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Maybe running your old XP programs after April 2014 is not so easy after all

I have a client that is running a business critical piece of software on an old XP system.  I had a meeting with them last week about their transition to Windows 7 (they hate Windows 8) and the main point of contention is what happens to this software.  They would like to keep it running (the new subscription for the software is £800 per year so I don’t really blame them) so I suggested virtualizing the XP system and running it on the new Windows 7 system when required.  Sounds like a plan.


Virtualizing the system was pretty straight forward using VMWare P2V Converter and because I tend to use Oracle Virtualbox to run my virtual machines I had to tweak the settings a bit.

NOTE: If anyone is going to run a virtualized XP system on Virtualbox you need to set the IDE Controller as PIIX 4 or you will get blue screens when you try and boot.

Once the virtual machine started it was time to test it and this is when the problems started. The business critical software will not run inside a virtual machine!!  I have come across this with games inside a virtual machine but never commercial software before.  I am guessing it is due to copyright laws but whatever the reason it will not run fullstop.  Even Google couldn’t help on this one.

The clients only options are to run the old system (without internet access) on the network and use it only for this software or stump up the yearly subscription fees.

If you have a piece of XP software you need to keep going past April 2014 then I suggest you check if it can be run inside a virtual machine before you get a nasty surprise when it can’t.

About the Author

P1020114

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

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Just how secure is your data?

We all have data.  Some of us have pictures, videos and maybe some documents while others have databases, emails and so forth.  But there is one thing which everyone must do and that is to secure it.  How you do this is a matter of debate as some security features which work for me might not be suitable for the next business but there are a set of ‘ground rules’ which everyone can follow no matter what size business you are.


Physical Security

1. When you are the last person out of the office lock the door so no one can get in.  Sounds simple but you would be horrified by the number of people who go for lunch and don’t. Leave the door open and someone WILL get in.

2. If your business has a server your best bet is a server room however for a lot of smaller companies this is not an option.  In this case position your server OUT OF SIGHT.  If people don’t know you have one then they can’t take it.  I know of one company who positions their server in front of the windows in the front office.  All it takes is for someone to walk past, smash the glass and the server is gone.

3. Don’t allow people to wander into your office unchallenged.  When I first started out I went to see a client to do some work on their server.  I went in the main door and turned into the first office thinking it was the reception.  It wasn’t it was the room they kept their server in and it was empty.  I could easily have walked upto their server unchallenged and started playing.  I could have caused havoc!!

Software related security

1. Use passwords.  The first line of defence when someone has access to your system is your password.  Pick a password that you can remember and DO NOT write it on a postit note and then stick it on the monitor!! It should be a mixture of letters and numbers.  This point also works on tablets and smartphones.  Use passwords to lock them during startup.

2. Encryption. There are loads of options if you are looking to encrypt your files.  Three of the main ones I have come across are BitLocker, TrueCrtypt and DesLock.  All offer full disk encryption and require a password to unlock the drive (BitLocker can also use a TPM chip on the motherboard).  The only downside to using encryption is that if you lose the password (encryption key) you can’t access your data – PERIOD.

3. Wireless encryption. All of us will have used wireless at some point but how many people know how to check the level of your wireless encryption? Almost all wireless access points, by default, come with no encryption and the user is required to set it up (routers from ISP’s will).  Leave your network open and anyone can access it and your data suddenly becomes very tempting.

4. When leaving your laptop unattended lock the screen.  This way no one passing can access your laptop and have a sneak preview of all your files.

Backups

1.Take some!! If you don’t and the hard drive in your laptop or server dies (unless you have RAID) you could lose the lot.  Once you have backed up your data that is not the end of it. You still need to address where are you going to store it? I always tell clients that the backup must be stored in a different location to the computer it was taken from.  For example don’t backup your server to an external hard drive and then the hard drive ontop of the server!!

2. Consider using online backups.  The main advantage of online backups is that all your data is automatically backed up off site.  Be careful though who you go with and check out the security features they offer as part of the deal.  I tend to go with Dropbox for small businesses but some other people prefer Box. Whoever you go with check out their security policies first after all they will be looking after your data.

Data policies

Implement a data policy specifically stating what users can do with your data and more importantly what they can’t.  Get everyone to sign it and review it on a regular basis.  If everyone is ‘singing from the same hymm sheet’ with regards to data security it makes securing your data much easier.

Can you think of anything I have missed? If so please 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

 

 

The world of subscription software

The world is changing people!! Coming to the end are the days when you bought a piece of software which you could call your own and use it as many times as you wanted.  Slowly but surely paying a monthly or yearly subscription for software is becoming the norm.


When Microsoft announced the release of Office 2013 they had slowly but surely moved the goalposts (not in a technical way but a monetary one).  This was the first time that Office was offered on a yearly subscription having always previously been a box set .  Yes you can still buy Office 2013 but not as a disk.  You get access to a download that you can only use on one system whereas the subscription allows you to install on 5 systems (Home Premium) along with a host of features not available if you only bought the download.

It is not only Microsoft that has started charging for a subscription as Google are also at it. Google Apps which was once free (personal use) is now offered on a yearly subscription of $50 whilst Adobe are also charging a subscription for their Creative Suite software like Photoshop.

In the depths of online storage Dropbox, Google Drive and the rest charge a monthly fee if you require more storage space then they offer for free.

So where does this leave the consumer?  To put it blunt out of pocket.  The reason that companies are charging a subscription for their software rather than a one off price is that they can make more money – pure and simple.  Is there anything you can do to mitigate this?

Yes and No.

If you have a copy of Microsoft Office dating back to 2000 – 2010 it will still work for a while yet until Microsoft decides that newer formats will not be compatible and you would have to move over to the subscription model.  You could switch to an opensource productivity suite like Libreoffice which is free and can do almost everything Office can (besides Outlook).  If however you rely on Office in some shape or form you would have to start paying your monthly (Office 365) or yearly (Office 2013) subscription at some point.

It is not all doom and gloom though as subscription software does have its benefits.  You will always be on the most updated software as this would happen automatically and in the case of Microsoft Office (Office 365) and Google Apps you can access it through a browser.  You would also be able to deal with software budgets better as you know how much is spent on a monthly or yearly basis.

At some point though you will be paying (unless you run Linux of course!!).

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

 

 

Why virtualization is not just for the big guys


If you ever hear the word virtualization mentioned in a conversation I will bet that you will immediately think of big companies with hundreds , if not thousands of computers, and big data centers.  What if I told you your small business (with maybe only 1-10 employees) could also benefit from virtualization and that in fact it could make you run more efficient and not cost you any extra money.  I shall now explain how.

The basis of virtualization is very simple.  It is the ability to run multiple operating systems on the same physical hardware at the same time.  So for example you could run Windows XP and Windows 7 on the same computer or even Windows 7 running on a Linux system.  Now I  hear you cry “Why would I ever want to do such a thing?” Let me give you some examples.

Imagine a business owner who purchases a Mac for his business.  He intends to use it everyday but then releases that he still needs Windows to run some software.  Now by installing a piece of virtualization software from the likes of VMWare, Parallels or Oracle Virtualbox he will be able to run both Max OS X and Windows 7 at the same time on his system and switching between the two when he needs too.  He now has the best of both worlds.

Now take another business that runs a mission critical piece of software on Windows XP. They decide to upgrade all their machines in the office to Windows 7 and then realise that the business critical software only runs on XP.  What happens now? They can install a piece of software from VMWare called VMWare converter and convert their physical system into a virtual one!! Install VMWare onto their new Windows 7 system and then upload the ‘old’ XP system as a virtual machine.

So what are the benefits of virtualization then?

1. You can run any software you want on any system you like.

2. You are able to run multiple operating systems on the same hardware which in turn cuts down on hardware costs and also electricity costs too.

3. Very easy to backup your systems.  If the virtual machine becomes corrupt you just delete it and reload a backup copy.  Very fast and simple to recover your systems.

4. The software is free.  You can use VMWare Player, Oracle Virtualbox, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen Server or KVM.  The choice is yours!!

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

 

Linux, Windows or Mac – I don’t really care


I went to a Linux User Group (LUG) last night to meet up with some fellow ‘techies’ and have a natter (I always leave feeling thick!!).  Most of the guys who go only use Linux but some like myself are exposed to both Linux, Windows, and in some cases Mac, in our daily lives.  If I had said I thought Windows was superior in any way to Linux I would have got shot down immediately.  It is not only Linux users who are like this (not all mind you).  I have had numerous ‘discussions’ with fellow IT ‘techs’ who say that they will never use Linux in any way due to it ‘being shit’ and it is only for ‘techies’.  Windows all the way for these guys.

Now I would never say that one operating system is definitely superior to the others but instead I would say that it depends on the situation.  For example if you need a file server for your office then take a look at Linux (in my case either Ubuntu or Debian).  For sharing printers I would say go with Windows (due to availability of print drivers) and if you want graphics then go and get a Mac (I can see the appeal of a Mac but they are overpriced for me).  I could go on and on citing examples but I think you get the point.  However I seem to be in the minority.

Being an IT Engineer when faced with a problem I will use all the available tools at my disposal to fix it.  For example I use Linux Live CD’s to recover data from broken Windows installations while I always carry around (now) a wireless adapter that works on both Linux and Windows systems.  I even have a password cracker (Ophcrack – Linux based) which is very handy when Windows users have forgotten their passwords (non domain)

For me to limit myself to one OS would be foolish as I would be cutting myself off from tools I could use to help my customers.  Windows, Linux or Mac based I don’t really care as long as it does what I need it to do!!

So what do you think? Are you are purist or someone who likes to dabble in the dark side?

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

 

 

 

Have you tested that software yet?

April 8th 2014.  You may want to add that date to your diary as it is the end of support date for Windows XP.  If you are still on Windows XP after that date you will not get any further security updates from Microsoft and your systems will be vunerable to all sorts of nasties if they are connected to the internet.


But that seems ages away so why should I worry right know?

True it is still a while away but it is always better to start planning these things early so you don’t end up struggling to make the switch right at the end.  Another thing to think about is will your software run on Windows 7 (or even Windows 8)? Getting systems for employees and training them up on the new operating system is one thing but not having a piece of business critical software running correctly (if at all) is a BIG problem.

If you start thinking about what software you use now, along with slowly upgrading your systems then the cost in terms of training and system outlay can be spread out.

OK so you know what software you currently have and what you will probably need in the future but how do you go about testing it with Windows 7?  You have the following choices.

1. Go out and purchase a system with Windows 7 and install the software on it.  Use the software over a period of time (personally I would say one month) and try to accomplish tasks you would do on a daily basis.  This should give you an idea how the software performs on the new operating system.

2. Install Windows 7 as a virtual machine on your existing system and test the software as described above.  The advantage of this method is that you only have to purchase a copy of Windows 7 and not a complete system.

3. If your software is not able to run on Windows 7 you can try either running it inside a Windows XP virtual machine, running it in XP Compatibility Mode or you may have to purchase a similar piece of software which does run on Windows 7.

Whichever method you chose I would strongly suggest you start thinking about testing your software sooner rather than later.  In doing this any teething issues that you weren’t expecting can quickly be resolved (my printer doesn’t work with Windows 7 — argh!!).

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

Teamviewer Tutorial


Today we shall have a look at a piece of remote desktop software called Teamviewer. Teamviewer is the software that we use to connect to our client’s computers remotely and solve any problem they might have.

Teamviewer can be installed from here and works on all the major platfroms.  Once installed you will get a view identical to the one below.

 

 

Teamviewer console displayed on Linux Mint 12

 

 

You will notice that Your ID and Password are displayed.  You must give this information to the person who will be taking control of your system.  The Id of your computer will not change, however the password will change after every session thus removing the possibility of anyone getting onto your computer without your knowledge.  Once a session has been established the client (the person who is getting the help) can retake control of their computer at any time by moving the mouse.

You will also notice that you have a choice of either remote control or file transfer.  On Windows systems Teamviewer 7 also allows VPN connection (discussed below).  File transfer is very handy when you have to transfer files over the internet quickly.

VPN connection

First we have to set up an unattended session which will allow us to log onto another computer with a specified password even if no one is in attendance. On the main console page you will Set up an unattended session which is located underneath Password.  Click on this and enter the required details.

Once this is set up I always find it easier to setup a teamviewer account.  There are two reasons for this.  The first reason is I can then vpn into my systems using a web browser which can be convenient when you are out and about.  The second is that the web interface allows me to manage all my accounts in one place.  You can set up a teamviewer user account here and click on web login.  Once completed you should get the screen displayed below.

All the computers that you have already setup will be visble in the top left of the screen under My Computers.  You can add further computer accounts using the web interface by clicking on Add new partner which will then give you the screen below.

Change the Partner type to Compuer (as shown) and Group to My Computers (as shown). Fill in the ID and Alias as appropriate.  The password is not the teamviewer password but any password you choose.  Once completed the new partner will be visible in the top left of the screen under my computers.  To connect to it just double click.

So to round off Teamviewer is a very versitile piece of software that allows you to take control of another computer by either a web based interface or your own computer.  Go and have a play and see what you think.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

The Blue Screen of Death


Everyone has come across this problem at some point.  The windows blue screen or more commonly the blue screen of death (BSofD) can be caused by either a software or hardware glitch and it can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause.  This tutorial will outline the steps you should take to discover the cause.

1. Write down the error code.  If the blue screen happens a second time and the code is the same then you have a memory issue.  Go to www.memtest86.org and download the iso, burn this to disk and run it the next time you reboot.  Memtest will check your memory and should be run overnight.  If you receive any errors it is time to change your memory.

2. Did you change any software configuration or update drivers prior to the system crashing?  If so go back and undo any changes you might have made.

3. Next thing to check is the event log.  If your system crashes it will leave an entry in the log. For example it might say that a certain file is corrupt or that a driver failed.  The event log will usually point you in the right direction.

4. If there is no clear cause detailed in the event log then it is time to run a full virus scan.  Virus’ have been known to infect files and cause the blue screen.

5. Finally run chkdsk on your hard drive.  Your system might be crashing because your hard drive is failing.  Chances are though that the problem lies in one of the steps outlined above.  The blue screen is ‘usually’ caused by either buggy drivers or bad memory.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

Open Source Software


Here at ComTech I love open source software.  Not only because it is free but also because it gives the user choice.  Open source software is packed full of features that are usually only found in their more pricey cousins and today we shall explore some of the best open source software on the market.

Word Processing

Love it or hate it Microsoft Word is still the standard for word processing.  Bundled within the mighty Office 2010 suite (priced at £110) everyone thinks there is no alternative.  Enter far left Libreoffice Writer.  Bundled as part of the fantastic Libreoffice suite Writer can open any word document, save documents in .doc format and is just as competent as Word.  There are slight differences in the way the menus work but not enough to distract from the functionality of the program.  Libreoffice can be found at http://www.libreoffice.org/download/?type=win-x86&lang=en-GB.

Spreadsheets

Like Microsoft Word  Microsoft Excel has been the standard for spreadsheets for a long time.  But again as part of the Libreoffice suite I give you Libreoffice Calc.  Based on the same philosophy as Writer it is fully compatible with Microsoft Excel without having to pay for the licence fee.

Email / Calender Tool

Almost everyone will have used Microsoft Outlook for emails and the reason is it is a cracking piece of software.  But what are the alternatives?  One you should try is Evolution.  Evolution works on both Windows and Linux and is just as functional as Outlook.  It is easy to set up email accounts and saving email settings is just a couple of clicks away.  Overall it is probably slightly easier to use than Outlook and I would definately recommend it.  It can be found here.

Desktop Publishing

The experts choice has to be Microsoft Publisher 2010.  It supports professional colour formats and uses the familiar Office ribbon menus.   It also comes with a wide selection of pre-designed templates which makes it easy to get up and running in no time.  The alternative here is Scribus.  In many ways Scribus is much more powerful the Publisher 2010 however it can be slightly harder to get to grips with but it does include excellent online help and guidance for all levels of user.  It is available for Linux and Mac and can be found at www.scribus.net

Antivirus

There are literally hundreds of free antivirus products on the market but the one that stands out and comes recommended by me is Avast Free.  This is a great little program which runs quietly in the background checking your computer with its real time shields and updates automatically.  You do have to register it but the licence is free and lasts for 1 year when you just register it again!  Download it at www.avast.com/free-antivirus-download.

Photo Editing

Adobe Photoshop is the undisputed king in photo-manipulation software but as always there is an alternative and this time it comes in the form of Gimp.  Gimp is a credible alternative to Photoshop, with many advanced features and even shares a similar menu layout.  It also comes with support for pretty much every file format you can think of it is a great way of learning the ropes of advanced photo editing without spending any money.  Gimp can be found at www.gimp.org/downloads.

There are many more free alternatives to mainstream software which we don’t have time to explore.  The best way to learn about open source software is use the internet and remember open source can be used for business as well as individuals.  Go learn!!!

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support, Laptop repairs and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

 

 

Installing Linux software from source


You should always try and install software through your distributions package manager but there will be times that you want a particular package that is not included.  This is when you will need to install it from source.  This tutorial will show you how.

Ok download the source code for the package you want.  Open up a terminal and switch to the directory where you saved the source code.  For example, I usually save to my desktop so I would type:

cd /home/chris/Desktop

Next just check that your downloaded source code is there by typing:

ls

Assuming that you can see the file you are after we will now need to extract the contents.  Type one of the following depending on whether your file ends in tar.gz or tar.bz2.

tar -xvzf./filename.tar.gz or tar -xvjf./filename.tar.bz2

Now we change to the directory we just extracted the files to by typing:

cd (package name)

At this  point I would recommend taking a look at the ReadMe file.  It will contain any specific install instructions.  You can find it by typing:

ls

If there are no specific instructions you now configure the files by typing:

./configure

Next we build the package by typing:

make

And finally we install it:

make install

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support, Laptop repairs and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

 

 

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