Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thoughts on Newtown, CT 12/14/2012

A few thoughts.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and responders in Connecticut. It is an unimaginable tragedy that we’ll never fully understand.

But remember, 49 million other kids went to school today and came home safe and sound. As did yours and mine. Remember that over the past few years more kids have died in school bus accidents (which is also very, very, very few!) than from school shootings.

We need to let our kids explore, grow up, and live. Bad things can happen. We need to focus on things we CAN control (car seats/seat belts, safe driving, cutting smoking, keeping our homes fire-safe).

We also need to remember that there are places in the world where mass killings are an everyday occurance. Where people can’t travel alone, ever. Where there ARE no polce and first responders to start helping 100 seconds after something bad happens.

We live in age where everyone in the world can know about this bad news within minutes…and we miss the millions and millions of really good things that happened today.

Take a moment and hug your kids, for sure. Not because you’re afraid to lose them, but because you’re glad they’re here. Never forget the difference.

Tech Tuesday #8: Buying Safely Online

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Jeanne from Fitchburg asks, “How do I buy stuff online without getting scammed?”

There’s one absolutely foolproof way to NOT get scammed with a purchase: Don’t buy anything.

Failing that, there are a few quick and easy tips:

  1. Use a credit card, NOT a debit card (or PayPal, etc). Even when playing with well-known vendors it’s always best to play with someone else’s money. If you buy something that isn’t as advertised (or a big company charges you twice for that new platinum-plated toaster oven), it’s a world of difference. The debit card holder sees their money taken immediately…calls the merchant, calls the bank, and after a couple days the errant money finds its way back into its proper place. The credit card holder calls the bank, fills out a form, and the problem goes away. I’m not a big fan of credit cards and consumer debt, but this is why credit cards are essential in 2012.
  2. Use only well-know vendors or stores. Yes, google shopping says that joesplatinumtoasters.com has the same toaster for 20% less than anywhere else, but is it worth it? If anything in this post is news to you….stick with Amazon, buy.com, and other stores where you can return online purchases in-store.

    Elite <em>Platinum</em> 23 Liter <em>Toaster Oven</em>

  3. Factor in shipping costs. You can buy an aftermarket front bumper cover for a 2006 Subaru from Amazon.com for $81. The tiny print below says, “+ $70.01 shipping.” One can buy the same bumper from a local auto parts store for $92 including tax
    .SUBARU LEGACY OEM STYLE FRONT BUMPER COVER
  4. There’s more to this than money, though. If you know what you want, it only makes sense to buy online from a reputable vendor and save money. There are times when we don’t really KNOW what we want/need. Perfect opportunity to get into “buy local” mode and go to a store to take advantage of their knowledge…and buy something! It is pretty lame to get the info from a local expert then go home and order from Amazon to save 5%.
  5. Make sure your computer is updated, with antivirus software, and stop to think before clicking the “Buy Now” button.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Vote for Greg Charland in the SMB 150

The SMB 150 is a list of the top influencers in small business technology. I’ve been nominated for the 2012 list! Please consider visiting my SMB 150 page and voting! You don’t need to be an IT expert (or a business owner) to vote, and it only takes a few seconds!

Why am I worthy of your vote?

-I started my business part-time and went full-time in the middle of the worst economic conditions we’ve seen, yet are still profitable and growing;

-I have built this business on a commitment to work with my clients for long-term results and mutual success

-I have teamed up with best-in-the-business partners and service providers

-We’re active in the community and members of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, and North Central Mass Chamber of Commerce

-I am committed to sharing my business knowledge and expertise with other local tech companies through Business Tech Roundtables, one-on-one discussions with tech business owners, and active involvement in the Microsoft SBSC online communities.

Voting continues through the end of March…and you can vote once per day.

Thanks for your support! And please SHARE this post using the button below!

Major flaw in Remote Desktop Protocol

If you’re a typical business owner or computer user, and you have one of these icons on your systems, we need to talk:

New info shows that computers “listening” for Remote Desktop Connection are more of a security risk than previously thought. Now, it’s still reasonably secure to use Remote Desktop within your own network as long as you’re not allowing Remote Desktop connections from the outside.

According to Microsoft Support, all an attacker needs to do is send a specific sequence of codes to a Windows server or other computer waiting for a remote connection. No password needed.

This is in addition to existing knowledge that keeping Remote Desktop/Windows Terminal services open to the outside world is dangerous for other reasons. There are several programs that will automate “cracking” a Windows Terminal server by trying a brute-force attack consisting of thousands of usernames and passwords. Think this is just uber-hacker stuff? Wrong. There are a few dozen youtube videos that will show you the RDP hacking process step-by-step.

We have seen cases where systems are compromised, and neither the business owner nor the “computer guy” knows until we review the firewall logs, look into the reports of unexpected behavior, and reveal the extent of the problem. In many cases these servers are compromised in this manner because the previous IT provider left Remote Desktop Protocol open to the server with a laughably simple administrator password like 000 or password123.

There are more secure alternatives. We recommend LogmeIn, GoToMyPC, or, if you have a Windows Small Business Server, Remote Web Workplace.

Bottom line is this: Your business (or home) should not have Remote Desktop Connection services listening on the Internet. We have other ways to do all that.

Our clients’ networks are already “locked down” like this.

My contribution to Forgetful MS Access Developers Everywhere

When you’re developing a database that will work with other formats you’ll often find a need to export to the ol’ standard DBase (.dbf).

You’ll use the TransferDatabase method, either as a macro command, or in VBA it’ll look like:
DoCmd.TransferDatabase(acExport,”dBase 5.0″,”C:\Temp\”, ,”tblTransferTemp”,”newdb.dbf”)

This works fine in Microsoft Access 2003, Microsoft Access, 2007, and Microsoft Access 2010. You can also export to DBase III, DBase IV, or DBase 5.0 in addition to many other formats.

So you run the macro or VBA code, the file is created, then you notice that there’s a problem. Entire fields are blank. Entries aren’t there. Data missing. If you dig deeper you may notice that the Access TransferDatabase method has not saved ANY of your text or string data into the DBF file.

What’s going on? Access strings are 255 characters by default. The maximum length of a DBase string/text field is 254 characters. So the Access TransferDatabase command sees a 255-character field and rather than truncating it, simply does not export that field.

How do you fix it? Easy!

Truncate your string fields before trying to export them. In the simple example I was working on the other day I cut off the text at the 100th character in the underlying make-table query…problem solved.

So if your dbase export files are missing data , first check the tables that they’re derived from and make sure the data looks good, second check the string lengths and data types!

Interesting…internet explorer doesn’t like add-ins

This is mostly for my future reference. I’ve found an interesting problem with Windows XP and ie8 which I’ve confirmed twice now.

If you install a fresh copy of Windows XP and patch it to the most current levels using Windows Update (including SP2, SP3, and ie8) then it will not run any IE add-ins. If you try to “flip” to Microsoft Update, or install Adobe Flash, or any other browser add-in then Internet Explorer will become unresponsive and crash.

Uninstalling ie8 (reverting back to ie6 or ie7) and installing the Flash and MS Update add-ins seems to fix the issue. One of these times I hope to remember this before I spend time fully updating the box.

First Thoughts: Quickbooks Enterprise 10

After doing a couple Quickbooks Enterprise 9->10 upgrades, let me offer the following thoughts:

  • The install is a bit more of a headache. Much more time sitting and waiting for things to happen. Made me glad I was able to get a whole lot of them spinning at the same time.
  • I don’t like the .NET framework. I had issues with one Vista client saying “there are no more files,” which is a problem with the .NET fw. This machine had a couple other issues so I just wiped and reinstalled. If I needed to fix it I would try manually reinstalling all traces of .net 3.5 and 3.5 SP1 then try QB again.
  • QODBC seems considerably faster in this version. I did not do any empirical testing on the interface but it seemed able to open large tables faster and queries “felt” faster.
  • QODBC also seems to be working more consistently without QB open. One of my apps had issues logging in as a particular user without the Quickbooks program running. This has worked properly during my initial testing now.
  • The “Test ODBC Connection” button in the QODBC connector setup didn’t work consistently. It actually looks like the tester crashed the connector when I tried that. My apps Teklynxs LabelView and an Access 2007 linked table) worked okay though.
  • Update: Further testing on “Test ODBC connection” worked okay with QB admin logged in.
  • I really like the Company Snapshot. It provides each user with the relevant numbers to start or end each day.
  • Opening QB 10 seems considerably slower on most of my clients’ XP machines. Operation of the program once started seems about the same.
  • Backup files seem to be about 1/3 the size of QBES 9 backups. I have done a couple test restores just to make sure it’s all there…that’s how small the backup files are!

Have you moved to QB 2010 or Enterprise 10 yet? How did that work out for you?

UPDATE: QODBC doesn’t seem to be any faster at generating index files. I have been waiting about 8 hours for a “Reload All Data” on a network PC. Good thing it’s the weekend with no server or network load….

5 Common Misconceptions about Mass Privacy Law 201 CMR 17.00 : Part 1/5. Not Me!

The new Massachusetts “Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth” is one of the toughest consumer protection laws in the country. While it means some extra work for businesses most will find it manageable and well worth the effort. There is still confusion out there. Some questions (and “statements”) I have heard:

1. This doesn’t apply to me, I’m a small business. Or I’m part-time. Or a sole proprietor. Or <insert excuse here>.

From the law itself, “standards to be met by persons who own, license, store or maintain personal information about a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Legal definition of “Person” = person, corporation, partnership, nonprofit, whatever. Yes, this applies to YOU.

The law defines “Personal information” as any combination of a name and

  • Driver’s license number
  • Social Security number
  • Bank or financial account number
  • Credit or debit card number

So legally you’re on the hook if you maintain, license, store, or own these details about Massachusetts residents.

Do you take credit cards? These rules apply to you.
Do you handle checks? These rules apply to you.
Do you have employees? These rules apply to you.

Whether you handle this information on computer, paper, or only by committing each detail to your memory…
…these rules apply to you.

Next time: “But this really doesn’t apply to me, I don’t save ANY PI on the computer, EVER!”

Please contact Charland Technology if you’d like more information about our Compliance Review services.

WORST experience in a LONG time.

I hate Windows Vista. Very, very much.

I took a one-time work order from a contracting company to help a home user with Vista. The machine was pretty well infested with malware; Windows Defender and Backup were both completely missing; pop-ups and all kinds of other crap.

Time for a repair installation, I figured. With any XP box I could whip up a quick repair install and be done within an hour.

When the Vista boxes say, “Your installation may take several hours to complete,” they MEAN several.

Each of the little 5 status lines goes to 100%. Each of them moves about 1% per minute.

This is a relatively new HP Elite desktop. It shouldn’t take 4 hours to refresh Windows so we can get our Defender and Backup back.

Normally I would have taken the machine back to the office and let the scans, etc chug away, but I wasn’t able to to that in this case.

I think Vista brings the end of on-site support. If a Vista PC is at all hosed it means bring it back to the home office and reinstall overnight.

It should not need to be this way.

Best support experience in a LONG time

I just got off the phone with Garmin after one of the best customer support calls I’ve ever been involved with.

I have an old StreetPilot c330. It’s a very basic GPS that has held up well. Last weekend a small piece broke off the charging connector. I looked up on eBay and I can buy a new cradle for $40 or a used c330 GPS for $50. So I figured I’d call Garmin directly and see if I could order the small broken part, which should be about $10-$20.

I was a tiny bit frustrated that their support call center is only open US daytime hours but it’s not like this was essential to my life over the weekend.

I called Garmin and within two minutes was speaking with Pat. He broke the bad news: You can’t order just the small plastic broken part for a 5-year old GPS. I could order the whole cradle for about $50 direct, or….hold on just a moment…

Pat happened to have a new cradle for this unit on his desk. Being an obsolete, non-stock part he offered to ship it to me.

Free.

Like my son Zach says, “Starts with an F, ends with a Ree!”

Later this winter when I’m in the market for a GPS guess which brand will I seek out?