST TO SECURE YOUR PRIVACY ONLINE: http://www.staysmartonline.gov.au/home_users/protect_yourself2/protect_your_identity

 

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Avoiding Moisture & Corrosion for Your Computers Can Save You Hundreds

It is true that salt air will corrode hardware and electronics especially near the ocean/coast.

Whether you prefer a laptop or a desktop your PC is affected by its environment. While overly dry conditions can cause static electricity in your computer's components, excessively humid conditions can cause faster corrosion and internal damage. If your environment is especially humid you should take precautions to protect your computer from malfunction due to moisture. Take note of the general level of humidity and follow these simple steps to stop damage.

  1. Install a dehumidifier in your home or office. Dehumidifiers remove some of the moisture in the air so it's safer to use your desktop, laptop or tablet PC. When using a dehumidifier remember to empty out the reservoir regularly to ensure that the machine works efficiently. Small 'Hippos' or 'Damp Rid' devices may work for some, others may need to invest in domestic or commercial stand-alone models.
  2. Situate your computer in an area of the home or office with a controlled temperature. Avoid using your computer in humid areas such as a hot tub room, sauna or the bathroom. Condensation from the humidity can affect the internal components of your computer causing corrosion or sudden malfunction.
  3. Keep your computer stationary whenever possible. One way humidity builds up in your computer is when you experience sudden temperature changes. For instance, going from the cold winter air to a warm office could cause condensation. Transport your computer as little as possible and always use an insulated case to protect it from extreme temperatures if you must travel with it.
  4. Wipe your computer down quickly if you notice moisture on the outside of the case. Use a clean towel to remove outer moisture before it has time to seep into the computer through the keyboard or vents. For this very reason, avoid positioning your computer near windows or external doors.


*Iron rust is red/brown, aluminium rust is white, copper corrosion is blue/green.*

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Today I thought I'd share an entire newsletter that arrived in my inbox.

Why?

Cause it's damn important.

CRYPTOLOCKER.

Remember the name.

Cryptolocker is new malware coming to a computer near you.

Malware is short for malicious software and generally refers to a variety of forms of intrusive and hostile programs.

Besides been informed, been super careful of what and where you're clicking, and sticking to 'safe' browsing habits, the best chance you've got of surviving Cryptolocker is to make TRIPLY sure you've got UP TO DATE BACKUPS.

Ben tells us all the time that you're not truly backed up unless you've backed up 3 times.

So just do it. No if's or buts after you read this article. BACKUP.

And if you don't know how to backup or if your backup solution is working, come and see us, and we'll get your sorted - ARMED - against the virus of all viruses!

PS. I included the whole newsletter from these guys coz they actually have included some other great info. Take a read....

Tip of the Day: Windows 8.1 integrates Bing into the standard, system-wide search experience. If you don't like this, you can disable it. To do so, open the Change PC Settings screen, select Search and apps, and disable the option under Use Bing to search online.

 

CryptoLocker Is The Nastiest Malware Ever & Here's What You Can Do

by Matthew Hughes

Ransomware is an especially odious type of malware. The way it works is simple. Your computer will be infected with some malicious software. That software then renders your computer entirely unusable, sometimes purporting to be from local law enforcement and accusing you of committing a computer crime or viewing explicit pictures of children. It then demands monetary payment, either in the form of a ransom or a "fine" before access to your computer is returned.

Horrible, isn't it? Well, get ready to meet CryptoLocker; the evil patriarch of the Ransomware family.

What Is CryptoLocker

CryptoLocker is a piece of malware targeting computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is typically spread as an email attachment, often purporting to be from a legitimate source (including Intuit and Companies House). Some say it is also being spread through the ZeuS botnet.

Once installed on your computer, it systematically encrypts all documents that are stored on your local computer, as well as ones that are stored on mapped network drives and mounted removable storage.

cryptolocker-example

The encryption used is strong, 2048 bit RSA, with the decryption key for your files being stored on a remote server. The odds of you being able to break this encryption is almost nonexistent. If you want to get your files back, CryptoLocker asks for you to fork over some cash; either two bitcoins (At the time of writing, worth almost USD $380) or $300 in either MonkeyPak or Ukash prepaid cards. If you don't pay within three days, the decryption key is deleted and you lose access to your files forever.

I spoke to popular security expert and blogger Javvad Malik; this is what he had to say about CryptoLocker.

Ransomware such as CryptoLocker is not something very new - variations of Ransomware have been around for years. When you look at CryptoLocker, it predominantly comes in via phishing emails (from what I’ve seen). The best way to protect against it is for users to be vigilant against clicking on links within emails. Currently, it looks like there’s not much that can be done once infected and I wouldn’t advice anyone to pay the ransom. It goes back to having backups and data management in place.

Mitigating Against It

Reports suggest that some security programs have had a hard time of preventing CryptoLocker from getting its claws onto your system before it's too late. Fortunately, American security expert Nick Shaw has created a handy piece of software called CryptoPrevent (free) . This applies a number of settings to your installation of Windows that prevents CryptoLocker from ever executing and has been proven to work in Windows XP and Windows 7 environments.

It's also worth making sure that you check emails to see if they're suspect before you open up any email attachments. Do they have an email address that matches up with the purported sender? Were you expecting any correspondence from them? Is the spelling and grammar consistent with what you'd expect from the genuine sender? These are all reasons to be suspicious of an email and to think twice about poking in any attachments.

Having Proper Backup

In these circumstances, I'd encourage everyone to make regular backups that are isolated from your computer. Using a networked backup solution will be utterly ineffective, as CryptoLocker has been known to encrypt data stored on these volumes.

cryptolocker-backup

If you use a cloud backup service like Carbonite, you can take comfort in knowing the odds are good that your files are versioned. That means if you back up an encrypted copy of a file you care about, you can revert to an earlier version. An employee of Carbonite posted this advice on Reddit.

I work for Carbonite on the operations team, and I can confirm this for most cases – I will also offer these two pieces of advice:

1) If you are affected by the virus, you should disable or uninstall Carbonite as soon as possible. If you stop backing up the files, it’s more likely that Carbonite will not have overwritten a “last known good” backup set. There is a high risk of some recent data loss (you’re effectively going back in time, so if we have no record of the file existing at a previous time, you won’t get it back) with this method, but it’s far, far better than losing all of your files.

2) When you call customer support, which you should do as soon as possible, specifically mention that you are infected with cryptolocker. It was mentioned in the post above, but I just wanted to put emphasis on it because it’ll get you through the queue faster.

Edit: also, just to state the obvious, make doubly sure the infection is off your machine before you call support, please.

Should You Pay The Ransom?

What if your computer gets compromised? It goes without saying that brute forcing a file encrypted with 2048 bit encryption is almost impossible. Noted computer security firm Sophos has looked at a number of files that have been encrypted by this particular malware and has failed to notice any obvious means in which they can be decrypted without forking over a ransom.

With that in mind, the only way to get your data back is by paying the ransom. However, this poses a major ethical dilemma. By paying the ransom, you make this type of chicanery profitable and therefore perpetuate it. However, if you don't pay the ransom, you forever lose access to everything you've been working on which is stored on your computer.

What further complicates things is that it is impossible to ascertain who would be the recipient of any money paid. It may something so simple as a single person working from his bedroom looking to get rich at the expense at others, or it might be something much more sinister.

Conclusion

I'll leave the floor to you, the reader. Would you pay the ransom? Have you been infected with CryptoLocker? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

   

 

 

 

 

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Hate computer cowboys? Us too.

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Geeks that insult your intelligence as they 'help you' [read: do it for you...so fast that you have no idea what they did]?

How about 'reputable' internet sites or news sites reporting on THE SCREEN THAT WILL NEVER BREAK?

How about that 'friend of a friend' at the dinner party or BBQ who talks a whole lotta 'I know this' and 'You need to do that' bullocks at the top of his voice so everyone in attendance knows just how smart he is? Err, I hate that guy!

 

Yep, we hear you and we hate it too. Not only does it put an cloud of dishonesty over the whole industry and paint everyone with the same brush but most importantly, it confuses you guys - the consumers. And confusion costs money, time and a whole tonne of heartache whether you're in business or the business of getting good at Mahjong!

So here's some cold hard truths. Some straight down the line honest technology truths you need to know. For your benefit...and your wallets...and your friends at your next dinner party!

  1. Your hard drive will die at some point in the next 5 years.
  2. No anti-virus protection is 100% safe - YOU are the weakest link.
  3. Everyone has a different opinion about brands but only a technician who has experience with various brands and with your best interests at heart can tell you what's RIGHT FOR YOU...but there are always lemons, even with the better brands!
  4. Moore's law is real. He states that technology's power doubles every 18mths. Staying as up to date as you can doesn't meaning having the latest of everything, but sifting through the latest and finding something that benefits your productivity the most!
  5. Extended warranties offered by most major retailers are risky business because they are not usually manufacturers warranties but instead underwritten by an insurance company who are gambling on you not requiring the service and if you do, the repairs are performed by a third party provider to whom you are often just a number. Basically, if you can get an extended manufacturers warranty it's an option, otherwise don't bother. By the time you would use an extended warranty with technology the parts may not even be available anymore!

 *****

 Are you nodding your head in agreement or do you feel like you've been reality-slapped in the face? I'll tell you, it took me awhile to get my head around 'the truth about technology' too when I first started in the industry. And I was an IT student at school. And thought I was 'up with it.' True. You can be all those things but until you see a new problem, a new discovery, a new solution every half hour in a real IT repair workshop then it's just not something you really fathom.

I'm not saying technology is a horrible waste of money and completely controlled by corporate greed. It's not. In comparision to other things especially. But luck does factor into it a little bit. And a whole lot of TLC and correct knowledge. TLC for your devices should be top of your list. Know how to use your device properly...because that's different for every brand too. And leave the in depth troubleshooting and repairs knowledge up to the experts. A doctor with a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing - that's why they have specialists!

Everyone has a tech story. Usually a bad one. Test your gratitude for your tech and tell us your success story! Share in the comment section below :)

*Comments moderated for spam so your comment may not appear for 24-48hrs!

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Posted by on in Helpful Hints

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Spring has sprung and the trash piles are out on the lawns and garage sales are a go-go. So what about a spring clean for the mahine you work hard every day - your computer?

Do these 3 simple steps and watch your computer smile!

1. Do a Defrag. (How?)

2. Uninstall any programs you no longer use. (How?)

3. Empty your Recycle Bin. (How?)

 

3 1/2. Yep, 3 1/2! Of course, there are much more indepth ways to give your computer a thorough spring clean. Drop your PC into PC Pitstop, leave it with us for at least 48 hours and we'll take it through our rigorous 99 Point Tuneup Checklist to make sure it returns to you IMPROVED! Drop in today to avoid the Christmas Holiday panic!

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Posted by on in Helpful Hints

Excel users...this is the one of the best NEED TO KNOW guide I've seen in a long time, thanks to brilliant Bit.

 

"

15 basics to know if you use Excel spreadsheets

Don't like that annoying habit Excel has of trying to guess the right format for a cell you're updating? Here's how to turn it off, plus other handy tips.

When it comes to organising data, Excel is tremendously capable. However, the wealth of tools available can be daunting, and many powerful features are easily overlooked. 

Here’s a selection of 15 of our favourite one-click tools and simple features that can help you whip a worksheet into shape in moments. These tips all work in Excel 2007 and later (except where stated), and many are available in earlier versions, too.

Formats and fills

1 Format Painter

The Format Painter tool lets you copy the formatting of a cell onto one or more other cells, leaving the contents unchanged. Place the cursor in your source cell, click Format Painter (under the Home tab), then click in another cell to apply the formatting. You can drag to apply the format to a range of cells at once. 
 
The Format Painter automatically disengages when you release the mouse button: if you double-click its icon, however, it will stay active until you click again to disable it, or press Escape – handy for formatting non-contiguous ranges. 
 

2 Clear Formats 

When you type a number into an empty cell, Excel tries to guess the right format: for example, enter “17/2” or “25%” and your cell will automatically switch to Date or Percentage format. This isn’t always what you want, and it’s annoying if you later change the cell contents, since Excel won’t thereafter update the applied format to suit new data. You can remove all formatting from any cell (or range) via the dropdown labelled Clear, which you’ll find to the right of the Home tab, within the Editing group.
 
Other options under this dropdown let you clear the contents of cells, leaving the formatting untouched, or remove comments or hyperlinks. If you don’t want Excel to automatically format your cells in the first place, you can precede a cell’s contents with an apostrophe to make Excel interpret it as text.
 

3 Quick cell format changes

 
You can set the format of a cell directly from a dropdown menu, or  with the click of a button
 
You can specify a format for any cell or range via the Format Cells window (click the pop-out icon in the Number group under the Home tab). It’s quicker to use the dropdown menu within that icon group, though – you’ll see the default setting is General.
 
The buttons below this dropdown can save time too. The one that looks like a banknote and coins sets a cell to Accounting format (click the dropdown to choose a currency), while the percentage sign does what you’d expect. The comma icon punctuates large numbers to make them easier to read, so 1000000 becomes 1,000,000 (this doesn’t affect your ability to use the number in calculations). Lastly, the decimal icons make the selected cells show more or fewer decimal places, making it easier to deal with calculated values that present an unneeded degree of precision.
 

4 Autofill

Most people know that you can quickly fill a column or row with copies of the same number or text by entering it once, then dragging the marker at the bottom-right corner of that cell to cover the range you want to fill. This works with numerical series, too: if you have two adjacent cells containing “1” and “2”, you can select them both and drag onwards in the same direction to automatically count as high as you like. 
 
This also works with days of the week, calendar dates and other types of data Excel recognises. You can even use numbers that follow simple patterns: drag to extend the series 12, 17, 22 and Excel will correctly fill in the next cells with 27, 32 and so forth.
 

5 Text to columns

If you have to process a mass of imported text, you can split it across multiple columns by clicking Text To Columns in the Data Tools group under the Data tab: the dialog box that opens will allow you to split cell contents according to either character counts or separator characters. 
 
In Excel 2013, you can also extract specific elements from a column of data with a new feature called Flash Fill. To illustrate how it works, let’s imagine you have a column of computer memory capacities such as “2GB”, “1GB”, “4GB” and so on. If you manually enter “2” in an empty cell next to the 2GB value, then drag down to autofill the cells below, Excel will by default fill all the cells with the same value. But if you then click on the Smart Tag that appears at the bottom corner of your new range and select Flash Fill, Excel will use values extracted from the neighbouring column instead, using your originally selected cell as a model: you’ll see that the cell values change to 2, 1, 4 and so on.

Managing your data

6 Remove duplicates

If you’ve imported a large amount of data from another program, you may have any number of duplicate entries. You can get rid of these manually by sorting and deleting cells, but Excel can do it for you: simply select the table, then go to the Data tab and click Remove Duplicates. If you’ve selected a two-dimensional range, you can specify which columns must all match for a row to qualify as a duplicate.
 

7 Name your cells and ranges

In a large spreadsheet, you’re likely to be working with numerous ranges of data, and making sense of your cell references can quickly become confusing. You can make life easier by assigning names to important cells and ranges so that, in place of opaque formulae such as “=SUM(A19:J31)+L16”, you can use readily readable descriptions such as “=SUM(Payments)+Bonus”. You’ll find the Define Name tool under the Formulas tab. Once you’ve created a name, you’ll see it come up as an autocomplete suggestion whenever you type in a formula, although old cell references in existing formulae won’t automatically update.
 

8 Trace precedents and dependents

 
The Trace Precedents feature shows you exactly which cells are referred to by a formula
 
No matter how neatly you organise your spreadsheet, sooner or later you’re likely to come across a confusing formula that seems to draw data from a dozen unexpected places. You can get a visual indication of exactly which cells it’s referring to by selecting the cell, then opening the Formulas tab and selecting Trace Precedents (under Formula Auditing). A handy set of arrows will show exactly which values are used. Similarly, a click on the Trace Dependents button will reveal, at a glance, exactly which cells in a worksheet contain references to the selected cell. Note that if you have a range of cells selected when you click, only the cell that’s actually active (that is, the unshaded one from which you started dragging) will be traced.
 

9 Show formulas

In a large spreadsheet you can lose track of which cells contain raw data and which contain calculated values. A click on Show Formulas – again under the Formulas tab – will expand all cells containing calculations to show their formulae instead of the results. Click again to return to the regular view. In Excel 2013, you can also create a Conditional Formatting rule to highlight cells where “=ISFORMULA(A1)” is true (replace A1 with the reference of the top-left cell of your selected range).
 
Another easy way to find formulae and other types of cell is with the Go To command, which is located on the Home tab under Editing (you can also access it by pressing Ctrl-G or F5). The Go To window shows you a list of named references you can jump to; click “Special...” and you can use it to select cells of many types, including precedents, formulae, blanks and comments.
 

10 Paste Special

 
The Paste Special dialog lets you turn formulae into values, carry out multiple mathematical operations, and switch rows and columns
 
You probably know that you can use the smart tag that appears when you hit “paste” to specify formatting options for pasted data. You may not know about the more powerful “Paste Special” dialog: you can find it under the Paste dropdown on the Home tab, or you can open it directly by pressing Alt-Ctrl-V. The Paste Special window makes it easy to paste only the values of the formulae you’ve copied, or to copy only aspects of the source’s visual style. 
 
You can also use this feature to perform calculations on several cells at once. Select Add and, rather than replacing the destination cells, the source cells’ values will be added to them. As a final trick, try ticking Transpose in the Paste Special window: you’ll see that your pasted cells are flipped around, so columns become rows and rows become columns – something that’s otherwise a pain to achieve.

Views and visuals

11 Freeze panes

When you’re working with large tables of data, row and column headers tend to get pushed off the edges of the window, making it easy to get lost. The answer is the Freeze Panes feature, which you’ll find on the View tab. With one click, you can freeze the top row or the first column of your worksheet, so it will remain visible as you scroll around. 
 
If you want to freeze both at once, simply position your cursor at the top left of your table data (so it’s below and to the right of your column and row headers) and select the general-purpose Freeze Panes option from the dropdown. Now you can scroll around your data to your heart’s content, while your headers remain visible at all times.
 

12 Conditional formatting

Conditional formatting can provide an at-a-glance indication of the highs and lows of a set of figures. To see it in action, select the range of cells you’re interested in, then click the Conditional Formatting dropdown from the Styles group on the Home tab. The top two options let you highlight cells according to a particular rule – such as those greater than a specific value – or choose a Top/Bottom rule to automatically mark the highest or lowest values. 
 
The most powerful conditional formatting options automatically add graphical tags or coloured backgrounds to the cells in your range, to give a clear visual indication of high and low values. Hover your mouse over the various options under Data Bars, Colour Gradients and Icon Sets to see how your data will look with each set of formatting applied. 
 

13 Sparklines (Excel 2010/2013)

 
For Office 2013 users, Sparklines provide a handy visual indicator of trends and trajectories across multiple datasets
 
Conditional formatting is great for comparing a single set of figures, but what if you want an at-a-glance overview of multiple trends? One option is to insert a graph, but a neater solution is to use Sparklines – groups of miniature graphs that each occupy a single cell. To add Sparklines to a worksheet, select a two-dimensional table of data, then go to the Insert tab and select Line, Column or Win/Loss from the Sparklines group. You’ll be prompted to specify where you want the Sparklines to go: drag along an available column or row and click OK and you’ll see Sparklines appear. 
 
You can configure the appearance of a Sparkline group using the Sparkline Tools | Design tab that appears when you click on a Sparkline cell. By default, each Sparkline automatically scales to use the full height and width of the cell; under the Axis dropdown you’ll find options to use the same minimum and maximum values for all Sparklines, so you can compare values directly across an entire Sparkline group. 
 

14 Collapse grouped cells

Many spreadsheets include large tables of figures with summary rows at the top or bottom. Sometimes you just want to work with these summaries, and temporarily ignore the data from which they derive. This can be done easily with Excel’s Outline tools. Select the relevant rows or columns, then go to the Outline group on the Data tab and click the Group icon. You’ll see a new column open at the left or top of the window, bracketing your range together with a minus sign icon. Click this icon and the rows and columns will be temporarily collapsed, so you can get a clean overview of your spreadsheet without having to move or hide your data.
 

15 Print Area 

Excel’s print dialog tries to fit your spreadsheet to the desired number of pages, but it’s fiddly. It’s much easier to use the Page Break Preview, which you’ll find under the View tab. This view overlays thick dashed lines and page numbers onto your worksheet, so you can see exactly what falls where – and if you’re not happy with the layout, you can drag the page boundaries with the mouse to specify precisely what should go on which page. 
 
You can also specify that only a certain area of the worksheet should be printed – useful if, for example, you’ve made notes off to the sides of a table of data. You can do this by dragging the outer page boundaries in Page Break Preview to exclude unwanted cells. Alternatively, while in Page Break Preview, you can select an area of your worksheet, right-click and choose Set Print Area from the contextual menu. You can also do this using the Print Area dropdown from the Page Layout tab.
 
"
 
If you wanna get really into it you'll love >>> THIS ARTICLE <<< too.
 
Happy Days :)

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Posted by on in Blog

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Exert from the Camden Haven Courier: 
"PC Pitstop , known as ‘Your One Stop Computer Shop’ in Port Macqaurie and Lake Cathie, don’t just sell and repair computers, they also teach you how to use one!
Starting with the basics like General Computer Skills and Working with Word, this dynamic team are also providing lessons on how to use social media and Skype, working with photos and the essentials in emailing.
With new trainer, the multi-talented Sandra Smail in tow, class lessons cater for up to 5 people at either the Port Macquarie store in the Shores Retail Centre or at the Lake Cathie Village Centre Store.
Dedicated to empowering the public with technology, the Pitstop crew develop lessons based on popular demand and have a few exciting new topics to reveal soon!

Bookings are essential for these increasingly popular classes and can be made in store or online.

Not in the Hastings Region? No worries. Shop and Download our e-Books here.

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Posted by on in Services

Class or One on One Lessons

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If one on one is more your style, or if you have very specific tasks you would like to learn more about, please contact Lake Cathie 65 84 555, or Port Macquarie 65 841 551 to make a booking between the hours of 9-5pm Mon-Fri.

A skilled, patient and friendly tutor will gladly help you through your questions step by step.

Enroll with a friend and learn together! The more popular the classes are, the more we will provide!

Click here >> Contact the Trainer - Sandra Smail

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