News

WINDOWS 10! - DON'T DO IT (YET)!

I know Windows 8 is probably driving you nuts, but I am not recommending most people upgrade to Windows 10 yet.  Early adopters always suffer all the bugs.  Just because they are offering it for free doesn't make it urgent.  It will be free until about June 2016 for people who already have Windows 7 or Windows 8.  And if you're wondering what happened to Windows 9 - it doesn't exist!  They couldn't name it Windows 9 because older programs would have confused it with Windows 95 and Windows 98 and refused to work! 

CRYPTOWALL VIRUS
There is a VERY nasty virus going around called Cryptowall (sometimes Cryptowall, Citroni and TorLocker).  It encodes all your files so that you can't access them and then demands a ransom (around US$500).  Sometimes people who pay the ransom get their files back, and sometimes not.

This is a very sneaky virus.  The best ways to avoid it are: Have multiple backups including one which is not connected to your computer / the internet (eg. a hard drive you put away), Have good antivirus software, Have good anti-malware software (eg. malwarebytes pro), NOTICE and take action / get advice if you start getting corrupted files.

There are also some vaccination programs around (eg. bitdefendercryptoprevent) but it's unclear how much protection these provide.

And you can catch it from Yahoo http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/08/04/yahoo_malware_ads/

More info: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/cryptolocker-ransomware-information

Windows XP and Windows Vista really ARE defunct

Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows XP and Vista is also a lame duck. That means that, as new bugs and viruses are invented, windows xp and vista will not be "patched" to resist them. So it will be much easier for baddies to take advantage of your computer. Also, software manufacturers and websites won't be designing their stuff to work with those OSs any more, so it will get harder and harder to do things. More info here: Microsoft website Most Windows XP computers are too old to be worth the bother of upgrading. For most people, buying a new computer will be a better option.


BEWARE GOOGLING WEBSITES IF YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
If you already know where you need to go, try to type the web address straight into the address bar, rather than using google. The reason for this is that some companies deliberately seed google with misleading advertising links which look like the links to the real company.  So you might think you are ringing Microsoft technical support, or Macafee technical support or Apple technical support, and you spend an hour on the phone to a technician in Mumbai, only to be told that you will have to pay $150 to fix the problems.  Or worse.  Because you've given them remote access to your computer they can plant viruses or programs that will lock your computer up and hold it to ransom.

CONSIDER USING ONLINE CHAT TO COMMUNICATE WHEN ORGANISING IMPORTANT THINGS
My mobile phone contracts ran out recently and I wanted to re-contract them to save money, but was very wary about doing so because last time I did it the company REALLY made a mess of it...  So after putting it off for a bit, I tried to ring them and after getting put through to the wrong department several times I was looking at their website and realised that they have an "online chat" feature.  I realised that if I used online chat to discuss it with them I could keep a transcript of the conversation.
So I did the whole thing by online chat whilst doing other work, and now I also have a printed record of what they say they have done (so I can hold them to their promises). It was also better for them because they were able to send links to the pages showing the plans etc rather than having to describe them over the phone.
We also found the online chat feature very handy when we had a mobile phone stolen overseas and had to cancel it in a hurry.  Much better than being put on hold for half and hour at international call rates.  (Although of course, don't use international data roaming to do it!).

 

CREDIT CARD PAYWAVE AND SIMILAR PAYMENT METHODS

You may have seen eftpos machines or point of sale terminals with the PAYWAVE or PAYPASS logo on them, with a
symbol that looks a bit like a wifi signal.  What this means is that, if you have a recent VISA or MasterCard, you may be able to pay for purchases costing less than $100 by just holding the card near the eftpos machine - no PIN or signature required.
 
Most people's reaction to this is "eeek!! How can that be secure?".  But in reality, shop assistants rarely check signatures properly anyway and "swiping" your card leaves you open to having it cloned.  The paywave methods at least uses your credit card's embedded chip, which is harder for villains to copy.  If you are over $100, and have the choice, you should always use "chip and PIN" in preference to "swipe and sign".  And if you are under $100 and have the option, you should probably paywave.
 
AND of course protection your PIN number and report your lost or stolen credit card immediately!
 

IPAD BEAN BAGS

These are great.  They’re stable on just about any surface (including laps, coffee tables and desks) and really easy to use.  Can also be used for kindle, small ipads, laptops and even dinner plates.  We found these so useful we decided to make our own!
 
They are particularly good for people with arthritis or shaky hands.
 
If you are handy with a sewing machine, you're welcome to download our pattern and make one yourself.  You must be careful to make them using a childproof zip (the beans are dangerous apparently).
 
Otherwise you can buy similar items from various retail and online outlets.
 

DONT' TRUST "TRUSTYWORTHY" WEBSITES:

Even if you know the person who owns the business, their website might be dodgy! Just as our computers can infected with viruses and send them on to our friends, our websites can too. Google has launched a service examining websites for "malware" (viruses and other nasties) and found that most "malware" sites are legitimate website that have been hacked by an outsider. So even quite apparently harmless websites, such as retirement advice, dog jokes or kids games can be infected and infectious.
There are two messages in this:
For web users: Have up to date antivirus software and don't "agree" to any suspicious popups from a website.  eg. If you are looking at your doctor's website and it offers to install a pretty screensaver, don't do it!
For website owners: Make sure your website uses strong passwords etc. for access and updates, and regularly check your website is clean.  The google transparency report provide some information and tools for doing this.  According to google, if you have one of these email addresses active: webmaster@[sitename].com; info@[sitename].com; admin@[sitename].com they will notify you if your website is hacked.
 

FORGET YOUR CDs and STEREO - get streaming....

We just decided to abandon our stereo and use an IPOD instead!  We have cheap speakers positioned in strategic spots around the house and we just pick up the ipod and move it to wherever we want music.  It's set up to sync with our computers via wifi (so it's got our albums), but the thing we really LOVE is that we've installed PANDORA and SPOTIFY.  These are internet based music streaming services that basically send music to your computer or ipod, based on your own likes and dislikes.  Depending on which subscription you choose, they have some limitations or ads, but I absolutely LOVE hearing fresh music all the time.  Made me realise how bored I was with my own music collection.
 
Of course, there are also apps for the ipod which allow streaming radio, podcasts etc., so it's got all the functionality of a stereo and more.  We LOVE IT!  These services are also available through just about any PC, tablet or smartphone, not just IPODS...
 
You do need a fast internet connection with a generous data allowance (ie. ADSL or NBN) to pull it off though.
 

NBN Installed and FREE NBN INFO SESSIONS at IT GIRL.

The NBN has finally arrived in South Hobart, and the NBN co interviewed Anne for their blog.  Our NBN connection has been installed and seems to be working well (although not quite as fast as advertised).  Having been through the installation process, and talked to clients, we've concluded there are a few pitfalls!!!  So we ran a lot of free info sessions.  We're not running any more for a while, but you can put yourself on the waitlist for the future by emailing "NBN wait list please" to admin@itgirl.com.au.
 
If you can't make it to a session, DO make sure you understand about all the options with NBN connections - PARTICULARLY the differences between VOIP phone lines and UNI-V phone lines.  Some marketers are just pushing the options that suit them, rather than what might suit you best.  I would also recommend that you DO NOT buy an NBN service from someone who cold calls you (even from your own company) but make up your own mind what you want, and you initiate the connection.
 

 

AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE / UKASH VIRUS

There has recently been an upsurge in  this virus.  It takes over your computer and displays a "war
ni
ng" over the whole screen, which pretends to be from the Australian Federal Police and uses their logo. It threatens to "turn you in" unless you pay a fine (usually of $100) and sometimes displays images from your webcam (ie. images of you) in one corner. It is comple
tely a scam. It is not from the Federal Police and the fine is not genuine. Do not give them anything.
 
This virus can be difficult to remove, so you may well need professional help to do so.  It's difficult (and sometimes expensive) to remove on-site - we've found that the most effective way to remove it is to do so in the workshop - where we can move the hard disk to one of our computers whilst it is
being cleaned.
 
If you haven't yet had this virus, follow the guidelines in the Help Yourself section to avoid
it.  More information about it can be found at the AFP website

FINALLY!  ACTION AGAINST "WINDOWS TECHNICAL SUPPORT SCAMS"

You've probably had one of those phone calls from someone posing as a Microsoft Technical Support or Windows Technical Support Agent warning you of problems with your computer which they offer to fix for a fee.  Well it's just a scam, and a b...y nuisance at that.  But because most of these scams operate from second world countries no-one has really been able to do anything.  Finally the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has found a way, by freezing their assets!  Apparently they are going to use the seized funds to compensate victims, but somehow I doubt any of that money will filter down to Oz. More info here: FTC hits tech support scammers
 

TOUGH NEW RULES FOR TELCOS

The new Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code will come into force o
n 1 S
epte
mber, and will make telcos and internet service providers warn you well in advance if you are likely to exceed your monthly allowance for internet or phone usage.  It will also require them to use standard "measures" when advertising their plans. More information here: ACMA new rules for telcos

 

NBN (NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK)

The NBN is a new internet network that replaces our old copper telephone cables with modern fibre optic cables (mostly), wireless or satellite connections.  It will make our internet MUCH faster and enable us to use it for things we have never even thought of.  I think it has fantastic potential, particularly in the areas of remote education, remote healthcare, aged care and even remote employment.  I can imagine scenarios where a person living in Katherine could study medicine through the University of Sydney, or in my old age I could stay in my own home and be monitored remotely by healthcare personnel, rather than having to move to a nursing home.
 
At this stage it is still very much a work in progress and seems to be behind schedule.  So I wouldn't hold off on any decisions because of the NBN.  A lot of people are worried about the cost.   It's possible that you'll pay more for your "internet access" than you do now.  BUT it's also quite likely that you'll be able to do away with your telephone line rental, and save a bomb on phone calls too.  So for a lot of people, the net cost will be the same or less.  You probably won't have to change internet service providers, or your email address.  The NBN is a wholesale company, and the connections will be sold to you through the same companies that currently provide your internet access and phone services.  You can probably just contact your current company and change your plan.