Troubleshooting Laptop Video Problems With a Touch Screen

Troubleshooting Laptop Video Problems can be frustrating. It’s not a trivial task to open up a laptop to do anything beyond a memory upgrade or drive replacement.

If you feel daring and working with small electronic components doesn’t intimidate you, then there are videos that make the process simpler.

Even if you have done this on occasion it can be stressful working on a laptop.

There are services that will do this for a flat fee +parts.  If parts are too expensive, they may  charge you for the diagnostics and shipping. Shipping alone can be considerable.

Some places may waive the diagnostic charges if you are willing to part with the defective laptop. Plenty of usable parts for a shop that sells parts or uses them for diagnostics.

Scenario – Video Problems

Dell laptop Inspiron 3521 with  a Touch Screen was dropped. Thereafter the user complained that the video was dim and difficult to read. Otherwise, the laptop seemed ok.

Remote connections to the laptop worked fine.

Is it under warranty?12-month-warranty-shield-and-ribbon-300

We knew this laptop had been around for a while but it’s always wise to check if it’s under warranty.

Our 1st stop was Dell support. As expected it was not under warranty but they also had diagnostics and drivers that we could try.

Troubleshooting Laptop Video Problems3d-technician-repairing-Troubleshooting Laptop Video Problems

We decided to bring the laptop in for some troubleshooting.

No obvious damage was done to the case so we hoped that the issue was a cable was loose.

Troubleshooting Laptop Video – Finding out what’s wrong.

We knew the video was dim but wasn’t sure why.

When we viewed the video from a remote connection it became obvious that the colors were reversed.

Everything that should have been white was black, everything that should be blue was black.

It’s surprising how illegible the video was even when the BIOS screen was displayed.

colors-reversed-300
Colors Reversed – Top to Bottom

A Dell website was all but invisible since they use a lot of blue & white.

WHT=BLK

GRN=Purple

BRN=BLU

YEL=BLU

BLU=BLK

BLU=Red

Do we really want to open a laptop for troubleshooting?

As mentioned above, opening a laptop is not for the faint at heart.

Laptop with palm rest removed
Laptop with palm rest removed

It’s tedious work and requires considerable patience and time not to mention keeping track of all sorts of parts and screws.

We checked all over the Internet but no-one had posted anything about removing a touch screen. We did find our part though and Parts People confirmed that there were 2 parts involved:

The video below does a good job of detailing the process up to removing the bezel (3:26).

The trouble is that the bezel on our laptop is attached to the digitizer glass.

 

Our Laptop screen with digitizer
Our Laptop LCD screen with digitizer

We got it apart

It wasn’t easy but we managed to remove the digitizer glass using low heat on a heat gun and carefully inserting tools between digitizer and laptop case until we could unsnap all the clips.

Unfortunately, the cable was not our issue so we probably won’t investDigitizer-Glass-300 more time and money into this laptop.

What could be wrong?

The general consensus is that the LCD, video cable, system board could be at fault.

A shop that has all those parts could determine which were defective.

Conclusion

Troubleshooting Laptop Video Problems can take considerable time and still end in frustration.

Unless you have known good parts lying around, it probably is not worth the effort to repair a laptop that is around 3 years old.

Synchronize Your Cloud Files Without Slowing Down Your Computer

Cloud Computing

Synchronize Your Cloud Files

Clouds are a great storage option to protect your files. Even if your computer dies the files still live on in the cloud.

Issues With Clouds – Synchronize Your Cloud Files

The problem is that Synchronizing Your Cloud Files may slow your computer down to a crawl if you are synchronizing too many files. We certainly don’t want that.

Synchronize Your Cloud Files Without Slowing Down Your Computer
Problem & Solution

Another problem with Synchronize Your Cloud Files is that it’s somewhat limited unless you purchase a premium plan.

Limited Space in the Cloud

When we use clouds with limited space we have to ensure we don’t try to back up unnecessary files.

The best Synchronize Your Cloud Files solution is to back up files that are the most important taking precautions with sensitive materials by encrypting.

Scroll down or click for help with Synchronizing Select Cloud Files

We can also spread out files among various cloud plans by maybe putting family photos on one and business documents on another.

If you have Office 365 you get 1 TB to backup your files so space should not be a major concern.

Slow Computer

The more files you have to synchronize the longer it takes the cloud software to index your files and upload.

Even if you only change one file the software has to evaluate them all. This can make your computer unusable when the cloud software is indexing.

Slow Zone
Slow Zone

Synchronizing websites can be particularly bad since they may have lots of little files.

If there are repository file like Git then the situation is even worse.

If Windows Search all by itself can slow down your computer. Add that to cloud synchronization and you may think your computer is broken or infected.

Synchronize Your Cloud Files – Too Many Files

One Solution that addresses speed and space is to limit the files you synchronize.

If you have plenty of space but don’t want to drag your computer down every time it indexes your changes you can select which folders you need synchronized.

In our case, we have lots of websites and customer backups that don’t need to be constantly synchronized.

First we backup these sorts of files to an external drive or internal section of our drive that’s not associated with the cloud.

Test Case

We download a lot of stock photos from GraphicStock.com that we may want to use someday and we have 1 TB of cloud storage available on OneDrive thanks to our Office 365 subscription.

Initially we download the stock photos to our external RAID (12 TB) into a folder that shows it has not been synchronized to the cloud.

Problem Folder
Problem Folder

Then we copy this folder to an appropriate place on our local OneDrive folder which gets synchronized to the cloud.

OneDrive Problem Folder
OneDrive Problem Folder

Once the synchronization is complete we remove the folder from synchronization by opening OneDrive Settings.

OneDrive-Settings

  • Start OneDrive if it’s not running
  • Right click OneDrive icon in tray
  • Navigate to Account Tab
  • Choose folders
    • Only Choose folders that are likely to change

      OneDrive Settings - Account
      OneDrive Settings – Account
What This Does

Removing the folder from synchronization removes the files from the local PC which is why we have it backed up outside the OneDrive folder. We don’t need these files in 2 places on our computer.

More importantly OneDrive doesn’t have to scan through all these files to see if they have changed. Since they are stock photos we won’t be changing them.

We might however create new versions from the stock photos but we will be sure to back these up.

It does not remove the files from the cloud so the files are still available on OneDrive.com

Windows Search

Windows Search is also known for slowing down your computer so this added to a cloud backup can really bring your computer to a crawl.

This is especially true if you try to open Windows Explorer. Just clicking on a drive may take a long time to open. Think minutes instead of seconds.

Disabling Windows Search

Microsoft constantly recommends Windows Search for Outlook and Windows Explorer. They suggest that searches may take a long time unless we turn it on.

Search performance will be impacted because Windows Search service is turned off.

In our experience, Windows Search slows down any drive with a lot of files. You probably want to turn it off even if you are not synchronizing Cloud files.

Perhaps Windows Search is useful if you are looking for text within files but it’s a significant drag on our resources.

Disabling Windows Search is easy enough. Crank up the Services and disable Windows Search.

Windows Services
Windows Services

You can find Services by typing in the search bar. Double click Windows Search service and set it to disabled or manual.start

Services

Conclusion

It’s possible to synchronize your files to the clouds without impacting your computer performance by selecting specific files and folders to keep synchronized.

Turning off Windows Search will help even if you are not synchronizing files to the cloud.

Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam

Webcam

Troubleshooting Your Laptop webcam usually requires some research on the vendor’s site.

Case Study

Dell laptop – Inspiron 3721 purchased September 2013.

The webcam worked when running Windows 7 but failed later on when it was upgraded to Windows 10 in October 2015.

Client is in a remote location so we don’t have physical access to the machine.

Laptop History

Laptop had issues with Windows 7 so it was an easy decision to upgrade to Windows 10. The assumption was that the laptop had malware.

Webcam had worked at some point under Windows 7 but the laptop.

It’s unclear how much time has passed since the webcam worked but the Windows 10 upgrade was done in October 2015 (8 months ago).

Teamviewer Remote Access

We were able to connect to the laptop remotely and review the problem as well as create a live USB drive to boot into Ubuntu.

Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam
Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam

As expected, the webcam was not found when running camera.

The unusual part was that it was not listed in Device Manager under Imaging devices and nothing was flagged as not working or listed in Other.

 

Vendor Site – Dell

Our 1st inclination was that we needed a driver but found no reference of drivers for the webcam on Dell’s support. Apparently the laptop uses Windows drivers.

We updated BIOS & chipset but that had no effect.

Live O/S

It’s usually wise to get a view of the machine from a neutral Operating System.

We could have created a live Windows 8 or Windows 7 disk but  this is not as simple to do as creating a live Ubuntu disk.

Ubuntu
Ubuntu

What is a Live O/S?

Using a live Operating System (O/S) doesn’t require you to install anything but rather boot into the O/S on some sort of removable media.

In our case, we used a USB drive.

Ubuntu has a Try feature that runs off the drive without impacting your current O/S.

We often use live O/S to recover files from a broken Windows O/S.

Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam with Ubuntu Cheese

Within Ubuntu we could open a terminal window (CTRL-ALT-T) and invoke the webcam via cheese.

The camera was not found with cheese either so it appears that the camera is broken somehow. maybe a loose connection.

Conclusion

In our sample case, the Dell laptop was diagnosed as having hardware issues since it exhibited the same problems using another O/S.

Webcam Video
Webcam Video

Our recommendations were to use an external webcam supported by Windows 10 or have the laptop repaired.

Since the laptop is a few years old it’s probably best to use an external camera. An external probably has better specifications and it’s designed specifically for Windows 10.

Keep Your Data Safe With Secure Email

encryption

Are you using secure email?

This post is focused on secure email but some aspects like SSL and encryption apply equally to data in general.

  • With all the breaches in the headlines, it behooves us to secure our email.
  • Breaches expose client data that can be used to access your accounts.
  • Even if a hacker has your email account credentials, he may be unable to read encrypted email.
  • Email can be accessed by the unscrupulous in a number of ways.
  • Sending email without SSL is like sending your mail on postcards.

Think your data is safe?

Our focus is finding solutions that work for our clients with minimal intervention and/or setup.

Recent Breaches?

fraud
Fraud

These high profile breaches are a reminder that our data is not as secure as we would like.

Anything shared on the Internet is vulnerable to various types of snooping and hacks.

Email is no exception.

With the information gleaned from breaches, hackers may have direct access to your accounts if they uncovered passwords that you use elsewhere.

That’s why we suggest unique strong passwords  for every account.

Let’s investigate methods to secure our email.

How Difficult is it for Someone to Hack Your Data?

With folks getting emails on their mobile devices via Wi-Fi, it’s more important than ever to use secure email.cartoon-hacker-with-laptop-400

The best defense is to use encryption but that is not as convenient as we would like.

SSL email helps in most cases.

Otherwise your email is open to anyone that can sniff it out of the air.

That’s easier than you may think using attacks like Man in the Middle.

Hacking Methods Used

Once hackers have your information there are a number of ways to access your accounts.

With enough information, a determined hacker can gain access to your accounts.phishing-and-spy

  • Phishing – acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication
  • Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) – attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other.
  • Session stealing (cookie hijacking) – exploitation of a valid computer session (session key) to gain unauthorized access to information or services in a computer system. … theft of a magic cookie used to authenticate a user to a remote server.
  • Keylogging (Keystroke logging/keyboard capturing) –  recording (logging) the keys struck on a keyboard, typically covertly.
  • Social Engineering – psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information
  • Hacking your computer – malware planted on your computer allows hackers complete access to your data
    • If a hacker has access to your computer you need to have it cleaned.

Doesn’t  SSL Secure My Email?

Using SSL for your email provides security between you and your email host.

Prior to SSL (Secure Socket Layer) emails were sent in plain text from your email client like Outlook to the host server.

Google’s chart below shows that most email to and from Gmail in the America’s uses SSL.

email-Gmail Secure Email
Volume of email to and from Gmail

SSL is helpful but it doesn’t keep anyone with access to the server from reading your email or necessarily guarantee that it will be transported to the recipient via SSL.

Client-side SSL is a step in the right direction but encrypting you email is much more secure.

Using SSL and SSL Email Setup?

If you want to check whether you are using SSL you can use Comcast’s guide to interrogate various email clients.

If you need to setup an email account to use SSL you can contact your provider or Google setup “Provider Name” email.

“Provider Name” is the provider who sends you a bill each month.

Implementing Secure Email

Secure Email
Secure Email

We encrypted email for our clients back in the late 1980s but it was tedious to setup and use.

Consequently, secure email was not considered a priority and seldom used.

We need encryption to ensure that sensitive email is not compromised.

This requires some inconvenience on the clients but it’s the best way to secure our email.

HIPAA Compliant Email

With the advent of the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) companies have become more security aware.

If you send sensitive email or work in the medical industry you may be required to secure your email or face penalties.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient data. Any organization dealing with protected health information (PHI) must ensure that all the required physical, network, and process security measures are in place and followed.

Paubox article on HIPAA compliance

sending receiving email
sending receiving email

Is HIPAA Email Encrypted?

Some HIPAA email providers like GoDaddy do not necessarily encrypt email in transit.

There is some debate on whether or not HIPAA requires email to be encrypted.

GoDaddy encryption has an add-on for HIPAA email. It’s an all or nothing scenario so all your mailboxes either get encryption or they don’t.

Likewise encrypted email isn’t necessarily HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA compliance requires partners to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA).

HIPAA Compliant Hosts

GoDaddy and other hosts offer HIPAA compliant email.

Host
Host

GoDaddy was the least expensive of the providers we found using Exchange email.

HIPAA COMPLIANT EMAIL

HIPAA requires health care providers to ensure that their business associates will safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI). If you are interested in emailing with your patients, or sending any patient data through email, you need to be sure that your email is protected in a HIPAA-compliant manner.

OFFICE 365 FROM GODADDY HELP

Exchange

Some vendors offer HIPAA compliant email with Exchange like features.

In some ways, these email services may surpass Exchange by encrypting email.

On the other hand, why not get a service that is like Exchange when you can have Exchange even if it isn’t encrypted.

Encryption

You need encryption if you want to secure your email while in transit.

Encryption Key
Encryption Key

HIPAA email providers using Exchange email do not necessarily encrypt in transit.

There are, however,  encryption add-ons.

Encryption uses PGP key pairs.

One key is shared with the public and the other is private.

Without the private key, your message is safe from prying eyes.

Generating Keys

Part of the challenge of setting up and using PGP encryption is the generation and tracking keys.

Security Key
Security Key

The nomenclature is a bit confusing.

Key generators typically import private keys and export public keys.

Some key generators will export both public and private keys simultaneously.

Kleopatra

GPG4Win’s Kleopatra Interface is a bit clunky but works fine once set up.

Kelopatra
Kelopatra

We did have issues with some public certificates generated in Kleopatra not working with Gravity Form PGP Extension.

Interestingly the Kleopatra generated  public key did not work with Kleopatra but did work with Gmail Mailvelope extension.

Importing the  Kleopatra public key into Mailvelope and exporting produced a working certificate for our server.

Mailvelope

Mailvelope Chrome extension easy to install and use.

Mailvelope
Mailvelope

After running into issues with Kleopatra generated public certificates, we tried generating keys via Mailvelope.

Unfortunately, the certificates didn’t install well on Gravity Form PGP Extension.

Gravity Form PGP Extension requires a matching email address for a notification email and the Mailvelope public certificates displayed none.

Symantec Desktop Email Encryption

Symantec Desktop Email Encryption was the easiest solution to work with but expensive.

It works with Macs & Windows but not Linux.

Once setup outlook emails are decrypted automatically with no intervention of the user.

Secure Email

ProtonMail and Gmail send encrypted email these days but you lose that

Secure Email
Secure Email

feature when you send to an outside account.

Gmail is not HIPAA compliant.

Google Apps business email is HIPAA compliant.

Web Forms

If your website asks for sensitive information you should use SSL and encryption to protect that data.

Installation instructions for Gravity Forms PGP Encryption plugin
Installation instructions for Gravity Forms PGP Encryption plugin

Gravity Forms and their PGP Extension  makes it easy to setup an encrypted form.

Gravity Form PGP Extension requires public keys and matching email for notifications to be send.

Decryption

When you send encrypted email you must decrypt to read it.

The following table lists software that handles encryption/decryption.

PGP-Software
Recommended Software

Gpg4win

Gpg4win is a free solution for Windows Outlook users.

  1. Import private key
  2. Certify you will be able to
  3. Decrypt messages
    1. Open message
    2. click decrypt

Mailvelope

Mailvelope is a free and easy solution to implement for Gmail and Chrome.

This is the easiest solution if you are using Gmail and Chrome.

  1. Install extension
  2. Import private key
  3. Emails are automatically decrypted

Conclusion

  • Use SSL Email at very least.
  • Make sure your computer doesn’t have malware.
  • Encrypt email if you and your correspondents want the most security.
  • Use HIPAA email if you deal with Protected Health Information (PHI).

Ways Your Mother Lied to You About Website Templates

Web Design

Website templates offer a quick and relatively inexpensive path to a modern website without breaking the bank.

Were You Lied to?

No doubt your mother didn’t want you to know the tuth about website templates if she ran her own design business.

Am I alone in this?

Perhaps you were protected for your own good.

The Truth

The truth is that website templates can be great foundation for a fresh website or a new look on an existion website.

Our Policy

Downs Consulting typically starts our customers with website templates that the customer chooses to get a quick preview of their new website.

We suggest website templates that don’t need a lot of customization if you are on a budget.

For some, it’s difficult to imagine their text and images on the template not to mention how it will look on a phone or tablet.

If you are just starting out you may want to review website requirements.

It’s best to think about SEO before picking your domain, building your website or even picking your business name.

You may also want to create business social media accounts if you haven’t already done so.

Website Templates

With website templates it doesn’t take long to see an actual site.

Note the site under construction will be out of the view of the general public.

There are a number of sites like

website templates
Website Templates

Template Monster that supply inexpensive templates for various types of websites.

If you don’t find a perfect match , look for a responsive template that would look good with your text and images.

Consider your template to be the foundation of your website.

As the saying goes, “There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel”.

Will My Website Be Original?

Website templates may be used in various websites so they may look

Original
Original

similar to some.

The key to having an original look is having unique images, text and pages.

If you choose to keep the stock images that came with the template then your site will look similar to all those other websites that did little customization.

If you are short on images you can use stock photos from sites like Graphic Stock.

It’s best,however, to use your photos.

It’s easy enough to snap photos from your phone.

Can I Buy a Custom Template?

Some sites will sell you the rights to a template and take it “off the shelf”.

Custom Template
Custom Template

Unless the template has never been sold before then there may already be websites using the template or they could show up in the future.

Downs Consulting suggests customizing your template so that it’s not that similar.

How Custom Can a Template Become?

You can easily give  a template a custom look by replacing the images and text.

You can further customize a website by adding your own forms, carts, background images, logos.

You can change the website color scheme.

Note that completely customizing a template can become expensive.

How Is My Development Site Hidden?

Web developers have a number of ways to hide a site from the public.

Hidden
Hidden
  • Host the website on developer’s site
  • Use Folder of Current Website
  • Use Subdomain
    • Example: demo.website.com

Some content management system (CMS) websites like WordPress are difficult to move between hosts so they will likely be installed on your hosting plan.

Hopefully the host has a simple way to move CMS websites once they are ready for production.

Is My Development Site Live?

If you can see your development website on another computer that doesn’t have the website source then your website is live.

Live?
Live?

Live simply means the website is available via the Internet.

The trick to hiding the website is that there are no links to it anywhere.

Ultimately you will see your development progress to production status (e.g.,  www.example.com)

Robots.txt

Your developer should include a robots.txt file that keeps the search engines from indexing the production site.

This keeps the development site from looking like a duplicate.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

It is vital to update the robots.txt file once the site is moved to its home.

Otherwise Google won’t index your site!

Could Someone Else Find My Development Site?

It’s very unlikely that anyone will stumble across your development website.

If this is a concern your web developer can add a password to the website but this could slow down development and review.

Some folks may confuse it with a real language but it’s purpose is to show text effects.

Just imagine the headlines as your “call to action” text.

If this is too much of a stretch your web developer can put up a sample website so that only you can see it.

Isn’t a Custom Website Better?

A custom website has the potential to be very different from any templates

Unique
Unique

notwithstanding some basic building blocks like the code required to make it responsive (e.g., Bootstrap).

This will make you standout from the rest of the crowd however it can be rather expensive to build a completely unique website.

Can Someone Copy My Website?

If you build a unique website or purchase an unused template there is little to prevent someone from copying your HTML design once it’s live.

Code on the server like php for WordPress sites is hidden so this could not be copied directly.

What About SEO?

Having a website is wonderful but getting found on the web can be difficult in today’s competitive landscape.

SEO

Keywords
Keywords

SEO is the key to your website being found.

Start with developing a keywords that would bring customers to your website.

To rank for any keyword your website should have a compelling reason for users to visit you rather than your competitors.

Once we have your keywords we can do on-page optimization to make your website competitive.

Local SEO

Local SEO gives local businesses a better chance of competing in a local area.

Local SEO
Local SEO

The foundation for Local SEO is citations where your NAP (business Name, Address, Phone) are consistent across many sites with little or no duplication.

There are sites that will sell premium listings that are updated easily but we recommend claiming your listings manually or via a service.

Does My Domain Name Matter?

Your domain name can be very beneficial if it matches or contains some of your keywords.

Domain
Domain

If you are starting out then choosing a domain that matches your keywords is a smart move for SEO.

On the other hand, established websites should probably continue with the existing domain.

Starting Your Business?

If you are just starting your business consider using keywords in the business name.

An established business probably doesn’t want to change their name for a SEO but you could still use a “Doing Business As” Name (DBA).

Why Do I Care About Social Media Accounts?

Social Media accounts allow you to interact with your customers and

Social Media Like
Social Media Like

provide useful information to them.

It may not be obvious why you would want to provide free information but the idea is to establish your expertise in these areas.

If  your social media friends trust your expertise then they may want to consult with you when it comes time to use your services or products.