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Is Android really that insecure?

I was speaking to a friend last week who is coming to the end of their mobile phone contract.  They currently use a Blackberry but wanted to upgrade to either an iPhone or Android but were unsure which way to go.  My personal choice is Android as I like the interface and “freedom” of the operating system but when I suggested this I was met with “but what about security and viruses?”.

Android has a nasty reputation for being insecure. Yes there is malware that can run on it but ask yourself this, do you actually know of anyone who has ever got malware on either an Android tablet or phone? The answer is probably no and there is a good reason for this. Google (and Apple) both do a good job of keeping malware out of their respective app stores.  Unless you decide to root your phone or download an app from a website rather than the official store chances are very slim that you will ever encounter malware in any form.

As for the device itself you can use a pin to lock the screen and certain apps (eg Dropbox) allow you to lock the app itself.  You can install antivirus if you so wish (I do as I tend to deal with documents that might be opened on a Windows PC). I run BitDefender Mobile Security on all my devices as you get the ability to track your device using GPS if you lose it and wipe if remotely if needs be.

Permissions is another issue altogether.  Google is attempting to address this in its Android M update which should hopefully curb the permissions that developers require for their apps.  If you get sleepless nights because “Big Brother” is watching you then you might be better off with an iPhone.

As with security in general the device is usually only as secure as the person who uses it.  Use a common sense approach and you should be fine with Android.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Is Blackberry still relevant?

Is Blackberry still relevant?

I have been asked these words too many times to remember and I can still see why people ask.  As of the end of 2014 Blackberry had a market share of 0.5% and this from a company who just a couple of years ago was THE brand to have.  Times have changed and today people would rather have the new iPhone or Android phone instead of spending their hard earned on a Blackberry.  So if we just look at market share then I would say they are not relevant.

What happens though if we look at the bigger picture and not just smartphone market share?

I had the pleasure last week of having a go on a new Blackberry Passport and I will be honest I liked it. The screen is good, the keyboard is good and I can see who it is aimed at – business users. Business users will tend to edit spreadsheets and word documents, write emails etc rather than browse Facebook or watch videos. Business users are where Blackberry sees their future (going back to your roots as such) and with the Passport and the new Classic they have two phones with the traditional keyboard which business users like because they can type quicker.  If I wasn’t already immersed in the Android ecosystem I would definitely consider the Passport.

Lets not forget security as this is what Blackberry is all about.  Blackberry servers are renowned for being secure and with Blackberry Enterprise 12 they have a product which works cross platform so if a company uses iPhones instead of Blackberries that is not an issue.  In the enterprise this is a real bonus. Lets not forget Blackberry Messenger too.

So yes their market share is dismal but if Blackberry target the right users (ie business) with their new and existing products and forget about taking on Android and Apple they may well surprise a lot of people in the next couple of years.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

Are we starting to come full circle?

There was a time when people purchased a local copy of software they needed and installed it on their system (usually a Windows PC).  Then came the cloud and people started to access what they needed online and hence stopped buying software to install on their system.  Now we have apps which, you have guessed it, people purchase and install on their systems and in some ways have taken us back to the “old’ days.

When the cloud came along it was hailed as a breakthrough in IT (and it really is). You no longer needed a specific operating system to access your data.  With the cloud you can access your emails, productivity software using either Google Apps or Office 365, invoicing, remote software etc. The possibilities are endless because all you need is a browser (that is why Chromebooks work so well).

Into the fray came tablets and smartphones devices, which were meant to access the cloud services on the go, and with the tablets and smartphones came apps.  Apps are essentially programs you install on a local device like we did back in the “old” days. Apps have made it so much easier to access cloud based solutions that people are slowly turning away from using a browser.

At launch Windows RT was hammered because the Windows Store didn’t contain lots of apps. What people failed to realise was that they could still access what they wanted through a browser and that is the whole point of the cloud. You don’t need a specific operating system or piece of software to access a web based service but apps are slowly changing that.  I know of people who are so entrenched in the Apple ecosystem that they couldn’t move to Android because they would lose their apps even though most apps are now cross platform.

Apps are starting to take us back to a time when your choice of operating system was significant meaning we are starting to go full circle.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Windows hasn’t left the building just yet

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that I have recently decided to run my business using Android while still keeping a Linux netbook for configuring routers.  I find Android very easy to use and I enjoy using Linux so this setup works for me and it works well.  I also still have a Mac (now fixed and installing Yosemite as I write this) which comes out now and again as I have some clients who use them but one omision you will have noticed is a Windows based system.  I do have Windows virtual machines setup on a Debian Linux server but I use them so rarely that it is not actually worth mentioning.  In my business Windows hardly gets a look in.

There have been numerous articles floating around the internet over the last 12 months about the aparent demise of Microsoft and that Windows will slip away into obscurity. This is not going to happen anytime soon as Windows is so entrenched in the corporate world it would take something monumental to shift it.  Yes there are some businesses like mine who decide they can get by without Windows but having Windows in a business environment (in some description) is the norm at the moment.

How much of a norm I found out last week.  A lot of my work at the moment revolves around Cisco and the installation of routers and switches. Alongside this I also install quite a few Verizon GSM modems and Viprinet VPN routers.  It was while installing a Viprinet VPN router last week I got caught out.

Install Vipinet and connect up aerials – check.

Connect up netbook to start configuration – check.

Run exe file – bugger.

Exe files as a rule don’t run under Linux (this one didnt even under Wine) and I didn’t have a Windows machine with me.  Not being able to run the exe file meant not being able to start the configuration, which meant I would have to come back to site again and since the site was in Irvine that meant another 134 mile round trip.  This was turning out to be one of those days.

So long as manufacturers use exe files to setup hardware there will still be a need for Windows. Will this change over time? Maybe but at the moment I think it is time to dig out my old Acer Aspire netbook for thoses times when I have no choice but to use Windows.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Turn your android phone into a “proper” sat nav

Anyone who has been following my posts on either LinkedIN or Twitter over the last couple of weeks will know I have been on a permanent roadtrip around Scotland for work. I have been to some amazing (and not so amazing) places and met some wonderful people but the one thing I have come across time and again is the lack of 3G signal. I have covered this in other blog posts so I will not go over old ground, however there is one issue I just had to solve and that is navigating with my phone. Google maps is great when you have 3G (or wifi) but is pretty useless when you don’t have either.  I have lost count of the amount of times I have started shouting at my phone because it lost signal and I have no idea where I am!!

Hopefully I have found a fix and it is called MapFactor Navigator which you can download and install through Google Play.  Once installed you have two choices – use it like Google Maps (ie with 3G) or even better buy and download the TomTom maps onto your phone which in effect turns your phone into a fully functional sat-nav!! I could buy a “normal” sat nav from Amazon etc but they cost a hell of a lot more so I thought I would try this out first.

Initial testing has proved to be positive and hopefully this app can prove itself over the next couple of weeks when my “Canonball Run” continues. If you travel to some remote places (for work or pleasure) I suggest you take a look.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

My journey to Android

A while back I wrote a blog stating I could now use Android to run my business but would I want to? After writing it I decided to run a test to see if it was feasible so I have been slowly moving my software across to Android over the last couple of months. Well two weeks ago my MacBook died so I decided to take the plunge and go all Android.  I am suprised how easy it was and if I am honest I would find if very difficult to switch back to a traditional PC or laptop running Windows or Mac OSX (still use Linux on my servers).  My tablet of choice is the Lenovo S6000 which is a fantastic piece of equipment with a very sharp screen, 1 GB RAM and 16GB storage running Android JellyBean. I have also coupled it with a usb keyboard case which effectively turns it into a mini laptop.

There is a core of packages that I need to run my business – word processing, remote desktop, remote system monitoring, emails and of course printing.

Accessing files

Trying to store all your files on a tablet can be a pain as tablet hard drives are small. To mitigate this I would suggest using cloud storage and in my case I use Dropbox.  I have used Dropbox for the last 5 years and it has never let me down. I highly recommend it.

Word Processing

For word processing I use Docs 2 Go which has the ability to open cloud based files and also save them back to their original position in the cloud which is very handy. You can open and edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint files and so far I can even do my work books through a spreadsheet.

Emails and Calendering

These are covered by the inbuilt apps. My emails are setup as IMAP (stored on server) and since I use Google Calendar I can sync my calendar across multiple devices without the need for Outlook.

Remote Desktop and System Monitoring

This is covered by Teamviewer and Pulseway and out of all the apps I use these two are probably the most important and they work well.  Teamviewer on a tablet is a breeze, especially with a stylus.

Invoicing

I have recently switched all my invoicing to Invoice2go which makes my life so much easier!!! It allows you to produce professional looking invoices quickly for a small yearly fee and works across multiple devices by syncing with the cloud. It also has the ability to log your clients details therefore becoming a mini crm.  This has become one of my “must have” apps.

Printing

This is the one area I was most worried about but I have solved it by using a combintaion of HP ePrint and Google Cloud Print. Google Cloud Print was very easy to setup and printing to a HP wireless printer from a tablet is easy.

I would say that my business has specific needs and these needs are more than covered by the Android ecosystem but this will not be the same for everyone.  If you use a specific package which only runs on Windows (eg ACT!) then this approach will definitely not work.

As always though it is nice to have the choice of which platform you want to use.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Is that “old tech” any good?

Everyone has some form of “old” tech lying around the office or house.  With tablets, smartphones, laptops etc getting better with every new model released people are upgrading their “old” machines for something new and shiny which they think will provide their computing fix better.  The reality is the old system will do 90% of the things the new one does, if not more.


Take my Blackberry Playbook as an example. It never really sold well when it was first released and only discounts started to get the stock off the shelves.  When Blackberry announced that BB10 wasn’t coming to the Playbook they effectively killed it off overnight.  Mine has been getting used less and less over the last 12 months due to the purchase of an Android tablet and HTC Desire 500 smartphone.  Between the two they allow me to work from anywhere without the need for a clunky laptop.

Well last night I dusted off the Playbook to see what it can still do and I remembered why I had got it in the first place.  I can email on it, open documents from my Dropbox account and save them back online, browse the web, connect remotely to my Linux servers and even play games!! All of this I had forgotten because I had caught the Android bug 12 months back.  Yes it has its limitations with no Teamviewer app (lack of apps in general), restricted printing options and no Skype to name a few but I can still do work on it.  I am guessing that some of that old tech you have lying around would still allow you to do the same.

There will always come a time when the tech we have no longer does what we need it to do and that is when we should upgrade not when something shiny comes along and promises us the world!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

I can now run my business from an Android tablet but the question is do I want too?

I was happily working away on my MacBook last week invoicing some clients for recent work when it hit me – I have got to the point where I could now do all this on an Android tablet rather than a MacBook. Surprising thought when you think about it, but as surprising and intriguing as it was the next thought was why would I want too?


Let me explain. At the moment most of my daily tasks involve using Libreoffice and Chrome a lot, along with Thunderbird for my emails and Dropbox for storing files.  I also use Teamviewer to access my virtual machines which are stored on  a linux server. On the whole this setup suits me well.  I do like to use a “desktop” browser as I find I usually work faster than with a mobile one.

I currently use my 7 inch tablet for taking notes during client visits, internet, checking wireless signals etc and it performs these jobs well.  It wouldn’t take much thought to put my email accounts on it, add my social media accounts and start doing some “real” productivity work on it.  I could very easily use apps on the tablet which would cover all of my current needs and probably cover them very well.  For example there are apps like Docs to Go which provide most of the office functionality I need (good app by the way).

But there are also some slight niggles which, while not being a show stopper, would seriously limit my enjoyment.  The first is dual monitors.  I use a second monitor with my MacBook and I must admit it makes my life so much easier.  Dual monitor setups for Android are to the best of my knowledge “limited” to say the least.  If anyone would like to write and app that allows me to expand my android tablet to a second monitor I would buy it!!

The next is printing. I use HP ePrint on my phone which integrates very well with the inbuilt email client allowing me to print off my emails.  It doesn’t integrate at all with Docs to Go and other productivity suites meaning I would have to save documents to Dropbox first and then print from there. No big hassle but when you get used to just printing from anywhere on your system it takes a while to get used to a different way of working.

So yes while I can do all my business work from a tablet I won’t be switching fully across because my current setup does everything I need.  What I am more likely to try is to do certain bits from the tablet to see how we go and if successful maybe take on a bit more over time.

Do you work from an android tablet? Let me know!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

What security should you have on your smartphone?

I remember growing up (boy do I feel old) when phones were the size of bricks and a PC in every house was a fantasy. Fast forward to the present and phones are now “smart” and PC’s are everywhere. Even more surprising is the amount of work we actually do on our phones but this in itself causes unforeseen problems. What happens when you lose it?


If you lose a phone today and it is not locked down (and most aren’t) you would give someone access to your contacts, emails and all your data. In a personal scenario that would be bad but in a business situation that could be devastating. With a few simple tricks though you can avoid that ever happening.

1. Use a passcode to access your phone

It is actually scary how many people don’t have this in place.  A lot of people use a swipe gesture, which is better than nothing, but compared to a passcode is easier to crack.

2. Use a passcode to access certain apps on your phone

I use Dropbox on my phone which accesses all my data (personal and work). The  Dropbox app allows me to configure security in the form of a 4 digit passcode so if anyone wants access to all my data they would have to enter the passcode. Even better is the ability to wipe the data off the phone if someone enters the passcode incorrectly 10 times.  There are numerous apps that allow this form of security in one form or another.  For example the PC Monitor app (which is great by the way) also allows a 4 digit passcode to be setup.

One thing to note is that you should configure different passcodes for individual apps rather than have the same one across all apps (and login). This way if someone does manage to break into the phone they would still have to break into individual apps to get at your data.

3. Use encryption

If you don’t store data in the cloud but on your phone then encryption is a must.  Encryption is also a must if you store other peoples information on your phone.  Encryption comes as standard on all Android phones (but is turned off by default) and also iPhones. Once turned on no one will be able to access anything on the phone without the decryption key (passcode).

4. Remote wipe

In a business environment I would strongly suggest you install an app which allows you to remotely wipe your smartphone if you ever lose it.  If you have implemented the above measures then chances are your data is secure but remotely wiping a lost phone makes sure.  Personally on my HTC Desire 500 (great phone) I use BitDefender Mobile Security which along with the usual virus scanner has Anti-Theft security built in.  This means I can go to a website and locate my phone by GPS but even better is the ability to remotely wipe it meaning all the data on the phone gets erased. If you use an iPhone a good choice would be to sign up to FindMyiPhone which allows the same thing.

One thing I would like to mention here is that although this article is aimed primarily at smartphones the same measures should also be taken with tablets. They can be just as easily lost as a smartphone with access to just as much data.

Stay safe!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

Tablets and the “How do I access my documents?” problem

Tablets are fantastic pieces of kit.  They allow you to work from anywhere (without carrying a “huge” laptop around), are quick to power up, last longer on a charge than a laptop whilst also allowing the user to carry out almost any task they can think of.  There is one big problem though which I came across last week and that is accessing documents.  Let me explain.


A customer rang in last week with a Windows 7 laptop which was running very slow.  It turned out that the hard drive was on its last legs but before it died I managed to get the clients files off and store them onto an external hard drive.  Great all I have to do now is transfer them across to another laptop / PC which the client owns and job done.  One problem though, along with the dying laptop the client owns an iPad.  Last time I checked iPad’s don’t come with USB ports and even if they did the amount of data recovered was 25 GB while the available internal storage on this particular iPad was only 10 GB.  This was not going to happen.

A lot of home businesses use iPads and Android tablets (and slowly Windows tablets too) as secondary devices to a laptop or PC. How do you access your files if you main system dies?

You see iPads, and tablets in general, are designed to work with cloud storage and that’s why they tend not to have huge hard drives.  Connect a tablet upto a Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, iCloud or Google Drive account and you can access all your documents from anywhere and only download the files (or pictures) when you need them.  All of your files will be safely stored online which means that you can never lose them.  You do have to pay a monthly fee but it does depend on the amount of storage you need. Personally I think it is a small price to pay to know your files are safe.

Now I know that some Android tablets come with USB ports and yes they can read external hard drives (I have done this myself) but lugging around an external hard drive just to plug it in to a tablet and read files is a hassle. You also run the risk of damaging the hard drive if it gets knocked.  Get yourself some online storage as it is so much simpler.

And the client? She borrowed a laptop from a friend so at least I could transfer the files across to something. They are now looking into Dropbox.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

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