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Windows 10

Windows 10 on the Horizon!

It was just a few months ago we were talking about how stubborn Microsoft was being about Windows 8. The poor user experience and lack of start menu were driving customers away from PCs and Microsoft had stood fast and refused to listen to feedback.

Well, they’re back in the news ‘cap in hand’ and eating humble pie, it seems a 25% down-turn in PC sales is enough to make them listen to customers. The next release of Windows - to be named Windows 10 - is due for release towards the end of 2015. As an MCP, I’m lucky enough to have access to the preview release of Windows 10 and it’s a breath of fresh air compared to Windows 8; They’ve made some fantastic changes, and although there is a long way to go, these first steps are in the right direction.

Firstly and most importantly, the start menu is back and better than ever. A click or tap on the start button brings up a traditional menu to the left of the screen and this gives you quick access to your common programs and files, just like we’re used to in Windows 7 and earlier.

The Modern or Metro user interface from Windows 8.1 has been upgraded and is now called the Continuum interface. I installed Windows 10 on a convertible tablet PC in my workshop, and when I removed the tablet part from the keyboard it automatically jumped into a special Tablet mode making it very easy to navigate between programs, and when I docked the tablet back into its keyboard it all went back to looking like a normal laptop or desktop layout… very clever Microsoft! The designers have put in lots of effort to this interface and it really shows because it’s so easy to use, and feels natural, unlike the clunky ‘corner zones’ from Windows 8.1.

Cortana is a voice-control system that will be integrated with Windows 10 and can also act as a personal assistant. It’s similar to the Siri system on Apple devices, although Cortana is much better than anything I’ve seen before. The voice recognition is superb and picks up all my commands perfectly, even when I tried my best Sean Connery accent. Cortana’s ability far exceeds the Apple and Android rivals and it can do all the basic admin tasks like diary admin and dictation and even responds perfectly to web searching.

So it seems the future for PCs is looking brighter, but if you’re struggling right now with Windows 8 or 8.1 then don’t hesitate to give me a call or email to book in a help visit. There are a few tricks to making the most of Windows 8 and a 1 hour Q&A visit might help get your confidence back

Windows 7 roll-backs are still an option with costs around £100 for the MS license and labour. In stock now: refurbished Vista machines from £120, Windows 7 machines from £150 and Windows 7 Laptops from £180. If you’re considering a new machine then I’d be happy to guide you through the options, there are fantastic deals about with HP Windows 8.1 Towers from £180. At the time of writing this, the best price on McAfee is Argos £15 for single PC or £25 for 3, and best price for Norton is PC World £22 for 3 PCs.

I hope you find this information useful. If you would like to see particular subjects covered then please feel free to ask at www.alfindlay.com.

Al Findlay | Freelance IT & AV Support Consultant | Website design and Hosting | www.AlFindlay.com | 01395 542500

IT Roundup

IT Roundup

It's a quick IT round-up this month with a couple of topics to cover:


Windows XP has been a big subject this month with the big "switch-off" at the beginning of April. This has left most users largely un-affected although my phone line has been swamped with concerned users. The advice is still to sit-tight and see what happens in the coming months. Sadly some business users have been forced into an early upgrade with some accountancy packages dropping support for XP. This includes IRIS and some other software suites too, so this has caused a headache to a few accountants and bigger retailers and wholesalers.


I have secured a limited number of upgrade licenses to Windows 7 at a cost of £65 each, so if your PC is new enough to upgrade successfully then I can offer this as a DIY upgrade pack or I can perform the upgrade for you. I was only able to buy a dozen and I have eight left at the time of writing, so if you're considering an upgrade then don't hang around as the retail price is still over £100 and availability is very poor.


Dell and HP are still selling new Windows 7 PCs direct to the user. If you're browsing their sites then you'll need to look in the Business section to find the Windows 7 machines. Argos are also selling Windows 7 machines from the UK Built ZooStorm brand and these are very well priced from £240 but steer clear of the AMD chips. I've got a range of refurbished machines in stock from £150 upwards.


Another hot-topic in Ottery is the upgrade to the BT exchange to support FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet.) I'm sure you will have seen the BT Openreach vans in town; they are installing the new fibre-optic cable from the data cabinets back to the telecom exchange in Franklea Close. The upgrade should be complete by June which means you'll be able to pre-order BT Infinity services from late May.


Not all the cabinets in town will be upgraded to start with, so some homes won't be able to get Infinity until later in the year. I understand that some West Hill cabinets will also be upgraded but we won't know full details until the update is complete. You can tell if your cabinet has been upgraded because it will make a whirring noise, which is the cooling fans on the broadband hardware (and they often get a big 'BT-Infinity is here' sticker too!)


Also on the topic of internet access, I've had a few customers in the past month with routers getting infected with viruses. They have mostly been TP-Link devices and the virus gives the router a rogue configuration that sends the user to hijacked websites in an attempt to infect their computer. If you get a strange message about Flash Player when visiting google or other big-name sites then you might have an issue. Some customers have needed new routers (which I keep in stock here) whilst with some I've been able to format and reset the old TP link router to clear the fault.


The problem occurs because the routers still have the default factory passwords set for the admin account, if you've got a TP link router then please check now to see if the config password has been changed. This is good advice for all types of router.


I hope you find this information useful. If you would like to see particular subjects covered then please feel free to ask at www.alfindlay.com.


Al Findlay | Freelance IT & AV Support Consultant | Website design and Hosting | www.AlFindlay.com | 01395 542500

RIP Windows XP

RIP Windows XP


It's another repeat-topic this month with the imminent death of Windows XP (or so the media would have us believe.) I've had numerous calls over the past month from worried XP users, so if you're a XP user then I hope this month's article will ease your fears.


On the 8th April 2014, the Update Mechanism for Windows XP will be turned off, so XP users will no longer receive Operating System patches and Updates, including definition updates for Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials. This means that if a criminal finds a fault in the operating system that can be exploited, your computer will not receive an update to protect you.


If you use a 3rd party Antivirus solution like Norton, McAfee, AVG, etc, then you will continue to receive updates as normal, but the critical OS updates will no longer be deployed to your computer.


There has been much speculation about what this might mean to the user, but the truth is: we won't know for sure until mid to late April. If you have a Windows XP computer that never connects to the Internet then you will be just fine and nothing will change. But if your XP machine is on the net then there is a possibility that you could be exposed to viruses that you cannot ever get protection against. But there is also a good chance that everything will be fine and we needn't worry. I'll be able to share more information in a few months, but for now the advice is: sit-tight and see what happens, keep your AV software up to date and if you use MS Security Essentials then move across to a good free solution such as AVG or a paid-for product like Norton or McAfee.


If your XP machine is fairly modern (e.g. built since 2008) then an upgrade to Windows 7 may be possible. The Microsoft upgrade licence can be bought for around £75 and it takes about 2 hrs to install and prepare the machine for use. If you're not confident in performing the upgrade then I can do this for you, either on-site or in my local workshop.


If your machine is too old to be upgraded then a new replacement machine is one option, I'm currently recommending HP who can supply a mini tower base unit for around £370, or Laptops around £400, (and if you look hard enough on their business website they are selling Windows 7 machines.) A refurbished machine is a good cost-effective alternative, I've got some stock of 3 yr old ex-lease refurbished mini-tower PCs with Windows 7 from £150 with 3 month warranties.

I hope you find this information useful. If you would like to see particular subjects covered then please feel free to ask at www.alfindlay.com.

Al Findlay | Freelance IT & AV Support Consultant | Website design and Hosting | www.AlFindlay.com | 01395 542500

Viruses and Malware again

It’s was back in May that I last wrote about the threat of Viruses and Malware, and this month is a reminder to: stay cautious when you’re online.

At almost every call-out, I remove some malware or spyware of some kind; if ever a customer mentions that their computer is suddenly slower or performing erratically then there is a good chance that rogue software is to blame. This rogue software can only be installed by the user and is normally done unwittingly by clicking on a rogue download link or a link in an email.

These are known as Trojan Viruses, and are named after the mythological Trojan Horse in Greek literature. They make you think that you’re installing a useful piece of software such as a toolbar, or performance boosting software, but really they install their own software with their own agenda such as spying on your web browsing or collecting personal information like passwords, email addresses or banking details.

Please do not be tempted to install any kind of software that claims to boost your performance or clean your system for you. If you have installed any of the following then I’d advise removing them straight away and visit www.malwarebytes.org to download their free anti-malware scanner. Look out for rogue software such as: Webcake, Psalm-a-day, Advanced System protector, My Search, MyWebSearch, Inbox Toolbar, MySearchDial, SearchProtect, RegCleanPro, Wajam, Conduit, Conduit Web Search, Search Assistant, Crawler Search, Inbox Ace, Simple Adblock, PC Health Boost, PCCleaner, CCCleaner, Funweb, Funmoods, and many many more.

If you’ve got extra toolbars in your web browser that you didn’t have previously, or if your home page or search page has changed to Inbox Search, MyWebSearch, Conduit Search, or is different from your normal home page then this also could indicate an infection.

One recent campaign is targeting BT and Yahoo email users; it starts by infecting a computer and watching out for the users BT or Yahoo passwords. Once it’s got this information the virus logs on to the user’s email and sends all their email friends a message asking them to download the same software onto their own PC. You may well have seen an odd email from a BT or Yahoo user that just has a single web link. And you’d be surprised by the number of people who forget themselves and click the link. Similar scams are started by a fake phone-call supposedly from BT or Microsoft claiming to be helping you, but don’t fall for it.

It can take between 60 and 90 minutes to perform a full clean on a PC, sometimes longer for very serious infections, but if you leave them unattended then you risk having your passwords or private email address stolen, or even worse you could have your identity stolen and lose money as a result, so please check your computer today

I’ve had a great response to last months ‘Wireless around the house’ article with over a dozen kits installed to help improve Wi-Fi signal in outbuildings and larger houses.

I hope you find this information useful. If you would like to see particular subjects covered then please feel free to ask at www.alfindlay.com.

Al Findlay | Freelance IT & AV Support Consultant | Website design and Hosting | www.AlFindlay.com | 01395 542500

Wireless around the house

With the current fashion for tablets and handhelds we’re using wireless devices all over the house more than ever before; people are using their portable devices to access the Internet and online entertainment in all corners of the house and garden (including, quite commonly, the smallest room) and it’s a common observation that wireless access becomes very poor when you are some distance away from your wireless router.

If you have lots of telephone sockets in the house then it can be possible to move your wireless router to a more central position to give better coverage throughout the house, but this can have drawbacks with connection speed and may be inconvenient if your router needs to be next to your desktop computer or other hard-wired device.

In previous years it would have been necessary to install new data cabling to allow an extension to the network, and this would have meant unsightly cables running through the house or expensive work to hide cables under plaster, but it’s now possible to extend your network around the house using powerline plugs. These clever boxes transmit network signals around your house using your mains power cables; simply plug one unit into your router and you can plug in another unit elsewhere in the house to give you a network socket in a remote location, this could be behind your TV to connect in your Sky or BT Vision box, or next to your games console. Having a wired connection like this on your on-demand TV box or online gaming console can eliminate wireless lag too.

You can even add a powerline plug with a ‘wireless access point’ built in, to extend your wireless network into previously unreachable places, such as through thick stone walls or into a garage or workshop or outbuilding. I’ve got kits in-stock from £35 or £50 for a wireless kit.

More complaints about Windows 8 continue to fill my diary. Many Windows XP or Vista users are reluctant to take the leap to Windows 8 so there is soaring trade in refurbished windows 7 computers and Windows 7 install kits. I can supply refurbished Windows 7 laptops from £250 and performance towers from £200. If you’ve already got a Windows 8 computer and are struggling to adapt then a downgrade kit for around £75 includes a Windows 7 (Home Premium or Professional) licence and installation disks. You just need to add approximately two hours of labour to install.

I hope you find this information useful. If you would like to see particular subjects covered then please feel free to ask at www.alfindlay.com.

Al Findlay | Freelance IT & AV Support Consultant | Website design and Hosting | www.AlFindlay.com | 01395 542500

 

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