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 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!! 🙂