This new post after 2 years of silence has been spurred by the massive and unpredictable scale of changes that were forced into our world by SARS-Covid-2.
The drive to immediately isolate our bodies from all others except those in our living spaces has brought with it the massive utilisation of technologies that we might have used or at least known of, but never could we en masse imagine ourselves in the home & work places that many of us are now in.
My business was designed & constructed by me in January 2011 with a specific set of operating modes which I saw as fairly unique,at that time. I set out to close the gaps between the knowledge & systems used by technologists, and the general public / small/medium businesses understanding of them. My bridging the gap by ‘being there’ with them at their premises, shoulder to shoulder as we jointly worked through their worries, hopes, aspirations and technological breakdowns was effective!
But for now this has to change, and I believe that no matter what changes to the threat from bio-organisms both now and in the future arise, a wariness in people of personal risk has or will become a factor that I have to think about. We may have to face that previous ways of working may begin to recede as new ways of working emerge.
So how will I adapt to this without losing too much of my working style?
I can and already have, worked on customer systems (PC/Laptops/Mobile Phones/Pads using remote control software in concert with a phone call. This works well and because it saves me travelling to the customer I have given it a lower hourly rate. Where this has not been possible because of a malfunctioning device or broadband/WiFi connection, I have asked the customer to thoroughly clean the device of finger grease deposits and then to bio-clean it with a 10% hypochlorite (bleach) solution or 66% alcohol solution before I collect it. Before I return it it is again bio-cleaned. This has worked well so far.
But the personal bit where I sit beside them is missing … this is for the purposes of tuition and/or for where I fix a problem while showing them how I do it, and so prevent it reoccurring through a lack of awareness of the cause(s). For this I offer the use of the video or audio messaging feature that is built into the remote control software. Viola!
The only missing service was where I visited to investigate faults to telephone internal extension cabling and the BT master terminal. Though I am happy to advise you on the steps to take through video link and, if you wish will speak to your ISP Support Desk engineers on your behalf to help to speed up the resolution time the fault takes.
Looking ahead what more might I do?
One idea I am exploring is to offer online mentoring for small groups of people where I demonstrate how to understand what concepts and technologies are by definition from some of the frequently asked questions I get. This way a low cost per person could be achieved and I would be paid a fair rate for all the time and effort to produce the materials. This is a work in development so if you have ideas you would like included in it then please do email them to me.
Well that’s it for now,
Please stay safe and well!
For more regular updates and newsy snippets, see my facebook feed – @pctechniquesstroud
Our weather (a dull and cold) continues to give reasons to scan the sky and ponder if it ever was like this when we were kids! I say not.
This edition has a lot in it and in several cases this came to us as features in recent news. Concerns about the fragility of personal privacy and democracy are very real now.
On a brighter note I have been spending more time with Mac’s and have diversified my services to include them, you’ll soon see why …
Mac’s and Malware
Recently and in the space of only 10 days I found ‘MacKeeper’ malware on 3 Mac PC’s. Yes its time to protect your Mac!
One in particular case had an awkward outcome after its malware infection was cleared using Malwarebytes, it no longer booted! This caused me to seek guidance from Apple Support and from this I learned that their preferred anti-malware app at this time is MalwareBytes for Mac. Since then I have also heard that BitDefender can be very effective. So if your Mac needs a matching umbrella …
Mac’s, unlike Windows 10 have no annoying personalised adverts that menace the eyes from flashing tiles every time you view the desktop. But I’m not impressed with the way they heavily price new devices that then have less, or even no USB ports!
Clearly their hardware design division needs a good flushing out, down the drain into the Microsoft Windows 10 design bin!
Recycling – Binned!
Q. When is your data that you deleted to the Recycle Bin gone for ever?
A. When you empty the Recycle Bin? – Nope! It could be recovered using one of many utilities that scan the disk for the files and if they are still recoverable, it can restore them, OK so far but not ifyou are using a new type Solid State Drive instead of an old style spinning platten disk.
SSD’s are brilliant in the main. They are much faster than old style hard drives so everything from booting up to scanning is done in a comparatively short snap! They don’t break if you bump them when they are on because they dont have any moving parts to crash together.They use less power so batteries last longer in portables.
But – when you delete a file from the Recycle Bin – its gone and I mean irretrievably due to a feature known as ‘trim’ which you cannot switch off. Geeks go here
Imaging a scenario where you have deleted a folder or files and in the back of your mind they are not out of reach yet because they are recycled. Then you discover that for some reason you want to clear some junk off your disk, maybe to make space for the next bloated Windows 10 ‘Creators Update’ (which is 8Gb in size and can be too big for some notebooks so they get left behind!)
To do this you run a utility like CCleaner or the Windows Disk Cleanup or similar which clears a lot of junk out, which is great except it usually clears the Recycling Bin also by default, in which were those files or folders that you then want to retrieve. Gone!
I could mention that you could use Stroud Cloud for your backups from where they could be retrieved, but I’m sure you already knew that 🙂 www.stroud-cloud.co.uk
GDPR – Here it comes, we have until May 25th to be ready!
Previously I have written of this approaching change in my December 2107 edition which is fast approaching and will become enforceable on 25th May (1 month from now)
So looking at this introduction document now would give you a good idea of your part in this play. My impression so far is that for most of us small biz folk this is a mostly procedural tax on your time and effort so that if you are ever asked, you could prove that you have documented your responses to requests for conformity & assured your customers that you have done it.
You will need to have proceduralised how you would deal with requests concerning your holding of data on them. OK so job done if you have done that?
Not quite! You will also need to be securely storing personal data to prevent breaches of your systems which might allow a ‘slitherin’ low-life to steal it! Otherwise you will have to report the breach and then answer a blizzard of enquiries and maybe pay a heafty fine!
So preparation is essential!
No more exclamation marks now as I move on to …………………
Microsoft Windows 7 – The Redmond gang are still not wishing to become popular, so are proving how well they can avoid that accolade by withholding new security updates from Windows 7 machines if you don’t have an antivirus installed.
Windows 7 will continue receiving updates until at least January 14th 2020 so its not caused by deprecation. So if your Windows 7 has stopped updating you would need to either use the built in Anti Virus (Defender) or install an one that’s approved by them. If you need to explore this more an HTG account of it is here
(Not so) Smart TV’s
A good article here from HTG on why buying a ‘smart TV’ is not a smart thing at all and how it can make you a victim in several ways.
Do we still mention Facebook in polite conversations any more?
A reputation, once proud and sleek has hit an inevitable pride-berg and sunk!
And a shadowy cohort of suited assasins of democracy have emerged from London and an unknown outback town of Canada (Canadian data firm Aggregate IQ (AIQ) ). This bunch of slithering fly by nights boasted of their exploits of breaking the UK out of the EU Channel 4 News story here, and in Cambridge Analytica’s case, getting Trump elected!
The completestory line on the undermining of our democracies can be found here, and to me makes political thriller fiction look needing by comparison!
Do be cautious of other social media platforms privacy settings also, and of course the biggest and longest established privacy vacuum of them all, Google and its colourful Chrome browser and indiscrete Android smart-ware!
Google is feverishly trying to get its GDPR act together before 25th May and lets face it it has a very long way to go after a decade of doing exactly the opposite. An email I received from them describes a new User Deletion Toolto be rolled out by them soon, which I hope doesn’t act like its poorly worded title!
Its no longer thinkable to wander through the web and expect it to be a stroll in Finnsbury Park on a sunny Sunday in summer. Better to prepare for a winter expedition into Narnia when the witch has a hangover!
How to Check If Cambridge Analytica Has Your Facebook Info
Just head to this page and you’ll see a box labeled “Was My Information Shared?”
Finally for now, Zuckerberg has admitted that a ‘handful’ of other companies like Cambridge Analytica have also been ‘harvesting’ data from his platform, so we can only wonder which will be the most shocking news story as time rolls on … Facebook’s data or Trumps war!
Mozilla to the rescue again! – a new Firefox extension can be isolate Facebook from other sites inside your browser, it certainly needs locking in somewhere (so might Zuckerberg).
And these are other free Firefox extensions that can help you keep privacy safe across the wider web outside of Facebook and Google.
Boost your digital fitness with a data cleanse
Mozilla and friends have put up this website so that you be taken on a journey of discovering where all your data went and how you can get it back. A Data Detox is the first important step closely followed by greater awareness.
Well, I think that is quite enough from me for now so I will sign off and wish you all a better summer than some of our so called ‘Leaders’ might wish for us.
I am writing QBN two counties away from my home abode at a friends home where I have enjoyed a welcome change of scenery in Devon!
I feel glad to be unshackled from my previous work world by not being tied to an office five days a week because of phone and computer constraints as we all were before this new work place portability became possible.
Along this line, some new generation domestic SMART devices have appeared in recent times and have attracted concerns.
Internet of Things (IOT) – Unwrapped
For these things you need to be aware that in common with pets, the joy of having IOT’s comes with a need to be responsible for having them, or trouble is guaranteed.
I have mentioned these networked WiFi connected IOT’s before from the viewpoint that they can be a bit concerning if not carefully set up by users. Changing the default administrative password is an absolute must to secure them from miscreants as is checking occasionally if a new firmware upgrade is needed for device(s) to plug security holes in them.
Its no good if your toaster becomes a traitor or your light bulbs a liability, is it?
Worse still is that WiFi capabilities extend to the playrooms of the innocent as well, even children’s toys can be ‘Smart’ and so the risk to privacy can be more worrying.
I won’t dwell at this time on another concerning risk posed by a growing body of concerned scientists and health practitioners on WiFi emissions from devices like IOT, and in particular those from toys and baby monitors. I will only say that when Lloyds of London no longer exclude claims for harm associated with WiFi emissions from many types of device to human health then I will no longer mention it.
Though the gift buying season is largely over (unless you are buying now for next Christmas), I also offer you this …
Mozilla to the Rescue!
“This gift-giving season, Mozilla is helping you choose gadgets that respect your online privacy and security” How do you know if that gift comes with privacy included?
We did the research to help you decide. Because Santa should be the only one watching you this holiday season”.
“It’s fast. Really fast. It’s over twice as fast as Firefox from 6 months ago, built on a completely overhauled core engine with brand new technology from our advanced research group, and graced with a clean, modern interface. Today is the first of several releases we’re calling Firefox Quantum”
Naturally Mozilla have taken a lot of care to ensure compatibility with plug-ins in their new browser and so some old and not yet updated versions won’t work with the new one. The new Firefox will automatically disable any non compatibles it finds when installing for you.
Before updating you could visit this Mozilla webpage where the status of your plugins is reported to you and updated versions offered.
Mozilla are busy working to get full compatibility with screen readers for visually impaired users, and to help you have offered an Extended Support Release (ESR) version to keep compatibility.
Download – You can download the speedy young fox here
GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations
Effective 25th May 2018
“The aim of the GDPR is to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches in an increasingly data-driven world that is vastly different from the time in which the 1995 directive was established.
Although the key principles of data privacy still hold true to the previous directive, many changes have been proposed to the regulatory policies; the key points of the GDPR as well as information on the impacts it will have on business can be found here.
My own view at this pre regulation stage is that as it is intended that USA and other non EU states businesses holding data on EU citizens will also be subject to GDPR, the UK exit from the EU might not be a route of escape from its reach. Article
I like its ‘Privacy by Design’ concept and that we become controllers of our own data!
Back to school and an oncoming Christmas, but with Halloween & Guy Fawkes double spook shows in the way. I may try celebrating the Equinox this year for a change on some hilltop if the weather permits, (well, got to try it once!).
Talking of spook shows I see that GCC (our local retrograde County Cabal) are continuing with their mass burn monster incinerator at Quedgeley, where peaceful protestors are arrested for trying to keep our air breathable and our poll tax charges lower.
Caring is carrying a high price these days.
To attempt a brightening up the scenery now, I offer you this;
Android Mobiles Security
In today’s world most of us carry a smart phone or tablet, the majority of which are based on Google’s own Android operating system. Many of us began using these for web based functions like browsing and email. Then also along came thousands of Apps and games which often are free which according to their creators ‘enhance the online experience’ for us when using smart devices.
If that is all there is too it then this post ends now, which it doesn’t.
So some clever and well intentioned people decided to run tests on how safe it might be to do your online banking or other sensitive personal data transfers from an Android smart device and they were concerned. Its so easy to say ‘yes’ to download an App and then grant it access to all centres of your device when it asks for permission. But what have you done?
Firstly the App may not behave as it appears to offer, remember ‘free’ has its price so beneficiaries will exist somewhere to it being on your device.
Did it come from Googles own Play Store? If not how sure of it can you be when it hasn’t been independently verified by them? Even then caution is advised. Do you really need the App anyway?
If you do need it and would like it tested before installing it you could upload it here for AV-C online analysis
Its creators, AV Comparatives have written of it as follows;
…. “malware analysis tool, which is available free to all users. It is a static analysis system for detecting suspected Android malware and adware and providing statistics about it. Users can upload APK files and see the results in various analysis mechanisms”…
AV – C’s regular bulletins are a very useful and detailed source of their testing of security and privacy vendors products, for example this came from their Aug 2017 report on Mobile Security.
In their own words ….
“The review mainly focuses on the security features – anti-malware, anti-theft, and privacy – and only mentions further functionalities briefly. The structure of each product report is identical, allowing readers to compare products easily. The main purpose of a mobile security product is to protect users and their devices from potential harm inflicted by malicious apps, fraudulent mails, or phishing URLs.”
Google Play Protect
Is a new set of protective features that Google have bundled into their ‘Play Services’ feature as of July 2017, so its a good idea to check that it is running on your Android phone. From an article …
“Google Play Protect combines various Android security tools, like app scanning, previously known as Verify Apps, browser protection and an anti-theft feature in the form of Google’s Find My Device app.
Google Play Protect was first launched at the company’s I/O Conference in May and will roll out to all Android devices running Google Play Services 11 or higher” source
One thing though …
“Smartphones often contain a lot of personal data. Luckily Google continuously adds new security to Android. Unfortunately, only 7 percent run the latest Android version (Nougat)”
Manufacturers of smart devices are notorious for delaying for long periods the fixes to security that Android has proved needed to lock them down against malicious code on the web.
This may be fixed with Google’s “Project Treble” sometime ahead soonish says this article from Slashgear. So better times ahead but what about now?
If your manufacturer hasn’t got around to updating your phone to ‘Nougat’ yet your best off following the best practice principles of;
Remove all junk and unnecessary Apps on the device
Install a quality Anti Virus/Malware App (see above) and check it occasionally to be fully functioning
Don’t click on links sent to you in texts, Apps and emails that you don’t feel right about, listen to your instincts first.
Beware of using unsecured (no password or WEP encrypted) WiFi connections in public places especially for anything sensitive, they are not safe! Best to always do your important stuff at a trusted location like home or office if you can.
You might be wondering if having an Android at all is a good idea? I think my answer would be that it will be once new developments above are in place throughout the manufacturer supply chain.
If waiting for that seems like a worrying idea then an iPhone iPad may well be better for now and there are many available in second use markets if a new one is prohibitively expensive. Though again, always use Apps you download only from the Apple Store.
I hope you all have coped with the constant media pre electoral spin season, dizzying wasn’t it!
Can we try to forgive & forget the unacceptable conduct of those so called ‘leaders’ whom we are supposed to respect enough to represent us nationally, when they behave worse than feral teens on a sugar high?
And as for the TV & written media please don’t get me started … do I really need a TV any more I wonder.
One particularly glaring point about the election result is that it brought to the fore the newly arrived insignificance of the mainstream TV and printed media platforms.
Our youth mostly don’t bother with those platforms so their views were formed without being tainted by politically biased media proprietors or influenced by a need to kowtow to murmurings of privatisation. Refreshing!
Anyway on to I.T topics and these are on Social Media.
Postings – Occasionally we see a post on our Facebook news feed which might contain a request that instead of using its ‘share’ link, we copy/paste the content instead and make a new post of it ourselves. I assume that would also apply to the memes that are all over Facebook every time some kind of vote is looming. For images you might have to make a copy of the image and create a post with it. Why do this and what happens if we do?
There appear to be 2 main outcomes, so depending on the nature of the post material some care is advised.
Algorithms – These days algorithms are being built into social media platforms as a norm so you might want to consider what making this choice will do for your own posts.
Algorithms are said to have the effect of influencing the readers behaviour when using the platform, i.e how we react to posts we see. More so now than before we are becoming aware that what we are given is probably only a part of the whole pool of available information on the topic. This is down to algorithms working on the website and the logic is that because we don’t have time to read everything we get what they think is most likely to be interesting.
Background – In effect what appears in our ‘news feeds’ has been shaped to suit any bias or preferences that the platform has detected in our responses previously, what we liked and to which posts we responded. In the main we can suspect this is done for marketing purposes, after all its a ‘free service’ and by them using us as a target audience for marketing purposes its a easy guess their motive. Though more darkly, political agendas are now identified as being heavily involved and are said to have been effective in recent controversial electoral outcomes such as Brexit & Trump.
For more on this you might like to read the section titled ‘Controversy surrounding the use of algorithms’ on this Wikipedia – Algorithms, and I refer in particular to the sub title ‘Legal Concerns’
So what is the main difference?
If you re-post using the ‘share’ link, your post is subject to the restrictions placed on its circulation by the person who posted it before you, so according to their privacy settings it may only reach friends that you share with them. So this could restrict the reach of the post, in some cases its not safe to share some types of personal or other information too widely.
Also if the post is identified as one which needs removal i.e. its faked news or a scam the removing it from all feeds down stream is easy the originating account post is removed. So control is better.
The downside of this is that because the posts incoming to you carry a restriction you may wish to use the Public Post option in which case it would be accessible to a much wider audience (though again I expect some algorithmic re-shaping might apply.
If you copy/paste a post into a new one of your own you can remodel it say by adding a picture or rewording or spell correcting it.
But if the post is one of the more ‘challenging’ types it is harder to stop and so scammers and news fakirs have a freer run and can use a search function in the platform to identify you personally as someone they might like to close up to, user beware! this would also happen to all others who used copy/paste, you in effect own it the same as any post you originate yourself.
Two Stage Log In
I am reading now that some experts say that the use of ‘strong’ passwords alone is being seen as falling off the back of the secure practices wagon. Do I hear a sigh or two? ……
Many of you will have already used a version of this with your online banking where your debit card is used with your PIN to generate a code to enter as a second stage to the log in process into your account.
So a second stage login authentication for other vital websites is now also a good idea.
This applies to social media, email and other more important online sites such as for editing your own website because if you were to lose access to it because a hacker had locked you out and was using it to rob your friends or misrepresent you how would you feel?
There are 2 particular methods and one involves a mobile signal connected smart phone or pad, the second method uses a small App that generates the code without a mobile signal.
Note:- because the use of texts by the first method means an insecure text is used to send you a login code, it is advised to use the second (App) method instead. Also I have experienced some annoying delays in receiving texts recently for some reason which have delayed my use of a website.
If you use the first method you would log into the website first using your user name & password, then on receipt of the text you enter the code in the text. Done.
This is offered by most sites you log into these days and is often set up by finding your way into the “Settings” – Security area of the websites menus. You add your mobile phone number and its done.
A text is sent each time you then log into that website.
The second (I think better) method is the App generated method.
This involves you downloading a free small Authenticator App such as Sophos Authenticator or Google or Microsoft Authenticator onto your smart phone or pad … there are several around just find them through the usual preferred App repository on your particular type of smartphone. Do make sure you allow the App to access your smartphones camera for it to work. note:- if you choose Google Authenticator App then see this article on ‘Authy’ which might be also useful.
Once you have installed the App on the smart device you go to the website you wish to set up 2 stage login on a another device such as a PC or laptop. Navigate to the Settings or Options page associated with 2 stage login, the App setup method bit.
This will offer you a QR code in the form of a strange looking square on your laptop/PC screen, use the Authenticator Apps ‘scan QR code’ option to run the camera through the App and point it at the laptop/PC screen to capture the QR code.
The App will record the QR code and add it to a list in the App. Done!
Save the settings on the website to use the 2 stage login in future and logout.
The next time you log into that website it will prompt you for a code which your smartphone will generate there and then, this code changes every minute or so so you will need to open the App each time you log in.
Should you lose access to your smartphone for any reason you can prevent a lockout by downloading and keeping safe some access codes the website will let you have, but grab these NOW so you have them already, just in case…..
Lastly there is a new and very secure method in development using ‘Security Keys’ but as this snippet from Facebook’s website shows its far from universally usable now so better left until its more developed.
“Security keys for Facebook logins currently only work with certain web browsers and mobile devices, so we’ll ask you to also register an additional login approval method, such as your mobile phone or Code Generator.To add a security key from your computer, you’ll need to be using the latest version of Chrome or Opera. At this time we don’t support security key logins for our mobile Facebook app, but if you have an NFC-capable Android device with the latest version of Chrome and Google Authenticator installed, you can use an NFC-capable key to log in from our mobile website.” source Facebook
That’s all for this edition, I hope you found it useful and not too heavy going.
As always do call me for a chat if you would like to reflect on IT matters, or life in general, ….
though not politics …. PLEASE, NO MORE POLITICS!! 🙂
In this edition I cover a recent tightening of motoring law which affects how we use our mobile devices while driving. The accident statistics prove that the changes needed doing because so many drivers are seemingly addicted to using their devices, any time, anywhere and regardless of hazards.
Also PCT has a ‘partnership’ with the Phone Coop for broadband and other services.
Office 365 or Office 2016? What’s the difference?
Mozilla have published their Survey of their Community Members views on Online Privacy.
And to end I add a touch of humour, courtesy of a cluster of late night mirth masters!
I hope you enjoy this edition.
My first article is about the recent change in UK law (1st March) that concerns every driver of any vehicle using a portable device whilst driving, though I do go a little further …
Naturally a device such as a Mobile Phone, Sat-Nav, Bluetooth Toys, or Pod Player is a technical device and so you may see my reason in mentioning them, but also because I am also a road user as are those I love, and accidents are increasingly being caused by self distracted zombie lemmings who use devices while they drive.
I now brand this category of hardware as Plod Magnets!
The gist of the new situation (as I understand it) is that anything that we take our hands off the wheel to use while the vehicles engine is running, (whether or not it its wheels are turning), is putting us at risk of infringing the Law defined as ‘Careless Driving’.
Naturally most of us carry smart phones these days which easily grab our attention in many ways according to how many App driven social media services you connect to, or simply by using text services or just the phones calling function!
Can we resist its little beeps, vibrations, or other notifications as we drive? We have to.
To see more details of this law’s definitions and how our doing quite ordinary things like tweaking your lover’s hair or your Sat-Nav or merely eating at the wheel can put you in the wrong, you might take a look at Automobile Association “Careless Driving”
Is there a safe way to use a phone & Drive?
No. According to the article this could also rule out Hands Free phoning or we take the risk that if an accident happened when doing so it might be argued that lack of full attention had contributed to the accident.
Employers also beware because if you expect your staff on the road to be in communication as they drive then you might become liable also.
So what can we do?
It seems that using the ‘Airplane Mode’ when ever the cars engine is running is a minimum safe guard to use and don’t be caught even touching a device while moving. There are cameras out there now aiming to snare you and these are fitted into specially set up lorries and elsewhere. Many reasons are given in this Automobile Association “Mobile Phones” article for any of you not so far persuaded of this.
Best to set it before you start the engine and don’t touch it unless you’re parked with the engine off.
Other Toys ….
The same goes for Hair Driers, Shavers, Sandwiches, Road Rage Gestures, Petting Animals, Stargazing, Rubber Necking, Reading Billboards, Hunting for Pokemon or Crop Circles, Applying Makeup or other Facial Enhancements, Eyeing up Scantily Clad Pedestrians, Re-securing Escaped Pets or Children, Smoking, Hot Political Discussion or shouting at Politicians on the Jeremy Vine Show, Any Passionate Activities, FGA – Fuel Gauge Anxiety (were flying on vapours Capt’n), Watching TV or Gaming on Smart Toys, Fiddling with your Home Hive Devices (or anything else) …… any more?
Btw Please don’t fall asleep while driving because you have much less to occupy your mind!
Phone Coop Offer
PC Techniques has formed a partnership with The Phone Co-op to offer you a great deal on phone calls, line rental and broadband. You can now get our ‘Half price broadband offer for 6 months’ or get a £10 credit when you switch to one of our mobile bundles including Fairphone.
Quote ‘PC Techniques‘ and the code ‘AF0485’ to receive a £10 credit on your first bill when you switch to one of our mobile bundles.
You can call them on 01608 434 000
Office 2016 vs. Office 365 – What is the difference?
To me SPAM is a response to success, and rather as in nature the success I mention is like that of when a successful system becomes established that enables a species to improve on their prospects.
And then WHAM along comes the inevitable parasite specie that feeds off it somehow … evolution or just a pain where its not wanted!
So the parasitised specie has to develop a protective response or be consumed into oblivion, such is the way of these things it seems.
Now, to get to why this is relevant.
Along came email and enabled millions to communicate rapidly and en-masse to each other and naturally along came scamsters, thieves, bullies etc with their SPAM.
The imuno-response by the email system was to introduce Spam filters which work … mostly … but inevitably some ‘friendly fire’ casualties do happen which is the legitimate emails sent to you that are mistakenly trapped in your recipients spam trap. Often they don’t check to see if its there and so remain unaware that they have missed your email. Luckily this is a relatively rare event in the big picture but sometimes it might matter to see an email that is trapped.
So what can you do?
Google Mail (Gmail) has a long established reputation for having an effective spam trap that at times can be over zealous in its efforts. I show this email provider as my example because it is a very prominent player.
So if you know of senders to your Gmail mailbox who’s emails you would be particularly interested in seeing reliably then you can take a few simple pro-active steps to ensure you always allow through emails from that sender.
It goes like this;
Log into your Gmail account using your web browser (Edge, Firefox, Chrome, IceDragon etc)
Click on the ‘Show Search” options (a downward-pointing triangle in your Gmail’s Search field box.
Find the persons email address that you want to allow in your White list under the “From” listing.
Now select it to add it.
You do not have to create a separate filter for each address.
Separate addresses with an ‘|’ character in the “From” field instead.
Example:- To whitelist both “firstname.lastname@example.org” and Jelani@example.com”, enter “email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org”
To White List an entire Domain.
To whitelist an entire domain (all mail from an address ending in “aboutguide.com”, for example), type only the domain name or the domain name preceded by the ‘@’ character.
e.g. To whitelist “aboutguide.com”, type “@aboutguide.com” (not including the quotation marks).
Follow the Create filter with this search ›› link at the bottom of the search sheet.
Finally – Do ensure the “Never send it to Spam” option is checked.
Now click “Create Filter”
Naturally there are many other email providers who’s systems also allow you to establish a WhiteList similarly. All you need to do to find out how to do this for your particular one is to do a web search using the words …
“How to Whitelist a Sender or Domain in < e.g.Yahoo mail etc>” (exclude the quote marks and squared brackets)
Obviously this only will work when your email recipients take these steps to help your emails to reach them, you cannot do it for them so please do feel free to send this article to them and just to ensure they do see it maybe phone or text them to say you have sent it so its not lost in their ‘Spam’ folder.
VLC is an abbreviation of VideoLAN Client and this often unsung and free little hero application that has been around for a very long time and constantly improved with new features that are actually useful. And it is available on every operating system worth mention including smartphone OS’s!
It is from the ‘Open Sourced’ community of programme developers and these people have a long deserved reputation for producing software which is needed and useful, which in my view makes a nice alternative from the unnecessary feature-trivial, obese bloat-ware of paid vendors.
A useful short article on VLC’s many good uses is here
I have used it for years and must admit I didn’t know them all! Mostly I use it for listening to Radio Caroline or Classic Rock online radio stations, what are your choices of favourite music?
To download it I recommend getting it only from its original source as adware packed copies have been known to exist from those ‘downloads’ websites who make money by bundling up good software with their sponsors junkware.
Linux Mint – Fast, Free to use, and much like Windows 7
Linux Mint is really proving itself these days!
And just like the VLC player above it is made and supported by an ‘Open Source’ community of programmers and so its provided free to use!
I have been testing it and trying out procedures on it to see how easily it could be used in substitute of Windows 7 which as you may know has nearly 3 more years of updates available from Microsoft remaining.
So its not panic time yet by far but unless you are happy to use the tiled and over colourfully activated ‘App Happy’ desktop of Windows 8.x or 10 (which I see as like using an interface built by Fisher Price for kids!) then take a look at Linux Mint.
By comparison you can have a sensible attractive interface that has the —, square and X placed in the top right of all windows just like in Windows 7. It also has a start button and programme listing that makes sense and is not trying to flog you junk and games when trying to use it!
Mint comes preloaded with the Firefox browser, LibreOffice (like MS Office and works with its data files), Thunderbird email client and the other useful apps for Video, Audio and more and you can add more applications yourself through its own Software Manager interface.
Try before you Jump!
And you don’t have to jump entirely into it unprepared either, it can run well in a Virtual Machine that runs inside Windows and so you can try it out and become confident using it before you need to make the change over. I use Oracle VirtualBox and guess what! That is free as well!
And finally I use this opportunity to mention that I can also work on your telephone wiring to add a new extension or maybe to tidy it up or remove old wiring. I can also work with network cabling perhaps to help those of you unnerved by the concerning views of WiFi health effects and Lloyds of London refusing to insure against them. (see point No 6 here)
I can provide guidance and solutions to mitigate your exposure to WiFi as best as possible, please do ask.
The undeclared and yet obvious evidence on trees everywhere on this sunny day is that Autumn has at last arrived. A little late and now a bit chilly but at least its here and so Westonbirt Arboretum will be happier that their gates will soon be frequented by tree and leaf spotters en-masse! (or for brexiteers, ‘by the bundle mate‘).
Another interesting arrival which I have yet to watch my way fully through is another fascinating new documentary of epic length (3 hours) by Adam Curtis which is now on BBC iPlayer named HyperNormalisation. So far I’ve only seen 20 minutes of it but in that small part I am already hooked on it! If its half as good as Adam Curtis’s last documentary Bitter Lake it will be fascinating. I will give the link to it at the bottom of this QBN post.
These days reality has become bigger than fiction across politics as we witness daily with the US elections pit dogfight, and our own rather ‘different’ pre brexit, shape shifted government, so nothing surprises me now (though Adam Curtis may change that).
So how can we be safer and sleep better in this concerning world?
I discovered TakeFive during a visit to my local building society and picked up a leaflet showing this very helpful resource which has a wealth of Video and other written downloadable materials on it. These offer very sound and easy to understand advice on how to spot and avoid fraud. You can watch their short introductory video here
The TakeFive website is friendly and easy to navigate and can be found here
So please do follow their guidance and perhaps share it with other family members who might also benefit from it.
Although this website is written for an American audience the technology is essentially the same and so I have included it.
WiFi is everywhere now and because many people walk around with a portable pad, laptop or smartphone and they like to use the internet on these wherever they are, its now important to draw attention to using these devices with a better degree of security than is offered by many WiFi hot spots in metropolitan areas.
Not all are properly secured with WPA2 encryption and so another person could intercept data between your device and the router and so possibly raid your privacy, or worse!
But all may not be completely safe at home or office if you use one of these WiFi Extenders ….
From an article by ISP Review “The network security gurus at Pen Test Partners have warned owners of BT’s Wi-Fi Extender 300 (Broadband Extender 300 Kit) adapters to update its firmware after they uncovered a string of vulnerabilities that could result in your home WiFi network password being leaked. The 300 series WiFi extenders are single band (2.4GHz) 802.11n spec devices that offer a headline maximum wireless network speed of 300Mbps (150Mbps in 20MHz mode and 300Mbps in 40MHz mode) and as such they’ve largely been superseded by the dual-band 600 and faster series. Never the less you can still buy them for only £19.99 a pop.”………
So do beware of these devices, the full details of the models involved are here and the good news is that BT have issued a firmware fix to close the vulnerability which is mentioned at the base of the ISP Review web page.
And finally – a ‘did you know’ question that is topical as we now have the lights on more until next Equinox. ‘Did you know that bright lights are wrecking your sleep and possibly also your health?’
According to this article from HowToGeek our devices are too bright and we look at them too late into the evenings for quality sleep to be guaranteed! In it is written “to break all the research down into a single sentiment: We’re happiest and healthiest when we experience crisp blue-white light in the morning and afternoon, dimmer and warmer light in the evening, and sleep in a truly dark room.”
As you would expect there are technical fixes for the various portable devices suggested here and if you like, even special glasses but I guess that the real fix is to know when to obey natural instincts and let your body simply relax!
I hope you found this issue of QBN helpful and informative and if you would like to discuss any articles in it or seek any additional help from me, then please do call, I love a chat!
btw – the Adam Curtiss documentary I mentioned earlier, that might keep me up too late if I fail to watch the clock is viewable for free from the BBC here
I hope that those of you who have taken a work break enjoyed it or are still doing so if sat inside somewhere waiting for the rain/hail storm or associated winds to abate ( otherwise why would you be reading this when on holiday?).
Certainly this summer is proving that weather cannot be relied on to follow any previous ‘norms’ any more (probably our own collective fault but I won’t dwell on that obvious point right now).
For those of you yet to escape from ‘your norm’ I wish you happy journeys and suitable accomodation and weather!
In this edition I will cover considerations that affect both PC’s & Macs.
email – Changes to be aware of
In recent months many email providers have set out to achieve better security for customers by pro actively snaring that lousy spam that we all hate and also stopping as best as they can the more dangerous ‘spear phishing’ offerings from scammers and crooks who target us more efficiently than before.
Certainly I have received more of those emails recently myself in common with many and the danger was first in the zip file attachment on earlier ones, and more recently in a hyperlink in the message body. So what can be done as the crooks get smarter?
The first thing is to be aware of is any dodgy wording styles you see in any email you recieve, even one purporting to come from a known contact because until all email providers have caught up with these changes to their systems its still possible to spoof an email to fool the recipient by disguising the senders real email address. (see DKIM & SPF below)
Next is to beware of zip file attachments. My previous anti virus didn’t alert me to the attachments by snaring them, but because I am naturally cautious I didn’t open them. The rogue emails were from people I didn’t know and each one had a differennt email domain source, very suspicious! So I only I saved them to my Desktop and, because I doubted the ‘Clean’ report that came from my now previous anti virus (Panda) and (surprisingly) my anti malware (Malwarebytes), I posted it them up to virustotal where it lit up all over the screen as dangerous!
Its not good that many well known AV vendors also didn’t see the danger! So now I use one that did see it, Kaspersky (subscription), though BitDefender would have done if I didn’t find its console irritating. Those weren’t the only 2 that caught it but they are the ones I am more familiar with.
So unless you are very confident, your best friend is still Suspicion and its best pal, Caution.
SPF & DKIM
Though this might appear like a 1980’s pop queen duo its a lot less pretty but for reasons I mentioned above, its now much more necessary and will affect your outbound emails being successfully received so do read on.
SPF & DKIM are each little records that need to be added to your email domains DNS settings so that when you send an email from any other source than your own registered email domain, it will carry the necessary credentials to get through the ever tighter mail gateways of the recipient’s email service. Otherwise it may be dumped in the spam skip or simply ‘dropped’ by the server because the address of the sender system differs from the one the email is usually sent from.One of many mass send email online platforms is MailChimp and as an example they have offer this advice …
“DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, and takes effect if an email fails certain types of authentication. DMARC policies benefit the email community as a whole because they help prevent phishing, spoofing, and the delivery of fraudulent emails. However, strict DMARC policies can sometimes misidentify your legitimate marketing emails as fraudulent and reject them.”
As the web page shows the approach to DMARC when using a free email provider or a registered email domain diffe,r so an enlightened approach is needed. But its worth getting yours set up before too many of your emails become lost.
Time is up and I must leave NOW, but Windows wants to Update!
We all realise a little late that we must stop working on our laptops and because time deliberately accelerates when we least want it to, we have to move on promptly. Perhaps because we need to make it to an appointment, catch a train or bus or because the partners birthday party begins in less than 1 hour but Windows then freezes us to the spot by forcing us to wait for updates to complete! The tension and self recrimination wheels can begin turning which might spoil your next meeting experience unless …. you do this.
Click on any empty area of the desktop or pressing Windows+D on your keyboard. Then, press Alt+F4 to access the Shut Down Windows dialog box.
To shut down without installing updates, select “Shut down” from the drop-down list.
For those of you wanting to be geeky you could add the following line to a batch file you save on your desktop and run it when the need arises.
shutdown -s -t 0
Mac’s & Viruses / Malware
Before the current time the sound & safe Mac was a safe system where viruses rarely made in-roads but this is now increasingly under threat from web based attacks through the browsers as you traverse the web. Most ‘nasties’ that affect PC’s still don’t run on Macs but the number that do are increasing steadily so I think it is now time to flag this up and offer guidance.
I went looking for answers and found this report from a verifiable source which gives a full review of the reasoning for anti virus on Mac’s and offers ideas on prevention both through extra user care, and by installing an anti virus which it gives comparatrive reviews on and across several vendors of the programme.
It is a long read but as you might expect its worth it by comparison to becoming infected, especially so if the infection encrypts your data and ransomes it back to you for a fat fee! As always I can help you with working to an understanding and discussing actions, please contact me for this.
Please do keep in mind that by backing up your data to my Stroud Cloud you will be able to fully recover your data in that event, if lightning strikes differently.
That is all for now, have a great late summer while the sun still shines.
If I can assist, advise or entertain you further in I.T related topics do give me a call!
Some of you may be wondering where the March & April editions went, and the simple truth is that for several reasons I have been just too busy to get them written! So sorry about those absences but I hope this edition will make up for the missed postings!
In this edition I will draw together some of the news from the IT arena in a form which is not overly detailed so that I get more into a single edition.
If any of you wish to know more on one topic or more do let me know and I may then make it an article or feature in a later edition if enough interest is there for this. Otherwise of course you can ring me for a chat!
So here we go …
Obsolescence – the inevitable process.
Obsolescence is one of the inevitable processes when something is evolving and as you all know I.T. epitomises this.
So the first story I have of this is that if you are still using Windows XP or Vista and your chosen browser is Google Chrome then you need to be aware that Google have discontinued updates support for it. So because Microsoft themselves discontinued updates 2 years ago also for XP and soon will do likewise for Vista, a move on to Windows 7 is really the best one for you to make (unless you don’t mind the very unfamiliar desktop of the more recent Windows 8.x & 10 operating systems).
Windows 7 updates are good for another 4 years or so and despite Microsofts best persuasive coercions many of us will hang on to this OS until a need drives us on.
End of Sales Microsoft Windows 7 & 8.x
End of sales refers to the date when a particular version of Windows is no longer shipped to retailers or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Examples of OEMS are Dell and Toshiba—PC manufacturers who often preinstall Windows software.
This table gives end of sales dates for specific Windows operating systems.
Client operating systems and updates
End of sales for Windows preinstalled
Windows 7 Professional
October 31, 2016
June 30, 2016
October 31, 2016
* Note that when the retail software product reaches its end of sales date, it can still be purchased through OEMs (the company that made your PC) until it reaches the end of sales date for PCs with Windows preinstalled.
Security support for Windows 7 and 8, will end in 2020 and 2023 respectively.
Apple Quicktime Player
Its best to remove Apple’s Quicktime media player from your systems because its no longer supported and lets face it, its not necessary either.
“Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats,” US-CERT said. “The only mitigation currently available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.” Public disclosure of the two bugs hastens the urgency for users to distance themselves from QuickTime for Windows. Both vulnerabilities expose Windows machines to remote code execution”.
The piracy I refer to is when a web server uses various methods to steal your privacy for targeted advertising.
PC Techniques will be releasing a new service soon to help with keeping out the invaders, but until then here are some reasons to take notice of the question of ‘why’!
Twitter’s global operations and data transfer
In the small print has crept in this …
“Our services are a window to the world. They are primarily designed to help people share information around the world instantly.
Your information, which we receive when you use the services, may be transferred to and stored in the United States, Ireland, and other countries where we operate, including through our offices, partners, and service providers. In some of these countries, the privacy and data protection laws and rules on when data may be accessed may differ from those in the country where you live.
How cyber criminals use social engineering
This article from Malwarebytes is useful to give you an idea of how they try to get past your defences by pretending legitimacy based on information they have acquired from elsewhere about you.
An interesting article here from Techcrunch on how Google are at last cleaning up their act ahead of legislation to protect consumers
“Google is cleaning up its Chrome Web Store – the marketplace where you can browse for extensions and apps for its Chrome web browser. The company says it’s making changes to browser’s User Data Policy, which will now require developers to be more transparent about how they handle customer data, and which will require user consent when data is collected, among other things.
The changes come at a time when the Chrome Web Store has been targeted by malware makers, who have posted rogue extensions that do terrible things like spy on web users and collect their personal data”
Journalist Gets Hacked While Writing Apple-FBI Story
“That’s why this story is so important to everyone,” says hacker, who was a fellow passenger on his flight.
The article on the dangers of using an open WiFi (no password needed) is here
Finally, for now..
I do hope you are not put off by these articles from realising the potential for good that technologies offer to us.
To me its like being in a strange land as a tourist, you keep your senses tuned in to your enviroinment, wear appropriate protections and don’t get hooked into a story that just looks toooo super real! (aka clickbait stories in ads posted on websites which are overly sensationalised or otherwise appear unreal.
A story of the future of I.T which may prove to offer us happier outcomes
“Imagine walking on Mars and being able to examine rock formations from all angles, or collaborating on the same 3D hologram design with someone thousands of miles away.
Or imagine being able to diagnose and treat the diseases of people half way around the world while you remain in your clinic, or walking around a gallery and having your own holographic guide pointing things out to you on your smart glasses.
These are just some of the exciting examples of what “augmented reality” (AR) technology is beginning to offer us.”