Saturday, April 28, 2012

Low cost web presence for small and micro businesses

I am often amazed at how much people pay just to have a web site. In fact I remember one company paying $500 dollars to have a domain registered. I asked the business owner what was his site address thinking this was quite a sum of money and would like to check out his site. He said he didn’t have a site, this was just the registration of the domain name.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get your business started on the internet. With a small amount of knowledge it needn’t cost your anything, but I suggest spending an appropriate amount where the business has a single page site and the domain name reflects their business name or service. A one page site will enable the business to have an internet presence they are in control of, will enable their customers to find them on the internet and provide important contact and product or service information.

My approach is different to most web designers. As a computer consultant I charge for my time so my approach is to assist clients with my knowledge and empower them by setting them up so they are in control. Most web designers will set clients up using their facilities (most likely reselling larger companies services) and the designer retains control. I set clients up so they are the owner of the domain and in control of the hosting. Since most people don’t know how to create a web page I create the page for them, but they are free to use anyone, even a family member to create the page, or modify the page I create for them. The small business owner is not tied to me in any way.

The latest site I set up is Herding Dog Training ( The cost or registering the domain was $12 for two years (discounted from $9 per year). I assisted the client to set up their hosting service which is where they’ll host their web page so the page can be found by others on the internet. I have a hosting company I suggest for reasons which provide future opportunities for the client, but the client is free to use their own preferred hosting company if they know one. The cost for hosting is around $10 a month which they pay directly to the company each month.

What I do is act as a facilitator. The time involved to register the domain and set up the hosting is around an hour.

Most people can’t create their own web page, so I’m happy to create the web page for their site. Once created however they are free to change it and update it if they wish to learn the skills, or know someone who already has the skills. The cost of creating the page can vary from one to two hours, but the approach I use is to have the client create a web page using a product they know such as Microsoft Word. There can be a lot of time involved in designing even a simple page, so if people design the layout themselves, that is a lot of time and thus money that can be saved. I then take the design they’ve created in Word and recreate the document as a web page. The software I use is reasonably priced commercial software and can be purchased by the client to maintain their own page if they want. Converting a page usually takes around an hour to an hour and a half.

An additional benefit to the client is the time from when they provide the material to the time the site goes live, which can be a matter of only days. One client provided their material on Tuesday morning, the web page was provided for review on Wednesday and changes were made. We organised a meeting for the Friday to set up the hosting (they already owned a domain), I then did the rest and they were live Friday afternoon. Their site appeared in Google in the first position when searching on their business name on Saturday night. I use some techniques which enables Google to quickly find sites and with some luck, usually provides the client with a very good position in Google. I say luck, but whilst the technique consistently works, I cannot control what Google may or may not do. As part of creating the page I also perform basic search engine optimisation (SEO) as part of the service, something others may charge hundreds of dollars for.

So in summary, if you’re thinking about a site to start your presence on the internet keep in mind it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can purchase an Australian domain for around $24 for two years and hosting for around $10 a month or less. If you don’t have the skills to set things up and don’t want to take the time to learn what you’d need to learn from the information provided on sites, a consultant like myself can assist you. I suggest to allow around an hour for registering the domain and setting up the hosting. If you need a page created and can create a document (most people are able to use Word to create a printed document they’d be happy to hand out to advertise their business) then you can have a web page created in one to two hours. You also don’t have to wait weeks or months as a site can be live within a matter of days. Keep in mind it also isn’t just about having a site. My approach often provides a strong presence on the internet, so make sure whoever you use can also give you a strong presence for your site to get you started without additional SEO costs.

Kelvin Eldridge
Helping small and micro businesses get started on the internet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Alert: Cloud service (Hotmail) experience of Barry Collins, editor for PC Pro

My Hotmail account had been hacked alright, but that was only the beginning of my problems.... Read More

When I read the above article on PC Pro it reinforced the message I am trying to pass on to others about using Cloud services, which appears to be largely ignored by consultants and the IT industry.

Most cloud services use an email address to log on to the services. As you use more services from the provider (such as Microsoft or Google) you continue to place more of your information on the internet. The standard approach to security on computers for years has been a username and password combination. Now with cloud services, when you use your email address, you are providing others with the first part of accessing your internet based data. All others now need to access your data and services is a password.

Now IT people will suggest strong passwords, and may even use strong passwords themselves, but I suspect most people will use relatively easy to remember passwords. If you run a business using cloud services for your staff, how are you making sure every one of those users is using a strong password. Chances are you aren’t. If people can change their own password, then in time there will be a lot of weaker passwords being used. With a recent list of published passwords I obtained from the internet, around 15% of users use a subset of just 100 passwords. That means potentially one in six of your users will be using an easy to hack password. You’ve provided the username as a public email address and human nature will do the rest.

When I reviewed Microsoft’s Cloud service (Office 365) I considered that making the email address public (there was no way to change this, in that when the first email is sent the username is known), was a serious limitation and as a result I wouldn’t actively promote Office 365 to clients. I consider the username you use to log on to cloud service, should not be your email address. Google’s service is only marginally better, but in general for me, still not good enough.

Before you start using cloud services to host your important data, think about the increased risk to yourself and your business. When the data is on your computer behind a local area network, it is still at risk. But once your data is on the internet the risk is much greater. Can you easily see if anyone is trying to access your data? The answer is generally no. If someone logs onto your account without your knowledge could you tell? Again the answer is generally no.

The article by Barry Collins is just one story of a cloud based user’s account being hacked. Had his account been hacked and simply been monitored without any spam being sent out, I’d be pretty confident Barry would never have been aware of his account being hacked. To me that is pretty scary. Then if you check how the one email address is now used across multiple services as the username is bad enough, that the one password is also used is a real concern.

I really appreciate that Barry shared his story so others can benefit from his experience. Before you put your important data on the internet you should do a risk analysis. In effect if someone hacks your account they could get access to all your online documents, correspondence you send to and receive from others, your entire contact list and possibly much more. What someone else could then do with that information is simply beyond our imagination and a considerable concern.

I work on the assumption that every online service has probably had a percentage of their users’ accounts hacked. One day that could be my account. The information I have stored online is very limited. I don’t store client information online. I don’t have most of my client’s email addresses or details online. I have a great deal of public content online, but otherwise most of my content is kept offline. There is still a degree of risk because even if my content is offline, I am still connected, but the risk in my opinion is much lower and in life, it is never possible to remove all risk, but it is good to minimise risk where possible.

If you’re considering using online or cloud based services, make sure you inform yourself as to the risks. Start by asking yourself what would happen if all the information you have online was made publicly available to everyone. What exposure would that mean to you? Consider legal risk, risk to your reputation, potential loss of customers, possible inconvenience and costs should your information become public. When you put your information online you increase your risk. Make sure you educate yourself as to what those risks could potentially be and are they offset by the use of the online service.

- Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for help with your computer problems.
No problem too small.

Microsoft releases fixed Office 2011 SP2 update for Apple Mac

Microsoft has released a fixed version of its Service Pack 2 update for Office 2011. The update was originally on April 12 and offered a number of improvements for Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client; however, soon after its release a number of people found that the update had caused corruption in their identity databases. This resulted in the suite's programs not opening correctly.... Read More

- Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for help with your computer problems.
No problem too small.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

MyAnswers: Error 404 displays advertising for the hosting company. How do I change?

The following MyAnswers solution 2215 is now available:

Error 404 displays advertising for the hosting company on my site. How do I get rid of the advertising?

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Microsoft pulls Office 2011 SP2 from AutoUpdate

Following problems with identity database corruption after installing the latest update, Microsoft has pulled the update from its automatic update service.... Read More

- Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for help with your computer problems.
No problem too small.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MyAnswers: Microsoft Word 2003 on Windows 7 prompts for licence every time.

The following MyAnswers solution 2214 is now available:

When I open Microsoft Word 2003 on my Windows 7 computer I am prompted to accept or decline the licence every time. How do I stop this happening?

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)

MyAnswers: All the icons on my Windows XP desktop have underlines under them.

The following MyAnswers solution 2213 is now available:

All the icons on my Windows XP desktop have underlines under them. How do I change this back so I can again double click on the icon?

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to calculate the payback on a solar panel

Solar panels are becoming cheaper and it is now possible to get a 12V solar panels for a very reasonable price. If you’d like to purchase solar panels and use 12V around your home to replace electricity provided by an electricity retailer it can now be done, but the question becomes, is it cost effective?

The technique I use is to plug in the purchase cost, wattage, peak hours of sunlight and current retailers electricity pricing into the Energy Cost Calculator which gives me who much I could potentially save per year. Then divide the savings by the original cost and you’ll get the number of years it takes to pay back the cost of the solar panel.

You should keep in mind the solar panel is just one component. You will also need wiring, a battery charging regulator and a battery (plus labour), if you wish to store energy for use when the sun isn’t shining.

There are times when using solar makes sense financially and then there are times when it is hard to justify. Using the Energy Cost Calculator is a good approach to helping you make a more informed decision.

Kelvin Eldridge  

Alert: Track Advice Article -

I received an email today which initially, I thought was possibly one of those scam emails we receive all the time. It was a plain text email with the usual links, no real branding, letting me know a delivery was about the arrive. The problem is, it was a legitimate email from Australia Post as a result of a purchase from an online retailer. The retailer uses Australia Post for warehousing and delivery. When people place an order with the online retailer they simply send of an email and Australia Post does the rest.

The problem I see is that as more people buy online we’ll become so used to receiving this type of notification. It only takes scammers a few minutes to create a fake email which looks exactly the same and could easily trick someone. A client of mine once opened such an email because they were expecting a delivery and infected their computer, so real experience shows it is happening.

To me there was no need for this email. I’d received an email at the time of ordering and the email had the link so I could check the progress of the delivery and already knew it was about to arrive. This type of email from Australia Post will only make it easier for people to be tricked an infect their computer or be scammed.

If you receive any unexpected email I suggest you don’t click on a link in the email. Go to the web site and enter in the details you need to, to get the information you want. The link in the email is only a convenience and that convenience is causing thousands of Australians to infect their computer with a resulting expensive repair bill.

Take care with unexpected emails.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

MyAnswers: Microsoft book disk to scan computer for malware.

The following MyAnswers solution 2212 is now available:

Microsoft has now made available a boot disk which enables you to boot and scan your computer for malware.

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)

NBN Co rollout plan map now available covering the next three years

A while ago I booked into the NBN Co for a tour of their demo facilities. I was the only person who turned up for the tour so I was given special treatment. For me that meant the ability to ask all the questions I wanted to ask so I could assist my clients with respect to the NBN rollout.

For me it is about knowing whether or not NBN is about to be rolled out to a particular area and how that couple affect a client. For example if a client is about to invest in new equipment to connect to the internet, it is a good idea to know if that equipment will be obsolete within the next twelve months.

One thing that I found very interesting was the thickness of the actual fibre optic cable. The cable is about the thickness of a match. Most of us won’t ever see the actual cable as we’ll see it enclosed in a protective sheath such as when it comes into our properties.

When ADSL first arrived I found many people would plug directly into their ISP’s connection with little to no protection from the internet and could easily infect their computer. I standardised on an approach which would provide clients with a better level of protection and greater flexibility. The same thing can happen with initial users of NBN’s service so it is a good idea to make sure you get professional advice to ensure you’re adequately protected and have the flexibility you require for your home or business needs.

The NBN for some now is just around the corner. If you’re considering moving to a different ISP, or purchasing new equipment, now is a good time to pause and consider your options.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One page web sites for local businesses.

Over the years I’ve been amazed that local businesses often don’t have a presence as simple as a one page web site. I suspect the main reason is if they approach a web designer they’ll often be quote hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, when to get started it can cost much less.

To put this in context, all a small business generally requires is one new customer, or keep an existing customer from going elsewhere and their web presence can pay for itself.

Many times when I’ve wanted to buy take away for family or friends, the only menus we can find online are the big companies, yet most of the time we use the smaller local businesses for ourselves. I’ve done some testing over the years and small take-away businesses can get a reasonable amount of business by having their menu online. At worst they don’t lose potential business from good customers when the customers need to see a menu online.

To show local businesses the value of promoting themselves online I’ve now sponsored a number of local business to provide them with an online presence. They are the businesses I use so now they’ll gain my business when I need an online menu.


Flying Dragon Chinese Restaurant, Papa Loui's Pizza and Pasta, Bolton Fish Shop, Panic Pizza Doncaster East, Middle Camberwell Fish and Chips

If you own a small business and would like to have your menu online for your customers, but don’t want to pay a small fortune, then send me an email. The way I set up a small business is I create a one page site with their menu and then help them sign up for hosting and registering their domain, By getting the business to register domain and sign up for hosting they retain total control which is a strategy in business. Most web design businesses tie businesses in so if they want anything done, they have to go back to the designer to get expensive changes done. My approach is to have businesses use me if they want to, but because they have total control over their site, they can easily have someone else, including a family member or friend, look after their site. No lock in means businesses use my services because they want to, not because they have to.

Kelvin Eldridge
Helping micro and small businesses with a cost effective online presence.

Alert: Apple Store - 100 AU$ credit, Apple Store - BONUS OFFER

I noticed a couple of emails pretending to be from Apple today offering $100 credit for $9. I hope that at this stage people realise these aren’t real offers. In the past I’ve noticed scams targeted at Apple users get a large amount of traffic, most likely because Apple users aren’t used to being targeted. With Apple now having a much larger user base, even compared with just a year ago, Apple users are now being more actively targeted.

You should discard any such offers. The rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t, applies very much in this case.

Whilst in this case of these emails are poorly formed and writing the dollar value as 9 $AU, is something we’d never use in Australia, good fakes are very easy to create and can easily trick people. One email contained a htm attachment as a form. I’ve not seen any business use such an approach, but only scammers. The other provided a link to a site and it was obvious from checking the link, it was not an Apple site.

The bottom line is trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel quite right don’t click on it. Delete the email. Most people say to me they thought something didn’t feel right just before they infected their computer, but still went ahead. Their gut instinct could have saved them a couple of hundred dollars in support costs cleaning up their computer and also much grief.

If you are in doubt about an email then consider having it checked out by a computer professional if it really interests you. For example I charge clients in intervals of one tenth of an hour and an email can easily be checked in that time to determine it isn’t legit. You could also contact the company sending the offer (not by responding to the email) and if it is legitimate, they’ll let you know. Of course the answer most times will be it isn’t legitimate.

Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Apple Mac Flashback botnet malware infection

The Myth of Apple Mac computers not being infected by malware has now well and truly been busted. The Flashback botnet, has according to reports in the media, infected around 600,000 Mac computers, with an estimated 30,000 being in Australia.

The Flashback botnet only requires a Mac user with Java installed to visit an infected site to infect their computer. You can read more information on the CNET site.

I don’t currently provide Mac support, so should you find you’ve infected your computer, you may need to contact a Mac support person. I believe a patch is available so you should perform any updates available for your Mac computer.

A number of suggestions are: apply any updates available, install antivirus/malware software on your Mac, if you don’t need Java on your computer think about removing the software, if you wish to keep Java installed, consider disabling Java in your browser.

I hope this information helps those using Mac computers.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 if you require help with your computer.

Servicing Doncaster, Templestowe, Eltham and the surrounding area.

MozillaFirefox - Client feedback requested

One thing I've noticed providing support to clients, is most clients using Mozilla's Firefox browser have had their search engine hijacked and aren't aware.

This became quite apparent helping one client recently. She typed into the search field, "print boarding pass virgin" and didn't get the results expected. I then suggested she use Internet Explorer and she obtained the site she wanted immediately. The problem was her Firefox browser search engine had been hijacked.

Generally I recommend clients use Internet Explorer, but there is one situation where Firefox is better than Internet Explorer and that is you can install an Australian English spellcheck dictionary. I previously stopped supporting Firefox because the project instead of contributing to the dictionary I created, took a copy, forked it and changed the licence. I particularly did not appreciate the change of licence which was against my wishes. If open source projects contributed back to others rather than just taking from other projects, all the projects would grow. Instead my work was withdrawn and users ended up with a fork which had been incorrectly modified giving users a lower quality dictionary.

Because some clients like to use Firefox, if there is sufficient interest from clients I'll make the version of the Australian English spellcheck dictionary for Firefox and Thunderbird available again.

Clients please contact me via email with your feedback.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 if you require help with your computer.
No problem too small.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The credit card linked to your T-Suite(R) account is due to expire

I received an email yesterday which was unexpected and perhaps a bit disturbing. The email is from Telstra and is advising me the credit card I use is expiring. My first thought was this may be the usual scam attempt.

The email was unexpected because I don’t have any services currently with Telstra that require a credit card, and the service I use is a prepaid 3G wireless hotspot, which has nothing to do with T-Suite. I pay as I go so I don’t expect the credit card details to be kept on the system after the transaction.

I find this disturbing because I did use the Microsoft’s Office 365 mid last year, a service provided by Telstra in Australia. I cancelled the service in September so I have no service with Telstra, but they have still retained my credit card details in their systems. Should Telstra servers be hacked I would have had no idea they were retaining my credit card details in their systems.

For Telstra this shows a flaw in their systems where they’re notifying me of an expiring credit card where there is no service being used, for a service which was cancelled over six months ago.

This also raises the question as to how many other companies are also storing credit card details after you cancel a service. With sites regularly being reported where credit cards are being compromised, including this week in the States, it is a concern that companies are storing credit card details after a service has been cancelled.

It is a good idea to minimise the number of companies you provide your credit details to where they will regularly use your credit card. In this day and age it is very difficult not to provide your card details to companies, but where there is a payment option where you are in control, it may be a good idea to use that payment option rather than giving another company control over your credit card.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 if you require computer support.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham and the surrounding area.

Doncaster East ADSL broadband support

One thing I’m promoting to residents and local businesses in Templestowe, Templestowe Lower, Doncaster, Doncaster East, Lower Plenty, Montmorency and Eltham, is the advantage of dealing with a local computer support business.

Because I’m local and don’t charge a call-out fee, travel time, or a minimum fee, the only cost is the time to fix the problem.

One example is a restaurant in Doncaster East had Telstra repair a telephone point which ceased to work. The point was repositioned in another location, but the repair person didn’t know how to set up the broadband correctly for the business. The business called me in and I set the wiring up correctly, checked that all their devices worked correctly,  including access to their Wi-Fi service.

The cost was $33 for a quarter of an hour’s work. Normally people could expect to pay much more for such a service.

Not all local businesses work this way, but it is the way I work. I once went to use a local business in Eltham to repair my garage door. Their call-out fee was the same whether I lived in neighbouring Templestowe, or lived in Werribee. To me that doesn’t encourage people to use a local business.

I’d like to encourage other local businesses to reconsider their call-out charges. It should be more cost effective to use a local business than calling out a business from the other side of the city.

By not having a call-out fee, travel time, or a minimum fee, in effect I’m now as cost effective as having a person onsite, but only being paying for their services when required.

If you have a computer related problem give me a call on 0415 910 703.


Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 if you have a computer related problem.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham and the surrounding areas.

Alert: Android tablet buyers wanting to use Adobe Flash.

One of the benefits of Android tablets I see promoted on television is the ability to view Adobe Flash content. Many sites are designed using Flash to display high quality images. One example of such a site is the Monkey Mia site where a serious of pictures are displayed showing the beautiful scenery at Monkey Mia.

The Apple iPad, iPhone and Touch devices don’t support Flash and that was Apple’s design decision, but Android tablet devices are being promoted on TV as supporting Flash. The problem is the Android 3.2 operating system used on tablets does support Flash, but if you upgrade to Android 4 you’ll lose Flash support. Adobe have stated they’re no longer supporting Flash on mobile devices.

If you’re considering buying an Android tablet because it supports Flash then you should reconsider. I’ve now upgraded my Acer tablet from Android 3.2 to Android 4. Previously I was able to view the Flash content on pages and now I can’t. Others will have the same experience.

I found Android 3.2 to be quite a flaky operating system and Android 4 is a significant improvement. In fact I found Android 3.2 to be so bad I really couldn’t be bothered using the Acer tablet. I waited until Android 4 was available and upgraded as soon as I could and the tablet has now become useful. I still find Android 4 to be flaky at times, but at least now the tablet gets some use.

To me it is a real shame Adobe are no longer supporting Flash on mobile devices and in particular tablets. The cost to businesses to develop their Flash based sites in many cases would have been thousands of dollars. Now if site owners want mobile users to view their sites, the businesses will need to have their sites redeveloped at considerable cost.

If you’re considering a tablet and Flash support is part of that consideration, then you should factor in that Flash support most likely won’t be available.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham and surrounding areas.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

World Backup Day - Free backup scripts for clients

World Backup Day has come and gone (March 31st), but it is still a good reminder that everyone should review their information on their computer and determine a backup strategy.

As I visit clients I also assist clients by sharing the backup tool I use. I wrote the backup tool because I couldn't find a simple tool that did what I wanted. Now I can backup very easily and have peace of mind I have copies of my data.

The backup tool I use is available free to all clients. Contact me for the web site address where you create your backup scripts. The site contains instructions on how to use the tool. If you need assistance with your backup, I'm also available to help.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 if you require help with your computer.
No problem too small.