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Is antivirus getting too bloated?


Antivirus software is essential – fact.  Whether it be a home system or a business one you still face the same threats.  There are loads of software on the market to choose from but one thing I have noticed recently is that most offer ‘other’ services besides antivirus protection.  A lot of them are no longer antivirus software but call themselves ‘Internet Security Suites’ instead.  Lets take AVG Anti-virus 2013 as an example.  Some of the features are:

  • Surf and search with confidence
  • Keep tough threats out
  • Stay protected on social networks
  • Download, share files and chat safely
  • Support and assistance
  • Play games and watch movies without interruption
  • Scan smarter and faster

Sounds impressive but what exactly is ‘Stay Protected on social networks’?  It won’t stop people from slurring you or writing things you don’t want people to know about.  What is Play games and watch movies without interruption all about? Does it increase the speed of the internet connection now?

Some suites offer the facility to backup your files to cloud storage and beefier firewalls. Features like these are not really required on a standard PC.  In a business environment there will usually be a network firewall keeping everyone safe who is behind it.  Why do you need another one on your system which, in my experience, can cause problems.  I had a business laptop once which couldn’t connect to a wifi printer because Norton’s firewall kept blocking the connection.  On a home system Windows comes with a good firewall as standard (except XP) so why change it.

As for cloud storage yes it is handy but call me old fashioned but I want my antivirus to concentrate on one thing and that is to stop virus before they hit my system.  If I want cloud storage I will get some.

All these extra features have one big drawback – computing resources.  Have you tried to run any recent Internet Security Suite on a desktop with 1 GB RAM (a lot of home users and businesses with tight budgets still have these).  The system crawls and it is very hard to actually do work so it defeats the purpose of actually having the software in the first place.

So what do you think is antivirus getting too bloated?

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 it time to streamline Linux?


I love Linux.  It is cracking as a server and not bad on a desktop either but it always comes down to the same old question – which one to use?  I got talking to another tech last week about this.  We started talking about which distros were good as servers (my vote was for Debian by the way!!) and then he said “It would be much better if there weren’t so many distros to choose from”.  I hate to say it but I think he may have a point.

If you look at Distrowatch there are currently 319 linux distributions listed.  Of these over 70 are Ubuntu based (please correct me if I am wrong).  There is also currently about 29 desktop environments.  How much choice do we need?  At this point people will turn around and say that choice is good and that if you don’t find what you are looking for in one distribution then try another one.  I would agree to a point but it does feel like people are reinventing the wheel to some extent.  For example how many distros do we need based on Ubuntu?

I am asked a lot by both clients and friends which distro would I recommend? Usually Linux Mint / Ubuntu for desktop and Debian as a server but then they talk to someone else and they may get Fedora on a desktop and CentOS on a server.  You can see where I am taking this.  You ask a different person for their opinion and you will get a different distro every time.

It can also be a nightmare from a techs point of view too.  When starting out in Linux it is always best to get a grasp of the universal basics (command line etc) but at some point you will want to go distro specific.  Which one? I have stuck with the deb based distros as this is what I have the most experience with.  If I came across an rpm distro in “the wild” I would not feel as confident in fixing any issues it might have.  If you take Windows as an example a tech could learn Windows 7 and still have a good crack at Windows 8.  This is not usually the case with Linux.

Also look at the resources that are currently being wasted.  If you take all the developers that are currently dispersed across 319 distros and combined them into say 5 it would make a huge difference in the way linux is perceived.  With less distros to support hardware manufacturers would start to pay more attention (more drivers available) and so would the general public.  A streamlined Linux would become a much effective force to do battle with the likes of Microsoft and would certainly start to gain market share.

So what do you think? Would a streamlined Linux work?

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

 

How to stop kids running up huge bills on your smartphone

I was speaking to my wife this week (yes it does happen) when she said “I found this website earlier today that explains how easy it is for kids to run up huge bills on your mobile phone by downloading apps, you might want to take a look”

So I did and what I found was shocking!! Read the full article at your leisure.


Basically a 6 year old kid spent £3200 on playing an iphone game where you purchase food for farm animals in order to feed them. Scary hey!!

It is not only iphones that have this problem though.  If you read on the article states that Blackberry keeps you logged in for 20 minutes after purchasing an app, while Google will take your money without you entering a pin when you have set up your details on Google Play.  Sounds like a childs playground to me!!

So how do you stop kids racking up huge bills.  Hopefully this advise will help:

  • Actually use passwords!!!!!

The amount of people who don’t use passwords is shocking.  If there is no password you are giving your children free roam over you device which is not a good idea.

  • Use passwords your kids can’t guess

Kids are very smart so don’t use passwords that they can guess and don’t let them watch when you enter the password.

  • Ask your mobile provider to cap your bills

You can cap your bills at any amount above your normal bill so you don’t get any nasty surprises.

  • Supervise your children

I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to this.  My 2 year old daughter uses my Playbook most days and a lot of the time she does without me watching her.

  • Restrict App purchases

Apple

Go to settings – General – Restrictions and then decide if you want your password entered every time you make a purchase or not.

Android

Set up a PIN with your Google Play account.  This is not the default on most Android phones.

Blackberry

At the moment there is no way to disable the 20 minute login after app purchases.  Come on Blackberry get this sorted!!

Windows

Windows has a great feature called ‘Kids Corner’ which allows your child their own phone area on the handset.  It comes with restricted access to your device and also certain apps/websites/services etc.  This is not set up by default.

Remember you may think you are pretty smart but believe me kids are smarter so lock down your phone!!

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

 

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

 

Using Linux in a small business – cheap and chearful IT?


I have had quite a lot of Linux work recently which makes a nice change.  When out at a clients premises earlier this week I got chatting to one of the employees who out of curiosity asked what it was I was actually doing with the server. To this I replied “installing Linux to act as a file server to share and backup all your data”.  The response I got was “hey I thought Linux was dead – proper old school only for businesses or people who don’t have a lot of money”

I had the same response when talking to another “techie” person this week.  He described it as “cheap and chearful IT” and “businesses only like it because it is cheap”.  As you can imagine I totally disagreed with this.  Even though I love working with Linux, as pointed out in a previous blog, I use whatever tools are available to me.  So if Windows works it gets used.  The same goes for Macs and Linux too.  For small businesses though Linux has a lot to offer such as:

1. File sharing and backups

Linux file servers have less hardware requirements than their Windows counterparts meaning less outlay for the client.  For instance you can set up a Linux file server on a computer with only 512Mb RAM.  Try that with a Windows machine!!  The software is also free so you don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds for licences either.

Linux file servers also require less maintenance.  There is no antivirus software to monitor and less hassle with updates.  You can basically install one and it will quite happily sip electric in the corner of the office with the minimum of maintenance for a very long time.

2. Linux Desktops

Now I would place a wager that most people reading this blog use a Windows system at work.  Now there is nothing wrong with that at all but what happens when you have to upgrade your machine.  Should you go for another Windows machine (Windows 8 maybe?) or can I temp you with another option – Ubuntu.  Now there are literally hundreds of Linux desktop versions but I would suggest new users coming from a Windows environment could do a hell of a lot worse than trying Ubuntu.  It is very easy to use and while yes there is a learning curve it is no worse than going from either Windows XP or 7 to Windows 8.  With all Linux systems you also get the knowledge you will never get a virus too.

ubuntu_desktop

 

This is what your new desktop could look like with Ubuntu.  Not so scary hey?

 

 

 

 

 

3. You are probably already using it

There is a good chance that if you own a smartphone you are already using Linux and that is because of Android.  I bet you didn’t know that?

So to sum up depending on what your business requirements are – Windows, Linux or Mac might be better suited to what you need.  Don’t count out Linux because it is “cheap and chearful” because setup correctly it can be a very powerful tool to help your business run smoothly.

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

 

 

 

How to start a Virtualbox VM at startup in Windows


Usually I use Virtualbox as my main virtualization solution of choice on Linux and not Windows but this week that was not the case.  I had a requirement to install Windows XP inside a virtual machine on Windows 7 which was to run a business critical piece of software. This meant it had to start when the Windows 7 machine starts and this is how I did it.

First thing we need to do is create a batch file so open up Notepad.  Name the file anything you like but make sure it ends in .bat so for example mine was virtualxp.bat.  I then inserted the following text into the file:

cd “c:\Program Files\Oracle\Virtualbox”

vboxmanage startvm “ENTER YOUR MACHINE NAME”

The above code assumes that you have installed Virtualbox in the default location, if not alter the text appropriately.  Enter your machine name should be self explanatory!!

Save the file and place it in the Startup folder which is located at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup.

That is it.  The virtual machine should now start when the host starts.

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

 

 

How open source software is helping to run my business


Today I will show you the virtues of opensource software and how I am using it to run my business.

So what is Opensource software?

Opensource software is software that is written by developers (either individuals or companies) and then distributed freely to anyone who wants it (i.e no license fees).  You are then able to modify the software to your hearts content so that it does exactly what you want.  The developers get paid by providing support to companies that want it.

So what software do I use?

My main server

The bulk of the processing power behind ComTech is my main server running Ubuntu Server 12.04 with 8Gb of RAM.  Ubuntu is a Linux distribution (think Windows but free) that is easy to use and has virtually no virus problems (very handy that).  It is also very versatile in that it can be fine tuned to provide any service you want without having to pay extra license fees.

Desktops

I run various desktops but not in the traditional sense.  I run them as virtual machines using Oracle Virtualbox.  Virtualbox allows me to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same machine.  For example I do the bulk of my work on a Linux Mint 13 desktop (another Linux distribution which is very easy to use) but I also have Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista virtual desktops ready to be fired up when the need arises.  If I need to test a piece of software on Windows 7 I would fire up the Windows 7 virtual machine, test the software and then shut it back down again.  All of this is done on one machine which in this case is my main server.  Virtualbox is a very handy piece of software and guess what it is also free!!

Word Processing (productivity in general)

I use a piece of software called Libreoffice (think Microsoft Office but without the license fee).  It looks and feels (for the most part) like you are using Office and is fully compatible with Office so any document you create in Libreoffice can be opened up and edited in Office itself.

Printing

I have an Edimax MFN print server set up which allows my HP Deskjet F380 printer (old but still going strong) to be shared across the network to any system without the need to be attached to a computer (attaches to the router instead).  It works flawlessly with my Linux operating systems but still has issues with Windows 7 (which I haven’t ironed out yet!!).

Netbook 

I have an Asus Eeepc 701 SD netbook which I bought back in 2008 to use when solving IT issues at clients premises.  The specs on the netbook aren’t great however it runs Lubuntu 12.04 (another Linux distribution – see a pattern?) and has bombproof build quality (it has been dropped multiple times and is kid proof!!).  It is perfect for configuring routers, checking wireless connectivity or browsing the internet.  I am even writing this blog on it while sitting in a coffee shop in Stirling.

Internet

I don’t like Internet Explorer – fact.  I find it has too many configurable items which if configured incorrectly can really bugger up a system.  Don’t like the interface either so instead I use either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.  Now Firefox is fully opensource while Chrome is classed as freeware which is slightly different.  Either way both are superior to Internet Explorer in  my experience.

Backups

I am anal when it comes to backups (it is my job so I have to).  I have an onsite backup server running FreeNAS and also employ online strorage using Dropbox.  FreeNAS is fully opensource and is an operating system specifically designed for backing up data and runs on pretty much any piece of hardware ever made.  I have it running on a Pentium 4 machine with 512 Mb of RAM and it has quite happily been supping electric in the corner for the last two years with no issues.  Dropbox on the other hand is proprietary software where you pay a monthly subscription.  While it is not opensource I have yet to find a product which comes close to it.

Firewall

Every computer needs a firewall and my systems are no different.  I have chosen to go down the Linux Firewall distribution route which basically installs an operating system onto a spare computer and in effect turns it into a hardware firewall.  My firewall of choice at the moment is Smoothwall Express 3.0 which I run in a virtual machine (don’t have any spare computers lying around).  It is even configured to boot whenever the server restarts thereby not leaving my systems unprotected.  By using a Firewall distribution I can protect my entire network rather than only individual systems.

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.

How to share files on Ubuntu 12.10 (Desktop)

Today I will show you how to share files on Ubuntu 12.10.  I will be using the desktop version of Ubuntu 12.10 so this tutorial will not work on the server variant (later tutorials will cover that).


The first thing we need to do is to install the packages we need so open up a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install samba4

Type your root password when prompted.  Then install cifs-utils by typing:

sudo apt-get install cifs-utils

and then type your root password again.

Now that the required software is installed we can configure it so in your terminal type:

sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf

In the configuration file locate the line WORKROUP = WORKGROUP and change it to the name of your network.  So for instance mine would be changed to WORKGROUP = Home_Network1.

Save the file and exit.

It is now time to add users who will be able to access the shared files and we do this by using the smbpasswd file.  Only users specified in the smbpasswd file will be able to access your samba shares and only users who have users accounts on the system can be added.  In your terminal type:

sudo smbpasswd -a user (where user is the name of the person allowed to access the shares)

When prompted enter their new password twice.  If more than one user is allowed to access the share repeat the process.

Now we need to share some files so click Dashboard (top left) and type Samba to open up the file sharing GUI.

 

Click on the Add sign to get the following screen.

Choose which directory you would like to share and give it a share name.  Make sure that you tick both Writable and Visible (shown above).

On the Access tab you can choose which users are able to access the shares.  Click on the user (or users) you added to smbpasswd earlier.

After you do configuration changes in samba you have to restart the service so in a terminal type:

sudo service samba4 restart

Now we have to check the all the configuration files so in your terminal type:

testparm

Testparm will tell you if there are any errors in your configuration.  If everything is Ok then type:

smbclient -L 10.0.0.151 (where 10.0.0.151 is the ip address of your samba server).

This will show you the list of all your available samba shares.  At this point if you have no errors your server is configured correctly.

How to connect to your shared files 

On Linux Clients:

Install samba and cifs-utils either using the package manager or the terminal.  We need to edit the Workgroup field in smb.conf to the name of your network (e.g Home_Network1).

Then we have to mount the available shares.  First decide where you are going to mount them.  I will mount them in /media/dev/share but first I will have to make the directory dev so:

cd /media

sudo mkdir dev

and then ls which should show us the new dev directory in media. To mount the shares at boot you will need to add the following line to /etc/fstab

//10.0.0.155/(share)   /media/dev/share      cifs       username=user,password=pass,user,rw,noatime     0              0

On Windows Clients:

We have to change the workgroup to Home_Network1 and then add the ip address of the samba server to the hosts file (must open as administrator).

Once this is complete map the shares to your computer.

Word of warning here about firewalls.  Either turn them off or add exception rules for traffic on ports 137-139 and 445.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

File and Print Server – Windows or Linux?

Question for you.  If you are a small business (upto say 25 users) and you need a server to share files and printers would you go down the Windows or Linux route?


If you had asked me this question two days ago I would have said if you weren’t on a domain then Linux is the way to go.  But after trying to set up a Ubuntu 12.04 file and print server for a client for the last two days (yes two days!!) I am beginning to think otherwise.  The file sharing went fine.  I installed samba and then set up the permissions as required and then mapped the shared drive to the Windows machines.  Not a problem.

The problem came when I tried to set up the printer.  The samba configuration files were checked (and rechecked) and had no errors but no matter what I tried I could not share the printer successfully across the network.  After a lot of head scratching and cursing I think I have finally found the problem – drivers.  The one big downfall with Linux is hardware drivers (it is getting better though) and especially print drivers.

So not only did it make me look bad it also cost my client money as it took me longer to sort out the issues.  In hindsight more research was needed to double check that the printer was supported but in this case the manufacturer stated that it did support Linux for this particular printer.  If this was Windows (and it hurts me to say this) it would have just worked!!

I will be honest and say in future if I can’t guarantee that a printer will work with Linux then I will be installing Windows based file and print servers, whether it be on a domain with Windows Server 2012 (when released), Windows Server 2008 R2 or Small Business Server 2011 or on a workgroup with Windows 7 Professional.

If the client only needs file sharing then Linux is definitely the way the go.

What do 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.

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