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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Whilst the mobile phone companies have erected a large number of telephone masts it appears that there are never enough. At PC Support Group, Edinburgh one of our sites has a less than perfect signal resulting in the occasional lost call or worse still a conversation where it sounds like you are in a wind tunnel.

A thoughtful Idea
I recently came across an ingenious device from Vodafone called Sure Signal that makes use of your broadband connection to provide another route for calls. Being at the cutting edge of technology (and getting fed up with the poor quality being experienced with our mobile signal) I recently purchased a Sure Signal device for £50.

The Setup Process
Dispatch was within 2 days and once I had my shiny new box it was powered up and connected to the Network Switch. The next stage was to register the device and add any mobile numbers. Vodafone let themselves down here by providing instructions that do not work!

After a few phone calls (with long waiting times) it was established that the wrong instructions had been sent. 24 hours later the device was activated, a few lights flashed for an hour and it then went live. I now have a perfect 3G signal throughout the office.

Having said all that we have heard some reports of people having problems with this device and not getting great support from Vodaphone so there may be some teething problems.

Conclusion
The technology works (or at least it did for us), the price is reasonable and, aside from the minor glitch with the documentation, the actual sign-up process was fairly painless. As far as I know Vodafone are the only company to produce such a device but I would expect the other major networks to follow suit in due course. Worth the money if your mobile signal is below par. Perhaps buy on a sale or return basis just in case you have the problems some others have?

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Category: IT Support, Software.

The launch

Windows XP was launched to an excited press on 25th October 2001 and has been one of the longest standing Windows operating systems. It has undergone three major upgrades and is still present on many corporate networks and Home PC’s today.

Windows XP popularity

With every version of Windows since Windows 3.0 there have been problems and Windows XP was no exception to this. To be fair, it is an immensely complicated piece of software that must work with thousands of computers, printers, scanners and other devices. What was key to its success was the critical stability of the operating system within a couple of years and this was attractive to large companies looking to support many computers. In addition it became a standard loved by most Home Users looking to replicate what they had used within the work environment.

Windows Vista – The not so perfect product

January 2007 was the Windows Vista launch and it was greeted with a lot of negative press and in particular from the business world. It had significant incompatibility problems, was painfully slow and offered nothing to tempt a happy Windows XP user . With the recent launch of Windows 7, it appears that some larger users are finally prepared to drop XP – time will tell.

To keep or not to keep

Due to the lack of continued support, XP is not really a viable option for the long term (particularly for larger businesses). In addition, all new PC’s purchased in the near future will only be sold with a Windows 7 license.

Saying that, a lot of people still have Windows XP and are reluctant to purchase a shiny new box when their needs don’t warrant it. Unfortunately Microsoft has continued to add more and more baggage to the core system and the specification of yesteryear will no longer provide an optimum experience. The key requirement is therefore memory; and for reasonable performance, it is recommended that your PC has a minimum of 1GB of RAM and for optimum performance, 2GB.

Along with some system optimisation, this should provide your humble PC with a few more years of life yet.

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Category: Business, Home Computing, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Printing by Wires
Typically most Home Users / Small Businesses are reliant on having a single printer that connects to the computer via a USB cable (or parallel cable for those with older models). Now this is fine for your workstation that generally doesn’t move from the desk.

The Wireless World
With the advent of wireless routers (given by the suppliers as standard nowadays) and laptops, many users have suddenly become mobile – why shouldn’t you use the computer in the lounge, kitchen or bedroom?

The Challenge
This is all very well for internet access as you can wander about the house and still gain full uninterrupted access to your email, customers sites and movies. Where the problem arise is when printing as most people don’t own a wireless printer.

Solution
Whilst it is always possible to purchase a wireless printer, for most people this is not a viable option (why get rid of perfectly good device). Now there is a little box that allows you to create a virtual wireless printer (well two printers if you need them) meaning that you can print from anywhere in the office / home. For those that want to install this yourself then have a look at the Belkin 802.11g Wireless USB Print Server at around £50 – £60. For those that would like some assistance why not give us a call on 0845 2233116.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

My story…

Back in 2008 I was attracted to the Blackberry and over the last year have found it to be a brilliant business tool. Saying that, Apple have now got their act together and extended coverage to Orange, Vodafone and even Tesco.

Last month I accidently left me phone in the bathroom where it had the misfortune of getting rather wet – so much so that the keyboard started behaving strangely. No matter what I did (sticking on top of boiler, drying with cloth and even covering in rice it would not return to its former glory).

Never mind I thought, I’ll get a new one through my contract – no such luck as it was water damaged and this is not covered (they know because a little pad inside the phone turns red)…

Plan B was to use my mobile phone insurance that was provided as part of my Royalties account at RBS… “Sorry Sir but we don’t cover BlackBerry’s.”…

The Morale…

  • Don’t get your phone wet!
  • Check your insurance policy (most don’t cover a Blackberry or iPhone)

So What Now?

My contract is due in 2 months and I then have the opportunity to get a new phone. Saying that I really rely on my Blackberry and have to thank Tony at Veecom (www.veecom.co.uk) for saving the day by lending me a phone until renewal. What a star!

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Category: Home Computing, IT Security, IT Support.

Criminals are now getting data from your computer via the phone! Is this some new secret device that the criminals have invented? No, they’ve just found a new way to scam people without technology.

The PC Support Group has received a number of calls recently from irate people who had money fraudulently taken from their accounts. Why did they ring us? Well one such scam company used our support number on their web site so victims unsurprisingly decided to call it. It was quite a shock but I’m pleased to report that we helped as much as possible and have now had the number removed. We have also reported the incidents to the police and trading standards but for now the scam continues and is a real concern.

It would appear that all the individuals had received unsolicited “cold” calls from someone claiming to be their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The caller seemed to have just enough information to make the recipient believe the call was genuine. They then offered “essential” IT support services and somehow gained access to their financial information. Within days they found money had been withdrawn from their bank accounts without their agreement.

Which? magazine also reported in December 2009 that consumers across the country had been called by scammers pretending to be from the computer software giant Microsoft or an internet service provider.

Read more »

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Category: Business, IT Purchasing, IT Support.

Ensuring you have the right amount of memory (RAM as it tends to be called in computer terms – Random Access Memory) in a PC is essential to ensure its smooth operation, maximising the user’s time and minimising frustration.

One of the problems we constantly come across with customers is that the information generally available to businesses regarding memory requirements is inaccurate or misleading and results in most business PCs being woefully under-specified, leading to wasted user time and frustration.

Remember a worker on only £12,000 per year losing only 15 minutes a day due to poor performance of a PC is costing the company over £400 per year whereas 1Gb of RAM typically costs about £40+VAT.

The problem is that most web sites provide minimum requirements for certain operating systems but they don’t account for the real world where a typical user will have a number of applications open at the same time (e.g. a few pages on a Browser, a Word document and a spreadsheet). Each of these applications users further memory and if the PC doesn’t have enough then the information has to be put somewhere else, so it uses the hard disk which massively slows down operations as a hard disk reads and writes data significantly slower than RAM.

Here’s The PC Support Group’s guide to typical RAM requirements for business PCs.

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Category: Business, IT Support.

Many businesses spend time and money developing web sites to promote their products and services only to then let them sit and wonder if it is doing them any good.

The only way to understand how your web site is performing is to analyse the traffic to it. How many people are visiting it? How long do they stay on the site? Which pages do they go to? What search terms did they use to find you?

Google Analytics allows to you do all of this for free and is invaluable if you want to make your web site work for you.

So how do you make Analytics work for your site?

The first thing required is to get your web site developer to add the special code required to enable Google Analytics. The exact details can be found at the address below but most good web developers will be familiar with this.

See https://developers.google.com/analytics/resources/concepts/gaConceptsTrackingOverview

Next you will need to create a login for your own Analytics account. To do this go to www.google.com/analytics, choose the sign up option and follow the instructions.

What can Google Analytics do for you?

Once the code is in place and you have a login then after a few days you will start to build useful information about visitor habits that will allow to improve your site performance.

Read more »

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Category: IT Purchasing, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Up until recently I was a total Blackberry fan. Not because it is a great phone; it just did what I needed it to do; that is, make and receive calls, text and send and receive emails. That’s what I did with it for the last 18 months with my old Curve.

I never enjoyed the experience; I just got it to do what it needed to do. However about a week ago, I opened a package from the postman with excitement: it was my new HTC –Hero. I did think the phone might be a bit gimmicky and not really do what a phone is supposed to. I was partially right: it is a bit gimmicky, but useful in a fun way with Google maps, calendar, email screens, nice touch screen and a high quality display.

It also has a host of downloadable applications that are readily available in the market place and mostly for free. I managed to download Sun Tzu Art of war and it is displayed nicely and in readable format, as well as games such as Labyrinth.

The email was quick and easy to setup and use. It synchronised quickly and easily with my machine so the Outlook calendar as well as my contacts were there in a flash. There was even a quick synchronisation with Google email. Where I thought it wouldn’t meet my expectorations is its use as a mobile phone/texting machine. What I found was that it can do these things well and actually surpasses the call quality that I had from the Blackberry on both the speaker phone and handset mode.

The phone also offers conference calling and has great social functionality; tying your Facebook account with your contacts list and having Twitter availability.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

I regularly come across systems with passwords that I guess within about 30 seconds or that I know could easily be cracked within a few minutes using readily available tools.

With this in mind I thought it might be worth giving people a few ideas as to how to avoid these issues.

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t use personal data like a name or any other information that some one could easily discover about you from other sources
  • Do not choose a word (English or otherwise), proper name, name of a TV show
  • Use simple transformation of a word such as putting a number at the start or end, writing a word backwards or simply substituting a letter for a number

How Long should a password be ?

Ideally a password should be a minimum of 8 characters although longer passwords are recommended (Windows XP supports a maximum of 127!)

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

Today (29th July 2009) Yahoo & Microsoft have combined forces to create an agreement that will take on the might of Google.

So what does this mean to you and I ?

Well at last Google may have some credible competition in the search space and this is no bad thing – Some of the best products and services are delivered when there is competition (remember the world with DOS and no Microsoft Windows before Apple produced their graphical interface!).

Web advertising revenue amounted to $6.1 Billion in Q4 2008 and this is set to grow exponentially as companies realise the power of the web and the ability to closely track any advertising carried out within this medium. When you compare this to traditional forms of advertising like newspaper or TV, there is an almost limitless supply of data and statistics that give the marketers an unprecedented level of control. This is a huge market and so far Microsoft has failed to make an impact (remember MSN & Microsoft Search). Yahoo were once great and to be honest do have a great product but they have been slowly trampeled upon by Google.

That said, Google got to where it is with a superior search engine and Bing is still way short of this… but things can change.

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