Author Archive

What is an MSP?

Elizabeth Technology June 25, 2024

An MSP, or Managed Service Provider, can supplement an existing IT department, or take the place of one if a business doesn’t have the resources to get one. The range of functions that an MSP can do for you is very large! MSPs can vend software, and be almost totally hands off, or step in and manage your IT day-to-day. There’s almost always a plan for your needs.

What do you need out of an MSP?


If you don’t know how to navigate the world of business computers, which printer would best suit your office, or which router to buy, we can help – we can source the equipment and order it for you for purchase based off of your requirements. Accessories too! Phones, RAM, docks, monitors – if your computer needs it, we can order it for you. If you need to upgrade a Windows license to Business grade, or retire an older device for a new one, we can smooth the path. If you’re worried about maintaining backups of your devices or keeping virtual servers, we can handle that, too. We even manage the warranties on new devices, so if something goes wrong within the warranty period, we can contact the supplier for you and get the next steps started.


Worried about bricking up your work machines with a faulty program, or leaving security backdoors open on your machines? We can manage that for you! With update policies and download restrictions, we can keep business machines fully updated and safe from unapproved programs. Antivirus, anti-phishing tech and training, password managers, and more form a digital shield to protect you from Ransomware events, and training helps to prevent social engineering attacks from getting through when brute force attacks won’t.

That’s not all! We can also set up VPNs for your employees if they work from home, and location-lock accounts so that hackers from other countries cannot get in. Need help setting up 2FA? Want someone else to handle Microsoft/Apple account setup for new employees so you can focus on training? We can do that for you.


We can manage your routers and WiFi points. We can monitor for outages, and if one is detected, call your internet provider for you! We can also provide network backup with cellular data, where you’ll switch over near-seamlessly if your main internet provider goes down.

Your network connects your POS and ATMs to the rest of the world – we can manage the network. You want to switch to an easier phone system, we can transition you to a VOIP service like Teams. So much of business today relies on functional IT equipment, and streamlining your business processes can be a daunting task alone! When you need experts on your side to streamline your processes, an MSP like us is a valuable tool.  

You Don’t Need Cheap Stuff From Temu

Elizabeth Technology June 20, 2024

The myth that you can buy almost anything direct from the manufacturer at wholesale prices has led to a number of online stores popping up selling garbage hoping to trick users with deals too good to be true. Sure, the prices are low, because there are fewer middle men when you buy from Temu, Alibaba, Shein, etc. – but the company is still taking a profit from somewhere, and in most cases it’s at the expense of the workers and the item’s quality. Fast fashion is the easiest facet of this grand machine to look at, so to describe the steps of this market, let’s describe the life cycle of a simple corset top on social media today.  

First, a better-known fashion brand decides corsets are back in and makes one for a show. If this idea is accepted, then other fashion houses get in on the trend and start bringing corsets out to the runway to compete. Eventually, celebrities wear them, and because celebrities are wearing them, ordinary people want to wear them too. The catch is that not all of them have designer money, and other companies profit off of that by making cheaper ‘dupes’ of the initial design. Not close enough to get sued over, but clearly inspired. Many people go this route, but some are looking for an even cheaper product – they may want to keep up with the trends on a student budget, for example, and know they don’t need high or even medium quality clothing.

Less reputable stores sense the demand via a number of channels and start producing a corset top that might or might not be just like one of the fashion brand ones if it were made of polyester and had plastic bones instead of metal ones, producing absurd amounts at a time using underpaid labor. Eventually, demand runs out, the item is no longer trendy, and instead of recycling the fabric or trying to time the end of the line better, all of the remainder of the product that didn’t sell now goes to a landfill, and production of the next item begins. And there’s always a next item! There is no gap. Social media has made it easier than ever for things to trend off of a whisper of a hint from an influencer, and because the products are so cheap, it’s easy to buy and then dump entire wardrobes’ worth of clothing on the consumer side, which keeps the ball rolling. The same is true of the factory.

This is happening all of the time with all manner of products, mostly made of plastic, and the machine continues to profit because even when something manages to survive four or five trips through the washing machine or dishwasher without disintegrating, it’ll get tossed anyway to make room for the next product. The textiles are dirt-cheap, the labor is dirt-cheap, the shipping and the disposal are both wasteful without consequence. The final result is a market fueled by demand for things that can be let go as garbage with the least friction possible. Social media has created a vicious cycle that is always creating demand and always generating more and more waste.

The invention of “Shein Hauls” is one of the worse things to come out of TikTok. The clothing itself is so cheap to buy that it doesn’t make sense to spend the gas to return it once it’s arrived. Take a picture in it, and then throw it away. This is the nature of the clothing haul.


Advertising Items By Keyword Alone

Elizabeth Technology June 18, 2024

Google has been tweaking their behemoth set of rules for SEO recently, and as a result, a number of websites and items are winding up further down in the search results. It seems like when someone has the game figured out, Google adds a new rule, and everyone has to start over a couple of steps further back from the finish line.

Can you actually beat the SEO? That doesn’t stop third party resellers and vendors from trying!

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You know what this is. You see it on discount websites like Temu, and you see it in Google results for Amazon listings. It’s an attempt to game the SEO system by putting all of the words that could possibly apply to an item without being a lie (which would be considered spam) into the title rather than tags or the description of the item.

And why shouldn’t they? A handful of factors encourage this behavior, all of them driven by the modern state of the web.

First: The average consumer is seeing so many ads while they’re online that they are ignoring a majority of them whether that’s what they intend to do or not. Similarly, most products sold as generics don’t have the time or money to invest in branding in the hopes it makes the product more appealing to the consumer if they’re going to be ignored anyway. Better to play checkers if they won’t win at chess, and skip branding for a more direct approach.

Second: A simple equation implied by search. More keywords = more better! Now, with sentiment analysis, AI reinterpretation of sentences, and a bunch of other tools, this is not the most appealing listing to show on the front page of Google. But it used to be, and it still triggers the search results algorithm to push it to the top on websites like Alibaba and Etsy, who – as individual websites with fewer resources than Google – are far more predictable to vendors. There was a time when doing this made a business look shady, or desperate to make sales. It still does, if it’s on some random website nobody’s heard of, but when Amazon, Etsy, Alibaba, etc. have all done the heavy lifting of building trust with the customer, the customer is more comfortable taking risks on strangely-worded listings. If they don’t like it, they can return it, after all.

Third: The customer may see the product while scrolling, and they may not be invested in their shopping journey. If other generic or third-party products are not showing off their best features, the one that’s putting it’s color, size, intended use, and any quantifiers like lumen count or thickness will catch the eye of someone who doesn’t want to spend any time comparing things. This is especially true for sites like Temu or Shein, which sell individual items for dirt-cheap prices. There is no expectation of quality, so it doesn’t matter if the title is ugly.

Brand Name Doesn’t Matter Online

What does matter, once the consumer is looking at these things? How is this SEO stuff evolving into the online shopping environment? The ratings matter more than anything. In a grocery store, customers pick what they know, but online and especially for minor purchases, they look for ratings instead. If a customer is looking for a MagLite brand flashlight, that’s what they’ll type into the search bar. If they decide they don’t like the pricing, they’ll more than likely just look up the phrase “heavy duty flashlight” and then shop from the list Amazon creates for them. They’ll be ready to consider unbranded items because their first pick is out. Brand becomes much less important, and the number of stars by the item’s name become the tiebreaker.

Amazon has trained this response into their customers. Strange names and brands are a given for lower prices on the site. If you’ve searched for something sort of basic recently, you’ll also probably figure out that a number of Amazon “brands” are just the same factory shipping things out under ten or twenty different names. Searching for, say, a black T-shirt gets you key-smash all-caps brand names like KLIEGOU, JMIERR, and LOLONG mixed in with Hanes and Champion brands. This happens to a lot of clothing items, and electronics like phone chargers or ear buds, and it’s yet another SEO trick: lots of listings matching the search results makes it so that one shadow company gets multiple spots on the front page without paying for an advertisement at the top!

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Is there a way to fix this? Amazon’s multi-listing company issue is, in theory, possible to fight on Amazon’s side – they know where the packages come from, in theory they’d be able to identify which companies are ‘sister’ companies and which ones are unique to the factory. The rest? Iffy! If SEO starts rewarding more coherent phrasing for titles, the customer has to suffer through item listings titled like articles. If SEO rewards brevity (which it seems to already, but if it rewards it more) companies that would be able to legitimately give a detailed item name, run number, dimensional measurements, RPM, Lumens, etc. would be punished for it, while the companies playing games with keywords would simply stuff them into the description, or tags, or wherever Amazon would expect them to put it. Ultimately, the issue is not worth the pain of fixing it.

Why Should You Calibrate?

Elizabeth Technology June 13, 2024

Equally frustrating is the printer printing off-center, or not printing colors directly over each other to make secondary colors. You document would have looked nice had the printer not forgotten what it was doing!

Luckily, there are ways to run printer calibration and get it working like it should be.

Finding the Option in the Printer

The printer itself will generally have an option for a calibration or test print unless it’s a device with no screen. If something is mysteriously off about your pages but you can’t tell what, this can give you hints besides the most obvious “ink running low”. For instance, a test print will tell you if the yellow cartridge is clogged in a way the machine is not registering, allowing you to fix it. In the process of writing this and finding the option myself, I discovered that my black toner cartridge was not printing well, even though it wasn’t totally out yet! A test page tests the most common features, so you’ll be able to see which colors it’s struggling with, if it’s struggling to find the middle of the page, if it’s struggling with saturation, etc. just by looking at the page it prints for you upon selecting the option. You will have to look at it and analyze for possible issues based on the results, but it’s better than going in without it!

Go to your printer’s settings screen (on the device itself if the device has a screen). Where the test print option is will vary by device, but mine – on my office machine Brother printer – is under the “Toner” tab. If you are working off of a device intended for businesses, you may have more options. For instance, the Brother printer I’m working with has a separate calibration function that doesn’t print a test page. Remember that the option’s location may not be entirely intuitive, as the printer itself doesn’t often have a lot of computing power or screen space to help you figure these things out. If you can find a digital copy of your device’s instruction menu off of the printer brand’s website, you’ll get more detailed instructions and a better idea of what your results mean. Your machine will have differing options based on whether it has a scanner or not, as well! A built-in scanner may allow your machine to see the results of it’s print calibration test and calibrate itself accordingly if the option is built in.

It is generally easiest to calibrate via the printer itself, but there are sometimes paths to calibrating the printer via the computer as well, if your printer’s screen is not working or if you can’t find the menu you’re looking for on the device. The computer side will often ask you to do the same things (print a test page, scan it, etc.) and this also varies both by printer and brand of computer, so if possible, take the easy route and do it through the printer. The link down below  in sources ( offers some tips for finding your printer’s calibration options via the computer.

Calibrating Colors

Calibrating the shapes and placement of the printing is pretty simple. Calibrating the colors, so your computer screen is showing you what the printer will actually print and not just a close match, is a different ballgame!

Firstly, your screen itself needs to be calibrated to do this. This means that if it leans blue or yellow, it must be corrected before you can print something color-accurate to what you’re seeing onscreen. Not just that – Polarized screen filters, ‘sunset’ settings, and dark modes can all interfere with the accurate representation of the color to be printed.

This article from Microsoft will show you how to do it in Windows:

And this article from Apple, for Mac devices:

Next, you should ideally make sure your printer drivers are as up to date as they can be, and that you’re using the correct one for your device. The second part is basically mandatory to print on modern devices, but the first part is sometimes tricky – I had an HP printer that would “mysteriously” stop working and reading my ink cartridges if I ever tried to update it past it’s factory default settings, demanding fresh ink despite nothing being wrong with the cartridges I was using so long as it thought the year was 2018. So, if you can’t update the drivers, or the device, you may have to settle with adjusting the picture itself in your digital program until you get the results that you want out of the printer, although it’s not advisable for security reasons (old drivers can leave security gaps unpatched).

Finally, make sure the printer has an adequate supply of color to print with! Sometimes being ‘low’ on a color will keep the printer from using the right amount. Running low on yellow might make your greens look bluer, not because the printer is actually doing anything to compensate, but because the cartridge or toner is stuck in limbo between “low” and “out” and doesn’t have the ability to squeeze the last bits out. It’s obviously not ideal to change out a cartridge before it’s drained, but if you really need it to match the colors on screen, having a cartridge that’s running low won’t help you!


Are You Changing Your Printer Settings for Cardstock? You Should Be.

Elizabeth Technology June 11, 2024

The cartridges or toner is full – but the printer isn’t printing pages. If it is, they’re not actually colored in. Maybe your printer is struggling to pick up the fancy paper you’re using, or jamming, or maybe you’re trying to print on cardstock – unsuccessfully. The printer is made to print on the standard thin paper by default, but there are ways to convince it to cooperate, starting with your print settings on the computer side!

Go to print properties (or your computer’s equivalent – I am on Windows 11) and you’ll see a number of different settings:

The one you’ll need to change page thickness is “media type”. HP and other printer brands will usually also have an equivalent unless the printer doesn’t have the equipment to take thicker or thinner paper.

(This is also where you can change your page’s size if you aren’t printing out of a program like Word, which allows you to change the page size for printing in the print menu instead of the printer’s Properties menu).

By setting the paper thickness, you’re telling the printer that the distance between the nozzle or heating drum and the surface side of the paper has changed. This is especially crucial for laser printers! If your laser printer has just been laying a layer of powder that flakes right off if you try to touch it, it’s not heating the paper enough because it thinks it’s working with the standard A4, not cardstock. By just telling it that the paper is thicker than it thinks in print settings, you’ll probably fix the problem!

If the printer is having a hard time picking up the cardstock, even though it’s printing on it fine, there is usually a way to manually feed the paper into the printer, although this varies between brands and machines. For instance – the Brother printer I use has a manual feed tray for thick or oddly-sized papers, and I have to open the back of the machine to keep it from jamming when I need to print out things like postcards, so the cards leave the printer ‘early’ instead of popping out of the top like A4 pages would. The fewer rollers the paper has to go through, the less likely it is to run into issues. A lot of printers have guides on how and where to load the heavier or thinner papers for your machines, and ideally you’d be able to use the manual that came with the printer – but if you can’t, there are often online resources if you know which model and brand of printer you’re using.

Laser Vs. Inkjet: How Do They Compare?

Elizabeth Technology June 6, 2024

From our last article, you now know that inkjets are pricier in the long run than laser printers due to ink cost. But why?


Inkjet printers work by spraying the page with a little bit of ink in a very precise jet. There are two kinds, although one is patented by Epson: in the first method, ink is heated to boiling, which causes it to shoot out of the ink nozzle onto the page where it quickly cools down and sticks. The second method, the piezo-electric method, sends an electrical charge to a crystal inside the cartridge, which causes it to vibrate and force ink out of the nozzle. (Watches and some alarms use piezoelectric crystals too – piezoelectricity uses a crystal to convert mechanical energy, like pressing or twisting, into electrical energy, or vice versa. Read more here: ).

Inkjets are widely renowned for their color quality and high dpi (dots per inch) resolution, something to consider if you’re printing a lot of pictures or content where exact color is important. While the color range of these printers is great, the issue with spraying liquid ink is that it can smear coming out of the printer! You have to be careful which kind of cartridge you buy to avoid this. Speaking of cartridges, inkjets are rather expensive in the long run: although the machine itself is cheap, the average cost per page printed is 10 to 30 cents depending on color and density, according to How To Geek. This is because the cartridges are generally pretty small and the ink itself is pretty pricey, no matter where you get it.


Laser printers are notably faster and cheaper per page than inkjets are, although they cost more upfront. A laser printer uses static electricity generated by lasers inside the machine to stick the ink powder (toner) to the drum, which is then rolled onto paper, and heated to melt the toner to the paper in the design required by the computer. While it’s less accurate than inkjets, it’s adequate for most things outside of photo-quality imaging or exact color matches with the benefit of speed. Your smallest possible fonts may come out more blurry on a laser printer than an inkjet, but it will be in your hands much faster. The toner cartridges are also generally cheaper and longer-lasting than their liquid ink counterparts, so the trade may be worth it, especially if you mostly print text anyway.

Dot- Matrix and Character

When printing technology was just starting to miniaturize for office use, the dot matrix printer – which physically touched the paper with the dot printer head when printing – reigned supreme. The wailing noise of a dot-matrix printer in movies, alongside their characteristic impressionist look on the page, has since been replaced by much quieter, faster, and more precise machines. Still, in the early days of printing, such a device was incredibly useful for any number of tasks requiring multiple hard copies of data. Just not pictures or anything too fine in quality. There are still a handful of places where they’re more useful than a newer design – for example, they’re still frequently used to print checks!

Their predecessor was better with numbers and letters, but as a whole not much better than a print press outside of their automation – character printers were the next logical step up from the typewriter, with an array of physical characters that would be pushed up against the ink ribbon and page to ‘type’ the print. Understandably, this printer can’t do much besides text, and font choices are limited to what is already inside the machine.


Printer Ink Is Expensive. Does It Have To Be?

Elizabeth Technology June 4, 2024

The type of printer is going to affect the cost of the ink. A thermal printer, like the kind used for receipts and some shipping labels, won’t cost you any money at all for ink, just a bit of a surcharge for the special paper that needs to be put into it instead. Laser printers are cheaper to run than inkjets because they only use toner, but often cost more upfront; other styles, like risograph printers, are highly specialized for a specific purpose, and not ideal for the kind of printing that most offices and homes need to do. Inkjets are cheap to buy, but pricier in the long run – it was a bit of a running joke that just buying a new printer with the cartridges already in it was the cheapest way to “refill” a printer. This is because many printer companies are selling the printer itself at a loss! You can begin to see the problem of ink pricing when you know that, but surely that can’t be the entire reason.

According to HP, their cost mainly comes from R&D – to formulate an ink that is heat resistant, finely vaporizable, accurate, and colorfast all at once is very difficult! Around 2010, they said it costed them roughly a billion dollars a year to do that. But, you may counter, the average low-end inkjet printer has only had four colors available for years, and while jamming and clogging are not as common, the ink research has surely hit the point of diminishing returns. You’re probably right, although no company in the world would tell you that they mark the refills up because you have no choice but to buy. This is where the “razor” model comes in – sell the handle cheap, mark up the blades, infinite money machine.

You may have heard of a recent court case regarding a third-party repair company, and the vendor that makes and maintains the McDonald’s ice cream machines – in court, it was revealed that the ongoing maintenance was considered a source of income for the company! Meaning that if the McDonald’s franchisee wants to sell ice cream, they better keep feeding coins into the piggy bank (this practice is considered predatory – read more here at Business Insider: ). When a company sells a big machine to a consumer, they make one lump sum sale, and if they don’t sell the accessories or maintenance plans, then they won’t be making any more money off of that consumer until they need another big machine. But what if they sold the accessories? And even better, what if the consumer isn’t allowed to use substitutes?

They’ll be like a free money machine forever and ever, in the company’s imagination. A number of other companies try to sell people one big machine plus the juice that it runs on, with varying results – when Keurig tried to restrict consumers to Keurig-brand coffee pods, there was outrage over the plastic waste this would create and the limits it would put on coffee choice, and they backed down some. When Adobe Photoshop switched from one lump-sum payment for the program to a recurring subscription for forever, programs like GIMP and Photopia were shared around social media sites, so freelancers who didn’t have the funds could jump ship and be alright. When a printer company decided ‘no third party ink cartridges’ and started putting proprietary chips into the ink cartridges, most people were just forced to accept this because a printer is not nearly as easy to fool as a coffee machine, or to find an alternative for like the editing programs. To switch printers is, at the bare-bones side of the spectrum, 85$ on Amazon, but when you start looking at business-grade devices, you’d be looking at spending anywhere from 750$ to 1,350$. And then you still need to buy the ink for your new, hopefully better, machine.

An added complication to all of this is that businesses do not want to use some random assortment of programs or replacement parts for their investments! Third party ink cartridges might clog your machine or fail to print, and then what? HP/Brother/Etc. only cover their own cartridges failing under warranty. When Photopia doesn’t work quite right, you have to go to forums to troubleshoot; a business using Photoshop has the option of contacting Adobe for professional support on top of forums and other professional resources. A business wants to stick with reputable companies that have a professional reputation to maintain. Adobe is a well-trusted brand despite the nickel-and-diming, but GIMP? The name itself is a bit offputting – if you don’t already know the program, you might be concerned that someone wants to share a GIMP file with you.  

In short, the printer ink is expensive because the printer company demands that it is, and businesses are willing to accept the surcharge for the promise of quality, whether or not the printer holds up it’s end of the bargain. You can buy XL cartridges, you can buy refillable ones, or you can order from a printing company – but when it’s time to print, somewhere along the line, you need the ink. As such, you should pick carefully when you decide which printer to buy! Weigh the pros and cons carefully!


What is WiFi? How Does WiFi Work?

Elizabeth Technology May 28, 2024

Wi-Fi’s older than it may seem, as it spent quite some time at the fringe of new tech. The market was already flooded with dial up internet, and replacing it was going to take quite a bit of doing. When it first launched, it had an average speed of 2 mbps, which is actually pretty good, about four times faster than dial up, which had a max speed of 56 kbps. However, systems were so heavily dependent on that dial up system that it took many years for it to become the standard.

Wi-Fi is understood to mean Wireless Fidelity, but apparently nobody in the labs that studied or made it ever designated Wi-Fi as the official shortening of that term, it just sort of happened, and then licensing and officiating went from there.

Kind of Like Radio

AM and FM radio have been around for decades, now, and they work fairly similarly to Wi-Fi if Wi-Fi did both at the same time. AM radio changed the amplitude of the waves to transmit information across different bands, where FM changes the frequency of the band. However, AM and FM stick to kilohertz and megahertz frequencies, while Wi-Fi is in the significantly higher gigahertz frequencies.

Electromagnetic Radiation is a spectrum: at one end, there is infrared radiation which is extremely low-frequency, and at the other, gamma radiation, which is extremely high frequency. Visible light falls somewhere near the infrared side, where red is closer to the low end and violet is closer to the high end. Microwaves fall on the low side. A 2.4 GHz microwave has a gap between wave crests about the size of a baseball – the waves aren’t nearly as close together as they are in visible light. (Note – a microwave oven has the same frequency, it is much higher energy than Wi-Fi. Loud sounds can be the same pitch, or frequency, as quiet sounds, the same goes for microwaves). Microwaves, just like colors, are broken up into bands, and different frequencies can do different things. For this article, we’re focusing on information transmission.

What Can Stop WiFi?

Wi-Fi does get weaker when walls or other obstacles get in the way, although this is usually a good thing – there are only so many viable ‘bands’ for Wi-Fi to transmit over, just like radio, so crowded buildings would run out of available bands if they weren’t so easily stopped. While microwave ovens use metal, eventually those same microwaves would be stopped if they came into contact with walls or other solid materials. Eventually, distance also stops Wi-Fi. The waves lose energy as they travel and then carried information is lost.

Bluetooth devices can interact poorly with Wi-Fi as well – they work on similar principles, but Bluetooth is much weaker. If your headphones are undetectable to your phone, even when your device is on, it’s possible the Bluetooth is being drowned out by local Wi-Fi. Bluetooth typically has a range of about 30 feet, compared to Wi-Fi’s much larger 240 feet in ideal conditions.

How Does Protecting WiFi work?

Wi-Fi transmits over those microwave frequencies to bring information to the computer and send it back out.

How do you protect information if it’s just being broadcast like that? Well, a couple of things. While it is very similar, it’s not exactly like radio, where the information from the station is broadcast across the city, and all you have to do is tune it. The computer has to find the network first, and as previously stated, both physical objects and distances can keep Wi-Fi from reaching a compatible device. Distance is a solid defense. If a hacker is in the same building, however, how do you protect the network then? Assuming their device is within accessible distance of the network, can it intercept information sent over that network?

The second part is encryption: it doesn’t matter if the data’s intercepted if the interceptor can’t un-scramble it. Transmitting unencrypted data over unprotected Wi-Fi can get you into trouble – see all the warnings about using public Wi-Fi to do banking – but encrypting it stops most issues before they start. Hence, the rise of VPNs. However, encryption alone won’t stop intruders, so the third part is network security.

The next logical step for a hacker is to get into the protected network and then seek out the info they want, skipping the encryption step entirely. The network itself has to be protected as well! Network protection can be passwords, or firewalls, or anything that prevents closed data ports from being opened. An open port in data security just means something that will allow packets of data to go in or out. A website has open ports so you can access the information on it, for example. If a poorly configured application on a computer has an open port, it’s looking for information, and that can be used to get into the network, bypassing the encryption.

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz

Some modems allow two frequencies of Wi-Fi, a faster channel, and a further channel. The 5GHz channel is what you’ll want to use for your video streaming. The frequency is higher, and that means information is transported to your device faster. The 2.4 GHz frequency is probably what the printer in the other room is best on. It’s better at penetrating solid objects than 5 GHz, and it has a larger range, but it’s also weaker. 2.4 GHz is also more prone to interference, because many things use that frequency. Microwaves, for example. If you’ve had issues with your Wi-Fi while the microwave is on, get that microwave checked! The odds are good it’s shielding is faulty.

Modem Vs. Router

What’s the difference? A router routes traffic from your network to the internet. It’s sometimes referred to as a WLAN (or a wireless local area network) device. Most houses have a router because of the number of network-enabled devices in a modern home. Printers are rarely connected by cable to a computer anymore, for example.

A modem, on the other hand, is designed to connect devices directly to the internet. Modems are hard-wired into cabled data lines, like telephone lines, so they’re less popular than they used to be. Routers have taken their spot in-home, as dial-up internet is basically non-existent.

Routers and Wi-Fi are here to stay, at least until the next big things comes out!


GPU Prices Are Finally Coming Down From An All-Time High

Elizabeth Technology May 23, 2024

But why did they jump so high to begin with?

Assumed Superiority

Pre-built PCs are of the devil. At least, that’s what PC-Build forum elites will have you believe. If you didn’t pick out each part individually to make the most mathematically perfect device you possibly could, what are you even doing with your PC? Playing Hello Kitty Island Adventure? Pleb.

PC gaming rig subcultures can range from cool to sucky depending on who’s running the forum you’re visiting. Some are great, and they genuinely want to help kids just starting out with their devices. They keep baseline equipment reasonable and establish product tiers so no one part is bottlenecking others too hard. Others will insist users have the top-of-the-line hardware for their rig, even if it’s nearly too expensive for them. It must always go faster, there is no slow down. There is no stop. Only. Faster.

If you’re going to upgrade your device, there’s no point in taking a pit stop to save up for the next GPU. In fact, if you’re having a hard time affording it, maybe you should sell the GPU you’re currently using before you have a replacement lined up, just so you have a more accurate picture of your budget. (this is bad advice, don’t do this).

PC forums like the latter only build more hype for a hard-to-find item, and folks who follow them closely might feel like a GPU is worth double or triple what the manufacturer is actually charging for it – an unhealthy mentality with any high-price item market.

Enter: NVIDIA parts, specifically GPUs.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080. A fabled card destined to descend from the heavens and sell out immediately, then disappear for months. The initial sales price for the units in the newly released set went from a low of $499 to a high of $1,499 over the three performance options. The RTX 3080 was the middle-of-the-road unit, and it came with “serious 4K gaming performance, with access to the latest ray-tracing and deep learning supersampling (DLSS) tech from Nvidia” (Tom’s Guide).

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and an assortment of other factors, the company couldn’t restock for months, and they began selling out of their weaker units too. When a shipment finally came in, it was gone in seconds – people had bots poised and ready to make the purchase as soon as it was an option.

Market Exploitation

The manufacturers know that their primary market doesn’t screw around when it comes to very expensive, very powerful machine components. Quality is everything. Streamers, professional gamers, people hosting tournaments, and even people who just like to go really fast all camp out to get the newest, fastest parts as they become available. This isn’t the first chip that Nvidia released and then immediately ran out of, so they knew demand was going to be pretty high.

However, this was the first time it took months to get production levels up to demand. Not only was there a pandemic slowing down overseas shipping, Bitcoin mining became profitable again. For those of you who don’t know, the process boils down to “solve algorithm – verify transaction – get rewarded”. Bitcoin transactions are heavily encrypted, and the money itself is virtual. Verification is essential to making sure the same Bitcoin hasn’t been used somewhere else first.

Anyway, cryptocurrency mining is very GPU-intensive. The reward goes to the person who verifies the transaction first, and multiple people can compete for each transaction. The only way to ensure you’re ahead of the guy with the supercomputer is to keep your device as fast as possible, and the GPU is a common bottleneck for Bitcoin miners. If you’re really making money off mining, then paying double the price for a scarce item that will keep you ahead seems like a good deal, and you’ll stay in line for a GPU selling on eBay while gamers leave and re-evaluate.

Arms Race

The pandemic keeping people inside, the pandemic preventing overseas shipping, the pandemic shifting the market and launching Bitcoin into another peak, the pandemic… everything wrong with the GPU market could theoretically be tied to the pandemic. All of it together creates a shortage of GPUs at every level, but new GPUs ran out first.

A new GPU on the market creates a cascade of used GPUs that trickle down. The used computer parts economy is actually pretty interesting, as depending on what part of the cycle you step into, the used part may cost more than the launch price of the new one. Memes to this effect flooded the market once users who’d sold parts in hopes of getting the 3080 realized everything was either out of stock or pretty scarce. Everything worth having, at least.

It’s not all bad: many of the folks waiting for the newest series learned to appreciate their old cards! A GPU in the PC is worth two in the void.

This is the downside to the more intense PC-building communities. There’s pressure to not stop and wait, and pressure to not settle for a less powerful (but still adequate) device if perfection is available for double or triple its actual price. (Please note here – I’m not talking about people who had a card break right before launch and decided to wait for it.)

This mentality creates poor-quality markets with a lot of demand and nearly no supply. The perfect environment for scalping.


As mentioned before, the used-part life cycle is really interesting. People look to upgrade when something new comes out, so they upgrade to something new and sell off their old GPU. That GPU becoming available on the market allows another person to let go of their old GPU and purchase a faster model than what they currently have. GPUs are durable, so barring a major part failure, they’ll last a while in this cycle. The gist of all of this movement is that 1st tier items become 2nd and 3rd tier when the next generation comes out, and everything moves down a peg in the wishlists.

Scalpers see this and disrupt it. The goal is to eat up available supply to drive up demand, and then resell those devices they hoarded – er, stocked up on – at the new, higher price. Now only 4th and below tier items are available at the original price! High-end GPUs are beginning to cost the same as used cars, so trying to get in on it should be a risky investment, but high-priced electronics have their own rules. If everyone waited for prices to lower, everyone but the scalper comes out better for it.

This does not happen. It didn’t happen with the Wii. This didn’t happen with the Playstation 5. It won’t spontaneously happen with GPU scalpers, not only because it wouldn’t happen anyway, but also because this is a particularly terrible year for supply. If you’re not getting it from a scalper or reseller, you may not be getting it at all! Previous years, it was possible to look at scalper’s markup as a fee for early access, while other folks waited for a restock. This year…

Blown Manufacturing

The first pandemic year was ugly for many reasons.

The lack of supply for the electronic is inevitably what drives scalpers to buy as much of the final product as they can, and we see this time and time again with other products. Why can’t the manufacturer do something about it?

The most common suggestion is buy limits, but buy limits are tricky. Multi-person households may not want to share a PS5, even though they’re ordering to the same address. This doesn’t include portable electronics like the Switch, where children may genuinely just want their own Switch, like they did for the DS series, even though they’d share a PS5. GPUs are much the same! Streamers who can’t afford to have downtime may be looking to buy a backup, and are they wrong for that? If more than one streamer is living at an address (this is surprisingly common) there’s going to be a suspicious number of cards going to one location.

They may not even want to curb the scalping, because even scalping is profitable.

Don’t forget about profits. Buy limits cut down profit if the manufacturer doesn’t do as well as it’s hoping. Some theorize that Nintendo doesn’t make enough of it’s products on purpose so it always sells out and always has demand. Widgets and electronics are expensive to make, and initial release may be the only time they can charge full price without being undercut by market forces, sales, and secondhand devices coming on the market. Besides, it’s easier to make more of a successful item than it is to get rid of unsuccessful items and still make profit.

There’s also the option of increasing supply, which would make scalpers irrelevant. See again PS5 and Wii – more did come out after the initial release burst. However, this isn’t an option right now either. Overseas trade is just now getting back to normal. The Nvidia chip was out out. This gave the scalpers inordinate power.

Long story short, this is a complicated, multifaceted issue. The best thing you can do is wait if you can afford to. If the chip’s working fine, and you’re not already experiencing bottleneck, wait it out. Patience is bad for scalpers but good for you!


Tricking Apple Customers With A Fake Download

Elizabeth Technology May 21, 2024

Apple’s pretty famous for being difficult to write viruses for. Essentially, for something to get into an Apple device, it has to be so small and so powerless that it’s worthless as a virus. Apple takes pride in this. It’s very rare for a virus to infect so many devices before Apple notices and puts a stop to it!

What Happened?

A virus dubbed “Silver Sparrow” by tech company Red Canary snuck onto devices via “update” download requests. Essentially, it tricked victims into believing that they couldn’t view certain content without updating their flash player. The ad helpfully provided the download so they could update right then and there. This was not a flash update – it was a .pkg file masquerading as one! This is a common trick, but it’s not the only way these ‘updates’ end up on machines. If a box pops up asking you for permission to download something even though you didn’t click anything requesting an update, don’t allow it. Legitimate programs will never do that!

Red Canary also notes that ads and malicious search results may have had a hand in the virus’s extreme reach – unsecured websites can carry viruses in images and ads, so if a hacker figures out a site will host ads for anybody, they can use that as a launch gate.

Besides “how”, Silver Sparrow right now is non-specific malware, an activity cluster. This just means that a set of files contain the code to carry out the attack, but they don’t fall neatly into one category over others. Identification only goes as far as “not adware” right now, but this may change as more is learned about the virus!

Reason to Fear?

It doesn’t actually look like the new virus did anything. Yet. Unfortunately, viruses like these are usually used to set up a wide-scale attack at a later date. The goal is to infect as many computers as possible without firms like Red Canary noticing, and then kill or encrypt the infected all at once. They don’t yet know exactly if this is what Silver Sparrow was going to do, but it certainly seems a little odd that this incredibly quiet virus was installing itself in places just to sit there indefinitely.

Alternatively, this could have been a sort of ‘test run’. Whoever made Silver Sparrow included a self-destruct that should have triggered by itself. It’s possible the creators were looking to gather some numbers before actually launching a more dangerous malware that could deliver a payload. Red Canary currently has an estimate of just under 30,000 Apple devices infected, but the number may grow as new infection indicators are discovered. After all, something with a self-destruct will occasionally manage to get it right!

Once Apple was alerted of the problem, they revoked the certificates Silver Sparrow had been using illegitimately and began developing an action plan to keep viruses like this one out in the future. Revoking those certificates should be enough to keep Silver Sparrow from infecting more devices. Red Canary currently recommends a solid anti-malware tool on top of what Apple’s OS already has to prevent copycat viruses, and boost security.

The virus is still pretty scary, even though it didn’t do much more than sit quietly. It’s compatibility with the M1 chip, evading the Apple MRT, and it’s high infection rate are all reasons to keep an ear to the ground if you’re a Mac owner.

Define “High-Stealth”

The virus had a self-destruct function built in, but it seems like it didn’t actually get to activate it in a lot of cases. The virus was supposed to come into contact with a different part of the library that would contain the code it was looking for to trigger the self-destruct. It’s possible the thing was hiding a little too well, to its own detriment.

Notably, it runs on the M1 chip, something malware’s not supposed to be able to do. That may have contributed to how difficult it was to identify. The chip itself is pretty young, and researchers have determined that the virus may have begun infecting devices as early as three years ago, meaning Silver Sparrow is part of a very exclusive club right now.

No activity that triggered the built in antivirus + self-destruct + small size = high stealth!

What Is MRT?

An MRT, or Malware Removal Tool, is designed to remove threats to the computer in the background without the user noticing. This can create problems with CPU usage, and it means there’s less flexibility in downloading files than Windows gives, but the security the tool gives consumers is worth it. Especially for folks who don’t know computers all that well, and may not understand how to browse the web safely. The MRT has a library of known viruses, and combines that knowledge with programming designed to combat new and unknown ones.

As said before, Apple’s pretty difficult to write viruses for. The MRT certainly contributes, but the OS itself boosts this difficulty to a point that hackers and cyber criminals don’t even try. It’s not impossible, but malware is custom-fitted for Macs. Windows viruses are just easier to make, and there’s more Windows devices than Macs, especially in the business world.

Don’t Click Random Ads – And Don’t Download Things

It’s unfortunate, but if a website’s not supporting ads from a large, trusted vendor like Google, they likely can’t vet every ad they sell space to. Anti-virus should help protect devices against ad intrusions, but what about everything else?

For other issues, like clicking links, the unfortunate answer is that it comes down to ‘street smarts’. It’s something employees and regular computer users need some training on. What looks suspicious to one user may not seem suspicious at all to another! Free-to-play games, for instance, might trick a child, while “recipe.exe” sent forward from chainmail might catch an older adult who doesn’t know what different file extensions mean.

What you can do if you’re struggling to separate good links from bad is listen to your device and carefully review the download. Is it what it says it should be (i.e recipe.pdf instead of recipe.exe)? Does the publisher’s credentials match the site you got it from? And does your computer throw a fit when you try to download it? Or warn you that the file may be from an unverified third party?

When in doubt, you can always Google the alert you’re getting – and err on the side of caution!