• Posted on January 31, 2017 11:22 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    The Advanced Startup Options menu, available in Windows 10 and Windows 8, is the central fix-it location for the entire operating system. From here you can access Windows diagnostic and repair tools like Reset This PC, System Restore, Command Prompt, Startup Repair, and much more. Advanced Startup Options is also where you access Startup Settings, the menu that includes Safe Mode, among other startup methods that could help you access Windows 10 or Windows 8 if it is having problems starting. The Advanced Startup Options menu should appear automatically after two consecutive startup errors. However, if you need to open it manually, there are six different ways to do so. The best way to decide which method to use to open Advanced Startup Options is to base your decision on what level of access you have to Windows right now: If Windows 10/8 starts normally: Use any method, but 1, 2, or 3 will be easiest. If Windows 10/8 does not start: Use method 4, 5, or 6. Method 1 will also work if you can at least get to the Windows 10 or Windows 8 logon screen. Time Required: Accessing Advanced Startup Options is easy and can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on which method you use. Applies To: All of these means of getting to the Advanced Startup Options menu work equally well in any edition of Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 unless I note otherwise. Method 1: SHIFT + Restart Hold down either SHIFT key while tapping or clicking on Restart, available from any Power icon.​ Tip: Power icons are available throughout Windows 10 and Windows 8 as well as from the sign-in/lock screen. Note: This method does not seem to work with the on-screen keyboard. You'll need to have a physical keyboard connected to your computer or device to open the Advanced Startup Options menu this way. Wait while the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 2: Settings Menu Tap or click on the Start button.Note: In Windows 8, Swipe from the right to open the charms bar. Tap or click Change PC settings. Choose Update and recovery from the list on the left (or General prior to Windows 8.1), then choose Recovery. Skip down to Step 5. Tap or click on Settings. Tap or click on the Update & security icon, near the bottom of the window. Choose Recovery from the list of options on the left of the UPDATE & SECURITY window. Locate Advanced startup, at the bottom of the list of options on your right. Tap or click on Restart now. Wait through the Please wait message until Advanced Startup Options opens. Method 3: Shutdown Command Open Command Prompt in Windows 10 or Windows 8.Tip: Another option is to open Run if you can't get Command Prompt started for some reason, probably related to the issue you're having that has you here in the first place! Execute the shutdown command in the following way: shutdown /r /o Note: Save any open files before executing this command or you'll lose any changes you've made since your last save. To the You're about to be signed off message that appears a few seconds later, tap or click on the Close button. After several seconds, during which nothing seems to be happening, Windows 10/8 will then close and you'll see a Please wait message. Wait just a few seconds more until the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 4: Boot From Your Windows 10/8 Installation Media Insert a Windows 10 or Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows installation files on it into your computer.Tip: You can borrow someone else's Windows 10 or Windows 8 disc (or other media) if you need to. You're not installing or reinstalling Windows, you're just accessing Advanced Startup Options - no product key or license breaking required. Boot from the disc or boot from the USB device, whatever your situation calls for. From the Windows Setup screen, tap or click Next. Tap or click on the Repair your computer link at the bottom of the window. Advanced Startup Options will start, almost immediately. Method 5: Boot From a Windows 10/8 Recovery Drive Insert your Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive into a free USB port.Tip: Don't worry if you weren't proactive and never got around to creating a Recovery Drive. If you have another computer with the same version of Windows or a friend's computer with Windows 10/8, see How To Create a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive for instructions. Boot your computer from the flash drive. On the Choose your keyboard layout screen, tap or click on U.S. or whatever keyboard layout you'd like to use. Advanced Startup Options will begin instantly. Method 6: Boot Directly to Advanced Startup Options Start or restart your computer or device. Choose the boot option for System Recovery, Advanced Startup, Recovery, etc.On some Windows 10 and Windows 8 computers, for example, pressing F11 starts System Recovery. Note: What this boot option is called is configurable by your hardware maker so the options I mentioned are just some that I've seen or heard. Whatever the name, it should be clear that what you're about to do is a boot to Windows's advanced recovery features. Important: The ability to boot directly to Advanced Startup Options isn't one that's available with a traditional BIOS. Your computer will need to support UEFI and then also be configured properly to boot directly to the ASO menu. Wait for Advanced Startup Options to begin. What About F8 and SHIFT+F8? Neither F8 nor SHIFT+F8 is a reliable option for booting to the Advanced Startup Options menu. If you need to access Advanced Startup Options, you can do so with any of the several methods listed above. How To Exit Advanced Startup Options Whenever you're finished using the Advanced Startup Options menu, you can choose Continue to restart your computer. Assuming it's working properly now, this will boot you back into Windows 10/8. Your other option is to choose Turn off your PC, which will do just that.

    Blog Entry, Security, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 29, 2017 11:30 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    In wireless networking, dual band equipment is capable of transmitting in either of two different standard frequency ranges.  Modern Wi-Fi home networks feature dual band broadband routers that support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels. The History of Dual Band Wireless Routers First generation home network routers produced during the late 1990s and early 2000s contained a single 802.11b Wi-Fi radio operating on the 2.4 GHz band. At the same time, a significant number of business networks supported 802.11a (5 GHz) devices. The first dual band Wi-Fi routers were built to support mixed networks having both 802.11a and 802.11b clients. Starting with 802.11n, Wi-Fi standards began including simultaneous dual band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz support as a standard feature. Two Examples of Dual Band Wireless Routers The TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router (buy on Amazon.com) has 450Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps at 5GHz, as well as IP-based bandwidth control so you can monitor the bandwidth of all the devices connected to your router. The NETGEAR N750 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (buy on Amazon.com) is for medium to large-sized homes and also comes with a genie app, so you can keep tabs on your network and get help troubleshooting if any repairs are needed. Dual Band Wi-Fi Adapters Dual-band Wi-Fi network adapters contain both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless radios similar to dual-band routers. In the early days of Wi-Fi, some laptop Wi-Fi adapters supported both 802.11a and 802.11b/g radios so that a person could connect their computer to business networks during the workday and home networks on nights and weekends. Newer 802.11n and 802.11ac adapters can also be configured to use either band (but not both at the same time). Dual Band Phones Similar to dual band wireless network equipment, some cell phones also use two (or more) bands for cellular communications separate from Wi-Fi. Dual band phones were originally created to support 3G GPRS or EDGE data services on 0.85 GHz, 0.9 GHz or 1.9 GHz radio frequencies. Phones sometimes support tri band (three) or quad band (four) different cellular transmission frequency ranges in order to maximize compatibility with different kinds of phone network, helpful while roaming or traveling. Cell modems switch between different bands but do not support simultaneous dual band connections. Benefits of Dual Band Wireless Networking By supplying separate wireless interfaces for each band, dual band 802.11n and 802.11ac routers provide maximum flexibility in setting up a home network. Some home devices require the legacy compatibility and greater signal reach that 2.4 GHz offers while others may require the additional network bandwidth that 5 GHz offers: Dual-band routers provide connections designed for the needs of each. Many Wi-Fi home networks suffer from wireless interference due to the prevalence of 2.4 GHz consumer gadgets. The ability to utilize 5 GHz on a dual band router helps avoid these issues. Dual band routers also incorporate Multiple-In Multiple-Out (MIMO) radio configurations. The combination of multiple radios on one band together with dual-band support together provide much higher performance home networking than what single band routers can offer.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet
  • Posted on January 28, 2017 11:46 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Private Branch Exchange Explained A PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is a system that allows an organization to manage incoming and outgoing phone calls and also allows communication internally within the organization. A PBX is made up of both hardware and software and connects to communication devices like telephone adapters, hubs, switches, routers and of course, telephone sets. The most recent PBXs have a wealth of very interesting features that make communication easy and more powerful within for organizations, and contributes in making them more efficient and in boosting productivity. Their sizes and complexity vary, ranging from very expensive and complex corporate communication systems to basic plans that are hosted on the cloud for a two-digit monthly fee. You can also have simple PBX systems at home with basic features as an upgrade to your existing traditional phone line. What Does a PBX Do?  As mentioned above, the functions of a PBX can be very complex, but basically, when you talk about PBX, you talk about stuff that does these things: Use of more than one telephone line in an organization, and management of outgoing and incoming calls. Splitting of one single phone line into several internal lines, which are identified through three or four-digit numbers called extensions, and switching calls to the appropriate internal line. This saves the organization from having to pay for several lines, and allows all departments to be reached through one single phone number. Allow free phone communication within the organization. Empower the whole communication with VoIP (Voice over IP), which has a tremendous amount of features and enhancements over traditional telephony, the most prominent being the cutting down of call costs. Ensure good interface with customers through features like call recording, voicemail, IVR etc. Automation of response to calling customers with IVR (interactive voice response) whereby the system can automatically direct users to the most appropriate line through voice menus. It is the kind of feature where, as a caller, you hear things like "Press 1 for the Finance Depart, Press 2 for complaints..." The IP-PBX PBXes changed a lot with the advent of IP telephony or VoIP. After the analog PBXes that worked only on the telephone line and switches, we now have IP-PBXes, which use VoIP technology and IP networks like the Internet to channel calls. IP PBxes are normally preferred due to wealth of features that they come with. With the exception of old already-existing but still-working-fine PBXes, and those chosen because cheap, most PBX systems used nowadays tend to be IP PBXes. The Hosted PBX You do not always have to invest on the hardware, software, installation and maintenance of your in-house PBX, especially if you are running a small business and the cost of ownership prohibits you from benefiting from those important features. There are numerous companies online that offer you the PBX service against a monthly fee without you having anything but your telephone sets and router. These are called hosted PBX services and work on the cloud. The service is dispensed through the Internet. Hosted PBXes have the disadvantage of being generic such that they cannot be tailored to your needs, but they are quite cheap and do not require any upfront investment.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, KnowledgeBase (KB)
  • Posted on January 22, 2017 11:45 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Building the local area network that's right for you Computer networks for the home and small business can be built using either wired or wireless technology. Wired Ethernet has been the traditional choice in homes, but Wi-Fi and other wireless options are gaining ground fast. Both wired and wireless can claim advantages over each other; both represent viable options for home and other local area networks (LANs). Below we compare wired and wireless networking in five key areas: ease of installation total cost reliability performance security About Wired LANs Wired LANs use Ethernet cables and network adapters. Although two computers can be directly wired to each other using an Ethernet crossover cable, wired LANs generally also require central devices like hubs, switches, or routers to accommodate more computers. For dial-up connections to the Internet, the computer hosting the modem must run Internet Connection Sharing or similar software to share the connection with all other computers on the LAN. Broadband routers allow easier sharing of a cable modem or DSL Internet connections, plus they often include built-in firewall support. Installation Ethernet cables must be run from each computer to another computer or to the central device. It can be time-consuming and difficult to run cables under the floor or through walls, especially when computers sit in different rooms. Some newer homes are pre-wired with CAT5 cable, greatly simplifying the cabling process and minimizing unsightly cable runs. The correct cabling configuration for a wired LAN varies depending on the mix of devices, the type of Internet connection, and whether internal or external modems are used. However, none of these options pose any more difficulty than, for example, wiring a home theater system. After hardware installation, the remaining steps in configuring either wired or wireless LANs do not differ much. Both rely on standard Internet Protocol and network operating system configuration options. Laptops and other portable devices often enjoy greater mobility in wireless home network installations (at least for as long as their batteries allow). Cost Ethernet cables, hubs, and switches are very inexpensive. Some connection sharing software packages, like ICS, are free; some cost a nominal fee. Broadband routers cost more, but these are optional components of a wired LAN, and their higher cost is offset by the benefit of easier installation and built-in security features. Reliability Ethernet cables, hubs, and switches are extremely reliable, mainly because manufacturers have been continually improving Ethernet technology over several decades. Loose cables likely remain the single most common and annoying source of failure in a wired network. When installing a wired LAN or moving any of the components later, be sure to carefully check the cable connections. Broadband routers have also suffered from some reliability problems in the past. Unlike other Ethernet gear, these products are relatively new, multi-function devices. Broadband routers have matured over the past several years and their reliability has improved greatly. Performance Wired LANs offer superior performance. Traditional Ethernet connections offer only 10 Mbps bandwidth, but 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet technology costs little more and is readily available. Although 100 Mbps represents a theoretical maximum performance never really achieved in practice, Fast Ethernet should be sufficient for home file sharing, gaming, and high-speed Internet access for many years into the future. Wired LANs utilizing hubs can suffer performance slowdown if computers heavily utilize the network simultaneously. Use Ethernet switches instead of hubs to avoid this problem; a switch costs little more than a hub. Security For any wired LAN connected to the Internet, firewalls are the primary security consideration. Wired Ethernet hubs and switches do not support firewalls. However, firewall software products like ZoneAlarm can be installed on the computers themselves. Broadband routers offer equivalent firewall capability built into the device, configurable through its own software. About Wireless LANs Popular WLAN technologies all follow one of the three main Wi-Fi communication standards. The benefits of wireless networking depend on the standard employed: 802.11b was the first standard to be widely used in WLANs. The 802.11a standard is faster but more expensive than 802.11b; 802.11a is more commonly found in business networks. The newest standard, 802.11g, attempts to combine the best of both 802.11a and 802.11b, though it too is more a more expensive home networking option. Installation Wi-Fi networks can be configured in two different ways: "Ad-hoc" mode allows wireless devices to communicate in peer-to-peer mode with each other. "Infrastructure" mode allows wireless devices to communicate with a central node that in turn can communicate with wired nodes on that LAN. Most LANs require infrastructure mode to access the Internet, a local printer, or other wired services, whereas ad hoc mode supports only basic file sharing between wireless devices. Both Wi-Fi modes require wireless network adapters, sometimes called WLAN cards. Infrastructure mode WLANs additionally require a central device called the access point. The access point must be installed in a central location where wireless radio signals can reach it with minimal interference. Although Wi-Fi signals typically reach 100 feet (30 m) or more, obstructions like walls can greatly reduce their range. Cost Wireless gear costs somewhat more than the equivalent wired Ethernet products. At full retail prices, wireless adapters and access points may cost three or four times as much as Ethernet cable adapters and hubs/switches, respectively. 802.11b products have dropped in price considerably with the release of 802.11g, and obviously, bargain sales can be found if shoppers are persistent. Reliability Wireless LANs suffer a few more reliability problems than wired LANs, though perhaps not enough to be a significant concern. 802.11b and 802.11g wireless signals are subject to interference from other home appliances including microwave ovens, cordless telephones, and garage door openers. With careful installation, the likelihood of interference can be minimized. Wireless networking products, particularly those that implement 802.11g, are comparatively new. As with any new technology, expect it will take time for these products to mature. Performance Wireless LANs using 802.11b support a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 11 Mbps, roughly the same as that of old, traditional Ethernet. 802.11a and 802.11g WLANs support 54 Mbps, that is approximately one-half the bandwidth of Fast Ethernet. Furthermore, Wi-Fi performance is distance sensitive, meaning that maximum performance will degrade on computers farther away from the access point or another communication endpoint. As more wireless devices utilize the WLAN more heavily, performance degrades even further. Overall, the performance of 802.11a and 802.11g is sufficient for home Internet connection sharing and file sharing, but generally not sufficient for home LAN gaming. The greater mobility of wireless LANs helps offset the performance disadvantage. Mobile computers do not need to be tied to an Ethernet cable and can roam freely within the WLAN range. However, many home computers are larger desktop models, and even mobile computers must sometimes be tied to an electrical cord and outlet for power. This undermines the mobility advantage of WLANs in many homes. Security In theory, wireless LANs are less secure than wired LANs, because wireless communication signals travel through the air and can easily be intercepted. To prove their point, some engineers have promoted the practice of wardriving, that involves traveling through a residential area with Wi-Fi equipment scanning the airwaves for unprotected WLANs. On balance, though, the weaknesses of wireless security are more theoretical than practical. WLANs protect their data through the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption standard, that makes wireless communications reasonably as safe as wired ones in homes. No computer network is completely secure and homeowners should research this topic to ensure they are aware of and comfortable with the risks. Important security considerations for homeowners tend to not be related to whether the network is wired or wireless but rather ensuring: the home's Internet firewall is properly configured the family is familiar with the danger of Internet "spoof emails" and how to recognize them the family is familiar with the concept of "spyware" and how to avoid it babysitters, housekeepers, and other visitors do not have unwanted access to the network Conclusion You've studied the analysis and are ready to make your decision. Bottom line, then, which is better - wired or wireless? The table below summarizes the main criteria we've considered in this article. If you are very cost-conscious, need the maximum performance of your home system, and don't care much about mobility, then a wired Ethernet LAN is probably right for you. If on the other hand, the cost is less of an issue, you like being an early adopter of leading-edge technologies, and you are really concerned about the task of wiring your home or small business with Ethernet cable, then you should certainly consider a wireless LAN. Many of you will naturally fall somewhere in between these two extremes. If you're still undecided, consider asking friends and family about their experiences with building LANs. And, spend just a few more minutes with our interactive Home Network Advisor tool. It should help you decide on the type of network as well as the gear you will want to have.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet
  • Posted on January 14, 2017 11:45 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Do you have a wireless router that has been quietly serving Wi-Fi to your household for many years? Does it have a thick layer of dust on it? Chances are, if you answered yes to either question, you may not have upgraded your router’s firmware in quite some time. If you have, congratulations, you can stop reading this article right now, if not, read on. What the Heck is This Firmware Stuff? Your router’s firmware is basically the operating system that is specifically designed to run on your specific make and model of router (unless you are using a multi-router compatible open source firmware such as DD-WRT). Usually, your router manufacturer will provide firmware updates for your specific make and model of router, via their website, or via a tool within the administrative console of your router (typically accessible via a web browser.) Why do I Need To Upgrade My Wireless Router’s Firmware? There are many reasons you may want to consider updating your router’s firmware, here are several of them. Security Features and Fixes: One good reason why your router manufacturer may put out a firmware update is because they are trying to fix a vulnerability that was detected in the current firmware, updated firmware is similar to system updates (as in Microsoft’s Windows Update). As bugs are found and corrected, updated firmware is released. Router manufacturers may also issue a firmware update to upgrade fwatures such as outdated encryption modules or they might add entirely new security mechanisms that weren’t in previous versions of the firmware. Performance Enhancements Besides security fixes, your router manufacturer may have found a way to enhance your router’s overall performance, which is always a good thing. If you don’t update your firmware then you won’t be able to take advantage of any speed boosting upgrades that your router manufacturer might release in an update. How do I Perform a Firmware Upgrade? Every router is different, but usually they have a similar process for upgrading the router’s firmware. Here are the basic steps for performing a firmware upgrade, check your router manufacturer’s website for specific instructions for your make and model. Step 1: Login to Your Router’s Administrator Console: Most modern routers use web browser based administration which means you basically type in the IP address of your router in order to access it’s administrative functions. This IP address is almost always a Private IP address which is usually accessed from inside your home network. This helps prevent outsiders from attempting to administer your router. Each router manufacturer uses different default addresses so check your specific router manufacturer’s website for details on which one your router may be using. Here are some common default addresses fro some of the more popular wireless router brands. Apple – 10.0.1.1 Asus – 192,168,1,1 Buffalo Tech – 192.168.1.1 Dlink – 192.168.0.1 or 10.0.0.1 Cisco/Linksys – 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 Netgear – 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.0.227 After you enter the IP address of your router in your browser's address bar, you will likely be prompted for the administrator name (typically “admin” or “administrator”) and the default administrator password. These credentials can likely be obtained from your router manufacturer’s website or they might be located on a label on the bottom or back of your router, typically located near the serial number of the router. Step 2. Locate The Firmware Upgrade Section of the Administrator Console: Usually there is a dedicated firmware upgrade section within the router administration site. It may be located under the Router Setup page, the "About This Router" page, or perhaps under a “Maintenance” or "Firmware Update" heading. Step 3. Download and Install The Router Firmware (from a trusted source) Newer routers will likely make it very easy to download and install the firmware directly from within the router administrative console. Some routers may require that you first save the file to your computer and then select the firmware file via the administration console. Regardless of the method, make sure you are downloading directly from the macnufacturer or from another trusted source (if using open source router firmware). If possible, scan the file for malware before performing the firmware upgrade. IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t interrupt a firmware upgrade that is in progress or you could potentially damage (brick) your router. Try to avoid doing an upgrade during a lightning storm as firmware upgrades and power outages don’t mix well.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Patches
  • Posted on January 13, 2017 12:48 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    So, you just bought a shiny new wireless router. Maybe you got it as a gift, or you just decided it was time to upgrade to a new one. Whatever the case may be, there are a few things you should do to make it more secure as soon as you get it out of the box. Here Are Some Tips on How to Secure Your Brand New Wireless Router: 1. Set a Strong Router Admin Password As soon as your prompted by your new router's setup routine, make sure you change your router's admin password and make it a strong one. Using the default password is a horrible idea because hackers and pretty much anyone else can look it up on the router manufacturer's website or on a site that lists default password information. 2. Upgrade Your Router's Firmware When you bought your new router, chances are, it may have been sitting in a warehouse for months, then on a store shelf for quite some time. During this time the manufacturer may have found some bugs or vulnerabilities in the firmware (software/OS that it built into the router). They may have also added new features and other upgrades that may improve the security or functionality of the router. In order to make sure that you have the latest and greatest version of the router's firmware, you'll need to check your router's firmware version to see if it is current or if there is a newer version available. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to check the firmware version and how to perform a firmware upgrade. 3. Turn on WPA2 Wireless Encryption When you set up your new router, you may be prompted to choose a form of wireless encryption. You should avoid the outdated WEP encryption, as well as the original WPA. You should opt for WPA2 (or whatever the most current form of wireless encryption is). Choosing WPA2 will help protect you from wireless hacking attempts. Check out our article on how to enable wireless encryption for full details. 4. Set a Strong SSID (Wireless Network Name) and Pre-Shared Key (Wireless Network Password) A strong wireless network name (SSID) and a strong wireless password is just as important as a strong router admin password. What is a strong network name you ask? A strong network name is a name that is not a default set by the manufacturer and is also not something that is commonly found on a list of most common wireless network names. If you use a common network name, you may be leaving yourself open to Rainbow Table-based encryption attacks that might allow hackers to crack your wireless network password. A strong wireless network password is also a crucial part of your wireless network's security. Check out our article on how to change your wireless network's password for details on why you need to make this password a complex one. 5. Turn on Your Router's Firewall And Configure it Odds are pretty good that your new wireless router features a built-in firewall. You should take advantage of this feature and enable and configure it to protect your network. Make sure to test your firewall to ensure that it's working after you have set it up. 6. Enable Your Router's 'Stealth Mode' (if available) Some Router's have a 'Stealth Mode' that helps to make your router, and the network devices behind it, less conspicuous to hackers on the Internet. Stealth mode helps to hide the status of open ports by not responding to requests sent by hackers to check for the presence of open ports that might be vulnerable to attacks. 7. Disable Your Router's 'Admin Via Wireless' Feature To help prevent hackers from doing a 'drive by' wireless attack where they pull up nearby and attempt to gain access to your router's admin console, disable the "Admin via Wireless" option on your router. Turning this off makes your router only accept administration via one of the Ethernet ports, meaning that unless you have a physical connection to the router then you can't administer it.

    Blog Entry, Internet, Security
  • Posted on January 12, 2017 12:00 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Have you ever needed to open your CD or DVD drive (generally referred to as your "optical drive") but couldn't? Just your luck, your favorite movie, video game, or music was probably stuck inside. Maybe the laptop's power died, maybe the drive in your desktop just quit responding, or maybe the door was just stuck or the disc came loose from a try just enough to jam things up. Regardless of what's happening, or what you think might be happening, there's no reason to rush out and replace the disc or drive just because the eject button doesn't do what you expected it to do. Fortunately, one of the following two methods almost always does the trick to get the drive open: How to Force Eject a Disc From Within the OS We'll start with the easiest way to get the drive open - skip the physical button on the outside and ask your operating system to force eject the disc. You can only try this if your computer has power and is working. Skip down to the next section if that's not the case. Time Required: Forcing your CD, DVD, or BD drive to eject via your operating system's commands is very easy and should only take a few seconds to try. Open File Explorer if you're using Windows 10 or Windows 8. Search for it or use the WIN+X menu to open it quickly.Open Windows Explorer in earlier versions of Windows. Once open, navigate to the optical drive from the menu on the left. This drive is often auto-named based on what disc is inside the drive but there's usually a small disc icon to help identify it.Tip: If you have trouble finding it, look for This PC on the left in Windows 10 or 8, or Computer in earlier versions. Click the icon to the left to expand this if it's collapsed. Right-click or tap-and-hold on the optical drive and choose Eject from the menu that pops up or down. The drive bay or disc should spin down and eject within seconds. Using a Mac? Similar to the method described above for Windows, find the disc icon, right-click on it, and then choose Eject. Here are some more ideas. If this doesn't work (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.), it's time to get physical with it! How To Open a CD/DVD/BD Drive... With a Paper Clip It sounds strange, yes, but most computer optical drives, including external ones and those you'll find in your game systems like Xbox and Playstation, have a tiny pinhole that's designed as a last resort method to get the drive bay open. Time & Tools Required: You'll need a single, heavy-duty paper Clip - not industrial sized, but not one of those flimsy plastic ones, either. The whole process will take less than a few minutes and is very easy. Unfold the paper clip until there is at least 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) that is as close to straight as you can get it. Look closely at your disc drive. Directly under or above the drive bay door (the part that "ejects" the disc) there should be a very small pinhole.Tip: If you have one of those desktop optical drives where a large door flips down before the drive bay ejects, pull that down with your finger and then look for the pinhole. Tip: Some older desktops require the opening of the front panel, sort of like a large "door" to the computer's housing, to get to this pinhole. Insert the paper clip into the pinhole. Inside the drive, directly behind the pinhole, is small gear that, when rotated, will begin to manually open the drive. Remove and reinsert the paper clip as often as needed to eject the drive bay enough to grab hold of it. Slowly pull on the drive bay until it's fully retracted. Take care not to pull too quickly or to continue to pull when you feel resistance. Remove the CD, DVD, or BD disc from the drive. Slowly push the drive bay back into the drive until closed or press the open/close button if the drive is still working. If these steps don't work, or you find yourself using the paper clip trick often, it may be time to look at some other options... No Luck? Here's What to Do Next At this point, there's likely something physically wrong with the drive or another part of the computer. Here are some things to consider doing: If your drive is external, unplug and plug back in both the data cable and the power cable. Check internally that the power and data cables are firmly connected. Restart your computer and try again. Replace the drive. Optical drives are relatively cheap - Amazon sells many for around $20 USD. Note: Those are not necessarily in a step-by-step troubleshooting order. What steps you take depends a lot on the type of computer and optical drive you have, as well as your specific situation.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 10, 2017 12:10 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    You might sometimes find yourself with just one internet connection point--a single wired connection for your laptop at the hotel, for example, or your smartphone tethered over USB to your computer. But what if you have other devices that need internet access, such as your Wi-Fi-only tablet or your friend's or family member's laptop? The good news is you can share your laptop's wired or mobile broadband internet connection wirelessly with other devices. The bad news is, with Windows 10, it takes a bit of trickery in the command prompt to turn your computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot. ~ August 18, 2015 To share your computer's internet connection, you'll need to open the command prompt in administrator mode and type in a few commands. The instructions below were adapted from the excellent guide on NirmalTV, which offers screenshots of the process. Open the command prompt in administrator mode by right-clicking on the Windows Start button and selecting "Command Prompt (Admin)". Alternatively, you can use this keyboard shortcut: Windows key + X (Win+X) then select the Command Prompt (Admin) option. When the "Administrator: Command Prompt" window opens, type the following command:  netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=[networkSSID] key=[password]. Replace the "networkSSID" and "password" fields with the name you want for your new Wi-Fi hotspot network and its password (you'll use these to connect other devices to your computer's Wi-Fi hotspot). Then hit Enter. Next, type in the following command to start the network: netsh wlan start hostednetwork and hit Enter. This enables and starts the ad-hoc wireless network connection. Next, head to your Windows' network connections page (type in "network connections" in the search field in the taskbar in Windows 10 and click on "View network connections" or navigate to the Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network Connections). Right-click on the network connection that is your computer's source of internet access (e.g., the ethernet connection or the 4G broadband connection). Choose "Properties" from the context menu. Go to the "Sharing" tab and check the box next to "Allow other network users to connect through this computer's internet connection" From the dropdown list, select the Wi-Fi connection you just created. Hit OK and close the properties window. You should then see your Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 10's network and sharing center. From your other devices, select the new Wi-Fi network in the wireless settings and enter the password you set to connect to it. These command prompt steps for setting up an ad-hoc network aren't as user-friendly as having a built-in method with a graphic user interface, but it's what we have so far in Windows 10 and will do in a pinch. If you're using an older version of Windows or are on a Mac, you can accomplish this "reverse tethering" in other ways: Use Internet Connection Sharing (e.g., when you have a laptop wired to a router or modem and want to share the connection via your Wi-Fi adapter or a second Ethernet port) Use Internet Sharing on Mac OS X Use Connectify, a free app that shares a single Wi-Fi connection wirelessly (so you don't need a second network adapter). It requires Windows 7 or above. Finally, to stop sharing your internet connection over the new Wi-Fi hotspot you created in Windows 10, enter this command in the command prompt:  netsh wlan stop hostednetwork

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet
  • Posted on January 8, 2017 12:07 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Make Sure Windows Updates Help, Not Harm, With These Preventative Measures Let me first preface all of the following with this: updates provided by Microsoft rarely cause problems. This includes those pushed out on Patch Tuesday and others made optionally available in Windows Update. I said rarely, not never. Ask anyone with a house full of nonworking computers the day after Patch Tuesday and you'll swear that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged the world's computers running Windows. Again, problems don't occur that often and are rarely widespread, but when they do they hurt. Luckily there are some really simple things you can do to minimize the chance that a patch from Microsoft will do more harm than good: Tip: If it's too late and the damage is done, see How To Fix Problems Caused by Windows Updates for help. One-Time Preventative Steps Most importantly, make sure your important data is being backed up! When your computer crashes, regardless of the reason, you probably have little emotional attachment to the physical hard drive itself but I bet you're pretty concerned about the stuff you have stored on it.There are lots of ways to backup data, from manually copying your saved documents, music, videos, etc. to a disc or a flash drive, all the way up to setting up instantaneous backup with an online backup service. Regardless of how you do it, do it. If your only way out of a post-Patch-Tuesday system crash is a full clean install of Windows, you'll be very, very happy that your valuable information is safe. Change Windows Update settings so new patches are no longer automatically installed. In most versions of Windows, this means changing this setting to Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.With Windows Update configured this way, important security and other updates are still downloaded, but they won't be installed unless you explicitly tell Windows to install them. This is a one time change so if you've done this before, great. If not, do it now. Important: Don't get me wrong: I still recommend that you install all available updates. However, this way you are in complete control, not Microsoft. Check the free space on your main hard drive and make sure it's at least 20% of the total size of the drive. This amount of space is plenty for Windows and other programs to grow as necessary, especially during installation and recovery processes.Specifically, System Restore, which is the primary recovery process if a Windows update causes a major problem, can not create restore points if there isn't enough free space on your hard drive. Just Before Installing Updates Now that your automatic update settings are changed and you're pretty sure System Restore should be in working order if you need it later, you can actually get these updates installed: Plug in your computer if it's not already. You desktop users are already covered but laptop, tablet, and other mobile devices should always be plugged in during the Windows update process!Along these same lines, avoid applying Windows updates during thunderstorms, hurricanes, and other situations that could lead to a sudden loss of power! Why does this matter? If your battery drains during the update process or your computer loses power, there's a significant chance that it will corrupt the files being updated. Important files that get corrupted often lead the very thing you're trying to prevent here - a complete system crash. Restart your computer. Be sure to do so properly, using the restart feature from within Windows, and then make sure your computer starts up again successfully.Why should you restart? On some computers, when Windows restarts after Patch Tuesday security updates are applied, it's the first time the computer has been restarted in a month or more. Many issues first appear after a restart, like problems caused by some types of malware, certain hardware problems, etc. If your computer does not start properly, see How To Troubleshoot a Computer That Won't Turn On for help. Had you not restarted and found this problem now, you would have been trying to solve the issue as a Windows Update/Patch Tuesday problem instead of the completely unrelated issue that it really is. Create a restore point manually before applying updates. A restore point is created automatically by Windows Update prior to installing any patches you select but if you'd like an extra layer of protection, you can certainly create one yourself.If you'd really like to be prepared, you could even try restoring to your manually created restore point. This would prove that the System Restore process is functioning properly in Windows. Unfortunately, some users find out that System Restore was somehow broken exactly when they need it most. Temporarily disable your antivirus program. Disabling your antivirus program while installing a program can often help prevent installation problems. Based on my own experiences, and those of many readers, doing the same prior to updating Windows is also wise.Tip: The part of your antivirus program that you want to disable is the part that's always on, constantly watching for malware activity on your computer. This is often referred to as the program's real-time protection, resident shield, auto-protect, etc. Install Updates One at a Time Now that you've properly configured your computer and prepared for the updates, it's time to get to the actual installation procedure. As the heading suggests, install each update by itself, restarting your computer after each one is applied. While I realize this might be time consuming, this method prevented almost every Patch Tuesday issue I've ever experimented with. Tip: If you're feeling particularly brave, or have never had problems with Windows updates before, try installing updates together as a group, something that I've also had a lot of success with. For example, install .NET updates of a particular version together, all of the operating system security updates together, etc. The order of installation has never seemed important but let me know if you discover otherwise. Warning: You may need to disable your antivirus program's real-time feature each time Windows boots again after your post-update-installation restart. Also, be sure to check that your antivirus program is fully enabled once you're done installing updates.

    Blog Entry, Patches, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 5, 2017 10:12 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    The problem begins with Microsoft's attempt to update things for Operating Systems (Like Windows 7), to be compatible with the newer Windows Update methods.   Since the release of Windows 8 & 10, including the 8.1, and 10 AU updates, Windows 7 has fallen behind in the care and love from Microsoft.  However sometime in July some patches were applied that broke the Windows Update process for Older Windows 7 systems.   This really affected people with clean/new installs of Windows 7, that haven't had all the updates applied since June/July 2016. I've had this problem with virtual machines I've recently setup that had clean installations of Windows 7, but Service Pack 1, is pretty far behind.  I haven't done my "due diligence" in slipstream Windows Updates into my Install ISO. After awhile, I found out that letting the Windows 7 machines just idle (tax at 100% CPU & RAM) for three days, until finally Windows Update shows a list of available updates to apply.  Then once more, having to apply those updates, and do it again to finish up with any updates that were not discovered beforehand. Step 1. Make sure you have KB 3078601, 3109094, 3138612, 3145739, and 3164033 installed You only have to do this once. To see if you're missing any of them, you can check the Windows Updates installed updates list (Start, Control Panel, under Windows Update click View installed updates). But it’s probably easier to download all of them and try to install them. If one is already installed, the installer will tell you -- no harm done. Step 1a. Make sure you know if you have a 32-bit (so-called “x86”) or 64-bit (“x64”) version of Windows 7. If you’re not sure, click Start, right-click Computer, choose Properties, and look under System type. Step 1b. Use any browser to go to each patch download site: KB 3078601  x64 x32 KB 3109094  x64  x32 KB 3138612  x64  x32 KB 3145739  x64  x32 KB 3164033  x64  x32 Step 1c. On each of those sites, Click Download. You’ll get an MSU file. In Chrome and IE, by default, you see an offer to either Open or Save the file. Save it. In Firefox, by default, the file downloads. These Microsoft servers are notorious for freezing -- sometimes the download won’t start, sometimes it won’t finish. If that happens to you, try reloading the page (click the circle-arrow near the address bar). You can also switch browsers. In any case, if you experience oddities while trying to download you aren’t the only one. Step 1d. Turn off Windows Update. The least confusing way to do that is to click Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools. Double-click on Services. Scroll down the list of Services and click once on Windows Update. Then, in the upper-left corner, click the link marked Stop. Step 1e. Double-click to run each of the five downloaded files. If the installer says you already have the patch, smile and go on to the next. Running those five updates will get you set up for the one significant update you need to run each month. Unless something weird changes (hey, this is Windows), you never need to go through Step 1 again. Step 2. Find this month’s favored patch and install it Unfortunately, the patch itself changes from month to month -- or at least, it has changed in every month since March. Here’s how to finish the job: Step 2a. Go to wu.krelay.de/en and find the latest magical patch. It’s listed at the top of the first table on the wu.krelay.de/en site. In July, the magic patch was KB 3168965. No doubt there will be a new one in August and another in September -- for however long we have to struggle with slow Win7 updates. Step 2b. Armed with the knowledge about whether your Windows 7 installation is 32- or 64-bit, use the links in that first table with any browser to download the correct patch. Step 2c. Save the patch but don’t install it. Step 2d. Make sure the Windows Update service is stopped. See Step 1d above. Step 2e. Double-click to run the downloaded patch. Step 2f. Reboot, as instructed after the patch is installed. (The Windows Update service will restart itself.) Then click on Start, Control Panel, and under Windows Update click Check for updates. If all went well, the check should take a few short minutes. My thanks -- and deep admiration -- to Dalai, ch100, and EP.

    Blog Entry, HAPPINESS, Patches
  • Posted on January 3, 2017 12:00 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Keeping track of passwords can seem like a hassle. Most of us have multiple sites we visit which require password logins. So many, in fact, that it's tempting to use the same username/password combo for all of them. Don't. Otherwise, it takes only the compromise of a single site's credentials to have a toppling domino effect on the security of all your online assets. Fortunately, there is a fairly straightforward way to have different passwords for each site you use but still make the passwords easy enough to remember. Creating Unique Passwords Before you begin creating strong passwords, you need to consider the use of those passwords. The intent is to create strong passwords unique to each account, but easy enough to memorize. To do this, first begin by splitting the sites you frequently login to into categories. For example, your category list might read as follows: social networking sites auction sites ecommerce sites email accounts banking sites forums A word of note here about forums. Never use the same password for a site's forum as you would for logging into the site itself. Generally speaking, the security on forums is not as strong as it is (or should be) for the regular site and thus the forum becomes the weakest link in their security. This is why, in the example above, forums are split into a separate category. Now that you have your categories, under each appropriate category, list the sites to which you must log in.  For example, if you have a Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo account, list these under the category 'email accounts'. After you've completed the list, you're ready to begin creating the strong, unique, and easy-to-remember passwords for each. Creating Strong Passwords A strong password should be 14 characters. Each character less than that makes it a little easier to compromise. If a site absolutely won't allow a password that long, then adapt these instructions accordingly. Using the 14 character password rule, use the first 8 characters as the common portion to all passwords, the next 3 to customize by category, and the last 3 to customize by site.  So the end result ends up like this: common(8)|category(3)|site(3) Following this simple rule, when you change your passwords in the future - which, remember, you should do often - you'll only need to change the first common 8 characters of each. One of the commonly recommended means of remembering a password is to first create a passphrase, modify it to the character limit, then begin swapping characters for symbols. So to do that: Come up with an 8 letter passphrase that is easy to remember. Take the first letter of each word to form the password. Substitute some of the letters in the word with keyboard symbols and caps (symbols are better than caps). Tack on a three letter abbreviation for the category, also replacing one of the letters with a symbol. Tack on a site specific three letter abbreviation, again replacing a single letter with a symbol. As an example: In step 1 we might use the pass phrase: my favorite uncle was an air force pilot Using the first letters of each word, we end up with: mfuwaafp Then we swap some of those characters with symbols and caps: Mf{w&A5p Then we tack on the category, (i.e. ema for email, and swap out one character of ema: e#a Finally, we add the site abbreviation (i.e. gma for gmail) and swap out one character: gm% We now have a password for our gmail account of Mf{w&A5pe#agm% Repeat for each email site, so perhaps you end up with: Mf{w&A5pe#agm% Mf{w&A5pe#aY%h Mf{w&A5pe#aH0t Now repeat these steps for the additional categories and sites within those categories. While this may look hard to remember, here's a tip to simplify - decide in advance what symbol you will equate with each letter.

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hacking
  • Posted on January 2, 2017 4:16 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Hackers have been hacking wireless networks for a long time, but they don't even need to hack your wireless if you never changed your wireless router's admin password from its default value. If you never changed the admin password on your router after you set it up the first time, then all the hacker needs to do is look up the default password and log in. There are lists on the internet that provide hackers with the default admin passwords for most commercially available routers on the market today. Just Google: "Default Router Password List" and you'll find several sites that provide the default passwords for just about every major brand of wireless router available. Other sources of default admin passwords include downloadable PDF manuals available in the support section of most router manufacturer websites. If you're like many people, when you first setup your router you plugged it in, followed a couple of steps on a quick setup card, and everything just started working. End of Story You may have not gone back to change the admin password after you used it to setup the router. Here are the general steps you will need to follow in order to change and/or reset the password on your wireless router: If you have completely lost the password that you set and need to set the router back to its factory default password, perform the following steps: Below are general instructions only. Directions vary by make and model of router. Please consult your router's operating manual before performing any kind of reset procedure, and always follow proper safety precautions indicated in your router's documentation. PLEASE NOTE: The first step in this process will wipe out all of your router's configuration settings and set them back to their out-of-the-box factory defaults. You will have to change all your routers settings such as your wireless network SSID, password, encryption settings, etc, after performing this step. 1. Press and hold the reset button on the back of your wireless router You will probably have to hold the reset button from 10 to 30 seconds depending on your brand of router. If you hold it for too short a time it will simply reset the router but won't revert back to its factory default settings. On some routers you may have to use a pin or thumbtack to press the button if it is recessed inside the router. 2. Connect a computer to one of your router's Ethernet ports (but not the one that says WAN) Most router's have a web browser-accessible administrator page that you must log in to in order to access the router's configuration settings. Some routers disable administration via wireless, so you will need to ensure that you are connected to the router via an Ethernet cable before attempting to access the router's configuration page. 3. In the browser address bar, enter the IP address of your router's administration interface Most routers have what is called a non-routable internal IP address such as 192.168.1.1 or 10.0.0.1. This is an internal address that cannot be accessed from the internet. Here are the standard admin interface addresses used by some of the more popular wireless router manufactures. You may have to consult your specific router's manual for the correct address. The following list is some of the default IP addresses based on my research and may not be accurate for your specific make or model: Linksys - 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 DLink - 192.168.0.1 or 10.0.0.1 Apple - 10.0.1.1 ASUS - 192.168.1.1 Buffalo - 192.168.11.1 Netgear - 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.0.227 4. Enter the default administrator login name (usually "admin") followed by the default administrator password. You can locate the the default admin name and password for your specific router by checking the manufacturer's website or by Googling "Default Admin Password" followed by your router's brand name and model. 5. Click on the "Admin" page from your router's configuration page and create a strong password Be sure you enter a strong complex password for your router's admin password. If you ever lose this password you will have to repeat the steps above. If you didn't lose you router password but just don't know how to change it, you can skip steps 1 and 2 and enter the admin user name and password that you have into step 4. This will allow you to change your wireless router's password without wiping out all your other router's settings.

    Blog Entry, Hacking, Hardware