Saturday, July 25, 2015

What devices will Apple iOS 9 support?

It's fairly handy to know when the new version of iOS is released by Apple, the devices that will still be supported. The following is from a slide shown at the recent Apple WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) held on June 15, 2015.

Apple if I recall correctly, stated all devices support under iOS 8 will continue to be supported under iOS 9.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Perhaps it's time to turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth since so many groups are now tracking us.

I found an article from sometime ago as I wanted to read the article when I had time. When you go out with your mobile phone your mobile is attempting to connect to other devices if you leave Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled.

Now here's where you should keep in mind, when your device is trying to connect to other devices that means the other devices are trying to connect your device. Your device has a unique number which means whilst you aren't personally identifiable by name, your device you're carry is uniquely identifiable. Use your credit card which has your name and later that information can be collated. Remember those questions as to what is your postcode. I read that was to allow the names to be matched to locations. Who would have guessed.

In theory a person with access to the right technology can record the movements of people. When they leave home, when they return. The more others know about you the more you increase your own risk. How that information is used we don't generally know.

At it's simplest we're probably now paying more for products and services than we need to, based on the information we provide others. Here's a post I wrote a while ago showing how some people are being offered less than others through the Flybuys discount offers. Those spending more are getting an offer that percentage wise isn't as good as those spending less. Online I've seen super specials in ads that are tracking me that aren't as good as I can get offline. In one case for travel insurance up to 50% more. In another example an overseas government used the information collected by people's own GPS devices to determine where they sped and thus increased the number of people they could book. Their own information ended up being used against them.

I don't know how or if this information being collected is disadvantaging us in some way. I'm sure in time we'll find out. For now though perhaps it's a good idea to turn off features such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth whilst you're out and about, and don't need to use them. On an Apple iPhone swipe up from the bottom and you can quickly turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There will be a similar technique for Android devices.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Google Chrome to provide updates for Windows XP computers through to the end of 2105.

Google stated in 2014 they'd continue to support Google Chrome on Windows XP even though Microsoft had stopped supporting Windows XP users. That's a very good strategic move on the part of Google, and very handy for Windows XP users who don't feel they need to, or want to move at that point in time.

That commitment was for a year if I recall correctly. Google in the following post has made the commitment to continue to support Google Chrome on Windows XP through to the end of the year.

Again this makes sense. In 2014 there were around 300 million users. That's more users than Firefox had at that point, and for Google to be the default search in Firefox cost Google hundreds of millions of dollars of money actually paid out. To support Windows XP and become the preferred browser cost them nothing except their development time. In addition people get used to Google Chrome and the support they receive from Google when Microsoft effectively dumped them. That's generated loyalty that will be hard for Microsoft to overcome. I'm not fan of Google, but even I recommend Windows XP users switch to Google Chrome.

I estimate there's still around 180 million Windows XP users. However at some point Google will no longer see merit in supporting Windows XP. I don't know when that will be, but Google is about numbers and advertising. At a guess we probably can expect Google to stop supporting Windows XP when the numbers drop below 100 million, which will probably be within the next year.

For the moment however, those using Windows XP can feel comfort knowing they'll be supported if they use Google Chrome.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Fanboy get tickets using Apple watch in the USA. Could it happen here?

This article is a reminder to make sure you understand the road rules in Australia. Whilst a lot of people will say it is ridiculous to fine someone for using the Apple watch, it's important to read and understand the road rules. I'm not a legal person, but given the wording in Victoria includes the words "visual displays", it could be very easy to be booked.

Here's a link to the VicRoads page which I feel is relevant.

To me the important paragraph is the following.

All drivers face tough penalties for illegal use of a mobile phone or interacting with other units that have visual displays while driving (e.g. DVD players or tablet computers) that are not driver's aids.

An Apple watch is a visual display device. You may not like it, but if you get caught using a visual display device you may find it tough to contest.

Do take care on the roads. Whether we think laws are right or wrong that doesn't help you if you get fined. If you hurt yourself or others whilst driving, that doesn't help anyone.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Google maps location history shows where you've been.

OK. Now I'm not exactly a person that appreciates being tracked. I know tracking is occurring all the time, but most of us are unaware of just how much we're being tracked. I'm sure as I type this post, where I am is being recorded. That's part of the information that is simply known when you use the internet, but whether it is recorded or not, only those recording the information will often be aware and as users we're generally not.

I just read an article which said you can now check your Google maps tracking history. I have my tracking history turned off, (happy to see that) so I couldn't see anything. If you'd like to check out this feature of Google maps visit

For those who prefer not to be tracked, there's a couple of things you can do to minimise the information you provide.

First turn off location services in your devices. Only enable the services when you need them. I'd also suggest that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can be used to track you.

Log out of online services when you're not using them. Yes it's really convenient to always be logged into Google and Facebook type services, but being logged on means you're activity is being logged. As you move from office to home, where you are and when you're there can be logged.

Whilst I'm not sure it makes any real difference, I tend to split my use over multiple services. For example sometimes I'll use Apple maps and at other times I'll use Google maps. Yes, it's a bit silly, but it gives me a small feeling of comfort not all my data is going to one single major supplier.

Keep in mind I'm not a hacker or security boffin. Think of me as an experienced computer person. Those who specialise in these areas will know far more than I'll ever know. However it doesn't take much effort to be curious and find out more than most people know. For example here is an article on the information that can be seen on an unsecured public hotspot.

If you recall, Google got into trouble for recording data when it scanned the Wi-Fi access points whilst mapping roads. Google knows my IP address because it's the same each time I connect to the internet. It most likely knows my access point's location. If I use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and if my access point information is provided, then I can be located. I don't know if this is happening, but Google has enough information to put data together which I think could pretty well locate me. Opening Google maps on my MacBook Air shows the map centred perhaps east of where I am by less than a kilometre. I'm using the broadband services of an ISP which means the address is fixed. My address is available through a variety of sources. I'm currently logged on by name in a Google service. Google knows where I am and the time I'm there. Google isn't the only business that has this type of information available.

Now often people say what does it matter. I'm not doing anything wrong. That's true. However my response is, roughly 10% of people aren't as straight as the rest of us. Those 10% work in companies, government organisations, telcos, even search and social media companies. Your information can get into the hands of good people as well as bad. Keep in mind the high profile leaks that we've seen that have embarrassed governments around the world. Often that information was leaked by trusted staff.

If being tracked concerns you then you may wish to take some steps to minimise your ability to be tracked. You can't stop it just as you can't stop your neighbour from seeing you come and go. But with a little effort you may be able to reduce how much information is collected on you. I'm not really sure though that you can make that much difference given the huge volume of data now being recorded on each of us. Still it doesn't hurt to try.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Java update may change your default search engine in Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to Yahoo.

If you think your default search engine has changed without you realising it, there's a good chance it has.

For some less technical clients I've set up their default search to use one of the options available on the Fun With Search page I created. These search definitions display an icon which is a white J on a blue background indicating JustLocal. If the icon changes the user knows their search engine default has been changed. These definitions link direct to the search engine.

Last year I read Yahoo had done a deal with Firefox in the USA to be the default search engine, so updating Firefox will change the default search engine if you're in the USA. I'm not sure if this applies to Australia as well.

In the following article we see Yahoo and Oracle have done a deal so that when you update Java, the default search engine gets changed. I'm not a fan of this strategy as it creates confusion for the user. In effect it's a bit rude of one piece of software to change the defaults of another, but I suppose that's business.

The article also mentions Yahoo is angling to be the default search engine for Apple Safari later in the year.

With malware, scammers and a whole range of software targeting the default search engine for browsers, one of the most common observations I make with users' computers is their browser search has been hijacked without their knowledge. The legitimate companies are using the same tactics to gain market share which is a pity. This really isn't the type of behaviour you should see from the industry leaders. I suppose the chase for the mighty dollar often is in conflict with the users' own interests.

If you haven't lately, perhaps now is a good time to check the default search engine you're using. A good test is to type in the word 'test' (without the quotes) into the address or search area and see which company displays the search results. Look carefully as some of the nefarious ones try to look like the well known search companies, but there clues you can see. I think many people will be quite surprised.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Office 365 prices look like they're set to increase on the 1st of August.

When I talk to clients about Office 365 we always discuss the rent versus buy option. I don't sell software but it is important to clients to know their options. Regularly I see clients still using Office 2007 and a few using even older software. If you've had Office 2007 then you've been using the software for 7-8 years and that's great value for money.

When you consider renting, subscribing, or whatever they choose to call it, you need to keep in mind it's a yearly amount that doesn't stop because let's face it, if you stop paying you can't edit your files.

I used to think the break-even point was around two and a half years, but then I realised Microsoft charges you from day one and the first renewal is in 12 months. After two years you've more than likely paid more for your software than you used to.

I tend to think the real pain point will come not at the start, or whilst you're paying for the software, but when you decide you no longer need to use the software. It will be at that point you'll feel very much locked in.

The article is a reminder of just how easy it is for prices to be increased once you have your audience locked in.

I often wonder how many businesses could still be using Office 2003/Windows XP if it was still supported. I've seen government departments and corporates still using older software. Eventually they'll have to move on but gee, they've certainly got value out of their software and hardware.

In the end it really is simply a financial decision. Do your numbers and decide what's best for you now and in the future.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 

Internet Explorer versions reaching end-of-life on January 12, 2106.

Most users keep their Internet Explorer up to date and install the latest version. However for those who haven't moved to the latest versions, this quite old page on the Microsoft site is a good reminder.

On the 12th of January 2016, only Internet Explorer 9 on Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update will receive updates. Since the prior versions of Internet Explorer won't receive updates they should be consider security exposes.

You also have the choice of using a different browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox and the lesser used Opera browser.

Microsoft's strategy appears to be to push people off older versions of software (E.g. Windows XP, Internet Explorer) with the aim of them taking up newer software from Microsoft. From what I'm seeing in my logs this strategy has significantly impacted Microsoft.  Google wisely decided to support roughly 300 million Windows XP users that were abandoned by Microsoft and that appears to be have good for Google.

According to the Netmarketshare site Internet Explorer (all versions) has around 53% market share and Google Chrome around 26%. My own logs which are for 80% Australian users shows Google well ahead of Microsoft. Perhaps it's just what my sites focus on, or it could be we have a different profile to overseas users. For my dictionary site Internet Explorer is 29% and for my Petrol Cost Calculator (which has roughly half mobile users) Internet Explorer is only used by 12% of visitors. Google Chrome is 37% and 42% respectively for my sites.

The reason for sharing these stats is to show many people are making the decision to move to Google Chrome. If Microsoft stops providing support, we at least have alternatives at this point in time.

More importantly though, this post is about making sure if you decide to keep using Internet Explorer, then make sure you're using the latest version that is supported.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Liuns Torvalds uses Gmail for his email. Now that's something I didn't expect read.

When I saw the following article it really was unexpected. From the media we get the impression there's an ongoing battle between open source and commercial software. Linux is probably one of, it not the most successful open source project.

From the media you get the impression diehard open source people would never consider anything commerical. Yet here we are. Possibly the most well known leader in open source using Gmail for their mail service. Not just a commercial service using proprietary software, but one that's based on delivering ads.

I never really expected to see anyone who is a core part of the open source movement not using anything but open source software for their day-to-day needs.

It does however make good business sense. Don't get hung up on whether software is commercial or open source. Focus on your business needs and the software that helps you best meet your objectives. If the open source movement does, then it makes sense you should too.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Microsoft Security Essentials should now be considered end of life for Windows XP users.

For those who decided to keep using Windows XP after April 8th 2014, if they had Microsoft Security Essentials installed they would continue to receive updates I believe. I found the nag screen confused users and suggested they moved to an alternate supported anti-virus product.

This article linked to below isn't particularly clear, but from it I think we can infer Microsoft Security Essentials and the Malicious Software Removal Tool are no longer useful.

If you are still using Windows XP, it's a good time to move to one of the other free anti-virus programs.

As a side note, if you're using Internet Explorer 8, think about using Google Chrome as it is still currently supported under Windows XP.

Eventually you'll probably have no choice but to move as support for other software finishes. There's still roughly 180 million users, but at some point, like all previous version of Windows, the day will come.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Getting positive feedback from clients is always a rewarding experience.

Last night I received this in an email from one of my dictionary users. I always try to assist clients as best I can, so it does feel good to receive such feedback.
If you do find service from a supplier exceptional, it doesn't hurt to let them know. I can say it really does make a difference and is really appreciated. Thank you to the gentleman for taking the time.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Facebook offers to scan users computer using Kaspersky (ESET, Trend Micro, F-Secure).

I read on the internet one user got a block from Facebook when they went to share photographs from a their photography site to their profile. I'd not heard of this before so decided to investigate.

From what I can see, on the 24th of June 2015 Facebook announced an arrangement with Kaspersky to add Kaspersky to their existing list of anti-malware companies (ESET in December 2014, Trend Micro and F-Secure in May 2014).

According to the information provided Facebook, is identifying suspicious behaviour from a computer and is then suggesting the download and running of an anti-malware scanner. Exactly what that suspicious behaviour is, isn't stated. However it does appear that some people may not be able to use Facebook until they perform the download.

Exactly what the deal is between the software firms and Facebook isn't stated. This could simply be free promotion for the companies. It may also be some form of commission on sales arrangement, or straight payment to Facebook. Of course it may also be a payment from Facebook to the software companies. It would be good to know the arrangement as that helps to determine the motivation for the arrangement.

I've tested all of the currently suggested anti-malware software except for F-Secure, and feel this software often doesn't detect malware. If you do get a signal from Facebook, and assuming it is legitimate, it may be worthwhile to perform a full scan of your computer using additional products, or have a computer support person with the appropriate skills check your computer.

The one question on my mind is what are the signals that Facebook is receiving. Facebook state if "even if the malware isn't actively spreading spam or harmful links.", which to me may mean they aren't detecting that type of malware activity. From the posts I've read some activity may be normal activity of users. It may also be possible people are linking to sites that Facebook has identified as infected, but the example which started this investigation was from a person's computer (which the scan showed as clean) with photos from their site that didn't appear to be infected. If may be the headers in the browser agent shows the browser is, or has been hijacked and Facebook could detect that signal.

In the end this could just as easily be a Facebook upsell. Without further information on what the suspicious signals are, it is not possible to determine. I did read one person on scanning their computer found malware, but from my experience, in some cases, up to one in ten people have malware of some type on their computer even though they have anti-malware software installed.  This experience is from migrating people from one anti-malware software package to another across multiple companies.

If you do get this message from Facebook, perform the scan, but then do additional scans.

Also be careful. Since Facebook is now know to do these scans, it is possible the scammers may use this as an attack vector to trick people to install malware. Make sure you're 100% confident the software you are installing is from Facebook.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.