Permalink 02:34:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Technical Tips

It is common for devices to be able to connect with a network either through Wi-Fi or Ethernet.  Given that a hard wired Ethernet cable has a theoretical speed of twice Wi-Fi, it make sense to ensure you are passing data over the fastest available connector.  To set the priority of Ethernet over Wi-Fi proceed as follows.

For Apple Mac OS X open Network Preferences.  From the cog at the bottom left choose Set Service Order... Now drag Ethernet to the top of the list.  Click OK then click the Apply button. 

For Windows 8 open Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center  > Change adapter settings.  If Always show menus is not set in the Folder Options then press the Alt key to get the menu.  Choose Advanced > Advances Settings...  and in the Adapters and Bindings tab select Ethernet and click the up arrow to get it to the top of the list.  OK.

For Linux it varies a lot sepending on which distro you have.  Editing /etc/network/interfaces to reduce the network that should have highest priority is a common method on many.  FOr others the ifconfig command allws metrick adjustment.


Permalink 05:56:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

Most printers bought today have a wireless card and so can be used from any device anywhere. This can happen in different ways.

  1. Typically you will run the printer manufacturer's installation program on your computer that will guide you through setting it up for that computer.  Once done the computer could share the printer to others in the network, but to enable printing without going through the computer it is normally better to install the printer drivers on other computers.
  2. Cloud services are a good way of printing without going to the trouble of installing device drivers.  There are two non-printer manufacturer generic services that are common:
    • Google Cloud Print is easy to setup once you have a Google account.  In your Chrome browser select Settings > Show Advanced Settings then press the Sign in to Google Cloud Print button.  Most printers are compatible and can be added in this way. Even if not your free cloud storage option, Google Drive, is available should you want to save a document there before logging on to a computer that does have printer access, from where you will be able to print.  It is also possible to give printer access to friends - handy, for example, if your visitors want to print their boarding cards before leaving for the airport.  Many apps are able to access Cloud Print also as listed here.
    • Apple's AirPrint is easy to setup but not all printers are compatible - especially the olduns.  Your Apple device will automatically see the printer if both are switched on and connected to the network.  Many apps such as your Chrome or Safari browser, and Pages are AirPrint compliant and will just present the printers without any further ado.  
  3. Many printer manufacturers enable printing my giving the printer its own email address then it will print whatever is sent to it.  Not so good for complex documents but fine for 'regular' jobs. 
  4. Apps are available from the printer manufacturers to take the computer out of the picture.  Failing that apps such as PrinterPro enable printing where manufacturer support is lacking.


Permalink 09:54:00 am by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

The word on the street is that Windows 9 will, as OS X and Linux have for years, support virtual desktops – the ability to group many programs’ windows and move the whole lot on/off the display together.  The functionality is available now free by running Sysinternals Desktops.

But the thrust of this item is virtualisation – the ability to run one operating system inside another.  This is often useful for running old programs you don’t have a licence to run on modern versions of Windows, or testing out a possibly virus laden program/website, or running a Windows program side-by-side with an OS X one, or even as a form of image backup.

There are four heavyweight players in this space and each has their pros & cons:

  • Microsoft’s Hyper-V
    Available only with the Professional editions of Windows 8 but included without further charge.  The VHD format guest disks can be mounted for read/write in the host OS to enable easy file transfer and virus scanning.
  • VMware Player & Converter
    Free, hence limited support.  The Converter is a physical to virtual tool that easily bundles up a real system for transportation elsewhere and execution on a Player.  Converter can even bundle up Acronis .TIB images (old versions only).   
  • VMware Fusion & Parallels Desktop
    Want to run Windows on a Mac ?  Apple’s Boot Camp allows you to boot into one or the other but virtualisation allows you to run them both together.  Fusion runs Windows well but does not allow OS X guests.  This is true of competitor product Parallels Desktop also.  Parallels is a slicker experience with good support but unlike Fusion cannot be run as a VM within Player.
  • Oracle’s VirtualBox
    This is free and runs on Windows, OS X & Linux but is sometimes hard to work with and good support is hard to come by.  Other virtual machine containers supporting the Open Virtualization Format can be imported but going the other way is difficult. Building guest OS’s is easy but switching hosts is hard work.  There is a portable version enabling you to take the virural machine with you on a USB drive and use it on any other computer.

Remember that both host and guest operating systems will need a valid license to work properly; moving a guest to a different physical machine is possible but the hypervisors change the MAC address of the network card so reactivation is usually necessary.   Also, you cannot have too much RAM for smooth running virtualisation.


Permalink 07:59:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

Most email services limit the size of attachments to around 25 MB or less. ?But sometimes you want to send one-off larger files right ? ?Here are some options to consider; most free.

  • Create a Dropbox account and share a folder. ?2GB is free but this can easily be increased by recommending others etc. ??

  • Use a free web service to email large files such as?https://www.wetransfer.com/

  • If you have a Skype contact you can click Conversation > Send > File... ? (or Shift/Ctrl/F)?

  • Web sites like Box.com are designed for sharing files. ?See?

  • http://www.mega.co.nz/?offers a similar service for transferring large files.

  • Anyone who has a Goolgle account can share a link to a file or folder that breaks all normal size limitations by copying the file(s) to Google Drive.

There are surely others, please let me know if you find another service or method of sending large files.


Permalink 03:09:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

The perennial problem of how to maximise the possible broadband speed continues to cross my inbox.

First some ground rules:

    • You cannot change the most common significant limitation - the distance between your house and the exchange
    • Changing to a different internet service provider will typically not affect the signal speed - you use the same wires leading to the same exchange as always

However, the following issues are within your control and do affect the speed you receive

    1. Concurrent use by more than one computer, tablet, wireless phone etc. causes the speed each device receives at to be lowered. Even if not active, background tasks such as virus or Windows updates can be in progress
    2. A faulty or obsolete router/hub that does not support the ADSL2+ standard will pain you
    3. Faulty equipment connected to your circuit (microfilters, phones, faxes, satellite box, security, IP TVs, ringers, boosters…) can cause speed problems
    4. Malware running on your computer is often at the root of the problem
    5. Poor quality cabling within your house is a drain 
    6. Siting the router away from the master socket increases distance to the exchange (yes, that small amount IS significant) and usually introduces wires with relatively high aluminium content that is fine for phones but allows too much crosstalk for a satisfactory DSL signal
    7. Using wireless, especially the older 802.11g standard (at either end), rather than wired connection to the router will lower the speed - perhaps by half
    8. Interference with a wireless signal from cordless phones, microwave ovens, white goods, masonry, and other equipment that shares the 2.4 GHz frequency is a common issue

The above list will often provide the necessary pointer to the resolution of your problem.  But not always - faults beyond your premises can occur.  In that case here is what needs to be done

Run several speed tests at different times of the day to get average figures.  The place to do this is 
http://speedtest.btwholesale.com/ after the initial test completes click the 'further diagnostics' button.   Now find out the speed that the BT Wholesale Availability Checker database thinks you should receive (this is only a best guess) from

Compare the DSL downstream line rate with your line speed as reported by your ISP or available in some top end routers.  If there is a significant difference (>15%) and your line has been installed for more than 10 days then see if the phone line sounds crackly. If so, a phone fault is the cause of your broadband speed issues.  Otherwise, replace the microfilter (and ideally the router) at the master socket and see whether the problem is resolved.  Note that you should disable all internal equipment by connecting to the test socket behind the facia of the master socket.   If the problem is resolved then internal house wiring and/or the old microfilter/router are at fault.

Your IP Profile speed should be just under the DSL line speed.  The latter will always be higher by a small amount as housekeeping accounts for some speed loss.  If there is much of a difference your ISP can be asked to reset the profile at the exchange. This causes an automated 10 day sequence where the fastest speed your line is capable of receiving whilst maintaining a stable connection is determined.

If the above two items check out but your download speed is low then either one of the eight items above are at fault or there is a fault at the exchange equipment.


Permalink 10:49:00 am by Eugene Gardner, Categories: Security, Articles

Picture this: you receive messages from people asking you to stop sending them invitations to buy anatomy enhancing medications, or send them money as they have been stranded overseas, or maybe just a link to a website that discharges a virus when visited.

The problem is that a bad person has got hold of your email address and has spoofed it by placing it in the From: field of an email message.  By using your address rather than their own they make themselves less identifiable and their poison pen messages less likely to be trapped by spam filters.

What's worse, these messages often get sent to people you know.  The real sender tries to rely on your good name to convince the recipients to follow their evil plan based on your trusted character.

How did this happen ?

  • Perhaps you use the same password on more than one website and one of those got hacked.  Hacked (often big name) sites are a daily occurrence as evidenced by my Twitter feed.
  • Perhaps your email provider's database was compromised (e.g. AOL most recently) and any contacts list copied.
  • Perhaps anyone who has ever corresponded with you has a computer that was attacked by a virus that harvested the email addresses in the From:, To: and CC: fields of all their messages.  Perhaps their address book was stolen too.

What can you do about it ?

If you use the same password in more than one place change them for unique complex (more than 10 characters including upper case, lower case and numbers) passwords.  You don't have to remember them as long as you use a (possibly free) password manager as explained in my earlier blog post.

Change your email account password - this is just precautionary but it can't hurt. Remember to update any mail clients you use with the same password.

Forward this blog entry to anyone who contacts you. That way they will understand that this problem is most likely not of your making and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it once your credentials are in the hands of a criminal.  Quite soon the bad people will not have any value in your email address as it has been used so this problem will naturally end.  

Yes it is a pain but it is such a common part of life today that most people are aware of the issue and are in a position to empathise


Permalink 07:58:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: Security

To avoid having your internet access restricted by protective mail servers and service providers, and also avoid the thieves and cyber scoundrels that are ever present but all the more difficult to handle when travelling, follow these suggestions.

Enable two factor authentication and test it on all web facing applications on all devices at least a week before you set out.  See my earlier post on this. 

Don't do anything on public Wi-Fi that you wouldn't want posted on a roadside billboard.  Sometimes that's not an option though so install a virtual private network that will create an encrypted tunnel to your home provider.  My favourite is http://www.cyberghostvpn.com but others such as https://www.privateinternetaccess.com are sound.

Assume your device (phone, tablet, laptop...) will be stolen.  Encrypt the entire disk with BitLocker or  https://diskcryptor.net  if running Windows or FileVault for OS X or LUKS for Linux distros.  Android and IOS have similar apps.

Remember to pack a Kensington lock to physically tie down your device and install Prey or Find My Mac to enable you to alarm, lock, destroy, photo the thief, or use GPS tracking.

General good practices such as logging out of each service before closing the window and using unique strong passwords should be part of SOPs but are especially necessary when on the move.  

Similarly, shelter your screen and keyboard from overlookers both in person and via CCTV.  And it should go without saying that a paid for updated firewall and virus protection suite are essential.

If using Gmail consider installing the free offline extension as a Wi-fi signal may not always be present and anyway, the format is better in this author's opinion.

Finally, social networks are fun but if you post a picture from overseas you may as well broadcast to local villians that you are not at home.  Be circumspect with the information you publish.  Even photos without identifyable surroundings may contain Exif geolocation data to locate where they were taken.

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