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Office 365 backup

Office 365 backup:

I just posted some information about Office 365 backup, more information has come to light. Ignore the previous post and I will re-edit and repost in the near future.

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New .au domain names and advice from ACSC

ACSC (Australian [Government] cyber security centre) are recommending that all business purchase their equivalent domain name to prevent "...to help protect your business from opportunistic cybercriminals" before 20 September 2022.

To help protect your business from opportunistic cybercriminals, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends that all Australian businesses with existing domain names register their .au equivalents before 20 September 2022. If a business does not reserve their .au equivalent direct domain name during this six-month period, that name will become available to the public on a first come, first served basis. 

https://www.cyber.gov.au/acsc/view-all-content/alerts/new-domain-name-changes-could-leave-your-business-or-organisation-risk

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Pre-order for new .au domains now open

Digital pacific is reporting that the pre-order process for new .au domains now open now go here: https://digitalpacificdomains.com.au for details.

If you have reallylongdomainname.com.au this may be your opportunity to purchase imshort.au instead or to secure your business identity and reputation by purchasing mydomainname.au as well as your existing mydomainname.com.au (before your competitors do) I don't know what the allocation process is but I strongly suggest you act quickly if your interested.

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Windows updates 21H2

I advised last week that there were problems with the 21H2 Windows update from Microsoft. Microsoft has reported that the 'MSI install issue' is resolved now with another patch. As far as the Intel sound card driver conflict goes this is a Windows 11 only issue so Windows 10 users can allow updates to naturally instal now as usual. If you put a 7 day pause on your windows updates they will automatically begin again in a few days.

For Windows 11 users MS has setup a compatibility block so the offending upgrade shouldn't auto install however they say 'We recommend that you do not attempt to manually upgrade using the Update now button or the Media Creation Tool until this issue has been resolved and the safeguard removed.

Here is the link if your running Windows 11 and want to track this issue:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-au/windows/release-health/status-windows-11-21h2#2746msgdesc

For those customers where I manage Windows updates via Windows Update services, I have now release the 21H2 update for Windows 10 as it resolves a number of vulnerabilities.

Just a reminder about allowing Windows updates to install, I strongly recommend logging off each evening and restarting your computer once a week. This allows a few things to happen which should enhance your computing experience as well as allow for better security. I also recommend leaving your computer on overnight at least once per week to allow installs to complete (that is if you don't leave it on all the time anyway)

Some of the befits of logging off and restarting:

  • It allows windows updates to auto-occur when they are needed, at least on a 24 hour basis.
  • Logging off closes all your programs/applications which releases all the memory back to windows to be 'cleaned-up' and reused, it closes all open programs and resolves any transient 'weirdness' that may be happing. 
  • Restarting does the same as logging off but it also does same for system processes and Windows services
  • If you have roaming user profiles setup in your organisation data is only saved back to the servers when you log off, if you have a power outage before that time data may be lost.
  • It forces you to clean-up, save your documents and close off the clutter. It could be just me but I can't see how having 15 word documents open at the same time for a month helps with productivity! (but perhaps that's just me:-/ )
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Problems 'saving-as' from Adobe reader?

 A number of users are reporting and issue when saving-as from within Adobe acrobat reader. When trying the save, instead of a dialogue box allowing you to choose the save location all you see is a blank dialogue box form/screen.

Click here for the workaround

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Backup for home data

Every now and then someone asks me about a backup strategy for home, this is my current recommendation. I suggest you investigate what's suitable for your own environment before making decisions.

Macrium reflect free: Full *system* backup, install and run this periodically even if only once when you get a new PC and its fully setup. This allows you to go back to a working state if you get virused or you have a hard drive failure or a bad windows update.

https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
Cost $free

Notes:
Make sure you make a "rescue disk" on a USB thumb drive when you install the software

Backblaze: Continuous backup of all^ *data* files to the internet for off-site cloud/internet storage. Unlimited storage

https://www.backblaze.com/cloud-backup.html
Cost US$70 per year

Notes:

  • May not be suitable if you don't have good internet
  • May not be suitable if you don't have unlimited internet
  • Doesn't keep "versions" (at the base cost)
  • Backups files only stored for 30 days after deletion
  • ^Check that it *IS* including that weird folder location that your [insert weird software product name here] is using
  • Hint: Make an automated copy of all your data to one "always-on" PC in the house and you can back up an unlimited number of PC's

Remember all PC's will fail eventually, there is a good chance that you will eventually lose all your data if you don't have some strategy in place.

EXTRA NOTE:
saving all your data on an external hard drive is NOT a backup. That's just data on an external drive, which is arguably more susceptible to failing that your actual PC. A backup is a second copy of your data.

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Spam phishing messages

A example spam/phishing message, obviously don't click on these:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phishing is a type of social engineering where an attacker sends a fraudulent ("spoofed") message designed to trick a human victim into revealing sensitive information to the attacker or to deploy malicious software on the victim's infrastructure like ransomware. Phishing attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and often transparently mirror the site being targeted, allowing the attacker to observe everything while the victim is navigating the site, and transverse any additional security boundaries with the victim.[1] As of 2020, phishing is by far the most common attack performed by cyber-criminals, with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Centre recording over twice as many incidents of phishing than any other type of computer crime.[2]

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Recommended answers to the "stay signed in to all your apps" question for Office 365

Recommended answers to the "stay signed in to all your apps" question for Office 365:

When you connect to or interact with Microsoft office 365 in some way using your PC or laptop, such as when you setup your mail in Outlook, you will often get the popup below asking you if you want to "remember your account". While this may seem like a reasonable idea, unless you explicitly know what this is will do and want that to happen I strongly suggest you chose "no, sign in to this app only".

This will avoid some potentially undesirable consequences such as "binding" your PC to your organisations Azure active directly security for administration, setting up for you files *not* to be saved to your PC or network share by default, but instead being saved to your organisations online "SharePoint" server. If this happens by accident these and some other consequences will need to be reversed, sorted out, and things put back where they belong.

This is also why I also recommend that all PC's are initially installed as standalone PC's with a local administrator account.

If you're a digitalwelcomemat customer, your organisations centralised security and file store won't be Microsoft Azure or SharePoint so there is no advantage to using this Microsoft "feature".

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My availability for IT support during COVID lockdown

I am experiencing increased care and family responsibilities due to support service cancellations as a result of the greater Sydney, NSW COVID-19 lockdown. As a consequence I will have (and have already had) less available time for support work.

Please continue to email as normal and I will attend to jobs based on priority as always.
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Digital Pacific Phishing attack underway, do not click

 Digital Pacific Phishing attack underway, do not click (see image below)...

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Another 2 Seagate hard drives failed....

Another 2 Seagate hard drives failed.... what, again? I hear you ask

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Older Office apps accessing 365 services

In the continuing saga of older "perpetual license" MS office apps accessing Microsoft 365 services here is a good article:

https://www.computerworld.com/article/3569435/microsoft-points-to-october-end-of-support-for-older-office-apps-accessing-365-services.html

Some points from the article:

"Microsoft has long played with the support of Office applications connecting to Office 365 services. Three years ago, the company said that perpetual-license versions of Office would be able to connect to Microsoft's cloud-based services only during the first half of their 10-year support lifecycle. It set Oct. 13, 2020 as the date when the new policy would take effect."....

......Mcrosoft softened the blow considerably. "We won't take any active measures to block other versions of the Office client, such as Office 2013, from connecting to Office 365 services, but these older clients may encounter performance or reliability issues over time," the Redmond, Wash. developer stated in the support document."

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Best video editing software?

UPDATE: If your planning to edit AVCHD files i.e. files in the .MTS format you may be in for a bumpy ride, Resolve 16 doesn't seam to support these files very well and they may need to be "re-wrapped" or converted before editing. This is more of an issue with the AVCHD format itself and they way it encodes the video file (read here https://bit.ly/2Q0AkUB if you want the long story) having said that Adobe premier worked perfectly fine with these files.
After a fair bit of struggling I found that converting the files to .mov (QuickTime format) completely resolved the issues I was having but that is an extra step in workflow and extra storage. 

A while ago someone asked me to look into a good product for video editing for low cost or free, my choice is:

DaVinci Resolve
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/

Its history is that it used to be a $150,000 "colour grading" program for feature films and TV but has since morphed into a full function video editing program.

I have been using Adobe premiere for the past few years as this has been the gold standard in editing for some time. However due to Adobe's "you-can-never-own-it-only-rent-it-for-the-rest-of-you-life" pricing strategy I have been looking for an alternative.

That alternative is DaVinci Resolve and the price… Zero

I wouldn't call it an easy program to use but its hugely powerful and will serve you from beginner to wherever you want to go, even if that is a full feature movie editor. That said you can churn out a basic cut of a movie fairly quickly if you are familiar with the process of editing. If you are prepared to invest the time it seams like a great product, only took me a week to be editing at the same level as I was with Premier.

The only catch to it is that although they say it can run it on a relatively low specification PC, their idea of low spec might be different to ours, however at $0 it's not a lot to invest to try it out.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.

Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Hard drive monitor software

Yes, your hard drive will fail and all the data will be lost, it's just a matter of time.

Based on my experience, hard drives are the component that fails the most out of all the internal PC components (second would be the internal power supply) especially older style platter hard drives, imagine an old record player spinning the and playing the same record for 3 -5 years 24 hours per day that's essentially what the hard disk has to do. 

You should assume that your disk will fail "at any moment" and strategize your backup, duplication or redundancy strategy based on that assumption.

However even with good strategies in place it can still be still painful and expensive when a drive fails. I have recently added hard drive monitoring software to my standard recommendation for mission critical systems and really any other PC that can't be replaced by a simple reimage, "the accounting lady's PC" is a good example of a unique complex system where a disk failure can be very painful and costly.

My recommended software for this purpose is HD sentinel (https://www.hdsentinel.com)

See the screen shot below for an example of the display you can opt to have this open at startup and or monitor and email is there is any issue. Note also for server's its able to "see through" the RAID array and monitor the disks directly*.

For HD sentinel professional:

  • A 5 computer license is USD $53 (lifetime license)
  • or USD $29.95 for a single PC/server

As always investigations will need to be made about licensing and general suitability for your environment.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.

Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Recovering a deleted file

Every now and then I get asked this question:

I deleted my file can I get it back?

[For traditional drives not a SSD with TRIM...] When you delete a file it doesn't actually delete it at all, it just removes the bit of information from the storage "Index" or "table" that records where the file is located and that it exists.

Theoretically if you use some special undelete software straight away and nothing else has happened on the storage device you can get your file back 99% of the time*. 

HOWEVER: as soon as the bit of info in the storage "Index" or "table" is deleted, that also marks that space free and available to be overwritten with data again. Unfortunately that "nothing else has happened on the storage device" scenario seldom exists so there is only a chance that you will be able to reasonably recover the file. As soon as data is written over that spot on the storage it's a LOT more to get the original file back.

So if you want to recover a deleted file it needs to be done ASAP preferably before you start to write more data files to that storage drive.

There are a million undelete software programs out there some are outright virus\malware, some say they are free but aren't, some you have to pay for, and a very few are legit and free. I suggested testing any new and unknown software in an isolated environment before you start installing random internet software in your everyday PC.
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Covid-19. IT support as usual for now...

Digitalwelcomemat continues to provide IT support as usual, there is currently no change to support services. As usual I try to minimize onsite support. This is because, remote support is significantly more timely efficient, which means a better service and more cost effective for everyone but also has the added bonus that it helps with social distancing. However as usual I am available for onsite support as required.

Should this situation change I will let you know.

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Remote Desktop Gateway

Distributed remote desktop, where each remote user connects directly their PC is a great option for providing remote desktop for a large number of users without having to invest in complicated infrastructure and a dedicated/duplicate system to handle remote desktop service it allows you to utilise PC's that you already have in place that would otherwise remain idle while users are outside the office.


Providing remote access for users direct to their PC is as simple as setting a fixed IP address for that PC then opening a firewall port (specifically for that user) and they can logon.

However scaling this solution up does present some challenges the first challenge is that the router will only support a certain number of port redirections and one has to be set up for each PC that needs to be accessed remotely In addition it becomes quite cumbersome to manage the fixed IP addresses for all the PC's and confirm that the right user has the right port number, record all that information and make sure that that information gets passed onto the user.

I've been looking for a better solution for this for some time Microsoft offer a product called remote desktop gateway which is very complicated in cumbersome to manage an I have been looking for a solution which provides the same functionality but is a lot less complex and onerous to manage plus be cost effective.

Today I have evaluated TSX gateway by thinstuff.com I have been aware of these guys for several years but haven't had a specific requirement to use any of their products.

The way that this product works is you install it in one location on your network, on an existing server and then all of the users connect from outside the network to that one [gateway] server, authenticate to that server and then connect to their own PC based only on the PC name. this means that no specific port number and no set of remote desktop icons is required. Also if user needs to use another PC or gets a new one it's just as simple as them using the other PC name that they would like to connect to and so long as I have given them access to that PC they can connect without further requirement for support or interaction with me.

There are another couple of benefits to this product as well:

  • A reduction in support costs to manage this scaled out remote desktop solution
  • The data is now transferred over the web using HTTPS (Port 443) which should allow users to connect from locations that would normally block traditional remote desktop connections. This is because HTTPS is the same protocol that the normal modern internet web pages use. For example if you are connecting from a library, a coffee shop or McDonald's hotspot you should be able to connect as usual without impediment.
  • Closing port numbers 3389, 3391, 3392… etc should also reduce hammering attacks (where someone on the internet constantly tries to connect to your PC using usually random names and passwords) this will offload this task from the PC meaning that each PC no longer needs a product such as https://rdpguard.com (approx. US$50-70 *per PC*) plus install and maintenance costs associated with that. Base in mind that any hammering would now happen at the gateway.
  • Additionally, the software allows [requires], for creation of one central SSL security certificate to identify the gateway server end. Once all the PCs are aware of this certificate it is probably not feasible for a hacker to "pose as" your remote desktop PC, intercept your password and store that to allow connection later. Although that would be a very unusual and quite complex thing to do under normal/current circumstances it's a benefit to be able to secure the system with a certificate. This does mean that you require a basic certificate in place for this purpose. You have 2 options for the certificate:

The free included certificate which the gateway software creates itself. This needs to be manually (but easily) installed on each PC that will connect remotely.

Or, alternatively you can purchase a public certificate for about $50 per year which means that any PC on the Internet (for example staff home PCs) can connect to your remote desktop PCs so long as they have the password without any setup requirement.

The software is US $259.00 for unlimited connections and can install on one of your existing servers.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.

Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Issues with Netflix performance?

Issues with Netflix performance? Check your internet speed direct from Netflix by using this Netflix tool:

https://fast.com/

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Office 64 bit version

MS is pushing Office *64 bit* version as the default install now for office 365 installs and its creating havoc with many customers. A major software update is meant to be carefully planned and not just forced on us by Microsoft.. 

If you are looking for maximum compatibility install the 32 bit version of Office (regardless of your Windows version) details here https://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/51-how-to-install-microsoft-office-from-the-web-office-365-version


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URGENT ALERT: If you receive an email that links to this web page do not enter your details

URGENT ALERT: If you receive an email that links to this screen do not enter your details. A customer has reported that they have received an email containing a link which brings them to a fairly convincing but bogus Microsoft office 365 logon. Once they did that their email account was compromised and used to send spam.

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Welcome:

digitalwelcomemat now has a blog!

Subscribe for the news as it happens, call me for support on 0404 493 770 or access my remote support solution here: http://help.digitalwelcomemat.com/

Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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