Tag Archives: Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday #11: Are We Business-Grade?

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Cathie from Rindge asks….

My new technology company says I need to replace my router…or firewall…not sure which. The sales guy said my D-Link is not made for business. Is he just trying to sell me a more expensive one?

Thanks, Cathie…most small businesses have a single device that acts as both a router (moves traffic between networks) and a firewall (inspects each  packet of traffic and allows/blocks based on a set of rules). Many small-business techies use the words interchangeably now, but you’ve almost certainly got a single device that does both.

Here’s a nifty older picture (despite the mid-90’s iMacs the theory still works)

But the bigger question is….

GMC Professional Grade Logo

Is it “professional grade?”

The simple answer? It depends. Many businesses can get by with less-expensive, consumer-grade networking gear. It’s 2013 and nearly any firewall/router you can buy will give a few years of trouble-free connection to the internet.

Take this one, for instance. It’s a TrendNet N150 Router. This is a typical $40 consumer-grade router.
TrendNet N150 Home Router

A basic Internet and Wireless connection! Who could ask for anything more?

Well… Looking at the specifications…this is a router that does not claim to have a Stateful Packet Inspection Firewall.

It might be nice to set up a second wireless network for guest access.

And, setting up more than a few connections at the same time the lil TrendNet will start to lag….

and what happens if something doesn’t work? Send an e-mail to Trendnet support and hope for the best?

Level up!

So we can consider an entry-level business firewall…like the Netgear FVS300.
Netgear FVS318

These cost around $200. For the extra money we get:

  • Better network speed
  • Real SPI firewall
  • Phone or chat support
  • VPN connections (limited)

What could be better?

Well…

“I want to block job hunting/porn/shopping websites, except on my computer… or at break time.”

“We use voice over IP phones, how do we make sure that gets priority?”

“We need a reliable connection between our two buildings…”

“Our regulations say we need to monitor for unauthorized access…”

“Can I get a report of what websites employees are going to?”

“Can this system collect evidence in case of an attack?”

This is a job for a Sonicwall! (Or Cisco ASA, or WatchGuard, or Meraki, or Fortinet)
Sonicwall TZ-series wireless Threat Management System

Here’s where we leave the “router/firewall” and enter the “Unified Threat Management” systems. These devices have:

  • Comprehensive router/firewall systems designed for setup by a professional technician
  • Additional services like Intrusion Detection, Web filtering, Remote administration, and incident logging
  • Secure wireless systems that offers segmented guest access
  • Reliable, highly-secure VPNs for remote and site-to-site connections
  • 3G/4G wireless backup connections

What are YOU using for a firewall? Drop a post in the comments!

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.

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Tech Tuesday #10: 2013 Predictions!

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Joan from Athol asks….What are your tech predictions for 2013?

I’ve got a few thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Windows 8 will fail. Miserably. Sure, Microsoft will make it sound like it’s been accepted in the market, and will use accounting tricks to make it look like money has been made (they count new systems with Windows 7 that include Win8 “upgrade” disks as net sales, for example)

    It will be so bad that Windows 2014 (they’ll change naming conventions again) will come out in December, 2013. Look for 2014 to be like Windows 8 desktop-mode, with a visible Start button and…well…stuff to click.
    Microsoft Surface and Windows Phones will continue to sell to dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft fans. Exclusively.
  2. There will be a new iPhone and iPad. Apple will make them sound magical and revolutionary even though they’re not. They’ll add some nice features and cost a lot of money. Millions will be sold, mainly to Apple fans who are upgrading from their iPhone 5’s.

    Apple stock will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. I still wouldn’t buy it.
  3. As many i-Devices as Apple sells…Samsung will sell twice as many of their not-yet-announced Galaxy S4s (this is a link to a concept video, not even “good” rumor yet.) Still a couple more years before these win the coolness war, though. Here’s a link to a more realistic look at what the actual 2013 S4 could be like. A lot of those will be to Galaxy S3 fans who have gone all cult-like over their phones…becoming every bit as ugly as the i-Fans they hate.
    samsung Galaxy S4 i9500
  4. There will be a major outage and/or security breach involving Quickbooks Online. Intuit hasn’t shown the management wherewithal or the development muscle to keep QBO running as a stable, truly redundant architecture. Many of the promised changes after the last several outages are still in the early planning stages.
  5. Speaking of big companies sucking really badly, I predict outage-prone Microsoft Office 365 will re-brand their service to distance from the current name. Maybe something like Office Anywhere… despite the name change there will be lawsuits from customers who will lose substantial data. Heads will roll, which at Microsoft means several Directors and VPs will make lateral moves to other divisions.
  6. Seems everyone is talking about BYOD (bring-your-own-device) right now. That’ll turn out to be a fad that no one will be talking about this time next year. It sounds good, ’til you think about what will really happen: We’ll “save” the cost of a $1,200 laptop by having Joe co-opt his kids’ computer, or do everything on an iPad. We’ve been hooking up new employees’ phones to the mail server and key resources for year. Add one clause in the employment agreement that says,
    “Employee consents to installation of Company geolocation and monitoring software on employee-owned mobile devices; if such device is lost, stolen, or employment terminated the Company will securely erase all information contained on the device. Employee agrees that personal information on the device will be erased in this operation and holds Company and its agents harmless regarding deletion of such information.” (You should obviously ask you lawyer before you go sticking clauses in your employee handbook!)
    There are some places where BYOD desktop etc strategy can work, and we’re ready to support it there, but it’s just a buzzword that’s going to go away.
  7. We’ll talk about Gesture Control as a next big thing. It won’t go anywhere. I won’t care ’til I can have my own J.A.R.V.I.S. (Y’know, Ironman’s house computer):

  8. This will be the year of the Linux Deskt……HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    Even IF a good linux-based accounting system came out, and despite the confluence of Windows 8 sucking, Apple being evil, and mobile devices being too hard to actually do work on…it still wouldn’t be enough for a linux desktop to take hold.

I guarantee that at least four of these predictions will be completely wrong and that we’ll laugh about them (hopefully together) in 2014.

Happy New Year!

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.

Tech Tuesday #9: Oh, crap!

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Sharon from Lunenburg asks….

Q: Oh, crap!

Which is not really a question per se. So we followed up.

Q: My work computer won’t start!

A: Still not a question. We press on.

Q: My system doesn’t start. It comes up with a black screen that says, “BOOT DEVICE MISSING.” What’s wrong? And by the way, I last backed up about three months ago.

A. It could be something simple, like a flash drive plugged in or a DVD left in a drive. Make sure there are no usb connectors hooked up, and no discs in a drive.

If that’s not the case, there’s a small chance there’s a configuration problem keeping the computer from recognizing the hard drive. Sometimes we can attach the drive to another system to fix data errors. Ideally the hard drive will just attach and Windows will identify and correct file system damage.

Less-than-ideally the hard drive will attach, Windows will say something witty, like, “The disk in drive G: is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?”

Don’t format it. We have tools that can often recover files even if Windows can’t see them. We have had good results with Runtime’s GetDataBack recovery products.

On the other hand, there are some drives you just can’t get to. Either they won’t show up at all…or they’ll make a tell-tale sound of hard drive death

Bzzzzzzt
Bzzzzzzt
Tick-click
Tick-click
Tick-click
Bzzzzzzzt

Many “tech guys” will tell you it’s toast and there’s no possible way to save files from a disk that’s dead. They’re not entirely correct. It’s often possible to recover stuff from a disk that’s physically damaged or failing.

If your hard drive is making clicking or grinding sounds, using software MAY be able to retrieve some files but will reduce the chance of successful professional recovery.

For that we’ll need a cleanroom.

No, not THAT kind of clean.

That’s better. A professional service company like Kroll/Ontrack, DriveSavers, or Gillware will take apart your hard drive in a dust-free environment, replace broken pieces, and copy the data onto another disk.

Cost varies from around $500 to over $2,000 depending on:

  • How quickly it gets done
  • How big your disk is
  • If there’s anything special like encryption, it’s linux, mac, etc
  • Which provider you use

For that kind of money it’s usually not worth recovering the kids’ school projects. But for a master’s thesis…the only copy of your Quickbooks file…wedding pictures….the external hard drive that has 15 years’ worth of family pictures…

it just might be worth it.

Remember, though, that all of this could have been avoided with a simple backup.

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.

Tech Tuesday #4: What do you think of Windows 8?

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

Today’s question, from Jim in Gardner: “What do you think about Windows 8?”

Windows 8 is a mixed bag.I’ll be writing in-depth coverage later this month.

Of course the newest version of Windows always has the most up-to-date security features. The Win-X menu is great, the expanded Start menu isn’t my cup of tea but seems useful. The new Task Manager provides loads of useful information for us techies, and the Win 8 systems I’ve used are very, very fast to boot and sleep.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of redundancy…you’ll see two completely separate Internet Explorer items, one of which is an “app” and runs full-screen. Many tasks have changed from clicking things to “hovering” your mouse in a certain corner of the screen, or keyboard combinations. Win-I, Win-E, Win-X are very useful but it’s my opinion that good user interfaces don’t leave the users guessing like Win 8 does. I’m also concerned about patching and updating the multiple Internet Explorers, Flash, Java, etc for each part.

And don’t get me started on Microsoft Office 2013. The previews make it significantly less usable than Office 2010 (which contained a few minor but appreciated improvements over Office 2007)

Bottom line: If you have a convertible system, tablet, or other touch-screen then Windows 8 can work nicely. For instance on a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Twist it makes perfect sense…Use the tile-y block-y tablet-y “apps” when you’re folded over in Tablet mode, then use the Windows Desktop to run “programs” like a real computer. When properly assembled this Frankenstein makes sense…but on a conventional computer it’s just schizophrenia.

In general, though, Windows 8/Office 2013 are just bad interface design. I’m supposed to say, what? “Move your mouse to the bottom-left corner of the screen and wait for something to happen…now go to the upper-right corner, wait for the icons to slide in from the right, and click the gear.”

To say nothing about running this system remotely…on an unstable internet connection.

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.

Tech Tuesday #3: Microsoft called ME?

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Keith from Hubbardston asks….

Q: I got a call from Microsoft saying there is a problem with my computer. What’s up with that?

A: This is a scam.

There have been recent reports of folks getting calls from heavily-accented people claiming to be from Microsoft or Windows Help Center.

They’ll tell you to go to your computer now, explain how to find all kinds of “problems” with your computer, and download & install antivirus programs. Sometimes they ask for a credit card, sometimes they just install fake antivirus.

No one from Microsoft will ever call you about problems on your computer. Neither will anyone from any legitimate company. They have no way of knowing what’s going on with your computer, and no way of linking your computer to you.

Here’s a link to a recorded scam. The words that the guy says sound like they make sense but are completely untrue.

“I told you many times, I’m not a scammer.”
“Errors are only temporary files on your PC.”

So one more time…there is NO way that someone from Microsoft will be calling about a problem with your computer. No one from a legit tech company will call out of the blue with stuff like this.

Obviously if you’ve got a support contract with a real support company they may call about problems…but that’s another story.

And, you should never pay anyone who calls you unsolicited offering tech support without an agreement already in place.

And here’s what tech guys do for fun:

Don’t fall for it. Don’t let anyone you don’t know take control of your computer.

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.

Update: The US Federal Trade Commission has taken action against several of these scammers.

Tech Tuesday #1: Best Smartphone of 2012?

We’re introducing a new feature here on the Charland Tech page: 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’ll be featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page starting next week. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Mary from Fitchburg asks, “What’s the best smartphone right now?”

Greg: Good question. My favorite phone right now (and the one I use myself) is the Samsung Galaxy S3. Big, beautiful screen, lots of features, and okay battery life. You really do need a good quality protective case for these as the big screen isn’t as well protected and prone to breaking if dropped. I like the Otterbox Commuter line of cases.

Galaxy S III
For a more durable, smaller phone, I also like the Motorola Razr Maxx. It’s a durable phone with surprisingly good battery life. The Razr line seems to work a bit better in low-signal areas, too.

And you’re not going to go wrong with the Apple iPhone 5, especially if you’re upgrading from an older 3GS or 4 phone. But there’s not much new in the 5 compared with previous phones…the upgrade is not worth the money if you’re buying your own. I personally don’t like iTunes and the idea of buying new chargers, and accessories to work with the new “Lightning” connector, since Apple has started using the new connector design with the iPhone 5.

I don’t recommend Blackberries any more. They have fallen far behind the competition and the design of their network means that most of your messages go through the Blackberry network in addition to your carrier. In fact, the Blackberry network had another major outage in Europe this week.

I also don’t recommend the Microsoft Windows Mobile/Windows Phones. The Nokias are described as surprisingly good, but the support and App infrastructure make it a risky choice unless you’re a died-in-the-wool Microsoftie.

Now, the phone is only part of the equation. You also need to make sure you get the right service plan…from a carrier that offers coverage where you spend most of your time…but that’s another matter.