Quick Bytes News – January 2017

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Spammed Again?

 

To me SPAM is a response to success, and rather as in nature the  success I mention is like that of when a successful system becomes established that enables a species to improve on their prospects.

And then WHAM along comes the inevitable parasite specie that feeds off it somehow … evolution or just a pain where its not wanted!

So the parasitised specie has to develop a protective response or be consumed into oblivion, such is the way of these things it seems.

Now, to get to why this is relevant.

 

Along came email and enabled millions to communicate rapidly and en-masse to each other and naturally along came scamsters, thieves, bullies etc with their SPAM.

The imuno-response by the email system was to introduce Spam filters which work … mostly … but inevitably some ‘friendly fire’ casualties do happen which is the legitimate emails sent to you that are mistakenly trapped in your recipients spam trap. Often they don’t check to see if its there and so remain unaware that they have missed your email. Luckily this is a relatively rare event in the big picture but sometimes it might matter to see an email that is trapped.

 

So what can you do?

Google Mail (Gmail) has a long established reputation for having an effective spam trap that at times can be over zealous in its efforts. I show this email provider as my example because it is a very prominent player.

So if you know of senders to your Gmail mailbox who’s emails you would be particularly interested in seeing reliably then you can take a few simple pro-active steps to ensure you always allow through emails from that sender.

It goes like this;

Log into your Gmail account using your web browser (Edge, Firefox, Chrome, IceDragon etc)

Click on the ‘Show Search” options (a downward-pointing triangle in your Gmail’s Search field box.

Find the persons email address that you want to allow in your White list under the “From” listing.
Now select it to add it.

Multiple Selections
You do not have to create a separate filter for each address.
Separate addresses with an ‘|’ character in the “From” field instead.
Example:- To whitelist both “jenny@example.com” and Jelani@example.com”, enter “jenny@example.com|jelani@example.com”

To White List an entire Domain.

To whitelist an entire domain (all mail from an address ending in “aboutguide.com”, for example), type only the domain name or the domain name preceded by the ‘@’ character.

e.g. To whitelist “aboutguide.com”, type “@aboutguide.com” (not including the quotation marks).

Follow the Create filter with this search ›› link at the bottom of the search sheet.

Finally –  Do ensure the “Never send it to Spam” option is checked.

Now click “Create Filter”

DONE.

Naturally there are many other email providers who’s systems also allow you to establish a WhiteList similarly. All you need to do to find out how to do this for your particular one is to do a web search using the words …

“How to Whitelist a Sender or Domain in < e.g.Yahoo mail etc>”  (exclude the quote marks and squared brackets)

Obviously this only will work when your email recipients take these steps to help your emails to reach them, you cannot do it for them so please do feel free to send this article to them and just to ensure they do see it maybe phone or text them to say you have sent it so its not lost in their ‘Spam’ folder.

The link to reach it is:-    https://itsupportstroud.site/2017/01/05/quick-bytes-news-january-2017/   (copy paste it into your text or email to them)


vlc

Play it Again – VLC!

VLC is an abbreviation of  VideoLAN Client and this often unsung and free little hero application that has been around for a very long time and constantly improved with new features that are actually useful. And it is available on every operating system worth mention including smartphone OS’s!

It is from the ‘Open Sourced’ community of programme developers and these people have a long deserved reputation for producing software which is needed and useful, which in my view makes a nice alternative from the unnecessary feature-trivial, obese bloat-ware of paid vendors.

A useful short article on VLC’s many good uses is here

I have used it for years and must admit I didn’t know them all! Mostly I use it for listening to Radio Caroline or Classic Rock online radio stations, what are your choices of favourite music?

To download it I recommend getting it only from its original source as adware packed copies have been known to exist from those ‘downloads’ websites who make money by bundling up good software with their sponsors junkware.

You can Download VLC from here


mint

Linux Mint – Fast, Free to use, and much like Windows 7

 

Linux Mint is really proving itself these days!

And just like the VLC player above it is made and supported by an ‘Open Source’ community of programmers and so its provided free to use!

I have been testing it and trying out procedures on it to see how easily it could be used in substitute of Windows 7 which as you may know has nearly 3 more years of updates available from Microsoft remaining.

So its not panic time yet by far but unless you are happy to use the tiled and over colourfully activated  ‘App Happy’ desktop of Windows 8.x or 10 (which I see as like using an interface built by Fisher Price for kids!) then take a look at Linux Mint.

By comparison you can have a sensible attractive interface that has the , square and X placed in the top right of all windows just like in Windows 7. It also has a start button and programme listing that makes sense and is not trying to flog you junk and games when trying to use it!

Mint comes preloaded with the Firefox browser, LibreOffice (like MS Office and works with its data files), Thunderbird email client and the other useful apps for Video, Audio and more and you can add more applications yourself through its own Software Manager interface.

Try before you Jump!

And you don’t have to jump entirely into it unprepared either, it can run well in a Virtual Machine that runs inside Windows and so you can try it out and become confident using it before you need to make the change over. I use Oracle VirtualBox and guess what! That is free as well!

You can see more about Linux Mint here


And finally I use this opportunity to mention that I can also work on your telephone wiring to add a new extension or maybe to tidy it up or remove old wiring. I can also work with network cabling perhaps to help those of you unnerved by the concerning views of WiFi health  effects and Lloyds of London refusing to insure against them. (see point No 6 here)

I can provide guidance and solutions to mitigate your exposure to WiFi as best as possible, please do ask.

 

Happy New Year

 

Greg

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Quick Bytes News – Autumn Edition

Greetings to you all

The undeclared and yet obvious evidence on trees everywhere on this sunny day is that Autumn has at last arrived. A little late and now a bit chilly but at least its here and so Westonbirt Arboretum will be happier that their gates will soon be frequented by tree and leaf spotters en-masse! (or for brexiteers, ‘by the bundle mate‘).

Another interesting arrival which I have yet to watch my way fully through is another  fascinating new documentary of epic length  (3 hours) by Adam Curtis which is now on BBC iPlayer named HyperNormalisation. So far I’ve only seen 20 minutes of it but in that small part I am already hooked on it! If its half as good as Adam Curtis’s last documentary Bitter Lake it will be fascinating. I will give the link to it at the bottom of this QBN post.

These days reality has become bigger than fiction across politics as we witness daily with the US elections pit dogfight, and our own rather ‘different’ pre brexit, shape shifted government, so nothing surprises me now (though Adam Curtis may change that).

So how can we be safer and sleep better in this concerning world?


a-typical-picture
Take Five Campaign

I discovered TakeFive during a visit to my local building society and picked up a leaflet showing this very helpful resource which has a wealth of Video and other written downloadable materials on it. These offer very sound and easy to understand advice on how to spot and avoid fraud. You can watch their short introductory video here

The TakeFive website is friendly and easy to navigate and can be found here

So please do follow their guidance and perhaps share it with other family members who might also benefit from it.


a-typical-picture
WiFi Hot Spot Advice

Although this website is written for an American audience the technology is essentially the same and so I have included it.

WiFi is everywhere now and because many people walk around with a portable pad, laptop or smartphone and they like to use the internet on these wherever they are, its now important to draw attention to using these devices with a better degree of security than is offered by many WiFi hot spots in metropolitan areas.

Not all are properly secured with WPA2 encryption and so another person could intercept data between your device and the router and so possibly raid your privacy, or worse!

Their website article is here


But all may not be completely safe at home or office if you use one of these WiFi Extenders ….

a-typical-picture

From an article by ISP Review “The network security gurus at Pen Test Partners have warned owners of BT’s Wi-Fi Extender 300 (Broadband Extender 300 Kit) adapters to update its firmware after they uncovered a string of vulnerabilities that could result in your home WiFi network password being leaked. The 300 series WiFi extenders are single band (2.4GHz) 802.11n spec devices that offer a headline maximum wireless network speed of 300Mbps (150Mbps in 20MHz mode and 300Mbps in 40MHz mode) and as such they’ve largely been superseded by the dual-band 600 and faster series. Never the less you can still buy them for only £19.99 a pop.”………

So do beware of these devices, the full details of the models involved are here and the good news is that BT have issued a firmware fix to close the vulnerability which is mentioned at the base of the ISP Review web page.


ZZZzzzzz …

And finally – a ‘did you know’ question that is topical as we now have the lights on more until next Equinox. ‘Did you know that bright lights are wrecking your sleep  and possibly also your health?’

According to this article from HowToGeek our devices are too bright and we look at them too late into the evenings for quality sleep to be guaranteed!  In it is written “to break all the research down into a single sentiment: We’re happiest and healthiest when we experience crisp blue-white light in the morning and afternoon, dimmer and warmer light in the evening, and sleep in a truly dark room.”

As you would expect there are technical fixes for the various portable devices suggested here and if you like, even special glasses but I guess that the real fix is to know when to obey natural instincts and let your body simply relax!

Sleep well!


TTFN

I hope you found this issue of QBN helpful and informative and if you would like to discuss any articles in it or seek any additional help from me, then please do call, I love a chat!

PCT Door Magnet

btw – the Adam Curtiss documentary I mentioned earlier, that might keep me up too late if I fail to watch the clock is viewable for free from the BBC here

Greg

Quick Bytes – Summer Holiday Edition

Greetings To All

I hope that those of you who have taken a work break enjoyed it or are still doing so if sat inside somewhere waiting for the rain/hail storm or associated winds to abate ( otherwise why would you be reading this when on holiday?).

Certainly this summer is proving that weather cannot be relied on to follow any previous ‘norms’ any more (probably our own collective fault but I won’t dwell on that obvious point right now).

For those of you yet to escape from ‘your norm’ I wish you happy journeys and suitable accomodation and weather!

In this edition I will cover considerations that affect both PC’s & Macs.

 

email – Changes to be aware of

In recent months many email providers have set out to achieve better security for customers by pro actively snaring that lousy spam that we all hate and also stopping as best as they can the more dangerous ‘spear phishing’ offerings from scammers and crooks who target us more efficiently than before.

Certainly I have received more of those emails recently myself in common with many and the danger was first in the zip file attachment on earlier ones, and more recently in a hyperlink in the message body. So what can be done as the crooks get smarter?

The first thing is to be aware of is any dodgy wording styles you see in any email you recieve, even one purporting to come from a known contact because until all email providers have caught up with these changes to their systems its still possible to spoof an email to fool the recipient by disguising the senders real email address. (see DKIM & SPF below)

Next is to beware of zip file attachments. My previous anti virus didn’t alert me to the attachments by snaring them, but because I am naturally cautious I didn’t open them. The rogue emails were from people I didn’t know and each one had a differennt email domain source, very suspicious! So I only I saved them to my Desktop and, because I doubted the ‘Clean’ report that came from my now previous anti virus (Panda) and (surprisingly) my anti malware (Malwarebytes), I posted it them up to virustotal where it lit up all over the screen as dangerous!

Its not good that many well known AV vendors also didn’t see the danger! So now I use one that did see it, Kaspersky (subscription), though BitDefender would have done if I didn’t find its console irritating. Those weren’t the only 2 that caught it but they are the ones I am more familiar with.

So unless you are very confident, your best friend is still Suspicion and its best pal, Caution.


SPF & DKIM

Though this might appear like a 1980’s pop queen duo its a lot less pretty but for reasons I mentioned above, its now much more necessary and will affect your outbound emails being successfully received so do read on.

SPF & DKIM are each little records that need to be added to your email domains DNS  settings so that when you send an email  from any other source than your own registered email domain, it will carry the necessary credentials to get through the ever tighter mail gateways of the recipient’s email service. Otherwise it may be dumped in the spam skip or simply ‘dropped’ by the server because the address of the sender system differs from the one the email is usually sent from.One of many mass send email online platforms is MailChimp and as an example they have offer this advice  …

“DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, and takes effect if an email fails certain types of authentication. DMARC policies benefit the email community as a whole because they help prevent phishing, spoofing, and the delivery of fraudulent emails. However, strict DMARC policies can sometimes misidentify your legitimate marketing emails as fraudulent and reject them.”

They add … “To improve deliverability, we encourage you to use a From email address at a domain owned by you or your organization, like firstname.lastname@mycompany.com. Not only will this help avoid delivery issues, it can help your subscribers recognize your brand. ” source http://kb.mailchimp.com/accounts/email-authentication/about-dmarc

As the web page shows the approach to DMARC when using a free email provider or a registered  email domain diffe,r so an enlightened approach is needed. But its worth getting yours set up before too many of your emails become lost.


Time is up and I must leave NOW, but Windows wants to Update!

We all realise a little late that we must stop working on our laptops and because time deliberately accelerates when we least want it to, we have to move on promptly. Perhaps because we need to make it to an appointment, catch a train or bus or because the partners birthday party begins in less than 1 hour but Windows then freezes us to the spot by forcing us to wait for updates to complete! The tension and self recrimination wheels can begin turning which might spoil your next meeting experience unless …. you do this.

  • Click on any empty area of the desktop or pressing Windows+D on your keyboard. Then, press Alt+F4 to access the Shut Down Windows dialog box.
  • To shut down without installing updates, select “Shut down” from the drop-down list.

For those of you wanting to be geeky you could add the following line to a batch file you save on your desktop and run it when the need arises.

shutdown -s -t 0


Mac’s & Viruses / Malware

Before the current time the sound & safe Mac was a safe system where viruses rarely made in-roads but this is now increasingly under threat from web based attacks through the browsers as you traverse the web. Most ‘nasties’ that affect PC’s still don’t run on Macs but the number that do are increasing steadily so I think it is now time to flag this up and offer guidance.

I went looking for answers and found this report from a verifiable source which gives a full review of the reasoning for anti virus on Mac’s and offers ideas on prevention both through extra user care, and by installing an anti virus which it gives comparatrive reviews on and across several vendors of the programme.

It is a long read but as you might expect its worth it by comparison to becoming infected, especially so if the infection encrypts your data and ransomes it back to you for a fat fee! As always I can help you with working to an understanding and discussing actions, please contact me for this.

Please do keep in mind that by backing up your data to my Stroud Cloud you will be able to fully recover your data in that event, if lightning strikes differently.


That is all for now, have a great late summer while the sun still shines.

 

If I can assist, advise or entertain you further in I.T related topics do give me a call!

 

Warm regards

 

Greg Dance

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