Once again it is hurricane season with an imminent threat looming over the gulf coast. It is time to prepare for the storm and this includes protecting our valuables including our data as best we can. One of the often overlooked things in the rush to evacuate or stay and ride out the storm (not advised if evacuations are recommended) is the protection of our technology, our computers and most importantly the data stored on them. Having a good backup plan is extremely important as today we often have irreplaceable and important data stored on our computers.
For both business and home users, it is recommended to have a two stage backup plan in force at all times, this includes an on-site removable backup device as well as online backup storage. Keeping a full backup of your computer on a removable hard drive is the best way to ensure a quick recovery in case of disaster as you can store an image of your entire computer on a backup drive. If you are running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or have Server 2008 (R2), there is a Windows Backup program that will make an entire image of your computer for you. If you are still running Windows XP, you can get a third party backup tool, such as Acronis to help you create a computer image backup. You should also have online backup, such as Carbonite, or IBackup as a second line of backup. Online backup will help give you piece of mind should anything happen to your on-site backup, but it is not recommended as your only backup due to the time involved in restoring everything (downloading an entire computer’s worth of data from the internet can take a very long time!).
The best case scenario in case of a hurricane is to take your computer with you, however this is not always practical, and in the case of businesses almost impossible. For businesses it is recommended to move or remove your servers if at all possible before the storm. For computers that must be left behind, it is recommended that both the power and ethernet cables be removed before a storm to prevent electrical shocks from entering the systems – this is true for all electronic devices as well! Also, if the systems are in an area that could possibly be effected by roof leakage or flooding it is recommended that if they cannot be removed, that they are set up off the floor and covered with a water barrier such as heavy plastic bag or tarp.
Having good backup plans as well as equipment protection plans in place is the best way to ensure the safety of your data, and when it comes to irreplacable data, multiple backups are always recommended.
For questions regarding backup systems and backup plans, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com
Microsoft is now offering an excellent deal for anyone who purchases a new PC with Windows 7 on it between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Basically the offer is: Buy a Windows 7 PC and get Windows 8 Pro for $ 14.99. This is good for any computer purchased new that has Windows 7 Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate.
After purchasing a new PC you will need to register it at: https://windowsupgradeoffer.com/ and when Windows 8 is released you will recieve an email with a promotion code and insturction for purchasing and downloading the software (the promotion code will allow you to purchase one copy at the promotional price). You can opt to receive a installation DVD for an additional price, but the downloadable version can be used to create your own installation media on a DVD or USB device.
Another cool thing about this offer is that you do not have to install the upgrade on the new computer, you can install it on any one computer that has a valid copy of Windows XP (SP3), Windows Vista, or Windows 7 currently installed. This upgrade offer also includes 90 days of no-charge support from Microsoft that begins once Windows 8 is installed and activated.
Windows 8 is going to be a big change in many areas, and will bring a new level of computing to a wide array of hardware including tablets, touch screen PC’s as well as traditional desktops and laptops. With the new Windows Metro Apps, Microsoft’s aim is to make it easier to find and connect with the information and people you care most about.
At Pensacola Computers, we have been actively involved in testing Windows 8 since the early stages of development and will be available to help local small business and home users in upgrading or learning about Windows 8. For Pensacola computer service and repair, classes, networking, troubleshooting or just general computer questions, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com today. Our advice is always free, so call on us with any questions about your PC.
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.
“The cloud” is something of a buzzword these days: there’s lots of talk about it, but not everyone knows what it means. Windows Live SkyDrive [http://explore.live.com/skydrive] is a cloud-based document storage service, and what that means is that it can keep your documents safe from damage or getting lost, allow you to copy those documents to any computer at any time, and enable you to share documents via email or collaborative editing. The cloud component refers to where these documents are stored; rather than keeping them on your computer, they are in a password-protected portion of the Microsoft servers, completely isolated from the various threats that go along with everyday internet usage.
SkyDrive is integrated directly with the latest version of Microsoft Office (Office 2010). What this means for the user is that files typed up in Office programs, like Word and Excel, can be saved directly to SkyDrive [http://explore.live.com/skydrive-get-started?T1=t2], saving you the hassle of uploading them yourself. In addition, new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents can be created directly within SkyDrive, and the use of Office Web Apps allows said documents to be edited directly. The Web Apps also allow for collaborative editing [http://explore.live.com/skydrive-share-photos-files?T1=t4], so multiple people can work simultaneously on the same document without the clutter of multiple copies or edit merging.
Another use for SkyDrive is photo sharing [http://explore.live.com/skydrive-get-started?T1=t4]. Whereas normally sending photos in an email would require attaching them individually, and thus being subject to attachment size limits and inbox clutter, SkyDrive can be used to store entire albums of photos and then simply linked to in the email. The recipient can then browse and download photos from the SkyDrive at their leisure. At the same time, permissions can be set on the SkyDrive so as to keep some documents private while others are available to anyone.
While SkyDrive is currently somewhat of a standalone product, it will be much more heavily integrated in Windows 8 [http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/02/20/connecting-your-apps_2c00_-files_2c00_-pcs-and-devices-to-the-cloud-with-skydrive-and-windows-8.aspx]. An app under the new Metro interface will allow SkyDrive files to be easily accessed and browsed outside of a browser, as well as making said files and the SkyDrive itself available from any other app. This is built-in alongside the open and save functions, so any app that can access files can access cloud storage through SkyDrive.
One of the greatest thing about Skydrive is the price – Skydrive is Free! 25GB of storage for your files for free! Skydrive apps are available for Windows Phone and iOS and there are currently a number of thrid part Android apps as well as the new OneNote for Android app just released from Microsoft that lets you access your notes on Skydrive from an Android phone.
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was opened to the public this week, a pre-release version of the full Windows 8 operating system, bringing with it a bounty of new features. The most drastic change, a new user interface designed for ease-of-use on touch-screen systems (especially tablets) is obvious, but that’s been a known factor since the Developer Preview back in September. The new interface is certainly different, though it may be awkward for those who have grown used to the typical taskbar-and-start-menu of previous Windows versions. Tiles take the place of folders and files, making for a sleeker but blockier interface, and customizing the layout of tiles on the screen is possible, though not a focus.
Another new feature is the Windows Store, which (like the Apple Store and Android Market found on modern mobile devices) allows for the distribution of programs in “app” format. Apps take up the entire screen while running, rather than existing in windows like programs in previous versions of Windows, and in many cases integrate gesture-based behaviors for things like scrolling or switching between views. The departure from the traditional interface of buttons is somewhat jarring, but has potential to be used in interesting ways.
Also similar to mobile devices is the new corner functionality, where simply scrolling the cursor over the corners of the screen produces different effects. Clicking in the bottom-left corner switches to the start screen, which allows access to apps much like the old Start Menu allowed access to programs. The upper-left corner allows for quick switching between open apps, while the right edge of the screen is home to the Charms menu, similar in function to the buttons on Android phones. The Charms menu includes the Start screen, the search function, settings for the computer itself and for individual apps, and quick access to content sharing and device management features.
A separate, but equally important component of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the latest version of the Internet Explorer browser: Internet Explorer 10. As with the operating system, IE10 has been redesigned with touch-based controls and more space on the screen is devoted to the websites being browsed as opposed to toolbars and menus. Browser speed and security have also been improved since IE9, resulting in an all-around better experience. Also on the internet front, Windows 8 contains integrated cloud networking compatibility for Hotmail and SkyDrive, allowing files and messages to be retrieved from any Windows 8 device.
The Consumer Preview should not be confused as being the “final” version of Windows 8. It is stable, but not nearly finished, and certainly isn’t ready to replace Windows 7 as the primary operating system used by home or business users. All the same, those who don’t mind troubleshooting and updating frequently, and who have an extra system that they don’t mind taking a risk on, should give it a spin.
You can download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at this link: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download. Any problems can be brought up on the Microsoft Answers forums at http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8.
After completing 10 OfficeMate upgrade/installations I have come across a number of items that bear discussing as well as a few questions I have run into from others.
When installing OfficeMate v 10.5 on XP workstations, many times you will get a 2 file registration errors – clicking through these seems to still give a successful install.
After a successful server install, if you have installed the client on the server (which I highly recommend doing if not just for troubleshooting issues), and you cannot connect from a networked client workstation, more than likely it is a firewall issue on the server – disable the firewall on the server to see, and if you can then connect, turn the firewall back on and set the proper firewall rules for your SQL server.
Performance issues: In my experience, OfficeMate should have approx the same performance on a workstation as it did on version 8 even if it is below the minimum requirements. **Note: The performance of OfficeMate/ExamWriter v 10.5 may be severely impacted if you are not running a good enough server. Follow the recommended hardware requirements for the server and understand that those requirements are generally fine as long as you are using your server as only a database and or terminal server – this means you generally should NOT use this server as a Domain Controller, DSN or DHCP server etc as these roles can have a huge impact on OfficeMate performance when the server is under load. Also, if using OfficeMate add-on applications such as ECR vault, make sure that your server Exceeds the requirements. Generally I go for dual quad core Xeon processors, minimum 12 GB RAM, and minimum 3 high speed enterprise class hard drives in RAID 5 (Hardware RAID).
Accessing older access backups once you have converted to SQL server: I have had a few people ask my how they could open up a prior Access based backup once they had upgraded to versoin 10.5 with SQL – in short, the easiest way is to use a virtual machine and install OfficeMate 8 on the virtual machine (Windows 7 Pro has the ability to run a virtual version of XP natively - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/ )
Windows 7 issues – I have run into a few scenarios where the proper Omate32.ini file was not put properly into the user profile. You should have this file in users/%username%/My Documents/Windows/ – if you are getting database errors on startup and are sure your firewall issues with the server have been resolved, check for this file and make sure it is there. (I always keep a working copy of this file on a server share for ease of copying).
Backups: If you are unfamiliar with how to do a SQL dump backup see this article : http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/113461/Schedule-a-daily-backup-with-SQL-Server-Express . You can also use backup services such as IBackup with the MS SQL Server backup plugin which automate the SQL database backup nicely.
* 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 6 years and have installed OfficeMate numerous times for 9 different practices. I have successfully done 10 upgrades in the past few months and assisted on a few others. Please feel free to contact me via my contact info at http://pensacolacomputers.com with any questions.
Unfortunately, in my job I see a lot of computers that have gotten a virus or malware and need to be fixed (and not just PC’s but Mac’s as well lately). While some infections are due to lack of adequate protection – up-to-date antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software, others are due to people falling prey to social engineered malware (fake links on facebook etc), or people accidentally clicking on things, or one of the ones I really dislike – a virus coming in through one of the mass forwarded emails.
It is a misconception that just because you have antivirus/antimalware software that it will protect you 100% – even the best software is hard pressed to protect a computer when someone allows something to come in by clicking ok, yes, or installing questionable software or downloading questionable files (yes, all of the people using limewire, frostwire, or torrent software – you all are at risk every time you download a shared file!). Many times a virus or malware will get onto a computer because someone has installed some ‘toolbar’, ‘searchbar’, screen-saver, coupon printer, rebate searcher, or other such program like those worthless ‘speed up my computer’ programs that are either badly written or are actually malicious and downloads other bad software behind the scenes. **Special note: Almost ALL of the speed up my PC programs are basically worthless and can often do much more damage to your computer than good. Anything that messes with the Windows Registry can damage your Windows installation if it remove the wrong things, and many of them do that!
So what can you do to better protect yourself and your computer from these nasties? Here is a short list of things that I always recommend following to eliminate the most common ways that a computer can get a virus, malware or spyware.
1. Never click on links from social networks such as facebook, or links in emails – regardless of what a link says it is, it can easily be made to hide something else. What you can do is right click on the link, select ‘copy shortcut’ then paste that into the address bar of your browser to see what it really is (or if you have the status bar in your browser enabled, you can often see it there) – if you don’t recognize the link or it looks suspicious – DON’T GO THERE!
2. Never open email attachments unless you specifically know that the specific person who sent you that specific email was sending you that specific attachement – too often people will get an email from a friend or family member that has an attachment and that attachment is a virus that a virus on their computer sent without them even knowing about it. If you don’t know what it is, and weren’t expecting it – DON’T OPEN IT!
3. Don’t download songs, software, videos etc from file sharing networks – when you use software such as Limewire, Frostwire, Vuze, or other torrent or file sharing software to download things you always take a big risk because you have no way of knowing where exactly the files are coming from, or if they have been altered – even a song can hide a virus or malware within it and it won’t activate until you play it. Also the majority of software ‘cracks’ or ‘activators’ have malicious viruses in them. Not to mention that downloading copywrited material is also illegal
4: Keep your antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software as well as your operating system software up to date! It is always important to update your system regularly as the software updates often carry fixes for security issues that have been found and without them you are much more vulnerable. Also update your OS to the latest version (yes, if you are still running Windows XP you might have to get a new computer, but XP is 11 years old and was never designed to handle today’s internet).
5: Beware programs like coupon printers, rebate searches, search toolbars, browser add-on’s, screen savers, and especially the fix all or speed up pc programs. Many times these programs are either malicous themselves or are so poorly coded that they make it much easier for bad things to get onto your computer – IF IT ISN’T FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE – DON’T INSTALL IT!
If your computer does get a virus, try to remove it with your antivirus/antimalware/antispyware software, or you can try to do a Windows system restore to a time before you got the virus (as opposed to a full computer factory restore which will wipe all your data).
Got a virus or malware and not sure what to do? If you run into something particularly nasty or need some advice on how to get rid of something, or just need great computer service or computer repair, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call.
After completing 8 upgrades of OfficeMate 8 to OfficeMate version 10.5 ( 10.5.23 is the lastest as I write this), a few observations from my own experiences and from things I have gleaned through conversations with others who have done the upgrade:
Firewalls are not really mentioned in the installation guide, but they can definitely cause issues, especially trying to get clients to connect to the server – if you have an issue with the clients not successfully working, and you can see the files on your network share, it is most likely a firewall issue. Open task manager, look for Login.exe and if you find it running, kill that process and then turn off the firewall on your server. If it work after that you will need to go to your server and configure the firewall for the ports that your SQL installation is using.
If you are upgrading from the Access based version of OfficeMate, make sure you have a backup solution that will properly backup your SQL database file (normal file backup programs do not work properly for SQL databases). You will need either a backup program that has a SQL database backup component, such as iDrive, or you can script a backup through the SQL management console then create a scheduled task to back it up. (There are plenty of guides out there on how to do this).
Make sure that you download the latest installation files from OfficeMate IMMEDIATELY prior to installation. There is no easy way to tell the actual version of the file you download (OfficeMate doesn’t properly sign their installation files nor do they include the actual version of the OfficeMate installation in the install executable), so if you download it days or weeks prior to installation you might not have the most current version.
As I have experiened a few issues in the Server installations and database conversions, I highly suggest that you have a full bare metal backup/image of you server that you can use to roll everything back in case an installation goes bad. Even though it is time consuming to make a full backup on some servers, it is well worth the effort for peace of mind if anything.
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 done 7 upgrades in the past few months and assisted on a few others. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
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:
Malwarebytes Pro – Malwarebytes is one of the best and finding and killing pesky malware on your computer. The Pro edition also offers a pretty good protection module and best of all it is a lifetime license with free upgrades. Use coupon code Q65-TRJ-G7J for a 15% discount at checkout here: Buy Malwarebytes from Malwarebytes.org
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!
ESET NOD32 Antivirus – ESET is hands down one of the best antivirus products out there with consistently excellent detection rates and low demands on your system resources. All computers should have an up-to-date Antivirus software product protecting them – use the following link to save 25% : New – ESET NOD32 Antivirus 5 – Save 25%
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