The Snipping Tool Captures Screen Shots in a Snap

In the past, people who had to take screen shots had several options, none of them great: paid software like Techsmith’s SnagIt, which works well but costs a pretty penny; or Alt-PrintScreen, which captures full screens but not individual windows or selected areas.

Now it’s a different story, thanks to the Snipping Tool found in Windows Vista (Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions only). It can capture full screens, individual windows, rectangles, or free-form selections.

To use the Snipping Tool, just do the following:

1. Go to Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, and select Snipping Tool (see illustration)

2. Click the arrow by the New button and select a snip type from the drop-down menu.

Snipping Tool

3. Use your mouse to capture the snip.

This works in nearly all situations — except when you want a screen shot of a menu. To snip a menu, do the following:

1. Open the Snipping Tool by clicking the Start menu, then All Programs, then Accessories, and selecting Snipping Tool.

2. Hit the ESC button and open the menu you want to snip.

3. Click Ctrl-PrintScreen.

4. Click the arrow by the New button and select a snip type from the drop-down menu. Then use your mouse to capture the snip.

Once you’ve created your snip, you can save it by clicking the Save Snip button. Select a location to save it to, and you’re done!

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December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month

Identity theft is a serious issue, no matter who the victim is, but the situation can be more complicated when somebody tries to impersonate someone’s business, says Jeff Connally, president and CEO of CMIT Solutions. That is why CMIT Solutions is offering tips and advice to small business owners for Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month.

“Since businesses need to make themselves visible to prospective customers, they are compelled to share a lot of information with the public that individuals tend to keep private, such as their phone number and address,” Connally said. “Easy access to private contact information means heightened vulnerability to identity theft.”

According to security firm Panda Security, a significant percentage of small businesses haven’t taken very basic steps to secure their data assets. A recent survey showed that “97 percent of U.S. small businesses have installed anti-virus and 95 percent claim their security systems are up to date. Yet, 29 percent said they have no anti-spam in place, 22 percent are without anti-spyware technology and 16 percent do not have firewalls. In addition, 52 percent said they have no Web filtering solution in place. And, 39 percent of respondents said that they have yet to be trained about IT threats.”

We suggest starting with these steps:

  1. Check Credit Cards – Review your business credit report regularly.
  2. Review Employee Charge Cards – Go over employee charge card billing statements thoroughly before they are paid.
  3. Educate Employees – They should be on the lookout for phishers, phone and email scammers. People who would never think to open a suspicious-looking email in their personal inbox might not hesitate to turn over your Federal Tax Identification Number and names of key executives to someone posing as a vendor or a government representative.
  4. Beware of “Inside” Theft – Once an employee leaves the company, make sure you immediately cut off access to all your IT resources. Unfortunately, a lot of identity theft is still an “inside job”.
  5. Protect Company Data – Install a business-class firewall, encrypt your network, assign access privileges sparingly, and perform regular updates to your security software.

What are YOU doing to prevent identity theft?  Do you have any other good tips for people or businesses trying to keep their identity and information safe?

Give Your Documents a Uniform Look with Themes

A nice feature of Office 2007 is that you can make documents from several different programs – Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook – all have the same look and feel. Whereas in the past you’d have to alter the color and style of every table, chart, and shape in every document separately, you can now just select a theme that takes care of all those details automatically.

For example, here’s a simple chart using the theme called Office:

Windows 7 tips, themes

Here’s that same chart using the theme called Perspective:

Windows 7 tips, themes

As you can see, the theme affects the font, color, shading, and shadow effects. And because it’s available in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, your chart will look the same no matter what program it appears in – and all the other charts you use will have a similar look.

The Themes gallery is accessible from the Formatting Palette. To create your own custom theme, you can open up a given theme and then alter the font, colors, and effects, and then save as a new theme. Just use the customization settings to the right of the thumbnailed themes, visible in the screen shot below.

Windows 7 tips, themes

Laptop, Notebook, Netbook…What’s the Difference?

Maybe you’re doing some last minute Christmas shopping or maybe you’ve taken the advice in our recent blog post and are spending a little money now to avoid paying taxes on it later, but you’ve been looking at a portable computer and all the jargon has your head spinning.  Here’s a quick background and explanation to help you decide which option is the right one for you.

In the hardware world, there’s a pretty lively discussion going on about the difference between laptops, notebooks, and netbooks.

Opinion seems to be converging around the idea that laptops and notebooks are virtually the same: small, portable, but powerful computers that can function as a more travel-worthy substitute for a stationary desktop model.

Netbooks, on the other hand, are a relatively new innovation – just a couple of years old, which might make them ancient in some technology circles, but it means that some folks are still figuring out what the term means.

Way back in the beginning of netbooks, these ultra-small, ultra-light computers offered pared-down capabilities that could satisfy most of the needs of a user on the go. You could access a Web browser and email, and if you used cloud-based applications like Google Docs you could even do some word processing and basic spreadsheet operations. But your average netbook, lacking an optical drive and equipped with a slower processer, wasn’t going to be terribly fast or powerful or great at running really resource-intensive applications. And the tiny keyboard made prolonged use a bit of a pain.

But then a funny thing happened: the year 2008. And as the economy took a dive, more and more users started looking at netbooks and deciding they made a very good, affordable alternative to regular laptops. By Q1 of 2009, netbook sales were seven times larger than they were in the first quarter of 2008.

Not surprisingly, manufacturers noticed a huge new market that was growing like gangbusters in the middle of a downturn. New entrants joined the game, and in order to differentiate themselves, started adding features and enhancements to the stripped-down netbook. Screen sizes and keyboards are now getting larger. Graphics are getting better. Some folks argue that, at least among certain brands, there’s virtually no difference at all between a netbook and an ultralight laptop.

Still, as a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking for a very cheap and light machine that you wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose or see destroyed – in other words, if you’re a student who needs a note-taking device, or a frequent traveler who has robust offsite storage and just needs an on-the-road Internet access device – a netbook could be the perfect thing.

What Does Brittany Murphy Have To Do With Your Computer’s Security?

Every year hackers get smarter and sneakier about how to infiltrate people’s computers, steal vital personal information, and spread mischief. A few years ago, all you had to worry about was malware spread by e-mail attachments. These days, you have to worry about mysterious links showing up in your instant messages, weird messages from Facebook friends you’ve never heard of, and malicious web sites downloading who knows what to your computer as soon as you visit them.

So what’s a safe Web surfer to do, short of unplugging the computer and conducting all correspondence by carrier pigeon?

1. Stay vigilant, no matter what application you’re using. Hackers are hip to new media and won’t hesitate to use Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or instant messaging to get to you. If you wouldn’t click on a strange link in email, don’t click on it in Facebook.

2. Expect spam and phishing to spike around holidays or major events. If a celebrity just died (here’s the Brittany Murphy connection)  and you get an email containing an attachment purporting to be video of that celebrity’s death – don’t open it.

3. Read your email with a VERY skeptical eye. One of our clients was recently contacted by a service that said it was investigating another company’s registration of a domain under our client’s company name. They were pretty obviously just phishing for information about our client. That email went straight in the trash, no response.

4. Know how to spot a zombie. If your computer sounds like it’s running all the time but processing has slowed to a crawl, or if you find returned messages in your inbox responding to emails you’ve never sent – your computer might very well be part of a bot net.

5. Be wary of warnings. Right around this time last year, a nasty spyware application — the AntiSpyware XP 2009 Virus – spread by throwing up bogus popups warning people that they could be infected by hundreds of viruses if they didn’t install an update. People who clicked “OK” to install the update instead installed the spyware.

So as the holiday season rolls around, remember – you’ll probably get a few Christmas-related spam messages, an invitation to view a stranger’s holiday photos on Facebook, a suspicious inquiry from an overseas firm, and a maybe even a popup or two asking you if you want to install the latest and greatest in antispyware protection. The best thing you can do is ignore all of this, run another backup of your files, do a full system scan, and update your antivirus/antispyware protection with the latest definitions.

CMIT’s Marathon service automatically runs system scans and security updates, so you never have to worry about being up to date. To learn more about CMIT Marathon visit our website.

Not sure if an email’s for real? Wondering what to do about a persistent virus warning? Call CMIT Solutions at (800) 399-2648. We’ll give you our professional opinion.

Smart Spending Helps Minimize Your Taxes

If you’re a small business owner who turned a profit in 2009, congratulations! It’s been a tough year, and any business that succeeded in a very challenging economic environment deserves a pat on the back.

The downside to making a profit, of course, is that it can be subject to taxes. In order to minimize the amount they’ll have taxed at the corporate rate, many businesses look for ways to spend down their excess profit. Here are just a few purchasing options that might help minimize your tax liability while also enhancing your business:

  • Hardware. Need new PCs, external hard drives, servers, wireless routers, or other physical equipment? Get it before the year’s out.
  • Software. It might be time to do that big OS upgrade you’ve been planning. Ditto that accounting software purchase you’ve been putting off: once you’ve mastered it, it will save you hours of bookkeeping every week. And that’s an investment worth making any time of year.
  • Office Supplies. Think about what you’ll need in the first quarter of next year and buy it now to maximize deductions for 2009. Stock up on paper, photocopier and printer cartridges, and other supplies you know you’ll use.
  • Services. Many CMIT Solutions locations offer service hours in blocks that you can purchase in advance and use over the course of the year. Check with us for details.

One thing you’ll want to consider with equipment purchases is whether you want an immediate write-off or whether you want to depreciate the item over several years. (You’ll also need the equipment in your office, in use by year’s end.) Your accountant should be able to advise you on how to maximize your deductions and structure a plan that’s best for your business.