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Windows XP End of Life scenarios

Windows XP Logo

A fair few of us refuse to leave Windows XP behind, with Windows 8 devices coming from all sides offering eye candy and ‘Over the top’ changes, what’s holding us back?

Yes it was good at its job, hardly grumbling it powered our workstations for 10+ years. A success! Almost too successful.

Here’s some of the current scenarios we are dealing with customers on Windows XP Systems.

Continue reading Windows XP End of Life scenarios

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Virus protection tips

virusprotection-header

Thought I’d write-up some tips for preventing viruses getting on or taking over your systems.. Some of it might be obvious, some will definitely make you think ‘wha??’

Lets start with the completely obvious!

Actually Run some Virus Protection, Update it, and scan regularly.

We’ve all brought a new laptop to find Norton’s or McAfee pre-installed.. How often do you check it? Did you know it expired 60 days after you brought it? Do you know how much it is to get the new version? is it worth finding out after your system is crippled by viruses?

For basics, I’d recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, and Malware Bytes Free Edition. This should cover the very basics of Virus Protection

For complete virus protection with minimal system fuss, we recommend a Bullguard suite. Scan and update regularly, and remove that wasteful Norton/McAfee before installing new software

Don’t open attachments from anyone

Obviously you need some attachments for work, maybe set up a shared Dropbox/Google drive or Skydrive area so they are scanned for malicious content automatically by a high-class enterprise protection system? Another advantage to this is that you will never lose the file either by accident.

Also it should be clear that the Lottery never emails you, you don’t know any doctors/military/princes in Nigeria who have millions stashed away who’ll give it up easily. Your bank and energy companies will not email you the bill, they’ll email you a notification of billing. And usually put it in your account area on their website. (which reminds me of the next section…)

Passwords

Obviously you should use a different password for each account/thing. I can’t remember most half the time and use images in the page to jog the memory to what they may me.. So when my energy company re brands, I panic!

Another good way to keep passwords safe is to write them down in a book, and keep that safe somewhere (hidden, not stuck on monitor..). Something physical you can use, and the chances of someone targeting that is slimmer.

Is the site real?

This goes for images in HTML emails too.. Ever notice where the image is hosting or comes from? Your browser’s status bar tells you when you hover over it. Same with links. Try this and look down bottom left of your screen.

Most of the faked emails I’ve seen has some indication of a fake domain. such as paypal.com-service.tk symbols and items in the url to try to trick the user into clicking.

Of course its possible to redirect on these too, if the image or link is on the same domain.

Set up a Catcher contact

Here’s an original one.. Set up a new contact in Outlook called aardvark and point it at you own email address (or IT department). Common mass mailing viruses will go through the contact list at varying speeds/stages to not be noticed.. Aa will usually  be first emailed. An email from yourself you don’t remember sending (useful for leaving notes to yourself when done properly, to phone/tablet without messing around with syncing). A good early warning system in most cases.

 Don’t click shorturls without trusting the sender

Commonly over twitter or emails would have these, and actually I’d run them through a short to long URL expander first if there was no relevant text with them. I use LongURL and just copy and paste the short links into that to check their target.

If that Facebook video is ‘Competely wow or Amazinglo’ from your friends post, or something happens if you don’t reshare..

Probably best ignore it, this is a common way things not only spread but ruin your reputation on Facebook.

Rogue apps can almost post anything to your timeline and share out. It something Facebook doesn’t do much about as it’d have to put rules on the way things are posted and their own advertising system.

Same with Facebook games, best check the app centre to disable and check what others are saying about them.

In Closing..

I wrote this to highlight some points, many of my call-outs are virus related, and most can be prevented. Most people haven’t got any virus protection, and don’t know much about what’s out there, and won’t seek advice until they get some viruses.

Cryptolocker is a nasty piece of work. With that making headlines and its payload being unrecoverable once running, I suggest people start using the tips above sooner than later. Especially on-line storage for important files!

Unfortunately, there’s not an early detection method without it being set off (ransomware so it’ll say your files are encrypted, pay up etc), No way of working out the encryption, seems high level military (AES256?) so decrypting with no reference key is going to be impossible. (Hint, back up your files..) and as these are criminals it’s likely to not have an accessible decryption key.

Hope this helps people. Anyway, message of the day.. Get some Virus Protection! and be sensible online.

For more information and advice GetSafeOnline UK

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Why you need a Google+ Local page

A brief explanation on Google+ pages, why you should use one and how to start one.

google search header

Living in a sort of rural area..

Well I don’t know what it is really, surrounded by farmland, miles from anywhere interesting.. More tractors down the main streets than normal traffic…

Anyway I’ve gone off topic! Ahem.. Living In ‘quiet’ area, it’s quite hard to find a quality service or trades-person for particular jobs on-line. Unless you’re clever enough to set-up or have your data managed on Google local, Google+ or other directories, Google will use outdated data results to show users in search.

Luckily its really easy to get your business on it and looking good. Around 3 weeks to get a pin once you’ve set up a Google+ local page and a week to appear in search properly. And to make things easier, giving a business its own Google+ page puts an entry in Google Local, Places and eventually Maps.

Google Local for a business

 

Having your opening times, Emergency/enquiry numbers/details and address appear in the left side of a Google search is very handy..

As the new Google+ local page I’ve set up for a client shows:

I remember once finding the dog with swollen eyes and cheeks one morning, possibly from sniffing something in the garden.. And remembering there was a new vets in the Village with random opening days. By strange occurrence their website really did not want to work and their contact details or opening times were nowhere else on the web.

So a panic-stricken dog owner (and dog) was worried a bit and could get the service required as this simple thing wasn’t done. And cost that business some money for a consultation.. If they were open!

This is all well and good if the Google+ local page is updated, verified and monitored for problems.

Search for Littleport IT Services and it used to do the same, Thanks to constantly verifying information and Google changing random stuff (the move didn’t help either, nor does the way Google handles on site services now). As our page is stuck in a verification loop, We’re losing business too.

It’s practical if you take 10 minutes to set it up, and verification takes a few weeks for the card to arrive.

Worth it for ease of getting customers? You bet!

How to Do it

If you haven’t got a Google Account (Gmail etc) .. Well you’re going to need one.. Go sort that out if you are serious about following this. So first step is to go to your Google+ page from Gmail or search.. Or login.

Click your Home button at the top, click on Pages at the bottom.

If you had pages, they’ll be on this page as big squares showing an overview. If you are a page Manager, you’ll also see these statistics.

Clicking ‘Create new Page’ will give you a choice of what type of page you want to create. Hover over the images for a quick description.

google local articlegoogle local articlegoogle local article

google local article

Once chosen, the Dashboard system will recommend the next steps. It’s advisable to have a good cover and profile picture.

For businesses; contact details and location.

For all of them you will need to have a little short description of what the page is about, who you are or what you do.

That should be enough to start you off.. And if I’m in need of your contact details urgently with your site down, then I’ll congratulate you  (also tell you your site is not working!).

If this does sound too much, we can hep you set a page up, or on your behalf. Contact us for a quote!

 

 

 

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Improving your business for free part 1

There are lots of tools what claim to improve your productivity and business. I’m hoping here to point out some of the easiest ways to do so, and for the magical cost of nothing but time!

1. Get your site into Google Web-master tools!

Possibly the trickiest but once complete will give you full control over issues, analytics.  Also respond to de-listings or malware concerns easily and directly with Google.

Get your Site verified in Web-master Tools, link that to Analytics, AdWords and AdSense to handle advertising and adverts to and from your site. Simplest way to verify is to upload a file to your web server. This will handle your site being crawled by Google, saves submitting each new page to search engines. Brilliant if your site is dynamic and constantly changing.

2. Google Places /Google Plus Local page

Get your business its own Google+ page, when set-up it should link to Local section of Google Plus, and to Google Maps.

Fill it with as much information as you can, upload some pictures, treat it like a profile. As it’ll be the first thing people will see when they use Google to find your business. If set up properly it’ll show up for the keywords and services you offer independent of searches.

As I found out today, If your site is the only place what lists your opening times and where you are, chances are it’s not going to be up when someone needs you. Get that information on your Google Plus page and people can see that information without leaving the Google search results screen.

3. Freeindex it

Like Google but concentrating on putting customers to the right businesses in the right places.

Create a listing, improve the profile and get some leads from its internal search engine.  Allows customers/clients to review your services and allow your rank to climb higher.

4.  Analytics

Found out what content is popular, what’s not popular and what drives people to your site. Most Content and framework Systems will have something similar built-in but not as powerful. Easy to set up with Web-master tools and file verification on web-server.

5. Use the space on your social media / forum profiles.

Signed up to a forum for hobbies? Or a part of a business community/forum? Prime advertising space should be available on your profile page or signature. See our guide on creating a fully linked picture signature.

Be wary of each forums terms and conditions, they might not like advertising so keep it discreet/small enough not to distract people from the topics. Outright spam will earn a ban.

 6. Facebook pages

Create a Facebook page for your business, even if you don’t use Facebook. A presence helps as Facebook will be searched via Bing as well. A Facebook presence also helps with trust and easily linked by people who’ve used your service and providing your information to others via a share. Reviews and Likes are also good.

7. Word of mouth

Majority of my call-outs are people who have recommended me from earlier work. To think, I’ve only have 3 or 4 customers out of 50 who have said ‘we found you on Google’.

This might change area to area, but get yourself into community groups, meet and greets with local business groups and conferences. Business awards and expos are good even if you aren’t exhibiting.

8. Networking

Have a look around for local gatherings of businesses, your local Chamber of Trade and Commerce would be a good place to start. Also independent bodies are appearing all over the UK for networking groups.

Check Link4Growth for a friendly networking session nearby.  L4G are very friendly, relaxed and offer courses on PR, social media and a forum full of like-minded and helpful people. Also grand ideas for Coffee meets all over England (and recently Wales!). Besides, worth taking an hour or 2 off for coffee and a chat, even if it gets you some work in.

9. Business cards and flyers, Community leaflets

One of the oldies, but still works. I’d say your business card is more important, put more effort into maintaining them. A fair few ideas going about is to have QR codes on them for more contact options which can be up-datable on-line, or automatically added to phone/email from a camera picture.

I’d avoid tiny cards, go for something with space and nice size so they’ll also fit in community notice boards easily and catch attention.

That’s all for the time being, I have run out of ideas and coffee! Hopefully I can find some more tips for next week.

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Make yourself a forum signature

A fair few times when reading (or just lurking) on forums, I spot an empty signature spot.. That’s prime advertising material being wasted!

Here’s a quick guide on how to utilize it.

You will need:

  • A decent image to do with your hobby/business, or something to show off your character.
  • A fairly decent picture editing program (Paint.net is good)
  • To know where you social media profiles are (URLs) and websites etc.
  • about 20 minutes
  • cup of hot stuff of choice..
  • No scissors or sticky back plastic tacky stuff..

Respect Others!

First of all, Forums are free to use by many, many people.. So no abusing the service with massive images. No bigger than 300 by 200 pixels, none of us have screen big enough to see a 4266 by 2036 pixel image..

As I’m lacking inspiration to work on my logo, I’ll use that file today. (all thumbs should be click-able for bigger images)

paint sig1

Next Add a layer (Automatically transparent) to draw on our social media icons, lettering for sizing. For this example I’ll align them along on the top. Drag each media icon in as a layer and size it/ move where you want it (remembering they must all be on same side/edge), when complete, merge layers down all into 1 layer.

sign part 2

If you have a patterned banner – try not to have anything on the same level as your icons, unless you feeling adventurous with scissors.

Now draw a selection box around each icon  and the top of the banner image cut and paste it into a new image. You will need to slice out the rest of the image on the line of your icons, and the banner image under where the icons where. As browsers count transparency as part of the image, it will be misaligned and show space in between images. You will need to resize canvas on  your main image slowly by small amounts of pixels (I used bottom anchor as I wanted to preserve the bottom part), this is under Image – Canvas Size

sign part 3

Save each image in order if banner is patterned (ie. banner1, banner2 from left to right) and your big image defined as something unique..

 Now the technical part..

Now that we’ve created the images for icons, the space after them, and the main image. Now we upload them to our webspace (usually a public folder with permissions of 744, for example /images for most sites work.) and make a note of their path (http://www.mwebsite.com/images/banner1.jpg etc)

Most forum signature editors will support HTML (what we’ll use to call the files and provide links to your content) and a few buttons to automatically link it all up.

For this example, we shall use pure HTML as there’ll be no conflict with forumBB code.

Each linked image needs to look like this (in source/html mode)

<a href=”http://yoursite.com”>
<img src=”http://yoursite.com/images/banner1.jpeg” alt=”My social network”>

Until you reach the last social image or spacer to align everything:

<img src=”http://yoursite.com/banner7.jpg” alt=”empty space”>

Hints:

  • remove alt=”empty space” and no text will show up when you hover over the spacing image.
  • You can size each image by pixels:

<img src=”http://yoursite.com/tiny-banner.jpeg” alt=”sized image” width=”32″ height=”32″>

(useful if you accidentally sliced a pixel off an image, more than 10 and it looks odd..)

Test and tweak

Your forum signature should have preview (vBulletin usually) which will allow you to tweak little things and your pattern, with icon alignment and how the image deals with window sizes (another reason to keep to a most of 300 pixels wide.

Also keep a copy of each image file safe, you an add more icons in your spacer image and add it in the signature coding.

 Finished Product! 

With a bit of tweaking we sort out WordPress’s system of trying to malign everything (image controls). Have a hover over and watch your status bar report the url changes. Nice eh?  Have a go yourself and see how you get on.

Lit-signFB-1GPluslit-sign-space
lits-sign-main

If you get stuck, or want something made up ( for a small fee of course!) I’m happy to help!
Remember to use BBcode if you are using lots of icons/code.

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Avoid expensive payments on Ipad/ Iphone/ iOS purchases

How to Avoid expensive iOS mistakes!

We’ve all seen the embarrassing news stories where people have racked up hundreds with expensive hidden charges on mobile games or in-game purchases. Turns out there’s an app for that… well probably not, but there is a system setting!

 

  1. Under ‘Settings’, find your  ‘General’ icon and access it.
  2. Find and tap ‘Restrictions’.
  3. If it’s not already set-up, everything will be grayed out. Click on ‘Enable Restrictions’ at the top to enable the rest of the options.
  4. Once enabled, you will need to create a new four digit pass code and confirm, be sure this one is different to your lock screen for an extra bit of security.
  5.  After setting up the pass code, you should check the now enabled options.
  6. Toggle ‘In-App purchases’ to stop them pesky apps.
  7. Remember to test it before letting anyone else loose on it.

After this is set-up you should see a screen in your games/apps saying ‘Purchases have been disabled’

With most major game developers eyeing up Free to Play/Pay to Win business models for desktop and mobile, always stay vigilant of what you are running on your devices.

Thanks to PC Mag for this tip!

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Anti virus software, few thoughts

Some Observations about the Virus protection we should trust..

When cleaning people’s PCs of malware and viruses, I’m often asked “What Anti virus do you recommend?”

Well its a difficult answer to take on depending on what you need or want from your system.

You can have total security and not be able to do much, being prompted at every action, Or a system scanner so silent that you don’t notice it’s crashed or been disabled.

Over the many years dealing with viruses and malware, we’ve seen more issues caused by major software names than the viruses their-selves, which after spending £60 on you don’t really expect.

Here’s some examples:

  • Norton’s Internet Security blocking all network traffic 1 day after license ends.. including attempts to buy a new license.
  • AVG refuses to start its shield or updates after installing new version because of its failure to automatically remove its own registry entries.
  • McAfee installing, without a trace! No short cuts, nothing in add/remove.. not even a folder..

Not picking on them 3, dealt with plenty more..

‘But those are a few ones no one uses!’ I hear you say, well they are usually the first to be bundled on new systems from major manufacturers, usually with a 2 week to 1 year complimentary license (most are 2 weeks now.. can’t have you staying safe) and the price drastically goes up when you check their special offers.. No body likes them.

What do we recommend?

First of all, Take a look at the not so expensive options, and not free! .. Well some of them are, but please support them.

Part of our repair pack is Hitman-Pro which will analyse suspicious files and check them against on-line scanners, their second opinion scan part of the program is free to use, a subscription will allow the program to remove infections, but it will tell you what it is allowing you to look up other solutions.

Malware Bytes– Scanning and removal is free to use. paying for a subscription gives you a low resource real-time scanner and more scan options such as ‘flash scan’ which checks the most vulnerable parts of a system.

Spybot Search & Destroy, a very powerful suite of tools combined into this scanner, change what starts at boot time, services and network file checks. Free to use for home users, with lots of business options.

ComboFix –  We don’t actually recommend you use this unless you know how to set-up windows again, for heavily infected systems and usually only used by technicians. Or one of the rare people who actaully backs things up.

Microsoft Security Essentials / Windows Defender / Malware Removal tool – surprisingly good tools from Microsoft, as basic protection.

We’d recommend having 2 or 3 of these programs installed, updated and ready to run, just to be safe..

“this all sounds complicated, is there anything I can buy to do it for me?”

Well yes, but there is some effort still needed from the user.

Currently we have tested Vipre and Bullguard, both of which have low system resource take up (meaning it doesn’t slow your system down), and give excellent value for money.

Other favourable vendors include Kaspersky  (though for some strange reason cheaper to buy on Amazon than their own site) and ESET’s NOD32

We will also keep a lookup for new software to test and tag on results/views onto this article.

“But I have ‘Windows Antivirus 2013’ and don’t need anything else!”

Umm.. you may want to check if that’s a real piece , we’ve dealt with similar named software what will make up random results and then tell you that you need to register it for £30 to remove the alleged items. We call this particular thing FakeWare. 

Don’t even think about paying it, Google the name of it and you’ll find warnings on forums about it before you’ll find the people who make it. You’ll probably find that your system is infected with a fair few, the program is a trojan and was installed via a malicious pop-up.

Always good to get a second opinion.

Any Anti Virus tips or horror stories? feel free to share below!

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A Brief Guide to Google Services

A Brief Guide to Google Services:    

Its more than a Search Engine now, Google offers businesses and people a lot of resources and tools. Today I’m going to briefly topic them and explain a little on how they will help.

Google’s Goal

Google’s services can all work from one account, whether it business or personal, they all get bundled into..

 Google Plus (Google+).

Your starting point and how you can image yourself or brand online and through Google’s services.

Share pictures, links, websites, create pages on your hobby or business. Create and interact with Communities of like-minded people.

Google Mail (Gmail)

Google’s Mail service which is pretty powerful for a free service, Not even Outlook can automatically filter your Twitter emails into their own folder from the very start. Along with custom categories and filtering options, a few clicks and you can have a pretty organized inbox!

Google Calendar/Tasks

These 2 items are now built into Google Mail, making it easier to add email contacts to tasks and invitations to calendar. Also integrated to G+ so your big work BBQ can have its own fancy page and announcement and a guest list can be automatically set-up.

Tasks are being a bit hidden in Gmail so its possible this could be removed once Google work out a better looking/working system for them.

Google Apps

Not so much of a free service now, think of it as an Enterprise suite for business like Exchange used to work, or Blackberry business solution.

Plug your domain name in, and your company has office tools and intranet facilities.

Google Documents/Drive 

Access your documents on the go.. Word, Excel are supported and accessible from mobile devices. Even has a drawing application. You can even create documents on the move too, all synchronised by cloud.

There is a hidden part which is like a post it note system.. Google Keep!

YouTube

Yes, Google brought it. Very soon you can create a channel by creating a G+ page. The Branding potential of this is great.

Latitude

Latitude is a Maps offspring and should tell you what’s in your area, who’s where and offer ‘Check In’ information. As its focused in the US more than UK I’ve not tried it very much.

Maps

Shows you what’s where, businesses, routes.. even local transport information. A new version is being rolled out which I’ll try to write-up on. It looks good!

Local / Places

The ‘One stop shop’ for local events/points of interest and businesses, much like a telephone directory. Often filled with old information and invites users to edit or claim it if its their business.

As a Business owner you can use this to handle your Google presence on Maps and it is directly integrated into G+ allowing you to directly edit information and add offers and advertising.

Mapmaker

The tool for editing Google Maps and many users are using it to correct information such as wrong locations, misplaced names, closed down venues, etc… It is community and user moderated with users reviewing edits in their area.

AdWords

A surprisingly Easy to use tool with budgeting and keyword analyser. It’ll allow you to display your products in boxes on websites (Like Below) which run the Ad-sense service.

AdSense

A service which allows you to display ads and earn little revenue when clicked. Integrates into YouTube for Monetization.