Driver hell

Driver HellDriver hell: no I’m not talking about the commute, I’m talking about computer drivers. What happens when you search for computer drivers.

What are computer drivers?

Drivers are software that tell your computer how to work with a device attached or installed on your computer. Classic example is a printer driver or a graphics card driver. If you don’t have the driver installed or you have an out of date driver, things can go wonky. Your printer won’t print. Your screen looks funny. Your webcam doesn’t work properly when you Skype.

Driver Hell

How do you get to Driver Hell? A device stops working and you search for a solution. Or you get a message that a driver is not found.

Driver hell is searching for the correct driver.

In the image below, see the search results for looking for a Canon Pixma printer driver. In the image from Bing, the first result you get is an ad for a malicious website claiming to have Canon drivers. Just to convince you to click on it, they’ve helpfully added the word “Recommended”.

Driver Hell

The correct result in this case is just underneath, the cannon web site. Always get your drivers from the manufacturer’s website.

On your search for a driver, you may also run into one of those driver super sites. These websites claim to have all your drivers, can fix all your computer problems and if they actually have the correct driver (most times they don’t) the download is bundled with all kinds of unwanted software.

See example below:

Missing driver

The program that comes with these websites usually runs 24/7 on your computer, slowing it down, giving you constant popups that encourage you to download more crapware. You don’t need this kind of driver management. Microsoft actually does an amazing job in supporting all the devices folks connect to their computers. Windows 10 will automatically install 99% of the peripherals out there without you needing to go searching for drivers.

If you can’t find a driver you need from the manufacturers web site or from Windows, it’s probably time to update the device.

Be careful what you search for. Be specific about exactly the driver you are looking for (i.e. printer manufacturer name, model and model number example Canon Pixma M472). Don’t get sucked into driver hell.

 

 

Lessons for business from the #BCstorm

#BCstorm closes Surrey Night MarketLessons for business from the #BCStorm: were you prepared?

Unless you were totally disconnected from the digital world, turned off all radios and tv or in a coma, you were warned that heavy rainfall and wild winds were going to hit the Lower Mainland on Saturday.

Was your business prepared? If the power goes out or the streets in front of your business get blocked by trees, do you know how you will inform your clients?

How to respond

One of the biggest complaints I have heard since the storm is that B.C. Hydro’s web site went down so people couldn’t get updates. Hydro’s Twitter feed, @bchydro, was still working but they didn’t (or couldn’t) provide updates on when power was going to be restored in various areas.

The City of Vancouver twitter, @CityofVancouver, was excellent over the weekend: lots of updates and pictures and they retweeted other relevant agencies throughout.

#BCstorm

Does your business have a social media plan to respond to service outages? Does that include what to do if you have to leave your premises?

One story from Facebook on the weekend from a friend in Edmonton: staff from a Port Coquitlam store called their Edmonton store to let them know they were closed by the authorities but had no way for staff to leave. Do you have a preparedness kit for your office?

Tech Disaster

With power being either out or flickering, this is where you see the value of having surge protection and/or UPS for your computer equipment. UPS, uninterruptible power supply, provides backup for a certain amount of time (depends on how expensive the unit and how much is plugged into it). Surge protectors and UPS also protect your equipment when the power suddenly comes back on.

Disaster Recovery

Do you have backups? Do you have off site backups in case your office is severely damaged?

As the winds starting whipping up the hill and I read on Facebook about more and more of my west end neighbours losing power and/or Internet, I started going over my disaster recovery plan.

  1. Make sure laptop and cell phone were fully charged.
  2. Make sure backups, both local and offsite, were completed successfully in the last 24 hours.
  3.  Get flashlight and hand cranked radio somewhere handy.
  4. Turned off every electric device I didn’t need.
  5. Be ready to advise clients in case I lost power and in case they lost power.

I stocked up on food and other necessities on Friday when I first read the weather warnings.

Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Or could you end up like the Surrey Night Market?

Patch Tuesday November 2014

ipad hackedPatch Tuesday November 2014 – you’re invited to a Masqued attack. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user.

Apple was informed back in July about a vulnerability in iOS 7 and 8 that allows hackers to install apps on an iPhone or iPad from an email or text message replacing a legitimate app with a poisoned one. Apple is working on a fix however someone is already using the vulnerability in a form called Wirelurker. Apple has patched that particular malware.

More Mac Malware on the way

But be assured more mac malware using Masque is on the way. Run updates on your iPhone or iPad as soon as possible. More about the story here. And only install apps from the official Apple Store.

It just wouldn’t be Patch Tuesday without a hot Flash update from Adobe. This security update is for both Mac and Windows users. The best way to get this update is to go here and run the install. Don’t forget to uncheck the unwanted Google toolbar, Chrome or McAfee crapware that Adobe insists on bundling with their security updates. Technical information about the update and software affected here.

Microsoft Updates

Microsoft released fourteen security updates today. Four of them are critical, effect all current versions of Windows (by current I mean Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8) and require a system reboot. Eight of the updates are important (by Microsoft’s standards, I consider one of these patches critical) and also require a system restart. One of the patches only effects Office 2007 and one only effects Japanese IME or input. Technical details about the updates here.

One of the patches is critical for server products. If you are running Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 or 2012, you need to patch as soon as possible. More details here.

Patch now or be hacked later. This includes your phones and tablets.

Recover quickly from computer failure

Your recovery plan is your airbag

Your recovery plan is your airbag

One minute you’re working away peacefully, the next you’re reading a message from Windows that your c: hard drive is about to fail and you have 30 minutes to back up your data. Can you recover quickly from computer failure?

I got that c: hard drive failure message last week late on weeknight. Thirty minutes is not enough time to back up all your data. I didn’t panic because I have a recovery plan.

What is a recovery plan? A plan for your business if there is some kind of disaster or loss of critical service for the business. Every business, regardless of size, needs a recovery plan.

My first thought when I got hard drive failure message was do I have everything I need to service my clients tomorrow? I had all my appointments and contact information synchronized to my smartphone and accessible from any computer via the web so I knew without my main computer working what was coming up the next day.

Can you access all your emails, appointments and contact information easily without your main computer? What about if your whole office is unavailable to you? This is an essential component to your business recovery plan.

Because my business is totally reliant on computers, I have two spare computers that are always ready to act as emergency backups. When you create your recovery plan, ask yourself if you can function without a computer and for how long.

Just twenty minutes before I got the c: drive failure message I received the email from my automated off site backup that backup had completed successfully. All my critical business information is backed up automatically and nightly to a server. All my files are backed up daily to an external drive that sits next to my computer. Why two backups? Off site storage space is cheaper than it used to be but I have a very large music collection, some large technical files and a large picture collection that would cost too much to save in the cloud so I only cloud backup my essential business files.

What kind of backup system do you have for your business? Can you access from the cloud? Do you store it on an external drive? Backup systems are another essential part of your recovery plan.

Next steps? Keep watching my blog page for part two.

Mac Flashback Malware

There’s been a lot of coverage of the mac Flashback malware recently (http://www.pcworld.com/article/253360/mac_trojan_infections_exceed_half_million_expert_says.html ), particularly as over 100,000 Canadian macs are among the infected.

So why all fuss? What does it all mean?

First, for those diehard mac fanbois out there, the myth of mac invulnerability has been laid to rest. This malware did not require users to put in their administrator password to work. It is a classic web site drive-by click jacking invasion familiar to Windows users.

Apple malware
Malware bites Apple

Second, Apple did release a somewhat belated patch for Java to protect against this. Mac users, like Windows users, have to get used to installing security updates when they come out. There was a windows patch for this vulnerability release over six weeks ago (Windows users go to www.java.com and download the latest Java patch). Do you have a patching strategy for your business? If you don’t, call 604-681-1422 and we can set one up.

Third, for the hackers it is worth their time financially to go after any platform (Windows, mac, linux, those google netbooks). Hackers want your computer regardless of operating system to harvest your banking details, your credit card information, your email address, your contacts and to use your computing power for nefarious web deeds.

Fourth, again regardless of operating system, you need to educate yourself and your employees about the web threats out there and how to avoid them. The average computer infection costs between 2 to 3 hours to repair  on top of the business time lost while it is infected. Think about the costs involved in losing your banking credentials, credit card fraud and company embarrassment.

Back up your data

Old joke. There are two kinds of people: those who have a computer backup and those who will.

The average business owner has anywhere from 10GB to 25GB uncompressed data, add another 5GB per employee computer depending on the nature of the business and how much of an e-hoarder you are.

So how do you keep all that valuable information safe?

Three choices: on site backup drive, off site or a combination of both.

And I mean backup drive not CDs, not DVDs and certainly not USB flash drives. With burned CDs and DVDs you run the risk of your next computer not being able to read them. Flash drives were never designed for long term multiple read writes (perfectly good for short term taking files to your accountant or graphic designer but not backup).

Network backup drive

Luckily external USB hard drives are really cheap these days, you can get 1TB drives for about $100. Network drives (great for businesses with several computers to backup) are closer to $250 and the really fancy network drives that are mirrored and can be accessed via the Internet are running about $350 to $500. All these drives come with backup software. Your operating system usually has a built-in backup software as well. This is the cheapest solution.

With multiple external drives, you rotate the drives off site for extra protection (from flood, fire, earthquake).

Or you can backup over the Internet. There are many companies offering this service with different pricing. Pricing is usually based per GB of compressed data. I usually work with IBackup which has been around for over 10 years and is based in the U.S. If you don’t like the idea of your data being subject to U.S. law or your business is required by law to store your data in Canada, I suggest backbonesystems.ca . This is the more expensive option.

I use a combination of both onsite and offsite backup. To cut back on the costs I only backup my mission critical data (email, quickbooks, business and client folders) online. Everything else gets backed up to another drive daily. I do recommend daily for most businesses.

Make sure you have the right backup for your business. Give me a call so you can get pricing based on your business needs.

Protect your mobile devices

How often do you see someone with a cracked screen on their smart phone? Or know someone who dropped their expensive smart phone/tablet? Do you have inquiring kids and curious pets?

After I forked over $500 for my Blackberry Playbook tablet, I immediately started to look for ways to protect it from cracked screen and drop damage.

And found Otterbox. These fine folks make various levels of protective cases for phones and tablets. Future Shop has Otterbox cases available online but Best Buy has them in store if you want to see one before purchasing.

The Playbook case cost $79.99. Includes a screen protector that works wonderfully, I found it easier to use the touchscreen with it. Has a nice little camera shutter that protects the lens from dust. And has a built in stand with two angles.

If you find putting your device into the case confusing, Otterbox has videos to help you.

Now my tablet is safe when shoved into my knapsack with all my other equipment and in the kitchen when I try out recipes from Cooks Illustrated.

It costs a lot to replace a smart phone or tablet, invest in protection for it.