Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category
I have been a Microsoft partner for years, and have spent a huge amount of time and money gaining Microsoft qualifications. But right right now, I hope someone will step into the breach left by Windows 8 and the latest incarnations of Internet Explorer, both of which are absolute dogs.
I was a supporter of Vista, which I thought was unfairly maligned and actually worked very well after some early driver issues. Many people who claimed not to like Vista really had trouble understanding the changes to Office 2007, which came out at the same time, and did not have issues with Vista at all.
I have also been a supporter of Internet Explorer. I have explained to people that while the rendering engine is slightly slower, for most people this is not a limiting factor, and that IE has other advantages; it is easy to set up the way you want, and you need it if you ever do manual Windows updates.
Not any more. The last two versions of IE really have been markedly slower than Chrome, sometimes painfully slower. Gone to Tahiti for a holiday slower. Sent to a gulag in Siberia slower. Not to mention lock-ups, issues with Flash Player, etc. Until these are fixed, I am sticking with Chrome, which seems to me the most mature and stable of the alternatives, and amongst the fastest.
And as for Windows 8, good lord!
I watched a business training video from Microsoft a few weeks ago – two Microsoft “business experts” talking with each other about how great Windows 8 was for business. The only problem was, they never got around to explaining why or how. They spent a bit of time mocking people – yes mocking their own clients – who wanted a start button and menu.
“Ha, ha,” they laughed. “These are the same people who don’t need a start button on their Kindle or iPad, but want one on their PC.”
Good one, Microsoft evangelists! Not content with belittling your own clients, you completely miss the point.
The Kindle and iPad are about consuming content, and usually, doing only one thing at a time.
What made Windows so successful was that it is supposed to enable users to create as well as consume content, to do both efficiently, and to do more than one thing at a time.
I don’t understand why Microsoft find it so hard to acknowledge that people want a clear, simple list of available programmes that they can see while other windows are still open.
Microsoft’s refusal to provide this facility (and the failure to include it in Windows 8.1 means they have not addressed one of the main concerns consumers have) is sheer arrogance.
Until Microsoft are willing to listen to consumers and respond to the needs of the market, sod them.
Stick with Windows 7, and use Libre Office.
Two scams I have seen in the last couple of days.
First, a random caller claiming to be from Microsoft convinced my client his computer was about to crash and urgently needed to be upgraded from XP to Windows 7. Client allowed the caller to take control of his computer. Caller installed a skin to make XP look like Windows 7, and a ‘state of the art security system’ – in fact Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free. Total cost charged to my client’s credit card – just over $500.
Second, a pop-up telling a client her computer was infected with viruses and her data would be deleted if she did not take action immediately. This purported to be from Kaspersky Anti-virus support, but was not. It was from a group calling themselves iresolve247. Client rang the number given and allowed iresolve247 to take control of her computer. They did absolutely nothing, except for installing remote login software on her computer, and charged her $325.
iresolve247 (not giving them a link!) claim to be a legitimate computer support company. But any company that tells a pensioner she has a critical problem with her pc and will lose her data if she does not act immediately, then charges her $325 to do nothing, is not a legitimate computer support company. justechsupport is the same group. There may be other front pages for these same scam operators.
Do not fall for these scams! No reputable pc, software, or computer company cold calls people to offer to fix urgent problems on their pc. And anything that pops up warning you of disaster if you don’t act right this minute is also a scam. If in doubt, turn off your pc, restart and run a full virus scan. If you are still worried, take it to a reputable local technician.
Don’t be ripped off by some hairy dude in a shed in his back yard in Bombay!
I use PayPal frequently; at least once per day on average. About ten pecent of my business payments are made through PayPal.
On Saturday my account was restricted. Without any notice whatever, I could not make payments.
PayPal sent me an email saying they had some security concerns and asking me follow a procedure to regain access to my account.
I logged in and entered a new password and two security questions. Up to this point the process was inconvenient, but nothing more.
Then it asked me upload or fax a utility account or government ID showing my registered PayPal address.
That’s when it became a major problem.
As far as I can gather, this happened because I had logged in to my account and made a payment from a computer I do not normally use. Either that or PayPal has a programme which randomly takes a wrecking ball to its customers’ acccounts.
Think about when a client make might make a payment from a computer he does not normally use. When he’s on holiday, perhaps. Or on a business trip. Or away from home for some other reason. Just the sort of circumstances when obtaining, scanning and emailing utility accounts is going to be impossible. That’s when PayPal demands you produce them, and won’t let you use your account until you do. Good thinking, PayPal!
However, my problem was different. Like thousands of other businesses, my registered PayPal address is a delivery address; my physical location. No normal mail, utility accounts or anything else, comes to that address, it all goes to our PO box. So what am I meant to do?
After I had logged in to my account, I used the ‘contact us’ link on the PayPal website to send a message describing the problem and asking that it be fixed. No response.
Twenty-four hours later I hit the ‘contact us’ link again and sent another message. No response.
Another twenty-four hours later, and I still have not heard from them.
This is extremely poor customer service.
Apart from that, I cannot understand how a business like PayPal could have so little understanding of its clients’ needs. We are encouraged to rely on PayPal as a safe, reliable, always available payment method. But if your account can simply be stopped without warning, then PayPal cannot be relied on.
I understand the need for security measures.
But surely, if PayPal thinks an unauthorised transaction might have been made, the easiest thing for both PayPal and client would be to send the client an email asking him or her to check. If the situation is so dire that an account must be closed down immediately (using a different computer from usual certainly does not come into this category), wouldn’t a responsible business do everything possible to help a client get her account back as soon as possible?
PayPal problems update:
Fours days later, four messages to PayPal, still no response. Still can’t use my account. This is a mixture of monumental dumbness (see above) and an appalling disinterest in customer service.
If there were any other realistic option I would dump Paypal in a second.
Not because it is new and different, although that will be a problem. There was nothing wrong with Windows Vista, but people hated it, mostly because it was different from XP. The jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is even bigger. People will not be able to find their way around it. They will get confused and annoyed.
Not because it is ugly, though that will be a problem. If you really want big clunky icons on a boring background, Windows 7 will let you do it. So giving us big clunky icons splattered all over a boring background and telling us this is the exciting new Metro interface is not going to convince anyone.
Not because the controls are confusing, although that will be a problem. How do you close a programme? How do you turn the computer off? How do you check for updates? All these things can be done, but not in any obvious or intuitive way.
Not because the Metro apps are slow to load and hard to configure, although that will be a problem.
No, the real reason Windows 8 will fail is because it hinders productivity at every turn.
As I type this, I have three Internet Explorer tabs open, plus Outlook, Notepad and Word. I can see every open programme on the taskbar, I can change between them with a single click, I can copy and paste between them with a few keyboard shortcuts. The ability to do this is essential to my workflow, as it is for everyone who works in business. There is no easy or obvious way to do this in Windows 8. You cannot easily see what programmes are running, you cannot easily move from one to another, you cannot easily transfer data between them.
I am not saying there is no way to do these things, just that there is no easy or obvious way to do them. This is a major drawback compared with every version of Windows since XP.
After using the Windows 8 preview and beta for the last several months on my home computer, I could not wait to get back to Windows 7. Windows 8 was a slog from start to finish.
Windows 8 might be suitable for tablet PCs, although the metro interface offers little reason to choose it over Android or Apple OS. But tablet PCs are a fad. They are no more than pretty toys. Even if you want a highly portable computer for simple tasks like email and internet, in almost every circumstance you will be better off with a netbook with a proper built-in keyboard.
A tablet PC is the only place Windows 8 might work. But it is incredibly stupid to design a whole new version of Windows for a type of computer that will never be more than a tiny proportion of all PCs.
For normal home or business use Windows 8 is frustrating, verging on hopeless.
Businesses will only invest in a Windows upgrade if it will improve workflow and productivity. Windows 8 does the opposite. No one will want it, and I will be embarrassed to sell it.
Telstra is a commercial operation now, but still seems to have a public service mentality.
What I mean by this is that they seem to be more concerned about covering their backsides than they are about their customers, or their customers’ businesses.
For the last several days some of my clients have been reporting they were having problems with their Telstra Bigpond email. They could receive but not send emails.
Most of them had contacted Bigpond before coming to see me, and had been told that the problem was in some way their fault. Incorrect email server name settings, anti-virus software interfering with email, etc.
This was not the case. The problem was with Bigpond’s mail servers.
I know there may be delays in recognising that a problem exists. But even making this allowance, Bigpond has known for some days that a large number of their customers were affected by an issue that would cause confusion, and in some cases, disruption to business.
Yet they have done nothing to advise their customers of this.
It would be a simple matter to send an email to all Bigpond customers saying something like: Some Bigpond customers are currently experiencing difficulties sending emails. We are working on this issue, and will advise you as soon as it is resolved.
Or alternatively: If you are affected by this issue, please take these steps to resolve it…
If I treated my customers (I run an IT shop) the way Bigpond treats theirs, I would be out of business in a week.
Incidentally, a Bigpond customer service agent ( some of them must laugh themselves silly when they use that term) has just advised me that the problem is now resolved. Clients who still have difficulties sending email should turn their modem off and then on again. This should resolve the problem.
A letter from me to our local paper following a rash of rattled residents handing over credit card details to mellifluous malfeasants:
Residents report rorting by rascals ringing randomly.
Rancid rogues wrongly represent themselves as reps of reliable retailers.
These reprehensible rapscallions rip off retirees with relish.
Refuse rotten requests to ransack your RAM.
Ring off rapidly!
Kosher companies do not cold call clients for computer consultations.
Compliance with callous con-men may lead to credit card cancellation.
Help from hackers may lead to hijacked hardware.
Cut off cold calling quacks quickly!
In other words:
Neither Microsoft nor any other reputable computer security company cold calls users about virus infections on their computers, problems with their operating system, or anything else.
If someone calls you claiming to be from Microsoft Security, Global Internet Security, or any other tech supplier or tech support company, the caller is trying to scam you.
He may get you bring up the event log as proof of problems which urgently need to be fixed. The computer I am typing on lists 208 ‘problems’ for the last week. It is working perfectly. Problems listed in the event log are not a problem unless your computer is not doing what it should, when the event log may be a useful diagnostic tool for a technician.
Getting people to look at the event log is a good way of scaring old ladies, however.
Once you have checked the event log and are sufficiently alarmed, the scammer will either try to get you give him your credit card details to pay a fee for fixing these imaginary problems, or will give ask you to follow instructions which will give him control over your computer. This will allow him to plant malicious software which may track your key entries, giving him your ID and any passwords you use, or may pop up fake virus or system warnings later in order to get you to pay more money to deal with these further fake problems.
If you get a scam computer tech support call like this, just hang up.
OK, so Brisbane needs better traffic systems. But this absurdly expensive, oversold, poorly researched, underused tunnel?
The Clem 7 tunnel would never have been built if actual costs and usage had been known beforehand.
RiverCity is carrying $1.3 billion in debt and wrote down its $1.56 billion of assets to $258 million at June 30 last year.
What the heck were they thinking?
At least it only cost taxpayers and private investors about $3 billion.
The NBN is even more overpriced and unnecessary. $40 billion – $6000 for every household in Australia whether they want it or not – when existing and wireless technologies can provide similar speeds at a fraction of the cost with no public investment?
What the heck are they thinking?
The only internet infastructure sector that genuinely needs taxpayer money is rural and remote Australia, where an investment of about $3 billion into satellite and wireless technologies would provide speeds comparable with those currently available to city users.
I noted a couple of posts ago that on present costing, the price of the National Broadband Netwreck would be about $6000 per Australian household.
Everyone will pay for that through increased taxes, whether they use it or not. And that’s assuming (ha, ha, ha) that costs do not increase.
According to some experts, the planned $43 billion may end up being $8o billion, which brings the cost up to about $12,000 per household.
But even this is not the total price. I had overlooked the cost – anywhere between $750 and $3000 – of getting access points installed in the home.
So the total cost of the NBN could be anywhere up to $15,000 per household. And that’s before any monthly fees.
This is madness. $15,000 for an internet connection?
No wonder the Labor party doesn’t want a business plan prepared.
How many dams, power stations, hospitals could be built with that money?
Stephen Conroy dismissed a prediction that as few as 16% of homes in Tasmania would take advantage of the NBN.
The take-up rate in Tasmania is effectively zero. So far a total of 70 homes connected.
“A total of 70 customers have been signed up in Tasmania under the three brands – so that’s not 70 each but a total of 70 between iiNet, Internode and Primus,” he said. “Demand from our point of view is zero.”
“We’re not getting people calling us up to sign up. We’ve got the customers that we have on there by calling them. We’re identifying customers that are on our footprint, looking at those who’ll be better off with NBN products, so where they are going to get a higher speed at the same or more quota for the same price… we haven’t had any cases of people calling us up saying ‘I need to move across now; what do I have to do?’ It’s actually been driven by us.”
Or threatens to.
Google has long removed sensitive search results from its Chinese search engine at Google.cn, but said Tuesday it plans to end the censorship and may ultimately shut down the company’s China offices.
However, China is highly unlikely to allow Google to run an uncensored version of the search engine, according to observers.
Google has in fact said plainly it will not operate in China under present censorship rules. This follows attempts by hackers to access gmail accounts belonging to known human rights activists.
If Google refuses to filter results and supply information as requested by the Chinese government, China is likely to block access to Google within its borders.
This will cost Google money, enough to hurt, even if not a major percentage of its $22 billion in annual revenues.
Let’s hope Google sticks to its motto ‘Don’t be evil’.
And don’t co-operate with evil either, no matter how much money is involved.
I have many years experience using partition management software. I have four MCTS qualifications, am an MCITP and an A+Certified IT Technician.
I frequently have clients who want disk partitions copied, extended, etc.
I have used Paragon software before with good results. Or at least, without major disasters.
I recently upgraded to the latest version of Paragon Hard Disk Manager. The disasters began immediately.
Moving partitions is always risky. I always save or image user data before any partition operations. About one out every four times the operation will fail, because of file errors, or a full moon, or the day of the week having a ‘y’ in it, or whatever. It is never a problem, because I always make a complete back up of target disks beforehand.
The first time I used the new Paragon Hard Disk Manager the operation failed. No problem, I thought. A minor inconvenience at most.
Until I tried to restart my computer. I got a message saying there were interrupted operations, and I should insert my recovery CD.
Paragon Hard Disk Manager had no business making any changes to my C: drive at all – that was not one of the drives I was operating on – let alone making changes to critical boot files or records.
No recovery CD would let me restart Windows, nor could the repair utility on the Windows CD get the system working.
Now I had a problem, because the user’s data was no longer accessible from his drive, and my C: drive, where I had saved his disk image, was also inaccessible.
I recovered my and my user’s data from the disk, reinstalled Windows, and tried again. Same problem – the partition operation failed. Windows would not start. Same error message.
I had just upgraded to Windows 7, and thought perhaps there might be an incompatibility, though there was nothing to suggest this on Paragon’s website.
I wiped the disk, went back to Vista Business, and tried again, ths time with a different partition operation on a different disk. Exactly the same result. The operation failed, and Windows would not restart, even though there was no reason for Partition Manager to have made any changes to my primary drive at all.
This is a dog’s breakfast of a programme. There is no excuse for releasing to market a piece of software that repeatedly causes such disastrous disk and sytem errors.
Until Paragon fix this, anyone who uses Hard Disk Manager is at serious risk, not only of wasting several hours of time, as I did, but of losing any or all information from their hard disks.
With increasing down and upload speeds, online storage and backup is becoming a viable option.
I have an automatic backup system that copies a full disk image every week to an external drive. But I would still be in trouble if there was a fire, or my gear was stolen, or (and I have seen this happen) internal and external hard disks were both damaged by a power surge.
You really need cable internet or ADSL2 to make this practical for most users. But if you do, it is worth thinking about.
Disclaimer: I do get a (very small) commission (like $1) if you click on the link above and sign up for a plan. So I hope you will. But mainly I just thought it was interesting.
Vista SP2 was released on June 30th, and appears an an ‘Important Update’ in the Windows update list.
It is a dangerous update. SP2 updates some 50,000 files. If any one of them is corrupt, your computer may stall on restart.
Prior to running SP2, take the following steps:
1. Back up your important files and settings.
2. Go to Accessories in the Start menu, and open Command Prompt. Type in the following: sfc /scannow then press enter.
There is a space between the c and the forward slash. This command will check the integrity of your Windows system files. Have your Vista install disk handy – you will need it if any of your files have to be repaired.
Once this is done, restart your computer, disable your antivirus software, and download and install SP2.
It should now run smoothly. The file update on restart takes some time, so be patient.
If you install SP2 and the computer stalls when it restarts, you will see a message consisting of a numerical code and a filename. The filename tells you the name of the file which is preventing the update from continuing.
If this happens, note the filename. Start the computer into DOS mode (you may need to boot to your Vista install disk, choose “Repair Your Computer’ then choose ‘Command Prompt’). Find the corrupt file (try windows/system32 first, unless you know where the file is). Change the file extension to .old.
For example, if the offending file is trouble.dll, you would type: ren trouble.dll trouble.old and press enter.
Then restart the computer. Repeat this process till you work through any other corrupt system files.
Windows should then start normally.
You should not have this problem if you run sfc /scannow before installing the update.
Yesterday Qohel was at the number one position on Bing for ‘leading conservative blog.’ Today it has dropped out of their listings completely.
Bing’s webmaster tools report they had trouble finding my sitemap last time they crawled the site. I’ve checked that and pinged Bing with the sitemap address. But Qohel is not showing as blocked, and surely a missing sitemap could not cause an already listed site to disappear completely?
New internet search engines come and go so often that I don’t usually even bother to look at them.
Usually they fail because they do not return relevant usable results. Returning sites clearly related to the search terms entered has been Google’s greatest strength.
Yahoo was for too long compromised by the fact that you had to pay to be listed. That was fine for Yahoo, but meant that many sites useful to searchers could not be found.
That changed, but by the time it did, Google had already established a lead that was too hard to make up.
Another thing Google did well was to make a clear distinction between organic search results and paid search results. Again, this helped users/searchers, so they kept coming back.
But there have been two new entries over the last month which are worth considering.
The first is Wolfram Alpha.
This is not a general search engine. It returns information, not links. But what it does, it does very well. It’s never heard of me, but generally, if you need factual information, or information which can be calculated, Wolfram Alpha is a good place to start. It also has a sense of humour.
The other major newcomer is Microsoft’s Bing.
Microsoft Live Search was always hopeless. I don’t know why, but it just never seemed to return results which were useful.
Bing does a much better job. It is quick to load, pleasant to look at, and clean – that is, the screen is not jumbled up with a whole lot of useless junk about the latest nude pics of Britney Spears, or why the world is falling apart because of misbehaviour by Australian footballers.
Most importantly, Bing returns relevant and useful results.
My impression is that Google gives more weight to blogs (John Ray agrees), or certainly that Google visits frequently updated sites more often. Perhaps this is because there doesn’t (yet) seem to be any way to send a blog ping to bing. There is a form you can use to submit your site to Bing if it does not appear in their results, and this form might also work as a ping, though I am just guessing about that.
From my brief experiments, it also seems to me that Google gives more weight to incoming links than Bing, while Bing gives more weight to page content. Both methods are reasonable. Google’s will return longer standing, popular results. Bing’s will return sites where the content matches the search terms more closely.
I like Bing. It seems to return more results that relate closely to what I was looking for.
However, for now, Google will stay as my home page.
I couldn’t get maps on Bing to work. But my major reason for staying with Google is that I search for news more than anything else. When you hit the ‘news’ button on Google without entering any search terms, it returns a wide variety of news stories from a wide variety of sources, in a well organised way. Bing returns nothing. This is a major shortcoming, one I hope will be fixed soon.
Results for search term ‘leading conservative blog’ (without quote marks).
Google: Qohel is first page, third place.
Yahoo: Qohel is first page, first place.
Bing: Qohel is first page, first place.
Just received this email claiming to be from the Commonwealth Bank:
We recorded a payment request from “HostGator -www.hostgator.com- Reseller Web Hosting” to enable the charge of $74.95 on your account.
Because the order was made from an African internet address, we put an Exception Payment on transaction id #POS PAYM7284 motivated by our Geographical Tracking System.
THE PAYMENT IS PENDING FOR THE MOMENT.
If you made this transaction or if you just authorize this payment, please ignore or remove this email message. The transaction will be shown on your monthly statement as “HostGator – Reseller Web Hosting”.
If you didn’t make this payment and would like to decline the $74.95 billing to your card, please follow the link below to cancel the payment :
Cancel this payment (transaction id #POS PAYM7284) (Warning – this is a phishing site – this warning was not in the email, obviously!)
NOTE: Because email is not a secure form of communication, please do not reply to this email.
The link takes you to a very plausible looking pretend Commonwealth Bank website, where you are invited to log in so you can cancel the unauthorised transaction. Once you log in, the owner of the fake site has your internet banking username and password, and can access all your online bank accounts.
Even if you think an email may be genuine, never follow links in emails to your banking website (or to PayPal, Amazon, or any other site where you have a password protected account).
Always open a new browser window, go to the official bank web site, and log in from there.