By Mike Floyd, Caswell Messenger

In this age of computer technology, there is no one individual more valuable or welcome to see than a good IT. IT stands for “Information Technology,” but everyone knows that it’s someone who fixes computers when they are down.

They are heroes, in demand, and certainly can achieve a lucrative career getting entire offices or mere individuals back up online.

One of this area’s busiest IT’s is Kelly Horne. Based out of Person County, the young computer fixer divides his time between his day job and numerous domestic house calls to repair “downed” computers.

“I was born and raised in Roxboro in Person County. I went to Person High and graduated back in 2015 and that is where I got into computers, where the love for computers started.

I had a teacher, Mr. Doug Roberson, who taught a technology class at the high school. He made learning technology so much fun that’s when I knew I wanted to get into this field.

“I ended up going to Piedmont Community College and taking an Associate in Applied Science course with a concentration in Information Technology,” said Horne by telephone last week.

“I graduated from PCC in May of 2018 and wound up getting a full-time job with Person County government. They allowed me to build upon the knowledge that I already had, in addition to allowing me to learn stuff that I didn’t know. I pretty much chose the paths I traveled on for my technology learning,” adds Horne.

He was self-taught, but drew valuable knowledge from his co-workers at Person County, broadening his understanding of computers. If it hadn’t been for the fellow county employees, Horne doubts he’d be where he is now or what he would be doing.

Person County government has a contract with the city of Roxboro where they do IT Services for the city, and where Horne spends time working with both.

“Every day is a new adventure. I get up in the morning and when I get to work, there’s a certain list of stuff that I must do. But that only takes up 5% of my day. The other 95% is trying to either come up with solutions to problems that happened the day before or trying to assist other technicians with stuff they have going on,” he explains.

In the world of IT, there are things called “Group Policy Objects” that tell a computer what it can and cannot do. It also controls what it has access to and what it doesn’t and that’s just a very basic definition. Group Policy can go far beyond all that an IT can grasp.

“Earlier today, we had a couple of machines, where a program that should have been disabled, decided it wanted to run. It took us a couple of hours to keep the program from running again. Typically, machines in Group Policy, when they’re talking back actively to a network or to a brain, don’t communicate with the brain like they’re supposed to. If a machine does not get Group Policy correctly, it could cause a lot of problems down the road.”

Once a machine is shut down, there’s really no way to turn the machine back on unless someone hits the power button on top of the device. If there is another way, Horne isn’t aware of it.

But, if the machine is already on, though asleep, then there could be a potential program that wakes the machine up and then runs its program or code or whatever it needs to do. While the machine is asleep, it can be woken up by a malicious person looking to steal information. Remotely, there are many changes, good or bad, to settings that can be done to a machine that has been put to sleep.

“In researching, I’m not going to say I know everything. There are a lot of people, especially in my department, that are smarter than me and have been doing this a lot longer than me.

But one of the things that was told to me early on was: “Using Google can be your best friend. Just because you don’t know the answer to something, doesn’t mean the answer hasn’t already been discovered by someone else and posted.”

When Horne first started working, he was very apprehensive because he felt he might be unqualified to repair machines because he was a little green. If a person called in and their computer wasn’t working correctly, one of the things that worried him was if he went out to that machine and started working on it, would he break it even more.

“The director at the time pulled me to his side and said, ‘Look, I understand you’re nervous, I understand you’re worried and in a new position and things are going to happen. But one of the things you need to know about the world of IT, when it comes to hardware or it comes to software, or programs, there is nothing you can do that cannot be fixed.’”

He went on to say, “You can take a water bottle and pour all over the machine. You’re out of a machine, of course, but you can replace the parts and the hardware. It’s going to cost money depending on how fast it takes those parts to arrive and how long the computer is down. But it can be fixed.“

If a piece of software is corrupted, it can either be restored back to a previous point depending on if there is a good back up of the software or sometimes just uninstall it and reinstall it from scratch.

“As far as available parts for computers, there is always a shortage of technology parts. When the new generation of graphics cards came out, there was a tremendous shortage of those because a lot of people were trying to get into crypto-mining and trying to buy the Bitcoin and all these crypto-currencies. The easiest way to buy the crypto-currencies was to get a big graphics card that can pull a lot of power and can process a lot of different things.”

So, there was a shortage and the ones that were available were over-priced more than ten times the original amount of a standard graphics card. People were buying them up and trying to make an outrageous profit.

“I don’t want to say that it has calmed down because it is still happening and will always happen no matter what the technology is. Whether it’s a processor, or a Motherboard (main printed board), it will always be the case with technology. There will always be ‘supply and demand.’ Someone will go out and buy as much as they can and sell it for a huge profit simply because there’s not a lot of stuff out there. People are desperate to get equipment so there’s always going to be that ‘over-priced’ aspect in the world of IT,” says Horne.

As far as any recommendations for what computer to buy for reliability and value: Horne says clients come to him and say, “I have a son, or a daughter and I want to buy them a laptop to take to school.”

The first thing Horne always asks is what programs or what exactly are they going to be using on this laptop? Are they going to be using Microsoft Office or are they going to be installing the program that’s provided by the school. There’s a lot of different variables that go into selecting a laptop, but if it’s just a basic laptop for Microsoft Office like Word Document , Excel, or Power Point, he recommends an HP or a Lenovo.

“Lenovo has a really good product, it’s slick, it’s easy to maneuver. There are a lot of people that say, ‘What about a Mac and what’s the difference between that or a Windows Laptop and I say it’s the hardware. Macs and Window’s computers sometimes use the same hardware, but Macs are more difficult to work on. If you were to bring me a standard laptop, I could pull it apart, clean all the pieces, put it all back together and make it better than what it was originally.”

But, if people bring him a Mac and say, ‘The hard drive is full’ or ‘One of the fans on the inside is busted’, there’s no really good way to get inside of that laptop to repair it that he knows of. Apple products are difficult for Horne to work on. He doesn’t claim that they’re difficult for everyone, but they’re difficult for him, specifically.

About being hacked: “Typically when people are victims of cyber-activities, which is what I call ‘being hacked,’ it’s more of a broad term. Cyber-criminal activities encompass a lot more than people realize. These activities include people stealing your information on the web. Hacking is someone getting into your device like if I were to hack into your computer, I would do it to steal your information. But, let’s say, I’m not very skilled at that but I’m skilled at building websites. I could build a malicious website, like a Walmart’s. Then you would go on that phony website, pick out an item or two, enter your credit card information and then me, as the criminal, I would have all that information. Then, I could turn around and go purchase stuff using the information you just provided me.”

The best way to prevent hacking, in general, is to always be cautious of what an individual is doing on the Internet. There is no good way to prevent the cybercriminals and hackers because they’re getting smarter and more sophisticated. The effectiveness of a cybercriminal has grown exponentially over the past couple of years, according to Horne.

The young IT always recommends watching what is clicked on, be sure of the website being entered information into, get a good security program, installed, and keep it up to date.

“There are several things that a person can do. And when that person sits down and thinks of all the ways they need to protect themselves on the Internet, you might as well just take your computer out of your house and never use it again. It can be extremely overwhelming. But that’s why I’m here,” laughs Horne, in conclusion.

Kelly Horne and his wife, Tanya, live in Roxboro with their one-year-old daughter, Lily. He can be reached at Horne’s Computer Services that cover Person and Caswell counties.

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