Thursday, July 28, 2016

One day to go before the free upgrade to Windows 10 elapses.

A final reminder to those who are using Windows 7/8/8.1. The 29th of July is the last day for the free upgrade to Windows 10.

Before doing an upgrade I do two things. A full system image backup and a separate backup of my data. You never know when something may be wrong with computers.

Over the past year most computers have upgraded with minor issues that can be resolved. Things like incompatible programs that leaves remnants that then have to be removed manually. A few computer have not been able to be upgraded. The worst was recently. It was a HP8100. After installing Windows 10 the video card driver, USB driver and Ethernet driver all didn't work. Very difficult to work with a computer when so many things didn't work. Worse was HP did not provide any new drivers for Windows 10. The outcome was a restore to Windows 7. So the upgrade doesn't always work, but probably around 90% of the time it does.

Is it a big deal if you don't upgrade. Not really. The computer you have will continue to last for some years and when you're ready you can then update your computer and operating system. Whether you upgrade or not is based on your own needs and desires. I personally would lean towards upgrading particularly if you have a Windows 8/8.1 system. Windows 8/81 will end up being like Windows Vista. The operating system people preferred to skip.

Good luck if you decide to upgrade.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Latest web app Share My Location highlights subtle differences in iPhone browsers.

I've recently released my latest web app Share My Location which can be found at www.ShareMyLocation.com.au. As part of testing I found an interesting difference in iPhone browsers I'd not noticed before.

The Share My Location web app needs to remain open for you to continuously share your location with someone else. On my ancient iPhone 4 I have Safari, Opera and Chrome to choose from. Most times I use Safari. I decided to test what would happen if someone opened a new tab and the result was interesting.

Safari suspended the activity from the background tab, but Opera and Chrome did not. This could be useful when someone is sharing their location and wants to use the browser to perhaps catch up on the news whilst they travel. Perhaps even check out a public transport timetable. In this case Safari would stop sharing the location, but Opera and Chrome wouldn't and would thus be better to use in this situation.

It makes sense for Apple to suspend activity and that would reduce battery usage. Browser makers make choices and most of the time we're not aware of the choices and compromises. By luck I stumbled across a useful bit of knowledge that makes Share My Location more convenient for Apple device users. In this case it is as simple as using another browser.

Desktop browsers do not suffer from this limitation, but of course desktop browsers usually don't have access to a GPS.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.ShareMyLocation.com.au

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alert: New variants of Locky virus may not be detected by your anti-virus software.

Last week I was asked to check a computer that had been infected by the Locky malware. The malware encrypts the user's files and then holds them to ransom. This leaves the user in a bad situation. There's no guaranteeing even if the payment was made, you'd actually get your files unlocked.

In just two minutes before Microsoft's anti-virus software caught and removed the malware, hundreds of local files had been encrypted and all the contents of the inserted USB drive had also been encrypted.

In this case the user was very lucky. The USB drive was only used for transferring temporary files and the local files were able to be recovered.

I suspect had Microsoft's anti-virus software not kicked in when it did, the user would have been much worse off.

There's lessons here I'd like to share.

  • If you have a backup drive that's connected via USB, DON'T leave the drive connected. The contents could be encrypted.
  • Remove USB drives so they can't be encrypted.
  • Make sure you do a regular backup. It's your best defence against disaster.
  • Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software installed.
  • Keep in mind often the only thing stopping you from being infected, due to the time of release of new malware and the delay in anti-virus software being updated (24-48 hours), the only protection you really have is common sense.

As a test I just checked a suspicious email I literally just received and yes the attachment was the Locky malware. Only 7 out of 57 anti-virus software packages recognised the malware. None of the anti-virus packages commonly used in Australia would recognise the malware.

It is a good idea not to open attachments you're not expecting. A trick I've heard of, is scammers calling first to send an email so when received the email received it is expected, but it contains malware. Even emails from people you know may be from an infected computer. You really do need to be on your guard.

Don't click on links in emails even if they look legitimate. Scammers are very good at making things look legitimate. Preferably visit a site by opening your browser and entering the site's address.

Be alert. The Locky malware is particularly bad and there seems to currently be a number of imitators. The malware is particularly bad as it encrypts your files. If you're not backing up you files, now is a good time to start.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au

Sunday, May 29, 2016

1TB External hard drive for the good price of $68 from Officeworks.

Some time ago I wrote a backup tool to help clients, family and friends, with an easy way to backup their important data. The free backup tool is located at www.OnlineConnections.com.au/mybackup. For a backup you also should have one or more external drives.

I was in Officeworks on Friday and noticed they had a 1TB external drive for $68. That to me is a good price so I thought I'd let others know.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Latest web app highlights privacy differences between native apps and web apps.

I'm often reluctant to install apps as you really don't know what you're giving away. Information/data is often sent to unknown organisations for collection and sharing. You simply don't know what others are doing with the data your apps use or collect.

As an example I was able to show someone using their Fitbit data what time they went to the toilet in the middle of the night. Something they'd never have expected and this same data is being stored, collected and use in who knows what ways.

It occurred to my after I completed my latest web app, Where Did I Park My Car, that web apps can offer far more privacy than native apps.

There is still some data that can be collected because you're using the web. You've connected to a site and that connection is logged. The site however only knows your rough location based on the IP address you use to connect to the internet. It doesn't know your exact location. There are also Google ads and Google Analytics being used on the page, so Google is collecting certain information, but no more than it does when you move around the web.

Now here is what I found interesting. When you click on the link to get your current location, that is done completely within the web page by the mobile phone and that information is not sent back to me. I could write the web page so it is, but I haven't. No information is collected or retained as to your exact location. Personally I thought that was pretty good.

Many web apps that use your location send information back to a server. The most obvious are mapping apps that help to crowd source traffic information. You are helping to create the traffic information, but it does mean you're sending information back to some unknown servers for sharing in ways that you probably didn't expect.

When installing native apps I'm often reluctant because I simply don't know the ramifications of the permissions I'm giving to go others and how the information will be used. As much as privacy notices say the information collected will be anonymous, reverse matching can be used to easily match anonymous data back to an individual.

The web apps I write have very limited access to the sensors in the device. No list of permissions are requested. It is very easy to know the information that you are sharing and thus may be available to  others. When the web page is closed it doesn't exist on the mobile phone. With a native app I would have no idea. I often see native apps that want access to the camera or other access and there's seems to be no reason for such permission.  Native apps can sit in the background collecting information. Web apps therefore can offer far greater privacy than native apps simply because you control a specific and limited permission requirement. You can also easily deduce what you are sharing and if it matters to you.

The web app Where Did I Park My Car (www.WhereDidIParkMyCar.com.au) enables me to know the location of my car without giving that information to others. I thought that was pretty neat and thought the observation may interest others.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Petrol Prices Melbourne - Alert.

Petrol Prices Melbourne - Alert is the latest web app I've created for family, friends and readers of the Online Connections blog. Now if you see a sudden price hike in petrol, you can easily let your family and friends know.

Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Voltage drop calculator now available

For those interested in 12 volt systems you may be interested in the Voltage Drop Calculator I've written and is now available at www.VoltageDropCalculator.com.au.

The Voltage Drop Calculator enables people to calculate how much the voltage will drop in a length of wire given the length, cross section and current being passed through the wire. For 12V systems too much of a voltage drop may mean certain appliances won't work. For example a TV we have when the voltage drops below a certain level the sound no longer works but the picture does.  That's something I didn't expect to happen.

Kelvin Eldridge