“Can I still get Windows 10 for free?”

Although the general deadline for Microsoft’s free upgrade to Windows 10 was last July 29th, we regularly still get the question “Can I still get Windows 10 for free?” from interested parties who, well, missed the party.

The answer, basically, is “yes.”  There’s a good article on How-To Geek that describes the remaining ways that you can get a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 to Windows 10.  It’s not entirely clear how long Microsoft will be allowing these on-going upgrade offers to work…but if you’re regretting not taking advantage of the free upgrade before, there’s no time like the present to read that article and get your upgrade done now!

Use Microsoft Office online for free!

This isn’t new information, by any stretch…MS has been offering free use of their Office applications online for a while now.  But I keep getting inquiries about where it is and how to use it, so here’s some info for you if you’re interested…

First of all, you can just go to the Microsoft Office website and access all the applications there.  There’s a list of all the applications across the middle of that page, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.  You’ll need a login, which you can get for free, and then you’re good to go.

It can be made a bit easier if you like with a browser plug-in – Microsoft makes an official Office Online plug-in for Google Chrome, which you can get here.  There’s a similar plug-in for Mozilla Firefox, actually done by a 3rd party (and which also can be used to access Google Apps online) that you can get here.

Naturally, there are other free options, including the mentioned Google Apps (now referred to as G Suite), and various offerings based on OpenOffice, like LibreOffice.  But if you’re familiar with MS Office, the free online versions of those applications are probably a good bet – technically they’re not as full-featured as the paid-for versions, but chances are if you’re a typical user you won’t miss what isn’t there.

Bradford Memorial Fundraiser PC Raffle

On Sept. 2nd, 2015, Courtney Bradford and her daughter Jasmine were found dead in their New Richmond, WI home.  If you’re not familiar with the story, you can read about it at the New Richmond News.

Courtney’s 5-year old son Jayden was luckily with his father at the time, and now will be attending school here in Hastings, MN, where his father lives.  There’s a fundraising event scheduled on Sept. 26th at Cedarwind Performance Horses, including a silent auction, raffles, door prizes, and fun games & activities – we’re supporting the cause with a complete PC system – designed for gaming, but perfect for any purpose.

And by “complete” we mean complete.  This awesome system includes the tower itself, a 22″ widescreen 1080p monitor, keyboard, mouse, mousepad, gamepad, 2.1 speaker system, and an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier!  Retail value of this system is $1,300.00.  Here’s some pics (apologies for the quality…apparently our digital camera is on it’s way out), and then some details:


  • AMD A10-7700K Black Edition Processor
    • Quad-core, with on-chip Radeon R7 graphics
  • 8Gb DDR3-1600 RAM
    • 2Gb for on-chip graphics, 6Gb for system
  • AMD Radeon R7 240 video card with 2Gb RAM
    • In Dual-Graphics mode with on-chip graphics for double-barreled graphics performance!
  • 1Tb SATA2 hard drive
  • DVD-RW drive
  • Keyboard, optical mouse, mousepad, wireless network adapter, gamepad, stereo headset
  • 22″ Widescreen 1080p monitor

So please join us in helping the Bradford family, and get on down to the fundraiser event on Sept. 26th – you could walk away with this stellar computer system for as little as $2!  Raffle tickets will be sold for $2 apiece, or 3 for $5.

Windows Updates…

Net Applications, which tracks a variety of IT statistics, including the benchmark for operating system marketshare, has just released an updated review of that marketshare by operating system…and for the first time ever, Windows XP has fallen to 3rd place, if you combine Windows 8 and 8.1 stats together.


While that might be good news for Windows 8/8.1, the potentially distressing part is that nearly 15% of the world’s computers are still running Windows XP – which was dropped for support by Microsoft well over a year ago…meaning that it’s basically insecure, and insecurable, because Microsoft isn’t patching any newly-found issues in Windows XP anymore.  If you’re still running any Windows XP systems, the one and only prudent course of action is to upgrade to a later version of Windows – whether Windows 7 or 8/8.1.  If you believe you may be running software that is only compatible with XP, contact the vendor to see if there’s an updated version available.

On a related note, Microsoft has just announced that Windows 10 will be released on July 29th.  And not only that, but everyone who’s currently running either Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 will be eligible to receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 for a period of one year after that release.  As with all OS upgrades, it’s best to plan ahead and manage the process properly…even if the OS itself is free.  Please contact us if you’d like to discuss managing the free upgrade on your systems!

Smartphones overtake laptops…

Here’s an appropriate follow-on to the last news post – the Consumer Electronics Association just released their 2015 ownership study – smartphones are now the #3 most popular household technology item, taking the spot from laptop computers.  72% of all US households now have smartphones, as opposed to laptops which come in at 67%.  Desktop PCs now come in at #8 on the list, with tablets at #9.

cealist[1]Just another reminder of how important it is to make sure that you have a great website, and that it renders correctly on mobile devices – and is easy to use on their small screens, like on a smartphone.  If you don’t have a website, or have a website that doesn’t work well on mobile devices, you’re completely missing out on a massive population of potential customers – contact us for a free onsite consultation to show you how we can quickly get you up to speed on a modern website, that’s responsive to mobile devices, for a lot less money than you probably think!

Google “mobile-friendly” search rankings

As you may have heard, a short while ago Google started changing how they rank search results based on how mobile-friendly your website is…which means that if you have a website that isn’t properly “responsive” to mobile devices, you may show up lower in the results list when someone searches for a business like yours – or maybe you don’t show up at all.  Other websites may get ranked ahead of yours simply because their website renders properly on a mobile device and your’s doesn’t – even if you feel like your website should have been the “better” search result for that user.

Although naturally there’s a lot of variance, chances are that at least half of all the hits a given website gets today are from mobile devices – and that proportion is surely going to get larger as time goes on.  In the graphic below, taken from one of our own websites as an example, you can easily see that by far the #1 browser accessing the site is from mobile phones – and add in the 7% from tablets as well, and this site is pretty close to 50% on mobile traffic:

hitsIf your website doesn’t render correctly on mobile devices, it’s pretty clear that you’re probably irritating potential customers who struggle to use your website on their phones or tablets.  And now, with Google’s change in their rankings that include mobile-friendliness, you may wind up not getting those potential customers to see your website at all…and before you think “well, it’s just Google – they’re not the only search engine out there” let us point out that not only does Google tend to set the tone for internet searching, with all other players following their lead, but Google also is far and away the #1 search engine as it is – frequently rendering all other search engines to “also-ran” status…like in these stats from one of our typical sites:

searchSeeing 80% or more of your search traffic coming from Google is pretty typical…it’s an absolute certainty that if you want people to be able to easily find your website when they’re searching for things that you do, you need to place well in Google search rankings.  Otherwise…you won’t be seen at all.

If your website isn’t well-designed, or otherwise doesn’t render well on mobile devices (or if you don’t have a site at all), please contact us and we’ll be happy to show you how we can create a new website for you, that optimizes how your business is presented to the world, that automatically responds to the device it’s being viewed on, and makes sure you get the search rankings you’re looking for.  And contrary to what common conceptions may be, the whole process can be quick, painless, and extremely affordable.  Let us put you in charge of your online presence and help you grow your business…contact us today to schedule a free on-site consultation!

Time to save the internet…again…

The “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” is getting ramrodded by big money corporations through Congress, and although labeled and billed as a “free trade” agreement, it actually has little or nothing to do with such things.  It would, among other things, royally screw up the internet, similar to what SOPA would have done if it weren’t defeated.  Major lobbyists and corporations are hoping to slide the TPP through without anyone knowing what happened…and it’s important that we get people to pay attention.

Go here to let Congress know that they shouldn’t allow the TPP to be fast-tracked.  And take a gander at the video below for some of the highlights…


Free upgrades to Windows 10!

Microsoft_Old_LogoIf you haven’t heard, Microsoft is going to be handing out free upgrades to Windows 10 for users currently on Windows 7 or 8, for a period of one year once the official release of Windows 10 is made.

Naturally we’re going to be encouraging users to take advantage of that free offer to update your systems, if for no other reason than to dramatically extend the period of time during which your computer will be supported by Microsoft for operating system patches & bug fixes.  The extended support period for Windows 7 lasts until 2020 – Windows 8 has extended support until 2023, and it’s reasonable to assume that Windows 10 will have extended support until probably 2026, if not later.  Mainstream support for Windows 7 has already ended…and will end for Windows 8 less than 3 years from now.  The extended support period is the time during which Microsoft will continue to fix the OS when any kind of flaw or security risk is discovered…which is increasingly important, as the security of your computer and your data is paramount.  There have also been under-the-covers improvements made that will make your systems run more efficiently and securely, as well as other enhancements that aren’t obvious to the naked eye.

Due diligence must be taken when taking advantage of the free offer though…like properly backing everything up so that you can roll back if needed, making sure that your systems and software will work correctly with Windows 10, including other hardware like printers and scanners, and updating any backup/recovery systems and procedures.  Please contact us with any questions you may have about the free upgrade to Windows 10 and what we can do to make sure that your upgrade process is handled correctly and smoothly.

Presenting the MSP Comicon 2015 Charity Raffle PC System!

Once again, we are proud to partner with the Midwest Comic Book Association in support of their chosen charities with another sweet PC gaming rig!  Their premiere event has been renamed “MSP Comicon” now, replacing “SpringCon” as the moniker – but the event remains just as awesome and entertaining as ever.  As the name implies, there’s comic books and related stuff (like toys, posters, etc.) as far as the eye can see – but also gaming, movies & TV stuff, art, collectibles, and all other manners of pop culture interests…not to mention regular appearances by groups like the 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist and the MN RollerGirls!  Yup.  Stormtroopers and roller derby girls.  If a fight ever breaks out, our money is on the RollerGirls BTW.  Hint: they’re not really Stormtroopers…but the RollerGirls are real.

But we digress…feast your eyes upon this complete computer system, which will be raffled away with proceeds benefiting charities – this is a seriously sweet system that you could walk away with practically for free (tickets will be $2…c’mon, what else are you going to do with two measly bucks?):


Here’s some specs for your reading pleasure:

  • AMD A10 7700K Black Edition quad-core processor
    • On-chip Radeon R7 graphics with 2Gb of RAM assigned
  • 8Gb DDR3-1600 RAM (2Gb for on-chip graphics, 6Gb for system)
  • 1Tb 7,200 RPM SATA2 hard drive, DVD-RW drive
  • AMD Radeon R7 240 video card with 2Gb of RAM
    • Set in Crossfire (dual graphics mode) with the on-chip graphics processing: 2 graphics processors each with 2Gb of RAM for double-barreled gaming performance!
  • Awesome “modded” mid-tower case with 600w power supply, side window, & lighted fans
  • 19.5” LED widescreen monitor
  • Keyboard, mouse, mousepad, 2.1 speaker system, gamepad, and headset
  • Windows 8.1 64-bit installed with Classic Shell for normal desktop & Start menu
    • Free upgrade to Windows 10 when it comes out later this year!
  • Installed software:  Microsoft Office Starter Edition, Microsoft OneNote, antivirus & antimalware, all the necessary utilities you need and no bloatware you don’t
  • Awesome pre-installed games:
  • System comes with complete system backup/restore program and 1-year warranty from Northrup Systems

For what it’s worth, we decided to name the system the Polar Vortex – which seems to fit with it’s snowy color scheme, but also because it’s been so freaking cold up here in the Great White North lately.  Anyway, be sure to get down to the 2015 MSP Comicon and buy your raffle tickets!  Need not be present to win…but you do need to buy a ticket!  And seriously…how could you miss the con anyway?  It’s awesome!

Save the internet!