Ask The Nice Guy - Ransomware, iPad Mini, AirPrint Printers

This is the 14th post in a series called Ask The Nice Guy. In this series I will attempt to provide answers to the various questions I get asked throughout the week.

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in this blog post, boiled down to five word (or less) summaries.

  1. Ransomware
  2. iPad Mini To Buy
  3. AirPrint Printer Recommendations

QUESTION 1: Scary Email - Am I Safe?

I received this terrifying email from the company that sold me anti- spam and virus protection programs on my old computer.. Is this just another “scheme” to entice me to purchase more software or am I okay with the free Microsoft Security Essentials?

Here is the "terrifying" email:

Last week I sent out a newsletter alerting you all of the Crypto Locker Virus that is spreading like wildfire. I’m sending out an email this time because it’s important I alert my clients of this once again.

What this virus does is locks you out of your computer unless you pay a $300 fee. You get it by opening an attachment in your email; usually one that says it’s from FedEx or UPS. This is now a well-known virus in all computer repair industries,and yes...while many technicians can fix the issues, this is not saying they can for sure and it could possibly be more expensive to fix than the $300 ransom. I am letting you know that I cannot fix this virus, not onsite or remotely. Your best defense is prevention.

There are various viruses that will do what is described in the email. They are called "ransomware" because they take your computer as a hostage and demands a ransom payment to unlock your computer. This is a very aggressive form of malware and can be challenging to remove. I just helped a client a few weeks ago that had a laptop taken over by this kind of malware. I was able to get the laptop functional again but we lost everything that was on the laptop.

In theory some of the paid anti-virus software may do a better job than the free Microsoft Security Essentials. There is no guarantee though and in this situation I am guessing that the client had clicked on an attachment from someone they didn't know and ended up downloading and installing the malware onto their computer. It will disable the antivirus at that point and take over your machine.

The best way to prevent viruses, malware, spyware, ransomware or any other attack on your computer is to follow these basic guidelines:

  • Don't open attachements from people you don't know. If you do know who sent it, double check with them to make sure that it was really them who sent it. This is not necessary if you were expecting an attachement from someone you know.
  • Don't download programs from random websites. This is where a large majority of the viruses, malware, spyware, ransomware comes from. Most people will type in a name of a program into Google and will often land on Make sure you are downloading software from the official website (e.g.,,
  • Don't download music, movies, television shows, or applications illegally. This is another common way to infect your computer. The music, movie, and television industry does not give their stuff away for free. If you are obtaining this kind of media for free you are breaking the law and opening your computer up to attack.
  • Pay attention when you are installing software. Some programs attempt to install malware as a part of their own installation process. When installing software, pay close attention to the message boxes before clicking Next, OK, or I Agree.


What IPad mini should I buy? Does the ability to use the internet in the car come with all of them? I would like to use the maps and GPS in the car.

I would buy the iPad mini with Retina display (available later in November) or perhaps the iPad Air (available November 1st). The iPad Air is smaller than the large screen iPad that most people have and yet offers a bigger screen than the iPad mini.

To use the iPad on the internet in the car along with GPS you would need to purchase the iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular. You will have to pick a cell phone carrier (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon) and make sure that you purchase the iPad for that specific carrier. You do not need to pick the same carrier that you have your cell phone through because it is billed separately (one month at a time to your credit or debit card).

There will be a small monthly fee for the ability to access the internet through the cell phone carrier. I would choose the carrier that gets the best reception where you would use the iPad most frequently. I have heard that Verizon and AT&T generally have the best coverage across the country. I have T-Mobile on my iPhone 5S and it works great in the Twin Cities but was spotty on my recent road trip to Fargo.

I would stick with the 16GB or 32GB variety. Hope that helps! I just bought the iPad Air and I have been very happy with it.


I was in your spring iPad class in Hastings and you mentioned “air printers” that are needed to print from an ipad. Any recommendations?

I would recommend the Epson Workforce WF-3520. The reviews are positive and is priced reasonably. I have many clients that have purchased this printer and I have heard positive feedback from them. If I was looking to purchase a new AirPrint compatiable printer this is the one that I would buy.

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5 Things - Week Ending 7/12/13

This is the 48th post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

Google it. Everyone who has ever connected to the Internet knows what that means. But should it really mean use Google to search for/find something on the Internet? Or should it be a term for being bombarded with ads and white space when you’re looking for something.’s search results have all just become links to Google’s own services.

Above you see a screenshot of taken on my 11-inch MacBook Air. I did the math and it appears only 16% of the screen is showing actual search results. The rest of the screen is either blank space, the Google search bar (18%), ads (51%), or a map of nearby mechanics (15%).

One of the reasons people fell in love with Google was that it offered high quality search results in a nice and clean format. When you now do a search on, over 50% of the screen may be covered in ads.

I have been using DuckDuckGo as my search engine more and more due to various frustrations with Google and this is one of them.

Free Wi-Fi? Beware of security risks

Larry Higgs:

Do you want to buy those shoes you are looking at online while sipping coffee and enjoying free Wi-Fi at the local bistro? Better stop before you shop.

This is a great article that highlights the dangers of using free Wi-Fi. Someone quoted in the article says that the chance of you being hacked while on public Wi-Fi is much greater than your home being burgarized.

The advice that I give during my Staying Safe In A Digital World community ed class is to never make financial transactions on public Wi-Fi. This articles goes even further suggesting that you not check sites like Facebook or login to your email accounts online.

I would strongly suggest that you take a few minutes to read this article!

GE just invented the first “internet of things” device you’ll actually want to own

Christopher Mims:

If you’ve always wanted to be able to check, from anywhere in the world, exactly how many eggs are in your fridge at home, the Egg Minder is for you. Sure, it sounds silly. Do we really need an internet-connected device and companion smartphone app to tell us something so inessential? But it’s no worse than most other examples of that growing category of products comprising the “internet of things” (the expanding realm of devices that send information to, and can often be controlled from, the internet). And, at a price that may ultimately be as low as $14, at least this internet-connected device has enough utility to justify its price.
"© Quirky, Inc. All rights reserved."

"© Quirky, Inc. All rights reserved."

The internet of things describes a future where everyday objects will be connected to the internet and capable of communicating to other devicds. The Egg Minder is a product that would fit that description. I have received multiple phone calls from my wife in the 2.5 years that we have been married asking me to check to see if we need eggs. With the Egg Minder she could check an app on her iPhone to find out out how many eggs are left and how long each remaining egg has been in the fridge.

I have a feeling that by the year 2020, we will see all sorts of these types of devices in our homes.

AT&T Verizon Fees: The Duopoly is about to squeeze subscribers

Tero Kuittinen:

Noted mobile analyst Chetan Sharma has released his latest U.S. Wireless Market Update. It’s a grim road map to rising smartphone ownership costs for most Americans. AT&T and Verizon Wireless now hold 65% of the U.S. mobile subscribers. Since 2009, Verizon has added about 15 million new contract subscribers, while AT&T gained about 8 million. Sprint and T-Mobile have lost roughly 5 million contract subscribers each over the same period. This is why you will wake up one beautiful morning next autumn and discover yet another new surcharge or rate hike by the Big Two — their power continues to wax.

Sounds like AT&T and Verizon are going to start taking advantage of of their market positions by introducing new surcharges or rate hikes. They have so many people locked into contracts and family plans that they know you won't jump ship over an extra dollar or two per month.

I like to use prepaid carriers that don't require contracts so I can jump ship if I don't like the service or policies of the company.

Malware infestation running amok on Android

Ed Sutherland:

It’s not the sort of recognition any smartphone maker wants, but Android appears to be the platform of choice for nine out of ten mobile malware authors. The growth of malware apps targeting users of Google’s mobile operating system rose an unbeliavable 614 percent in just the last year, author’s of a new study found.

Perhaps even more discouraging is three-quarters of the mobile malware could easily be eliminated through software updates, yet ignored by 96 percent of Android owners. As for Apple’s iOS, it’s nowhere to be found on the malware hit-list, an area in which Apple is happy to hand to rivals…

This is one of the major selling points of Apple products. Macs are much less likely than PCs to get infected with viruses or malware. iOS devices (iPhones & iPads) are signifcantly less likely to get infected with viruses or malware than an Android based device.

This article points out that a large majority of the issues would be resolved if Android users kept their software up to date, but a majority do not. It is very important that you keep your software up to date on all your devices to provide the most protection against digital threats.

If you appreciate the free content on please support Mike by shopping on Amazon. If you click on the link and buy something, Mike will receive a small percentage of your purchase and it won't cost you any extra! Thanks for your consideration!

Ask The Nice Guy - Dropbox vs. iCloud, Adobe Updates, Online Threats

This is the 8th post in a series called Ask The Nice Guy. In this series I will attempt to provide answers to the various questions I get asked throughout the week.

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in this blog post, boiled down to five word (or less) summaries.

  1. Difference Between iCloud & Dropbox
  2. Adobe Updates
  3. Is This A Threat

QUESTION 1: Difference Between iCloud & Dropbox

How is Dropbox different from the back up and sync functions of iCloud?

In last week's Ask The Nice Guy column, I explained the benefits fo Dropbox. If you missed it, click on the link and check it out.

Dropbox is basically an online hard drive. You save a document, photo, song, or video to Dropbox and it syncs to your other devices that are logged into Dropbox. Any files saved in Dropbox can also be accessed on the Dropbox website.

iCloud allows you to SYNC information (Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Notes), SHARE photos via Photo Stream, LOCATE your device via Find My iPhone (works with iPad), and BACKUP your device.

You can also sync files between Apple devices via iCloud, but there is no way for a non Apple device to access those files.

I use both services. Dropbox is where all my documents live. iCloud is where everything else lives.

QUESTION 2: Adobe Updates?

I’m getting messages that my “plugin is vulnerable and should be updated.” Do you know a safe way to download Adobe updates?

Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader are updated frequently. I have seen situations where a virus or a trojan will disguise itself as an Adobe Flash update dialog box. Many people will click on the box and before you know it their computer is now infected with something.

If you want to make sure that you are actually downloading Adobe Flash or Adobe Reader I would suggest that you visit Adobe's website directly. I have included the links below for Flash and Reader:

These links will take you directly to Adobe's website and will allow you to download the latest and greatest version of Flash and Reader.


This came up on our computer. Is this a real threat or is this a fake - how can I know? What should I do?

A person must be vigilant while surfing the internet. What you are seeing on your screen is a pop up window that is designed to look like a Microsoft Security Essentials warning box. In the address bar there is a crazy URL:

Here is my advice if you see a box that pops up that tells you that you have a threat (virus, spyware, malware, or trojan), open up your anti-virus software and run a scan. Don't click on any box that pops up while surfing the internet that warns you of threats. It is most likely someone trying to trick you into infecting your computer.

If you appreciate the free content on please support Mike by shopping on Amazon. If you click on the link and buy something, Mike will receive a small percentage of your purchase and it won't cost you any extra! Thanks for your consideration!