Backup The Right Way

On August 10 I wrote an article about how relying exclusively on cloud drive services such as Dropbox and Sky drive for backing up your files can be dangerous. This is because if a file becomes corrupted it will replicate to all of your physical locations where the cloud drive service is installed as well as the cloud itself.

Good old fashion backups are still necessary and should be taken seriously. One of the best ways to remember how to back up your images safely is to use the 3-2-1 rule.

I recommend storing 3 copies of any important file (a primary and two backups).

I recommend having the files on 2 different media types (such as an external hard drive and USB media), to protect against different types of problems. You can accomplish this simply by backing your files up to 2 separate external drives.

1 copy should be stored offsite (or at least offline). There are many free services so there is no excuse. I have written articles and discussed many of these free services in our training classes.

In a future article I will discuss some examples of the reasons you need to back-up such as viruses, device failure, theft and disasters.

Sky drive on Android

If you are regular reader of this fine tech blog you are aware that I have been impressed with what Microsoft has been doing for at least the last year or so. One of their new cloud services, “Skydrive” is now available on Android devices.

If you are not familiar with Skydrive, it’s a cloud storage service from Microsoft.

When the service was in beta stage, Microsoft was offering a cloud storage of 25 GB. Microsoft however has decreased it to 7 GB which is still greater than what is available from Google, Apple & Dropbox. Skydrive does requires you have a live login id.

Here are the official features of the new Skydrive client;

1. Access all of your SkyDrive content including files shared with you.

2. View recently used documents.

3. Choose multiple photos or videos to upload from your phone.

4. Share your files and photos – send a link in email or in another app.

5. Open your SkyDrive files in other Android apps.

6. Manage your files – delete, or create new folders.

Just like the Apple and Microsoft apps, The look of the Android draws elements from the new Windows 8 Metro UI. If you are on Android check it out.

Gadgets in the Air – Under Review

One of the rules that has boggled me for years is why when traveling in the air we are forced to turn off our gadgets when landing and taking off. This never really made since to me. Although many of these gadgets do broadcast wireless signals, up again the power of a modern airplane their capability of “interfering” with flight operations to my knowledge has never been proven or explained to the traveling public.

The manufactures of these “gadgets” have tried to work around this crazy rule by adding an ‘airplane mode” option. This option when turned on turns off all wireless activity. However if you ever tried to explain this to a stewardess after being told to turn your Nook off you understand that it is a battle you will not win.

There finally is some hope for us who fly regularly. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reportedly putting together a group to re-examine current testing procedures and policies airlines have in place for gadgets. However this group will not be considering airborne use of cell phones for voice communication.

Baby steps are better than no steps at all. Especially considering that these policies and procedures are way behind the speed at which we adopt new technology. This newly formed group will look at how these devices are tested for use in the air. In addition the current standards for use of portable electronic devices on board an airplane will be closely looked at.


App Review – Broadcast for Friends

Did you ever wish you could capture video on your smartphone and share it on Facebook right away? Well with Upstream’s new app, “Broadcast for Friends” you can do just that. Once installed on your IPhone (sorry Android & Blackberry users) and connected to your facebook account it is crazy easy to share video, almost instantly with your friends. The app not only broadcast’s your video but it comes with 10 cool filters which you can apply to your video if you are feeling creative.

One of the most fun things about BFF is reporting live from anywhere to your friends. As soon as you are live, you are actually live right on Facebook. That means your friends will see your video in their news feeds, and you can find your videos right on your Facebook timeline.

Check it out at the ITunes app store today, if you want to share some live video with your friends.

Watch Out for Shamoon

One of the brighter sides of the ongoing battle with malicious software such as viruses, trojan horses and worms has been that recently the creators of these evil applications have not tried to actually destroy your PC. Most of the recent malicious code that has made the rounds works to get your personal and credit card information. The infected computer user notices these infections by slow performing computers and pop-up messages with security warnings and promising to clean your PC for a “small fee”. However the computer files in these cases are usually left in peace.

Of course you never want to fall prey to these scams and it can be troublesome getting your PC back in proper working order but your PC is not completely out of service. A new virus is making the rounds that Symantec has named “Shamoon” that strives to make your computer life utterly miserable. You see “Shamoon” unlike the recent trend in malicious software works very hard to actually delete your files. This was common years ago but not so recently.

Shamoon is somewhat of a mystery right now as security software providers work to investigate. However a couple of things are known that you should be aware of.

1. Shamoon is an “executable” file which probably arrives as an email attachment. Once the user opens the file it infects the computer.

2. Once infected the computer cannot be booted and that is a big problem.

3. Files on the infected computer are actually erased which results in the pc collapsing into a “non-bootable” state. It is believed this happens because some of the deleted or infected files are on the master boot record.

4. If your computer is infected your repair options will probably require an IT professional.

More needs to be learned about “Shamoon” but you can help to protect your computer by following these recommendations.

1. Install and keep up to date a good sound Security solution.

2. Make sure your operating system is updated.

3. Do not open email attachments that you did not specifically request.

4. Do not visit suspicious websites.

Microsoft Unveils New Corporate Logo

I just wrote an article in the August 2012 West Chester Technology Newsletter reporting my belief that inovation has returned to Microsoft. I must say Microsoft must have been inspired by my article because today for the first time in nearly 25 years, Microsoft has redesigned its corporate logo.

On first sight I must say I really like it. Nice, clean and sharp. Well done.

As Mary Jo Foley of ZDnet reported Microsoft’s logo gets a makeover, here are the basics: The font is Segoe; the intention is meant to imply “digital motion.” Segoe and motion are both key to the Microsoft’s Metro interface/design philosophy, which has been a key component in a number of recent Microsoft products, services and Web sites. But because Metro is now on Microsoft’s banned words list, Microsoft isn’t able to say that the new logo reflects the company’s Metro UI/design principles.

Watch Out for “Drive By” Websites!

A new Internet virus that takes computers ransom is making its way around the web and federal authorities are seeing increased reports of the scam from victims in the United States.

Nationally the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it has been “inundated with complaints” this month, and today said that it has received an increasing number of reports from people who have fallen victim to the new scam.

Authorities said the Reveton virus, which has been making its way across the country, has been identified as a “drive-by” malicious software because it can install itself when computer users simply click on a compromised website.

Once infected, the victim’s computer immediately locks and the monitor displays a screen stating that there has been a violation of federal law, according to the FBI. The message also states that the user’s Internet address was identified by the FBI or Department of Justice as having been associated with child pornography sites and other illegal online activity. To unlock the computer, the user is told to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service, the FBI said.

Please be aware that The FBI will never ask a person for money over the Internet.

This particular virus is especially dangerous because your computer can be infected by simply clicking on an infected website. As always the best prevention is to keep your anti-virus software up to date and your computer operating systems updated. This is a good time to check your anti-virus software and make sure it is up to date. Also make sure your Microsoft operating system has the latest security patches installed. And of course do not visit suspicious websites.

I recommend Microsoft’s free anti-virus solution, Microsoft Security Essentials. However never ever install more then one anti-virus solution on your computer. If you would like to try our Microsoft Security Essentials make sure to uninistall the old program first.

Facebook Page In Development

The Borough of West Chester is preparing for the launch of an “official” Facebook page.

The Facebook page is currently in development. A “Facebook Team” consisting of several staff members are hard at work preparing for the facebook launch. Working with the Borough’s Finance & Technology Committee these dedicated employees are striving to launch a Facebook page that both the Borough of West Chester and our community can be proud of.

Our goal is to make this official Facebook webpage a goto hub for our community and its visitors.

Do you have an idea, or want to get involved? Contact me for more information. Here is a sneak peak of our soon to be launched, “Official Borough of West Chester Facebook Page”.

Preserve Your Facebook Timeline

Did you ever wonder “How do we know exactly what John Adams & Thomas Jefferson were thinking and why they made certain decisions?” You can ask this question of any person who lived and loved before the radio, film & computer age. But how is this possible? We have a very good insight into many of the people who came before us, during this pre-modern age for one reason only. They wrote a lot. And I mean a lot. Most educated people kept diaries and wrote back and forth to their loved ones, friends and colleges. Remember that there were no telephones, computers, video chatting software, mobile phones. It gets even worse for our friends from this “pre-modern” age! There was no Facebook and they could not even text! How did they survive and communicate? I will say this again, they wrote diaries and they wrote to each other on a regular basis.

The writings that have survived have provided their future generations with insight into what kind of human beings they were. However today we live in a digital age and writing letters to each other is quickly becoming a lost art. The closest thing to a “letter” these days is probably an email message.

Another way in which we communicate with each other is Facebook. If you think about it, Facebook is very much like a “public diary”. We note everything from the health of our family and ourselves to sports commentary, what television programs we are watching as well as discussing the music we enjoy. I believe that Facebook has become the 21st century version of the 19th century diary.

If you think of Facebook as a diary you may want to download a copy of it from time to time to preserve your “Facebook Timeline” locally. You may even want to print it annually and then place it in a nice binder of some sort.

Facebook offers the ability to “archive” or download a copy of your timeline. I recommend that if you are a regular user of Facebook you take the time to do this at least once a year. After all it’s your “modern diary”. Perhaps someday in the distant future when technology has crashed and civilization is rebuilding itself someone may stumble upon your printed Facebook timeline and learn just a little bit about you and why for example you believed “Pink Floyd” was SO much better a rock band then “Led Zeppelin”.

Steps to Download Your Facebook

1. Account Settings
2. At the bottom of the “General Account Settings” page select “Download a copy of your Facebook data”.
3. Select “Start My Archive”.
This download will take a while because it has to gather your photos, wall posts, messages and other information. The archive process will then ask you to verify your identify in order to make sure that it is YOU asking for the archived data. 
4. You will receive a message that states an email will be “sent when your archive is ready to download”.
5. Then you will receive a message that states that the archive is “pending” and an email will be sent when it is ready.
6. You will receive an email stating that the “requested download” is ready from Facebook. A hyperlink will be included to access your archive.
7. When you click on the hyperlink you will be transported to Facebook where you will need to login.
8. Then you will be prompted to download the archive.
9. Save your archive and there you go, you have your own copy of your archived Facebook timelime.