Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Stephen Smith computers hacked.

The following news article should be a reminder to all of us that even the top people in Australian government can have their email accounts compromised.

“Gillard's parliamentary computer, along with those of several cabinet ministers including Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith were believed to have been compromised, News Ltd newspapers report”.... Read More

For obvious reasons we aren’t provided with the full details of how their computers were hacked and whether or not it was their computers or just their email accounts. But what is important is for all of us to decide the level of risk associated with keeping material online and easily accessible not only to ourselves, but potentially to others as well.

Government ministers will have the best resources available to them which far exceeds the resources available to most small and medium sized businesses. Most businesses unwittingly (and without their knowledge or control) provide others with details of their infrastructure making it easier for hackers and criminals to be quite specific in how they target a business, government department or individual. With knowledge you can reduce your attack profile on the internet. You can’t eliminate your attack profile because as we’ve seen even the biggest companies in the world (such as Google) haven’t been able to prevent others from hacking them, but you can reduce your exposure.

Computing as with life is full of compromises. As we move more towards cloud based services do ask questions and keep in mind the compromises you are forced to make. Many online services do not provide important logging information that would immediately alert you to a possible online attack. Many computer professionals believing they are assisting their clients by providing the latest tools and technologies to give them remote access to their systems and may in fact be potentially exposing their clients. If you can log on remotely, then it is possible that someone else may be able to as well. Make sure you know the increased exposure with each piece of new technology and that you ask the questions you need to ask.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MyAnswers: Outlook message "The spelling check is complete." but I can see spelling errors

The following MyAnswers solution 2081 is now available:

When I type a new email message in Outlook 2007 the spellcheck never works. When I click on the spellcheck button on the toolbar I get the message "The spelling check is complete." but I know there are errors in my spelling that aren't getting picked up.

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, March 11, 2011

Alert: Apple iOS 4.3 update may cause billshock for some iPhone users

Yesterday I updated Apple iTunes (as there was an upgrade waiting) and then followed up with upgrading my Apple iPhone 3GS to iOS 4.3. This was all done using Telstra's 3G data network. I knew there would be a big hit, as in the past I've advised staff at clients not to upgrade their iPhone operating systems at work as it kills the network performance, so I know it is a beefy upgrade.

Today I decided to check the usage which is normally in the 10's of megabytes per day, an my last usage  was 760MB. WOW I thought. Yes it is only every now and then it occurs, but still wow. That's a big update. It is possible there may have been other traffic that occurred on the day, but I felt it prudent to warn others.

The problem for many people is they may have a 1GB allowance on their mobile or USB broadband plans and getting a whopping 700MB plus slice of their data plan used so early in the month could cause them to go over their allowance. That could lead to hundreds of dollars of excess data usage charges from some carriers. I'm not in that boat because I've opted to buy 10GB to use over a year which means the peaks and troughs of data usage don't affect me. For me it works out cheaper. In the past I'd never go near my monthly limit just in case, which was a real pain and it also meant 20-30% of my data wasn't used so the real cost of the used data was greater.

I shudder to think about people who may be using 200MB data bundles with their mobiles.

I really think Apple should provide free upgrade disks from their stores as an alternative. Even a small fee to cover costs would be good. More and more people I know are opting to drop their landline based facilities and go mobile. Mobile data is still not cheap and whilst the Telcos will get the blame for billshock, it really should fall on the shoulders of companies like Apple in this case. I don't even know if Apple provides a disk based alternative for users and if they do, it isn't well promoted.

For those with an iPhone using 3G data plans to access the internet, make sure you keep an eye on your data usage this month, or your hip pocket may pay the price.

Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 release date

The information I’m now reading on the internet indicates Microsoft will be announcing the release of Internet Explorer 9 on the 14th of March at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) in America.

Internet Explorer 9 will only work with Vista and Windows 7 and not with Windows XP. I’d estimate that around 50% of people are still using Windows XP and this will be a thorn in the side for those people including myself. I use Windows XP on a netbook because when I purchased the netbook the other option was Windows Vista and to me the performance would have been substandard. Microsoft’s approach is most likely to encourage users to upgrade to Windows 7 but I think Microsoft is no longer positioned strongly enough for this approach to work. For many people I expect it will alienate them even further towards Microsoft. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and support other browsers as those browsers come with their own limitations and issues. As your computers age you’ll replace them and at that point in time you’ll have access to Internet Explorer 9 if you are a Windows user.


Whilst I won’t be able to start testing Internet Explorer 9 until early April, when I do and when I find issues I’ll post solutions to MyAnswers (

Kelvin Eldridge



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adobe Reader X. Is this a legitimate copy of Adobe Reader?

A number of times I've upgraded clients' machines with Adobe and I was perplexed to see Adobe Reader X. Not 7, 8, 9 or 10. I couldn't help but be a little concerned that perhaps some clients had malware installed on their computer, but everything was OK.

This is an example of where Adobe have decided for marketing purposes to use Roman numerals. Yes X is 10 in Roman numbers.

I really wish they didn't do that as it really does confuse people and supporting computers takes time and time is money. What are they going to do when versions 11 or and 12 come out!

So in summary, there is no need to be concerned if you find yourself with Adobe Reader X on your Desktop. It is the current version of Adobe. Adobe have just changed to using Roman numerals for their release numbering, at least for this version.

Some of you may remember channel 10 did the same in Melbourne some years ago and as we can see they don't use X any longer. You know the really funny thing is I associate X with an error or a cross, so reading Adobe Reader X made me feel like there was an error. I don't really think Adobe wants their products to suggest an error when people see their product. That can't be good marketing.

Kelvin Eldridge

Apple iPad, iPad 2 comparison

I decided since I was going to compare the iPad and the iPad 2 I’d write an article and provide it only for others. The following is the first line and a link to the article.

“The iPad 2 has now been announced and is scheduled to start shipping on March 25th in Australia.”... Read More

- Kelvin Eldridge

TAGS: iPad 1 iPad2, iPad 1 vs iPad 2, iPad1 or iPad 2, iPad compared to iPad 2

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Apple iPad refund available to recent buyers due to price reduction with iPad 2 release announcement

In blog post in December ( I suggested if you were in the market for a new iPad, even as a Christmas present, with the soon to be released iPad 2 you may wish to wait. There isn’t anything you can do now about those purchases, but if you’ve purchased very recently, you may be able to get a refund of the price difference, as the original iPads have now been drastically reduced in price.

The following is a copy of the relevant section from the Apple site for their terms and conditions.

“9.2 Should Apple reduce its price on any product you have purchased (except promotional / special / discount / refurbished products) within 14 calendar days of receiving your goods, you may contact the Apple Online Store team on 133-622 to request a refund or credit of the difference between the price you were charged and the current selling price. To receive the refund or credit you must contact Apple within 14 calendar days of receiving your goods.” ... Read More

- Kelvin Eldridge

Beijing to Track People's Movements via Their Mobile Phones

I thought the following article may interest others.

“China plans on tracking the movements of people in Beijing using their mobile phones, a measure that while aimed at relieving traffic congestion, could set off concerns over misuse.”... Read More

Today I was talking a family member and mentioned the article. What they weren’t aware of, is as they move around their day going here and there, their mobile phone is on and can provide their location. Even the most basic telephone can provide your approximate location to those who have access to the information.

Really it wouldn’t take much to track nearly all of us every day, since most of us now walk around with a mobile phone in our pocket.

A while ago I did some basic research. With some mobile phones you can see the cell ID. This is the cell tower your are connected to. If you think of a cell tower as covering an area of a circle, the cell ID also contains which third of the circle you are in. That gives a rough location and a direction from the cell tower. The is some form of time delay with your mobile phone communicating with the cell tower which changes with the distance from the cell tower and that provides an approximate distance. Now you have an approximate location of where you are and as you move, your movements can be tracked. All that is required is for that information to be logged and we are all able to have our movements recorded for a period.

The cell tower information is available to the telephone companies and the authorities. If you have a Smart phone and it is running an App which provides access to the location facilities in your mobile phone, then it is quite possible your movements could be being logged and maybe even sold off for who knows what use.

Of course we can all become quite paranoid about who might be tracking us. It is very easy to limit the tracking by turning your mobile off, but of course that means a loss of facility.

I actually think if might be very interesting to have a log of a year’s worth of travelling. I could analyse the information and work out where most of my travel was occurring. Often we think we know this type of information but I’m we’d be quite surprised at the results. By looking at our movements we may find more efficient ways to go to the places we regularly go, and that might end up saving us time, money and resources.

Next time you go walkabout, perhaps turn the mobile phone off to go off the radar for a while. Who knows, you just might enjoy the peace and quiet. But not too long as you might miss an important call. What did we do before mobiles came along!

Kelvin Eldridge


Friday, March 4, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate - What's the rush

You know I find it interesting how many people including myself in my younger years just had to download pre-release software. Now I don't see so much of a need to download the software before it is finalised.

For my clients I suggest they wait until the final version has been released as they'll have less issues and the obvious issues will be known and a solution or work around will often be available.

For those with web site, I suggest that they download the software on a spare machine and make sure no changes are required to their site. Unfortunately Internet Explorer 9 won't work on a Windows XP computer so finding a spare test machine is a little harder. I think Microsoft's restricting Internet Explorer 9 to Vista and Windows 7 will cause them to lose even more customers. In the past Microsoft could use the approach to encourage their customers to move to a newer operating system, but I think those days are over and they approach just strengthens their competitors' position.

If you develop software which works with Internet Explorer (I have some neat shortcut scripts and search engines I've developed) then you should check they still work.

For support people such as myself, it is a good idea to grab a copy closer to the release date to become familiar with the software. I've found over the years that downloading and using the final release as soon as it becomes available is often a good way to learn what you need to know and you don't waste time with features which may have been partially implemented or buggy in beta and now fixed in the final release.

For those who simply use Internet Explorer you can save time by waiting until the final release is available for download. Those who create will need to download the release candidate and check their work. Those who provide support can decide whether or not to obtain the release candidate, or grab the final copy and come up to speed before Internet Explorer has had time to propagate out to their clients.

Isn't it interesting how technology has now become more routine for all of us. I think that is a good thing for clients.

Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why gadget lights are dangerous.

I read this article about gadget lights not being good for your health and whilst I have some doubts as to the science behind the article, gadget lights may be wealth hazard.

A while ago I decided to check out energy usage around the home and created the Energy Cost Calculator to assist me in working out the cost of the electricity used by appliances. As a result I learnt a lot about where power was being used around the home and now our family of four use the same power as the average single person living alone. Our last bill averaged 8.2kWh per day, which is under half the energy used on average by a family of our size.

Most of the gadget lights around our home are now off and the savings have mounted up. We have halved our electricity usage which means our bill (excluding administration fees) is halved. That's a pretty good saving of nearly $700 a year compared to the average family of four.

Check out the Energy Cost Calculator and start learning how much appliances around your home are costing you. You'll be surprised at how small changes such as only boiling the amount of water needed for your cuppa can shave $30-$40 off your electricity bill a year as compared with filling up the kettle like most people do.

It took us a while to get into the habit of switching off, but now that we have we're better off for it. If you see a gadget light on in your home it may be costing you money which would be better in your pocket than the electricity company. What would you do with an extra $700 in your pocket?

Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Alert: ATO Tax Payment Notification

In case others receive emails purporting to be from the tax department offering a refund, I decided to check out the email I received today and share the information with others.

The email had the subject ATO Tax Payment Notification.
It stated that I'm owed  614.25 AUD.
There is an attachment

The attached zip file contained an exe file and scanning this file revealed it contained malware.

Even without scanning the file it was evident this was going to be malware or a phishing attempt.  The language of the email isn't at the level of communication expected from the ATO. The amount owing isn't in a form we'd normally use in Australia. The email was sent from the US and not from Australia.

If your instinct suggests something may not seem right with an email, trust your instinct. A lot of people I've spoken to have told me they felt something may not have been right with the email shortly before they infected their computer. If it smells fishy, it probably is.

You should delete these emails as soon as you receive them.

Kelvin Eldridge