Author Archives: Blue Salamander Solutions, LLC

About Blue Salamander Solutions, LLC

If you have Windows XP, your computer is at risk


ID-10082591Support for Windows XP ends on April 8. 2014.  After this date, you will no longer be able to receive technical assistance from Microsoft.  More importantly, Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for this version of Windows, which means that your computer will be at risk for malware and viruses.  Furthermore, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP.



How Do I Know Which Windows Version I Am Using?  For Windows Vista, 7 and 8, go to Start, then type Winver.  For XP, go to Start, then Run, then type Winver

What can I do if I have Windows XP?  Upgrade to a newer version of Windows.

How do I know if my system will support a newer version of Windows?   Go to the Microsoft website and search for Upgrade Assistant

If you need assistance, contact Blue Salamander Solutions, LLC at

Spy vs. Spy: “Eyes Only” Email and Texts


ImageHardly a week goes by that we don’t read about a celebrity, political figure, or influential person (I’m looking at you, General Petraeus) who commits professional suicide by sending inappropriate photos or salacious messages via text or email.  Of course, there is one obvious method of preventing TMZ from publicizing your questionable correspondence–don’t send it .  There are, however, times that you might need to send sensitive information, such as an account number,  social security number,  or directions to the pile of gold buried in your backyard.   So how can you electronically send “Eyes Only”  information without risking public exposure?

There are several services that allow you to send email messages and text messages that will not only self-destruct, but prevent the recipient from forwarding or printing the message.  If only the CIA had known about these free services….


Burn Note   If you ever want send sensitive information, Burn Note might be the answer.  Burn Note allows you to send  email messages that self delete once they are read.

One   One allows you to send encrypted data that is self destructs after one use.  It’s very easy to use and is great for sending your classified information.

Vapor Stream  Vapor Stream allows you to send text messages or emails that disappear from your device the moment that they are sent and disappear from the recipient’s device when they are read.  This app does not allow the messages to be printed or forwarded, and messages are not stored on secondary servers. 

 The moral of the story is this:  When in doubt, use the “Grandma Standard.”    If it’s a message that you wouldn’t want your grandma to read, don’t send it, but if you must, do it with caution.

How do Google’s Penguin and Panda Updates Affect Your Website Ranking?


ImageWebmasters, website owners, and SEO marketers have valid concerns about Google’s  Panda and Penguin updates.  What do these updates mean and how do they affect your website ranking?

Panda:  Google’s Panda algorithm was implemented in February of 2011 with the purpose of ending “content farms” and phony link-building schemes. This was Google’s attempt to create an algorithm that gives you, the searcher, the freshest and most relevant search results.  The people who were most affected by the Panda update were the SEO firms themselves, although large companies, such as J.C. Penney’s and Overstock have been penalized for engaging in duplicitous link-building schemes.

Penguin:  Penguin was implemented in April of 2012.  This algorithm penalizes and devalues websites that use black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, phony link-building schemes, and cloaking.  According to a Google representative, [it] ” seeks to penalizes those who  ‘break the rules’ or try to get around Google’s algorithm.”

How do Penguin and Panda affect you? They probably won’t affect you–unless you’re trying to beat the system.  If you’re using authentic keywords, original content, and have legitimate incoming links, itt’s unlikely that your website will lose its ranking

How to lose your Google ranking:

.   Phony link-building schemes

.   Bogus articles (duplicate content)

.   Misleading keywords

.   Misleading pay-per-click ads

.   Malware

So, if you want to win with Google, then play fair, play nice, and don’t lie.  Isn’t that what we learned in kindergarten?

Website Checklist


Website checklistTake moment and look at your personal website.  Are you making any of these common mistakes?

  • Flash in a Pan:  1997 called.  It wants its Flash animation back.  Flash will not show up on many smartphones and tablets, so that cool video that takes up your entire home page looks like a big, empty, black space to some people.   Take out the flash, guys.  Please.
  • Men at Work   If you have pages that are “Under Construction,” do us all a favor and take them down.  Don’t keep an unfinished page with an animated .gif file of a cartoon construction worker.  It looks unfinished and ridiculous.
  • Lost in Space Is your website easy to navigate?  Your website should be easy for an inexperienced computer user to navigate.  The point of a website is to make it easy for your audience, not to dazzle them with your knowledge of complicated web tricks.
  • Digits, Please  Is your phone number prominently displayed on your home page?  This sounds like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of websites should come equipped with a treasure map.   Put your contact number on your home page.  In BIG font.  Period.
  • Road to Nowhere Are all of your links and pages working?  Nothing is more frustrating to a user than clicking on a link, photo, or video that is not working.  Fix it or delete it.

So you think you have a virus….

Computer viruses can not only disable internet access, they can redirect your browser, shut down Windows Internet Security and Firewall (leaving you vulnerable to more attacks), leave you unable to execute programs, and ultimately shut down your system.   Here are a few tips for identifying and repairing viruses:

How to spot a virus

How can you tell if you have a virus? If your virus software is outdated, you might not know from a scan if your computer is infected, but these symptoms suggest a virus:

  • You are unable to go online or run virus programs
  • Your Windows Security and Firewall are disabled
  • If you are able to go online, you can’t click links to Microsoft, AVG, or other legitimate sites
  • You are unable to execute programs
  • You cannot start Task Manager by hitting “CTRL+ALT+ DEL”

So what do you do if you have a virus and can’t get online, let alone run a virus program? Here  are some simple things that you can do.  Try these before you take it to the repair shop:

  • Kill the Virus in Safe Mode     To reboot in Safe Mode, restart your computer, then hit “F8.”  Select “Safe Mode with Networking.”
  • Try to get online in Safe Mode     If you can get online, download AVG  and install.  If you cannot get online in Safe Mode, use a different computer to download SuperAntiSpyware on a thumb drive, then install and run on your computer (Google “SuperAntiSpyware” for link) The ultimate goal is to run AVG or an equivalent program, but sometimes you have to start disabling the virus before you can kill it.  For some reason, this particular malware program slips past the goalie and runs when bigger and better programs are disabled.
  • Check your internet settings.   Go to Internet Options, then  LAN Settings.  If “use a proxy server” is checked, then uncheck it!  Redirect viruses often use a proxy server, which is why you can’t get online.
  • If this is a pervasive virus, you might have to run a few different programs to get rid of it.  My favorite free programs are Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware, and AVG.  And did I mention–they’re free!

If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me at

So you think you have a virus…

Internet Blasts from the Past


Sea Monkeys

If you thought that Sea Monkeys, candy cigarettes, and that creepy H.R. Pufnstuf were things of the past, think again.  Thanks to the internet, you can enjoy those guilty pleasures that you thought went the way of your Little Lotto comic books.  Check out these sites for some retro entertainment:

Sea Monkeys  Yes, folks there is now a sea monkey website.  The makers of sea monkeys no longer boast that “They’re so eager to please, they can even be trained,” but sea monkeys  still have the three-pronged heads that we know and love.  To visit or order sea monkeys, go to the official website at

Ancient Chinese Secret, huh!  We all remember the classic television commercials, such as the Mean Joe Green Coca Cola commercial.  Of course we do, there was only one other station to turn to during an ad, plus we didn’t have remotes then.  To watch your favorite commercial classics, visit Retro Cafe–it might make you want to rush out and squeeze the Charmin.

Necco Wafers…Yum  Remember the candy we had growing up?  You can still get it all at Hometown Favorites Nostalgic Candy Store.  After you fill up on Wax Lips, Necco Wafers, and Pixy Stix, you can step outside and enjoy a candy cigarette, because, believe it or not, they still sell those.

Who’s Your Friend When Things Get Rough?  H.R. Pufnstuf, that’s who.  You can watch episodes of all your favorite shows, such Adam12, The Archies, and I Dream of Jeannie.  It’s all on Hulu and it’s free–so go ahead and spend the rest of the afternoon catching up on all the episodes you might have missed. Your boss won’t mind.


Five Things You Might Not Have Known About Steve Jobs


We all know that Steve Jobs was an innovative thinker, a wearer of black turtlenecks, and a purveyor of cool, but here are a few Steve Jobs facts that you might not have known:

He took Timothy Leary’s words to heart. He turned on, tuned in, and dropped out

Jobs, who claimed that LSD was one of the three most important thing he had done in his life, was also  a college dropout.  Jobs graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, California and enrolled in Reed College in Oregon.  He dropped out one semester later.

He did not know his biological father until later in life

 Jobs was born out of wedlock to graduate students  Joanne Carole Schiebleand Syrian-born Abdulfattiah Jandali.  He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs, a middle-class American couple.

He didn’t play well with others 

Jobs was a perfectionist with a legendary bad temper.  Imagine a mushroom cloud.  Now imagine a bigger mushroom cloud.  Jobs was a relentless taskmaster, who reportedly made people cry with his tantrums. 

He was a Buddhist 

Jobs went to India in 1973 in search of spiritual enlightenment.  He returned with a shaved head, and adopted the Buddhist philosophy.  Not only did he practice the Zen way, he also used the Dalai Lama in Apple’s ad campaign: “Think Different”

He made $1 a year (in salary

In 2010, his compensation package was a whopping $1 per year.  This does not include, of course, his shares of Apple.

Five things you do to put your computer at risk


1.  You store your passwords on a shared computer 

Your stored password is safe, right?  It’s hidden behind those dots or asterisks.  Wrong! There’s a simple snippet of javascript code that, if typed into your browser, produces  a box that displays your password.  It might as well have wrapping paper and a  pretty bow–it’s like a gift to someone trying to break into your email!   Don’t store passwords on shared computers.

2.  You use an easy-to-guess password

The top list of “worst passwords” (according to splashdata) includes passwords with sequential numbers and easy-to-guess words, such as–you guessed it: passwordSuffice to say:  password12345 isn’t a good choice for a password. To be safe, use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.

3.  You allow yourself to become a victim of phishing scams

Phishing is attempting to obtain personal information by sending a fake login form to an unsuspecting mark.  A good example of this is a phisher sending you a link to reset your bank password.  As a rule, don’t click email links asking you to reset your password or validate any account information.

4.  You use universal passwords for all of your accounts  

Don’t use the same passwords for all of your accounts.  If someone is determined to break into all of your accounts, at least make it difficult.

5.  You click on links or open attachments without considering the source 

Don’t click on a link unless you know it’s from a trusted source…and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!