Microsoft’s Windows 8 has already been released to manufacturers and developers and is scheduled to be released to the general public and for sale on new computers as of October 26th. Windows 8 brings a wealth of new features and better security to the PC as well as tablets. Optimized for touch screens, Windows 8 is a pretty big departure from previous versions of Windows and make take some getting used to. We have been using Windows 8 throughout it’s development cycle and have been playing with the final release version now for over a week and it is impressive.
Starting with the new Start Screen (there is no more start button), Windows 8 brings us live tiles and apps that provide a live link to web content in a full screen app. We were really impressed with some of the start up apps such as Weather, which brings together a wealth of information in an easy to browse format. Also included in Windows 8 are 2 versions of Internet Explorer 10, a full screen one that runs from the app screen (but does not include support for plug-ins) and the normal desktop mode. We found that while the full screen app version does provide both excellent speed and rendering, the lack of plug-in support made us switch to the desktop version quite frequently – this will of course depend upon your own personal browsing habits, but we tend to use quite a few sites that require plug-ins on a regular basis.
Under the hood there have been quite a lot of changes to optimize the Windows experience, both from a performance and a security standpoint. Gone is the resource hogging Windows Aero (which provided the cool transparent windows borders, but also taxed the system), and Windows now sports many updated features including a new Windows Explorer and a much improved task manager. Windows also comes with much better default security and privacy features that offer a much higher level of protection than previously.
Coming in the following weeks will be providing a wealth of info on the new Windows 8 including some galleries and specific hardware review.
For any questions on the upcoming Windows 8, including information on Windows 8 installation and Windows 8 upgrades, please visit http://pensacolacomputers.com
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
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
I was ‘lucky’? enough to get an iPad the other day for reviewing. As a number of people I do work for have gotten one, or are thinking about getting one, I was certainly interested to put it through it’s paces. Apple has a lot riding on the iPad, and from a marketing standpoint, they have done an amazing job at building the hype, and keeping it going, unfortunately the actual implementation isn’t quite as polished as Apple’s advertising machine. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are some things to like about the iPad, so I will cover those first.
What I liked:
What I don’t like:
While the iPad does have some nice features, and it certainly will spur the innovation in the market, in my opinion, it is definitely not worth the hefty price tag. It is really just a cool toy (although I do love to have cool toys!). It is definitely not ready for the enterprise or any kind of serious business useage, and while I have heard talk of businesses rushing out to adopt it into their business plans, I think they will find they are spending more time trying to use it that they were using their ‘clunky’ workstations or laptops. For an oversized iPod, it does have nice video display, but my recommendation is that unless you like wasting money, or have money to waste, wait a while to see what comes out in the next 6 months or so as there are certainly some very cool devices being developed that won’t have the shortcomings of the iPad.
According to a new report released by the Mcafee Security Labs, social networking sites like Facebook can expect more attention from cybercriminal in 2010. The director of security research at Mcafee, David Marcus, expects “an explosion of Facebook and other services targeted by cybercriminals.” Marcus expects an increase in rogue Facebook applications in addition to malware like Koobface that spreads among Facebook users’ friends lists.
Marcus explains “When you click yes to ‘do you want to allow this application to access your Facebook account,’ you’re giving that application access to all the data in your Facebook account.” With so many people using Facebook now, this is a prime way for scammers and spammers to not only harvest user data, but to have a direct line into people’s computers to install rogue applications.
Because Facebook allows these ‘third-party’ applications to be installed within the Facebook framework, this leaves a huge vulnerability hole open for malicious exploits. In today’s world, all it takes is one rogue application making through to your computer for the floodgates to open – and a word to the wise – even if you don’t run a PC and think your ‘secure’ Mac computer will protect you, think again – Macs are just as vulnerable to infections, and perhaps even more so considering the lack of good security software installed on most Apple systems. In addition, rogue applications that work on the browser level to infect and steal your Facebook account data don’t care what OS or security software you are using – they grab the data right out of your account on the web level.
So what should you do? Well the best thing to do is to not use Facebook, however for some, that just isn’t an option. For those who just can’t live without it, you should take sensible precautions: only install apps from within Facebook by clicking browse more applications in the Facebook application installer (this will allow only ‘approved’ applications to be installed – not a total guarantee, but definitely safer). Also, never ever lend your credentials to friends or family members, and never click on links directly – instead copy and paste them into your address bar so you can ensure where you are going first (if you don’t know the website, don’t go there!).
To read the full report by Mcafee, go here: http://www.mcafee.com/us/local_content/white_papers/7985rpt_labs_threat_predict_1209_v2.pdf
For the audio interview podcast of David Marcus for CNET: http://radiolarry.com/cnetaudio/mcafeereport2010.mp3
Win Antivirus 2009, it’s not an antivirus program, rather it is a particularly nasty piece of malware that will infect your machine, tell you that your machine is infected (all the stuff it says you are infected with is bogus), and will try to get you to purchase something that will ‘clean’ your system, when in fact it will just infect it further. What is particularly nasty about this program is that it often bundles even more garbage on your system and the resultant infection can be almost impossible to remove. Besides hitting you with constant popups telling you that your system is infected, it will slow your internet browsing to a crawl, redirect your web searches, and it, or one of the other bits of crap it installs, can disable your antivirus, block you from downloading products that can actually detect and remove some parts of it, disable your system restore points, replace critical system files, install other nasties like keyloggers which can steal your passwords, infect your email program and send off copies of other malware to your contacts, and generally just make your system unusable.
While I have read of many different methods to remove this infection, due to the nature of it, the only guaranteed way to ensure a clean system after a nasty infection like this is to wipe the drive and reinstall Windows. This is often the cheapest (in terms of time) and pretty much the only sure fire way to make sure your system is clean.
So how do these infections spread? There are a few ways that such nasty malware is spread across the internet, some of the more popular ways are through email attachments (never open attachements unless you know specifically that someone was sending you something, as even if the email comes from a friend, they themselves may be infected, and it is the virus that sent the email and not them), another way is through false ‘updates’, like if you go to a website that says something like “in order to view this content you need to update your flash player, or quicktime, or you need some kind of codec” – when you get something like this, NEVER install from that site. If you actually do need an update to flash, go to adobe.com, for quicktime, go to apple.com, for other codecs, go to the manufacturer. Once you have the latest update, or if you already do, and you still get those kind of popups, then you can be pretty much assured that it is a scam. These kind of things can also come from some spoofed Ecard sites, ie: you get an email from a known friend or associate that has a link to view an ecard they sent you, and when you go to the site, it says something like “click here to install the ecard viewer” – this is most commonly another way to install garbage on your computer.
Most importantly, make sure you are running current antivirus and antispyware programs. If you are unsure of something, don’t click on it. If you do get infected, as soon as you experience symptoms, try to do a system restore to a point before you got infected (sometimes you can’t as the system restore points are removed by the virus). In cases where you can’t get rid of it, take it to a professional, or if you are comfortable doing it yourself, back up all your important files, and reinstall Windows (a fresh install of Windows can be a good thing in terms of bringing back the speed to your system). Just make sure to update Windows with all the patches and service packs before venturing back out onto the internet!
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.