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
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.
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.