1: ComboFix When the standard antivirus/malware software can’t seem to find the problem, ComboFix almost always does. It also looks for and removes most rootkits and Trojans. To use this tool, you must completely disable all antivirus solutions (and you should completely remove AVG). Caution: If ComboFix is not used properly, it can wreak havoc on the [...]
Not my usual type of blog but I was inspired just when i was loosing my faith in humanity…
Blackberry have been loosing their grip on the market for some time now but all their hopes and future of the business is relying on their latest BB10 smartphone which has just been announced. Everyone is saying how amazing it is but lets look a little deeper into this. The BB10 is based on a [...]
This is a truly incredible opportunity for charities. I am sure that all of you know loads of charities and not for profit organisations that could benefit from this? I know a whole bunch straight off that we work with and will be getting in touch with them to see if they are already taking advantage of [...]
When the standard antivirus/malware software can’t seem to find the problem, ComboFix almost always does. It also looks for and removes most rootkits and Trojans. To use this tool, you must completely disable all antivirus solutions (and you should completely remove AVG). Caution: If ComboFix is not used properly, it can wreak havoc on the machine you’re trying to fix.
ProduKey will help you get product keys from installed applications so that when you need to migrate to a new machine, you can continue using those costly licenses. ProduKey will recover keys from more than 1,000 software titles, including Microsoft Office, Adobe, and Symantec. When you use this tool, you will have both the product ID and the product key; the ID is important because it will tell you which version of the software is installed.
3: Hiren’s BootCD
Hiren’s BootCD is a one-stop-shop Linux boot disk that can help you pull off a number of small miracles. Its tools include Antivir, ClamWin, ComboFix, Clonedisk, Image for Windows, BIOS Cracker, 7-Zip, Bulk Rename, Mini Windows XP, CCleaner, and Notepad++, among others. This single bootable disk could easily be the only tool you need.
4: Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials is one of the better free antivirus tools available. Its tagline, “The anti-annoying, anti-expensive, anti-virus program,” is true. When the firm I work with was looking for a new free solution, we tested Microsoft Security Essentials against AVG Free and Avast Free and found Microsoft Security Essentials to be superior, less intrusive, and less resource intensive.
Note: Microsoft Security Essentials can be used for free for up to 10 PCs. Beyond that, you can purchase the business version, System Center Endpoint Protection.
WinDirStat is the program you need when you must know what is taking up the space on a hard drive. When C drives begin to fill up, performance degrades rapidly. It’s essential to have a tool to help you discern what is gobbling up the precious space on a machine, and WinDirStat is the foremost app for getting this information quickly.
CCleaner gets rid of temporary files and Windows Registry problems faster than any other tool. When a machine is having problems, this is almost always the tool I use first. CCleaner also helps ensure privacy by getting rid of traces left behind (such as cookies) by Web browsers.
Note: It is legal to use CCleaner Free for business use. However, CCleaner Business Editioncomes with a few more features (including one-click cleaning) than the free version.
Defraggler blows away the defragmenting application in all Windows operating systems. It’s faster, more reliable, and more flexible than the built-in tools. With Defraggler, you can defrag a single file or an entire drive. Defraggler supports NTFS and FAT32 systems.
7-Zip is the best file archiver/compression tool (outside of Linux command-line tools). It’s open source and works on multiple platforms. Once you install it, you will find 7-Zip has Explorer support and a simple GUI tool that any level of user can manage.
SyncBack is a reliable, easy-to-use backup utility. No, you won’t be recovering from bare metal, but you can save your precious data. SyncBack can synchronize data to the same drive, a different drive or medium (CDRW, CompactFlash, etc.), an FTP server, a network, or a zip archive.
FileZilla reminds you that the cloud has not made FTP useless. There are plenty of reasons you might need FTP, so why not use one of the best and most cost effective FTP clients? And if you need an easy-to-use FTP server to slap up on your Windows machines, FileZilla has one.
Not my usual type of blog but I was inspired just when i was loosing my faith in humanity…
This is a truly incredible opportunity for charities. I am sure that all of you know loads of charities and not for profit organisations that could benefit from this?
I know a whole bunch straight off that we work with and will be getting in touch with them to see if they are already taking advantage of this or if we can help them to utilise this.
What does it mean?
Google Grants is the nonprofit edition of AdWords, Google’s online advertising tool. Google Grants empowers nonprofit organisations, through $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords™ advertising, to promote their missions and initiatives on Google.co.uk.
What are Google Adwords?
Create an account at www.google.com/adwords You create ads and choose keywords, which are words or phrases related to your organisation.
- daily budget set to £200 GBP, which is equivalent to about £6,000 per month
- maximum cost-per-click (CPC) limit of £0.60 GBP
- Only run keyword-targeted campaigns
- Only appear on Google.co.uk
- Only run text ads
Please be aware of some important criteria regarding the programme.
- You must have a website and your ads must link to a page on your website.
- The keywords that you target must be relevant to your programme and services.
- Your website cannot display revenue-generating ads, such as Google AdSense or affiliate advertising links, while participating in Google Grants.
- The ongoing, active management of your advertising campaign is your organisation’s responsibility once your account is active
Click here to learn more.
If you need any help to run your campaign, then Colins IT can assist. For just £50 + VAT per campaign we will set-up and configure your adwords account. Please drop us an email email@example.com or a comment below or give us a ring – 0800 10 777 82.
Google is ending availability of the free version of its Google Apps online for small businesses. They have indicated they want to provide a stronger and more uniform experience to users.
In a blog post, Google said that now even small businesses with ten or fewer users will have to pay to use its online app platform, up to now this has been free. All businesses will now be charged US$50 per user, per year, for the service.
The good new is that Google Apps will remain free for individual users, as well as existing business customers that currently use the free version.
“Google Apps for Business,” the company’s paid offering, provides its email, calendar and online office suite as an all-in-one service, allowing them to be used on private domain names and adding features such as 24-hour phone support. It also offers features such as an archiving service and additional storage for at an extra cost of course.
Google has not officially said how many users they have although they did claim to have over 40 million users, the majority of those are believed to be non-paying. Google competes with Microsoft’s “Office 365″ online service, which offers an email service and online versions of its Word, PowerPoint and Excel programs from $6 per user, per month, which are increasingly integrated with the standard software versions.
The issue with both these services is that neither offer support from either Google or Microsoft. Support is community driven. Sitting here, running my own business, that is not a business solution to me. If our email goes down, i need to know what’s wrong and how quickly we can get it back up.
We provide email services to clients and again, if something goes wrong, we can fix it and our clients knowing we are working on fixing it. We don’t sit there going, well I am sure that Google are working on it, hoping that the issue you are facing is actually a global one as opposed to something that only effects your company.
A blog post by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, said the service is used by “millions of businesses.” Bavor said eliminating the free version will help remove confusion about Google’s different offerings and provide a better experience for its business customers, who “quickly outgrow the basic version.”
It is not that difficult Clay, it is free for 10 users and then you start paying for it. You made it complex all by yourself. We are just the customer!
Google has a big interest in winning over corporate customers. They will offer a service that lets businesses publish mobile Android apps for internal use on their own version of the Google Play online store, as well as online storage that scales up to thousands of terabytes.
Since launching a paid version of its online product in 2007, Google has gradually scaled down the size of businesses that can use it free of charge. In 2009, the limit was set at 50 users, and in 2011 it was lowered to ten users, in 2013 it is down to zero.
Want any more info or help? Get in touch with us…
OK so this blog entry is a little different from most of our technical posts. More of a little story that i hope you enjoy it…
While people expect fair pay for their services, we all know that money isn’t king. Nevertheless, when it comes to business we all too often act as if it were. We think purely in terms of salaries, bonuses, and people’s positions on the org chart. While we pay lip-service to the idea that people may have non-financial motivation for their work — acknowledgement, appreciation, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment and so forth — we spend all our time working out how to incentivize our workforce with financial rewards.
What an awful way to think about people! Yes, money and status matter, but it can be inhibiting soul-destroying and morally corrupting for managers when companies place too much emphasis on them At some point, after all, doesn’t exaggerated pay feel like a bribe?
In my experience by far the best way to motivate your employees is to find ways that they can take pride in their skills and their knowledge. When you do this, you very quickly discover that people stop being passive followers and start to share their insights and ideas. Instead of being loyal to their pay checks they become loyal to the company.
To illustrate, let me share something a friend witnessed as consultant to a western private equity investment firm on their investment in a sawmill located in a small, secluded town in Northern Russia. One of the problems the German manager of the mill faced was integrating some disaffected employees, whom according to deeply ingrained local practice he could not fire. Ivan was the worst of the troublemakers. His heavy drinking on the job and bad temper constantly created problems for his foreman and fellow workers.
The mill was in the process of installing a new slicing machine that would vastly improve productivity and quality. One of the management routines I had introduced was a daily brief “brainstorm” meeting between management and the Austrian technician sent by the supplier to help install the machine. Unfortunately the workers lacked the technical know how required to communicate and work effectively with the Austrian technician. Furthermore, there were scarcely any qualified technicians in this remote place. As we were discussing the problem, the secretary who was taking notes said, “Believe it or not, the only one that understands a great deal about technical matters is Ivan”.
So my friend met with Ivan early the following morning before he had drunk too much and could still function. He looked him straight in the eyes and said “Ivan, the company needs you for a complicated and important task that only you in this factory can perform successfully” and proceeded to explain the work he would do with the Austrian technician and the bonus he would receive upon successful installation. He pondered for a second and said: “Will do”. His behaviour from then on changed completely. No drinking, no fighting, no trouble. Instead he cooperated seriously and effectively with the Austrian who was enchanted by his intelligence and technical skills. Not only was the machine installed in record time but Ivan’s qualities inspired the German Manager to appoint him as Technical Director of the mill.
Ivan didn’t need to do this. He was reasonably well paid and his job was secure. What made the difference was that we had given him an opportunity to be proud of himself by allowing him to put his expertise and skills to good use. It’s precisely this kind of intervention that managers are supposed to be there to do. So when you’re thinking about ways to motivate your work force, always acknowledge and praise their worthwhile contributions and try to find out more about their interests, their backgrounds, their skills. These will give you insight into their non-financial, intrinsic motivations, which, as Ivan’s transformation illustrates, can be far more powerful levers than money.
Apple actually produce their own professionally produced documentation to help both administrators and users find the help they need. Here’s where to find it.
Apple produces some fantastic documentation for administering their products and software but unfortunately, many administrators and end users are simply unaware the instructional guides actually exist. So, take a look at Apple’s Manuals site and see what you think.
Separate guides are featured for iPads, iPods, iPhones, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. A simple manuals search option is available, too, as are category listings for iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac desktops, Mac notebooks, Mac OS and Software, Apple TV, Peripherals and Servers, and Enterprise Software. Users can quickly drill down and access the help information or instructions they seek by clicking one of the featured headings or leveraging the available search function.
Loads of studies and statistics prove that providing software training for your staff pays dividends. Even basic application training help employees to be more effective, better perform tasks and become more productive. But in a recessionary environment, and whenever the economy contracts, training budgets are often the very first reduced or eliminated altogether. Hell, I was even in a training company when this happened in around 1998. We closed the department because people were simply not investing in training any more.
Free and effective resources, such as Apple’s own documentation, become invaluable. By leveraging these ready-made resources, Apple based businesses can utilise these materials to their administrators and straight to end users to help reduce help desk calls.
Administrators will find more than 350 manuals just for server and enterprise topics. From mail server administration to Mountain Lion Server upgrades, as well as a wide variety of pre-packaged documents, guides and manuals, almost all of which break down complex processes into simple step-by-step instructions.
End user instruction
One major advantage of Apple’s long-time simplification focus is the fact many users, seeking to perform common tasks, can simply be provided links to Apple’s documentation for those tasks. Here are a few example;
- configure email accounts on your iPhone (chapter 6)
- learn to use multiple calendars (chapter 10)
- improve Final Cut Pro skills
- run diagnostics to troubleshoot a problematic Internet connection
Apple’s Manuals site maintains hundreds of very useful guides that Mac businesses can distribute to get the most our of their technology investments.
There is no quicker way to realise how much you rely on your internet connection when it suddenly drops off. You get the dreaded and hated “Internet Explorer can not display this page” and your email say it’s trying to connect.
Here are some tips and ideas on what to do when this happens so that you don’t go completely insane. At the same time, it may be a good idea to look at building in some Internet redundancy by having a second Internet connection. With a phone line around £15 per month and a broadband connection around £20, it is a very small price to pay per month verses the amount of money you probably lose per hour when your staff can’t work. Contact us here for more info - http://www.colins-it.co.uk/contact.html
However, while you are down, here are 9 ways to stay productive. If you have a power outage to boot then some of these may not be relevant.
1: Use Windows offline folders or on-line briefcase
It is always very useful when travelling, having a copy of all the data you require on your laptop. Same concept apply if the server goes down, each computer has a copy of the data that synchronises around the office and into the cloud whenever a file is added or updated. This starts from only £10 per month for 512GB of data. You can also take advantage of the Windows offline files feature. It allows you to mark folders on network drives as available for offline use. The contents of the folders are then cached to the laptop’s hard drive. This way, you can always access your files, regardless of whether you’re connected to the network. When you do connect, the changes are synchronised.
2: Find another way to get online
If you’re at home or at the office and the Internet goes down, the most sensible solution might be to find another connection. Probably won’t work for a big office but either use your mobile phone, a 3G dongle or head off to Starbucks or similar coffee shop with Wi-Fi internet access.
3: Print what you’ll need
If you have a big report to go through and you are having issues with connecting to the network or will have issues with power on your laptop, then print it out and work on it manually. Sometimes going back to paper can be productive if you are facing computer problems at that specific point in time.
4: Answer emails
With no internet, it is a great time catch up on all those emails you have not answered yet. Microsoft Outlook caches Exchange Server mailboxes in an .OST file. This means that Outlook can display your email messages, contacts, tasks, and calendar, even if it can’t connect to Exchange. This caching makes it possible to reply to email messages even without Internet connectivity. Your replies will be sent once a connection to the mail server can be re-established.
If you have email on your phone then you can often keep going by reading and replying to emails on there or your iPad etc until you are fully operational again. Works very well when you are out the office.
5: Take care of other neglected tasks
If the Internet is going to be down for a hopefully short time period that doesn’t involve heading over to Costa / Starbucks then do those tasks you have been meaning to get round to doing but never seem to have a chance. For example, clean your desk or work on your latest travel expense report. Renew your tax disc or actually put tax disc in the car!!
6: Take the Internet offline with you
If you need to do a lot of research while travelling then you can download various websites that you need to look through / read by using a feature in Internet Explorer that makes Web page contents available offline. Simply cache the pages you need before heading out the door.
7: Give your brain a break
The idea of taking a brain break probably seems really out of place, especially since this article is all about staying productive when no Internet service is available. Taking a short break often improves productivity. And what better time to take a break than when your ISP is having an outage? Just put your swimming costume on and head out the door. Just be careful if it’s winter or if you’re living in the UK!!
8: Have a brain storm staff meeting
If you work in an office environment and your Internet service goes offline, one way to remain productive is to have an brain storm staff meeting. The outage may give you time to go through outstanding issues, catch up on the status of various projects, and discuss issues that might ordinarily have been neglected.
9: Return phone calls
Most people have a string of phone calls to make that they put off. If you have a VOIP system you are stuffed although you probably have a mobile phone. Now would be a great time to make those calls while there is no facebook on your office PC to distract you.
Linux Ubuntu is a viable and exciting alternative to users who don’t feel comfortable with Microsoft’s latest version of Windows 8. You can read our review on Windows 8 here - http://www.colins-it.co.uk/blog/?p=173
The software giant has launched its latest version of its iconic operating system and has targeted mobile devices like tablets, but many have criticised the company, saying the OS is a departure from what users expect of a desktop operating system.
Linux is a free, open-sourced operating system that also drives Google’s Android OS for smartphones and tablets.
Ubuntu has fallen from favour since its wild popularity in the 1990s when it was associated with aspiring developers who wanted to customise every aspect of how computers functioned. It was greatly pushed in South Africa and even received an endorsement from Nelson Mandela.
The latest version of Linux has become far more user friendly than its earlier iterations and there are a variety of ways that users can try out the OS.
You can download the Ubuntu flavour from the website, ready to burn to a disc and install on a computer or one can download the Windows application that will install the software on a computer and allow dual booting to Linux or Windows. Which mean you can choose when you boot up your computer to run Linux or Windows.
For those who remember Linux as a geek-only, fidgety software, the OS has undergone remarkable changes: Its user interface is easy to operate and even traditional Windows shortcuts are supported.
The start screen remains minimalist, but access to documents and applications is easy from the dock on the left, and information, notifications and alerts reside on the top of the screen.
The environment supports navigation of files organised into the familiar categories of Pictures, Videos, Music and Documents, but unlike Windows, one can also directly and easily view all recent documents and applications from the Dash Home launcher.
The OS supports the Ubuntu Software Centre where one can download applications to augment the functionality and it includes applications like LibreOffice Writer, Calc andImpress which are compatible with Microsoft’s Office suite of programmes.
In a News24 test, Linux Ubuntu was installed on two different computers, one with newer hardware and an older machine.
As expected, a computer with Core i3 hardware capable of running Windows 7 was easily able to cope with Ubuntu, but on older hardware with a Dual Core processor, the machine struggled a bit with installation.
Once loaded though, the OS performed well enough, though there were some slowdowns on graphics heavy operations.
Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed. Either move files to a different partition or an external memory drive before booting into Windows. If you have a FAT partition then both Windows and Linux will recognise these files.
For users who feel that they want to commit to Linux, one could install Ubuntu from the DVD drive. Basically have a live system that runs off the CD / DVD and doesn’t touch your current operating system.
The Linux environment presents an easy alternative to established platforms, and beyond the initial adaptation, users should find that there is little hassle in converting.
According to Kaspersky Lab, more than half of computers in Africa that access the web, have older operating systems that may be vulnerable to attack.
Ubuntu is not the only Linux flavour out in the market, but it gets some great reviews and is certainly worth a try as an attractive alternative to users who want to have the latest software at no cost.
How about a fancy Ubantu wallpaper…
There are a few great feature in Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8.
There is plenty to like about Windows 8.
- it can synchronise settings across all your various devicesw
- the File History tool is perfect for simple backups
- there are a host of useful new tools in the Windows Store
- it’s fast
- includes some excellent repair options
- and so on…
However the biggest change is the interface (the way it looks)
The New Start Screen
Log on to Windows 8 for the first time and you’ll notice the colourful new Metro Start Screen. New is often good and exciting however it won’t take long before you run into problems.
The Start menu used to provide easy access to all the programs and settings on your computer however, there is not enough room on the new metro start screen to display all the above so many functions have now been scattered around the system, making them much harder to find.
If experienced users want to customise their new install of Windows 8 – they will find there’s no Control Panel tile. The Start Screen does have its own Settings dialog, but good luck finding it (you need to move your mouse cursor to the top-left corner of the screen to launch the Charms menu, and click Settings). And when they do find it, there won’t be a whole lot there anyway.
Installing new applications is no more difficult than before with Windows 7 and they will extend the Start Screen with tiles of their own. What you won’t find is a Documents menu, or even a clear way of pinning files to the Start Screen.
And it’s not even obvious how to perform a simple task like shutting down or restarting your system which is going to frustrate a lot of new users who just want to use their computer as normal. In Windows 7 clicking the Start button was enough to point you in the right direction: now you have to move your mouse cursor over to the top-left corner of the screen, hit the Settings option (not the most obvious location), click Power and choose the option you need. I suppose a little bit like a MAC…?
But wait!! it’s not all bad news. Once you know how, it will be simple. Their is a simple menu which provides easy access to some system tools: Control Panel, Task Manager, the Command Prompt etc, just press Win+X to see it.
If you press Win+F, or just start typing the name of the program you want, then you’ll launch the Windows 8 search tool which will find what you want. You can also type part of a recent document name to list that file.
This isn’t really the best solution in the world, currently Windows 7 displays matches for Control Panel, Documents, Pictures, Music and Files, all on the same display. Whereas Windows 8 displays results only for Apps, Settings or Files and while there are many more options available (News, Travel, Store) it takes an extra click to view each of these.
Still, the Win+X menu should reduce your initial frustrations, and if you find you’re still lost then the Search tool does a reasonable job of tracking down what you need.
One complication is that Windows 8 has tried to bring together two largely separate worlds: one for the programs you’re running now, and another for its Start Screen apps.
If you want to launch a regular Windows program, then clicking the Start Screen “Desktop” tile will launch something which looks much like the Windows 7 desktop. When you run programs here, matching buttons will appear on the taskbar so that you can switch between them with a click, as you can now with alt + TAB. However you won’t see buttons for any Start Screen apps you have running.
Press the Windows key to switch back to the Start screen and everything changes. You can launch multiple apps, but there’s NO taskbar to switch between them, which means you must move your mouse cursor to the top left corner of the screen to see the previously used app, then drag down to see all the others. And while this will show you the desktop as one of the apps, you won’t be able to switch directly to a specific program which you’ve launched from there.
Of course, you can just use Alt+Tab which will display all your programs on a single screen, whether desktop or Start Screen-based, and allows you to switch to the one you need. But switching from one running program to the next might take a while, especially if you’ve lots of Metro apps running in the background chewing up resources.
The taskbar in windows 8 isn’t as reliable a way to show running programs as it was in previous versions of Windows; users are going to have to learn a whole new Start Screen task management technique which is similarly incomplete; and so even simple task switching can require a little more thought and effort than Windows 7.
The real challenge with Metro apps comes when you want to run them more than one at the same time, because by default they all run full-screen. Although You can run two (only) side by side if you have a high enough screen resolution is high enough (move the mouse to the top of the screen, click, drag and drop the thumbnail to the left to move one app to a sidebar, then run another)
While the desktop still allows you to run multiple regular applications next to each other, in windows sized and positioned to suit your needs, that is not the way it works when using Metro.
The good news is that not everyone is going to be running Metro apps so it is not going to effect everyone. If you are happy with just having and using the desktop then Metro may not bother you however Microsoft seem to think Metro apps are the future so you will probably come up against this problem displaying multiple apps in the near future.
Windows 8 splits functionality between similar Metro and desktop tools. The Internet Explorer app on the Start Screen, is different in functionality to the desktop version and you can’t even switch to the other version.
If you are looking at customising how your computer looks then launching “Personalize” in the Start Screen’s PC settings will give you limited options so if you want more features you have to go to the full Control Panel’s “Appearance and Personalisation” and “Ease of Access Centre”. You can of course use the Search tool but it is quite a different way of working than what most of us are used to.
You may find a few more issues when it comes to Installing new applications. In the past, each time you install a new program, it just adds it to the Start Menu so it doesn’t really matter how many programs you have. But with Windows 8, many are automatically pinned to the Start Screen as separate tiles, so you are probably going to have to do some maintenance and remove the ones you don’t want splashed all over your screen… (right-click, select Unpin…).
It gets better, you can’t even close the stupid Metro programs easily as there is no “x” top-right, no “File > Exit” option, because Microsoft’s intention is that Metro programs should happily run in the background until the system decides they can be closed (if your PC starts running like a pig).
In order to shut them down you need to move your mouse cursor to the top of the screen until it changes to a hand icon, then click, hold, and drag it to the bottom of the screen. The best approach might just be to press Alt+F4, which always closes the active program, whether you’re on the desktop or running a Metro app.
Basically what this comes down to is that there is going to be a learning curve with Windows 8 which when there is an interface change, it is to be expected. The question is how long will that learning curve be and how much will inexperienced users really like the new look and feel of Windows 8. The changes may be confusing at first, and perhaps take an extra click or two, but once you’ve learned the basics then things should pretty much return to normal.
Other challenges still remain, in particular with the new Metro, which just doesn’t feel like it belongs on a desktop. Perhaps it should have small print on the windows 8 box telling you that you require a 27″ monitor to fully utilise it? And if the answer from Microsoft and other IT professionals is, as we keep hearing, “don’t use Metro if you don’t want to”, then why does Windows 8 force you to boot into its Start Screen at all?
Despite the significant changes there are still a lot of good bits to Windows 8 so if you can get your hands on a copy then check it out. Just don’t roll it out into your business without careful consideration first. And if supplying new computers in the office, think twice before dumping users with Windows 8 and walking off.
Have you used Windows 8 yet? What is your experience like?