Thursday, July 28, 2011

LinkedIn - Reminder about your invitation from

I received reminders from LinkedIn from a business I know. I let them know that I don’t use LinkedIn but more than happy to keep in contact. What was interesting is the person is skilled with computers but they’d ended up sending invitations to their entire contact list without meaning to. The person said they’d select just the six people they wanted invitations to be sent to and LinkedIn ended up sending invitations to everyone in their mailing list. If this can happen to this person then it can happen to a lot of people.

LinkedIn was a bit annoying because after the first email on the 14th of July it then sent a reminder on the 18th at 7:39pm and another on the 18th at 10:41pm. A few days later on the 25th of July at 5:30pm and at 6:39pm reminders were sent. To me this is a bit over the top. I have to say a bit annoying. I did let the person know and they felt LinkedIn and high jacked their account so they weren’t happy. A few days later they felt LinkedIn tried to do it again to one of their colleagues. I don’t know if this was a design fault of LinkedIn or a user issue.

I really don’t think this is good enough. If people are sending out invitations inadvertently then it may be an issue with the user interface. On the reminder front a single reminder should be sufficient. This is simply over the top marketing by LinkedIn. I don’t use LinkedIn. I gave it a go for over a year but felt it offered no value to me so I made to effort to cancel the account. I certainly don’t want to be nagged into opening another account.

My suggestion is if you are going to use one of the social networking sites avoid giving the site access to your contact list. Invite your contacts yourself. That way you stay in control of who you invite and your complete contact list doesn’t end up in the hands of the social networking site.

Kelvin Eldridge

Why do people keep putting a J on the end of their emails?

I thought this was really interesting. People keep sending me emails and at the end of the email there is the letter J. I had no idea why they did that or what it meant. One person said it is the way they write a smile at the end. Now why they picked a J I had no idea. But since they did it I thought OK, use the convention and write a J at the end of my emails to them.

As it turned out there was something more interesting happening. People are sending emails with the smiley face at the end of the message and some email clients convert the smiley face to a J.

For example in the email client (Outlook) I can insert the smiley face by selecting Insert -> Symbol and then selecting the smiley face from the characters presented. If I type :-) in Outlook this is automatically converted to a smiley. If I send the email to a person who has an Apple iPhone the smiley appears as a J.

What is then quite funny is because people see others sending them a J they like myself start adding a J to indicate a smiley and we start having a trend.

So next time you receive an email with a J at the end you won’t be confused. You’ll simply know the person is sending you a smiley. It may be a smiley or it may simply be a J. If you really want your smiley to appear as you send it, then you may have to resort to the less graphical smiley which uses the characters colon, dash and curved bracket :-)

If you’re using Outlook the character sequence will automatically convert to the smiley symbol so press Control+Z and undo the automatic substitution.

At last the mystery of the J has been solved.

Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MyAnswers has now been updated for Virtual Profit Sharing

MyAnswers has now been updated to be compatible with Virtual Profit Sharing.

Virtual Profit Sharing is the Online Connections loyalty reward program for customers of Online Connections and JustLocal. Virtual Profit Sharing or VPS for short, is our way of saying thank you to clients for referring others to our services. VPS is based on two principles. It is generous and when we benefit so do our customers.

You can check out MyAnswers at and using your VPS member code you can now let others know of the solutions available.

Thank you for your support.

Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Aluminium can recycling

I’ve often read that recycling saves around 95% of the energy required to manufacture an aluminium can from bauxite. I became curious as to how much energy that really was. As it turns out, each aluminium can our family recycles saves the equivalent of around 5% of our daily electricity usage. So next time you’re putting your recycle bin out you can feel pleased you really are making a difference to the world. Perhaps next time you see that thoughtlessly discarded drink can in the street put it in your recycle bin. The person’s thoughtlessness is your energy offset.

Aluminium Cans - Liquid Energy... Read More

- Kelvin Eldridge

Monday, July 25, 2011

Apple iCloud should really be called Apple iSync.

There is a lot of talk about “The Cloud” and it can get pretty confusing to many people. Think of The Cloud as a push by computer companies to get people to run their services from centralised machines rather than on your local computer. This enables software providers to provide software as a service rather than a product for you to install on your computer. Many people already use services in The Cloud. If you use Hotmail, Yahoo mail or Gmail you’re using “The Cloud”. So really it is no big deal. Services were already being delivered via the internet before “The Cloud” came along.

In September Apple will be making its iCloud service available. But really, can this be considered a Cloud service? Not really. It is simply using the internet to provide centralised storage and then to enable attached devices to synchronise the data across devices. Thus my reasoning behind why iCloud should really be called iSync. Apple is about providing devices you carry around with you and from what I can see, they want you to have your data and applications installed on your devices. Nothing wrong with that approach at all. It has many advantages such as local performance is often better than services running on the internet and if you have no connection to the internet you can continue to work offline.

The problem with calling the service iCloud is people will be looking for the Cloud based services which are typical of how others are marketing “The Cloud”. This will confuse people. Of course calling it iSync is really not modern or trendy so let’s just put this down to marketers having poetic licence.

Hopefully that makes it easier for you to see the term Cloud will be used by many organisations in different ways. “The Cloud” sounds far sexier than “The Internet”, but what people really need to do is work out what services are being made available and how they can take advantage of those services. Whether it is called iCloud or iSync doesn’t really matter. It is about what the service will do for you.

Kelvin Eldridge

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Power usage calculator and power usage of various household appliances

Using the power meter I sell on the Energy Cost Calculator page I decided to collect the power usage for a number of devices around people’s homes and home offices. The aim is to assist people in determining the amount of electricity appliances use. By our family changing some simple habits we’ve been able to reduce our electricity to under half the average for our size of family. I’d estimate about a $500 a year saving for us, but if we were using the average the saving would be closer to $1,000. I know I’d prefer that money in my pocket each year and all done with very little outlay involved.

This level of saving far exceeds the savings made by installing expensive solar systems so anyone can do it. The best part is there is no up keep, almost nothing to be spent and you’ll achieve more than the government aims to with its carbon tax. Really if everyone just looked at their usage and changed their behaviour a little we could avoid the carbon tax and that would save us all a lot of money in the future. I’m pretty sure by now those who have installed solar systems have realised they’re not saving anywhere near what they expected.

The following are the items that I’ve measured and make available in MyAnswers solution 2112. The solution is available free of charge to those purchasing one of the devices on the Energy Cost Calculator page.

Telstra F2300 Answering Machine
Rank Arena LCD TV/DVD TL1951-BDTP
Acer Aspire One Series Netbook AV10
Toshiba Satellite Pro A120 Notebook PSAC1A-0QV03J
Epson Aculaser C1100 Colour Laser
Compaq 7500 17" monitor PE1163
Acer AL1715 17" LCD monitor ET-L2102.216
Epson Stylus TX210 All-in-one
Panasonic DVD Recorder DMR-XW300
LG Plasma TV 50" 50PS30FD-AA.AAULLH
Netgear Wireless Cable Modem Gateway CG814WG v3 (Optus)
Tefal Avanti Deluxe Toaster
TinyPro LED Projector 2009199
TEAC Std Set Top Box SDR161T
Kye Systems Corp. Multimedia Hi-Fi Speaker Systems SP-G10
JVC Television 25" AV-25LS
LG 6H Hi-Fi Stereo VHS/DVD player V782W
Ozito ECO 320 Lawnmower
Telstra Pre-paid mobile wi-fi
Sanyo Clock Radio RM399
Apple iPad 2
Panasonic 5.8Ghz Digital Answering Machine KX-TG4391AL
Target King Size Electric Blanket GW281

Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, July 22, 2011

What is Office 365?

I've now had the chance to quickly review Office 365 and I can see some areas where I feel it could be better and some areas where I think it could really benefit micro and small businesses.

In a nutshell, Office 365 is Microsoft's attempt at providing software as an online service. You get access to Office web apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote), Email, Calendar, web site, collaboration, instant messaging and online meetings.

My focus is reviewing Office 365 for micro and small business users. It is important to review Office 365 against your needs. The plan marketed by Microsoft to this group of businesses is "Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small business". The plan is designed for up to 25 users.

To quote from the Microsoft site you receive:

- A solution without dedicated IT staff
- Essential email, calendar and web site services
- Free online community support
- Month-to-month subscription

If I look at this list it really doesn't impress me that much. Most small businesses I know don't have dedicated IT staff, they already have email, calendar and in quite a few cases web site services, can already get free online community support (which I think is a poor substitute for decent support) and even though it is a month-to-month subscription, as a business you need to make a decision that will last you for some time.

I should explain why I think community support is often a poor option for users. First I find there are quite a few members on community support forums who are rude and obnoxious. Whilst most are pretty good, the few spoil it for everyone. My experience is you will be offended by these people at some point in time. I don't like putting my clients in a position where they can get offended. I've found some of the advice to be substandard (from well meaning people) to the point where users would damage their computer should they take the advice. Since free support is just that, if a problem is hard and requires some effort that is where a quality paid support person will make sure the client is looked after. The other aspect is I find those putting a lot of energy into forums tend to become blinkered to other options, often obsessively pushing their cause. Users may not get a balanced opinion when there may be better options. Users can make better decisions if they're assisted and provided with options and information in a relatively unbiased manner. I don't generally find that on community support forums. It is simply the way forums work.

My initial impression is the sign up is cumbersome for Australians with Telstra being positioned between users and Microsoft. For some this will create confusion and means they will need IT support for the sign up, which really shouldn't be the case. If you're not the type of person who can set up your own email then you will need assistance. I felt a number of the features such as SharePoint will probably not be used by micro and small businesses and the web site tool is very limited in what it offers.

I looked at the needs of a few of my clients (micro and small business) and in each case it would be hard for them to justify moving to Office 365. Office 365 does offer some good new features for them, but at the same time they lose features they need.

If you have a business that doesn't have a web presence, you are using your Internet Service Provider's email address, or worse, Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail for your business, and would like to be more mobile, then Office 365 could be a very good match for you. But do make sure you take into account what you'd like to do in the future so you don't outgrow Microsoft's service.

My aim is to assist clients by providing them with advice and guidance as to whether Office 365 can be used as a tool in their business. I know of at least two businesses who could potentially benefit from moving to Office 365.

The funny thing is if Microsoft had simply provided the option for people to upload their own html or PHP based site rather than their restrictive canned approach, I'd have quite a few more clients. There are some real benefits to be had from using Office 365, but the restrictions make migrating to Office 365 much harder to justify.

It really is a case of reviewing the client's needs and then seeing if Office 365 can match those needs, or whether a different solution is required.

Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Has your password been hacked? Top 20 passwords.

The recent activity of hackers making passwords of hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of people public is a concern, but not only for the reason that these people’s accounts have been compromised, but what it means to everyone else. Yes that means you.

What it means is if you are using a password you think is secure it may not be. Armed with a simple list of commonly used passwords the ability to hack someone's account now becomes much easier.

I decided to check out a hacktivists site and found a file which they made public with 62,000 email addresses and passwords. Yes those using those email addresses and passwords across multiple accounts such as Facebook and Email could have had all their accounts compromised. We know that. But what is less apparent is these databases can now be used to try to hack into other people's accounts.

I decided to take the list of 62,000 email addresses and passwords and create a list of passwords. Visually checking the list there is quite a bit of duplication so the appearance of some passwords may be overstated. However the list does give a good feel for the usage of passwords.

To help my clients my thought was to enable you to see if your password appears on one of these databases being made available by the hackers. We know names, places and dictionary words are common lists used by hackers. But now hackers have a more targeted list based on the actual usage by people. The question is, has your password been hacked? Does your password now appear in a hackers database making it easier for others to hack into your account.

The next thought I had is how do I make the list available to others. Making a list available on line for others to check sounds like a good idea, but really, who’s to say I'm not a hacker trying to get a better list of passwords. I've seen a database where you can check if your email address is on the hackers’ databases they've released, but really who is to say this simply isn't a site designed to collect additional email addresses. You can't be too careful.


I decided to make the list of passwords available to clients as an Excel spreadsheet. That means people download the spreadsheet and can check it on their computer. There is thus no sharing of your information and everything is open. I had thought about a program but again who is to say the program isn’t collecting information you enter. A spreadsheet is a good way to share the information and you can use Control+F (the find facility) to check for your password.

The following is the top 20 passwords. If you're using one of those passwords you should immediately change it.


The spreadsheet with the full list of passwords to enable you to check your password is available free to clients of Online Connections and Justlocal upon request.

Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hacked SBS links to risky content

This year would have to be the year of sites being hacked with hackers placing malware onto a company’s sites with the intention of infecting people’s computers.

The web site of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) has been victim of a hacking attack over the weekend, with users visiting the site exposed to malware.... Read More

I’d highly recommend that you update your browser with the latest patches on a regular basis. Make sure you have an anti-virus program installed and perform a quick scan of your system perhaps weekly and add a full scan to your schedule of things to do on a regular basis.

If you own a site and think this only happens to others then think again. A couple of years ago a site of mine was hacked and I subsequently moved service providers. More recently I’ve been contacted a number of time by businesses who have had their sites hacked and ask for advice and guidance. My approach is that when I read something in the news I take notice. But when it happens to someone I know then it is time to take action and let others know it is happening and people need to be aware.

The biggest issue I see is most online services do not provide adequate information for us to see if our sites are being targeted. As a result we often think everything is OK. How do you know if someone is trying to hack into your Hotmail, Gmail or Facebook account. The answer is you don’t. With a my bank it shows me the last time the account was used and the last transaction. With online services anyone right now could be accessing my online accounts and because there is no information provided, I’d have no idea if I’d been hacked or if people are trying to hack my accounts. The same is true of your online accounts.

The best you can do is to minimise your exposure and make sure that whatever you make available online is what you’d be able to handle if someone accessed your information.

That reminds me. I must go and transfer some money out of PayPal. Yes one of the businesses I know had their PayPal account hacked.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Monday, July 18, 2011

Apple iPhone iOS 4.3.4 now available.

The security issue with viewing potentially malicious PDFs in the Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch operating system has now been patched and the updated iOS 4.3.4 operating system is now available.

This update applies to the iPhone 4 (GSM), iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, iPad, iPod Touch (4th generation) and iPod Touch (3rd generation).

I'd highly suggest downloading and installing the update as soon as possible.

Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Windows Vista SP1 no longer supported. Should you buy Windows 7?

One marketing strategy I’ve seen from Microsoft tends to confuse people and it happens every time a service pack reaches the end of its support life. I saw this a while ago with Windows XP and when I read the news item, it really made me feel that Windows XP support was ending. It wasn’t. It was only for those with an older service pack. The following is a section from the Microsoft blog.

I wanted to remind folks that as of today July 12th, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is no longer supported. We recommend folks look at upgrading to Windows 7... Read More

As we can see there is a recommendation to get people to move to Windows 7 and thus a sale for Microsoft. But there is no need for any purchase. Simply upgrade to Service Pack 2.

If you don’t need to upgrade to Windows 7 there really isn’t much point. Simply upgrade your computer, whether it be Windows XP or Vista to the latest Service Pack. For those using Windows XP don’t get concerned. Windows XP reportedly will continue to be supported until 2014. By this time your computer will be nearly another three years older and Windows 8 will have well and truly arrived, perhaps even Windows 9. There isn’t anything wrong in skipping operating systems. If your computer is working for you and upgrading to later operating system doesn’t give you anything more, then why spend the money. In addition the money spent buying an upgrade, because they really are quite expensive, can go a long way towards part paying for the cost of new system complete with the latest operating system.

During my time supporting clients I’ve rarely upgraded clients’ operating systems to a different version. In fact can only think of at most about three-five computers so the clients machines were all on Windows XP and that’s out of many hundreds of computers. The computer usually reaches end-of-life before the operating system.

There are good business reasons to upgrade, such as having all users on the same operating system, and some good reasons not to upgrade, such as costly peripherals (printers, scanners, cameras, etc.) not working. So make sure if you upgrade that you’re doing it for the right reason rather than Microsoft’s posts which aren’t really explaining all the options a user has.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Why you should be careful about buying Android devices .

I thought the following article was a good article to share as one of the weaknesses of the Android platform is it is very fragmented and you don’t know when, or even if, an update to a later version of the Android operating system will be made available for your device.

Motorola offered no consolation today for the many UK-based owners of its Xoom Wi-Fi-only tablet who feel let down because OS updates made available in the US have not come to this country.... Read More

If you are purchasing an Android device you should probably assume that what you buy today is the device you end up with. Hoping that perhaps your tablet which is an Android 2.1 device will be upgradeable to Android 3 is one way to be disappointed.

Apple users can be largely confident the device they buy today will perhaps obtain one or two iterations of the new operating system. In the case of the iPhone 3GS I have, when iOS4 was released I noticed one feature was purposely not included and that was the Find iPhone feature. There was no reason technically it wasn’t include so this was a marketing decision to encourage people to buy a newer mobile phone. I now have the feature installed on the 3GS as a result of my short-lived ownership of an iPad 2. With a new iPhone being released at roughly 12 month intervals, that means you can probably expect you’ll be able to run the latest iOS operating system for around two years. After that it is anyone’s guess. To put a figure on this it means your iPhone if you replaced it after two years is costing you around $400-$500 a year.

I recently purchased a $99 Android mobile phone for testing purposes which I consider to be great. If the operating system isn’t updated from 2.2 it isn’t a big deal at that type of cost. As long as the mobile phone does what it needs to do, at about a tenth of the price of an iPhone you can’t ask for more, and really, it does a great deal already.

Android users really shouldn’t be in a position where they don’t know if the next version of the operating system will be available for their tablet or mobile phone. This to me really is a poor design decision on the part of Google and the manufacturers. It should just be a matter of when it is available it can be downloaded. If your device is no longer supported, it has reached the end of its update cycle. Currently this area is a real mess and is something Android users need to think about seriously. The best way to handle this is to plan for the worst (that is there won’t be an upgrade so what you bought is it) and be pleasantly surprised when an upgrade is available.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Software licence or license

In Australia we could easily be forgiven for writing software license because if you pick up a software package, or read any software licence, invariably the spelling is license. The problem is this is the American spelling and the spelling is incorrect in Australia. It should be software licence.

I have to admit it frustrates me no end to attend seminars and presentations by software companies and to see the spelling software license displayed in the PowerPoint presentation, even though the presentation has been localised by an Australian.

You would think if a company respected their clients they’d adjust the spelling to suit the country they are marketing to. The message I get is the customer doesn’t matter. We’re just here to consume the product.

So next time you see the spelling software license chuckle to yourself. It is their error and not yours.

Kelvin Eldridge

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Alert: Apple iPhone, iPad, Touch PDF exploit

I just read the following article about how Apple is rushing to patch and exploit which malware writers can use and deliver via a PDF, either via a site or email, and moments later received a suspicious email, which was an obvious fake using Google as the sender.

That was a gentle prod and I felt I should let my customers know about the exploit.

If you're using an iOS device, until Apple has patched their software and you have installed the update, you should take extreme care opening PDFs from people or sites you don't know.

Because it requires quite an effort to update iOS devices, I've seen quite a few devices which aren't being updated. The effort is the updates don't go direct to the device but via a computer. Devices such as the Touch or even and iPhone can go for months without being connected to a computer and updated.

I've found in the past with the iTunes gift voucher malware, a large percentage and a very large number of Apple users (significantly greater than the market share for the devices) took action as a result of the email malware.

Because Apple products feel more like a device than a computer a false sense of security can be created.

Take extreme care with PDFs if you are using an iOS device from Apple. that is an iPad, iPhone or Touch device.

Kelvin Eldridge