I am Concerned for Microsoft Windows Users

Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 very hard and I am not buying their push.  Several of my customers have had their computers rendered in-operable or partially in-operable. At one point I was actively supporting Microsoft in providing a newer-better OS.  Now my customers have had multiple instances of failures in the start menu and computers that act like they have hardware failures after installing the fast paced updates for Windows 10.  They have had work in progress halted for hours while Windows 10 is installing and in some cases more time lost reverting back to the previous version.

Enough is Enough

 

If you are on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 just stay there for now.  If you are buying a new Windows PC you will almost be forced to Windows 10 and is should be OK.

For most people preventing Windows 10 install is kind of hard but there is a tool to help with that.  Never10 from Gibson Research.  Please feel free to run the Never 10 utility and turn off the Windows 10 upgrade.  You can turn it back on again if you desire.

 

Bob Fairbairn

NOTE:  I am not alone in having very mixed feelings on this.  ARS Technica has a nice summary article on this

 

Microsoft’s Windows 10 push is effective, damaging, desirable, and deceptive

Apple QuickTime on Windows

It appears that Apple has stopped updating QuickTime for Windows and there are un-patched security issues with the software.  US-CERT and others are suggesting that you un-install QuickTime from Windows Machines.   

With the advent of HTML5 QuickTime Player is not really needed on Windows.  

This is a reminder for all of us to review the applications installed on our computers and to remove software we are not using. 

 

RJF

Holiday computer "fixup"

This time of year I spend a lot more time helping family and friends with their computing needs.  Many of the issues and problems can be averted simply with little effort.  In this note I will try to cover the basics to help others help themselves.   

 

The most important tip is to ensure that the computer and other devices such as iPhones are being backed up on a regular basis.  For both Mac and Windows systems online backup is most likely the simplest and safest method to keep your data backed up and off site to reduce risk of loss.  The two systems I like best are BackBlaze and Crashplan.  My personal systems are now being backed up with BackBlaze.  

https://www.backblaze.com/ 

http://www.code42.com/crashplan/ 

 

We use our devices a lot more for capturing and collecting memories such as pictures and videos.  Ensuring that our images are safely backed up and available is getting simpler.  Google and Apple both have photo management systems that help by synchronizing our memories to their cloud based services.  These tools will help ensure that you do not loose your images.   Both systems can help with phones running out of space. 

 http://www.apple.com/osx/photos/

 http://www.apple.com/ios/photos/

https://www.google.com/photos/about/  

 

These little items will take you a long way to keeping your data safe from loss and corruption.  In the next post I will talk a bit about computer security..

 

Windows 10 Reminder!

Many of my clients have been using Windows PC's for a long time and Microsoft is doing something this year that is un-precedented they are offering a free upgrade to Windows 10.  If your computer is  eligible for the upgrade to Windows 10 it is free.  For most home users and many businesses this is a very good idea.  Windows 10 seems to be more stable and has better performance on many of the computers I have installed it on.  Before you do an upgrade like this make sure your system is backed up and check to ensure that the software you use will work on Windows 10.  

 

Microsoft indicated that this offer is for one year so before July of 2016 evaluate this option.

 

 

Windows 10 is Almost Here!

Windows 10 is almost here: UPGRADE - - - maybe!

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 in a few days. The release seems very stable and has some great improvements and some concessions to the past. Depending upon your situation the upgrade is great. The testing I have done has proven to me that Windows 10 is a good upgrade for many.

Take care before you upgrade.  Backup your PC and all your data.  Consider an image backup that makes a bootable copy of your existing hard drive.

You need to ensure that the software you use will work with Windows 10.  Microsoft has a good website with more information:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/features

Check the software you are using to validate that it is compatible. 

RJF

Xfiniti WiFi: Cost Savings, Questions, and Unintended Consequences

Where I live Comcast has started delivering Xfiniti WiFi to all of their customers.  When you have one of their WiFi routers in your home or office they provide a separate wireless network that anyone with a Comcast account can log into.  Comcast keeps the data separate from your home and office and does not count data transfer on that network towards your data use.  

I have found the service to be helpful and it can save Mobile wireless charges.  I get WiFi servers in many places where I would not have had it before.  

I have some questions about what Comcast is doing with the roaming information they can gather from our connecting at various locations nationwide.  

There are unintended consequences to their service, when using my primary mobile device the iPhone 6 Plus and other iOS devices.  When the iOS sees a WiFi network it knows about it tries to connect to that first as it assumes better performance, etc.  But now we have Xfiniti WiFi "everywhere".  So driving down the street in a neighborhood that is blanketed with Comcast customers the iPhone starts trying to connect to all of their networks.  And since I am driving, or riding in the car virtually no data gets transferred as the phone is constantly trying to register on the WiFi network that is either just leaving coverage or moving into coverage for a few seconds.

I do not know if this effects battery life, but it stops almost all data transfer.  Now I could turn WiFi off or "forget" the Xfiniti network.  Both of which are inconvenient in the long run. Turing off WiFi reduces navigation effectiveness and deleting my Xfiniti login puts me without their service when I may want it.

 

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Picking the "right" software package.

For 2015 I have several business changes that require me to make process changes and to select some new software for my business.  I use the Apple Macintosh as my primary computing platform, so when it comes to software selection I try very hard to keep all of my workflows in that environment.  

The first system I need to upgrade is my accounting.  Over the last few weeks I have been reviewing and testing accounting packages.  I really wanted to move my accounting to an online system where it did not matter what device or operating system I used.  With the changes in business model I will be doing payroll in 2015 so that has added cost / time / complexity.  My current system for invoicing clients is online but it requires double entry and double management of contacts.  In addition I may decide that I need professional accounting review later so the ability to get an accountant involved is a requirement. 

I need to keep this as lightweight and fast as possible.  Researching online accounting systems I looked at several tools and did some testing of Xero, and researched Quickbooks Online.  Neither of them met all the needs of my business and workflow requirements.  I then looked at Mac native applications that I could use  Quickbooks for Mac and AccountEdge seemed to be a good place to look.  I have a license for AccountEdge but the user interface and a few other things just do not make it feel right to me.  Quickbooks for the Mac is missing several features that I have on my list.

So I have selected to Quickbooks Pro 2015 for Windows.  I am using Parallels virtualization software to run Windows 7 on my MacPro desktop.  It means that I have to maintain another "computer" within my computer just to run my accounting system.  With Quickbooks I have 60 days to "test" the system.  I have high hopes it will work for me.

As a technology consultant I have to balance a lot of customer specific requirements.  Sometimes the ideal solution does not exist and we need to make compromises.  Balancing this for myself reminds me how hard it is for some of my clients.  A nice little new years lesson!

Welcome to 2015!             

 

 

Going Digital: "PDF's for everyone"

Computers, we have been told, will end the need for paper in the office and at home.  But for most of us we seem to be generating as much paper or much more that we did with typewriters and mimeograph machines and photo-copiers.  Sometimes we print because we need a copy of what is on the screen of our computer or we feel better reading it on paper.  Sometimes we print to keep a safe printed copy thinking it is better for some reason.

I am guilty as charged and I print too many things to "paper"!  But what if there was a different way?  What if we could "print" digitally and not create that physical artifact that we may not need?  How about converting that artifact we already have into a digital equivalent?

Today is the day you can start!  Welcome to the digital age...  The current standard file format for our digital storage system is the PDF file and even our federal court system is standardizing on the PDF/A (archive) standard for going digital.  You can view a PDF file on almost any digital device out there.  You can simply produce PDF files from any application on a Mac by just printing to PDF.  On Windows the newer versions of Microsoft Office have export to PDF.  Our smartphones can take pictures and turn them into PDFs and can even convert the pictures of printed pages into text.

Where to begin?  Below are a couple of links that should help you start down the road to your own accessible digital archive.

One of my favorite books on the subject is Paperless By David Sparks. David has produced a wonderful ebook on the subject of going paperless.  It is a good read and his process is very accessible.

What has brought this whole subject to mind of late are two items I found on the Internet recently and a couple of requests from my clients and friends.  One of the podcasts that I listen to  is from MacPowerUsers.com.  This podcast is a lot about using the MAC and while that may not be of interest to the Windows users if you are at all interested in digital documents you need to listen to Episode 230: The Power of PDFs  Yes this is three Lawyers talking about going Paperless.  Yes they are Mac users;  AND YES it applies to any one on any computer type!  They discuss mobile scanning with your iPhone and more

Want the bottom line.  Get on the internet or go to a store that sells the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners and buy one on this years $$$.  I just installed an iX500 wireless 25ppm duplex scanner in an accounting office and they are thrilled!  There are smaller versions that meet mobile needs but for a office that has a lot of paper the iX500 is among the best.  You can scan everything from pictures to business cards,  the scanner comes with OCR abilities and a whole lot more.

Make 2015 the year you go digital!

 

 

Malware Prevention and Removal

Lately I am getting a lot of calls about everything from slow computers to hundreds of pop-ups and fake issues with the Windows PC in question.  There are many compromised web-sites and all kinds of ways of fooling us into clicking on things we should not.  

There are several mitigation techniques that the computer user can help protect themselves.  By using Google Chrome, or Firefox there are add-ins to help prevent pop-ups ad's and some malware from even showing up.  Using the "adbock" or "adblock Plus" extension will reduce the visuals that overwhelm some websites.  Another extension called the "Web of Trust" Extension that provides crowd sourced reputation indication on your search results will inform the users of potentially bad web sites.

You MUST keep your computer up-to-date and have active Anti-virus software installed.  In addition you may want to at least scan your PC with MalwareBytes anti-malware.  The free version allows you to do manual scans.  The paid version runs in real-time.

There are other tools that can help you clean up from an infection.  You can visit http://www.bleepingcomputer.com for more help.  I use JRT - Junk Ware Removal Tool and ADWCleaner to help remove some infections.  These tools make changes to your computer that you need  to have a understanding of what the programs are doing.  Take care with this software.

This short post should help you to protect your computer.  Please remember to keep your software and operating system up to date and have a good backup system, JUST IN CASE!

 

Your Website!

In today's digital world your website can say a lot or a little, but you have to have one!  It might be a blog, a single page statement, a portfolio or a virtual storefront.  That your website does for you is to allow you to tell your story and stake your territory.  

  • Creating a website is NOT expensive, NOT hard, and DOES NOT require a design engineering degree.  
  • A website will take a little of your time, or a lot if you wish.
  • Your website will change, it is never done.
  • Get the message out and as Seth Godin says "SHIP IT"

There are many platforms for creating websites.  Wordpress is one of the most popular and can be used to create just about any kind of site. It is great for creating content that you want to share such as a blog.    Google Sites are simple to setup, can be really clean and are free to cheap.  Weekly and WIX are a couple of template based platforms that work well for some.

I have been crafting websites for many years and in the last few months have completely moved to the Squarespace platform.  This site and several others I am working on for my customers use Squarespace.  

You site has to look good and clean, Please avoid moving advertisements!  The site has to be responsive to the user both in speed and in working properly on different device types from computers to smartphones.

Finally basic analytics will help you to see who is looking at your site, is it working?  For now do not obsess, just SHIP IT!

Posted using the new Squarespace 7 platform.

RJF

Protecting yourself online

There is an increasing variety of method being used against us to gather data, steal things, and more.  In this ongoing series of posts I want to cover some of the places where you can get information to help you stay safe.

Once you have all your software up to date and you have a system in place to keep yourself that way, lets add some protection. Many of the attacks against computers are indirect.  The attack has shifted to attacking the person using the computer.  It might be a dodgy advertisement on late night TV or cable.  Or and ad on a web site.  Do not believe it!  We are seeing more and more telephone calls with people pretending to be Microsoft, etc..   There are extortion rackets where you are called and they say that you are infected, etc..  Fake NSA, Fake FBI, the scams go on and on.

Be careful when using the Internet, email, messaging.  Do NOT click on links,  do NOT run software you do not know where it came from.  Be very careful on social networking sites, and with email that appears to be from friends.  “When in doubt; do not Click!”  Here are some online resources to help:

http://www.microsoft.com/protect/default.aspx

http://www.onguardonline.gov/

http://www.staysafeonline.org/

 

 

Welcome to 2014

I hope that all of you had a great 2013!  Moving into 2014 there are a lot of changes in the computing world coming our way.  Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP in a few months.  Intel is changing the name of McAfee to Intel Security, watch for SPAM and Malware around that change!  

Windows 8.1 is now the mainstream release for Microsoft OS.  I know it is different and feels a bit strange.  It is like a new set of shoes you have to break them in.  A couple of hints.  There are two new shortcut keys in Windows 8:  Press the Windows key and the D key at the same time to go to the desktop and the Windows key with the X key for a simplified start menu.  Finally with the start menu up you can just start typing the name of the program you want to run and Windows will find it for you.  

Apple has released their new OS 10.9 for the Mac and IOS 7 for mobile devices.  The OS’s are better integrated with Apples cloud services and much more.  Keep your software upgraded, these releases are free.

 

rjf

 

Microsoft Patch Tuesday ... A patch for everyone!

This year is the 10th anniversary of "Patch Tuesday".  Microsoft releases patches on a scheduled basis to help  IT staff and users keep their software up to date.  This last scheduled patch set for 2013 is a great opportunity to give yourself and those around you the gift updated software!  Microsoft will release their patches this Tuesday the 10th.  Make sure that your machines are patched and updated.  Sophos Naked Security Blog has a nice post on this months updates: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2013/12/08/microsoft-patch-tuesday-get-ready-to-patch-and-reboot-the-lot-including-server-core/

Quoting from Sophos:

By the way, this month really is an omnibus (a Latin word meaning "for everyone") update. All platforms are affected, from XP to 8.1 and from Server 2003 to 2012, including installs of the stripped-down Server Core variants. In addition, this month's Internet Explorer update covers the whole product range, from IE 6 to IE 11.

In short: plan to patch (and to reboot) every Windows-based computer and virtual machine in your business, no later than at the earliest opportunity.

---

RJF

CryptoLocker Ransomware

In order to help the community at large I would like to ensure you have heard of the Ransomware CryptoLocker.  This software encrypts files on your computer and then holds them for ransom.  There is currently no known way to remove the encryption.  The software will encrypt everything it can find on connected drives, etc.  

US-Cert and others have more information on protecting your self from this bad software:

http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA13-309A

 

Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CryptoLocker

 

 

 

Email IN-Security and LinkedIn "Intro"

LinkedIn released a new tool called “Intro” that is a significant security risk. LinkedIn wants to add their profile information to email for you, thus they need to interact with all your email.   The tool reconfigures your iOS device to pass all your email through LinkIn’s servers.  All of your sent and received mail from your device now goes through their servers to allow them to add their “linkedIn profile” data to your emails.  This  means that they directly have access to ALL of your email sent and received. This creates a significant security risk.  Please pass this on to the other members of your organizations.  Here is a reference story that talks about the tool:

http://www.bishopfox.com/blog/2013/10/linkedin-intro/

RJF

 

NOTE:

Using free email services such as gmail or yahoo for your business email puts you at risk for these same kinds of issues as they use your email to track you for advertising purposes. Facebook messages are also subject to the same issues.    These services are "ok" for personal, non-sensitive email, but not for commercial use unless you are on a business account where you are paying for the service and have the proper terms of service. Purchasing and using commercial email service for your business is a best practice for all three legs of the C.I.A. triad of security as well as good professional practices.

 

Dropbox.com Your "private and/or shared" USB stick in the Cloud

Dropbox is a service that lets you access your stored data from virtually anywhere.  Think of it as a USB Stick/key in the sky.  Data you select from your computer is synchronized to the Dropbox servers and from there you can access it from virtually any Internet connected device.  You can share files with others, display pictures and much more.

Dropbox is a highly recommended service to help you use the Internet to protect your data and have access to it when away from home base.  Check it out at http://dropbox.com .