So Whats New?

People frequently ask me, “So What’s New, Frank?”

Well, firstly, you may be surprised to know my name isn’t Frank. But more importantly, lots. Lots is new. Lots are new? There are many things that are new. Let’s look at one now.

Microsoft recently brought out Office 2016. There is a review of it with comparison to Google Docs, here. The upshot is that it performs better document collaboration and sharing that previous Office, and has some advantages over Docs. The advantages are mostly in those things that set Office apart from Docs, such as built-in Skype calling and Bing searching. There are downsides to it as well, such as limitations in collaboration and sharing. Which is kinda why you’d be looking at such a product in the first place.

And, of course, both products rely on a stable, fast Internet connection. Many of my clients live and work in places that do not enjoy such a connection, so the user experience is likely to be sub-optimal. As with any tool, try it before you commit to it, and consider alternatives during the process.

Questions? Comment below and let’s chat!

New Stuff to talk about

Like Windows 10. Have it? Like it? Want someone’s head on a stick because of it? I’m at a loss here in Help Desk land. Win 10 works really well, except for when it doesn’t. I’ve seen it as an upgrade for Win 7 and Win 8 and as a fresh install on a recently bought laptop. Sometimes it works well, but there doesn’t seem to be any pattern.

Does it support your printer, scanner, keyboard, or mouse? Maybe. Maybe not. There is an update checker online. The most common result I’ve heard is that the video system is not good enough for an upgrade. Of course, I’ve been seeing Win 10 blue screen with hardware it promised it was compatible with.

So my advice – if you really need the PC to work consistently, stay where you are. Wait a couple more months before upgrading. You may be rewarded for your patience with a more stable operating system.

Is there any other new stuff to talk about? Yes, glad you asked – there’s this: Chrome is dropping support for Java. Maybe its about time it did, maybe other browsers should follow suit, but if you rely on Java to get your work done, you’ll need to switch over to another browser. Ain’t technology fun?

How are the bad guys hacking so many accounts?

Short answer: They are being given permission. Victims click on the links, or respond to spoof emails with personal data, and give the bad guys the keys to personal accounts.

Here is a story on hacking gmail accounts.

In this attack, as with most such attacks, the victims must voluntarily give out their info. So, the answer to the question, How are the bad guys hacking so many accounts?, is that we are still letting them.

Be careful out there – don’t click that.

The high price of big-box

I just got back from a residential call. It was dispatched to me by an online work platform that gets jobs from service buyers and routes them to guys like me. In this case, the buyer was a big-box office supply store. The task was to set up a wireless router and connect two printers and two PCs to said router.

The cost to the end user was $468. That’s one hundred dollars for the router and $368 for installing it and connecting the devices to it. The big box store sold this poor woman a router and the installation thereof for nearly 500 dollars. Do I need to mention that it took me all of a half-hour to do the work?

And it was good-paying work to be sure. But I felt that this poor soul had been taken advantage of. She paid well over triple for the service over what I would have charged. There’s just no reason to over charge people so much for simple service. I think the store took advantage of her lack of technical sophistication. And I think that’s a crap business practice.

Do you have any experiences with the high price of big-box store that just wants to squeeze you?

Whats the word on Windows 10?

Hey – did you update your Win 7 or Win 8 PC to Win 10 yet? I updated one of my laptops to Win 10 – it looks pretty cool.

CNet talks about the new Cortana interface here. I have some reservations with a perpetual, cross-device data assistant. With the occasional compromises in secure data leading the identity and credit accounts, can an app that’s always monitoring us waiting for a command be kept safe from prying?

But it is a cool concept, don’t get me wrong. I want to talk to the PC. I want to say, “Cortana, bring up my QBO and check the email.” I’d like to have Majel Barrett’s voice respond to me, but maybe that’s down the line somewhere. As a former programmer and an honorary Grammar Police member, I know that language is very important, but language is also very, very plastic. Homophones, inflection, regional idioms, and such, all make it difficult enough to understand another human. It will be interesting to see how the automated process evolves.

So, what is the word on Windows 10? CNet has a short review here, so I will not reinvent any wheels. There is a short video; I’ll wait here until you get back. Ok, so first, what is up with that guy’s shirt?

There are many changes, so I will try to explain. No… there is too much, I will sum up.

Good things – first and I think foremost: multiple virtual desktops. A Linux feature, multiple desktops lets you have multiple full screen apps going at once, without them getting in each other’s way. And its more than that if they are working in their own protected space, they aren’t sharing resources either. Very productive feature. Also, Cortana – as noted above, I look forward to seeing how responsive she is, given that she can hear me over Spotify.

They are seeking to bridge the gap from computer to tablet; and why not? Apple has done pretty well with it. A single account will hold settings between devices; and if you use the online Office365 or OneDrive, your productivity and docs will be there also.

Whats bad about Windows 10? We are sure to find the answer to that question writ large over time. As with any new piece of software, the bugs will begin crawling out as the installed base expands. Hopefully, there aren’t real show-stoppers down the line.

There are many more changes and features, but this post is already long enough. Have you explored Win10? What are your impressions and comments?

Have you updated your PC?

Well you should. Now. Seems there’s another (yes another) here-to-fore undiscovered vulnerability, this time affecting OpenType fonts. You probably don’t use OpenType, but it doesn’t really matter. You need to make sure the PC/Server/WinMobileDevice is up to date.

See the full story here, from ZDNet.

Just to beat the dead horse: don’t let updates lapse. Regularly update Windows, Java, Reader, and Flash, at a minimum. A little bit of caution goes a long way to preventing problems in the future.

How will updates change with Windows 10?

With the upcoming roll out of Windows 10, one of the important questions to consider is how will updates change with Windows 10?

They will happen automatically. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, as noted in this article . It is my experience that most users will ignore updates (Windows, Java, Flash, Reader, etc) so having the updates downloaded and installed automatically will make that process less-error prone.

That said, we are already annoyed enough by update-initiated reboots (in the middle of presentations, important meetings, etc). I don’t see that changing, even given that the new update scheme will allow for choice of update time.

So, what to do to avoid the often lengthy inconvenience? My advice is to attend to the PC, making sure it is up to date and free from pending reboots well before the urgent meeting. Maybe once a week – before going to lunch, perhaps? Set a reminder to make sure it is up to date and reboots.

But that’s just good practice in any event…

Be aware of scam IT calls

How to be aware of scam IT calls? Some good advice from the QuickBooks blog.

Have you received these scam calls? The caller is usually very brazen, rude, and heavily-accented. Do you just hang up or do you cuss them out?

I am usually inclined to ask them questions, like the IP address or machine name of my affected PC. The insistent caller never knows those answers (because they can’t). They’d always ask to connect remotely to my PC to begin checking it out.

Do I need to say? Never let an unknown person connect to your PC for any reason.

Questions? Comments? Let me know your thoughts –

How do I protect my computer from electrical spikes?

As the summer has heated up, we’ve certainly had our share of storms. These strong storms have caused some power outages throughout the area, lasting minutes or hours, or even days. Such events can really take their toll on our electrical devices, to say nothing of our nerves.

 

But you have played it safe, and have all your sensitive equipment connected to surge suppressors and not to generic power strips, right? The power strip just has a bunch of outlets in it, but a surge suppressor has the ability to bleed off sudden spikes in current due to lightning or a utility problem. Suppressors are usually good enough to protect electronics from spikes, but are not enough for real protection. They do not protect from low power events or brown outs, for example. And after a suppressor does its job once, it is no longer reliable and should be replaced.

 

A better solution is a battery backup. Backups are more expensive; at least $50 compared to suppressors which can cost as little as $10. Backups protect against low power, high power, and since they have a battery, give you a couple of minutes to save work and shut down properly. A battery backup will provide reliable service for at least three years in normal home usage. Its well worth the investment to protect your valuable equipment and data.