FBI MoneyPak Virus Alert

We have seen some new versions of the FBI MoneyPak virus. The latest versions are requesting three to five hundred dollars. There is nothing you can do to remove this yourself unless you have another user ID you can log in to. If you see this warning when you attempt to log in, shut your computer off immediately and contact a professional. The virus will automatically install other viruses, which are extremely difficult to remove, and will attempt to steal your identity.
We have the tools and experience to remove this. If you know of anyone hit with this, please refer them to us, Irwin Electronics 480-382-4761

Posted in BNI

Magazine Article Interview

I received a set of interview questions for an upcoming magazine article, so I thought I’d share them here:

Questions About the Industry


How did you get started with your business? What made you decide to be a part of your industry?


I started working on computers as a hobby in 1980. I had a Radio Shack Color Computer. I attended R.E.T.S Electronics school on weekends while I was still in High School where I was studying electronic engineering. I worked my way through High School repairing Radios and Televisions. I also became a licensed Amateur Radio operator, and repaired HAM radios. I used my electronics knowledge to extensively modify my little Co-Co to do things Radio Shack never imagined! I had 64K of memory when it only supported 16K. I had dual external floppy drives, when it only supported a cassette deck. I tapped into the video out to create a composite video connection to a real monochrome monitor when Radio Shack connected to a TV. I was running a parallel printer through the serial port, and a real modem through the  parallel port. I was able to tie all this together and run the second most popular BBS in the state or Maryland.

In 1990 I was able to turn my hobby into a career at American Express, supporting all the desktops in their Establishment Services division. Then when they decided to migrate from mainframe to a server based architecture, they sent me to school to learn Novell. Later they decided to install Windows based servers and sent me to school again to earn my M.C.S.E.

I spent the last 20 years supporting thousands of Enterprise Servers for some of the biggest names in the world. But I really love the desktop and end user support. As my career advanced, I found myself working solely in the background with no recognition. I also found myself being out-tasked to various contracting agencies as corporations decided to out-task their IT support. The last time I got laid off, I made the decision to incorporate my old radio and television repair company into Computer Repair. Even that has morphed a little over the past year to focus on residential support, my true passion.


Which aspect of your industry interests you most?


I covered my passion for helping people in the last question. Computers are still my hobby, and I am extremely fortunate to be able to make them my career. I am interested in many aspects from both a hardware and software standpoint. I have become an expert at Virus Removal, in addition to my extensive Windows training and knowledge. I have a unique ability to tune Windows and really speed up most any computer. This helps me save people money as their old computers will continue to serve their needs without spending a fortune on new equipment.


What are you doing to keep up with the constant changes in your industry?


READ. I read computer magazines. I read advertising catalogs. I search the web for topics of interest. And in my downtime, I still “play” with my computers. I test new software, I read reviews, and I’m not afraid to break things. It is through constant break and repair that I learn how things work, what works, and what doesn’t.


What future do you envision for the industry you belong in?


People will always have computers, and they depend on them more and more. The hardware may change, but the basics remain pretty much the same. I see the industry moving more toward tablets and cellphones, but hopefully not completely within the next 10 years. As long as there is still an interest in keeping the old dinosaur desktops and laptops running, I will be here to help.


If there are changes you can do with your industry, what would it be and why?


I hope to help people realize that desktops and laptops still perform better for web surfing, and creating content. I also believe that for most of this, you do not need a lot of power. In the future, this will certainly change, and I will need to adapt. I know that in today’s economy people do not have the money to spend on the latest and greatest gadgets, and those that do still go back to their trusty computers for the tasks in which they excel. I hope to help keep the Personal Computer alive and well for years to come.


Any notable experiences/success stories that reinforced your interest in the industry?


As a child I was always interested in electronics. I had electronic project kits, where I could build literally hundreds of projects with the included diagrams. I found that I could combine the kits, and create my own projects. This sparked my interest in electronic engineering, and eventually computers. I’ve been doing this stuff for more than FORTY years, and I still love it.


Questions About Business


What sets your business apart from others?


First of all, I have more experience, training, and certifications than most anyone. As I said, I’ve been doing this literally my whole life. I am not looking to get rich doing this. Sure, I could charge a fortune for my services, but how is that really helping people? Deep down, I’m much more of a people person than most people in this industry. I am a Christian, and I believe that I have been granted this gift not for myself, but to help my community.

I also don’t believe you must subscribe to monthly service. Sure everyone, including myself, will tell you there are tasks that must be run regularly to keep your computer working properly. If you think about it, it’s a computer. It can schedule and run tasks on it’s own. That’s what computers do! I schedule these tasks, so you don’t need to pay me, or anyone else, every month for service. I’m confident that when you see how well everything works when I’m done, you will call me if/when you ever do have another problem. I’m sure that you will gladly refer me to your friends and neighbors. It is my hope, that I will continue to expand on this new business enough to keep this company running for years to come.


What is the purpose of your business?


In the broadest term, computer repair. But I do so much more, for so much less, because I believe it’s the right thing to do.


What can clients expect from you in the coming months? The following year?


I continue to learn new tricks every day. I have an interest in VOIP, and can use my experience there to help people save money. I continue to add new services, and will continue to adopt new technologies. As customers find new problems with both old, and new, technologies, I will continue to find solutions.


What aspects of your business do you want to improve? Why?


I am still, and likely always will be, building my business. I need to continue to attract new customers. I need to continue to stay abreast of changes in the industry. I need to continue to expand my knowledge and experience. If I fail in any one of these, my business will fail.


Who or what inspires your business?


I guess myself more than anything, or anyone, else. It is my hobby and my passion.


What is the most important aspect of your business?


The most important aspect of my business is helping people. Everyone has a computer, and everyone has problems. No one wants to spend money where they don’t need to. The majority of my customers are unemployed, retired, or living on a fixed income. I understand that. I sympathize with them. I’ve been there myself, more than once! I’m just glad I can help.


Describe your company in one word.


There are so many “one words” to describe Irwin Electronics. Trustworthy, helpful, ingenuity, and competitive all come to mind. Take your pick.


Questions About Products/Services


What is your latest product/service? Kindly explain and elaborate.


Our newest product is our Dell D630 refurbished laptops. Members of my family needed new laptops for work and school, but they did not have a lot of money to spend. They asked me for help, and this is what I found. When I received the first one, I discovered the refurbishing companies idea of refurbish was simply a new battery, power supply, and clean install of Windows 7. That’s a great start, but many things didn’t work. I could not scroll with the touchpad because the drivers were not installed. I could not see the volume level on the screen because the Dell Quickset application was not installed. The BIOS was out of date. There was no productivity software installed, not to mention anti-virus, flash player, and pdf viewer, etc. Also the laptops were a little light on RAM. Memory is cheap, and it is the most cost effective upgrade you can make. When I was done with it, my family absolutely LOVED it. They requested another for another family member, and yet another after that. A friend of mine said, “you could sell these things.” So here they are!


How did you choose the products/services you offer?


Need vs. Skills vs. Interest. Is there a need for tablet repair? Sure, but I don’t have the skills. I have an interest, and the knowledge, but I struggle with the tiny connectors. My hands are not as steady as they used to be. Carpet cleaning is in high demand too. I have the basic skills, but not the interest.


What product/service you are currently developing/plan to offer soon?


We’ve had really good luck with our VOIP solution for our phone system. The need is there, and I’m certainly interested, and excited, about it. The hardware can be purchased for $50, but the setup is cumbersome at best. Once everything is configured, your phone service can be completely free with a few exceptions. What to charge for the service and what are people willing to pay remains to be determined.

I also have a solution to the biggest complaint with Windows 8, the lack of the Start button on the desktop, and the need to go through the Metro interface to get to the classic desktop. I expect this service to really take off as more people migrate.


What makes your products special?


The service is what makes our products special. In fact, we sell our products at cost!


How does your product/service impact your clients?


We never sell anything our customers don’t need, and why would we if we sell at cost? We get terrific prices on the products we do sell, and this helps our customers save money. Our service is to identify and correct the problems our customers are experiencing with their computers.


How does your product/service make a difference in the world?


We exceed the needs of our customers. We include additional services at no charge to help protect them from the dangers lurking on the Internet. I’m not sure if this makes a difference in the world, but it sure makes a difference to my customers!


What value do you deliver to your clients through your products/services?


First, we shop the competition, and keep our prices competitive. Let’s look at Virus Removal for more detail. Most companies offer a tiered approach to virus removal. The starting service is usually $100 and offers no guarantee. They will attempt to clean the virus, but if Windows is damaged you’re out of luck. You can get your computer back as is, or pay an additional $250 for a re-image. Or you can opt for the $250 charge first which is guaranteed because they will reformat the hard drive and reload Windows from scratch. I understand Staples will do this for $50, but all they do is load Windows, or restore to factory defaults. They do not backup/restore your data.

I work a little differently. The initial charge is the same $100. If that works, great. If Windows is damaged, I will make every attempt to repair it. If I am unable to do so, I will contact the customer and let them know before proceeding to the second level. That is $240, but I do not add the $100 for the first attempt. With the increased charge, I make a backup of the entire hard drive as is, and will restore all the customer’s documents, pictures, and music upon completion.

Also, regardless of the total cost involved, I will ensure that all Windows Updates have been applied. I will verify their anti-virus software is functioning, and that they have a quality product. If they do not, I include anti-virus software at no additional charge. I also include a Windows Tune-up which stops the unnecessary services, hides the computer on the network, and disables the administrative shares. This further increases the security, and stability, of Windows while also speeding up the computer. I include all necessary software to fully utilize the computer, such as Adobe Flash Player, a PDF viewer, and an Office Suite or Microsoft Office.

I also make a compressed image of the drive when all the work is done, and store that to a hidden partition so the computer can easily be recovered to it’s fully tuned state at any time in the future. As you can see, I keep my prices competitive with the independent repair shops, but add a lot of additional services at no extra charge.

Wipe Your Hard Drive!

Did you know that deleting your files does not remove the data? When you delete a file, Windows clears a flag to show that space on the hard drive is available for new data, but it does not delete any of the data. There are many tools freely available to recover deleted files. Even if you delete your files and reformat your drive, it only clears the directory structure. The data areas of the drive are not affected. If you throw away an old computer without using a special program to wipe, or overwrite, the data, anyone can easily recover all your files. Think about it… Your financial data, private photos, business documents, everything could end up in the hands of a thief looking to steal your identity! There are many tools available to overwrite the data areas, known as sectors, of your hard drive. The US Government Department of Defense has two standards for wiping data, depending on the security level of the data contained on the drive. These standards overwrite the data three or four times. Other countries and various security experts recommend overwriting as many as 35 times! You may be asking, why so many? After all, if you replace “financial” with “000000000”, wouldn’t that mean your data is gone? Not necessarily. As far as the average thief is concerned, yes, the data has been removed. However, if you use special tools to review the data on the platters of the drive itself, you would find much of your old data remaining in the areas to the side of each sector? Why does that happen? The platters of your drive are spinning at 5,200 or more revolutions per minute. The read/write heads are floating over the surface of the platters on a cushion of air. The heads tend to wobble a little as they float. To give you an illustration, imagine this: A group of people are ready to ski down a mountain. Just before they hit the slope, they each had a few drinks. Now the object is for each successive person the ski directly in the tracks of the person before them! As you can imagine, there would be many sets of tracks all over that run. Well, the data stored in the sectors of your hard drive would look just like those tracks on the slope. The most recent track the most visible and this is what your hard drive would display, but to the sides of each sector are all the other tracks the heads have taken, which all include pieces of your data. Therefore, the object of multiple passes is to ensure all visible tracks contain only garbage data. No matter how many passes you choose, and what data to write, it is important to overwrite every sector at least once to keep your data safe from prying eyes. What if your computer is broken? That does not necessarily mean the hard drive is dead. Even if it is, the platters could be removed and inserted into a new drive motor/head assembly. Again, this is something far beyond the resources of your average thief, but if the data is NOT overwritten AT LEAST once, anyone can easily recover the data. You can do this yourself by downloading a copy of Darik’s Boot and Nuke from www.dban.org. Keep in mind however, depending on the speed of your computer, the size of your hard drive, and the wipe option you select, this process could take days or weeks! At Irwin Electronics, we have professional grade tools that cut this time down to hours, and we can give you a certificate of data destruction. We can also recycle your drive. We charge only $40 for the first drive, and $10 for each additional drive. This includes wiping to the US Government Department of Defense DoD5220.22M standard. This is a four pass standard. For the truly cautious, we offer additional standards up to Peter Gutmann’s Method (35 passes) for an additional $20. Before you throw out that old computer, be sure to call us at 480-382-4761 to make sure your data does not fall into the wrong hands!

Posted in BNI

10 Minute Presentation

This text was taken from a slideshow presentation I created for my BNI group:

I’m going to talk about one thing I specialize in:

Virus Removal

This is by far the most common and prevalent problem

This will affect everyone at some point, even if you’re protected!

First: Some Statistics

Eugene Kaspersky of Kaspersky Labs reports they successfully process 125,000 samples of new malware per day.

That’s up from 70,000 last year,

and 35,000 the year before

Some are benign, and do nothing but replicate themselves

Many Steal Passwords

As you log on to your banking site, your ID and Password are transmitted to a server the author can access

Others are used as bots in DDOS attacks

DDOS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. Typically this means he who has the most bandwidth wins.

Let’s say for example an attacker wants to take down Bank of America. B of A has multiple data centers, geographically located, and a LOT of bandwidth.

However, when you add tens of thousands or more computers with broadband connectivity, and instruct each of them to simultaneously blast Bank of America with malformed garbage inquiries, they don’t stand much of a chance. Your request to access your statement will be lost in a mix of garbage, and the site will effectively be down!

Some of today’s viruses are very high tech, elusive, and nearly impossible to remove.

Many use root-kit technology, which means they install themselves as a part of the Windows operating system itself and are fully activated before Windows even boots!

They are able to hide their registry entries and their files, so searching within Windows shows nothing out of the ordinary.

As they are activated before Windows starts, and are in fact “running” programs, they are able to detect and prevent access, even by Anti-virus software.

Some viruses completely delete the files and registry entries for essential Windows services. They will first remove Windows Defender, the Windows Firewall, and Windows Update services. This leaves you wide open, and vulnerable to additional attacks.

I use special Boot  CD’s, which boot a self contained Linux and/or Windows Portable Edition Operating System from the CD. They do not involve the hard drive, and as such do not start the viruses themselves.

This special Operating System runs completely from the CD and your computer’s RAM memory, NOT THE HARD DRIVE!

Once this special Operating System is loaded, it can then:

READ your hard drive with an Anti-virus program,

identify the files and registry entries, which are not hidden because the virus is not actively running to hide them,

and completely remove them!

It may, however, be too late as the damage to Windows may already be done.

I can usually find the files and registry entries for most of the Windows services

Windows itself can recover many missing files

But other related registry entries that are missing or damaged may be nearly impossible to identify

If the damage has been done, you may need to:

Revert to the factory installed image

Reload Windows from scratch

Upgrade to the latest version of Windows

Purchase a new computer

If disaster has struck, first:

Don’t take matters into your own hands!

If you have not overwritten your hard drive with a reload, I can save your data

If you’ve already reformatted your hard drive:

I “MAY” still be able to recover some of the data!

Protect Yourself BEFORE It’s Too Late!

You should check REGULARLY to ensure your Anti-virus program is Active, and Up-to-date

Most Anti-virus software will tell you this right up front when you open the program

You should also check the Action Center or System Information from the Control Panel

This will show you the status of your Anti-virus, Firewall, Windows Update, and Windows Defender

Of course, I can take care of this for you!

I can remotely verify the status of these applications and ensure they are operating properly and up to date

If your computer is behaving strangely,

giving pop-ups and warning messages,

Or you find essential Windows services are not running, will not start, or repeatedly stop,


In these situations the only thing I can do remotely is verify the status of your services


You have my BOOT CD!

I have given each of you a copy of one of my Boot  CD’s (Blog readers can download a free copy from boot.irwinelectronics.com)

These are NOT licensed for general distribution!

However, as used for emergency recovery situations by my clients only, they should be OK.

These CD’s are designed to connect directly to me when booted, so I can scan and hopefully recover everything

But for you, they will allow Internet access if your computer won’t boot properly or connect to the Internet

You can also check your e-mail and run many of the included tools if you’re so inclined

Remember, Irwin Electronics is here to help!

I’m just a phone call away, and happy to answer your questions

I offer free diagnostics, so it doesn’t cost anyone a thing for me to look at their system remotely

I’ve compared the rates both the national chains, and independent providers charge

I charge $75 per hour, and ALWAYS include a cap

Many services take hours to complete, and it doesn’t make sense to rack up the bill every hour until the repair is done, especially on an older system!

Here to Save You Money!

It’s kind of a strange thing for an IT company to say, but you already know how I feel

I’m sure that if I can save your old computer, speed it up, and make it run like new, you’ll be happy

That means you’ll likely refer me to your friends…

Which  means enough business to keep me IN business!

That’s all folks!

Posted in BNI

Christmas List

What’s on your Christmas list? What about your son or daughter? Did you know Irwin Electronics can do more than just repair computers? We can build custom computers too! We add more vendors and distributors to our list all the time. We can get awesome deals on electronics. If you need a custom desktop, let us know what the intended use will be, and who it’s for. We can design it for you, and build it. If you know what you want, like the latest Geforce or Radeon graphics card, we’ll be sure to include it, and at the best price possible. If you need a small form factor desktop for general use, we’ve got you covered. Those same great deals extend to laptops, too. We can also upgrade old computers. Are you on a tight budget, but need something to do email or Facebook? Do you have an old dinosaur in the closet that doesn’t work anymore? If your needs are simple, we may be able to bring new life to that antique. We prefer Microsoft Windows, as that’s what we are most familiar with, but Windows is not cheap. Did you know there are FREE operating systems that give you a similar desktop, and the same web browsing capabilities? Ubuntu Linux is well known, and very powerful. If your computer is quite old, Ubuntu may not run any better than Windows. There are many other distributions that will work well on even the oldest computers! Memory is one of the lowest cost, and best upgrades. You’ll get the most bang for your buck by replacing the memory in that old relic. Did you know Windows XP does not fully configure itself for memory over 512MB? You may have upgraded to 3 gigabytes of RAM, but if you did not properly tune the registry, you’re not making the most of it! If we lost you on the technical jargon, have no fear. We’re here to help you. That’s why we want to know what your needs are, and what old equipment you may have. You would be surprised what we can do on an extremely limited budget.

Our deals are not limited to computers. If you need a new printer or router, we can help you there as well. Perhaps you need a new television. It wouldn’t hurt to call us for a quote. While we do not stock equipment for sale, we can still use our buying power to get the same great deals. Let us know your needs, and give us a couple of hours to shop around for you, at no cost to you. We will call you back and let you know what we found. If you like the price, we’ll take care of everything. If you can find a better price, please let us know where you found it! You have nothing to lose. Our goal is to save you money. What other computer repair company does that?

A big part of our referral based marketing is networking. We belong to several networking organizations, and have established contacts in nearly every field. Perhaps you want a complete home theater system to go with that new TV? We know someone who does that. Do you want to remodel a room to make a true theater? We know someone who does that too! As your IT solution, we need to have all these contacts, but you do not have to be a business to take advantage of our services. Of course, if you are starting a small or home-based business, we are your complete IT solution. We will help set up your computer network. We can leverage our business partners to build a complete home office. We will assist with all your computing needs, servers, network, data storage, and offsite backup. How merry would your Christmas be to have a new home office, with all new equipment? We can make that happen! All it takes is one simple phone call to Irwin Electronics at 480-382-4761. Tell us what’s on your Christmas list, and let’s see how we can help you.

Posted in BNI

Boot CD

We had a great idea, but the execution is proving to be a little more difficult. As they say, the devil is in the details. Many of our clients call us when they have a virus, or blue screen, that prevents their computer from booting properly or connecting to the Internet. Often they have deadlines and must get online to complete a project, or even send a few e-mails, before we can work on their computer. This also means we cannot remote control their computer to resolve the issue without driving to their location. The idea is to distribute a boot CD ahead of time that will load a Portable Edition of Windows. This will allow immediate Internet access for our customer. The CD would include our remote control software, so with a few clicks, we can log in and resolve the issues. The second piece of the equation is what limits us to a Windows based product. Most any Linux boot CD would allow the Internet access, and give us a variety of tools to eradicate viruses and spyware. However, we would not be able to load our remote access tool without a little more custom programming. At Irwin Electronics, we are experts at computer hardware and virus removal. We are not experts at programming, or writing custom software. We are attempting to create a free solution from the variety of tools available for download. Windows PE based solutions appeared to be the best option as they are free and legal. Many Enterprises use them for just this type of task. The Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, UBCD4Win was the perfect solution. However, after extensive building and testing, it appears our Remote Control software does not work as expected in a PE (Portable Edition) environment. Hiren’s Boot CD is another possible option. The problem with Hiren’s is the legality. Yes, it is available as a free download for anyone. Most of the tools included are free, open source, utilities so there is no problem with that. Hiren’s however, does not use a PE version of Windows. That means our software should work perfectly, but if the Windows operating system is not properly licensed, that could spell legal issues for us. Since this is a limited use system used to remotely resolve issues, and not to be permanently installed on any computer, we may be covered. Remember, we are Microsoft Certified engineers. We would not want to endanger our certifications, licenses, or company. We want to work with Microsoft, and remain in their good graces. Microsoft does not endorse, nor support, any of these portable versions of their Operating System. There is no way for us to contact Microsoft and receive authorization for any of this. Of course, we could always hire a programmer to create a custom solution, but that’s an expense we are not willing to pass on to our customers. We are all about saving you money. We look for solutions to give our customers the best service, at the lowest prices, without sacrificing quality. We do have a working product now, but it needs a little more testing before we release it. If it passes our tests, we will distribute copies to our existing and new clients. We will also have an image available for download on our website so potential customers can burn their own copy, just in case they need it in the future. We will post the information on our website as soon as it’s available. As “Your IT Solution”, we offer much more than computer repair. We can recommend solutions for all your IT needs! As always, our initial consultation and diagnosis is free. Call us today at 480-382-4796 with any questions or concerns. We want you to be a satisfied customer for life, and recommend us to all your friends. We believe the best way to build a business is with honest, dependable service, at the right price. We would rather have 10 customers at $70 than 2 at $200. Many IT companies will tell you that you must be on a monthly maintenance plan in order to provide the necessary updates to your equipment. We have plans like that too, but we configure your software to update itself automatically. Many people cannot afford a monthly plan, and are not interested in that. We work for you, on your terms. If you just need a onetime fix, we’ll be happy to assist you. We are confident that you will return to us with all your future IT needs.

Posted in BNI

WHY We Do What We Do

At Irwin Electronics, our passion is end user support. We believe people should not need a new computer due to a software problem! We believe we can make your old computer perform like new. We understand the financial hardships people are struggling with today. We can’t believe Computer Stores, and even some smaller tech companies charge such exorbitant rates! We believe that if we provide the best service, at the lowest prices, we will have enough volume to cover our costs. We believe that our customers will be so pleased with the service we provide, and the rates we charge, they will tell all their friends, family, and neighbors about us. We are confident we can help you with your computer problems. We love the satisfaction we get when we solve someone’s computer problem. Whether you have a laptop that will not connect to the Internet, a desktop that will not boot, or a nasty virus has infected your system, we employ the latest tools to diagnose and fix your problem. When a customer calls us, upset, because they cannot access their business e-mail, or keep in touch with their grandkids via Facebook, we know that within a few hours they will be happy, excited, and relieved. We offer some of the lowest prices in the industry. We encourage you to shop around and compare our rates. Low prices do not translate to poor service. We could easily charge much more. We have over 20 years of experience. We are Microsoft and CompTIA A+ certified. We are very professional. After years of servicing thousands of servers for corporate clients we are a little tired of working silently in the background with little to no recognition. All our customers knew was that everything was working when they came to work. They had no idea that we were working all night applying patches and fixing issues before they became problems. When you call us, you know something is wrong. If you’re in Phoenix, Peoria, Sun City, or Scottsdale, we will come to you, usually within 30 minutes. You will see how hard we work to resolve your issue, and usually see immediate results. You will also find your computer is much faster! We are experts at cleaning and optimizing Windows. We hate to see someone discard a perfectly good computer because of a software problem. Many people think they will need a new computer because their old one is simply running too slow. People also fall prey to big computer stores telling them they need the latest and greatest new computer just to keep up, when all they do is surf the Internet. If you access your email online, such as Gmail or Yahoo, you’re still surfing the net. With Google Docs and Windows Live you can even create and edit Office documents online. It takes very little processing power to run a web browser. We want to save you money! To give you an example, this blog, and our entire website, was created using an old $300 entry level laptop. We even have a gallery site with family pictures online all created on this same laptop. If you’re not playing the latest games, editing movies, or performing complex mathematical calculations in large spreadsheets, you do not need the latest computer. Please call us before buying a new computer to see if we can help you. We do not stock computers and peripherals for sale, but we do have accounts with multiple distributers. To give you another example, a customer of ours was experiencing difficulty connecting to the Internet. Their Internet Service Provider told them they had a bad router, so they spent nearly $200 at Best Buy on a new one. They called us for assistance installing and configuring it. We told them we could get a router that does the same thing for $50 and perform the installation/configuration for $70. We then had them run a couple simple tests that their provider should have done. We were able to determine in one simple phone call that the router was NOT the problem. They were able to return it for a full refund. We only wish they would have called us first. We could have saved them time and money. We want to do the same for you! We know gas is expensive, we understand millions of Americans are unemployed. We see seniors spending their life savings on medical bills. The last thing you need is to spend money on a new computer because a computer store told you so. Call Irwin Electronics at 480-382-4761 first. Let us help you decide if you need a new computer, and how much you really need to spend. With our years of experience and training, we can some pretty amazing things with the equipment you already have.


Posted in BNI

The Dangers of Warez

Warez is defined as copyrighted works distributed without fees or royalties, and may be traded, in general violation of copyright law.

This week a customer brought us a laptop that was a victim of warez sites. Their teenager had been downloading games from these sites so he could play them without paying for them. The problem, aside from the blatant copyright violation, is that these files are typically laden with viruses. Antivirus software is not foolproof. When a Trojan is embedded in a file, such as a game, the user is in effect giving authorization to run the program including all lines of code therein. Depending on the code inserted, the virus could be used to steal credit card information, take over your computer to be used in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, display unwanted advertising, or any number of unwanted activities. In this particular case, the virus disabled the antivirus software and began downloading adware to display advertising. Multiple toolbars were installed in the web browser and the screen was littered with pop up and pop under ads. Typically viruses that can disable antivirus software cannot be removed from within Windows. Most major antivirus companies provide recovery CDs for download. These can be used to boot the computer into a Linux operating system, scan and remove the software, before the virus can execute. Keep in mind, these should be downloaded and created from a clean system. Some viruses can interfere with the creation process. Irwin Electronics has already created a number of discs to assist us in removing these viruses. This case proved to be an exception to the rule, and is the reason for this blog post. Following the removal from the rescue disc, the problems were not resolved. We have been doing this for a long time, and have many tools at our disposal. We proceeded to scan with one program after another. Each program identified, and attempted to clean or remove, many files that were identified as containing a virus, adware, or other malware. Eventually we were able to whittle the list down to 2 infections. The remaining 2 however proved to be nearly impossible to remove. By the time we were done, Windows was so damaged that it would lock up or reboot with a blue screen. We began to move to the next set of tools in our arsenal that help to repair windows. These too were proving ineffective. All of this takes time. When a customer is paying by the hour, you reach a point where further efforts become cost prohibitive. Sure, if this would have been one of our computers, and we were so inclined, we could have continued and eventually cleaned the system. We reached a point where reimaging the system to factory default became the most reasonable option. We do not like to resort to such drastic measures, but rest assured, our competition would have long before trying so hard. Some computer companies would have convinced the customer it was time to upgrade to a shiny new laptop. We are not in the business of selling computers. Once we made the decision that it was time to quit, we continued basically working for free. After reimaging the computer, we installed all the latest patches, updates, and service packs. Next we installed new antivirus software, removed unnecessary trial ware, and installed programs our client needed. We configured all the options on each piece of software we installed and fully tested the system. When we returned the system to our customer, it was better than new!

The whole point of this is not necessarily to say Irwin Electronics is the greatest computer repair company in the Phoenix area. We like to think we are, but this is to state the dangers in Warez sites. Do not believe that just because you have antivirus software you’re safe. Viruses are nasty. We’ve talked before about what they can do. Now you can see that removing them can be just as bad. No matter how you look at it, viruses are expensive. They steal your credit, steal your identity, and trash your computer. All this time, work, and expense because someone wanted to save a few dollars on a game. Irwin Electronics specializes in virus removal. We see this all the time. If you still think it can’t happen to you, do yourself a favor and write down this number- 480-382-4761. Not if, but when, disaster strikes give us a call. We will be happy to help you.

Posted in BNI

Should you move your servers to the cloud?

This week a potential client said he wanted to move his servers to the cloud. The decision to move to the cloud is not so easy. We see it everywhere, Amazon, Google, even Apple has iCloud. First, let’s examine what is the cloud. Commercial advertising will have you believe that cloud computing is a mystical, heavenly, place where all your data resides in peace and harmony for all eternity… Hardly!

Cloud computing is nothing more than rented space in an offsite datacenter. Amazon’s oldest, and largest, datacenter is in Northern Virginia. Depending on your needs, you may purchase space similar to a large hard drive, a shared (virtual) server, or a dedicated server.  There are many advantages to cloud computing. You do not need to hire staff to support the servers and infrastructure. Most datacenters have multiple locations to minimize the impact of geographical disturbances. Cloud based datacenters have very large pipes connecting them to the Internet backbone. You do not have to worry about patching the servers, installing application updates, and data security… wait, not so fast.

Storing your data in the cloud is essentially just putting everything on the Internet. With this realization, some people would stop right there. After all, isn’t the Internet a dangerous place, full of characters who are up to no good, trying to steal your most precious data, your money, and your identity? Then again, does your bank offer Internet Banking? They all do, and whether you sign up for it or not, your data is still accessible via the Internet. If done properly, your data is safer on the Internet than it would be stored locally. How can that be, you ask? What if there is a fire in your building? Or a flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, you get the idea. So we can all agree, backing up your data offsite is essential. What if your business is financial, medical, or a similar highly regulated industry? Again, your bank is already online, so it can be done. So what’s the problem, why doesn’t everything move to the cloud?

Remember, the cloud is more than data. You can also rent server space, run your applications, create a website, and use it to share all of the above with anyone, across multiple locations. Cloud servers are also scalable. You can simply pay a little more to add bigger servers, more memory, more storage, etc. So again, this cloud thing sounds great, why not? Well, you are now relying on your Internet connection to access not only your data, but also your applications and servers. You are adding more single points of failure. There is a lot that can go wrong between your office and the nearest datacenter. Can you afford to not have access to your programs? Sure, you may be able to go without Word or email for a short period. What if your office uses a special application that stores your client’s records? Could that application even be moved to the cloud to begin with? Let’s not forget the great East Coast blackout of 2003. You may be on the West coast, but your cloud datacenter could be in Virginia. But didn’t I say cloud datacenters are dispersed throughout various geographical regions? Amazon suffered a major outage in 2011 when severe thunderstorms in the area knocked out both their primary and backup generators. This was the latest of several outages affecting their customers. Even though they have multiple sites, that does not mean there will be no interruptions. Godaddy suffered networking problems on September 10, 2012 affecting millions of sites.

So what’s the solution? This is where Irwin Electronics comes in. We are experts in this area. We have built several datacenters in the Phoenix area, and one in Encino California. We will work with you to discuss your needs. We will evaluate your applications, your data, and your tolerance for downtime. Many companies today are going to a private cloud. This is not much different from the standard client/server environment that has been used for years. Today’s servers are powerful enough to handle virtualization, allowing the equivalent of multiple physical servers running on one box. Blade servers are ideal where a powerful infrastructure is required in a small space. Thin clients make great workstations. This involves a very small, low power, box replacing the large desktop computers, and running the Windows operating system and applications from the server. From here, your data can be encrypted and backed up to the cloud. You are less likely to suffer downtime in this situation, as everything is running locally, but can still be externally accessible. Going this route does not necessarily mean you need to hire a full time IT staff either. Irwin Electronics can set up a contract where we will remotely monitor your systems, ensure all patches and updates are applied in a timely manner, and provide onsite service as needed. We service the Phoenix metropolitan area. We have the ability to contract with local organizations outside our immediate area if necessary. You do not need to search for companies to handle each aspect of your build and support. We will handle most of your requirements internally, and we will contract others where necessary. One call to us is all you need. We will handle everything for you. Call 480-382-4761 today for an appointment.

Posted in BNI