Why your business should be dressed “wie eine Zwiebel”

What a shame that the weather is so changeable at the moment.  The early part of Summer felt quite promising, but now it seems that normal service has resumed, with Day 1 of an Ashes Test completely washed out.

When you are faced with inclement weather, my German friends recommend that you should dress “wie eine Zwiebel” – like an onion!  This doesn’t mean that you should anoint yourself with a pungent aroma or coat yourself in a bechamel sauce, but rather that you should have multiple layers of clothes which you can adjust as necessary.

Your business defence against cyber criminals should also be layered – like an onion.  Computer Troubleshooters has advised you often that you cannot rely on one simple form of protection, as one password, however complex and unique, is unlikely to keep the hackers at bay.  We recently considered layered security as demonstrated by Tonbridge Castle.

What security measures should your company consider?  A lot depends on the nature of your business and the awareness of cyber threats of your staff.  Computer Troubleshooters provides a range of solutions which will be tailored to your specific needs.  Here are just some of the areas to consider:

  • Password management
  • Antivirus
  • Multifactor authentication
  • Firewalls
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery
  • Employee education
  • Spam filtering
  • Dark Web Scanning
  • Keeping systems up to date.

Remember that it is not just the large corporate enterprises who are under attack.  Small and Medium-sized businesses are often an easier target as they have not implemented a layered defence yet still have valuable data which can be stolen or held to ransom.

Let us know if your company is feeling distinctly under-dressed and we will review your security and make recommendations to make it “like an onion”, layered up and equipped for the security threat.

Computer Troubleshooters, Technology Solved

01732 300064 support@ct-tonbridge.co.uk

What can Tonbridge Castle teach us about Cyber Security?

 

 

Tonbridge is often overshadowed by its close regal neighbour Royal Tunbridge Wells with its famous Pantiles arcade and Georgian architecture, but there is at least one area where we can claim superiority: Tonbridge Castle.  Believed by many to be England’s finest example of a Motte and Bailey Castle, the Gatehouse has prime position next to the River Medway.

Although it predates the creation of the internet by the best part of 1000 years, the mediaeval approach to defence in evidence at Tonbridge Castle provides a useful lesson for companies under attack from hackers today.  The substantial stone-built walls are an obvious deterrent to attackers, but the knights did not rest on their laurels and stop there, and nor should a modern-day business person be complacent once they have their favourite password in place.

The trick to good defence, either from Norman marauders or contemporary cyber criminals, is layered.  Consider for a moment the features of Tonbridge Castle which contribute to its security:

 

  • Moat
  • River Medway
  • Hilly position
  • Thick, high walls
  • Crenellations where soldiers can repel invaders on ladders while shielded by stone fortifications
  • Deep foundations thwarting diggers who seek to undermine the castle to gain entry from below
  • Portcullis blocking battering rams
  • Arrow slits allowing archers to target their enemies without exposing themselves to attack
  • Murder holes; if the attackers get past the gate, they need to pass through a narrow passageway where they run the gauntlet of trying to avoid boiling oil raining down on them.

Of course the soldiers themselves would be kitted out with chainmail and armour and armed to the teeth with weapons.

Just as Mediaeval castles have layers of protection, your computers also need more than one defence against today’s cyber criminals.  Using password1 no longer hacks it!

How can you turn your business IT into a modern-day fortress?

Here are just a few aspects to consider:

  • Strong, unique passwords
  • Physical security – locks, safes, CCTV
  • Firewalls
  • Multifactor authentication
  • Antivirus protection
  • Antispam software
  • Educating your users about the threats and dangers
  • Backups of data, ideally backup and disaster recovery
  • Ensuring your computers are kept up-to-date and maintained.

The threat landscape is continuously evolving and no-one is immune.  According to a recent survey of business leaders by Opinium, 63% of small businesses (with 1-49 members of staff) reported being a victim of cyber crime in 2018 and 32% of micro businesses (with fewer than 10 employees) were affected.  The impact can be devastating, both in terms of data loss and financially.

It’s time to take a leaf out of the Tonbridge Castle’s architects’ book and build up your business’ protection.  Talk to Computer Troubleshooters today to arrange a security review and learn how you too can be the gatekeeper of a fortress!

Whatever the medium, keep up your guard

 

 

As April marks the start of the new tax year, it can be expected that you could receive communication from HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs).  Unfortunately, the cybercriminals are well-aware of this fact and will exploit this anniversary to catch us off our guard.  Back in 2016, we wrote a guide on how to spot a dodgy tax email; check out our blog https://computertroubleshooters.co.uk/tonbridge/commentary/new-tax-year-watch-rogue-emails/.

It now transpires that your phishing worries do not stop when you turn off your computer.  My colleague received a seemingly innocuous text message from “HMRC” – we took a screen print for you to see it.  Please don’t click on the link if you receive such an unsolicited text; it could unleash malware with dire consequences onto your mobile device.

Fortunately, we have ways and means of viewing links in a safe environment, which led us to a “government” website requesting Date of Birth and National Insurance Number to continue; classic coveted personal identity data of great value to hackers.  You can see from the screen print that the website looks quite authentic at first glance.  The font matches government sites, and there is even an official-looking insignia at the bottom.

The moral of this story: every form of communication is vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Don’t assume that messages to your private mobile number are safe.  Always take a moment to double-check before you click a link.  If in doubt, use a different medium to check with the sender.

At Computer Troubleshooters, we implement measures to protect our business customers from hackers, detecting malware before it hits your systems and educating your users to raise their guard.  We’re happy to review your company’s IT setup and security arrangements – give us a call!

A new year surprise from Microsoft!

If you are a Windows 7 user and you dutifully apply your Windows updates, you may have opened up your computer to a rather nasty surprise this week; the regular Patch Tuesday package included an update which has stopped some Windows 7 PCs connecting to other devices or marked their version of Windows as not being genuine.

You can read all about it here.

Clearly, Microsoft did not intend this consequence and will be providing a fix in a future update. All is not lost, however, if you cannot wait that long. The rogue update has been identified and it is possible to reverse its effect on your systems. Fortunately, the affected computers are still able to access the internet, and we have been helping customers remotely today with this issue.

We do have good news for our service plan customers. As part of our monitoring service, all updates are checked before being applied, and our support partner has helpfully blacklisted the offending modification and prevented it from wreaking havoc on all monitored computers.

So it turns out that Computer Troubleshooters can not only protect you from the cybercriminals but also protect you from defective Windows updates!

If you have been affected and need help, please call us on 01732 300064 – Computer Troubleshooters, Technology Solved.

Beware of the spear phisher!

International Cyber Security Day is on 30th November, but just as a puppy is not just for Christmas, keeping safe online should be a quotidian event.

International Cyber Security Day has been “celebrated” (if that’s the right word!) every year since 1988 when hackers started to realise the value of data held on computers.  It’s a timely reminder to secure your systems and be on your guard about the threats posed by malware.

You must be sadly all too familiar with the emails sent by hackers aiming to trick you into clicking on a link or divulging your password, but did you know that not all fraudulent emails are created equal?

When I heard about spear phishing, it brought to mind Captain Ahab harpooning whales in Moby Dick – “Call me Ishmael”.  This is, in fact, the name given to a targeted socially-engineered attack.  Furthermore, there is a version called whaling where the victims are high-ranking individuals in a company (and therefore whales rather than fish).

This is how it works:

  • You receive a business enquiry by email which appears to be totally legitimate – there are no dodgy links or attachments.
  • You respond, providing information about your services.
  • It is only on this second reply that the dodgy link appears – click this at your peril! It could lead to a malware infection and your precious files could be encrypted and held to ransom.

How does a whaling attack differ?

As well as targeting a key member of staff such as the CEO or CFO, the larger rewards involved mean that the hackers will take more care over the appearance of the email, copying email signatures, branding and logos.  It is also apparently sent from a trusted source.

How can you protect yourself?

Being aware of the potential threat will go a long way to keeping you safe.

In a busy office, you won’t always have time to inspect every email thoroughly, so consider using spam filtering to block harmful messages.  Good antivirus, strong passwords and an automated backup of your data also helps.

At Computer Troubleshooters we have other security solutions to stop the cyber criminals in their tracks.  Is it time for you to review your cyber security?

When it comes to spear phishing, may you be the one that got away!

Watch out watch out there’s a Humphrey about!

In a more innocent age (the 1970s to be exact!), the TV advertisers would have us believe that the greatest threat we faced was an attack from a red and white striped straw known as a Humphrey intent upon drinking all of our milk!

Humphreys probably don’t pose such a problem nowadays, but when it comes to the digital world and emails in particular, it pays to watch out for a William (of which, more later) and other suspect email senders.

How many emails do you receive in the average day?

How many of these are dodgy?

I thought it would be helpful to share some common scam emails with you – forewarned is forearmed – and show you some of the features to watch out for.  Some of the early dodgy emails were easy to spot; full of poor grammar and spelling errors, often sent from a Nigerian prince, promising riches in return for a handling fee.  There are often clues such as sender email address not matching the sender name; we analysed a dodgy tax-related email here.

Contemporary scams can be trickier to detect; indeed they can actually be sent from within your company email system.  You can learn more about this in our CEO fraud blog.

A particularly nasty example is doing the rounds at the moment: the Hacker email.

Here’s one I prepared earlier.  Email addresses and passwords have been redacted to protect the innocent:

Telling features:

  • Sent apparently from your own email address
  • Shows you an authentic password
  • Threatens to share personal content from your PC with your contacts
  • Demands a ransom in bitcoin

IT’S A SCAM, KNOWN AS SCAREWARE.  It’s designed to scare you into giving them money.  Your email address has not actually been hacked.  The password displayed has been purchased from the dark web.  If you are still using it, it is high time for you to change it!

Some emails appear more innocuous.  Here’s one we know as the William email.

William of UKDT has been busy writing to several of our customers, telling them that he is legally obliged to inform them that someone is trying to register a domain which is similar to their current website.  We can’t find evidence of the existence of UKDT, so this basically appears to be a request for an unnecessary payment.

Some are more blatant.  Purporting to come from Microsoft or your bank, they ask you to click on a link and supply your password.  Rest assured, these organisations would never ask you to reveal pin numbers or passwords in this manner.

How can you protect yourself against these modern-day Humphreys?

  • If in doubt, don’t click!
  • Get educated about cyber risks.
  • Use a spam filter and antivirus software to block dodgy emails.
  • Employ strong, unique passwords. Consider using a password manager like Dashlane to help you with this.
  • MFA – multi-factor authentication will stop hackers in their tracks, even if they get their hands on your password.

Here at Computer Troubleshooters, we can help you to implement security measures.  Perhaps you should consider Cyber Essentialsfor your business.  Why not drop us an email!

Show your clients you care about Cyber Security

Hardly a week goes by without horror stories about hacker attacks and ransomware, and of course the impact of a data breach has been heightened with the advent of GDPR, bringing with it the threat of substantial fines if you are judged to have exposed personal data to the cyber criminals.

In this climate of fear, what could be more reassuring than knowing that the company you are doing business with has your best (security) interests at heart.  You may have taken on board all the messages about keeping safe online – indeed, dear reader, I hope you have as we have touched on this subject on numerous occasions in this blog – if only there was a way to let everyone know that you care….

Back in the 1970s, there was a popular TV Western series called “Alias Smith and Jones”.  The opening sequence explained how the 2 heroes of the piece were in fact exonerated of their crimes and had been given an amnesty, but unfortunately the rest of the world are unaware as the lawman states “only you, me and the Governor will know about it.  It’ll be our little secret”.  Sometimes it feels as if all your good work is going similarly unnoticed…..

…..Until now, that is, thanks to Cyber Essentials.

Cyber Essentials allows you to demonstrate to your customers that you take cyber security seriously.  The aim is to put basic levels of protection in place to guard against a cyber-attack.  Indeed, Cyber Essentials is now a minimum requirement if you intend to bid for certain government contracts.

How do you qualify for Cyber Essentials?

You complete an independently verified self-assessment which covers five basic areas of security control.

And what are the five areas of security?

  • Securing your internet connection
  • Securing your devices and software
  • Controlling access to your data and services
  • Protecting your systems from viruses and other malware
  • Keeping your devices and software up to date.

For further information please see www.cyberstreetwise.com\cyberessentials

And the extra good news is …. Your local IT adviser Computer Troubleshooters has achieved this qualification so you can rest assured that we will take care where your data is concerned.

Back to school – hope you’re not wearing the dunce’s cap

September marks the return to school, and with it a return to normal business routines after the lazy, laid-back days of Summer.  In the UK we don’t appear to have any special ceremonies to mark this rite of passage, other than perhaps the purchasing of school uniforms and the cute group photos of the new reception classes published in local newspapers.  In Germany children are presented with an enormous cone full of sweets upon their first day at school – not perhaps a healthy eating message, but it does sweeten the transition from home to academic life.

Hopefully none of today’s young scholars will be subjected to the dunce’s cap.  This conical hat, often adorned with a letter D or the word “dunce”, would be worn as a punishment and the child thus branded stupid would also be sent to the corner of the room to stand facing the wall.

None of us like to be marked out as stupid, especially when it comes to our businesses.

There is one area, however, where you may be laying you open to an opportunity to don the dunce’s cap.

Just think about your response to victims of crime.  Whether it is burglary, a mugging or a pickpocketing attack, we will feel nothing but sympathy.  On the other hand, if you are the victim of cybercrime, you are made to feel stupid and irresponsible despite it being no fault of your own.  Even if no-one else has said this to you, you will no doubt be kicking yourself that you were duped into handing over access to your bank accounts and passwords by a persuasive hacker.

How can you ensure that you won’t be wearing the dunce’s cap this Autumn?  You need to get a good IT team on your side, of course!  Tighten up your system security to prevent the criminals getting through and educate your staff about the signs to look out for.

At Computer Troubleshooters we are pleased to confirm that we have Cyber Essentials certification and we’d be delighted to make sure you are never made to feel stupid or irresponsible again, at least where cybercrime is concerned!

How Summer reading reveals your ideal IT adviser

Unless you have a lengthy commute or looming deadlines from a book club, it is highly likely that your daily routine does not prioritise picking up a novel.  There are of course honourable exceptions to the rule; my BNI colleague Glenn regularly completes 5 books week, come rain or shine.

This all changes when the sun comes out, however.  A summer holiday wouldn’t be complete without a good stock of reading material, and what better way to take a break from the computer screen than finding a sunny spot to relax in and diving into a book!

 

Aided and abetted by the lovely librarians at Hildenborough library, this summer I have mostly been reading the Dr Ruth Galloway series of novels written by Elly Griffiths.  In fact, I have just polished off the tenth instalment and will now have to wait until 2019 for book number eleven.

So what is it about these crime novels which makes them so compelling?

  • The characters are well-rounded, believable and likeable; no-one is perfect but they all have redeeming features. Dr Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist whose path often crosses with the local detectives, headed up by Harry Nelson.  Throw into the mix the Norfolk landscape and local druid Cathbad, and some fascinating plots ensue.
  • Each book handles a different murder case and/or archaeological dig which can be read in isolation, but there are strands running through the series which make the read more satisfying.
  • All the standard Whodunnit tropes are present – red herrings, hidden clues, new characters with murderous motives – but the stories are about so much more than simply identifying the perpetrator.

I particularly like the approach both Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson take to their detective work, and it dawned on me that they exemplify how your trusted IT adviser – Computer Troubleshooters – deals with your support cases!

In the world of Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson:

  • Methodical: Ruth’s clean cuts at a dig are often praised.
  • Analytical: Ruth will take care to examine the bones thoroughly and lay them out in anatomical order to ensure that no clue is overlooked. Nelson will pore over poison pen letters for months to divine hidden meanings.
  • Monitor and observe: a lot of the police work is based on surveillance and the analysis of CCTV footage.
  • Never assume: a mantra for Nelson, making sure his team delve into the circumstances and are never complacent.
  • Don’t accept things at face value: was this really a case of suicide? Call in the forensic experts to do a finger-tip search.
  • The importance of protection: as in all good crime fiction, the characters often find themselves in great danger, and you hope they have the right equipment and backup.
  • Bad things tend to happen when information is not shared: the omniscient reader can see how the knowledge from various characters adds up to reveal the murderer, while people who are not warned about dangerous criminals often end up in sticky situations.

 

In the world of Computer Troubleshooters:

  • Methodical; our work is documented and processes are followed to ensure a consistent result.
  • Analytical; each issue may seem unique, but a calm approach applying systems knowledge can reveal the solution.
  • Monitor and observe: our service plan customers’ computers are monitored to ensure that any issues are detected before they cause a problem, and systems are kept up-to-date.
  • Never assume; we make sure we have all the facts and understand the requirements before making recommendations. Please tell us what you want to achieve for your business and let us work out the best solution.
  • Don’t accept things at face value; it may appear that you have a problem with your email system, but investigation may reveal a completely different but true cause.
  • The importance of protection: in a world where cyber-crime is rife, antivirus protection, password security and backups are essential.
  • Bad things tend to happen when information is not shared; we can only do the best job for you if we understand your business thoroughly. Frequent communication with onsite visits ensures that we can be your effective and trusted IT adviser.  If you don’t tell us, for example, that you replied to a CEO-fraud style email demand, we won’t be able to put measures in place to protect you from future attacks!

Has this made you want to learn more about Elly Griffiths and her Norfolk-based crime fiction?

What have you been reading this Summer?

Has it made you look at your work in a different way?

Enjoy the last of the sunshine while it lasts!  You could do worse than immersing yourself in the world of Dr Ruth Galloway.

And when you are ready to return to the office routine, make sure that your IT is in safe hands – invite Computer Troubleshooters to do some detective work on your systems and discover our diagnosis for healthy computers which support your business!

Hildenborough Sunflower felled by July storms

You know it must be the silly season when you start to see bizarre headlines like this appearing in the press!  To be fair, the sunflower at Computer Troubleshooters Towers was an impressive specimen, standing at well over 3 metres, or 10 foot in old money, and its demise is newsworthy locally.

 

But why is there a silly season, what is it exactly and does it also apply to business and specifically IT support?

First things first, let’s address the term “silly season”.  Traditionally parliament goes into recess for the Summer, and the lack of prime minister’s question time and government activity results in a scarcity of serious news stories, so journalists are forced to fill the pages of newsprint with relatively trivial features.  This term has also been extended, for example to the hiatus of sports between playing seasons.  The term “silly season” certainly strikes a chord when you see a news anchor struggling to fill their allotted time on a rolling newsfeed when there is truly nothing new to report.

Is there a silly season in business?  Read more

Who’s afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?

At this time of year, we should be thinking about Midsummer Night’s Dreams rather than a midsummer’s nightmare, but unfortunately the cyber criminals have other ideas.

It has been brought to our attention that there have been some serious occurrences of email hacking recently which are every bit as sinister as the plot of a Grimm Fairy Tale.  You need to be aware of this cautionary tale so that you can spot the signs and don’t fall prey to the villain of the piece.

So, if you are sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.

Once upon a time (except, sadly, this has happened more than once), a finance officer received an email from the CEO asking whether she could arrange a prompt payment.

Our finance officer is aware of the dangers in the forest, so she inspects the email carefully, but is reassured that all is well:

  • The sending email address matches the CEO’s name (Grandma, what big eyes you have)
  • The CEO’s normal email signature is present (Grandma, what big ears you have)
  • There are some spelling errors, but this is excused as the email was written in haste (Grandma, what big teeth you have ….)

Our finance officer is cautious, and decides to email the CEO back to check that all is well.

BUT – just like Grandma in Little Red Riding Hood – the CEO never sees this email. Read more

Performing like a swan

You must have heard of the expression that a swan may appear calm and graceful as it glides across the water, but just beneath the surface it is paddling furiously.  Well, this week a performance of Swan Lake brought this expression to mind and made me think how it applies to the world of IT support too.

The opportunity to see Swan Lake staged by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House doesn’t come along that often, and indeed it’s no longer possible to see the cygnets in the flesh as the current run is completely sold out.  Fortunately for me, and thousands of other spectators around the world, we were granted admittance to the magical world of Tchaikovsky’s ballet through the medium of a live cinematic broadcast of the production.

Prima ballerina Marianela Nunez personified the elegant swan princess.  An added bonus of seeing the cinema version was the additional insights brought through recorded interviews during the intervals, and in one Nunez explained that Odette needs to be played as though you are “boneless” with a water-like fluidity.  Indeed, Nunez and her partner Vadim Muntagirov looked effortless and perfect, while all the time achieving extraordinary feats of athleticism. Read more

Are you ready for the big day – not long now!

We will soon be hearing the peal of wedding bells as Prince Harry walks down the aisle with his new bride Meghan Markle:

  • Have you cleared your schedules?
  • Have you got a map of their itinerary?
  • Have you decked the hall with bunting?
  • Is the champagne on ice to toast the happy couple?

Of course, this is an IT blog, and we naturally have a more significant event on our minds: GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – comes into force on Friday 25 May 2018.

So, are you ready? Read more

Thinking of Thinking Day

Do you find that certain dates ring a bell, and bring back a memory of something that has long been forgotten?  I find that a glance in the diary will trigger a recollection of an old school friend’s birthday, even though we lost contact 30 years ago.

Seeing 22nd February on the schedule transported me back to my days as the sixer in the Kelpie Pack at the Brownies.  You see, for those of you who have never been involved in the Girl Guides, 22nd February is a very significant date for brownies, guides and girl scouts; it is World Thinking Day!

The date was originally chosen in 1926 by the World Chief Guide Olave Baden-Powell as both her and her husband Robert Baden-Powell’s (founder of the Scouting movement) birthdays fall on 22nd February.  The original intention was to create a day for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to celebrate being part of an international movement.

Thinking Day has become an annual event, Read more

100 years of suffrage; why not all rights are good

6 February 2018 is a very significant date, as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act.  This brought in the right for women to vote – so called universal suffrage – although only if the woman concerned was over 30 and owned land or a home.  Fully equal voting rights were in fact introduced 10 years later in 1928.

The battle for equal rights was hard-fought.  Suffragettes were willing not just to participate in protest marches, but also to undertake criminal acts which led to over 1,000 women being imprisoned.  Protesters put their lives on the line; several prisoners undertook hunger strikes, and Emily Davison famously ended her militant career by being trampled to death by the King’s horse at Epsom.

When you consider the sacrifices of these women, you realise that universal suffrage should not be taken for granted.  In a fair society, it would seem that everyone should be treated as equals, but history shows us that this has often not been the case.

However, in the world of computing, there is an area where equal rights for all is not recommended! Read more

Hacker attacks – think you’re safe? Think again!

Chief Miranda Bailey and her IT guy: Grey’s Anatomy

Ransomware at Grey Sloan Memorial: Grey’s Anatomy

Is it too late to wish you a Happy New Year?

As 2018 dawns, the time when GDPR comes into force gets ever closer.  You do know what GDPR is, of course. The General Data Protection Regulation will come into force across Europe on 25th May 2018, bringing with it stricter requirements for how personal information is handled.  You can learn more about it in our recent blog.

From the IT viewpoint, the primary concern is keeping client data safe.  We’ve just had a stark reminder of the fines that can be levied by the ICO in the case of data breaches with the announcement of the £400,000 penalty imposed on Carphone Warehouse – you can read more here.  Of course Carphone Warehouse are lucky that the GDPR-level fines were not imposed:  The maximum fines will rise to 4% of worldwide annual turnover, or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater.  

GDPR is not the only reason for keeping your systems safe.  Ransomware attacks are often in the news, and it is easy assume that only high-profile companies are vulnerable; in fact small businesses are just as likely to become victims to hackers.  The impact of losing access to all your company’s information can be devastating.  Just consider the number of transactions you make every day which depend upon being able to get hold of data held on your computer.

Until you realise the true scale of the disruption a cyber-attack could cause, it is easy to be complacent and give computer security a low priority on your to-do list.  This is why it sometimes takes a TV drama to hammer the message home.

In a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy (Series 14 episode 8 “Out of Nowhere” in case you are interested in looking it up), Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital is brought to its knees by a hacker attackRead more

How Star Wars shows us what’s great about Managed Service Plans

At the moment you would have to try very hard to ignore the fact that the latest addition to the Star Wars franchise is about to be released.  Star Wars – The Last Jedi will be making its debut at cinemas on 14th December, and every time you switch on the television or log in online, you are bound to be bombarded with adverts, both about the film itself and about the Star Wars-related merchandising.  The most unlikely products are getting a Star Wars twist, from branded razors to Stormtrooper decanters!

Don’t worry; I am not about to offer you a Star Wars managed services plan, nor indeed am I going to compare our technicians to Jedi, going into battle for your company against the forces of evil!

I just wanted to share with you a recent Star Wars related event which illustrates why every business needs an IT support contract ….. Read more

GDPR: time to show some sense and sensibility

In the year when we mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, it felt like a good time to re-read one of her classics Sense and Sensibility.  In the novel, there is a complete dichotomy between the two heroines: Elinor’s actions are all governed by her head, while Marianne is guided by her heart.

Well, a new law is coming into force across Europe on 25th May 2018 which will require all businesses to show both sense and sensitivity in the handling of personal data: GDPR.  The EU General Data Protection Regulation will govern all processing of data and will apply regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Why do we need GDPR?

Technology has moved on and the impact of data breaches and identity theft are more far-reaching, so it was time to tighten up the protection of all EU citizens.  The news frequently features data losses, with Experian being the most recent in a long line of offenders.

Is it just concerned with IT?

Computers have a large role in the processing of data, but it is not solely in the domain of the IT department.  Companies will need to demonstrate that they have processes in place to keep all personal information secure, whether it is held on a PC or stored on paper in a filing cabinet.  This also involves the training of staff in the correct behaviour towards data. Read more

You’re lucky; we just used to have pigeon holes!

 

As October beckons, it’s time for students to pack up their worldly belongings ready for the return to college.  A substantial proportion of their luggage is dedicated to electronic equipment: smart phones, laptops, monitors, desktops and printers, as well as other paraphernalia: headphones, speakers, smart writing tablets, gaming mice.

A recent discussion in our household revealed how today’s undergraduates have come to rely on technology, both for their studies, communication and entertainment.  Indeed, there was recently a story in the press that Cambridge University was considering replacing written exams with the use of computers as contemporary students are more adept at typing than handwriting.  Presumably concessions will be made for mathematicians – formulae are not easy to type!

Do you remember the Monty Python sketch “the Four Yorkshiremen”?  4 rich men are reminiscing over drinks about how hard life was when they were young, each man in turn trying to outdo their friends in their descriptions of deprivation, reaching absurd levels of hardship:

You were lucky, we had to live in a shoebox in the middle of the road!

Well, our conversation with the current generation of university goers started to sound very similar, with the youngsters becoming increasingly sceptical about the lack of technology when we studied. Read more

“It is typical of Oxford … to start the new year in Autumn.”

“It is typical of Oxford … to start the new year in Autumn.”

As August turned to September, the weather has definitely taken an autumnal turn and the Summer holidays are long forgotten as we go into “back to school” mode.  Even if you don’t have any connections to school-age children, the calendar continues to revolve around the 3 term system.

My quote actually comes from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and it does raise a good point; who came up with the new academic year starting in the Autumn?  Oxford and Cambridge certainly have their idiosyncracies and special terminology as we’ve discussed before in this blog.  While the Autumn term is known as the Michaelmas term in Oxford, it follows the standard UK convention of making a fresh start in September.

Have you ever wondered why Autumn was chosen as the starting point for studies?  Read more

Are you due a Red Letter Day?

I’m sure we have all heard the expression red letter day meaning a special day when something noteworthy or memorable happens but did you ever wonder where this term comes from?

It took a trip to the Mediaeval Museum in Stockholm for me to discover the origins of this expression!  Can you picture the monks toiling over their manuscripts, quill in hand, creating beautiful illuminations to decorate each page of the books they produced?  Well, the initial letters and important words were written in red, incidentally where the word rubrics also originates.

The practice of marking special days in red on the calendar dates back to Roman times, but was widely used in the church to denote feast days.  One such recent religious red letter day is 15th August which is the Assumption, the day when Mary traditionally went to Heaven.  Read more

Celebrating Apollo 11 computing power, 48 years on

 

It’s amazing to think that that once unthinkable event – sending men to the moon and bringing them back safely to Earth – actually took place 48 years ago, in July 1969. And it is yet more incredible when you consider that the technology available on the space craft wasn’t as sophisticated as a modern toaster.

The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) had 64Kbytes of memory and was operated by typing in simple commands.  To cope with the limited resources as its disposal, it was designed to process programs in priority order and give an alert if it became overloaded.  It did in fact produce a “1202” alarm code during the moon landing sequence, but Earth-based computer engineers were able to confirm that the error message could be safely ignored.

Of course the whole mission did not depend on this one solitary machine.  IBM supplied a whole bank of mainframe computers to cover all the requirements from the initial trajectory calculations or the safe guidance back to either.  You can learn more about the setup here.

We had the opportunity to travel back in time to see the Apollo computers in action recently when they featured in the television series TimelessRead more

Is all set fair for you on St Swithin’s Day?

It is well known that the British like to talk about the weather, and the odd bit of weather lore never goes amiss.  For weather watchers the 15th of July is highly significant as it is St Swithin’s Day.  There’s even a proverb all about it:

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St Swithun’s day if thou be fair

For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare

According to the Royal Meteorological Society, there hasn’t been any recorded 40-day droughts or monsoons.  There is, however, some science behind the myth.  The Jet Stream settles into a pattern around the middle of July, with continental high pressure bringing sunshine if it lies to the North of Britain, but Arctic weather systems taking over if it lies further South.

Why should this weather proverb be linked with Saint Swithin, and who was he anyway? Read more

Declare IT independence on the 4th of July!

The fourth of July is arguably one of the most important dates in the American calendar, possibly ranking second only to Thanksgiving as a favourite public holiday.  In a country with so few paid holidays (the minimum entitlement is set at 10 days per year), opportunities to take a break from work will always be welcomed, especially as this celebration has the benefit of summer weather to allow outdoor events.

The origins of American Independence Day date back to the eighteenth century.  America had been a British colony but unrest developed since the British parliament levied taxes on America but gave them no representation.  This culminated in the American Revolutionary War with the 13 victorious states of America adopting the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July 1776.

There were in fact 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence, including 2 future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the oldest signatory Benjamin Franklin with the most flamboyant signature belonging to John Hancock – which is why you may be asked to add your “John Hancock” to a cheque or document! Read more

Are you protected from a midsummer meltdown?

Melting gently in our sweltering office, for once the weather is matching up to the season.  21st June marks the Summer Solstice, the official start of Summer and also the longest day of the year.

The technical reason for the solstice falling on this day is that it is when the pole is most inclined towards the sun on its orbit.  This day has been celebrated for centuries dating back to pagan times, often linked with fertility and festivals.  Druids still meet at Stonehenge to greet the rising sun at dawn on the Solstice as it aligns with the standing stones.

Confusingly, Midsummer’s Day falls just 2 days later on 23rd June.

How can Midsummer occur so soon after summer starts, I hear you ask.  Read more

On father’s day, who’s the daddy?

I hope you have remembered to treat the father figures in your life this weekend: 18th June 2017 is Father’s Day, and fathers everywhere will be expecting a card at the very least expressing gratitude from their offspring.

In the UK and the United States, the third Sunday in June marks the annual celebration of Father’s Day.  The origins of a June-based Father’s Day are actually relatively recent, having been instigated in various communities in the United States in the early twentieth century.  It was seen as a counterbalance to Mother’s Day, a time to honour your other parent, but has been supported and promoted by merchandisers who have welcomed the opportunity arising from another gift-giving date in the calendar.

The celebration of fatherhood dates back in fact to the Middle Ages in Catholic Europe, where it was observed on 19th March, the feast day of St Joseph, the father of Jesus.  The majority of countries now join the UK in marking the event in June, although there are a range of dates selected around the world.

Father’s Day is an occasion to celebrate paternal figures everywhere.  In the Information Technology world, who’s the daddy?  Read more

Has Disneyfication arrived in your office?

What does the name “Disney” conjure up in your memory?

  • Mickey Mouse dressed up as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • A visit to a theme park
  • A family outing to the cinema armed with popcorn
  • Fairytale princesses
  • Donning your Mickey Mouse ears to join in the Mickey Mouse Club as a Mouseketeer
  • The list is endless!

Disney is seemingly ubiquitous these days in the world of entertainment, but this was not always the case.  The Disney Bros Cartoon Studio was established in the summer of 1923 and the production of several cartoons including the first appearance of Mickey Mouse followed.

The brand probably came to prominence, however, when Walt Disney produced the world’s first full-length cel animated feature film.  In June 1934 Disney announced that work was underway on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The rest is history! Read more

1997: Deep Blue v Kasparov 2017: checkmate?

Recent media interviews with the Chess Grand Master have reminded us that 20 years have passed since Garry Kasparov had an epic encounter with IBM’s Deep Blue and became the first Chess World Champion to concede defeat to a computer under competition conditions.

At the time, it was heralded as a triumph for artificial intelligence and seen as a sign that Alan Turing’s predictions for computing advances exceeding the abilities of human intelligence were being realised.  Kasparov notes that Deep Blue depended more on brute force – sheer computational power – rather than learned behaviours and in fact most Chess apps available on your smart phone will be more powerful than Deep Blue!

In the 2 decades since Kasparov’s tournament with Deep Blue, there have been significant advances in the world of computing.  Just consider the evolution of the mobile phone Read more

When is a May Ball not a “May” Ball?

Dear Reader, you may be aware that the youngest member of the Computer Troubleshooters Tonbridge team is currently studying Mathematics and Computer Science at Oxford University.  We were delighted to hear that he has tickets to his college’s May Ball.  This extravaganza entails a whole night of partying culminating in a survivors’ breakfast, and the dress code is white tie a la Riot Club/Bullingdon Club; often featured in the movies, including recently in The Theory of Everything.

There is just one problem with this.  The May Ball does not take place in May!

These university balls had their origins in a celebration of the rowing competitions – known as bumps at Cambridge and eights at Oxford – which do take place in May – in fact they are currently underway this week.  The event moved to the week following the end of term in June in 1882 but the name has stuck. Read more

Ransomware: how safe are you?

Cyber security hit the headlines again this week with several high-profile victims including the NHS having their data held to ransom with a demand to pay up $300 to get the affected files decrypted.  You can learn more about this attack here.

The National Cyber Security Centre is involved in the investigation of this case, but what are the implications for you?  What is ransomware and what measures should you take to protect yourself? Read more

Jane Austen impact continues 200 years on

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen.  To coin a phrase: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young lady in possession of a good story, must never be in want of an eager readership.

Generations have been entertained by her Regency novels and the contemporary audience has been captivated by television serialisations and cinematic adaptions.  Indeed, Colin Firth’s portrayal of Darcy in Pride and Prejudice provided fodder for water-cooler conversations when he emerged in a wet shirt after swimming in a lake at Pemberley in the BBC version!

Although writing in the Romantic period, and indeed featuring romance and marriage, Jane Austen’s works should not be dismissed as a 19th Century version of Chick-lit.  Having re-read Pride and Prejudice last weekend, I have been struck again by the elegance of her sparse writing style and by her acute observational powers.  She notes what her protagonists are saying, but juxtaposes this with the true picture, revealing the real motives and machinations of the key players in her plots.

I like to think that Computer Troubleshooters takes a similar approach to IT support to that taken by Jane Austen to her storylines.  Read more

St George’s Day: why a password can be mightier than the sword

As every schoolboy and quizzer should know, 23rd April is St George’s Day – England’s patron saint.  George is usually depicted as a knight defending damsels in distress against a fiery dragon.  If you’d like to know more about him, check out our blog from last year here.

George’s armour and sword may have been sufficient to vanguish his foe, but they would be no match for the villains besieging computer users today.  Companies can implement firewalls and antivirus software, but your systems – and your valuable data – can still be vulnerable to cybercrime.

As the old adage goes, prevention is much better than cure.  Why take the risk of exposing your business information to a ransomware attack? Are all your eggs in one basket, hoping that your backup systems will ride in on a white charger to save the day? 

Stop the cybercriminals in their tracks: choose strong passwords! Read more

On Maundy Thursday, charity begins at home

The Thursday before the Easter weekend is traditionally known as Maundy Thursday.  In the church calendar, this day is associated with the Last Supper.  In England the monarch would wash the feet of a number of their subjects; indeed there is a picture of Queen Elizabeth I undertaking this duty.

There would also be the giving of alms – food and clothing – to worthy senior citizens.  Starting with Edward I, money was distributed instead.  Queen Elizabeth II distributes specially-minted coins at a ceremony to as many carefully-chosen men and women as there are years in the Queen’s age.  This takes place in a different city each year, with Leicester cathedral being the selected venue for the 2017 ceremony.

So Maundy Thursday can be considered a celebration of charitable giving.  Perhaps this is a good time for all of us to make a contribution to our local charities, rather than the more commercial focus on Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns!

We specialise in providing IT support for charities and we are pleased to be working with a number of local companies.  While computing is a consistent requirement for all companies, there are points to bear in mind in the charitable sector.

In many ways, not-for-profit organisations resemble “normal” profit-driven businesses: Read more

Does your IT make you feel like a Grand National jockey?

With April comes that important date in the horseracing calendar, the Grand National.  This jewel in the National Hunt season is a handicapped steeplechase featuring larger-than-standard fences – 30 in all – over a gruelling 4 mile course at Aintree Racecourse.  The drama of the event and the romance of its heroes such as Red Rum and Aldaniti contribute to the popularity of this staple of the cultural calendar.  Many punters are tempted to have a flutter on this most unpredictable of races, even if it is just a matter of joining in with an office sweepstake.

In your office, your IT infrastructure should be a tool that helps you run your business, but when it goes wrong, it can feel like you are a Grand National jockey, tackling obstacles every bit as challenging as Becher’s Brook! Read more

Top of the morning to you! Happy St Patrick’s Day

17th March marks the feast day of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  Traditionally a time to celebrate with a pint or two, especially if you can claim Irish ancestry, the day is marked with parades across the world in cities where the Irish diaspora is well-represented.

You can mark the day, if you so wish, with a greetings card.  It would appear that the main gist of the wishes expressed on the day are linked to the luck of the Irish.  Most are adorned with images of shamrocks, four-leaf clovers and leprechauns with rainbows leading to crocks of gold, with the predominant colour throughout being green.

Perhaps the custom of exchanging cards is practised more widely in the United States; it’s certainly not something I was aware of and I don’t believe I have ever received St Patrick’s Day wishes.  However, just as Halloween and Valentines Day have grown to be more commercial in recent decades, perhaps this trend will be extended to other feast days including St Pat’s Day.

So, how lucky are you feeling today?

Are you trusting to your lucky shamrock to protect your business from cyber attacks? Read more

Let’s hear it for the Women!

8th March marks International Women’s Day – a time to celebrate the role of women in society with a focus on the workplace.  The roots of International Women’s Day can be traced back to the early 1900s as a protest movement seeking equal employment rights and universal suffrage.

In 1977 the United Nations gave their seal of approval when they declared 8th March as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.  This day is marked with protest marches around the world.  A recent development is the movement A Day Without A Woman: female workers are being encouraged to take the day off work to demonstrate how valuable they are in the workplace.

The IT industry has traditionally been seen as a male preserve, attracting people who have a fascination for maths and problem-solving and geekish tendencies.  Read more

Eat your pancakes before Lent sets in!

Exactly 47 days before that moveable feast Easter Sunday, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday, but how come pancakes feature in this Christian celebration?  There are clues in the other names given to this day.

The French name for pancake day is Mardi Gras, a term associated with carnival festivities around the world from Brazil to Germany.  The direct translation of Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday.  Lent is a time of abstinence in preparation for Easter, so you need to remove the temptation of fatty foods from the house; what better way to use up the eggs, flour and butter than cooking up a batch of pancakes?

In the business world, a great many companies synchronise their financial year with the tax year, Read more

Your trusted IT advisor is in the national news!

 

I thought you would be interested to hear about Steve’s 15 minutes of fame this week.

The Daily Mail were looking for an industry expert to provide a quote about ransomware and a Google search led the journalist to our blog featuring a ransomware attack on “The Good Wife”.   Surely you remember this story: you can check it out here.  Steve was duly interviewed and the result appeared in the Daily Mail yesterday.

The article is inspired by David Beckham’s recent problems with his emails being hacked, but goes on to discuss ransomware.  Steve features in the lower section near the photo of a keyboard.  You can read the full article here.

So you can see that you enjoy the services of a celebrity IT advisor.  You can rest assured that when it comes to cyber attacks, and any other IT issues, Computer Troubleshooters has got your back.  Read more

Xin nian kuai le – Happy Chinese New Year!

On 28th January 2017, the Chinese year of the Rooster began.  As the Chinese calendar is based on lunar months, the new year falls on a different Gregorian (solar calendar as used in the UK) date each year, but generally in January or February.

The first thing I learnt in my research is that we’ve been getting our Chinese greeting wrong all these years – “gong hei fat choy” actually relates to a wish for prosperity rather than Happy New Year!  Rather like the zodiac, each Chinese year is dedicated to one of 12 animals.  2017 is the year of the rooster.  Roosters are seen as confident, honest and hard-working. Read more

A celebration of pantomimes: It’s behind you!

pantomime

 

And so we have reached the festive season, and no Christmas celebration is truly complete without a visit to that peculiarly British institution, the Pantomime.  Every commercial theatre, and plenty of amateur companies too, will put on a production of a traditional fairy tale, often enhanced with the appearance of a celebrity.

The roots of pantomimes can be traced by to Roman times, although these productions bear little resemblance to the festive shows of today.  In the Middle Ages travelling entertainers known as Mummers used to perform a drama which was based on George and the Dragon: these events contained several of the elements still prized in the modern-day pantomime – stage fights, course humour, gender role reversals and naturally the triumph of good over evil. Read more

What every charity needs to know

charity cropped

In many ways, not-for-profit organisations resemble “normal” profit-driven businesses:

  • You need to account for your income and outgoings
  • You need to be able to produce reports for bodies to which you are accountable
  • You need to budget for your projected expenditure
  • You need to manage your team
  • … And you need robust IT systems to ensure that all of the above can happen efficiently.

You will obviously look to maximise the funds available to the good works of your organisation by deploying volunteers where possible, and this could well include IT support, keeping your computers up-and-running for free. Read more

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

remember

As a nation, we certainly do remember the 5th of November, although it is generally imprinted in our memories as a brilliant excuse on a dark wintry night to wrap up warm, gather around a bonfire and watch enthralled as the touch-paper is ignited on ever-more-noisy fireworks.  There are presumably fewer of us who know or care about the origins of this annual celebration.

Guy Fawkes Day commemorates the thwarted attempt on 5th November 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament when the King, James I, was scheduled to attend the state opening of parliament.  Guy Fawkes was a member of the gang of conspirators orchestrating the Gunpowder Plot, not the leader but a key figure as he was tasked with guarding and lighting the explosives stored in a cellar under the palace.  Surprisingly, rather than being burnt at the stake like a modern-day guy effigy, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

What motivated the conspirators?  Read more

Ghost in the machine

ghost

“Trick or Treat” calls out the little skeleton on your doorstep, flanked by a ghost dressed in a bedsheet with holes for eyes and a witch complete with Harry Potter broomstick; it’s that time of year again where it is wise to have a stock of sweets at the ready if you don’t want to come under attack from carved pumpkin-toting devils and zombies – yes, it’s HALLOWEEN!

31st October is more correctly All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day.  Traditionally it has been seen as the day when witches would take to the skies on their broomsticks, accompanied by their familiars.  There is still an annual pilgrimage to Pendle Hill to celebrate the Pendle Witches who were the subject of witch hunts in the 17th century.  Halloween was also marked with party games such as bobbing for apples; participants had to try to retrieve an apple from a bucket of water without using their hands, in the process often getting thoroughly drenched as their attempts to bite the fruit end in a premature dunking!

Up until relatively recently, Halloween in England was a very simple affair.  Read more

Time to think about Time

time

As the nights draw in and sultry Summer evenings are a distant memory, our thoughts turn to the Clocks turning back as British Summer Time makes way for Greenwich Mean Time this weekend.  Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), GMT’s more accurate successor, has a greater impact on our lives than simply ensuring that we don’t arrive late for that important meeting.

Greenwich was very significant in the development of systems to aid navigation and communication, and accurate time-keeping is still fundamental to computer systems today.  As a maritime nation, England led the way in developing methods of navigating safely, and a system of dividing the globe up into time zones using longitude based on Greenwich as the prime meridian was devised for sailors to map their location.

When the main method of transport moved at a pedestrian speed, with horsepower if you were more fortunate, it was relatively insignificant if Manchester ran on a different clock setting from Plymouth.  With the advent of trains, however, the lack of unity played havoc with the timetable, and before long England adopted a standard time covering the whole country – Greenwich Mean Time.

Fast forward to today, and have you noticed that Read more

A view from the past to the future: 150 years of H G Wells

wells

September marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of H G Wells, arguably one of Britain’s finest science fiction writers.

His inventive imagination is well-known, especially as his works have been made into memorable films; The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man to name just a few.  Indeed, Orson Welles caused such a stir with his radio dramatization of the War of the Worlds that pandemonium broke out in New York when it was first broadcast as listeners feared that a Martian invasion was in progress!

Although his creations were mostly fanciful, there are a number of examples where he was quite prescient about the future of technologyPerhaps he did have a time machine after all!

Here are some of the examples of technological mentions in his oeuvre Read more

A harvest we won’t be celebrating

harvest

 

As schoolchildren return to their lessons and the last warmth from the Indian Summer dissipates, we look forward to the next feast day in the calendar: Harvest Festival.

Communities around the world celebrate the successful growing and gathering of food ahead of the Winter, and the timing is of course dependent on when the seasons fall locally.  In Britain the harvest has been the subject of festivities since Pagan times, but it is now a standard fixture in the church programme.

Just as Easter is determined based on the first full moon following the vernal equinox, so Harvest Festival is set in reference to the Harvest Moon.  The Harvest Moon is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, presumably named thus because of giving light to allow farmers to work into the night to gather in their crops.  In 2016 the Harvest Moon occurred on 16th September.  The harvest festival (at St John’s in Hildenborough at any rate) is set to take place on 25th September.

The average Briton today has little direct experience of harvesting.  They may have been trapped behind a tractor transporting hay bales, or perhaps have grown runner beans in their back gardens.  When the request arrives in the school satchel to provide produce for the harvest festival service, it is just as likely that canned goods are sent in from the larder rather than freshly-harvested fruit and vegetables.  No-one begrudges the odd tin of baked beans which will be packaged up and delivered to the needy in the community.

There is certainly a harvesting activity that no-one wants to fall victim to: password harvesting. Read more

Roald Dahl 100: just imagine if he had a PC!

Roald

Put out the bunting!

Pop the champagne!

Let the festivities commence for the centenary of one of the best loved children’s authors of our time!

13th September 2016 marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl.  His life and works will be celebrated at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and in classrooms around the country.

Surely everyone must be aware of the works of Roald Dahl, either from childhood storytimes, cinema or stage musicals.  What’s your favourite?  Perhaps different books take you back to specific stages in your life.  It is certainly hard to choose.  How about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, the Enormous Crocodile and not forgetting Esio Trot.

The enduring appeal of Roald Dahl can be put down to his sense of what appeals to young people in terms of both storyline and language and his innately childish sense of humour.  Read more

33.9 degrees C in Gravesend – hot enough for you?

 

 

 

thermometer

 

 

 

Kent has been basking in Summer sunshine this August, with temperatures peaking at almost 34 degrees Centigrade in Gravesend, a record high for 24th August.  This is great news for staycationers who can plan fun-filled daytrips to beaches and tourist attractions rather than huddling for shelter behind windbreaks and seeking a dry haven as they try to escape yet another downpour.

Spare a thought, however, for those workers left behind manning the office.  Cooped up in often poorly-ventilated rooms with computers and printers adding to the ambient temperature, the seasonably warm weather is not such a blessing.  There are no legal maximum workplace temperatures, and furthermore some employees are obliged to wear heavy uniforms, designed with more typical British weather in mind.

So, is it hot enough for you?

Are you feeling lethargic and lacklustre?

Not enough going on at work to get hot under the collar about?

Perhaps you crave a bit of jeopardy in your life. Read more

Is Olympic Sportsmanship compromised by Technology?

Olympic discs on grass

August is here, and one of those quadrennial delights is just around the corner.  The opening ceremony of the XXXI Olympics takes place in Rio on 5th August 2016.  This will feature the oath first created by the Games founder Baron de Coubertin for the 1920 Antwerp games:

In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.

The tradition of restricting entry to the competition to amateurs has long gone, but sportsmanship is still a valued concept.  This has been difficult to uphold in the face of drugs cheats scandals but the majority of participants are keen to play by the rules and gain recognition and reward for their own endeavours.

So how does technology sit with sportsmanship at the Olympics? Read more

Pokemon-Go: how gaming became the healthy choice

pokemon1

 

 

Who remembers that desperate Christmas when frazzled parents could not lay their hands on a Thunderbirds Tracy Island and were reduced to constructing one with cardboard tubes and sticky back plastic following the helpful instructions from Blue Peter?  This followed the successful relaunch of the animated series after its original airing in the 1960s.

Some crazes are prompted by movie tie-ins; Star Wars has spawned a new generation of fans with each new instalment of their film franchise.  Others spring up from cartoon series which may in turn have been motivated by toy manufacturers.  So many products have failed to respark the initial enthusiasm which led to a buying frenzy: remember Cabbage Patch Dolls, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, Power Rangers … do you have fond memories of a coveted toy or game?

Who knew that the Japanese animation Pokemon would prove the exception and have the staying power to motivate a whole new generation of fans.  Nintendo have spurred a worldwide phenomenon Pokemon-Go, bringing augmented reality into play, so that the 1990s practice of collecting cards has been superseded by using an app on a smart phone. Read more

7 deadly signs you should never ignore

 IS108-017

 

From the Bible we have learnt that there are 7 deadly sins:

–          Pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed.

Where businesses are concerned, however, there are 7 deadly signs that your IT is failing which you ignore at your peril.  They may not result in a trip to Hell, but the impact on a company can be every bit as punishing.

Generally, small businesses will ignore some very blatant signs that something is wrong with their computers.  They will let it go or find a workaround to push off having to deal with the problem as long as possible. Unfortunately, that often means they put it off until something really bad occurs and they are thrust into a very costly or even devastating situation.

To avoid the risk of a serious emergency for your business, watch for these signs indicating your technology may be in need of professional attention:

  1. Regular pop up messages that are being ignored.

This often includes critical things like renewing your security software or installing important updates for your operating system or applications. Read more

A+ – Why Bother?

a+ Liane

 

Following her recent success in the A+ examination, Liane has given us some insight into the purpose of studying for A+ in this week’s blog:

Having recently completed the CompTIA A+ certification, we thought now would be a good time to reflect on the process.

There are so many reasons to become A+ certified but I think if you are trying to break into the industry, employers like to see as many certifications as possible (especially if you are lacking experience).  This will definitely boost your chances of getting your foot in the door as CompTIA certifications are globally recognised.  If the A+ looks too advanced there is also an ‘IT Fundamentals’ course to get your head around the basics first.

However, if you already have years of experience and think it doesn’t apply to you, you would be mistaken.  The certification expires after three years, and you have to be tested again to renew your certification. This is done to make sure candidates keep skills current.  It is also a good way to show your employer and customers you care about and still have the skills necessary to do your job effectively as technology progresses.  You can also progress through the certifications to progress your career and show you have the knowledge and skills for that promotion!

I highly recommend looking into Comp TIA certifications if you are in or trying to get into the field of IT.  As for me, I think it’s the Network+ next!

Imagine an office without computers

Endeavour

The proposition of running a modern business without IT seems unthinkable.  Just take a moment to look around you and consider all the aspects of your work which depend on being connected via technology:

  • Correspondence, both email and letter writing
  • Telephone
  • Accounts and tax reporting
  • Filing
  • Printing
  • Diary
  • Address book
  • Banking and payment collection
  • Information searches
  • Report writing
  • Marketing
  • Social media
  • To do lists

In fact there are tasks that cannot be accomplished without computer power.  HMRC, for example, no longer accepts VAT submissions in paper form; the bookkeeper must access the on-line portal to report the VAT return and the payment is collected electronically.

The ubiquity of technology in the workplace is a relatively recent development.  Even 10 years ago internet connections were not universally reliable and fast, with many companies still relying on dial-up services.  Postal services and faxes still dominated communications. Read more

Like 6 million dollar man, we have the technology to rebuild

hard drives

Back in that golden age of television that was the 1970s, there were plenty of action-packed serials which captivated the youth audience and inspired re-enactments in the playground – The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Hawaii 5-0, Dukes of Hazard, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, Alias Smith and Jones – just for starters.  Did you have a favourite?

Each programme started with a brief setup giving an explanation of how our heroes came into being.  The opening sequence of the six million dollar man still resonates today.  Steve Austin was an astronaut who was seriously injured in an accident.  He was so valuable that the team decided: We can rebuild him.  We have the technology.  And thus the bionic man, a human cyborg, was created.

This quote often comes to mind when we are faced with difficult IT support challengesRead more

Mayday Mayday Mayday – CT to the rescue

mayday

Everyone must be familiar with the distress call Mayday Mayday Mayday from those old black and white films about the Battle of Britain, but did you ever wonder why the first day of May should be linked to a cry for help?

It was devised in the 1920s at Croydon Airport in London as a clear, easily-understood term which could be used by pilots travelling between the UK and Le Bourget Airport in France.  It is said to be based on the French for come and help me – (venez) m’aider – which was anglicised to Mayday.  The practice of repeating it 3 times allows it to stand out where there is a poor radio signal. Read more

St George’s Day: what dragons would he fight today?

dragon

23rd April is celebrated as St George’s day, the patron saint of England and famous for rescuing a fair damsel in distress from a venomous dragon.  Have you ever wondered how England came to appoint George as patron saint?  And why is he associated with dragons?  Read on and all shall be revealed! Read more

Shakespeare400: how it could have been Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare's 2nd Folio on display at Canterbury Cathedral

Shakespeare’s 2nd Folio on display at Canterbury Cathedral

This month the nation celebrates the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, arguably the country’s greatest every playwright.  As well as producing a cornucopia of plays and poems peppered with famous quotes, Shakespeare has enriched our vocabulary with the many new terms he coined.  Who knew that Shakespeare was the first to use such useful words as advertising, hobnob, gossip and zany?

It is amazing to think that we could have been deprived of the literature of the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon; it could have been a story of Love’s Labour’s Lost.  The entire legacy could have been mislaid as the plays were not printed for posterity.  Read more

It’s the new tax year – watch out for rogue emails!

Debt email

 

6th April marks the start of a fresh tax year in the UK.  It seems an odd choice of date to mark an anniversary, and the reasons for this find their roots in Roman times.  The Julian calendar was established under Julius Caesar, but this did not adjust correctly for the true duration of a year, which led to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar under Pope Gregory.  England eventually decided to come into line with the Gregorian calendar in 1752, achieving this by stealing 11 days – Wednesday 2nd September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14th September 1752.

Taxes were traditionally collected on Lady Day – 25th March which was one of the quarter days when rents were due.  In 1753 it was acknowledged that 11 days’ revenue would be lost, so the tax anniversary became 5th April, 11 days later.  This was subsequently corrected to 6th April in a leap year, where it remains to this day.

As with every financial milestone – month end, year end, financial year end – the scammers are out to catch us off our guard.  In a busy office where the bookkeepers are under pressure to meet deadlines, it is easy to give a cursory once-over to an email request for payment and not realise that they are about to fall victim to cybercrime!

You may have excellent antivirus and antispam protection, but even so emails can creep under the wire.  If you click on an attachment or internet link, this can expose your computer to unwanted malwareRead more

Were you an April Fool?

 

Easter Word Search solution

 

The first day of April has traditionally been a time to set up hoaxes and play tricks on people.  The reason for the choice of 1st April as the day to celebrate the playing of pranks on your friends is lost in the mists of time, but the tradition can be traced back to the Roman festival of Hilaria and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

References have been found throughout literature.  Chaucer comments in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale: “Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two” which is interpreted by some scholars to refer to 32rd March, ie 1st April.

In recent times, newspapers and broadcasters compete to slip spurious stories past their readership.  Read more

Where would the boat race be without technology?

boat race

On the face of it, what sporting event could be considered a more fundamental test of human endeavour against the forces of nature that the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race?  Young athletes are pitted against each other and the elements in a rowing race on the River Thames; surely this is one sport where technology has no part to play.

The 162nd Cancer Research UK Boat Race took place on the Thames between Putney and Mortlake on Easter Sunday, 27th March 2016.  This is now an annual fixture in the sporting calendar since its first appearance in 1829, although it premiered in Henley with the 2nd race taking place in London in 1836.

The impact of technology can actually be felt through every aspect of the Boat Race.  Let’s start with the boats themselves.  Read more

Celebrate the vernal equinox with a Spring clean!

daffodils

Despite the unseasonably chilly weather, the vernal equinox marks the start of Spring.  Generally considered to fall on 21st March, it can technically occur at any time between 19th and 21st March, in fact falling this year on Sunday 20th.

The vernal equinox takes place when the sun crosses the celestial equator, which is the imaginary line above the Earth’s equator.  At this point, the day divides equally into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness – hence equi – nox from the Latin for equal and night.

Spring is celebrated as a time of new beginnings in many cultures.  In Japan, it is the cherry blossom which is widely anticipated.  Easter is seen as a time for new beginnings and rebirth, symbolised by the Easter chick.

According to Alfred Tennyson, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”.  Read more

How can an eagle fight technology-based crime?

Eagle

 

With each step forward in the development of technology, there come innovations in the way the gadgets can be employed.  Unfortunately, not all innovations benefit society as a whole, as criminals are also seeking opportunities to support their activities using the latest inventions.

Drones are bringing great benefits to businesses.  Builders can deploy them to make an inspection of a roof without the expense and inconvenience of erecting extensive scaffolding.  Film makers can provide a bird’s-eye-view of a town or country landscape.  There are even plans to arrange courier deliveries by drone, and a pizza delivery would surely be quicker via a drone than a scooter which is restricted to the gridlocked streets.

Sadly the criminal fraternity can also see ways of deploying drones.  It has been reported that drones have been used to smuggle mobile phones, drugs and other contraband into prisons.  It is conceivable that drones could wreak havoc in the hands of terrorists, allowing them to steer bombs to their intended target while keeping a safe distance themselves.  There have also been instances of drones getting into the flight path of aeroplanes with potentially catastrophic consequences. Read more

Mother knows best; make her day!

mother's day

 

As the 4th Sunday in Lent approaches, our thoughts turn to Mothering Sunday.  More commonly known as Mother’s Day, this event is not to be confused with the American tradition of the same name which falls later in the calendar, although it is generally celebrated in the same manner.

It’s the one day of the year where mothers are treated to breakfast in bed (hopefully not at the crack of dawn!) and showered with cards and gifts.  Of course these things only happen where the children in question have been prompted by well-organised teachers or the ubiquitous advertising of florists and card retailers. Read more

How will you spend your Bonus Day?

leapday

 

Did you realise that you are being treated to an additional 24 hours this year?  That’s a whole extra day tacked on to the year, courtesy of 2016 being a Leap YearMonday is a rather special day as it marks that relatively rare occurrence the Leap Day.

Why do we even have Leap Years?  To paraphrase L’Oreal, here comes the science bit!  The Earth orbits the Sun fully once a year, but the time taken is actually approximately 365 and a quarter days.  Read more

We’re in the (local) news!

T&H Mums

The local community is very important to Computer Troubleshooters.  We don’t like to stray far from our Hildenborough base and our focus is to support businesses in Tonbridge and the surrounding West Kent area.  Indeed, as you can read on our van, our motto is LOCAL SERVICE, GLOBAL STRENGTH.

So we were chuffed when Tonbridge and Hildenborough Mums invited Computer Troubleshooters to be featured in their local spotlight.  Tonbridge and Hildenborough Mums provide a local directory for events of interest to families.  Their website also showcases businesses based in the area.  This is a wonderful resource for anyone based in and around Hildenborough.

And the result… you can read our feature here.  Why not check out the full website while you are there.

Thank you Tonbridge and Hildenborough Mums; keep up the good work!

Be my Valentine!

valentine

 

 

Valentine poem

 

The Christmas festivities are over, the New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten, and we have made it through the first month of 2016.  So it must be time for that next great celebration beloved by greetings card shops: St Valentine’s Day.

There does seem to be some uncertainty about the saint behind this festival.  There appears to be more than one Saint Valentine who are celebrated on various days throughout the church calendar.  14th February was settled upon as the date to celebrate St Valentine, which conveniently coincides with the timing of the pagan festival Lupercalia.  It appears that the connection between St Valentine’s Day and love and devotion Read more

What has BNI ever done for us?

 

Fans of Monty Python’s Life of Brian may well remember the debate by the protest group “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  The answer, of course, turned out to be a comprehensive list of the achievements and innovations introduced by the Roman Empire.

To coin a phrase, what has BNI ever done for us?  Firstly, you need to know what BNI is.  BNI stands for Business Network International.  It does pretty much what it says on the tin.  It is an international organisation which brings businesses together for a weekly networking session.  Read more

Happy Birthday Herr Mozart!

mozartAs today is the 260th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart it is an ideal time to celebrate his contribution to culture in general and classical music in particular.  He was certainly famous in his own lifetime for his precocious talent, and the popularity of his compositions has endured; in the Classic FM 2015 Hall of Fame Mozart is recorded as the composer with the most pieces included in the chart of the top 300 favourite classical works.

The works of Mozart are often among the first encountered by children learning a musical instrument.  My own well-thumbed copy of the Sonata in C attests to its use in the countless hours of practice required to become proficient on the piano.

Mozart must be one of the most well-known classical composers, but can he be considered an innovatorRead more

A brief history of malware at Christmas

cybercriminals

Although this is meant to be the season of goodwill, it would appear that it is the prime time for criminal activity on your computers, a veritable season of bad will!

For many, Christmas time is the best time of the year. Celebrations, family and friends, presents, a week off work, all part of the fun. Of course, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” you might say “Bah humbug” to the Christmas spirit, but we love it. So the last thing we want to do in the run up is to spread doom and gloom, but while the rest of us are enjoying a great time, cyber criminals are making the best of the opportunity. Like Pantomime villains lurking in the shadows they are already plotting to steal our money, hurt our businesses, and many other forms of mischief.

Christmas Hackers

While you might associate Christmas with Christmas Crackers, hackers have an entirely different take on the festive season. Christmas has always been an inspiration for malware developers. The first we are aware of dates back to 1987. It was a virus known as the Christmas Tree that displayed an image of one before forwarding itself to your contacts by email. A few years later the same virus was responsible for the closure of IBM’s 350,000 terminal network.

Another example is Melissa-AG virus in the Christmas of 1999. Read more

The power of the #ff

twitterTwitter abounds with abbreviations; after all, when you only have 140 characters to play with, you need all the help you can get to reduce and compress your message.

Many of the short forms started their life when text speak was first developed, although this was motivated more by the desire to type quickly than a limit on word count.  Thus we see words or syllables being replaced with numbers:

  • “4” for “for”
  • “gr8” for “great”
  • “2nite” instead of “tonight”

And TLAs (three letter abbreviations) have become ubiquitous: HTH, LOL, IMO.

Twitter has some “traditions” which are common across social media platforms, and others that are unique to Twitter.  The initials are often paired with a hashtag (#) to permit ease of searching.  Thus we have #tbt – Throw Back Thursday – where the reader is reminded of how people (or objects, but mostly people) looked in the past.  This is an opportunity to post embarrassing pictures of friends in dodgy fashions, and of course takes place on a Thursday.

Another great Twitter tradition is #ff – Follow Friday.  Read more

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a DRONE!

dronePost “Spectre” and the recent story of someone shooting down a drone which was spying on his garden in the US, it has left us here wondering about a possible future with drones. In the case of the US citizen, it was declared by the judge that it was the right of the man to shoot the drone due to privacy reasons.

It is all good thinking about pizza delivery and the wonders of drones but thinking about them in regards to privacy and how they could be (and possibly already are being used) by the military, well, it’s a scary thought! Read more

How did you celebrate Ada Lovelace Day?

Who even was Ada Lovelace, I hear you ask, let alone why there should be a day especially dedicated to her memory. Ada’s may not be a familiar name nowadays, but she played a significant role in the development of computing and deserves to be honoured.

Ada Lovelace was born in 1815, the daughter of the celebrated poet Lord Byron. Despite her artistic heritage and the general expectations placed on women in the 19th century, Ada pursued an interest in Mathematics and arranged to study under high-profile tutors. She met Charles Babbage and was fascinated by his work on machines which have now been acknowledged as the first computers.

Ada Lovelace is considered by many to be the first programmer in history. Read more

What has technology ever done for sport?

 

Cricket statsThe rules of the game may evolve over time, but sports such as football, rugby and cricket have remained largely unchanged for over a century, right? Well think again! From grassroots games to international fixtures, technology has influenced every aspect of play.

 

Surely cricket on the village green or a school-boy football match are immune to this affect, I hear you ask. Well just consider the construction of the balls and bats; the design process musters cadcam technology to perfect performance. Protective clothing such as helmets and the humble shinpad have definitely benefited from the input of technology.

 

You don’t need to watch any football match on Television for more than a five minutes to become acutely aware of the impact of technology on The Beautiful Game. HD, 3D, action replays, ball trackers and 360 degree views of the action mean that the casual viewer can make better judgements that the referees and the players themselves. It has even been noted that the sportsmen themselves have started to reap the benefits of television displays: American Football players have taken to checking the large display screen to see who is pursuing them, rather than wasting time and momentum by turning to look!

 

American Football is a sport that has embraced technological advances whole-heartedly. The NFL players have headsets in their headgear which allows communication with the coaches. The coaches in turn operate in front of a bank of tablets where their playbooks are recorded. In the split second that the coach has to decide whether to challenge a play, he can access an action replay to check that it is a valid claim. Read more

The Man From UNCLE: why spy films don’t need hi-tech gadgets

Man from UNCLE

Having just spent an enjoyable afternoon watching Guy Ritchie’s The Man From UNCLE, I got to thinking about the role of technology and gadgets in spy films: have we, the audience, become dependent on our heroes having a battery of hi-tech equipment at their disposal, and do we feel short-changed if we are not dazzled by the technological tricks they employ?

Looking back at the James Bond franchise, technological gadgetry has always played a part in the films. Of course, if a viewer were to watch Dr No in 2015, they may fail to be impressed by the radio equipment, Geiger counters and cyanide cigarettes, but back in 1962 when the movie was first released, these objects would have been cutting-edge. Read more

So what exactly is Computer Science?

right-toolsThe A level results are out and according to BBC news there has been a 12% increase in the number of new students choosing to study Computer Science at university in September. Indeed the youngest member of the Computer Troubleshooters team is heading off to read Mathematics and Computer Science at Oxford University himself.

One theory for the rise in interest in this subject is the observation that Millennials, the generation coming of age in the 21st Century, have been brought up around technology and therefore computers are an intrinsic part of their lives. This would explain an interest in computer-based courses such as Information & Communication Technology but not necessarily in the more theoretic Computer Science.

It would be useful to have a definition of Computer Science. Our own university candidate was hard-pressed to provide an explanation that could be understood by the layman, even where the layman in question works in IT support! Computer Science is fundamentally a branch of Mathematics; while programming skills will be deployed, the subject is principally concerned with how computers process data at a technical level, employing such devices as algorithms. Read more

School’s Out … For Summer

blackboardSo the long Summer term is finally petering out, with the last few schools doggedly soldiering on this week with games, videos and leaving presentations…. And then the schools are out for the long summer holidays.

Even if you don’t have school-age children, this has an impact on your daily life. The morning commute between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells becomes a pleasure as the usual clogged arterial roads are freed from the regular school-run traffic.

And of course there is a ripple effect on businesses too. As employees with families elect to take their annual holidays outside school term-time, many offices run on a skeleton crew. While a temp may be brought in for essential administrative support, other roles are left with minimal cover, with the work simply backing up awaiting the return of the responsible member of staff. Read more

What exactly is Green IT, and why should you care?

green it Why should we care about Green IT?

 

Green IT is not only for people who care about saving the planet, although we all should. It makes good business sense.

 

It really can be as basic as spending a little more on hardware components to get the most efficient processor and power supply for your desktop or laptop. This would use less energy and that means smaller energy costs for your business. Read more

We’re your trusted IT adviser; let us advise you!

logo_businessComputer Troubleshooters is here to take care of your IT issues, so that you can concentrate on running your business.

We want you to consider us as your trusted IT adviser; please come to us with any questions or problems that you may have with your PC. It’s our job to make sure you are making the most of your IT equipment. We would prefer that you don’t come to us with your solutions; it may appear that you are speeding up the process, but this could be masking the true issue and can lead to a waste of time and money.

To give you an example:

We received a request to set up a spare desktop PC to replace the existing computer in a branch office. This task would involve work to ensure that all the settings and data are set up exactly as before. Read more

“The Good Wife” attacked by Ransomware

Goodwife ransomware croppedThe US TV series The Good Wife may focus on law and politics, but the Chicago-based lawyers have always been involved in cutting-edge technology issues from Bitcoin to hacking communications. I suppose we should not have been surprised then, when the episode which aired on British televisions this week, Shiny Objects series 6 episode 5, should feature the malware problem which has been the subject of our blog recently – Ransomware.

When the initial warning pops up on Diane’s laptop, she makes the cardinal error that we always counsel against; having clicked on an email attachment, she then proceeds to click on the pop up alert. All the computers on the Florrick Agos network are instantly disabled, and their data is held to ransom with a menacing countdown to destruction. Unbelievably it appears that those well-paid lawyers had made no provision for malware protection or backup! Read more

Cryptolocker and the important insurance of backups and protection

Computer-Car-Hacker-300x199

Today’s blog has been brought to you by Rick Van Akin of CTS Danbury, a Computer Troubleshooters franchisee in USA. The lessons to learn about Cryptolocker and the importance of backups apply internationally.

Securing your computer is not something to ignore or do another day. Everyone, including us, has experienced some sort of computer virus infestation in the past. Mostly, these infections range from minor annoyances to major disruptions including reduced functionality, computer slowdowns, and crashes that are temporary in nature and are generally remedied by cleaning up the virus and continuing on your merry way. After going through this you probably checked your antivirus system and may have tried to upgrade to something better. Most people do this, but far fewer seriously consider backing up their files or put it off to another day that never comes.

What you need to know; Crytowall virus steals your files. Cryptowall is not your average virus. It is a stealth program that turns off built-in protection systems that safeguard your files and then it starts encrypting all your files. It uses a very advanced encryption algorithm that only those with access to a bazillion dollar super computer have a chance to decrypt. Cryptowall will send you a nicely-worded note telling you they encrypted your files for your protection and to gain access to them you can pay them $300-$600. DO NOT DO THIS! Read more

Classical music concerts – culture untouched by technology

Kent County OrchestraWhile enjoying a recent performance by the Kent County Youth Orchestra, it occurred to me that classical music concerts are one of the few areas of contemporary life which are largely unaffected by technological developments.

A concert-goer in the 1900s would be able to experience the work of Beethoven in exactly the same way as we would today. There is an auditorium with a simple stage, generally without scenery. The musicians are seated in their allotted places with music stands and the conductor takes his place before them on the dais. Even their dress may be timeless; KCYO favour dinner jackets and long black dresses, while the conductor often sports white tie and tails. Read more

Christmas is over; time to prepare for the tax year end!

The tax season is approaching; time to consider your online securityWe have barely finished creating our lists of New Year’s resolutions and before we know it, the taxman will cometh. This means that it’s time for the annual deep dive into a combination of paper and digital documentation to tally up a year’s worth of business receipts, cancelled cheques, credit card statements, bank records, insurance files, etc. Considering the entire time-consuming process, February is not too early to start planning for that April 5th tax deadline.

 

The taxman is closely followed by cybercriminals cybercriminalsNobody looks forward to tax time, but at least the online filing process has made it so much easier. Right? Unfortunately, online filing has become complicated by the fact that the taxman is now closely followed by an array of cybercriminals, hackers and identity thieves. In 2013, the incidence of tax return fraud reached epidemic proportions. The Ministry of Justice has warned both consumers and businesses alike that aggressive scammers engaged in online identity theft have been linked to international criminal organizations and the recommendation is strongly encouraging taxpayers to be proactive and follow online security practices.

Read more

Glimpse of a technology-free past … via a novel

moggach croppedWhen Deborah Moggach wrote You Must Be Sisters back in 1978, she was exploring what it was to be a young adult setting out on independent life with all the emotional challenges that that entails. The novel takes place in contemporary Britain, allowing the readers at that time to relate to the characters in the novel and identify with their dilemmas.

It is highly unlikely that Deborah Moggach set out to document the technological landscape of 1970s Britain, but reading this novel in 2015 brings into sharp focus how much progress there has been in the intervening decades. Nowadays, we take our technology for granted; most people have access to a computer and/or a mobile device, which in turn give access to the internet, phones, digital camera, satnav, music, television and videos. Read more

When is a blackboard better than a computer?

It occurred to me recently when catching up with the science fiction TV series Fringe that every time a scientist is grappling with a complex equation, their tool of choice is generally a blackboard rather than a computer.

Of course all the experts, whether on the small screen or the silver screen, have access to an array of technology which they happily deploy in pursuit of the solution to their investigations. However, when it comes to a brainstorming session over a formula, the trusted chalk is back in their hands and the screen is filled with indecipherable symbols.

In fact, as soon as the blackboard or its modern counterpart the whiteboard makes its appearance in a scene, the viewer understands that “this is where the miracle happens”. We don’t expect to understand what the characters are discussing, but we accept that this is movie shorthand for “smart people at work”, allowing the plot to move forward without dragging us into the minutiae of the calculations. Read more

Is technology essential in a detective novel?

novels croppedHas the introduction of technology into our daily lives also had an impact on our expectations when we turn to literature? It seems that all contemporary crime fiction relies on complex technological props to advance the plot.

I’ve recently been reading some Dorothy L Sayers stories featuring the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey and it occurred to me that sleuths in the pre-computer age succeeded in tracking down the culprit by the simple application of observation and their own brain power. Of course the criminals were equally hampered by lack of technological tools as the law enforcement agencies, and a great deal more naïve than their modern counterparts.

Part of the enjoyment of a Sherlock Holmes novel lies in admiring his ability to retain a mental database of useful information. Agatha Christie’s heroes Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are equally gifted, and their façade of bumbling incompetence would be ruined if they were to extract a computer from their port-manteaux during their investigations! Read more

Rise in “Computer Support” calls

iphone-bannerThe uninvited call from Windows Technical Support or some other similarly named organisation is never welcome, but it seems that they have recently become more frequent. Could it be due to computers becoming more commonplace? The callers must be encouraged by positive outcomes for them; of course the result of allowing such a caller to have access to your machine is rarely positive for you!

Microsoft and computer manufacturers are highly unlikely to call you about issues with your PC. If you think about it, how would Microsoft have access to your contact details, let alone see issues arising on your computer? Our advice is to decline the offer of assistance; if you are concerned about any aspect of your computer’s performance, there are reputable repair companies who would be willing to check it for you. Read more

Hats off to CT Tonbridge

Cyber Terrorist disguise

Cyber Terrorist disguise

From time to time the business networking group to which Computer Troubleshooters Tonbridge belongs, BNI Tonbridge Castle Chapter, likes to introduce a theme to the proceedings to spice up the 60-second presentations.  At the last meeting, members were encouraged to wear a hat relating to their trade.

Steve decided to take an alternative approach to the topic, and adopted the persona of Stefano Riskikov, a Cyber Terrorist of indeterminate Eastern origin. Donning a black balaclava and dark glasses, he explained his methods of working; malware could be introduced via an email attachment or through a website pop-up. Trojan Horse applications could be developed specifically to attack a company’s computers, and their data could be held to ransom. He would also be able to harvest credit card and banking details as part of his identity theft service. Read more

Are all TV computer experts geeks?

TV Computer Expert but not a geek!

TV Computer Expert but not a geek!

While I was catching up with the latest American crime series on TV recently, I got to thinking about the stock characters that pop up in every programme, and I started to wonder if all computer experts in television are portrayed as geeks.

Of course each programme can only devote so much time to character development, and it can be hard to keep pace with all the back stories if you are attempting to follow several different series. So a type of shorthand has developed, where stock characters are deployed. This can get very predictable and hackneyed; as soon as a protagonist starts to speak with an English accent, you quickly suspect that they will be the villain of the piece. Read more

Behind the 8 ball?

Behind the 8 ball

Behind the 8 ball

Are you behind the 8 ball?  It’s a curious expression, isn’t it?  According to the Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com), the saying means In a bad situation, in a losing position.

“The phrase comes from pool (or billiards). When the cue (white) ball is behind the eight (black) ball, a player usually has no shot.

I’m really behind the eight ball at work. I have too much work to do but we can’t afford to hire anyone to help out.”

It doesn’t take much to find yourself inundated in business, with an ever-growing to-do list and not enough hours in the day to meet the demands of customers, suppliers, staff and the tax man.  Before you know it, you can find yourself trapped in an impossible situation, with no clear view of your potential escape route.

 

Are you juggling a number of office roles, struggling to keep all the plates spinning?  If this describes you, it is time to take a step back and reflect on the tasks in front of you.  You should be focusing on the jobs which require your expertise and knowledge, and outsourcing or delegating the work which can be undertaken by other people.

 

A perfect example of work that should be outsourced is IT support; you may feel that you are computer-savvy, but should you really be spending your valuable time waiting for Microsoft updates to be installed or troubleshooting a malware threat?  Signing up for a managed service plan will free you up to concentrate on running your business, safe in the knowledge that the vital computer functions are being cared for and supported.

 

Don’t get stuck behind the 8 ball; let Computer Troubleshooters take control of your IT needs and focus your efforts on what you do best!

Read more

CT Tonbridge scoops BNI award

Computer Troubleshooters are proud to be members of the Tonbridge Castle Chapter of BNI (Business Networking International) for the last 10 years.  Part of the weekly breakfast meeting at the Mercure Hotel in Pembury consists of a 60 second presentation by each of the members.  The Tonbridge Castle Chapter have upped the ante by rewarding the best 60 seconds of the morning with a trophy and the right to speak for 2 minutes at the next meeting.

60 second winnerSteve Rice won the 60 second award this week with a 1 minute talk which quizzed the BNI Tonbridge members on TLAs – three letter abbreviations – as acronyms are very popular in the IT world.  His main subject was MDMmobile device management – a subject which is becoming increasingly important as phones and tablets are more widely used in business and can contain sensitive data.  Another trend he identified was BYOD – bring your own device – which also poses challenges for company managers today.

Steve signed off with an abbreviation which stumped everyone – DSYC – don’t shoot your computers, call the Troubleshooters!

10 years a Troubleshooter

Steve Rice brought Computer Troubleshooters to Tonbridge in the Spring of 2004, and has recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at the annual European conference.  Fortunately, spending 10 years as a Computer Troubleshooter is a much more pleasurable experience than that of Solomon Northrup in “12 years a slave”.

Steve started out offering computer repair services to both business and residential customers in West Kent from his base in Hildenborough.  Over the years, he has kept pace with developments in the IT industry and his focus is now managing IT for companies, allowing them to concentrate on running their businesses.  10 years ago, broadband was not universally available, and many computer users still relied on operating systems from the previous millennium!

Kim Weinberger with Steve Rice, UK conference

Kim Weinberger with Steve Rice, UK conference

Steve was awarded for his 10 years of service at the conference by Kim Weinberger, CEO of the Computer Troubleshooters franchise based in the United States of America.  Steve commented: Thanks to Iain & Kath for organizing a great 2014 conference. A pleasure to meet Kim and fellow franchisees, new and old. I took away a lot of valuable learning points and feel re-energized to try and push on with my business.   Winning the team challenge has to be right up there as the proudest moment of my CT Business Solutions career.

Do you have movie technology envy?

TV computer expert cropped

Have you ever considered how wonderful the technology deployed by characters in Hollywood Movies is?  They are able to track criminals by their mobile signal, and downloads of encrypted data happen in a flash.  You seldom see the plot stalling as the main protagonist is made to wait while Microsoft installs another 40 updates, and the internet service is always excellent.

In the most recent series of the TV show “24”, the excellence of the technology was matched by the talents of the users.  Jack Bauer seems to be able to tackle any machine that stands in his way, but the prize for top IT operative must go to Chloe.  She can coax information out of impregnable government systems, and her laptop kept going without a re-charge through the whole 12 hours, despite being subjected to car chases and shootouts. Read more

Supercomputer found in Tonbridge!

Laptop with 400GB RAM

Laptop with 400GB RAM

We couldn’t believe what we were reading when we checked the memory levels of a simple Samsung laptop on our workbench and saw a reading of 400GB RAM! Had we truly found a supercharged computer masquerading as a basic laptop?  Or did the machine simply have delusions of grandeur?

Sadly, the RAM level was fictitious, and was simply a symptom of deeper issues with the Windows 8 installation.  The laptop had also lost all its Windows 8 tiles and was displaying the time as a squiggle.  After some TLC in our workshop, order was restored and the laptop is back in working order, although now with only the standard 4GB RAM at its disposal.

Close that stable door before the horse bolts

The right time to worry about protecting your data is before disaster strikes.

We are offering a free review of your backup arrangements so you can enjoy a carefree summer break.

If you aren’t concerned about data backup for your business, then read this:

• 93% of companies that lost their data for 10+ days, filed for bankruptcy within a year. (National Archives and Records Administration)
• 94% of companies suffering from catastrophic data loss do not survive. 43% never reopen and 51% close within 2 years. (University of Texas)
• 70% of small companies (fewer than 100 employees) that experience major data loss go out of business within a year. (DTI/Price Waterhouse Coopers)

Make sure to safeguard your business’ most important asset with a backup solution!

Any device that stores information is vulnerable to data loss. The various causes of data loss include hackers, viruses, equipment theft, cyber-attacks and natural disasters. Surprising perhaps, but it’s actually human error and hardware failures that account for nearly 75% of all data loss occurrences. Contact your local Computer Troubleshooters to develop a customized backup solution for your business!

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true when it comes to a backup protection plan for your business. Call us today to take advantage of this limited time offer.

Offer expires on 31 July 2014

Google Glass and office etiquette

The recent launch of the wearable device Google Glass has led to concerns about possible misuses of the technology. Could the glasses be employed to record a pirate copy of the latest film release in cinemas? Could the wearer film the inputting of a security pin when standing near a cashpoint machine?

So far, there appears to have been little debate about the impact on businesses. Is it possible that the keystrokes could be captured as a colleague types in a password? What are the implications for data security?

In meetings, would the Google Glass user be obliged to inform participants that they could be filmed? What about less formal situations, such as face-to-face conversations?

As each new gadget hits the market, companies will need to consider the impact on their staff and their IT systems. HR departments may decide to update their staff handbooks to cover the usage of such devices. There often exists an unwritten office etiquette which dictates how one should behave towards one’s colleagues; good manners should guide office interactions.

Flexible working legislation – impact on IT

Today, Monday 30 June 2014, new legislation comes into force to allow all workers to submit a request for flexibility in their work arrangements.

Up until now, employees with childcare or family caring responsibilities have been able to negotiate more suitable working hours and conditions with their employers. This right is now extended to all staff, regardless of the reason for wishing to make the change.

This legislation could lead to increased demand for remote working and tele-conferencing. Companies will need to ensure that their IT equipment and systems are up to the challenge of catering for staff who are not based full-time in the office. It may be necessary to move more functions to the cloud to facilitate the fulfilment of flexible working requests.

Computer Troubleshooter – get on your bike!

Computer Troubleshooters have adopted a low tech solution to Tonbridge’s traffic woes; when an on-site visit in Tonbridge is called for, our Computer Troubleshooter gets on his bike.

“I actually find I can get to my client’s site more quickly and I don’t have the hassle of searching for a parking space” Steve Rice, Managing Director of Computer Troubleshooters Tonbridge, explained. The trusty van is still called into service for jobs requiring substantial equipment to be delivered and for clients beyond Tonbridge.

Checking your business goals are supported by your IT

Our newsletter this month deals with the question of matching your IT set up to your business goals:

Is Your Current Technology Supporting the Goals of Your Business?

As a business owner, how often do you use the phrase “time is money?”

It’s certainly an accurate description of how we live and work today, yet this phrase should actually be attributed to Benjamin Franklin’s 1748 essay titled “Advice to a Young Tradesman.” Centuries have passed and this maxim is still true, although the young tradesman is now a small business owner empowered by the efficiencies of technology.

Does Your Technology Support the “Time is Money” Viewpoint?

Advances in technology have enabled small and local businesses to participate in the global marketplace by maximizing productivity; delivering enhanced communication capabilities; providing affordable e-marketing; and offering efficient customer service. It’s becoming increasingly common for small businesses to have user-friendly websites; online catalogues; call centres; customer relationship management tools (CRM); and streamlined inventory management systems. Technology is now primed to wring every ounce of efficiency and productivity out of a business to keep it one step ahead of the competition.

Do You Have an IT Strategy That Delivers Efficiency and Accountability?

When it comes to efficiency, how does your business really operate on a day-to-day basis? Do you have employees manually performing the same tasks over and over again? Are you still using accounting procedures that aren’t entirely efficient? Is someone still manually sending “welcome” e-mails to new clients? Can your staff access a shared calendar and project files? If you answered with a “not exactly” response to any of the above questions, then it’s time for your business to catch-up with technology by implementing some of these new IT strategies:

• Remote access is one of the greatest enhancements to increased productivity and efficiency. No more briefcases filled with papers or going into the office on the weekend. Employees have the flexibility to access information from home, on the go or on business travel. Working with clients and co-workers has never been easier with information stored on the cloud and available via remote access.

• Flexibility is another cornerstone of efficiency. Free up your financial resources and stay flexible by accessing technology solutions via the cloud. You no longer have to buy expensive software licenses, because you can simply pay for these technology solutions on an “as needed” basis through hosted solutions.

• Automate repetitive tasks through technology solutions that will save time and keep critical business information up-to-date. A few clicks can locate information in a database that can also connect you to clients; enable you to check on the status of current projects; review inventory counts; and check schedules. By improving some core tasks with enhanced efficiency, your business can save time and resources while becoming more competitive in the marketplace.

• Streamline your accounting and billing system today and forget about spending time with spreadsheets, deciphering handwritten documents and using a calculator. Wouldn’t you prefer to handle payroll, expense tracking, financial reports and taxes with an automated application? There is a wide array of accounting solutions with many offering industry specific versions. Updating your accounting process can save your business a considerable amount of time while also increasing efficiency.

Let Us Help You Focus on Your Business So You Can Stay Ahead of the Competition
One of the many benefits of increasing your business’ efficiency and productivity is that you will regain control of lost time. By recapturing this lost time, you will be able to focus on the actual goals of your business, not just day-to-day survival. As a business owner, if you were able to remove the frustrations of accounting inaccuracies, scheduling issues and inventory problems, what would you focus on? You would have the opportunity to develop new products and services. You could devote more time to effectively marketing your business to a wider audience. Don’t let your business get bogged down with today’s paperwork when you could be planning for the future.

Computer Troubleshooters can recommend and implement technology solutions that will streamline your business practices, so give your local Computer Troubleshooters a call today. We want to help your business become more efficient, productive, and most importantly, more successful!

Happy 10th Anniversary Computer Troubleshooters!

This month, Computer Troubleshooters Tonbridge are celebrating our 10th anniversary.

We would like to thank all our loyal clients for their continued custom, and look forward to welcoming new clients under our IT support wing.

How to stop a scam caller in their tracks

We are all getting used to the occasional unsolicited call from “Windows services” or another similarly branded support company, ringing to warn you that your computer has virus problems which require urgent attention. Even the most savvy computer user can be caught out if their defences are down, and before you know it, you could be inviting the caller to connect to your machine to show you the problems.

It is important to remember that Microsoft do not contact their system users directly and your computer would not send messages to a support company unless you have agreed to such a service with the support company.

I’ve received my fair share of these calls. I’ve tried various strategies to get them to leave me alone:

– If you say you are not interested, they are likely to call again.
– I have warned them that we are registered with TPS (Telephone preference service) and do not wish to receive marketing calls, but as they are probably not based in the UK this has little impact.
– I once told the caller that we are an IT support company, but this led him to scream at me that I was a scammer!

However, I have found one sure-fire way to stop the scam caller in their tracks:

– I say that I do not own a computer!

One caller persisted a little, asking whether there were any computers in the house, but generally they give me up as a lost cause and hang up on me!

So, next time a scam caller rings, give it a go!

The cloud comes to the rescue

After preaching about the benefits of cloud computing, I’ve now had personal experience of the benefits of relying on internet-based applications.

On Wednesday morning I discovered that there was no life in my laptop. A replacement was quickly sourced, and I was able to pick up where I had left off the previous evening by reconnecting to my cloud applications:

– emails, calendar and contacts on a hosted exchange system
– documents, photos and accounting system back ups on the Soonr file sharing system
– customer and work management using the Autotask CRM system
– re-establishing the links to on-line banking, vendors and website management.

In our case, the move to the cloud has certainly paid off.

Internet Phone Scam Continues

This scam involves a cold caller (sometimes insisting they have an affiliatino with Microsoft) asking if you have a computer and then informing you that you have problems with it or that you have a virus. They talk you through how to allow them access to the computer where they then “fix” non-existant problems and charge for the privelage (sometimes quoting hundreds of pounds).
We have had a couple of customers recently receive calls and then ask us for advice. We’ve even received the calls ourselves!

Do not let anyone access your computer that you do not know or haven’t previously arranged.

If in any doubt please call us first for some advise.

Get Safe Online Week – 15th to 19th November 2010

Get Safe Online is a joint initiative between the Government, law enforcement, leading businesses and the public sector. Our aim is to provide computer users and small businesses with free, independent, user-friendly advice that will allow them to use the internet confidently, safely and securely.

Get Safe Online is an annual event to raise awareness of internet safety issues.

For more info, see http://www.getsafeonline.org

Here at Computer Troubleshooters we have had a number of customers receiving phone calls from so-called IT support companies. They inform the customer that their computer is infected with a virus and that they can fix it remotely. Instead they install software, hoping to obtain personal information.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11754487