E-waste: Bring out your dead (phones)

E-waste: Bring out your dead (phones)

Today, we’re observing World Environment Day with a quiz question:  

What makes your mobile phone work?   

Pixel dust, tiny hamsters on wheels, microscopic pulleys and levers? 

Those would all be more environmentally friendly than the heavy metals that live in your phone (though we can’t say for sure about the pixel dust).   

That’s right:  Your phone depends on heavy metals like cadmium and lead to function.  And when the phone has served its purpose and decides it’s time for its soul to go to e-heaven, those heavy metals could contaminate the environment if that phone is unceremoniously tossed in the trash.   

It’s not just phones that cause heavy metal pollution when disposed of improperly — computer components, monitors, printers, tablets, smart devices (like watches), and their batteries  all contain substances that, when they come into contact with soil and water, create dangerous environmental conditions.  It’s called “e-waste,” and it is responsible for over two-thirds of the heavy metals that are found in landfills. 

That may sound vaguely ominous — but the public health impact is very real. Heavy metals in landfills leach into groundwater and are associated with high rates of cancer and birth defects.  Makes you wish that pixel dust were really a thing, doesn’t it? 

So, these devices (like phones, watches, monitors and old TVs) are easy to bury in a dumpster, but we beg you: Please don’t be tempted to just pitch old electronics.   

The better idea is to recycle.  Recycling is easier than ever, with dozen of locations throughout Chicagoland to drop off your recyclable materials.   

E-waste Centers

Learn more about what you can recycle and why here: 

And find a drop-off location by putting your zip code in here: 

Here’s the DuPage County Online Recycling Guide: 

And information for Cook County recycling is here: 

If you’re holding on to old electronics because you’re concerned about your data getting into the wrong hands, you can read here about data removal from old electronics: 

And finally, World Environment Day is a real observance — we didn’t just make it up.  You can read about that here: 

We leave you with a closing thought:  Why not celebrate World Environment Day by actually enjoying the environment?  Put the phone down and get outside.  Take your kids to the park.  Go for a walk.  Enjoy the sunshine.  Your phone and laptop won’t mind at all. 

Your microwave isn’t spying on you but your printer could be

Your microwave isn’t spying on you but your printer could be

So this week, Kelly Anne Conway, Counselor to the President of the United States made a comment about a microwave being able to spy on you.

Not many homes I know have the microwave hooked up to the Internet so the entire idea of it happening is a bit ridiculous.

However, did you know that your printer could be an open gateway to your network?

Printers are safe, right?

Most people don’t even think twice about a printer.

  • Network printer, perfect! Everyone can print.
  • Wireless printer? Even better!
  • Over the air printing from my phone or tablet? Wonderful.

All of these options leave your network and data vulnerable to hackers. Known cases include hacking in to the printer from handheld devices watching all of the data from your print queue. They don’t even need to be in the same building as your printer.

Sensitive documents? No more.
Paper copy is the only copy? Nope.

Concerned? We are and we think you should be too and get ahead of the game. We are working with National Resource and Management to help secure and your devices beyond your firewall and computers.

Keeping your data safe

How should you keep your printer and network safe? It is similar to computer safety and maintenance:

  • Verify the security of your firewall and router. Updates are a must.
  • Secure the wireless connectivity to each device.
  • Install malware and virus protection on all devices. Yes, even printers need malware protection.
  • Create difficult to hack passwords on all network accessible devices instead of using the default passwords.
  • Confirm the version and security of your firmware on all devices. Printers have hard drives and computers inside, so they need updating too.

Secure your computing environment NOW.

If this seems like too much to handle, SMB Advantage Group and National Resource and Management have teamed up to offer a full inspection of your network and printing devices. Once the assessment is complete, you will know how secure your network is and if necessary, what steps need to be taken to keep them secure. Peace of mind for a locked down and usable environment. You will sleep better at night, we promise.

Fill out the form below to make your appointment or give us a call at 630-516-1207.

[ninja_form id=3]


How to Create an Easy-to-Remember, Hard-to-Crack Password

How to Create an Easy-to-Remember, Hard-to-Crack Password

Over the last few months, we have had several people have their webmail accounts hacked. All of the users had simple passwords, something that can be found in the dictionary. If you can catch it when it happens relatively soon after the hacking, your e-mail and contacts will remain intact. However, a significant amount of time lapses (several hours), the hacker will disable your account, change your secret questions and render the account useless. Most of the time, these web based accounts are not backed up, so you also run the risk of losing all of your e-mail.


Windows 10: To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

Windows 10: To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

Windows 10 Upgrade only 30 days left
July 29, 2016 is the last day that you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free and that date is quickly approaching.
We have seen the rollout of Windows since the beginning and the alternating pattern between good and bad operating systems.  Windows 3.1 was wonderful, Windows ME was a disaster. Since Windows 7 was very stable, the Windows 8.1 offered a new and quite confusing interface.  Windows 10 is a nice blend of both worlds of 7 and 8. However, just because it looks nice does not mean it will work for everyone.
For those who are curious about Windows 10, here are a few items that you will be missing if you don’t upgrade:

The Start Button Menu is Back

Windows 8 did a great job of removing the Start button menu (the flag usually on the bottom left side) that allowed you to get to your programs and shortcuts easily. Windows 10 combines the tile view of Windows 8 with the program view of Windows 7 so now you can find your programs faster.


Cortana, similar to Siri, will highlight users’ phone notifications and critical alerts, from messaging services, SMS or social media, along with missed calls from any Windows 10 phone or Android device to your PC. You can also voice search your computer and network drives for files or even ask it to tell you some jokes.

Cross-device notifications

The next release of Windows 10’s Cortana will allow your cell phone messaging (SMS and application messages) to be connected to your computer. For Apple users with an iPhone, iPad and/or Mac, you already have this capability. If someone sends you a text message, you can answer on any of those devices. With the next set of releases after July 29th, this is one of the scheduled features in Windows 10. And it is available to Android, iPhone and Windows phone users.

Goodbye, Internet Explorer, Hello Edge

Microsoft Edge replaces Internet Explorer as Windows 10’s default browser. Two handy features are reading view that take any web page, strip out the ads and make it easier to read in one page and a one-click way to share your PC media to devices like Chromecast instantly.

So who should NOT upgrade?

1. Any business users who rely on Windows XP mode that is embedded in Windows 7. It simply does not exist in Windows 10 and requires alot of workaround to get the older programs to work.
2. If you have any devices that do not have Microsoft signed drivers for your peripheral equipment. Any unsigned drivers cannot be installed on Windows 10 without additional 3rd party software.

So What Should I do?

As long as you do not fall into the scenarios above, we recommend that you upgrade now before the sunset date.  Try out Windows 10 and see if the new upgrade is for you. You have 30 days from the upgrade installation to change your mind and go back to either Windows 7 or Windows 8, from which you upgraded.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

If you are a business who cannot upgrade to Windows 8 nor 10 and your machines are more than 5 years old, purchase your Windows 7 machines before October 31st . After October 31,2016, new PCs will only have the option of Windows 8 or 10 as the operating system.

How Can I Get Help?

Want help with the installation or need training during the transition? We are here to help. Email us at [email protected] or call 630-516-1207 to schedule your appointment today.
Dropbox: Take Yours to the Next Level

Dropbox: Take Yours to the Next Level

Dropbox is adding new creation, sharing and productivity features.

  • Preview a file to see Excel, Photoshop, and PowerPoint files—even if you don’t have those programs.
  • Use document scanning to turn that napkin sketch or whiteboard brainstorm into an easy-to-find, easy-to-share digital file.
  • The plus button lets you create new Microsoft Office files, upload photos, and scan documents straight from the Dropbox app on your iPhone.
  • Comment anywhere on an image or document.
  • Gather comments on a file and eliminate those never-ending email threads.
  • Microsoft co-authoring allows you to collaborate on Microsoft Office files online in real time, eliminating back-and-forth emails.
  • File requests make it easy for others to share work with you. Collect files in a single folder from anyone, without granting them access to its contents.
  • With the Dropbox badge, see who else is working in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel files to avoid losing or duplicating work.
  • Send files and folders easily by sharing from the desktop.
  • And much more!

Check out this great video to learn more.