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The "best" way of purchasing Microsoft Office for your needs:

Unraveling the best way of purchasing Microsoft Office for your needs, here is a starting point:

Details and prices correct as of 10/03/15, based on $AU, sources:
https://products.office.com/en-AU/buy/compare-microsoft-office-products
http://products.office.com/en-au/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans

Office 365 Home $12 month - ongoing (less if paid by the year)

5 PC's from the same "household"
Standard suite plus Outlook, publisher and access
**Non commercial use only
Extra benefits: Skype 60 minutes x 5, 1TB Onedrive storage x 5, free upgrades (while you continue to subscribe)

Office 365 Personal $9 month - ongoing (less if paid by the year)

1 PC only
Standard suite plus Outlook, publisher & access
**Non commercial use only
Extra benefits: Skype 60 minutes, 1TB Onedrive storage x 5, free upgrades (while you continue to subscribe)

Office 365 Business $12 month (minimum annual commitment - ongoing)

5 PC's *for that single licensed user*
Standard suite plus Outlook & publisher
Business use
Extra benefits: 1TB Onedrive(?) storage, free upgrades (while you continue to subscribe)

Office 365 Business Premium $13.86 month (minimum annual commitment - ongoing)

5 PC's *for that single licensed user*
Standard suite plus Outlook & publisher
Home or business use
Extra benefits: 1TB Onedrive(?) storage, Exchange based business email, free upgrades (while you continue to subscribe)

Office Home & Student 2013 $169

1 PC
Standard suite (*no Outlook*)
Non commercial use only
Extra benefits: No ongoing costs unless you chose to upgrade in the future

Office Home and business 2013 $265 (street price)

1 PC
Standard suite plus Outlook
Business use
Extra benefits: No ongoing costs unless you chose to upgrade in the future

Office Professional 2013 $599 (RRP)

1 PC
Standard suite plus Outlook publisher and access
Home or business use
Extra benefits: No ongoing costs unless you chose to upgrade in the future

 

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NBN compatible router?

[Note the information below is relevant to Fibre to the building only, this article is due for a rewrite]

Seeing as neither myself or a single one of my customers has access to that mythical telecommunications product the Australian NBN I haven’t bothered about this in the past. However I was specifically asked a modem/router future compatibility question a couple of days ago and I did some brief investigation and came back with this information, I have highlighted the main thrust of the info below:

Bit.com.au says this:

http://www.bit.com.au/News/346918,what-does-nbnfibre-ready-really-mean.aspxhttp://www.bit.com.au/News/346918,what-does-nbnfibre-ready-really-mean.aspx
An “NBN/fibre-ready” router means that the model [has] a Gigabit Ethernet WAN port, which allows for fibre or cable connections.

PC Authority says this:

http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/291953,the-nbn-what-router-will-you-need.aspx
In an NBN equipped household the NTU effectively takes the place of the modem that you would currently use for ADSL or cable internet. This means the death of the commonplace modem/router hardware – moving forward you'll just need a router to spread internet around the home. At a base level this means that ‘NBN ready' modem routers have the capacity to disable the ADSL modem and take an internet signal directly.

The potential issue with such devices is that the hardware is designed around low ADSL speeds and may not actually cope with the demands of the highest end 100Mbit down / 40Mbit up NBN speeds. If you aren't going with this high end plan then router performance is less of an issue, but it is best to think of an ‘NBN Ready' ADSL modem/router as a transitional technology at best.

TPG have a good diagram here:
http://www.tpg.com.au/images/NBN-Equipment-Quick-Ref.jpg

I also found this useful FAQ on the NBN:
http://www.warcom.com.au/blog/wireless-router/nbn-in-australia-and-nbn-ready-routers/

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Looking for a budget laptop for the kids?

HP Stream 13 laptopLooking for a budget laptop for the kids to take to school? Check out the HP stream 13" it’s a low powered laptop in funky colours that runs on an Atom processor which give you great battery life as well as running FULL windows 8.1 so you can install any traditional desktop Windows programs or Windows store apps. That give it a lot more scope for usability than a Chromebook, or a “big-phone tablet” like a IOS or android with a tack on keyboard.

Additionally Microsoft have announced in the last couple of days that windows 10 will be a free* upgrade to windows 8.1 when released (*details to follow).

On the negative site there is no touch screen and it is a low powered device so although you can install full desktop version of Adobe Photoshop or Premiere on it you may not want to edit the next blockbuster movie on this device.

I don't normally recommend budget laptops, your standard department store $300 laptop (complete with 4 year old technology) is certainly NOT my recommendation, but this is not “that”. This is essentially a late model windows “tablet” with a permanently connected keyboard (and no touch screen).

To sweeten the deal it comes with a year’s free subscription to office 365 (MS office 2013, plus some other benefits)

Make your own investigations as to the suitability I haven’t tested it but I have seen some good reviews and from what I have seen it looks fairly robust and if the kids drop it three times in the year you will still have change from $1000 *sad face*.

 

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Microsoft releases Visual Studio Community

Microsoft released Visual Studio Community edition for free this week. If you ever had the urge to develop software (and the time to learn) the same professional software that cost $800 last week is now available for free. You can use it personally, in a business and even to create software for resale.

http://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/products/visual-studio-community-vs

Visual Studio

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StableBit DrivePool disk software

A more technical article than normal... I have some new software StableBit DrivePool, sort of like RAID (redundant array of independent drives) sort of like JBOD (just a bunch of disks) but without the negatives. Allows you to add multiple drives to the drive pool and then access them as a single drive, D: drive for example. If you have a hard drive fail then you only loose the data on that drive the same way as if you had half a dozen independent drives in the system, but without the drive letter craziness and the inefficiently of that fragmented file space, if you have ever had a RAID system or RAID controller/motherboard fail you will know what I mean.

Also has the following features:

  • Can add drives with data on them already without losing or having to move the data
  • If a single drive gets pulled and inserted into another PC (for example if the PC has a failed motherboard) the files are just in a normal (hidden) NTFS folder.
  • Optional Balancing (optional rules)
  • Optional Protection (duplicate the data but less overall storage space)
  • Easy to add or remove additional drives

Have been testing this on my media centre and its working well I found and extra 100GB that was lost due to inefficiency.

https://stablebit.com/

StablebitDrivePool

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Recent comment in this post
digitalwelcomemat
Note you cant do a VSS snapshot on the drive pool with this product (for backup for example). That's a real pain and limits the pr... Read More
Monday, 12 March 2018 15:08
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Infringement notice bogus email.

See the email below, this initially had the correct office of state revenue logo which made it look fairly authentic, this is actually a bogus email and clicking on this link would most probably lead to trouble.

One quick "first" check you can do is to hover your mouse over the link (assuming you are on a device that has a mouse) as you can see by the image below its pointing off to a web site quality assignment something...

 

Infringement-Notice

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Guest — The Varls
I have been the subject of 3 infringement notices at once and foolishly clicked to see the image. I now find all my important wor... Read More
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 12:28
digitalwelcomemat
More info (not a fix sorry just more prevention warning): https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/11/03/gatso-speed-camera-phish-lea... Read More
Thursday, 04 December 2014 19:37
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Microsoft has released the "Microsoft band"

Microsoft has just today released their "band" which appears to be a fitness/health band, watch and notification center for your Windows Phone (Reminders, email notifications, social media notifications, who's calling, weather etc) and it even allows you to interact with the Microsoft Cortana voice activated assistant for taking notes or getting driving directions.

Looks like it also has an app so that it works with phones for people who have a phone from "those other manufacturers" as well but you miss out on some features if you don't have a Windows phone.

I haven't looked into the details yet (like availability dates for Australia), but the following screenshots look interesting and more information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/Microsoft-Band/en-us.

Productivity functionality:

MicrosoftBand1

Fitness and health functionality:

MicrosoftBand2

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What's not a backup?

Just a hint, a backup drive with all the files on is not a backup those backup drives are more susceptible to failure than the actual internal laptop hard or desktop hard drives.

A backup needs to be a second copy of the data.

BackupDriveFailed

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Crypto locker ransomware *BE CAREFULL*

I have had an instance of Crypto locker ransomware today on a client's site, would have been catastrophic if proper backup and disaster recovery practices had not been in place.

Be careful what emails you open, and certainly don't click on any links or open any email attachment files from suspect emails or unexpected emails from organisations such as:

Australia post
Any of the big banks
DHL
Fedex
ATO
Plus others.

Because Crypto locker isn't a virus as such it won't be detected by most antivirus software. This being the case you need to use care in evaluating the legitimacy of any email. Things to look out for are poorly formatted emails, spelling mistakes etc you can also hover your mouse over any links in outlook and get a popup "tip" of where those links point to.

If in doubt call me before opening, viewing clicking or downloading.

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TV [and media centre] retune

If you live on the Central Coast, NSW. Yesterday was the day that you needed to retune your digital TV's set-top boxes and Windows media centre PC's here's is the information site: http://retune.digitalready.gov.au/ and if you have never heard of Windows media centre your missing out! This has been my main TV for 10 years now; record 4 channels at once, skip all the adds and no monthly fee....

MediaCentre2

MediaCentre1

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Add shortcuts on desktop in Windows 8

In Windows 8, why can't I find the way to create application shortcuts on desktop? I only see the two options "Pin to Start" and "Pin to Taskbar", and although these two methods are convenient, sometimes I wish to create application shortcuts on desktop, too. How can I achieve this feature?

Solution

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All my business users want to install [insert software name here]

"All my business users want to install [insert name here] software should I just let them do that."

Firstly you are probably only getting this question because the users can't actually do the install otherwise they would have already done it (most likely). Normal users should not be administrators on their business PC's so that they can't just install whoever software they want and effect the integrity of their nice clean windows install and windows profiles.

Adding to the base windows system setup adds more software to maintain and one more possibility for system compromise or data leakage. For example is a user wants to install dropbox think through the implications of this?

If sensitive business files are going up on drop box is that OK company policy wise?

  • Who are they being shared with?
  • What if that person leaves or is terminated?
  • Is it OK legislatively to store these files offshore (based on Australian privacy law).

There is also the productivity aspect as well obviously software not required for business usage isn't typically installed on a business PC.

Now I know this can get a bit sensitive staff wise especially if you have demoted people from what they were used to and it possibly sounds over the top but I need to give you an idea about "best-practice".

My opinion is that "best practice" dictates a process whereby the user puts forward the "use-case" for whatever software they would like beyond the standard setup to their manager and then if approved at that level it its run that by IT support and finally someone either installs the software (depending on the software) or just enters the administrator password for that user to allow them access for a one time install, sounds like a big deal but should only take 5 or 10 mins to approve a well-known bit of software if it's a good fit.

Alternatively if you really need to you could just give a certain user (and an accounts person is a good example of someone who needs specialised software see my other blog about MYOB) varying degrees of administrative permissions on their computer so that they can do what they need to.

However you need to consider the implications of that, for example even though the manager/director/CEO has the highest level of authority in the organisation and has the administrator passwords anyway they should still not be an administrator on their own PC for safety reasons (malicious software, virus, social engineering etc.).

I know its a lot to think about but its a "plan now or pay later" thing.

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Verify your MS account?

Microsoft appears to have recently updated its security policy's for multifactor authentication and is now forcing you to "verify" which essentially requires you to add a mobile phone number to your Microsoft account then enter the code that has been sent to you via SMS.

This has been a "feature" for added security for quite a while but just this morning I have had three outlook.com/hotmail.com/live.com email accounts that have been unable to send email until "verified". Ultimately it's good to have better security (after all you wouldn't want them to be careless an expose your personal photos and information out on the net right?). This will reduce the amount of spam out there as well but it does impose a 5 minute interruption on you.

As always keep your wits about you when handling this type of request.

Here are some notifications I have received:

OutlookVerify

 

OutlookVerify2

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Don't be an admin on your own PC

Running Windows as a standard user rather than with 'admin' rights removes over 90 percent of the risk" according to a recent study. (yes I know I have been going on about this for years):

Check to see if you are an administrator on your PC by right clicking on "My Computer" or "Computer" or "This PC" (depending on your Windows version) and chose manage.

  • If you are able to access the Windows computer management console (with or without a warning popup) then you ARE an administrator and you might want to consider changing that.
  • If you are prompted for a username and password then you aren't an administrator and are a lot safer from malicious software.

This is especially important for home users or less computer savvy users.

Current versions of windows have made running as a non-admin for everyday access a lot easier. When you are installing software or a new printer most of the time you can just enter the administrator credentials when prompted to do so and it doesn't hugely get in the way of getting things done.

If you are running as just a lowly "user" on your own PC and you open an email or browse the web and see the administrator popup then you know there is something wrong because these things should require admin access.

At that point you can pause to consider if entering administrator credentials would be a good thing or not.

 

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Make sure you chose US keyboard layout

US UK keyboardIf you are setting up a new Windows 8 PC, make sure you chose the US keyboard.

Even though we use UK spelling we us the US keyboard layout, the US keyboard has $ and the UK layout has pounds and Euros plus there are some other changes as well, its quite a pain to change this back so get it right from the onset.

 

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Telstra or Microsoft phone call scam

Scam-AlertIf someone calls up purporting to be from Telstra or Microsoft (or anyone really) and offering to fix your computer please don't let them remotely access your PC and "fix" it for you. I know that sounds obvious but they play the numbers game in saying that they are aware that you are having issues with your PC or internet connection. Inevitably some of the people they will call at any given time will, in fact, be having issues just based on probability.

Having just fixed one of these issues in the last 24 hours I can assure you it's a significant and unnecessary expense to reverse their "fix", get your data back and restore your computer to a working state.

If anyone calls you offering to fix your PC I suggest you just politely decline and hang up on them, also be prepared that they will probably persist.

Also seriously consider NOT being an administrator on your own PC and instead have a separate administrator account. Also, never store banking, credit card details on your PC just in an unencrypted document.

 

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How to remotely control another PC - Windows 8

Remote desktop connection iconHow to "remote desktop" or remotely control another computer using Windows 8

Follow this link for a guide on how to use the build in [free] remote desktop feature to remotely control another PC. Note that that the “remote” PC needs to be setup to accept connections.

 

 

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Whats a botnet?

Sometimes in IT things are hard to explain and when I get a good short explanation its sometimes worth sharing. This is from the Sophos antivirus guys:

[A botnet is a collection of] malware-infected computers, individually referred to as bots or zombies, that can be controlled remotely by criminals known as bot-herders or botmasters.

As well as stealing information such as banking passwords from each computer in the botnet, the crooks can also send commands to all the computers in the botnet at the same time, essentially giving them a huge distributed "network cloud" of computing resources.

Botnets can therefore be used to send massive quantities of spam (including spam runs containing email attachments with more malware), to clock up huge numbers of fraudulent but legitimate-looking ad clicks, to carry out online attacks, and more.

Attacks of this sort are hard to block because they originate simultaneously from thousands of innocent-looking computers, so there isn't a single, obvious source of criminality.

http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/07/13/gameover-malware-returns-from-the-dead/

Botnet

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MYOB pain [Caution opinion ahead]

[Caution opinion ahead]

"Just hang on for 10 mins I'll do the wages after I install/upgrade my MYOB, shouldn't be too difficult right?"

...or perhaps not, for a fairly universal bit of software MYOB seems to be intent on making things as hard as possible and not playing by the established software rules, you really need to plan this out and talk to IT support if you're not confident to do it.

Things to consider:

MYOB Accountright or MYOB Accountright?

MYOB Accountright plus v19.10 is a completely different product to MYOB Accountright 2014.3

Whack-the-mole

MYOB seam be having a laugh at me, firstly they hide the data file is some obscure location on the "local" PC that doesn't follow the normal windows rules (not the server where all my other important data resides). Then they keep putting it back there after every upgrade and now they seem to be moving it around like a game of whack-the-mole, make sure your data is being backed up and will still be backed up after the upgrade.

How many versions of MYOB do I really need?

With the traditional install of MYOB each version upgrade just adds another on top I have customers that have 5 or 6 versions of MYOB installed, "No not those 5 MYOB icons this other special one here".

Sure we will let you install the upgrade even as a non admin [said with a straight face]

"Just enter the administrator credentials when prompted and everything will be fine!!". But the upgrade may not work properly and you have to manually uninstall two versions and reinstall one again. MYOB's solution make everyone an administrator. Welcome to 1999, what do you say malware, viruses ransomeware? don't worry you will be fine. [note that's humour you probably won't be fine]

No you don't need the server version, oh hang on you do:

With MYOB Accountright 2014 you could just install the software twice on 2 different machines and then share the data from one but since the Accountright 2014.1 or later upgrade you need the sever version on the computer that your sharing it from.

Now, I don't confess to be an MYOB expert so perhaps that's the problem but wow, really MYOB?

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Windows 8.0? time for the free upgrade

If your running windows 8[.0] without the free windows 8.1 update you need to install this free update now. If you don't you will no longer receive the security and reliability updates


...Today, June 10, is Microsoft Patch Tuesday. It's also the deadline for consumers running Windows 8.1 to install the Windows 8.1 Update if they want to continue to receive patches and fixes from Microsoft.
win81update1rumors
Microsoft originally imposed a deadline of May 13 on consumer users to move to the Windows 8.1 Update. On May 12, Microsoft announced a deadline extension to June 10.
http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-1-consumers-its-time-to-move-to-update-1-7000030378/

http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-1-consumers-its-time-to-move-to-update-1-7000030378/

Today, June 10, is Microsoft Patch Tuesday. It's also the deadline for consumers running Windows 8.1 to install the Windows 8.1 Update if they want to continue to receive patches and fixes from Microsoft.

win81update1rumors

Microsoft originally imposed a deadline of May 13 on consumer users to move to the Windows 8.1 Update. On May 12, Microsoft announced a deadline extension to June 10.

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digitalwelcomemat now has a blog!

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

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