Monday, 28 October 2013

Gone till Movember

As the end of October looms quickly this week its almost time for me to begin a month of ever changing facial decoration as I'm taking part in Movember again.

If you haven't heard of it Movember is a growing movement which started in Australia in 2003 and now has over 3 million members in 21 countries. The idea being it is that men will grow a moustache in November to raise awareness and donations for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. You can find out more on the About Movember page on their site.

I did a bit of a dry run at this the other year, going for the 'tache but not actually the raising money and social media side of it. This year i decided to do it properly so will be updating my MoSpace with progress reports and a bit on my facebook and twitter pages. I won't be bugging everyone on here too much but will maybe have a couple of status updates along the way.

So for more details or to donate visit my MoSpace :

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The great Gmail mistake

There's one common mistake that lots of small businesses and sole traders seem to make, and its one that can very easily be avoided.

It's a simple thing that can have a big impact on how people perceive your company. Are you seen as a reputable business or perhaps not quite so reliable or legitimate?

What gives your potential clients this impression of reliability or that you are someone doing it in their spare time?

It's your company email address

Potential clients may not even be conscious of the impression this gives them, but it may be one of the factors that makes them decide whether you are the person they want to do business with, or if they would rather go with another company as it appears more professional for some intangible reason.

All too often I have seen small businesses who use a @Gmail or @Hotmail email account. Quite often it's not just on their business card too, I know of one contractor who has well designed branded stationary, smart business cards and a body wrapped van, all big investments in a strong company brand but in my opinion let down by using an @Aol address. 

Maybe its just me but i think that these email addresses don't have the same impact as, which implies a level of permanence and stability not provided by the webmail alternative. 

Easy problem to solve

The sad thing is that this can only cost a few pounds to fix, probably less than the cheapest batch of internet business cards. Maybe people don't realise how inexpensive it is to register a domain name, only a few pounds a year. It may be that they think they only get a domain if they have a website hosted on it. Perhaps they think its something difficult which requires some IT knowledge, it's not. If you can fill in a form online you can buy a domain from one of the many domain registrars, the hardest part is often deciding on the domain name you want.

Most domain purchases include either small number of free mailboxes which then allow you to set up an info@, mail@, etc, or a 'catch all' email account which will pick up any email sent to 'something' You don't even need to have a computer at home, these emails can then be picked up on your phone, your iPad, anything with a mail app, although chances are most small businesses will have at least one PC for doing their paperwork on anyway.

Some domain registration packages may include the option to have a mini website, or landing page which lets you have an online presence even if you don't have the content for a proper website at this point. Quite often it's just a page with your company contact details, maybe a logo and a short description, but at least is means if someone does look for you online they can find out a bit of info. You can also then link any free listings (Google Places, Yell, Free Index etc) back to your site to boost the page ratings which helps with your online presence. 

So if you are starting off in business or looking to update your existing marketing material  have a quick look at your contact details. If you don't have your own domain take five minutes and go online now and get one. You wont regret it, it will make both you and your potential clients more confident in your business brand. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Twitter hacking and password security

You may have noticed over the last month or so that a spate of high profile Twitter accounts had been hacked including Burger King, Justin Beiber, The fake Obama news story and the BBC Weather feed. Similarly sites like LinkedIn and Evernote have recently been forced to reset users passwords.

Some of these attacks have been blamed in certain circles on organised teams of Chinese cyber criminals, perhaps with official backing, to undermine these companies or to use their account information for their own ends. Some may have just been malicious/mischievous individuals doing it for fun.

Cyber crime, hacking, Fraping call it what you will, it is ultimately all the same. Whether your a corporate multinational or its your own personal feed, the problem is out there, all be it being carried out for different purposes. Which brings us to the point of this post, security. 

Yes, you have no real control over the servers or back end code that manages your precious online data. You do however have one key area of control and so many of us fail to maximise on this, that is dear reader : your password. Its your only real means of exercising some input on the safety of your personal information. 

I know most of us will never be targeted by teams of hackers crouched over their PCs determined to crack our Facebook password to view our recent photo uploads, but that's not the point. All too often people use the same password across multiple sites, get it for one and then they suddenly have access to a lot more personal information which could then be used in a more malicious manner. 

Lets look at it from a different angle though what if its not some nasty covert organisation trying to mine all your details but perhaps a not-so-close-friend or acquaintance? Someone from your office who has a slightly too keen an interest or underlying dislike of you, someone you have recently blocked, or an ex friend/partner of one of your close friends. These people could either want to dig into your profile to find out more about you, or perhaps use your profile to browse another persons profile. 

So i ask you, how secure are your passwords? 

Can they be guessed by people who know about it about you such as your pets name or favourite food or band? Is its just your name or worse still the word password? In the case of the Burger King Twitter hack their password was allegedly 'Whopper1'. Quite often these not-so-close acquaintances we mentioned might try a few guesses at these to see if they can log onto your webmail or facebook, just for the sake of it. 

A good piece on password security and the logic behind it was recently posted on the  PC-Pro website. It does get a bit techy with some of the background info but its well worth a look. This American blog has a good overall view on password strategy too and is worth a quick look. 

I guess the basics are:

  • Don't use common password such as 'password' or '12345'
  • Use letters and numbers to make it more complex and upper/lower case
  • Don't use one password for all your accounts
  • Keep your contact details up to date in case you need to reset them.
  • Remember it doesn't have to be a password, a phrase is better. 

For example your password could be: 'ferrari' 
Lets make it a bit longer: 'fast ferrari'
Then change the case: 'Fast Ferrari' 
Next substitute letters for numbers: 'F45t F3rr4r1'

Lastly we can add some special characters. You could swap an 'a' with a '@' however i recommend avoiding that as different keyboard mapping can mean you don't always get the '@' character as as passwords usually don't show as you type you may never realise it is appearing as something else

And there you have it: 'F45t_F3rr4r1!'  

Its still something easily memorable as you think about the phrase and then substitute the characters as you type. This is by no means a super secure password but a lot stronger than the initial one. You can check your password here and get a quick indication of how long it would take to crack and a nice colour coding of the page as you type going from weak to very secure. 

Be safe, be secure and then relax knowing that the only people looking at your information online are those your want to see it.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Where is your phone just now?

A couple of recent incidents have raised mobile security or being able to easily locate your phone to the forefront for me.

One of the girls who works in our office lost her phone at the weekend. She was walking back from an evenings entertainment and dropped it on route. It being a white phone which was lost, on a snowy night, in the dark didn't give her much chance of finding it. Luckily a trip out the next day to retrace her route did the trick and she managed to find it before someone else did.

Something that would have helped in this situation would be a mobile security/finder app. These apps let you locate your phone on a website using the phones GPS or mobile signal. Handy if your trying to narrow down a search area or check if its even near where you think it might be.

I use an app called Android Lost. It has a range of features including phone location tools, enable ringer if phone was on silent. You can even use it to make the phone speak "I'm over here" or have the camera take a photo so you can see what's nearby.

Of course there is a more serious side to these type of apps. They can be used to lock or even reset your handset and delete personal data. Alert you if the SIM has changed and tell you the new number. You can even send a fake warning message to the phone which will then send you back a photo of the person reading the alert.

I started using this as a result of a colleague having his phone stolen. He had managed to track it with the police using his Google latitude account but alas the handset wasn't recovered. This caused us to look at a few of these apps before settling on one that seemed had the best mix of features at that point.

Some manufactures have their own apps which provide some of these functions. HTC Sense has a find my phone tool a few years ago. Apple have a locate my device function. As I said however most of these tools will do some basic functions, whereas a dedicated app offers a lot more, and may be less obvious if your phone is stolen, so have less chance of being turned off if it ends up in the wrong hands.

Everyone knows the saying about "shutting the door after the horse has bolted", but this is one instance where "better late than never" can also apply. One great feature of Google's Play Store and iTunes is the ability to push apps to your device. So if you do loose your phone you can push one of these apps on to it and hopefully still track it down.

That said however it is worth installing one of these apps now. Not only for the piece of mind it gives you but also because you may have to do some configuration once its installed to ensure you can use all the features and obviously you couldn't do this if you can't get your hands on your phone.

So do you know where your phone is right now? If you do, pick it up head to its app store and get one of these apps installed and hopefully then you will always be able to find it.


A burglar was recently captured after stealing a couples car and phone using their Find my iPhone App. See T3 for more details. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

PC running slow, apps failing to respond?

We all know how frustrating it is to be sitting at a pc waiting for it to spring into life and complete an action. Or, you click on an app and it takes ages for something to happen. Its no fun, it makes any job seem like a painful task and you end up tearing your hair out with frustration. 

I guess for readers of this blog it may have been a bit like that recently. After a short burst when I started off I haven't been doing much posting recently. I've even started a few posts on Windows 8 which have been languishing as a draft for months. Sorry folks but normal service will be resumed shortly. I've been a bit like one of those slow machines, chugging along not getting anywhere fast, not running at my full potential. 

With slow PC's there's plenty you can do. My first bit of advice would be to check to see if your system can take more RAM. Use something like the Crucial System Scanner to see what is in your system and how much RAM is needed to max it out if possible. Bear in mind if its a 32 bit OS it will only support about 3.5GB so anything more than 4GB would be wasting your money. OK so its not free but RAM is fairly cheap at the moment and will generally make a big performance difference  Don't be afraid of fitting it either, its not hard job and there are plenty of videos on-line which show you how to do it.

Its no fun running low on resources. I haven't done any exercise since October, what with colds, a broken toe, dodgy coughs lasting for months with achy ribs. I'm starting to realise its had an impact on me and I'm not getting things done like I should have. Still I'm starting to feel a bit more normal now, so back to the gym soon and hopefully doing the Couch to 5K plan too. That should get me back to optimum working condition.

Other options which don't involve spending money include things like checking what programs are actually running on your PC, all those pointless things that load at startup for example. Have a check in your system tray to see what is running and what you actually need. Use MSCONFIG to disable things you don't need to speed up boot time and free up resources. 

Check your hard drive too, make sure its not running near capacity. Use disk clean-up or a program like Treesize or SpaceSniffer to check what's hogging your disk space and remove anything you don't need, just be careful what you delete. Once you have enough free space run a disk defrag to help improve file access. 

Guess that's what holds me and a lot of other people back too, half the time when I'm trying to get things done I end up doing the wrong tasks which ends up getting nothing much done at all. Once you take away the needless tasks you can actually focus on what needs to be actioned. 

Hopefully like giving your PC a spring clean this will give me a boost to get things done and be a bit more positive and pro-active in general. I've got plenty of good things to get busy for and make the best they can be, myself, my wife and family, my work. The move towards spring with the lighter mornings and nights also gives a boost with the temptation of sun looming on the horizon, its a bit like replacing the battery in a laptop you've had for a years now. 

Look forward to some more post soon dear reader, probably a bit more Tech focused but maybe the occasional fit-bit thrown in. Let me know if you notice any improvements after getting your kit in order if you've never tried it before.