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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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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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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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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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Sick of plugging in your laptop?

Sick of plugging in your laptop?

Up until today every time I come back to my office I have set up my laptop on its stand then plug in:

  • Power/charger
  • USB Mouse
  • Other USB (out to printers and keyboard)
  • Monitor
  • Other monitor
  • Network cable
  • 3 x 3.5mm sound connectors for speakers

That's 9 plugs in total, a fairly painful/time consuming and a lot of wear and tear on my laptop plugs especially as I could go through that procedure 20 times in a day.

I have purchased a generic USB 3.0 docking station now I have to plug only two plus #1: Power, #2: a single USB cable, that's it!

That one USB cable achieves all the connectivity above and also allows for three screens (two external and the laptop screen) and 5.1 surround sound. Below are the details, for around $200 this is highly recommended (based on my experience so far) if you have a USB 3.0 laptop.

http://www.toshiba.com/us/accessories/Docking-and-Stands/Port-Replicators/Docking-Station/PA3927U-1PRP

ToshibaDynadock

 

 

 

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Ebay hack reported, 128 million active users compromised

Ebay hack reported, 128 million active users account details globally compromised in Feb - March and they are only telling us now, thanks for that.

Do you have unique passwords for each of your online services? Consider yourself warned.

Here are some further details:

http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/21/5737914/ebay-will-ask-all-customers-to-change-passwords-after-massive-breach
https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/massive-breach-ebay-urges-password-105845341.html
http://mashable.com/2014/05/21/ebay-breach-ramifications/

Excerpt:
..."For the time being, we cannot comment on the specific number of accounts impacted," said Ms Ramirez.

"However, we believe there may be a large number of accounts involved and we are asking all eBay users to change their passwords."

Potentially affecting eBay's 128 million active users globally, the attack could be one of the largest affecting a retailer.

It comes after retail giant Target disclosed a security breach which could affect more than 100 million customers....

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Backup plan in place for your personal files at home

Do you have a backup plan in place for your personal files at home.

I have had a look around today and confirmed that, in my opinion, the best on-line backup is still Crashplan: https://www.code42.com/store/

For one PC its $AU69.30 per year for unlimited data and it backs up continuously and automatically across the internet. All the data is transmitted and stored in an insanely high level of encryption on their servers.

A family plan is $165 which backs up to 10 computers if you have three or more PC's that's a good deal.

There are a few tricks for setting things up initially then there is a one time backup that copies all your data which may take a few days to complete but after that its pretty much set and forget and you get an email every now and then just letting you know that everything is going along OK.

Just be aware this won't work on a server (for business) its PC only.

If you want to work out how long the initial backup will take go here and run the test provided by another on-line storage provider: http://www.backblaze.com/speedtest/

Crashplan-logo

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Screen cleaner product

MagiKleenI often get asked what product to use for cleaning computer screens, phones tablets etc. Here is the product I recommend along with the information from their web site. This stuff is great I last purchased from Harvey Norman.

(Note: use common sense when spraying liquid onto electrical goods)

http://www.magikleen.com.au/magikleenlcdplasma.html

MagiKLEEN Optical, LCD & Plasma Flat Screen Cleaner

The Best Screen Cleaner on the Market

This product is the Rolls Royce of screen cleaners; we can now claim to be the NO 1, LCD/ Plasma & Flat Screen cleaner in Australia. We sell to most major Retail, Commercial, Government & selected computer stores including Air Services Australia which control the majority of Air Traffic control Towers throughout Australia, they now use our LCD Cleaner to clean their screens after passing stringent quality control guidelines.


Our product is environmentally friendly, completely harmless, non toxic & non-flammable.
It is completely safe on all screens including modern coated screens.
Leaves a streak free finish.
The shelf life of the product is 5 plus years.
Cleans CD & DVD discs & optical surfaces without damaging the surface (cameras, videos, GPS units, glasses etc).
Australian made ingredients.
We have taken out an Australian Patent on the product.
    
MagiKLEEN Optical, LCD & Plasma Cleaner emits with each pump a 125 micron spray (0.125 ml) our unique formula requires only the smallest amount to clean even the most dirtiest screen, unlike cheaper products or imitations that are just soapy water. We sell this product in a kit form. The kit comprises of our patented formula & specially matched cloth. We can then guarantee our product will not scratch the surface it is cleaning.

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

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