Frequently Asked Questions (Part 15)

Q) Why does my computer take forever to connect to the internet?

A) It’s actually normal to take a few seconds for a computer to establish a network connection when it first boots up.  If you are having trouble connecting during the course of regular use, however, there may be another issue at play.  If you are on a wireless connection, there are a lot of variables that can affect it.  Interference from other wireless devices in the near vicinity can slow your connection down or even interrupt it, as well as non-computer devices like microwaves or cordless phones in close proximity.  If this is your situation, I’d recommend reaching out to a local IT professional to have them troubleshoot your connection, or if you can, switch over to a wired connection to avoid any potential interference.

Q) Do I need an anti-virus program on my tablet?

A) As a general rule, you shouldn’t, although there has been some malware written for Android devices that you may want to protect yourself from if that’s what you are using.  If you have an iOS device, as long as you don’t jailbreak it, you should be fine without anything.  Our suggestion would be to use “AVAST Mobile Security” if you have an Android device and want that added peace of mind

Q) My laptop battery won’t hold a charge.  What should I do?

A) Batteries are the one component of laptops that the manufacturer knows will stop working at some point, and are typically not covered under warranty as a result.  If you ever encounter a laptop that won’t hold a charge, the first thing to try is to order a replacement battery from by searching for your laptop’s model number.  Most batteries cost between $20-$100, so it’s a fairly cheap repair, and most batteries just have a release switch on the bottom of the laptop to remove them.  Just make sure you turn the laptop off completely before changing the battery!  Don’t put it in standby!  If the battery still won’t charge after replacing it with a new one, then the laptop will need service and you will need to determine if it’s worth it to repair at that point

Classroom and Business Applications of Virtual Reality

The opening line to the article Virtual Reality in the Classroom quotes XQ Super Classrooms and suggests that while the world has gone from simple to simply amazing, classrooms have been ‘frozen in time.’  As the daughter of an Idaho teacher, and parent of two school aged children, I would disagree.  Although resources might limit some districts from supplying the type of classrooms they would dream about, most have made valiant efforts to ‘keep up with the times.’

How many of us had a ‘whiteboard’ you could touch and have it take you to the internet … wait did we have internet back then either?

Virtual reality might seem like a ‘new’ technology.  But it has been around for decades.  How many people remember ‘virtual simulators’ used to train pilots? But the true advancement has gone from taking a technology that was fairly boring and 2 dimensional, to quite literally allowing the user to ‘feel’ like the are part of the scene they are seeing. One of the hottest Christmas presents this year, but one that has many more applications than just gaming and relaxing, is virtual reality, or more specifically, virtual reality headsets or viewers.

But what might that popular Christmas gift be used for outside of personal use? What applications might virtual reality have in the classroom and in business?

It’s being used to train teachers. (Virtual Classrooms: A Vision of the Future of Teacher Training)

Students can not only see historical and geographical sites they are studying, but be immersed in the experience.

Imagine an art class going on a field trip, not to the local museum, but the Louvre Museum

Imagine the possibilities for homeschoolers and students in remote areas!

In business the possibilities are just as exciting.  As mentioned in “6 amazing uses for virtual reality in business” how about training employees by recording complex trainings that allow new employees to be part of the office without walking them around and showing them where everything is.  What about previewing new office locations, job sites, construction projects from miles away. Can you image how this could change real estate for both the seller and buyer?

Imagine the possibilities as more and more applications become available for VR devices.  Many are already being developed. Let West Valley Technical Services help you find the products and services to make virtual reality a true reality in your office.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 14)

Q) How often should I back up my system?

A) The short answer is every day!  Most backup software is configured to process a backup every evening.  This keeps the backup process from interfering with normal use of the computer (the computer slows down while doing a backup, and that would be pretty inconvenient right in the middle of the work day!)  We recommend using either the built-in Windows backup software, or Veeam Endpoint Protection (which is a free download- connect with us if you’d like a safe link to it.)  Both of which will take full, image-based (meaning the whole computer can be restored, not just individual files), backups of your computer every day.

Q) Why is my cooling fan always running?

A) It’s actually fairly normal for at least one fan to be running all the time on both desktop and laptop computers.  What isn’t normal, however, is one that’s running at really high speed and making a lot of noise.  If that’s what’s happening, there’s a good chance that your machine is overheating for some reason.  If the computer is older (5 years or more) there is a chance that the paste that used to adhere the fan to the main CPU needs to be replaced.  It tends to crystalize over the years and become less efficient, which makes the CPU run hotter, which in turn makes the fan run faster to compensate.  If your computer has a loud fan all the time, we would suggest you take it to a local It professional to have it serviced before something inside the PC gets damaged by overheating.

Q) Modems, Routers, switches, hubs. OK I’m confused

A) All these different pieces of equipment are used to connect multiple computers together in what’s called a network.  A modem or router allows the network of devices in your home or workplace to connect to all the other computers out on the Internet.  Hubs are devices that allow multiple computers in close proximity (like in the same building) to communicate with each other using Ethernet cables, but are a much older product that has since been replaced by switches, which do the exact same thing, but much more efficiently.  Switches allow more devices to talk to each other at much higher speeds.  The only place you are likely to see a hub anymore is for sale at a second-hand store (don’t buy them, by the way)!  A lot of times, the modem you get from your Internet provider will actually have a switch built into it, so the one device will do the job of both a modem/router and a switch at the same time.  Any time you get a modem with multiple network ports on the back of it, that is why.

Happy Tech Year!

An article in EdSurge titled “We Ask Our Kids What They Learn Each Day. Why Don’t We Ask Ourselves?” immediately got me thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and how this applies.

Some don’t like to make resolutions.  They feel it sets them up for failure to set a goal on the chance they won’t make it.  Others enjoy having the chance to start a new year fresh.  What did I tell myself I would do last year and didn’t? What do I need to do this year to make improvements? If you are in business or responsible for the training of minds … I’m guessing you are the type to make new year’s goals.

Maybe it’s read more.

Maybe it’s learning something new.

Maybe spend more time with family and friends.

Maybe it’s to finish a project that was started in 2016.

It might be to use technology more.

It might be to use technology less (which means using it smarter when you are on it).

Setting resolutions isn’t just for personal growth.  Most businesses start the new year with new goals in mind, also.  The budget was probably decided a few months ago.  January sales goals were set before Christmas. And lesson plans in school were tidied up before the bell rang the last day of December. But remember what I said about using technology less/smarter?

How is your technology holding you back?  What obstacles did you face in 2016 that you want to avoid in 2017?  What slowed down productivity?  What affected the security of your information?

Plan ahead when it comes to how technology will affect your organization in 2017.  If you aren’t sure … if you haven’t given it any thought … or if you don’t know about some of the great new advances in technology that could be implemented in your organization, let your West Valley Technical Services technician sit down with you and do a review of your business.  If you know of another business that might have a few new tech goals for 2017, we love referrals, too.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 13)

Q) Do I really need an anti-virus?

A) If you are using a Windows computer, then it is advisable to utilize an antivirus solution, yes.  They come in two different types: real-time and on-demand.  If you are using Windows 10 or newer, there is already a free Microsoft real-time antivirus built in.  It’s only about 90% effective at catching malware, so you might want to consider another more effective product, however.  Currently, we suggest AVAST free, which is about 98% effective and doesn’t cost anything.  For on-demand scanners (ones you would run only after you’ve been infected because your real-time scanner didn’t catch it) we currently suggest Malwarebytes anti-malware, which is also free.

Q) Am I really supposed to let my laptop battery run all the way down once in a while?

A) This is a carry-over from bygone days when laptop batteries were made of Nickel-Cadmium, which were very prone to developing a “memory” and losing capacity if you didn’t let them discharge every so often.  Fortunately, recent laptops use Lithium Polymer batteries that are far less prone to this, so as a general rule, it’s not really necessary to let them discharge all the way anymore.

Q) Why does each user really need their own log in and password?

A) There is a sliding scale of security versus convenience, and this falls under the category of a minor inconvenience to provide considerable security benefits.  Everyone having their own login allows the computers to isolate individuals’ files and allows IT administrators to know who accessed what resource at what time, as well as control who can have access to any given resource.

What could DeVos mean to technology in the classroom?


What could DeVos mean to technology in the classroom?

For those that have been hiding under a rock the last month or so (and I mean REALLY hiding), you may not be aware that Donald Trump is President-Elect.  And with that, the announcement of a number of proposed staff member appointments have been in the news, as well.

There is one that probably affects a good portion of our clients. “President-elect Donald J. Trump has voiced his pick for Education Secretary, saying he’ll appoint Republican philanthropist and school-choice activist Betsy DeVos to the position.” ( But aside from the obvious, that she will greatly change the face of education during her time in office, why would we at West Valley Technical Services be interested?

“She says technology has a role in the classroom: “I think digital learning is in its infancy relative to the influence that it can and will have,” she told Philanthropy Roundtable in 2013. “I was bored all the way through high school. I can only imagine how much more boring it is today, when you check all of those new technologies at the door and go sit in rows of desks and listen to somebody talk at you for 30 or 40 minutes. Can you imagine sitting through an indifferent lecture when you know there are programs that make learning fun, resources that make information instantly accessible? I can’t.””

We know how important technology is in schools.  For the teachers, the staff, and most certainly the students.  Part of what we do is make sure that districts aren’t struggling to identify their own issues when it comes to providing hardware, software and networking solutions that best meet not just current needs, but FUTURE needs.  How many of you upgrade your phone as soon as you can, but are still expecting to use 8 years old hardware or networking to provide adequate education solutions?  Maybe you are colleagues with someone that has a district struggling to find budget friendly solutions.  

And of course this doesn’t just apply to schools.  Are you hiring employees that have been trained in school on better equipment and more current software than what you are currently utilizing in your office?  Are you keeping up with the competition.  You know your business, whether it is public or private schools, or public or private business.  WE KNOW TECHNOLOGY.  

Start the New Year with an advantage, before Trump or DeVos even take office.  Know what it will take to get your network up to peak performance by contacting your WVTS technician.  And we appreciate referrals.  If you have experienced exceptional service from us, we would love to have you recommend us to your colleagues or write us a review.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 12)

Q) Is my wireless network really secure?

A) This was a legitimate question when wireless networking was relatively new, but in recent years, the ability to secure your wireless network has improved greatly.  There are still some older wireless access points (the transmitters that provide the network in the first place) configured to use older, less secure protocols out there, though, so it’s worth making sure.  The rule of thumb is to make sure your wireless access point/router is using WPA2 for it’s password protection, and not WPA (version 1) or WEP.  If you don’t know how to check what yours is using, feel free to reach out to us and we can help you figure it out!

Q) Do I really need a surge protector?

A) The most common parts that we end up replacing in the field tend to be hard drives, power supplies, and sometimes fans or DVD drives- mostly anything with moving parts, but power supplies usually die because of weird power fluctuations or power surges from the wall outlet.  These could be prevented by using either a surge protector or UPS (uninterruptible power supply.)  Since the cheapest item to replace would be a surge protector, it makes the most sense to just keep one between your PC and the wall at all times, so yes, we highly suggest using one 🙂

Q) Desktop, laptop, or tablet.  Which should I use?

A) Generally speaking, it’s more cost-effective to use a desktop whenever possible- they are cheaper and more upgradable than laptops or mobile devices.  When you need full computing power on the go (like on a business trip), a laptop will be what you want to go with.  Tablets seem to be best for consuming material, like checking email, watching videos, or reading documents.  As such, they tend to be better as a second device to use when you don’t want to use something heavy or bulky like a laptop.  Chromebooks could fit into this territory as well…