Thursday, September 22, 2011

Computer Engineering Programs - What Are Your Choices?

It is without a doubt that computer engineering programs will continue to be the wave of the future. So it is not surprising to see universities and colleges putting up their own curriculums, each harping on a specialty to attract potential computer engineers.

Before unveiling the choices of earning a degree, a little background is necessary. Combining the training of an engineer and technical know-how of a computer scientist, this discipline can be applied to every business whose operations depend on computer systems. So given the opportunities that it can give, what are the choices available for this program?

Online or the classroom

One of the earliest decisions a prospective student should face is: how do I want to earn my degree? The programs online are definitely on the rise. A quick search will reveal a range of options, varying from period of completion to partner institutions that add flexibility to your online study.

If you prefer the traditional mode of instruction, the schools offer more chances to diversify one's study path. Given that different industries also embrace computer engineering programs, then it is advisable for its students to explore other subject matters. This will come in handy after graduation.

Top computer engineering programs

More applicable to offline settings, rankings of computer engineering schools will give you an idea of the best that they have to offer. Scourge online archives to discover institutions that may not be on your radar of Ivy Leagues, but have a strong reputation among practicing computer engineers.

Specializations or areas of expertise often differentiate one college from another. Still, knowing the trends can provide you with an advantage not available to less vigilant students. For instance, did you know that a growing field for computer engineering is robotics? From government research to private enterprises, the prospects of robotics loom large and promising.

Another thing to consider would be the quality of its alumni network. Useful for job hunting and career advancement, it will be a lot of help to know how your former schoolmates are faring in the real world. In fact, surveys that are meant to determine educational ranking include alumni connections as one of its components for judgment.

If you find yourself getting lost in circles trying to interpret the surveys, then go straight to the data that indicates how many working years will it take to get a return of investment to one's tuition. Aside from having an idea how soon you can repay the student loan, it will serve as a peg to what your income should be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Personal Computers And How To Keep Them Running

Personal Computers And How To Keep Them Running - or at least make an attempt

Spyware is a type of malware that can be installed on computers, and which can collect small pieces of information about users without their knowledge. Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, changing home pages, and loss of Internet connection or functionality of other programs. This is usually installed on your computer without your knowledge. You click on a pop up window, visit an unfamiliar site, or click on an innocent looking link and the next thing you know, your computer is infected.

My best advice is to never click on anything unless you know for sure that it's from a reliable source. That said, I once opened an email from a friend and got infected. Whatever it was that got on my computer prevented me from running or updating my virus program, and blocked me from any anti virus related web sites. I went to my work computer to research and download the fix to floppy disk, and was successful in removing the infection. My friends computer never showed any signs of being infected, curiously enough.

I've seen some authentic looking pop up windows that tell the user their computer is infected and they need to run a scan to remove the infected files. If the user clicks to scan, the program then runs a fake scan and lists files that aren't really on the computer. This is all done in an effort to get the user to buy something. I have a friend who took the bait on this and his credit card company actually called him up to say that the company was a fraud.

About 3 years ago a friend brought his laptop to me complaining that it was slow and he had trouble browsing the internet. The most obvious thing when opening the browser was that he had at least 6 different toolbars installed, so only about two-thirds of the screen was actually showing the web content, the rest of the screen was being taken up by the toolbars. I've noticed that many times when you're downloading a perfectly legitimate program they will offer to also download and install a toolbar, and if you're not paying attention and reading carefully, you will have a toolbar installed. The good thing is that if you do mistakenly download a toolbar, they are easily removed through the control panel, add/remove programs. After removing all of the toolbars and some other spyware, the computer was back to normal. I'm not saying that toolbars are a bad thing, but having 6 of them is a bit much.

More recently another friend called me to ask about a strange pop up that appeared stating that an update was unable to complete. When I asked her what the program was that was trying to update, I knew immediately that it was some sort of toolbar. She went on to say that her grandson had spent the weekend and had used the computer. Kids are quick to click without reading or understanding what can happen when clicking. This could be solved by setting up a separate user account that would not allow the installation of any programs while logged in as that user, but most people don't want the hassle of even logging in, let alone having to login as different users.

Lately I've had another friend with a laptop that's been acting up. Sometimes she can't get on the internet, it freezes and is performing poorly in general. She had no virus or spyware programs running so I was actually surprised the computer wasn't infected worse than it actually was. After installing some spyware removal software and running it a few times I got it cleaned up. Sometimes when removing spyware it appears that all is well until you reboot and find the spyware is back. In this case you can try rebooting into safe mode and running the removal program again.

After returning the laptop everything was fine for a couple of weeks and then it started acting up again, so she brought it back to me. This time I cleaned up the spyware and also rolled back her browser one version. I can't say for sure why that helped, or even why I did it, but it seemed to do the trick.

When you buy a new computer the chances are pretty good that it has some kind of virus or spyware protection program pre-installed. The problem that many people make is that this program is only good for a trial period of time, and at the end of that trial they don't buy the continued protection or replace the trial version with another program. And if they do either of those things many people fail to update the program. These updates are necessary due to new viruses and spyware programs being released on the unsuspecting consumer. Anti virus/spyware programs are updated, usually once a week, and it's important for you to keep them up to date.

So, how do you keep your personal computer safe? Most importantly, be careful what you open in your email, and what you click on while browsing the internet. Read before clicking the "I accept" button. Have some anti spyware and anti virus protection software on your computer and keep it up to date. There are free programs available and, depending on your browsing habits, they may work fine for you. On the other hand a paid program costing less that fifty bucks a year is much cheaper than having to take your computer to a professional to have it cleaned up. Reboot your computer often. I have one client that hates to reboot because she always has so many windows open, which is another issue. She'll call me and say that her Outlook is not working. Once I convince her that she needs to reboot, it magically starts working again. A good reboot will do wonders for a computer. When looking for a program to use, stick with a well known company. I don't trust sites that say's "click now to check your computer". They're trying to sell you something without knowing if you even need it and may even be infecting your computer with the same spyware you're trying to get rid of.