Showing posts from 2010

Watch Out! Telephone Tech. Support Scams

Watch out for a scam that’s on the go at the moment.  It goes like this: You get called up out of the blue by “Microsoft” or some such reputable-sounding company.  The person who calls you normally seems to have an Indian-sounding accent.  I purely mention the caller’s accent as it seems to be a common feature – you should watch out for this kind of scam regardless of the caller’s accent.  You are told that your computer is infected with a virus or with malware.  You are often asked if your computer has been running slowly or freezing lately. Of course they’ve got the solution for you!  At this point you’re often transferred to their “superior” or “manager” who tells you of the sorry state your poor computer is in and how they have the means to fix it.  For a fee of course.  This usually seems to range from 120 to 260 euro. The “fix” seems to involve them getting you to browse to their website and download some remote access software which they then use to take remote control of

Problems with PHP Header Redirect

Recently I was writing a PHP script which required a bit of code to redirect a user from the current page to another one.  This is achieved using the following code: <?php header("Location:"); ?> Unfortunately, however, I could not get this to work for me.  I tried every suggestion and tip I could find on the web to no avail.  Many sites advised making sure to remove any “white space” in the PHP file.  I removed every single bit except the 3 lines listed above, deleted the fourth blank line by going to the end of the third and hitting delete.  No joy. I got in contact with my fantastic web hosting company and they figured it out.  By default PHP on their servers runs at PHP4.  As soon as the version running was changed to PHP5 in the website settings area the script ran perfectly! So there you go: if you’re having trouble with PHP header redirects check the PHP version number running on your web server .

Foxit PDF Creator: good basic PDF creation

Currently there is a glut of free PDF creator/writer software on the internet.  At the other end of the spectrum lies Adobe Acrobat.  However, even the Standard version of Acrobat (Version X) now costs fairly hefty €422 inc. VAT and the Pro version costs a whopping €626.  Don’t get me wrong, Acrobat is a super product with great functionality (particularly in the area of change-tracking), but €422 is a lot if you’re someone who just wants to output the odd document as a PDF. I tried a load of different free PDF creators and guess what?  They were largely dreadful. However, Foxit PDF Creator is a simple, effective tool that doesn’t muck-up your formatting in the PDFs it outputs, embeds fonts nicely, and it only costs $29.99 (€21.66 at today’s conversion rate).  It doesn’t come with any editing functions – it just produces a PDF – but it has a decent number of output options and does a good job for a good price. Note: Since Office/Visio 2007 SP2 (or pre-SP2 with a patch) there has

Microsoft’s (and my) thoughts on

I must say I agree with most of this – not everything but most.  I’m tired of hearing about how Open Source is the answer.  It isn’t.  From my experience it’s nothing but hassle.  Sure it’s generally free to download but the support costs and the toll it takes on your nerves more than offsets this.  I’m tired of people expecting something for nothing.  In most areas of life you don’t get quality unless you pay for it… cars, hi-fi, clothing, you name it. Microsoft’s thoughts on OpenOffice.rg

SonicWALL Enhanced OS

Holy Moly!  I went to configure a simple port-forwarding rule on a customer’s SonicWALL TZ200 today and entered into a whole world of hurt! All I wanted to do was allow HTTP traffic into an internal web server – exceedingly straightforward on any device I’ve ever worked on before… not so under SonicOS Enhanced! After about an hour of bizarrely confusing options I realised that one needs to create an address object for the internal server, create a NAT policy to allow access, and then create a firewall access rule.  This doesn’t sound too bad except it wasn’t that simple in fact.  To add to the confusion, I managed to create a NAT loop which killed the network!  That was purely down to my own stupidity though! So how did I get it to work?  I gave in and used one of the wizards after looking at the following excellent post online: Turns out the device needs THREE NAT policies (inbound, outbound, and loopback) plus

McAfee does my head in

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: to all intents and purposes installing McAfee Anti-virus software is pretty much as bad as getting a virus.  There, I said it.  Again. I’ve lost count of how many problems I’ve had with customer PCs over the years where the root of the problem was McAfee in one or another of its hideous incarnations.  But here’s one that’s fresh in my head because I’ve only just sorted it out… A customer had a PC that wouldn’t connect to the iTunes Store in iTunes.  He could do everything else with iTunes, just not connect to the store.  Actually, now I think of it he probably wouldn’t have been able to use the internet radio stations in iTunes either.  He could access the internet and send/receive emails just fine.  iTunes just refused to play ball.  When I ran the Diagnostics in iTunes I got an error –3221. Well what could cause this?  Probably a firewall I thought.  The customer had McAfee Security Center with VirusScan and Personal Firewall.  They also

iOS 4 coming 21st of June

Those of you with iPhones have something juicy to look forward to:  iOS 4 is to be released on the 21st of June.  iOS is the new name for iPhone OS, the iPhone’s operating system.  iOS is currently at 3.1.3.  Version 4 is a major upgrade and promises some really nice new features such as: Multitasking – run more than one app at the same time and switch between them Folders – group apps together Mail improvements – unified inbox (all emails from all accounts in one inbox), more than 1 exchange account, open attachments in 3rd party apps, organise by thread (like Gmail) iBooks – eBook reader and online store Creation of playlists on the iPhone rather than in iTunes 5x digital zoom Tap to focus video Faces and Places in Photos - view photos based on who’s in them and where they were taken Home screen wallpaper - change the background wallpaper on your Home screen Gift apps - send apps as gifts to your friends or family Spell checking - built-in

The Floppy Disk - one step closer to death

The old dinosaur of the tech world comes a little closer to finally popping its clogs.  Sony, pretty much the last company still manufacturing floppy disks will stop from March of next year. In various forms the old floppy disk drive (often abbreviated to FDD) has been around since around 1971.  It started then with IBM’s 8” disk/drive.  Shugart (who I think became Seagate?) brought out the 5.25” disk/drive around 1976. HP brought out the 3.5” disk/drive in 1982.  This format had the longest life and one still encounters them from time to time.  I recently had to use one to load a RAID driver onto a PC. In some respects the 3.5” disk was fantastic: light, small, fairly physically robust, cheap, decent storage capacity for the ‘80s.  However, in other respects it was diabolical: magnetically sensitive, sensitive to dust, it wore down over time, by the mid to late ‘90s it was annoyingly short on capacity. If you want to know more have a look at the Wikipedia entry here:  http:/

Security Shenanigans – May 2010

I’ve noticed a few irritating trends in the virus/spam/spyware world recently.  Here are some things to watch out for: Web Nasties Steer clear of downloading screensavers, they can often be infected with viruses Steer clear of apparently free tools that contain irritating adware, e.g. freeripmp3 which contains “Adware.ADON” Be very careful of Online Poker sites.  These often require the downloading of software or a browser add-on which could be infected. If you are browsing the web and are informed that your computer has a virus or infection treat this message with a healthy degree of scepticism.  Has the message popped up from your security software?  This should be fairly obvious. Here, for example is what a security pop-up from ESET Smart Security looks like: E.g. here is what a security pop-up from Norton Internet Security looks like: It’s very common for spyware to infiltrate your PC by pretending to be legitimate software

Backup your Outlook

Why not do this today?  Nothing to lose, everything to gain… File | Import and Export Choose Export to a file Choose Personal Folder File (.pst) Highlight your Mailbox and tick the Include subfolders tickbox Browse to where you want it to save the backup Click Finish Apply a password if you're really paranoid - will you remember it in maybe 2 years time Click OK

Performing a clean install of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard seems to be a little different to its predecessors when it comes to performing a clean installation/re-installation.  The following needs to be done: Boot off the OS X install DVD – place DVD in drive, restart Mac, hold down C when it “bongs” and keep it held until you see the Apple logo with a spinning wheel Click Continue when you see Welcome to OS X Snow Leopard Choose Utilities and then Disk Utility In Disk Utility click on your hard drive on the left, choose Erase and go with the defaults (OS X Extended (Journaled)) Once the drive has been erased select Quit from the Disk Utility menu Back in the install screen click Continue Choose your newly erased hard drive, agree to the license and click Install The installation process should now run for about 30 minutes After that you’ll have to fill in your personal info, location details, network/wireless info, etc. Hope this helps!

Bill Gates speech on energy and climate

At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world's energy future, describing the need for "miracles" to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he's backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.

Steve Job’s Stanford Commencement Speech 2005


Resetting Apple Time Capsule with Blinking Amber Light

I’ve been playing with a 500GB Apple Time Capsule.  I had often thought of these devices as a bit of a joke, very expensive (as usual for Apple) and why only give it a single hard drive?  Why not two and then you could setup RAID-1?  Typical Apple compromises, form over function, etc. However, in use these are rather nice products.  They look nice and discrete, and have a lovely user interface (although it’s a shame you can’t access the interface via a web browser).  Maybe one drive is enough for the normal user who possibly never even did any backups before this. I’ll report back after more use… However, when I first got my hands on this used model it was completely unresponsive, just flashing its amber light slowly.  A bit of digging on the net revealed that it was probably best to reset it and here’s how: Turn the device on and wait a minute.  Hold in the reset button at the back with something small and pointy for about 5 seconds until the front light flashes quickly.  Then

AFP Problems with Mac OS X Tiger Update 10.4.11

I recently installed a Synology DS209 NAS in a customer’s site and was very happy with its level of performance and ease of setup.  Using SMB/CIFS I was getting about 40MB/s copying a file from it to my MacBook running Windows 7 under Boot Camp.  That is seriously fast!  My D-Link DNS-323 manages about 12MB/s and a 512GB Apple Time Capsule I’m currently playing with struggles along at about 7MB/s. Things were a bit slower over AFP which seems to be fairly much to be expected.  One Mac running Leopard was fine, another running Tiger 10.4.5 was also fine.  However, one of the customer’s machines was giving awful trouble.  This old iMac G5 had been updated some time back with 10.4.11.  The shared folders would mount but you could barely use the share for a second before it ground to a halt and the Finder became unresponsive and had to be Relaunched. I tried everything I could think of… updating firmware on the NAS, changing the network switch, playing with TCP/IP and AppleTalk setting

Problems with WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage)

Recently a customer of mine was experiencing problems with WGA under Windows XP with SP3.  Upon boot-up and login WGA some of the PCs would state that the Windows installation was not legitimate.  This was odd as I had recently reinstalled Windows XP on these machines with the correct volume license key. Comparing the actual product key (using Belarc Advisor ) I found that it differed from what it was supposed to be… very odd.  So how to remedy this?  Here we go: Step 1: Start | Run | regedit Go to: HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\WPAEvents Right-click OOBETimer and choose Modify Change at least 1 digit of this code Step 2: Start | Run | %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a This runs the activation wizard.  Choose Yes I want to telephone… and hit Next Choose Change product key I entered the correct product key and hit Update Choose Remind me later I think a restart was then required… can’t quite remember. I read

Speccy – a very nice system information tool

Piriform, who brought us the wonderful CCleaner along with Defraggler and Recuva have just brought out a free tool called Speccy.  It’s a really nifty and polished system information tool.  If you want to find out what’s under the bonnet of a PC without having to lift the bonnet then I highly recommend this.

Audio in Windows 7 with Boot Camp on Apple MacBook

I’ve been running Windows 7 Ultimate (32 bit) on a white Core2Duo MacBook for quite some time now but could never get the audio working and there was a red light coming out of the Aux port.  I was had used the Snow Leopard Boot Camp drivers on the CD and this had worked for most of the other devices.  Any drivers I downloaded and installed from the web failed to work.  I got a great tip for dealing with this problem on:   The key seems to be running the installer Administrator in Vista compatibility mode… Insert the Snow Leopard install CD Browse to \Boot Camp\Drivers\IDT SigmaTel Right-click the “SigmaTelSetup.exe” file and choose “Troubleshoot compatibility” Choose “Troubleshoot program” choose the first tick box and hit “Next” Choose “Windows Vista” and then “Next” Choose “Start the program…” and then “Next” The driver will now install, click on the progress balloon  on the bottom rig

AutoRecover in Office 2000

A customer of mine recently had a problem with Excel 2000 – yes lots of people are still using Office 2000 as it’s very fast and does most of what they need.  It had crashed and they hadn’t saved their changes in a few hours. Now, if this had been Office 2003/2007 the next time they opened Excel it would have prompted them with an “AutoRecovered” version of their file.  By default Excel 2003/2007 AutoRecover an open worksheet every 10 minutes – this can be changed. But this didn’t seem to be the case with Excel 2000.  I had thought it was available in Excel 2000 but nothing could be found in Tools | Options.  It was there in Word 2000 in Tools | Options | Save so what was the deal? Turns out that, by default, AutoRecover isn’t installed in Excel 2000. It’s there as an Add-In.  You must first install the Add-In by going to Tools | Add-Ins and choosing the “Autosave” Add-In.  Once this installs you’ll see the Autosave option in the Tools menu.  Clicking it will allow you to configu

D-Link DNS-323 – fantastic product, great price, get one!

I just wrote a mini review of the superb little D-Link DNS-323 on Komplett and thought I’d copy it here.  About the size of a tiny toaster, this device is a NAS (Network Attached Storage) which you connect to your home or work network and it behaves rather like a miniature server, providing shared file/folder access, printer sharing, remote FTP access, and UPnP media streaming.  artifact can supply this device for around €134 ex. VAT although hard drives must be purchased and added to the device before it is fully functional.    Images taken from Mini Review on Komplett This is a super little piece of technology. I've had one of these for about 3 years now and it has never given me a second's trouble. This kind of reliability is certainly rare. I put 2 Seagate 500GB drives in it running in RAID-1 mode and have enjoyed dependable, zippy performance. This, of course, was back when Seagate still made hard drives that weren't diabolical. The updates

Setting up a printer in OS X using the CUPS interface – brief!

Recently I had to setup a connection to a shared printer in OS X.  The printer was being shared on a TCP/IP network by a HP server running Windows Server 2008 Foundation.  I had some trouble setting up the printer using the printer set wizards in System Preferences and discovered that Mac OS X has a built in web server for CUPS (the Common Unix Printing System) that allows you to setup a printer with much greater granularity and, it would appear, a greater chance of success! Open up Safari and browse to the following address:  http://localhost:632 The wizards are then relatively straightforward as shown in the samples below…

Print Screen with MacBook keyboard in Boot Camp Windows

First off, Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a great Christmas. My day to day laptop is a white Apple MacBook which runs Snow Leopard and Windows 7 Ultimate using Boot Camp.  This is fab as it enables me to go out to both Mac and PC customers and bring just one laptop.  However, I’ve often needed to take a screen grab when in Windows mode and couldn’t figure out the keyboard shortcut, here it is: fn + shift + F11 For the full list of these shortcut follow the link below, it’s for MacBook Pros but gives a good idea… Note: If you have a USB PC keyboard connected the PrtScr button should work fine.