Friday, July 22, 2005

Secure Password Authentication and Email

It appears SP1 for Small Business Server has many issues that really should be clarified before installation and thanks to the automatic updates Microsoft makes as a default with the SBS system, SP1 was to be installed whether you want it or not. True there was a patch that would prevent the download and eventual install take place but it was only a matter of time before you would have to install it. This is pretty much the way I felt when I first blocked the installation and managed to get a few more weeks before a new attempted installation occurred. I would notice this when my email started being bounced back to me stating there was a "delay" in the message being sent. Since installing the Linksys/Cisco vpn RV082 router which gave me the dual WAN capabilities I was looking for, it appeared it didn't like it too much when the SBS server wanted to take control via the UPNP. This being corrected I was next greeted with a problem when the SP1 install completed and I could not connect to the server. I figured two weeks of dealing with this was enough and finally took the server offline until the SP1 changes could be fixed. Unfortunately this was playing havoc with my email since each time the server would come online, it would go and retrieve my mail. I didn't think it would be too much of a problem since I could still read my mail from the server, however, what I wasn't aware of was that one account, which just so happened to be the main account, had the Secure Password Authentication turned on, which would still send mail but not receive. The other problem was that it would actually allow some mail but not all and so it wasn't until I actually was at a clients home yesterday where I emailed myself and then found I did not receive it that I knew something was up. Sure enough after spending a few hours in the exchange server I found the problem and the 186 messages that were blocked. Note that these were all legitimate messages that had already been screened from SPAM filters. This was 186 messages that required some sort of action. Needless to say it is now 12:15am and I have been at it for the past 6 hours and am happy to say all the mail has been processed. I apologize to any and all that had gone a few days without any response from me.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Are you using the spyware software on your computer? Are you using it correctly? Every Day?

I just read an interesting statistic from this lockergnome article regarding Spyware.

Sophos reports that 50% of all Windows PCs connected to the Internet are infected within 12 minutes of them being wired to the Web. This applies to all Windows PCs that have no serious anti-virus protection and an active firewall.
According to the same company, 7,944 new viruses were released in the first half of 2005, with a nearly 60% increase over the previous year.
That is indeed pretty bad news by itself, but what I find absolutely stunning is the amount of people I know who have plenty of viruses, Spyware, and malware on their computers and they dont even know it.
The same survey in fact found 77 percent of users believing their home computers are either very safe (28 percent) or somewhat safe (49 percent) from online threats.

If you have not already visited my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page and installed all the software I make available without having to go searching for it and to make sure you have the latest version which I usually try to stay on top of since it is used every day by hundreds of my existing clients, it is always interesting to learn that many are using it, but not daily, even though you use your computer for internet activity every day or, that it is being used every day but it is not getting "updated". By this I mean you are clicking on it to do a scan but have not checked to see if there were updates available. Basically a Spyware scanner works the same as an antivirus scanner. It takes a known definition file that tells it what to start looking for and then scans. Without the latest "definitions" how can it possibly find the bad things and since there are new viruses and Spyware released daily, how can you be sure? As well, when you do run the updates, quite often there will be a quick note upon completion that states "new version available".. This is quite often overlooked and even though you are going through the correct paces in scanning your computer, if the version you are using is out dated, even though it may go through the same scanning and checking for updates, it will not complete it since the newer version will obviously be reading a different set of "definitions", therefore it is always good to look at the "version" of the program you are using. Currently Ad-aware is up to version 1.06r whereas Spybot Search and Destroy just recently released version 1.4. You can always find the "version number" of software by clicking on the 'HELP' and choosing "about" as this will show you usually the software name/author and version number and quite often will include a link to the manufacturers website where you can confirm things. Note that you can also get there from a direct link at the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page.

For more information please be sure to read the TIPS.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Did your computer get the latest set of Microsoft Updates?-Updated

The following quote from me was initially created BEFORE the latest authentication tool from Microsoft. For existing clients that have experienced a problem, please read this first..

Even if you are the type of person that periodically checks the windows update site ( which you can get to always, by starting the Internet Explorer and clicking on TOOLS/Windows Updates. Of course you should also be able to get to it directly from the Windows Update link found on your start menu under (all programs) in windows xp. When you get to the website, choose ADVANCED instead of the recommended "express" as you would only be getting the CRITICAL updates if you go that route. By choosing the other option, you get to see what other updates are available. In any case, you pretty much will want to get everything available and realize that some items may not install the first go-round and you may have to restart your computer and then run the windows update again. This is quite often the case where there are combined updates or one of such that requires all memory to be rewritten in which case a full restart is required.

As Mentioned Previously--I am still around!

It comes to my attention at this point that I am not always getting through to people that I communicate with via email, web or telephone to the best of my ability, even though I try to make myself available, whether the voice mail is sitting a waiting half a day or my email waits for that same length of time, it isn't because I am ignoring you. Partially it is the fault of the service, whether it is my voicemail service sending messages directly to voice mail, due to my phone being active on the Internet or talking with another customer, sometimes it will be hours before I can return a call, and in some bad cases, a day, in this case always because of technical problems with the service. It seems that some of my messages will not come to me unless I check voicemail. On these occasions it is usually when I am out of my "home" range, and the forwarding feature seems rather slow in forwarding the fact that there is a message waiting. On some occasions, I have not known that I even received a message until I just miss a call, then check voicemail and find that in fact there were two calls. Sure technology is helping with the "missed calls" feature, but when your phone is out of range, you won't realize this until you are back in range. It is at this point that you are supposed to be notified of voicemail as well. This doesn't always happen and so then there should be some other method of notification and there is, this is by the double beep sound you will get when you go to make a call. Again, realize that this may not be for a few hours. Of course when you have voicemail, you shouldn't have to worry about it, because the person should be able to leave a detailed enough message so that you can get back to them. This is of course where I turn to email and highly suggest all of my existing clients use it whenever possible.. And this is where some clients truly take advantage of it, and I certainly do not mind it, in fact I often suggest it, simply because I can give a more thorough answer to whatever your question or problem might be, by directing you to various websites that have already created a detailed instruction list of how-to-fix, or I can explain with pictures or whatever might be the problem. Of course not to mention the need for the IP address so that I can even attempt a repair or at least a look to see if I can not diagnose or get to understand whatever the problem you may be seeing on your computer. Much like making that house call and finding out as soon as you look at the screen, the problem is clear, which is why it is so great to be able to take advantage of the remote ability of your computer via the Internet. This is of course why I ask my existing clients to always take advantage of this service. Now, as I mentioned, some of my clients will take advantage of this, by means of a simple email asking a question. This is also something I highly suggest, especially since I volunteer with in as much as I take the questions and answer them in hopes that if I require research to answer the question, this research will be something of knowledge that I can use for my own clients over the period of time. Quite often, once a problem occurs on one computer, I am going to see it over and over again, especially in the case of Spyware. It is for that reason why I have created this blog and the ability to communicate with my existing clients as well as anyone who happens past this blog via search engines, that I can leave my notes or what some may say "words of wisdom" towards a problem, available for everyone, without the need for me to repeat myself. In some cases, from my TIPS page, I will make mention of a tip by directing people to it, once again, no having to repeat myself. In the case of the Blog and the RSS feed, you too do not have to worry about visiting the website since you will be notified anytime I create a new blog. This being said, it means if I have something of importance that I wish all of my existing clients to read, I can simply place it here and then they will read it.. The problem is, they need to know what RSS is, and what a blog is, and then understand what tools are required, in this case, a web browser capable of RSS feeds (almost all browsers with the exception of Internet explorer have this ability now and IE 7 when release, will also have this integrated within the browser). For now, you can get third party news agregator programs that will work in conjunction with your Internet Explorer, to allow you to subscribe by "right clicking" or by means of a toolbar button. No matter what though, the only way I can be sure that each and every client has subscribed is by first notifying them, probably by email, that this feed even exists and what the purpose of it is.

This then brings me to the topic of me being around, as I mentioned in my last blog, that yes, I may not be making a presence of many blogs or other information, and my emails may be taking a little longer to answer these past few weeks, but it was because of my own personal server being down and me working on it while still fixing computers on my bench. These computers would be the ones I have rounded up from my clients that have services that require more then about 2 hours of work. This is something that I have pretty much implemented full time, since I have started utilizing my employees, which I built.. Yes, my employees I like to refer them as, which are the service loaner computers that I have constructed and that I pass on to each client as I swap out their computer to be worked on from my bench. The main reason for this is the time that I can spend on it and get the job done correctly. Unfortunately depending on the speed of your computer, especially when I first look at it, is probably quite slow and when dealing with any windows computer we unfortunately have to do a lot of reboots which take time.. The typical fast computer will take about 3 minutes round trip from the shutdown command to full start up, whereas this can be as high as 6 minutes on some. Think about that if you did it 5 times to remove or install 5 different programs? That's half of an hour with me sitting there waiting for it to restart. This is the number one reason why the bench becomes home in more ways then one. So that is why the email becomes key in questions for me to answer, and yes, if you happen to have a question each and every day of the month, so be it. It would be like we have communicated on a daily basis pretty much all month. Right now, I would have to say this has been limited to hopefully one or two times a month, that is, if I am doing my job right, and you have managed to create that list of questions, which would allow for a true one on one lesson then that is the best approach. However, if you feel you must make comments or ask very basic questions, knowing that you may not receive an answer right away, that is fine as well. But please, do not expect me to have all the answers all of the time, nor think that you must email me when you are unsure of how to proceed without taking that leap of faith and trying it out, remembering that you are in charge and that you always have the power to turn the power switch off on the computer, in which case hoping that when you turn it back on, the problem will be gone, which is probably half of the times this will be the case. The other half of the time, common sense in what you just attempted to do initially that caused the problem in the first place, will not be duplicated the next time because an entirely new set of parameters is in place, since the computer has now just been reset by the power down and restart.

So why am I mentioning these technical issues and the fact that a lot of them can be answered by your own initiative by simply trying it out. Worst thing I always say is " you can always start over" and that means even if you had to completely reformat and rebuild your computer to get things to work properly, it is something that can be done quite easily. The key is to remember that this is NOT YOUR DATA. It is the DATA that you created that should become the most important issue when dealing with anything on your computer. These are all key issues that I bring up with each and every client that I see on a daily basis and hopefully am increasing the education process as our relationship continues and your knowledge of your computer becomes greater.

So when I say I am still around, I am, and I am trying to keep my own computers operating at their peak performance so that I can in turn get your computer working the same way. I am still making tweaks to websites and connecting to client computers remotely, diagnosing and repairing as the requests come in. As with any service in this world, the squeakier the wheel, the more grease it is going to get. That being said, obviously if you have a very serious computer problem, whereas it just no worky.. Then obviously you are going to get priority, over a simple question or comment via email that I may not get to for over a day.. I do try.. honest! But remember too, that not all email I receive: requires a response, as I have also been told by some clients that have been quite overzealous in the amount of mail that I may receive in a typical month, that I am not required to respond to it all. If you receive no response at all via one method, such as email, obviously common sense would prevail and you would pick up the phone.. Right? Well, maybe not, and since I want to promote all forms of communication, I will always point to some method that is digital, whether that be in email or voicemail.. Once the message is sent out, it is now up to the respondent to respond, this is why when you leave a message or email, it is always an advantage if the more information on the problem is given, if this means the IP address so that I can connect or at least attempt to connect to your computer remotely, then so be it. If this means leaving me a voice message with the IP address, since your email is the problem, then so be it. But leaving no voice message or an email with a simple comment and then no real question, please understand that I am not a mind reader, nor can you always count on the missed call feature from working. When your question is something as basic as how to turn off the computer, never feel that it doesn't require a response because you feel it is such a stupid question. This is actually a common problem of many computers that have Spyware or hardware issues.. The computer will not turn off. But then again, if you are simply wanting to turn off the computer and the normal procedures do not work, you shouldn't be afraid of simply pulling the plug. I guess this is where I have to say "think" before simply writing to me saying you have no way of turning off the computer. Even though you may laugh and say "nobody is that foolish", it has happened! Not to mention the obvious "no sound" and after checking all the cables, device connections, they realize that the volume control on the speaker was turned down... How stupid is that? Well, if your mind tells you one thing and you 'think' you have already checked the obvious, not always will you find that is the case. This is where I have found it does help if you step away from the project at times to see just what it is you might be overlooking. I am not suggesting you always take the initiative each and every time you have computer problems and attempt all repairs yourself, far from that. All I am suggesting is you be less cautious of what may happen if you do the wrong thing and more confident that you will be prompted by something when you are doing the wrong thing. Therefore if you find you are constantly getting prompted for some reason, it is probably because you are continually doing something wrong, in other words, you are going down the wrong path and should stop and take that step back. You would be surprised how often you have overlooked the obvious. So, when I say I am still around, it means that if you are not hearing from me, I am busy but never too busy to at least answer any Question I get thrown my way. As for you overzealous clients that can't help but email me almost daily with some sort of problem.. I am not asking you to ever stop doing this because I could quite easily write a book on the amount of times I hear the negative comments about computer problems simply because the person has been so frustrated over and over again with computer problems and are sick and tired of dealing with them, but then these are the same people that wish everything to work properly but would rather never remember the right way to do things and will close their mind on trying to remember what they did wrong in the first place, simply because they are trying to learn too much at one time. I believe it is always better to learn one thing good enough so that you can "take that step back" and know when you are going the wrong way in whatever you are doing, by means of prompts you may be getting to you sitting there scratching your head saying.. "now what have I done?"... And most of all, remember that because of the profession I happen to have chosen, it deals with computers, and this means that in some way or another, I am probably staring at one or working with one, which means I should never be too far away from some sort of communication with you.

I am constantly looking for better ways to do things and obviously that means making it easier for me as well, allowing me more time to do the other things I want to do. This is pretty much everybodys feelings now a days therefore I will continue to pursue these technologies in hopes that I can make both you and I have a more peaceful day with your computer.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

All Seems Quiet But it Really Is Not!

I realize sitting here once again attempting reinstallation of SP1 on my SBS server that I have not blogged since the end of Gnomedex and thought I should make mention that I been dealing with the most current update to my Small Business Server to the SP1 service pack Microsoft has released. Problem is, once it is installed it has enabled a firewall that no computer on the network will see, nor can I access any files other then from the server itself. Latest information I receive is that there is a patch and registry tweak to be made which I am currently in the process of doing. It was then that I realized my email was beginning to really get backlogged as well as the remote services that I do to those client-computers that have issues. If you are one of these people, please be patient.. so long as you are still surfing the net and receiving email, then at this point, you are doing better then the 4 computers I currently have on my bench, therefore I have had to really prioritize things in that fashion.

Fun with computers.. That's all I can say about this. I don't really classify myself as a very patient person when it comes to computer problems, however that is not what I have been told by many who know me. In fact I guess you could say I am quite the opposite, therefore I guess when I have looked at the amount of time I have spent "tweaking" and just getting this server going, I have to look at it from the fact that it "serves" so much that this time I spend working on it is time well spent. Much like the service loaners, which allow me to keep a client computer that extra day on the bench quite often allows for many small issues that would normally get missed after making any sort of repairs and simply returning it. There is no doubt that the longer I have to work on something, the more problems I will find therefore optimizing the computer even more.

So what might end up appearing like it is a quiet time, when in fact I have found myself stuck to my chair in registry repairs... Not something I enjoy doing, but if it means putting up with a little frustration for what should be worth it in the end, I'll have to take that chance and in the meantime please remember I am a key click away if something should become a real problem!