I am often asked by people if they think they have to get a new computer or can their new one last a bit longer? This is often more of a personal choice unless the old computer is dead or near death. Personally I believe that technology should work for you, and that you should not have to wait on your computer any more than absolutely neccessary. However, just running out and buying a new computer can be a somewhat daunting task – what kind of computer? how much memory? how big of a hard drive?, what kind of graphics? All of these answers will of course depend on your own needs, but there are certainly things you can do to narrow down the choices.
Before you decide to take the plunge, you should look at whether your old computer just needs a good computer service and repair. Sometimes, cleaning out the operating system, or reinstalling Windows can revitalize a lagging system, at other time you may be able to add some RAM memory to increase the capabilities and give your computer a bit longer lifespan. Often, people have accumulated many unneeded programs on their computers which may be slowing it down. In addition, spyware, malware, and adware can be hampering your system. Either of these problems can normally be fixed fairly easily with a bit of time and patience.
You might also be holding on to an old Windows XP machine because you are comfortable with it – while XP was a great a pretty stable operating system, it is going on 11 year old now and is just not capable of keeping up with today’s technology on many levels. If you are still using XP, it is definitley time to plan the upgrade – most XP machines (if they were made for XP) will not easily run a later version of Windows due to lack of hardware drivers, so attempting to upgrade these systems is generally not advised.
Windows 8 is due out later this year, and if Microsoft and the manufacturers run the upgrade process as the have in the past, sometimes the best thing to do is wait until they (hopefully) announce the free upgrade of Windows 7 systems bought after a certain date, and then scoop up one of the Windows 7 systems that comes with a free upgrade to Windows 8 (hopefully at a discount as manufacturers often want to clear their inventory before a new version of Windows arrives). Of course if you want the latest and greatest in hardware, waiting until the first (or second) wave of Windows 8 systems might be a good idea.
Windows 8 is going to bring a lot of changes, and some people may not want to take the initial time to learn something new – for those people, I recommend waiting a bit to see exactely what other people say about upgrading. You can test out Windows 8 by downloading the free consumer preview here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview
On today’s internet, you can never be too careful about what you view or download. A good antivirus is essential for anyone using the internet for more than the most basic of tasks, but there are many options available, and they are not equal in the quality or degree of protection they provide.
Two of the most popular Antivirus software’s are Norton’s antivirus and Mcaffee, unfortunately, due to their popularity and the fact that they are pre-installed as trial versions on so many computers, these are often the first two Antivirus software’s that virus writers work to disable and this greatly reduces their effectiveness. While there are quite a few advanced security suites that are fee based, the comprehensive solutions too often bombard the user with constant pop-ups asking what to do, and for most people these become such an annoyance that they either just click on them to get them out of the way, or disable them, which defeats the purpose of having those features in the first place. Generally for most users, a free version of one of the current Antivirus software’s will provide adequate protection with minimal annoyance.
A good choice, and one that comes without costly subscriptions, is Avast Free Antivirus [http://www.avast.com/en-us/index]. Avast is a very old brand, originating in 1988 as a tiny program designed by two Czechoslovakian university students to remove the then-common Vienna virus. Today, it is a major competitor in the antivirus market, with over 150 million users. The latest iteration of the software has three versions (Free, Pro, and Internet Security) [http://www.avast.com/en-us/free-antivirus-download]. The Pro and Internet Security versions come with some additional features, such as spam blocking and an integrated firewall, but for the majority of users, the free version provides enough security.
The most basic component of Avast (and any antivirus) is the ability to scan your computer for malware and then to remove any that is found. In this field, Avast can hold its own with other similar products. What makes Avast great, however, is the inclusion of so many extra features. First, there’s an entire suite of real-time scanners, checking websites, network connections, emails, and even scripts running in the background. If any signs of malware or suspicious behaviors are found, Avast will alert you and provide options to terminate the connection or process before damage can be done. Also included is “sandbox mode”, which isolates programs from accessing any important system files until you approve them as safe. Avast also makes use of cloud streaming technology. It uses this technology both to stream updates to your computer and to keep a database of programs. When a program is run, Avast checks against the cloud database to see what the reputation of the program is. If the program has been marked as dangerous or is unknown to Avast, it will warn you and offer to run the program in sandbox mode until you decide whether to risk it.
For our Pensacola area readers, if your computer does become infected with a virus, there are a few posts here you might want to read such as “Pensacola – Why do I keep getting viruses and malware on my computer?, and “Pensacola Computers Presents – How to Use System Restore in XP”
Alas, if you cannot get past a nasty virus, please visit http://pensacolacomputers.com where you can find information to help you or contact info for immediate computer service and repair.
Continuing with my posts on OfficeMate installations, I will go over some things I learned doing the actual installations. **Note: Make sure to follow the official OfficeMate guide, though be aware that the official guide has a few mistakes and is misleading in a few places as well. This guide takes in account that you have followed and met the needed pre-reqs for installing OfficeMate such as security setup and hardware/software requirements.
Once you have installed the server (see Pre-regs and Server install) it is time to install the client software. There are a few things I have learned that are not covered in the official installation guide that have helped me through. I had a heck of a time on one of my first installs trying to upgrade the client software, and I found that when upgrading from OfficeMate version 8 to version 10 on client machines that it is often best to first Uninstall the previous version of OfficeMate, then freshly install version 10 (this is not necessary on the server if you are using it as a workstation or remote terminal server, all of my client upgrades worked fine on the servers).
Before installing version 10.5, first make sure you are using the latest version available (10.5.23 at the time of this writing – previous versions had a bad bug relating to insurance claim filing I am told). Also ensure that your workstations have at least Windows Installer version 4.5 or above – Windows 7/Server 2008R2 have version 5 installed by default which is fine. You also need to ensure that .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 is installed on each system. For XP, and Vista, check in your add remove programs, for Windows 7, check in Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off (it is part of Windows 7, but the feature might need to be activated).
Once you have the client pre-reqs installed, it is time to get ready to install OfficeMate 10.5 client – this will be the OM_Suite_Programs.exe file (unfortunately OfficeMate again did not properly make their install program and there is no real way to tell the version of the program from the installation file – checking the file details just shows a product name of InstallShield version 12 – fyi, this is a HUGE security issue as there is no way to tell if the file is legitimate prior to installing as it is not properly named, nor does it have a valid digital signature – complain to OfficeMate about this!). Prior to starting the installation, you will want to make sure that you have properly mapped your shared network drive for the OfficeMate Data folder as this will be needed during the installation. Before installing, also ensure that you have turned off your Antivirus and any screensavers. Although not required, I always right click on the installation file, and if there is an Unblock button I click that, I then right click on the install file again and select run as Administrator.
Once all of these things are done, follow the instructions in the official Upgrading to OfficeMate 10 pdf guide to start your installation.
The installation is pretty straight forward so I will just cover a few of the differences and issues I have run into during various (though not always all) installations.
Once OfficeMate 10.5 client is installed, you need to make sure it works! If you click on the OfficeMate link and nothing happens, go to your taskmanager and look for Login.exe (not omate.exe) – if that is running, but nothing is happening, then you need to first check your networked drive. If you can see all of the files in your network drive, but OfficeMate will not open, then you probably have a firewall issue on your server. Even though you can see the shared files on your server’s shared drive, the server firewall could be blocking the SQL ports which causes this problem. If this is the case, go to your server and turn off your firewall there, then recheck to see if you OfficeMate client will start (it probably will now). If this is the cause, you just need to check your SQL ports on the server and add a firewall rule for them, then turn your firewall back on and check again.
The client installations are fairly easy to accomplish once you have gotten everything set up properly such as the pre-reqs, mapped drives etc. I highly recommend downloading a copy of Windows Installer 4.5 and .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 to a shared folder on your server if you are doing many XP, Vista installations to save time. Also it is a good idea to follow a checklist for each workstation as you are installing so you don’t forget anything.
While the OfficeMate software definitely could use some tweaks to bring it up to standards, especially in the compilation of the installation files and having install file security digital signatures and proper names etc, the actual installation of version 10.5 seems to be a bit better than earlier updates and upgrades.
If you have any questions or issues, feel free to contact us via our contact information at http://pensacolacomputers.com
* Pensacola Computers is not officially connected to OfficeMate software in any way, and all opinions stated are my own observations and you may experience different results. This guide is meant only as a narrative of my own experiences and is current as of the date posted.
I have been working as an IT consultant with Optometrists that use OfficeMate for over 5 years and have installed OfficeMate numerous times for 7 different practices. I have successfully upgraded 4 practices in the past couple of months to OfficeMate 10.5 and am currently working on getting 4 more done in the coming weeks. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Microsoft has just released Security Essentials 2.0 (MSE 2.0), which includes a number of enhanced features. In this latest version there is a updated and reportedly much better hueristic scanning engine for viruses and malware (heuristics look for virus/malware like behavior on your computer). Also included is improved integration with Windows Firewall, and new network traffic inspection. The firewall enhancements are only available to those running Vista or Windows 7 as Windows XP does not have the needed platform to run (if you are still on XP, it is really time to seriously consider upgrading as XP is now 10 years old and was never designed for today’s internet or programs).
Microsoft Security Essentials integrates with Internet Explorer to protect your machine from Web threats like malicous scripts. With the increasing number of viruses and malware spreading to all computers from social networking sites like Facebook, and the constant email bombardment, it is imperative to make sure that you have active and updated anti-virus and antispyware/antimalware software on our computer (yes, even Macs and Linux machines are now getting infected with viruses and malware).
The best part of Microsoft Security Essentials is that it is free for home users as well as being free for small businesses with 10 PC’s or fewer. While only time will tell how effetive this latest version is, I would certainly recommend using it in place of software like Nortons or Mcaffee (both of which are often first targets for virus and malware writers).
You can download Microsoft Security Essentials free directly from Microsoft here: http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/
*Note: Microsoft Security Essentials, like most antivirus software cannot be installed with other antivirus software as well as some other security software, so make sure to remove other security software before installing it.
For links to other free security software or help with Malware, Spyware and Virus removal, visit Pensacola Computers Tech Support page
For those who are still using Windows XP (still quite a few, although that number is rapidly decreasing), here is a short tutorial from Pensacola Computers on how to use System restore in XP Safe Mode. This can be extremely useful when faced with a virus, malware, or any kind of software change that has made using XP in regular mode difficult or impossible. System restore is often the easiest way to reverse the harmful effects of a virus or malware. Always be aware that System Restore, while reversing software changes, does NOT remove files, so even if the virus or malware is not active, the files are still there and must be removed. If you are using System restore due to a virus or malware infection, be sure to run full virus and malware/spyware scans as well as reapplying any needed Windows and software updates. While system restore is not always able to fix a bad virus or malware infection, it is a great first step in attempting to bring your system back to a usable state.
Visit Pensacola Computers Tech Support page for links for the best free and paid for antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware software.
If you need more in-depth help with virus removal, malware removal, computer service, or computer repair here in Pensacola Florida, please give Jeff at Pensacola Computers a call today at 850*390-4242