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The basics of webhosting

Let’s say you want to make a website.  Here are a few things you should know / look for when getting hosting and a domain.

  •  cPanel.  cPanel is an web hosting control panel that provides a graphical interface and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting a web site.  This makes it easy to setup WordPress or any other content management suite.
  • Who-is privacy.  When you register a domain, you must provide personal information such as your name, address, and phone number.  Unless you buy who-is privacy, people can look up your who-is record and spam you.
  • A good price in exchange for a one year fully paid up front contract can save you big time.  You may be able to pay less than $50 for the whole first year!
  • Unlimited storage and bandwidth.  You should get these in case your website becomes huge and needs it.

Bendy Computers is here to walk you through this process at a fair price, from finding the right service provider, to helping with web design.

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Where’s the Option to Pay With Card?

You may have taken a look around our site and ended up on the payment page, finding only the PayPal option to pay on your screen. If you’re not used to this, fear not! You can still pay with a credit card or debit card, or you can just stick with the simple and elegant PayPal method.

To pay with your card, simply press the PayPal button and proceed to the next screen. There will be an option to either use PayPal, or press another button to enter your credit/debit card information. This is all handled via PayPal, so you can trust that your data is safe. The reason for this is so that the site can be a smooth experience, but we are looking into other solutions to see whether or not this would provide a better solution for you, the consumer. Regardless of how the payment screen looks, know that we are dedicated to giving you the best experience we can.

Feel free to reach out to us at support@s579766863.onlinehome.us if you encounter any issues.

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A Bit About RAM

Everyone’s heard that they need more RAM in their computer. “It’ll help things run faster!”, “Chrome tabs eat the stuff for breakfast….”, “Dedotated WAM”, whatever it is, you’ve heard it too. But you might not know what it is. Here’s a crash course on RAM.

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is a form of high-speed storage that your computer needs in order to process tasks quickly. When you open a Chrome tab, for example, a basic version of that page goes to RAM so that system resources can access it in quick succession. RAM has two main advantages over other types of storage that make it capable of running such demanding tasks at high speeds; it is wired to connect directly to the CPU, and it uses a simple and fast technology to store data. The latter point has an imaginary asterisk next to it because there are faster types of RAM than your desktop RAM, but you likely won’t run into this, so we can ignore the asterisk and move onto that technology in question. The chips you see on your DIMM actually hold the information, and each bit of information gets its own capacitor and transistor. That’s it. This simplicity lends itself to high speed and high density, which is what you want in a consumer computer. High speed is achieved by sending electrical signals billions of times per second (most DDR3 RAM operates between 1333MHz and 2133MHz, but DDR4 can reach speeds of over 3200MHz)*. Uh oh, asterisk time. [*As the frequency of the RAM increases, so does CAS latency. This largely negates the high speeds, but some chips can maintain high speed and low latency.] That ties in nicely to the connection with the CPU. When your CPU is performing 3.5 billion operations per second and your RAM is getting up there in speed as well, your entire computer runs more seamlessly. Tasks are able to be completed fasted due to this direct link, whereas they would take longer if there were some intermediary between the RAM and the CPU.

Odds are, you do actually need more RAM. If your computer seems sluggish, this is a great way to give it some more life. Don’t let the most simple of upgrades hold you back!

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Encryption and You

You’ve probably heard a bit about encryption on the news; ISIS is using it to thwart international governments’ attempts to shut down their communication network, the NSA is breaking it to spy on you and me, all that kind of shifty-sounding junk. That may leave some of you with the impression that encryption is a tool for malicious entities to use and exploit. Yes, they do use it and exploit it, but the purposes of encryption as a whole are very positive. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.

Encryption is a vital technology when it comes to security on the web. Every time you buy something on Amazon or ebay, your credit card information and address are encrypted so that nobody can just pop in, grab your information, and deplete your bank account. If you want to register for classes at college, your traffic is encrypted so that there’s a smaller chance of data corruption and you don’t end up registering for Art 101 instead of Thermodynamics. Emails between you and your boss are encrypted for the sake of confidentiality. Encryption is a tool of security. It just so happens that some terrorist organizations are also reaping the benefits of this technology. As much as we despise terrorist organizations, their operation remaining intact is a ringing endorsement for the security benefits of encryption. And, yeah, the NSA is building in backdoors so that they can bypass encryption on your devices, but there are ways around that.

Encryption is the way you should be keeping yourself safe. If you aren’t concerned about encryption, pay a visit to DEF CON one year with an unprotected device and see what happens….

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Deep Packet Inspection

I touched on deep packet inspection in my post about VPNs, but I never really went into the details of it because it’s not something you or I will have to worry about in the foreseeable future (hopefully things stay that way). It’s mostly used by authoritarian governments (think China from here on out) to keep an eye on their citizens. If someone were to use a VPN to bypass a firewall or location-locked content, DPI would see this, deny the web service, and tell the government to “pay a visit” to the user.

But how does it work? A packet is a piece of information that contains data about your current internet usage. It contains the web data that you are passing between you and the server, a source and destination IP address, a source and destination MAC address, and a whole bunch of other stuff that doesn’t matter in terms of this explanation. All of this is packed up layer by layer (imagine an envelope inside another envelope inside another envelope and so on) into what we call a packet, which is passed over the web. The Great Firewall will see these packets and take a look at the destination MAC address; if it’s not approved, it gets rejected. This is where a VPN works; it disguises the destination MAC address so that the Great Firewall will let it by. The government caught onto this and has started implementing DPI. They look through all the layers and see what the web data is so that it can’t be disguised. Imagine they receive an envelope and open it. It contains another one. Previously, they would put this envelope back in and let it through. With DPI, they tear into the second one. Which contains a third one, which they open. This goes on until they see unapproved web traffic, they get angry, they throw the VPN user in jail or worse.

The way around this? Disguise your VPN traffic. The current solution is to use stunnel, but they’ll catch onto that soon enough, and someone will find another way to get around.

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Multi-Factor Authentication

So you read my last post on safe passwords and now you want to be even more secure. How do you do that? The easiest way (which just so happens to be the solution that most of the tech world uses nowadays) is multi-factor authentication. This is an idea that allows you to combine different types of login credentials so that you and only you can log into your accounts.

Multi-factor authentication largely depends on the existing password infrastructure. You have a password, you put it in, the website counts that as the first factor. Then, it’s up to the web developers as to what other kinds of factors they use. Some could use fingerprint or iris scans, others might send a one-time password to your phone, and others might require a second password, but this is less secure. The point is that if some malicious entity has your login credentials, they can only get so far. They can put in your username and password, but when they have to check your phone for the one-time password, they’re out of luck. Let’s say, hypothetically, that they do have your phone and put in the one-time password. They’re prompted for your fingerprint and are foiled. Your data is behind many walls. You’re safe.

This can use as many steps as you or the developer chooses. The most common today is two-factor authentication, but places that require more security can use four, five, or even six layers of this. It works because it assumes that even if the hacker or thief has all of the information that they think they need, there’s something along the chain that they’re missing. Of course, if they have your unconscious body and can use your fingerprint they can get in, but I think you have other things to worry about at that point.

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Password Security

With the internet as big as it is, there are quite a few bad fish in the sea. They’re out to take advantage of anyone they can, and that may be you. How can you mitigate this? One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your online presence is to keep your passwords diverse, complicated, and secure.

By having a different password for each site you use, you eliminate the vulnerability that exists in having one password for everything. Although you may be able to keep it in your head and never written down anywhere, the websites you log into have a database of logins – and yours is in there. If one of your favorite websites were to be hacked, your password would be out there. The hackers can then make educated guesses as to other sites you might log into, put in a similar or identical username, and try your password. By using a different password for every login, you ensure that they can’t access anything else.

A complicated password is also critical for your security. pass1234 is easy for hackers to crack. FJ#82_9’2;@6f.W//`dv” is not easy for hackers to crack. It would take thousands of years for a decently powerful computer to brute force its way through that password. And if you’ve followed my advice to diversify your passwords, you’ll have a bunch of different complex strings of characters, symbols, and numbers that no computer or human can crack. If there’s anyone out there who’s really dedicated to hacking specifically you, they’re going to have a hell of a time.

Okay you’re secure, but how are you supposed to remember all these passwords? Well, there’s a few methods. The most secure would be to remember them all, but that’d be near impossible. You could be like my mom and write them all down in a notebook, but that can be lost, stolen, or forgotten on a road trip. How could she check Facebook if her password is at home? The method that I recommend is that you find yourself a secure password management service. Do your research; make sure they’re using the latest encryption techniques and haven’t had security breaches in the past. Some even come with nifty features like sharing, autofill, and cross-device compatibility.

Stay safe, people. Protect your  online presence with the best passwords you can.

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Bendy Projects

You’re a busy person. You’ve got school, a job, a significant other, friends, and family that all take time out of your day. But in all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s important to take care of yourself too. Pick whatever you please, but tech people like me often just like to tinker with various side projects. Here are a few of mine.

  • Watch repair – I’ve got an old watch laying around that employs a cool concept: using LED arrays to represent hours and minutes when lit. I broke it while playing a pickup rugby match at my old college, and I kind of missed the WOW factor of the watch. I cracked it open last night to try to figure out why the LED arrays were not lighting up and ended up having to resolder the power circuit. The watch works now, but I still have to repair the band.
  • Headset repair – A few months ago, my headset went kaput. One of the cans just wasn’t functioning right. So I took the earpiece apart, desoldered the speaker connections, then resoldered them with a more solid connection. This fixed the issue, but occasionally, I hear random static noises for a split second. I suspect that there’s a short somewhere that charges a capacitor on the circuit and the static I hear is the interference caused by the capacitor discharging, but I’ll investigate later.
  • Mining rig – I’ve got a dumpster of a PC hanging around. It’s running a collection of old hardware that I somehow hacked together to get it working, and I use it for all my testing. It has an older AMD GPU in it, so I decided to mess around and see if I could get it running as a mining rig. So far, I’m unsuccessful, but this will hopefully change in the future.

So that’s what I’ve got going on. Hopefully you all have some projects going on; the world is better when people do things for themselves and gain experience through messing around (in a safe, controlled manner, of course). Keep tinkering, folks!

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How a Microphone Works

You’re playing an online game with your friends when your boss calls you. “Be right back!” you tell them. You answer the call and greet your boss, who tells you that you’re needed at work tomorrow. You hang up and curse under your breath, but your friends heard you.

All communication in the above scenario has been sponsored by the microphone! Yes, folks, the device that’s been bringing you someone else’s voice for 140 years is still here, and better than ever! Modern microphones are a technological wonder, capturing sound waves and sending them thousands of miles away. How do they do it? To understand this, we first need to understand sound waves. Your voice – or any sound for that matter – is a standing wave that is set up using the air particles around you. Your vocal folds create subtle but powerful pressure changes in the air in your throat, and these pressure changes propogate out in to the world around you. Inside of your microphone, there is a small membrane of metal, plastic, paper, etc. known as the diaphragm. As the pressure in the air changes, the diaphragm moves back and forth with the air particles. Attached to the diaphragm is a small magnet, which is pushed in and out of a coil of wire. The moving magnet causes changes in the magnetic field around the coil, which induces a current. Different volumes, pitches, and types of noises will vary the current that is induced, which is how a microphone can pick up such a wide variety of sounds. The generated current is translated into digital binary by either a small built in processor (in the case of a USB microphone) or some hardware implementation like a soundboard. The digital content is then sent across the country to your friends, or down the road to your boss.

It’s pretty amazing how something so common in our everyday lives can take some air particles that were wiggling around in your throat, turn them into ones and zeros, and send them wherever you want. Thank you, electrophysics!

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On Ethernet Cables

I’m sure you’ve seen the blue wires stuck up above your ceiling tiles at work or in your basement. Those are ethernet cables that are run from your home’s switch or patch panel and terminate at the ethernet jacks in your wall. They’re functionally the same as the ethernet cable that plugs into the back of your motherboard, but these are behind-the-scenes and not intended to be seen. They ensure that you stay connected and have the quickest connection possible. But quickness wasn’t always an option. Continue reading On Ethernet Cables