Smart Connected Homes

Smart Connected Homes & Internet of Things:

So, What is a Smart Connected Home?

The answer is a home with smart devices such as Hive heating controls, Amazon Echo smart speakers or Hue lighting devices that connect to the internet for control when the user is away from the home.

This in turn also somewhat answers the question; What is the ‘Internet of Things’?

The internet of things is a term for the devices that we use that require access to internet connectivity to operate fully.

 

How do they work?

Many of the devices use a Smart Hub that connects to your router to gain access to the internet so that you are able to control them away from the home. This allows you to turn on the heating before you get home, set the lights to swtich on upon your arrival and even close the curtains at dusk. Some devices are constructed with a Wi-Fi chip meaning you can place them anywhere in the house you have a wireless internet signal. This is great for devices such as the Apple HomePod or Amazon Echo that can undertake a multitude of differing tasks from answering questions and finding recipes to playing music and reminding you of appointments in the calendar.

So why do we want these devices in our homes?

Well some of the devices can offer the promise of saving you money, some offer additional levels of comfort or security and some provide information and answers just by asking. Now the tricky part comes when we try to decide which device is best for us.

We will be looking at this over the next few weeks, in our future blog posts we will be focusing on smart devices in areas including lighting, heating, televisions, security, kitchen appliances and more. With our team here at Your PC Guru, already using many various devices themselves, we can offer first hand experience and knowledge of them.

The devices can save you time and money and they can help increase your energy efficiency, provide you energy insights about your home, create additional functionality of existing technology, maximise your home security and provide comfort and convenience.

So look out for our next blog post about Smart Lighting and let Your PC Guru help you to decide which devices are right for you and your home.

 

Team YPG

Dood, Too much sharing

I watched (and shared) a video a few days ago on on “the internet of things”, the idea that the internet is moving from  a collection of documents on servers, to a network of things (computers, mobile phones, room thermostats, even curtain openers) that all talk to each other and share information.  You want to pay for your parking, no problem, just pull out your mobile (it knows where you are) and it will allow you to pay  for your parking to electronically.  Handy if you  need to top up the meter without having to return to your car.

This fashion for sharing has me wondering, do we think enough about what we share?

We get worried when large corporations tell us they are collecting information about our shopping habits. On the other hand we happily share with our Facebook/twitter/… “friends” that we are off on holiday for two weeks (so the house is empty then), who our mother is, what our date of birth is, home town, favourite place to holiday when we were children,  pets in chronological order;  you know, the answer to virtually any security question, our banks, credit card companies and online payment sites have on us.  I have a few aquaintances on social media sites that share so much information, that in a few hours, I could put together a file on them, so detailed it would have taken the CIA many men days 40 years ago.  So my question is, are we sharing too much? Are we worrying about the wrong things when we do think about what we are sharing?  Share you answers here or on Facebook or Google+

Staying safe online

By Richard Churchill – First Published October 2012

Last month I discussed some of the computer scams you could face in your email and on the phone, this month I’m going to cover scam programs and the scams that you will see on web pages. I will also cover how you can be sure you are looking at a real website.

Online Scams
If you are online there are two main types of scams, fake websites and scam software.

Fake & scam software
We often get called to visit customers who keep getting security warnings that they can’t get rid of. When we get there, we find that the security warning itself is fake. There is a whole industry producing fake security alerts and anti-virus software. The objective of this software is to get you to pay for removal software (that is also fake).

These fake alerts are easy to spot, they tell you you have hundreds of infections, then ask you for money to activate your security software. Occasionally real renewal notices from you security software can be confused with fake software, as always if you’re not sure ask for advice from a professional.

Some scams don’t even put software on your computer, there is a way to use a web page to fill your screen with warnings, if you just ignore them, and ask your computer to reboot, the warnings will be gone.

Fake websites
These can be for banks, email providers or sites like Facebook and twitter. The goal is always the same, steal your password so they can do something bad with it. How do you know if a site is real, first check that the login page is using a secure server (look for https eg https://twitter.com). Next, all real secure sites have to register for a certificate. Real certificates are displayed in a green box giving the name of the certificate holder next to the https (Microsoft puts it to the right, everyone else to the left) so we get “|Twitter, Inc. [US] | https://twitter.com”

As with all things on the internet, the best advice is to think before you click, and if you are worried get expert advice.

Going further

If you are fortunate enough to live in Bristol or South Gloucestershire and wold like help with your computer why not give us a call? You can call us on 01454 616365 or use our contact form and we will call you back.

How to avoid scams

By Richard Churchill – First Published September 2012

I wrote a article a year ago covering the some of the scams you face on the internet. In the last year the situation has only got worse. This month I will look again at the scam I mentioned a year ago, next month I will look at the scams that can get on your computer without you even knowing it. I hope that having read this months and next months articles you will manage to avoid these scams or have the confidence to put the phone down (more on that later).

Email Scams
Probably the most common type of scam on the internet, I get a few of these every day. The main types are:
Password Notifications – These emails appear to be sent by anything from Facebook to your bank. They tell you there is a problem with your account and you need to click on a link to fix it. Of course the link goes to a fake website.
“We couldn’t deliver your parcel”/ “Why did you post this picture?” – Bogus emails from shipping company or a ‘friend’ or government agency with “documents” attached, these actually contain a virus.

Just press delete to get ride of all these.

Phone Scams
“We have detected your computer ..” This cold calling scam is still going strong, you receive a call from the “Microsoft Security Department”, “Windows Security Department” and inform you that they have found a virus on your computer but if you go to this website they can fix if for you (for a fee). Simply, no one will actively call you about a virus on your computer unless you have a support contract (not even your anti-virus company). If you receive a call like this just hang up, if you are worried call your usual computer engineer or call me (number bellow) and get some honest professional advice.

As with all things on the internet, the best advice is to think before you click, and if you are worried get expert advice. Next month I’m going to cover fake anti-virus software and how to spot a fake website.

Going further

If you are fortunate enough to live in Bristol or South Gloucestershire and wold like help with your computer why not give us a call? You can call us on 01454 616365 or use our contact form and we will call you back.

What is a Tablet PC?

By Richard Churchill – First Published August 2012

The Tablet PC is the first truly new concept in computer design in decades, the idea is simple, no dedicated keyboard, no mouse, just a very light touch screen computer. This makes them more intuitive to use than a PC, if you want to use an app, just touch it. When you need to type in some information, an on-screen keyboard appears.

The first Tablet computer, Apple’s iPad, was release in the US in March 2010. When it was announced, most “experts” (myself included) wondered what the iPad would be used for. In the two years since its launch the iPad has become a top selling product for Apple and changed the way we think about computers.

What makes the iPad and other tablets revolutionary is they have finally make the internet truly portable, mobile phones have been browsing the internet since the late 90’s but they are small and fiddly. Tables combined smart phone ease of use and portability with a screen that was large enough to make reading easy.

So how do Tablets compare to PC and (smart) mobile phones?

Tablet computers are essentially very large smart phones, they run the same software, and use the same apps (app – program specially designed for mobile phone or tablet). The only difference is you can’t make phone calls on them or fit them in your pocket.

A Tablet works best in situations that make use of its screen size and simplicity, so if you want to do things like looking at a web site, check you bank balance or watch a video over the internet, by using a Tablet you will normally have finished, before a computer has even started. If you want to write letters/reports, edit pictures, or compose a long email, it is possible on a table but it will be much easier on a PC.

Should you buy one? If you mostly use your home computer to go online, a tablet could be the only computer you need. If you use your computer to edit your holiday pictures, or do a lot of admin work on it, a tablet may be a handy extra but you will still want a PC.

Going further

If you are fortunate enough to live in Bristol or South Gloucestershire and wold like help with your computer why not give us a call? You can call us on 01454 616365 or use our contact form and we will call you back.

Choosing a Computer

By Richard Churchill – First Published July 2012

The average PC will stay with you for at least 4 years, so choosing well is key to avoiding stress in years to come. The choices involved in buying a computer are intimidating. Here I briefly cover the major choices, I have put a longer guide “Buying a Computer”

First choice, what type of computer do you want? There are 3 main designs,
Tablets these look like large mobile phones, good for browsing online (I’ll cover these next month).

Laptops have flip up tops, giving you a screen and keyboard, varying from ultra-light to big and heavy, the larger models are faster but time between charges decreases (the biggest run from mains chargers most of the time).

Desktop/All-in-One, here the computer parts are either in a separate box, or built in to the back of the monitor. These are what most people think of as a computer. Other than shape there is no difference between Laptops and Desktops

The next question is “PC or Mac”? Mac is exclusive to Apple Inc and runs Apple’s own Mac OS software, considered to be more reliable and secure. Macs are more expensive, with fewer software titles available for them. A PC is any other computer than runs Microsoft Windows. PCs are cheaper, made by many companies, run more software but are more vulnerable to attack.

The hard disk is where you store all your stuff, (it’s the figure measured in hundreds of “gb” in a computers details). Simply the bigger it is, the more videos, music etc. you can store.

Finally the processor and ram, the brains and working memory of the computer. Processors have become so powerful now that for the average home user, even the slowest current processor will still be fast enough. Ram is now the most important element, without enough of it the computer will run slowly. 2GB is the minimum 3Gb or 4Gb are better if you can get it, more is unnecessary at the moment.

Going further

If you are fortunate enough to live in Bristol or South Gloucestershire and wold like help with your computer why not give us a call? You can call us on 01454 616365 or use our contact form and we will call you back.

Using the index

By Richard Churchill – First Published June 2012

The internet is often described in the same terms as an encyclopedia, the first place you normally look in an encyclopedia is the index. So where is the index for the internet? The internet has a lot of indexes, each run by a different company, each giving you a slightly different answer, for example Google, Yahoo, Bing (Microsoft). Continue reading “Using the index”

Shopping safely online

By Richard Churchill – First Published May 2011

Online shopping is one of the great conveniences of modern life, you can find almost anything, anywhere in the world and have it shipped to your door. However shopping online can be a worrying and confusing experience, if you are not confident that the website you are going to buy from is real, secure and well regarded. Continue reading “Shopping safely online”

Getting the Facts

By Richard Churchill – First Published April 2011

The coming of the internet has given us much greater access to information, it is now possible to find out almost anything about anything of the slightest significance. Anyone can put information on the internet and there is no editorial control. How in that case do you know the information you are reading is accurate? Continue reading “Getting the Facts”