For those who might have waited until the last minute, or forgotten someone on their list, here are a few great last minute tech gift ideas:
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Carbonite online backup – This is one of the best ways to protect your data from hard drive crashes, accidents, data corruption etc. You should Always have backups of the important files and pictures that you can’t replace. Carbonite offers basically unlimited backup for a great price and it is one of the most easy to use, set it and forget it programs out there: Click the following link to get the computer protected now!
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Also, if you hurry, BestBuy is currently having a special midnight sale with some great discounts through 7AM Central time on the 23rd: Midnight Sale, Online Only, Starts Thursday (12/22) at Midnight Through Friday (12/23) at 8am EST.
For any computer or technology related questions or needs, contact us at http://pensacolacomputers.com where the advice is always free! Providing the best IT service in Pensacola
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.
First, ensure that your systems meet the software pre-requisites (for hardware requirements see my first post: OfficeMate v 10.5 Software Upgrade and Installation – First Impressions) A couple things to note on the software pre-requisites – you must have ‘at least’ Windows Installer 4.5 (version 5 is fine and the guide note is wrong in saying that Windows Installer 4.5 is included with Windows 7 – it is version 5 – I had someone call me and tell me that they were trying to install version 4.5 on Windows 7 because that is what the guide said it needed). Also, note that you must be running at least SP2 on XP to install v4.5 of the Installer (SP3 is recommended of course).
.Net Framework 3.5 SP1 must be installed on the server and each workstation – .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 is included in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, though you should make sure that it is enabled (once again, the official installation guide is wrong in how to do this in Windows 7, the correct way is to go to Control Panel>Programs> Turn Windows features on or off, and ensure that there is checkbox next to the .Net Framework 3.5) If you need to install .Net framework 3.5 SP1, be aware that the link that is supplied in the OfficeMate installation guide is the link to the bootstrapper file which will download the reset of the file from the internet – if you are installing on multiple systems, I recommend getting the full install file then sharing it out on the network – you can get the full installation file here: http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/0/e/20e90413-712f-438c-988e-fdaa79a8ac3d/dotnetfx35.exe .
Once you have all the pre-req’s you will need to get the installation files from OfficeMate. **Note: The OfficeMate installation files are NOT digitally signed and you might get a warning when downloading and trying to install that the publisher could not be identified – IMO this is a serious security breach and there is no reasonable excuse why they don’t digitally sign their files!
You will need to download both the server and workstation installation files. I highly recommend sharing out the workstation installation files and copying it to each workstation and running it locally – I do NOT recommend running over the network, nor do I recommend what the OM official guide states about running it from a USB flash drive or CD/DVD – either one of those can cause issues if the installation stalls due to IO errors on the device.
As OfficeMate states “Prior to upgrading to OfficeMate Suite 10.5, you must set up security preferences. Security is required in OfficeMate and ExamWRITER 10.5.” This is NOT an option and is required! Follow the guide in regards to how to do this.
Prior to installing OfficeMate, ensure you have a validated backup of your Access or SQL database – if you are currently using a SQL database and are using SQL Express 2005, I highly recommend upgrading to SQL Express 2008 R2 (this allows a larger database size as well as includes a number of other enhancements). Also, ensure that your Server is running the latest patches and upgraded from Microsoft prior to proceeding with the server install. I would highly recommend that you take a full financial and inventory report prior to doing the upgrade and then rerun the report after the upgrade and do a compare before you start using OfficeMate again.
From my prior experiences with OfficeMate upgrades, I would personally recommend doing a full server backup prior to attempting the upgrade (bare metal or image) just in case something goes wrong and you need to roll everything back. If you are using an Access Database, you need to run the Repair utility (usually in C:\Omate32\repair.exe) – this will help correct any potential errors in the database that could cause the upgrade to fail. Once that is done, or if you don’t need to do that, restart your server. After the restart, you should disable all antivirus and screen saver programs. Also make sure that UAC is disabled (another security risk – I can’t believe that these software companies don’t know how to write a program that doesn’t make you disable a Windows security feature). To disable UAC in Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2, go to Control Panel > User Accounts > Change User Account Control settings > put the slider to the Never notify position (once again the ‘official’ guide is wrong – there is NO checkbox – do these people even try to do an install following their own guides???).
Once all of this is done, navigate to where you have saved the OM_Server.exe file, right click on the file, select properties, and then click the button that says Unblock. Once that is done, right click on the file and select Run as Administrator (though this may not be required, it can help eliminate some potential causes for failures). At this point, follow the official guide’s instructions, however be aware that you may or may not see all the screens they say that you will depending upon the type of install/upgrade you are doing.
Depending on the size/type of database you are using, as well as the server hardware, the upgrade process could take anywhere from 30 minutes to many hours – you can see what the upgrade is doing, but don’t be alarmed if something appears to freeze or not move for a few minutes at a time. Make sure you stay at the computer until the actual OfficeMate upgrade starts just in case there is an error in the SQL install/update part.
In the next post I will go through the Client installation as well as service releases and patches.
Feel free to contact me through my contact info at: http://pensacolacomputers.com – leaving comments here could take me a while to get back to.
* 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. Contact info is available at: http://pensacolacomputers.com
After performing numerous OfficeMate version 10.5 installations and upgrades, I have found a few issues that I would like to share that may help ensure a successful installation or upgrade.
First: Make sure to read all the ‘official documentation’, being aware that there are some ommisions and some mistakes, but overall the procedures should be followed as closely as possible. Especially important is to ensure that you have setup Security Preferences and that at least one user has checkmarks next to “Access All” AND “Maintain User Security”.
Second: Ensure that you have full backups – I personally recommend having both a full SQL (or access) database backup, as well as a full backup of the OfficeMate Data directory. In addition, it is highly recommended to do a full server bare metal backup, or similar backup image in case you have a conversion/upgrade error and need to roll back the server.
Third: It is highly recommended to install SQL server express 2008 R2 if at all possible before upgrading or installing OfficeMate v 10.5 as this version has a 10GB database size limit as opposed to the 4 GB limit in the defualt installed SQL server express 2005. (If upgrading, do a SQL upgrade from 2005 to 2008 R2). Also, if you are using an Access Database, ensure you backup your database BEFORE running the Repair utility.
When downloading the upgrade software there are a couple of things you should do which are not mentioned in the ‘official’ documentation: If using IE9 or other browser with security, you may get a warning regarding the OfficeMate installation files, unfortunately there is no way to verify the authenticity of the files - for some reason, OfficeMate did not digitally sign their installation files (in my opinion this is a serious security issue as there is no way to verify the authenticity of the installation files – as it is, the files have a Product name of Install Shield and copyright from Macrovision – the maker of the install packager they used) – most legitimate software makers digitally sign their installation packages to ensure their customers of the authenticity of the files. When I downloaded the files, they appear to be hosted on an Amazon server instead of directly from OfficeMate.net.
Once the files are downloaded you will need to right click on them, select properties, then click the ‘Unblock’ button. Also, when installing, when using Windows 7, Vista, Server 2008 (R2), right click on the installation file and select run as Administrator to ensure a smooth install.
Before installing there are still a few other issues to deal with such as User Account control, and firewalls, and proper configuration of your SQL database.
The user account section of the installation instructions is not quite complete or clear as with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 there is no “Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer” checkbox, instead there is a slider which you can set down to the “Never notify” position. **NOTE: unfortunately, turning off UAC on a workstation that is connected to the internet is not usually a good idea as the whole reason for UAC is to help PROTECT your computer from unauthorized changes and is a major defense against viruses and malware being installed (if OfficeMate had followed best practices guidelines for Windows Security, they probably could have programmed their software to not conflict so much with UAC).
Firewalls: If your systems are using an active firewall you may have to set some custom permissions to allow OfficeMate to function properly on your network – if you install OfficeMate and are having difficulty connecting to the SQL server, disable your firewall – if you are then able to connect, you will need to adjust your firewall settings to allow OfficeMate – as many firewalls have different ways of doing things, you will have to check the documentation of your firewall for how to do this.
If you are upgrading your SQL server to 2008 R2 Express, or you are moving your SQL database from one server to another, make sure you follow the instructions for OfficeMate SQL server installation – you can find a guide here ffor Reinstalling SQL server: http://www.officemate.net/omkb/Article.aspx?id=21190 - a couple things to note here: make sure that you enable named pipes and TCP/IP ports via the SQL Server Configuration Manager or you will not be able to connect from a client machine, also, I personally prefer to use the backup and restore method when moving a database rather than the detach and attach database method and have not had any problem doing it that way (there is issues with doing it each way – you decide which is best for you). Also make sure that you don’t forget to create the OM_USER using the link provided in the above instructions once you have your database restored or reattached to the new SQL installation/instance.
In Part 2 of the Guide, I will cover the installation procedures and how to deal with some of the issues I have run into.
Here in the Florida panhandle, although it rarely if ever snows, we do have to contend with the yearly threat of …. shhhhh….. Hurricanes. Although the prediction and tracking has improved greatly over the years, the hurricanes can and still do shift at the last moment. This is just one of many reasons why it is vitally important to have a backup system for all your important data on your computer. Computers crash, hard drives die, accidents happen every day, and many people are unprepared when it comes to backing up their computers. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me “I was going to back it up this weekend”, or “I knew I should have backed it up but I forgot” – this usually after a hard drive has crashed or other computer disaster.
It used to be that doing backup’s was a real pain – either you had to use some tape backup system, or copy files to a CD or DVD, and even setting up the newer external hard drives, while easier, is still no good if the computer and the external hard drive are in the same location. Now though, with most everyone on high speed internet connections, Online backup is becoming the preferred solution. With ease of setup, and the ability to restore files from anywhere that has net access, Online backup solutions are the best solution for most home and business users.
There are a number of free backup services that offer a limited amount of space such as idrive (2 GB, or 12 GB if you refer your friends). There are also some great paid solutions such as Carbonite (Click Here for a free trial ) that offer unlimited backup space for only $55 a year. These online backup services have you download a small application that allows you to choose which files and folders to monitor for backing up – then any files that are in them and any files that are changed or added to them are automatically backed up on a schedule that you decide. These files are stored on secure servers with file encryption to ensure that your data is safe and protected.
With data recovery services often charging $500 or more to recover data from a damaged hard drive, and the possiblity that you could lose everything in a fire, hurricane, or other disaster, it just makes smart sense to have a good backup plan in place for peace of mind and security.
Recently I have had a lot of people come to me with Virus and Spyware infected computers, and many people have asked me why has this happened to them, and if it is even safe anymore to go on the internet. My answer is of course not easy – it is yes, and no. Yes the internet can be safe if you take reasonable precautions. Never open email attachments (even from people you know) unless you specifically know that someone was sending you something. Many viruses will infect a computer, harvest email addresses from address books on it, and unknowingly to the computer owner, send copies of itself to all that persons contacts. Always run a current Antivirus and Anti-spyware product (usually a combination of anti-spyware products is best, though never run more than one Antivirus). Make sure that Windows is up to date with the latest security patches (these generally are released on Tuesday’s, although Microsoft will sometimes release them on other days if it is a serious threat that they address. Never, ever, click on links in an email as they are often what are called misleading links – although the link may say something like https://yourbank.com, the actual link may be something like https://yourbank.com.imahackerinchina.cn (you can tell the actual link by right clicking on it, choosing copy link, then pasting it in a text document). These malicious links can be anything from a spoofing site (designed to get your passwords), to a site with malicious code that will try to hijack your web browser, or download a virus or spyware.
You should also run some kind of firewall on your computer to keep hackers out – the best solution is to use a hardware router with a built in firewall along with some kind of software firewall. The router solution is often the best first line of defense as a hacker will generally only see the router and not any of your computers behind it. Also, beware of file sharing sites such as limewire, and torrents. Many of the files shared on these networks, in addition to being illegal copies, are full of viruses and spyware.
Most infections on computers get there because at some point, the computer user clicked a button allowing something to be installed. All the security in the world cannot do much if a user allows something to be installed in the first place. While most good Antivirus and Antispyware products will catch malicious programs when they are downloaded and installed, when a new Virus or Spyware program is first released on the internet, it often takes a while before the Antivirus/Antispyware software will have updated definitions to find it. If you happen to allow it to be installed, by the time the security software on your computer finds it, it may well be to late as many of these malicious programs can pretty much wipe out a Windows installation (and for you Mac users out there – Macs are no more secure than Windows in any way, as a matter of fact they are more vulnerable in many ways – it’s just that there aren’t many viruses that are written to attack them - yet).
In the end, your best defense is common sense and using good security practices. The other important thing, and this is probably the MOST IMPORTANT: always, always keep current backups of your important files. If by chance your computer does get a bad infection, often a Windows Reinstall is the best, cheapeast, and easiest way to safely remove it, however if you don’t have backups, this can cause additional problems as well as costs.
I can’t tell you how many times people come to me because their computers have crashed, and they have no recent backups. Except for the newest solid state hard drives, all hard drives will fail – ALWAYS. They are mechanical devices, and as such they wear out. Laptop drives are especially prone to quick failure due to heat and shocks that are not such a problem for desktops.
While most people ‘understand’ the need for backing up important data, it often becomes one of those things that is forgotten. Many people, have files that are not replaceable such as pictures, and certain documents. It is very important to back these files up regularly – but what if you forget? If a drive become corrupted, the data can sometimes be recovered by means of software. If a drive is physically damaged, the only option is then a data recovery service which costs $$$$$$.
So, what to do? The best, and often easiest (and depending on the amount of data, possibly the cheapest) backup solution is online backup. There are companies like iDrive.com that provide a certain amount of free online storage (2 GB currently), along with a handy Windows application that runs in the background and does all the work for you. I highly recommend online backup because with it, your files can be accessed by you securely from any computer.
The time to get your backups done is NOW – a hard drive can crash at any time, and many times without much of a warning. Don’t wait until it is to late – Backup, Backup, and Backup