• Posted on April 25, 2017 12:25 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    What DLNA Is DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance. The DLNA is a trade organization that was founded to set standards and guidelines via a certification program for home networking media devices, including many PCs, Smartphones/Tablets, Smart TVs, Blu-ray Disc Players, and Network Media players. DLNA certification lets the consumer know that once connected to your home network, it will automatically communicate with other connected DLNA certified products. DLNA certified devices can: find and play movies; send, display and/or upload photos, find, send, play and/or download music; and send and print photos between compatible network-connected devices. Some examples of DLNA compatibility include the following: If your smartphone and TV are DLNA certified, you should be able to send audio and video from your smartphone to your TV via your home network. If your TV or Blu-ray Disc player and PC are DLNA certified, you should be able to access audio, video, and still-image files stored on your network connected PC and see or listen on through your TV or Blu-ray Disc player. If you have a DLNA certified digital camera, you can send images, using your home network, to your TV, DLNA certified PC or another compatible device. The History of DLNA In the early years of networking home entertainment, it was difficult and confusing to add a new device and get it to communicate with your computers and other network devices. You might have had to know IP addresses and add each device separately along with crossing your fingers for good luck. DLNA has changed all that. The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) was started in 2003 when several manufacturers got together to create a standard, and implement certification requirements so that all products made by participating manufacturers were compatible in a home network. This meant that certified products were compatible even if they were made by different manufacturers. Different Certifications for Each Device's Role in Sharing Media Products that are DLNA certified typically are recognized, with little or no setup, as soon as you connect them to your network. DLNA certification means that the device plays a role in your home network and that other DLNA products can communicate with it based on their own roles. Some products store the media. Some products control the media and some products play the media. There is a certification for each of these roles. Within each certification, there are DLNA guidelines for Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, for hardware requirements, for software or firmware requirements, for the user interface, for instructions to make the device networkable, and for displaying different formats of media files. "It's like a car's all point inspection," said Alan Messer, DLNA board member and Senior Director of Convergence Technologies and Standards for Samsung Electronics. "Each aspect must pass testing to get a DLNA certification." Through testing and certification, consumers are assured that they can connect DLNA certified products and be able to save, share, stream and show digital media. Images, music, and video stored on one DLNA certified device -- a computer, network attached storage (NAS) drive or media server--will play on other DLNA certified devices -- TVs, AV receivers, and other computers on the network. The DLNA certification is based on product types and categories. It makes more sense if you break it down. Your media lives (is stored) on a hard drive somewhere. The media must be accessible served up to be shown on other devices. The device where the media lives are the Digital Media Server. Another device plays the video, music, and photos so you can watch them. This is the Digital Media Player. Certification can either be built into the hardware or be part of a software application/program that is running on the device. This particularly relates to network attached storage (NAS) drives and computers.  Twonky, TVersity, and TV Mobili are popular software products that act as digital media servers and can be found by other DLNA devices. DLNA Product Categories Made Simple When you connect a DLNA certified network media component to your home network, it simply appears in other networked components' menus. Your computers and other media devices discover and recognize the device without any setup. DLNA certifies home network products by the role they play in your home network. Some products play media. Some products store the media and make it accessible to media players. And still others control and direct media from its source to a particular player in the network. By understanding the different certifications, you can understand how the home network puzzle fits together. When using media sharing software and devices, you see a list of these categories of devices. Knowing what they are and what they do will help to make sense of your home network. While a digital media player obviously plays media, the names of other devices are not as evident. Basic Media Sharing DLNA Certification Categories Digital Media Player (DMP) - The certification category applies to devices that can find and play media from other devices and computers. A certified media player lists the components (sources) where your media is saved. You choose the photos, music or videos that you want to play from a list of media on the player's menu. The media then streams to the player. A media player may be connected to or built into a TV, Blu-ray Disc player and/or home theater AV receiver, so you can watch or listen to the media it is playing. Digital Media Server (DMS) - The certification category applies to devices that store a media library. It may be a computer, a network attached storage (NAS) drive, a smartphone, a DLNA certified networkable digital camera or camcorder, or a network media server device. A media server must have a hard drive or a memory card on which the media is saved. The media saved to the device can be called up by a digital media player. The media server makes the files available to stream media to the player so you can watch or listen to it. Digital Media Renderer (DMR) - The certification category is similar to the digital media player category. The device is this category also play digital media. However, the difference is that DMR-certified devices can be seen by a digital media controller (further explanation below), and media can be streamed to it from a digital media server. While a digital media player can only play what it can see on its menu, a digital media renderer can be controlled externally. Some certified Digital Media Players are also certified as Digital Media Renderers. Both stand-alone network media players and networked TVs and home theater AV receivers can be certified as Digital Media Renderers. Digital Media Controller (DMC)- This certification category applies to go-between devices that can find media on a Digital Media Server and send it to the Digital Media Renderer. Often smartphones, tablets, computer software like Twonky Beam, or even cameras or camcorders are certified as Digital Media Controllers. More On DLNA Certifications Often you will see the DLNA logo on a product or product description. But rarely will you see what certification it has been given. To know a product's capabilities, you need to know its certification. The DLNA website lists many products under each certification. This can help you to find what you need -- a Digital Media Server, a Digital Media Player, a Digital Media Controller, or a Digital Media Renderer. Other DLNA certification categories that include those for digital media printers and specific certifications for mobile devices.The mobile certifications include Mobile Digital Media Server, Mobile Digital Media Player, and Mobile Digital Media Controller.There are also DLNA certifications for Mobile Digital Media Uploader and Mobile Digital Media Downloader. These certifications relate to the mobile device's ability to upload media through the network to a computer or other media server. An uploader can send files to be saved on a media server. A camera may have this ability so you don't have to connect directly to the computer or another device. Similarly, a mobile digital media downloader can find media on your computers or media servers and save the file to itself. For example, you can find music in your music library and load it to your phone via the home network. Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 are compatible with DLNA as a Digital Media Server, Digital Media Renderer and Digital Media Controller. However, you will need to set up the media sharing and network home group. More and more Digital Media Players are also Digital Media Renderers. This means that you can send files to play on it or you can choose files from sources directly from the player's menu. If you are looking at the list of digital media renderers on your controller -- smartphone or computer app, or camera-- and you don't see a media player that is connected to your home network, then it is not a Digital Media Renderer. You can not send media to that device. Once you have used a Digital Media Controller to start playback from the Digital Media Server (the media library's source) to the Digital Media Renderer (that's playing the streamed media), you no longer need the controller. In other words, if you used a cell phone to start the playback, you could leave with the phone and the playback would continue. More Info Understanding the DLNA certifications helps you to understand what is possible in home networking. DLNA makes it possible to walk in with your cell phone loaded with photos and videos from your day at the beach, press a button and start it playing on your TV without making any connections. A great example of DLNA in action is Samsung's "AllShare"(TM). AllShare is built into Samsung's line of DLNA certified networked entertainment products -- from cameras to laptops, to TVs, home theaters and Blu-ray Disc players--creating a truly connected home entertainment experience. For a complete rundown on Samsung AllShare - refer to our supplementary reference article: Samsung AllShare Simplifies Media Streaming Digital Living Network Alliance Update As of January 5, 2017, the DLNA has disbanded as a non-profit trade organization and has relinquished all certification and other related support services to Spirespark, going forward from February 1, 2017. For more details, refer to the Official Announcement and FAQs posted by the Digital Living Network Alliance.

    Blog Entry, Cloud Apps, TECHNOLOGY
  • Posted on April 17, 2017 11:46 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    A hacker is a tech-savvy user who manipulates and bypasses computer systems to make them do the unintended. Sometimes this manipulation is noble, with the goal to create something beneficial. Other times, hacking is harsh and done with the wicked goal to hurt people through identity theft or other harm. You are likely familiar with the stereotypical 1980's hacker: the evil criminal who is socially isolated. While this stereotype does indeed describe some modern 'black hat' hackers, there exists a subset of hackers who are not criminals. In fact, there are many hackers who use their knowledge for good. This is broken down into three categories Today, 'hacker' is a descriptor that subdivides into 3 categories: 'Black Hat' Hackers: criminals and wrongdoers. 'White Hat' Hackers: ethical hackers who work to protect systems and people. 'Grey Hat' Hackers: dabble in both black hat and white hat tinkering. Classic 'Black Hat' Hackers = Criminals/Lawbreakers 'Black hat hacker' = criminal with evil intent. Gu / Getty This is the classic definition of a hacker: a computer user who willfully vandalizes or commits theft on other people's networks. 'Black hat' is a stylish way to describe their malicious motivations. Black hats are gifted but unethical computer users who are motivated by feelings of power, money and petty revenge. They are electronic thugs in every sense of the word, and they share the same personality traits as emotionally stunted teens who smash bus stop windows for personal satisfaction. Black hat hackers are renowned for the following common cybercrimes: DDoS Distributed, Denial of Service (flood) attacks that impair computer networks. Identity theft, Phishing, scams, social engineering schemes. Vandalism of systems, defacing, disabling, removing access. The creation of destructive programs, like worms, and CryptoLocker! 'White Hat' Ethical Hackers = Network Security Specialists 'White hat' hacker = security professional. Yan / Getty Different from the classic black hat hackers, white hat hackers are either driven by honorable motivations, or they are mercenaries working on honorable agendas. Also known as 'ethical hackers', white hats are talented computer security users often employed to help protect computer networks. Some white hats are reformed black hats, like former convicts who take on work as store security guards. While they themselves may have been unethical in the past, their current vocation is considered a white hat. With experience in what the 'bad guy' can do, these reformed hats, are among the most skilled at protecting their clients. Ethical hackers are motivated by a steady paycheck. It is not surprising to see ethical hackers spending those paychecks on very expensive personal computers in their personal lives, so they can play online games after work. As long as they have a good-paying job to support their personal habits, an ethical hacker is usually not motivated to destroy nor steal from their employer. Special note: some white hat hackers are 'academic hackers'. These are computer artisans who are less interested in protecting systems, and more interested in creating clever programs and beautiful interfaces. Their motivation is to improve a system through alterations and additions. Academic hackers can be casual hobbyists, or they can be serious computer engineers working on their graduate-level degrees. These are the people who create new viruses, as proof of concepts.  No intentions on making the world worse, but to help bright to light problems that need solving. 'Grey Hat Hackers' = Conflicted, Uncertain Which Side of the Law They Stand Grey hat hackers: a mix of good and evil. Peoplemages / Getty Grey hat hackers are often hobbyists with intermediate technical skills. These hobbyists enjoy disassembling and modifying their own computers for hobby pleasure, and they will sometimes dabble in minor white collar crimes like file sharing and cracking software. Indeed, if you are a P2P downloader, you are a type of gray hat hacker.  These are undisciplined members of the profession. Often users with access to tools, and 'kits' that enable their ability to accomplish their goals.  In most cases Grey hats are people who never gained the formal understanding of what they are doing. Gray hat hackers rarely escalate into becoming serious black hat hackers. Often times, Grey hats end up getting caught, or warned into stopping their activities. Subcategories of Hackers: Script Kiddies and Hacktivists Script Kiddies: this is a stylish name for novice hackers who are unskilled. Script kiddies can be white hat, black hat, or grey hat. These are people who feel empowered enough to cause others and themselves damages. Hacktivists: this is the hacker who is also a social activist fighting for a cause. Some people would argue that famous hackers like Lulzsec and Anonymous are hacktivists fighting government corruption and corporate misdeeds. Hacktivists can be white hat, black hat, or grey hat. Only a specified team they support at the time being. More About Computer Hackers Computer hacking is often exaggerated by the media, and very few public narratives give hackers the fair shake that they deserve. While most movies and TV shows of hackers are absurd, you might consider watching Mr. Robot if you want to see what hacktivists do. Every savvy web user should know about the unsavory people on the Web. Understanding common hacker attacks and scams will help you navigate online intelligently and confidently.

    Blog Entry, EDUCATION, Hacking
  • Posted on April 11, 2017 11:38 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    If your inbox is suddenly getting filled with emails from "mailer daemon", here's what you can do. To be clear, what's happening is (we'll go into more detail below): Email has been sent out and the recipient can't be found (or their inox is full) It's being returned to you because email systems think you sent it I Am Receiving Mailer Daemon Spam. What Should I Do Now? Can I Stop it? When you receive lots of delivery failure reports from mailer daemon, do the following: Scan your computer and devices for malware and viruses. Mailer daemon spam can be the result of an infection with malware (on one of your computers) that sends out emails using your address behind your back; best to rule out this case. Ideally, scan while disconnected from the Internet. If you found infections, do clean your machines and change all passwords, especially those to your email and social accounts. Report the mailer daemon spam as junk mail in your email program or service. This has the spam filter drop similar useless and annoying delivery failure emails in the future. If you feel uneasy about clicking "Spam" on what might train the spam filter to eliminate a kind of email you want to receive in the future—delivery failure reports from mailer daemon—, simply delete all the useless emails from mailer daemon. In addition, you can create a filter in your email program or service that automatically deletes all emails from the same mailer daemon address with the same subject. Now that you know what to do, let us find out how it can happen at all that you receive these puzzling messages. ​Why Does This Exist in the First Place? Mailer-daemon emails are normally harmless and helpful delivery reports, not spam at all. Let's find out how and when these mailer daemon messages are generated. When you send somebody a message and it fails to deliver, you'd want to know, right? Email is a system with many, many different players that works like a postal system: you hand one server (or "mailer daemon") your email, that server passes the message on to another and possibly more mailer daemons down the line until, finally, the message is delivered to the recipient's inbox folder. The whole process can take some time (though usually it is accomplished in seconds, of course), and only that last server knows whether the email could actually be delivered. How Mailer Daemon Delivery Reports Are Generated Since you, the sender, would want to know about the failed delivery, the mailer daemon tries to alert you. It does so using what a mailer daemon knows to do best: sending an email. ​So, a mailer daemon error message is generated: it states what happened—typically, that an email could not be delivered—, possibly a reason for the problem and whether the server will try to deliver the email again. This delivery report email is addressed and sent to the the original email's sender, of course. How the "original sender" is determined is a story of its own, and my guess is that your guess is wrong. If you are at all curious why mailer daemons do not use the "From:" line to determine an email's sender, do not skip the following sidebar. Sidebar: ​How the Recipient of a Delivery Report is Determined As you probably know, every email has both one or more recipients and a sender. Recipients go in the "To:", "Cc:" and "Bcc:" fields, and the email address of the sender appears in the "From:" line. Neither are used by mail servers to deliver email messages, and, in particular, the "From:" field does not determine the email sender—as used for delivery reports bounces, for example. Instead, when an email is initially sent, the sender and recipient are communicated separately from and before the email's content (which, for this purpose includes the From: and To: fields). Imagine me taking a letter to the post office for you. Of course, you have written the recipient's name and address on the envelope and jotted down your address as well. At the post office, I do not simply hand over the letter for delivery and let the envelope take over, however. I say "This is from Corey Davy at 70 Bowman St.", instead, and "Send it to Lindsay Page at 4 Goldfield Rd.; yeah, ignore what it says on the envelope." This is how email works. Before dropping the letter into the delivery basked, the post office clerk makes at a note at the back of the envelope: "Return to: Corey Davy, 70 Bowman St.". This, too, is roughly how email works. Any email will contain a header line (analogous to "From:" and "To:") called "Return-Path:" that contains the sender's address. This address is used to generate delivery failure reports—and mailer daemon spam. How Does Mailer Daemon Spam Start? For regular emails, all is fine. If one cannot be delivered—say, because you mistyped the address, or the recipient has not checked a free email account for years and the account expired—, the mailer daemon generates a delivery failure message to you, the original sender. For junk email, phishing attempts, and messages generated by worms and other malware, the process goes wrong… or, more precisely, the delivery failure is sent the wrong way. To find out why, we have to turn to the sender for a second. Every email needs to have a sender and From: address. This includes spam and emails that spread malware. Understandably, these senders do not want to use their own email address—or they would be receiving complaints, it would be easy to report them, and they would be inundated in mailer daemon… spam. To get an email delivered, it is good to have a real email address set as the sender. So, instead of just making up addresses, spammers and viruses will often look up random addresses in people's address books. Is Anything Being Done to Stop Mailer Daemon Spam? If email servers returned delivery reports to all these falsified "senders" when a junk email or malware email could not be delivered, the problem would be much worse than it is: spam is sent in the billions after all, to mostly non-existent addresses. Fortunately, email servers can take measures to limit the amount of useless delivery notifications they send: ​Mail servers will try to determine whether a return address has been forged before sending a delivery failure message; if the address is obviously not the real sender's, no error email is sent. They will also examine the message content closely to determine whether it is spam; if the message has a very high probability of being junk mail, the server may simply drop the email without sending a delivery failure—which itself would likely be regarded as nothing but mailer daemon spam. Email servers receiving large amounts of delivery failures for an address—typically with content that is either spam or malware—may either silently delete these messages or quarantine them in the email service's "Spam" folder.

    DATA, Emailed, Technicals
  • Posted on April 7, 2017 11:46 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Deciding which laptop to buy can be tough, with hundreds of laptop models to choose from and prices ranging from under $200 for Chromebooks to over $2,000 for high-end laptops. In addition to your budget, the kind of work and play you plan on doing on your laptop should help you narrow down your choices. Here are some tips for making a wise laptop purchase. How to Select the Best Laptop for Your Needs 1. Consider your operating system. You have more choices with Windows laptops, but Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops can also run Windows, which makes these laptops attractive for their versatility. However, Apple's laptops are much pricier. If you're considering this age-old debate between Mac or PC laptop, think about how much you really want to spend (see below) and whether you need a laptop with features (Blu-Ray, touchscreen, TV tuners, etc.) not available on the few variants Apple offers.​ 2. Start with your budget. Netbooks are the cheapest and smallest type of laptop, and you can actually use them for business, but they're very underpowered and limited. They are also being replaced by tablets and more powerful laptops shrinking in size and weight. You can buy a budget laptop, good for most basic tasks like web browsing and word processing, for under $500 (even much less during sale holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday); these laptops sometimes use older processors and often come in the 15.6" display size. Generally, the smaller and thinner you want your laptop to be, the more you'll have to pay for it. If you have a couple of hundred more to spend (between $600 and $1000), you can buy a thin-and-light laptop (4 to 6 pounds and 14-inch to 16-inch displays), with better performance: the latest generation processors, a sizable hard drive of 500 GB or more, and more memory. Thin-and-lights are probably the most common types of laptops being sold (and bought) today. For $1,000 or more, you can opt for either a sleek ultraportable laptop--light in weight, and very thin, with screen sizes 13 inches or less--or go the other way, and buy a gaming laptop or a desktop replacement laptop--heavy in weight and with giant 17-inch screens.​   3. Make a checklist of what's most important to you in your next laptop. Think about how you want to use your laptop to rank the features you should look for in your next laptop: Entertainment, such as music and movies? Go for the larger screen sizes, 15-inch or more, and higher resolution, high definition displays (1920x1080 pixels). You'd probably also want as large a hard drive as possible for all your media storage, e.g., hard drives of 750GB or more. A Blu-Ray player would probably be on your list for movie-watching, as well as HDMI ports and/or wireless TV streaming. Travel or a lot of mobile work? Portability will obviously be your biggest consideration. Look for screen sizes 13-inch or under, weights 4 pounds or under, and a rated battery life of 6 hours or more. You might also want a mobile broadband card in your laptop for Internet access on the go. A lot of graphic/multimedia work or gaming? A large, high-definition screen, lots of memory (4GB is low, 8 GB is better), and a dedicated video graphics card should be at the top of your checklist. For the best performance, look for quad-core processors. For a balance of performance and portability, seek out a thin-and-light or ultraportable laptop with 13- or 14-inch display, the mid-range processor (e.g., Intel Core i5 processor), 4GB or more of RAM, and 500GB or more of hard drive space (or, for better performance, a solid state drive). 4. Read reviews. Once you have your checklist, it's time to find the laptops that fit the bill. Check out review roundup sites like ConsumerSearch to see the most recommended laptops, then compare features to your checklist. Keep in mind that a lot of laptop manufacturers, such as Dell and HP, also let you configure laptops to your specifications--adjusting the amount of RAM or choosing a different hard drive, for example. 5. Compare laptops. Finally, I like to make a table comparing the top few options. You could use a spreadsheet and list the specs (processor, memory, hard drive, graphics card, etc.) as well as price for each laptop to make your final choice. This interactive laptop chart can also help you narrow down the options, by filtering available laptops by their specs.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, MONEY
  • Posted on April 1, 2017 10:38 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Sometimes offers for desktop and laptop computers seem to be priced too low to be real. In the description of these products you might find the term refurbished. Both manufacturers and retailers may be offering these systems below what a normal PC costs, but what is a refurbished product and are they safe to buy? Refurbished computers typically fall into one of two categories. The first type have failed a quality control check during manufacturing. Rather than simply disposing of these systems, the manufacturer will rebuild it to pass quality control but sell it at a discounted price. The other type is a rebuilt system from a customer return likely due to a component failure. Now the refurbishment of the product may be done by the manufacturer or a third party. Manufacturers rebuild the system using the same parts used in the new PCs. A third party that rebuilds the machine may use alternate parts to get it up and running. These alternate parts may change the system from its original design. This makes it important that the consumer read the specifications of the refurbished system and compare them to the standard specs for the product. Another type of product that consumers will find discounted is an open box product. These differ from a refurbished product as it has not been rebuilt. It is simply a product that was returned by a customer but it has not been tested. Consumers should be very careful when purchasing any open box products. Costs Cost is the primary reason people purchase refurbished desktops and laptops. They are often priced below the average computer system currently sold. Of course the amount of discount is only really relevant if you happen to be looking at the same exact product. Most refurbished PCs available will typically be older products that are being compared to the original suggested retail prices for the product when it was first released. As a result, the deals may not always be the best. When pricing a refurbished computer, it is important to note if the system is still available for sale new. If it is, this makes the price comparison very easy to determine. PCs such as this generally can be found for modest discounts of between 10 and 25% off the retail prices. As long as they have similar warranties to the new products these can be an excellent way to get a system for below retail. The problem comes from older systems that are no longer sold. Consumers are often tricked into paying for a system that looks like a good deal but is not. This is where the specifications become extremely important. With those in hand, try to find a comparable brand new system. If one is available, then the same cost analysis of 10 to 25% still holds. If a comparable system is not available, then look for an equally priced new system and see what you get. Often times consumers in this case will find that for the same price they can get a better, newer laptop or desktop. Warranties The key to any refurbished computer system is the warranty. These are products that typically were returned or rejected due to a defect. While that defect may have been corrected and no further problems may develop you want to make sure that some coverage is included for potential faults. The problem is that warranties are typically modified for refurbished products. First and foremost, the warranty should be a manufacturer one. If the warranty is not provided by the manufacturer it should raise a red flag for consumers. A manufacturer warranty will guarantee that the system will be repaired to the original specifications with manufacturer parts or certified replacements can be used with the system. Third party warranties can cause major problems as replacements parts may not be guaranteed and it may take longer for the system to be repaired. The next thing to look at is the length of the warranty. It should provide the same length as if it was purchased new. If the manufacturer is not offering the same coverage consumers should once again beware. The lower cost of the system may be the result of them not offering to support the product. Finally, be wary of extended warranties. If an optional warranty is offered for purchase with the system, it should be a manufacturer extended warranty and not one through a third party. Also be wary of the cost for extended warranties. If the cost of the extended warranties makes the system cost more than buying it new, avoid the purchase. Return Policies As with any product, you may get the refurbished computer and find that it does not meet your needs or has issues. Because of the nature of refurbished systems, you want to be very careful of the return and exchange policies offered by the seller. Most retailers tend to have more restrictive policies regarding refurbished machines and they may be sold as it which means you have no recourse for returning the product. Because of this, always read them carefully before making a purchase. Manufacturer refurbs often have been options than third party sellers. Conclusions Refurbished laptops and desktops are one way consumers can find a good deal, but they have to be much more informed before the purchase. The key is to ask several key questions to know if it is really a good and safe deal: Is it sold by the manufacturer or a retailer? What is the price relative to the same PC new? Is the system comparable to an equivalent priced new PC? What type of warranty comes with the PC? Who will handle warranty work? Is there the option for a return? If all of these can be answered satisfactorily, then consumers can generally feel secure in the purchase of a refurbished PC.

    Blog Entry, MONEY, TECHNOLOGY