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Every PC deserves a UPS

Takeaway message: ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS, as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches).

Edit: This post was written in 2017 and as such products and pricing have changed. However, the general concept about need for UPS coverage for your sensitive electronic devices remains the same.

ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS (uninterruptible** power supply) as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches). 

A workstation or PC UPS will help to protect against hardware failure, database & file corruption and lost time due to unexpected workstation power off events. Additionally (although not really measurable) a UPS can also significantly extend the life of the PC by reducing the voltage fluctuations that come in from the energy company, and the negative effect that low voltages or "sags and brownouts" have on the PC electronics. 

This is the least expensive item I can find from a reputable supplier: 

CyberPower 650VA Backup Utility Powerboard UPS $88 Link. However my experience with those cheap ones is that they last for the duration of the warranty but not much more, I have had to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the past on support costs for "cheap" UPS units that were purchased to save money. 

A better quality unit would be something like this: 

Socomec NeTYS PE Tower Line Interactive UPS, 650VA $101.00 at last check (plus about $30 freight) Link

A premium product option that should last years and years (with replacement batteries every now and then). 

APC SC620I Smart-UPS SC 620VA $303.00 at last check (plus freight - and they are heavy so it can be expensive) Link

UPS power supply units contain a battery similar to a car battery. Like car batteries, they only last for a period of time. Testing the UPS batteries is an important part of system maintenance.

** The word uninterruptible, is a little misleading. Yes, a correctly functioning UPS will prevent interruptions in the event of a short power outage, if the correct size of UPS is purchased you can expect about 20 minutes of battery backup. Before that time the PC needs to be shut down automatic or manually. The higher the overall "load" the less time you have, or, to put it another way the bigger the UPS (measured in "VA") the longer you will have on battery backup.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.
Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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LastPass now free on mobile

From LastPass...

Get LastPass everywhere, for free!

We know you're a person on the go. That's why, starting today, you can use LastPass on any device, from anywhere, for free.

For convenient access to your passwords on all your devices, download LastPass to any computer and get our app for your phones and tablets:

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Change the "default app" in Windows 10

To change the default program in Windows 10 that opens a particular file type, follow the instructions below. In this example Windows 10 defaults to opening PDF files in Microsoft edge browser which significantly reduces your functionality when working with PDF's here is how to change it to Adobe PDF reader . 

  • Locate a file of the type you want to change, right click on the file and select "open with" then "chose another app" (see points 1-3 below). 
  • When the dialog box comes up to make the selection, chose the app that you want to use (see 4 below), tick the "always use this app…" checkbox (see 5 below) and then press OK
  • From that point on this file type will open by default with your preferred program.
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Selecting the default sound device on Windows

Your Windows PC, laptop or tablet can have a lot of external devices plugged in that will play sound here are some examples on just one of my PC's: 

  • 3.5mm stereo socket's (headphones, speakers, even 5.1 surround sound systems)
  • USB speakers 
  • USB headphones 
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Other Bluetooth speakers (There is a trick here as well) 
  • HDMI (often combined with video) 
  • Optical (Fibre optic cable) 
  • Coaxial (RCA) 

To tell Windows where to send your sound follow the steps here

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Good (normal business grade) NBN

Good (normal business grade) NBN… in my office:

I'm posting this because I have heard a number of comments about NBN being not much faster than ADSL2, of course it depends what NBN are you talking about; $20 a month, no brand, speed limited NBN or something more substantial?

The above graph shows that the measured download speed is over 2 times as fast as the fastest ADSL2 (and perhaps 3 times as fast as the typical ADSL2)

Upload speed is around 20 times as fast as ADSL2

My 39 days of no internet or phones during changeover is just a distant memory now (mostly)

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“AGL Energy” malware

A number of sources in the media are reporting a bogus email purporting to come from AGL Energy that contains malware. This malware typically installs some type of ransomware on your computer that will encrypt all the data files that it has access to (including network shares) and demand a ransom before they [promise to] unlock them.

It's been reported that this has affected over 10,000 Australians in a week. Here are some links for more information:

smh.com.au

heraldsun.com.au

www.yourlifechoices.com.au


So "I guess", be on the lookout for this one however that's in some ways a bad approach. Being on the lookout for an AGL email when the same thing has been coming from emails purporting to be from Australia post, DHL, Telstra and others for some time now isn't very effective. A better approach is to be careful with ALL emails and have the proper prevention and mitigation strategies in place. 

Here are three things you can do as a starting point: 

  • DON'T BE AN ADMINISTRATOR ON YOUR OWN COMPUTER (I may have mentioned that before)
  • Have good backups in pace that are isolated from the system (a single USB drive plugged in to the system isn't adequate)
  • Be thoughtful and careful with what you open or what links you follow, if it doubt don't open it 

Bonus point: 

  • Have a really good quality antispam service that will; 
  1. Identify most bogus messages as being not legitimately from the company in question 
  2. Prevent casual access to suspect emails, suspect emails should be quarantined by default 

(for your information I can recommend that dedicated antispam product for about $3.50 per user per month)


This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers. Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Default printer changing by itself in Windows 10?

Default printer changing by itself in Windows 10? See here for the why and how to turn it off.

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FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data

FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data, your network, your identity and your money. 

  1. Don't be an administrator on your own PC for normal day to day work. Create a separate admin account and just be a normal "user" unless required. 
  2. Don't run outdated software; Old versions of Windows, Java, adobe other apps 
  3. Have a good quality antivirus installed, working with a current subscription 
  4. Don't visit undesirable or illegal sites (or if you must; learn enough to mitigate the risk, run in a sandbox, another user account, a Virtual PC, or another PC setup for this task) 
  5. Social engineering - Be vigilant when opening links or emails, unsolicited mail or other peoples USB drives 
  6. (Bonus) Get a good antispam/antivirus system that blocks you from as many threats as possible before they enter your network or PC. 
  7. (Bonus) Use complex passwords that are unique for your internet services
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Passwords should be unique

"Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online
passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was
breached?"

I'm reposting this article from October 2013 even more relevant today than then... 

The recent Adobe hacker-fest has again brought up the subject of passwords so here is my recommendation... 

There are a full set of password rules and suggestions that are already widely recognised as being crucial for online security, see here for a great article: http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2008/06/the-ultimate-guide-for-creating-strong-passwords that pretty much says it all. 

However, particularly relevant for now, you need to ensure that your passwords are always different from each other, if your Adobe password has been compromised you don't want that same password to have been used for your banking. 

Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was breached? 

If you're having difficulty in tracking all those passwords consider a password manager, there are a number of different product options. I use https://lastpass.com/ which is available in a free version or paid if you want the smartphone apps as well ($12 per year).

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How to logoff or switch users on Windows 10

Finding how to logoff or switch users on Windows 10 is less "discoverable" than it could be, I have made a quick guide on how to do this here.

http://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/34-how-to-lock-log-out-or-switch-user-in-windows-10

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Windows 10 updates

Q: Now that I have Windows 10 can I stop it from updating at the most inopportune times? 

A: Yes and no, go to start -> settings -> "update & security" -> "Windows update" -> advanced options -> defer updates

This will defer them for a while but does not affect security updates:

"Defer upgrades in Windows 10 - Some Windows 10 editions let you defer upgrades to your PC. When you defer upgrades, new Windows features won't be downloaded or installed for several months. Deferring upgrades doesn't affect security updates. Note that deferring upgrades will prevent you from getting the latest Windows features as soon as they're available.

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-au/windows-10/defer-upgrades-in-windows-10

However that's probably not want you are after. The intended approach is to leave the PC *on* overnight but *not* logged in same way Windows has handled updates for years. That way it will handle all that stuff overnight when you are not using it and restart around 3am - 4am if needed. This would require sleep setting to be set appropriately (I always recommend that sleep is turned off on PC's and laptops anyway), bear in mind that with a Windows tablet that's probably not feasible. 

One of the big changes that Microsoft made in windows 10 is that it WILL do its updates eventually regardless, its created a bit of angst within the industry but the problem they were facing is that people never allowed Windows to update (mostly by turning the PC off overnight every night) and as such Windows didn't get the security fixes and PC's were often vulnerable to the bad guys long after Microsoft had released the patch. 

There are a couple of ways of "hacking" this so that it won't do updates unless you manually force it, but for the reasons above it's not recommend because you really want to get the security fixes without manual intervention. 

Consider leaving your laptops and desktop PC's on overnight (and logged out) or at least over "a" night during the week.

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Access your virtual machines/servers

If you are a junior IT admin or an administrative staff member that needs to access the servers on occasion *and* you have Microsoft Hyper-V visualization this article may help: (It may just confuse you more as well, sorry about that if that's the case).

Full details here: http://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/33-access-your-virtual-machines-servers

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Passwords...

Interesting article from ZDNet. This is why I prefer a company specified and IT retained password for small organizations. It also means that IT support work can be done outside business hours so as not to impact on staff productivity:

Forcing users to change their passwords may do more harm than good: (ZDNet) http://www.zdnet.com/article/forcing-users-to-change-their-passwords-may-do-more-harm-than-good/

Further, Cranor notes that "There is also evidence from interview and survey studies to suggest that users who know they will have to change their password do not choose strong passwords to begin with and are more likely to write their passwords down."

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Dealing with NBNco, Telstra and your ISP - a helpful guide

I have prepared this handy flowchart to assist with resolving issues when you have to deal with your internet service provider(s) for your actual internet, Telstra for half the infrastructure and NBNco for the rest, enjoy! (After 38 days without internet I certainly am.)

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AFP scam email

Just in case you had any doubt the following email is spam. Note that it links to a Russian site, probably malware, possibly crypto-locker or a derivative.

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Office 2016 licensing

This is a pretty succinct summary of the way that Office 2016 licensing works for a Microsoft store purchase which is slightly different than previous versions. This is AU$299 for 1 (only) PC for the Home and Business edition (with Outlook).

Make sure you have one centrally administered Microsoft account for your organization to hold all these MS office products.


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Buyer beware

Buyer beware... good one Harvey Norman..

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Lies, damned lies and "The Cloud" - Part 1: Cloud accounting…

Lies, damned lies and "The Cloud" - Part 1: Cloud accounting… 

[Warning opinion ahead, your mileage may vary] 

In 2004 I bought QuickBooks accounting, as I recall it was $350. It's still going strong for me and I don't have a reason to change. Admittedly I am a micro-business and I don't pay wages and have to worry about all that. I just had a look at Xero online accounting I watched their introductory video, looked pretty good although they do get a penalty for overuse of the word "beautiful". 

Then I had a look at the monthly fee $50 per month. Let's calculate that out $50 x 12 months x 11 years that's $6600 (plus another $6600 for the next 11 years). No thanks cloud I'm fine thanks with my less beautiful product from 2004. 

Definition of "The cloud" 1: A way of taking something that you would otherwise "purchase" and making you "subscribe" to it while costing you 20 times as much (and counting), but it is "beautiful" and you do get some nice extra features.

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Australia post malware emails

Beware the current run of Australia post malware emails, see below (this one is not really from Australia post). Remember to hover over the link in Outlook with your mouse before you click, in the screen shot below the link goes to a Russian web site: I expect is some sort of ransomware. Click on the link below to see the full post...

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AVG antivirus free has announced that they will collect and sell your data*

We already know that almost nothing comes for free and if you're getting something for free in the world of IT this normally means that your being served up advertising or you are trading your personal data for the purpose of advertising, people differ in their opinion on that, I have heard it said "I love adds because that means that I don't have to pay for the service", others prefer a traditional model where they can just purchase whatever it is and get on with things without interruption. However antivirus manufacturer AVG has sent a few ripples through the tech industry by announcing that if you use their free antivirus product they will collect sell your data, however the data will not be personally identifiable. If you use AVG free for home PC's for example here are some resources to help you consider if your happy with the change. 

http://news.softpedia.com/news/avg-proudly-announces-it-will-sell-your-browsing-history-to-online-advertisers-492146.shtml 

http://now.avg.com/understanding-the-new-privacy-policy/ 

http://www.avg.com/gb-en/privacy-new

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Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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