These are articles we write for local Village magazines. I’ve posted them here so if you missed one, you can re-read it. The Buckland Monachorum Parish Magazine ‘Outreach’ is published every two months. I was astonished to find that my archive of articles goes back to 2016. I have only gone back to 2020 as much of the previous information is now out of date.

2023 Articles

December 23/January 24

Christmas is on the horizon, although it seems to have arrived in early September this year judging by the shop displays. This means the scammers move up a gear in trying to separate you from your money. Latest one I’ve picked up on is targeting the younger members of the family, with the opportunity to obtain much sought after concert tickets. The ‘chance’ to buy the tickets comes via social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) when a ‘friend of a friend’ says they have spare tickets that they now can’t use (for some reason). Now, as you can imagine, my family has ‘scam alert’ drummed into them, so when they saw some tickets for Taylor Swift on offer, they did all the necessary checks (and double checks) to make sure all was OK. It was only after they paid over half the asking price, that suspicions were aroused. Luckily they were able to cancel the payment so no money was lost, but it was a very clever (and plausible) scam. The person ‘selling’ the tickets had had their account hacked (and cloned) and were unaware of what was being done.

Which neatly brings me on to the reminder to regularly update (ie change) your passwords on social media, Paypal, Amazon, ebay, etc. Your Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook accounts should also be regularly updated, along with any security questions, mobile phone numbers, recovery email addresses. That way, when you suddenly need to recover an account, you will be able to do so. In the not too distant future, we’re all going to be using passkeys to log into websites. Not something I’ve used but I will be trying them out and will (hopefully) write about it next time.

The BBC recently ran some programmes on TV and radio about scams, highlighting the various tricks the scammers use. With all the publicity about fraud/scams it’s always sad to hear of somebody being caught out. It’s heartening for me, when one of you tells me they told a scammer to “<insert expletive here> off!” when being told there was a problem with their computer/bank account. I read in the press that the Indian Government had shut down 76 scam ‘factories’ following work by Amazon and Microsoft. Doubt it will be long before they pop up somewhere else! We have had no scam phone calls for weeks I realise now.

Microsoft have a very good (short) video presentation on scams which you can view here: Microsoft Scam Help and the Amazon scam help page is here: Amazon

To finish, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I turn 70 at Christmas and have been working on computers for 40+ years. Astonishing! I still can recall the many, many nights spent huddled over a ZX Spectrum computer, typing in games and making them work, then moving on to an Amstrad 512, on which I wrote my book, “The Building of the Plymouth, Devonport and South-Western Junction Railway”. My how time flies!


I have seen an increase in the number of ‘phishing’ emails recently, especially ones claiming I have bought Apple products at suitably eye-wateringly, panic inducing, prices! All tosh of course, but they are easy for me to spot because the same email generally arrives in two or three of the different email accounts I monitor. If you get one of these, hit delete. The more annoying emails ore ones with ‘invitations to invest in property’ usually in Leeds for some reason. Again, the same email arrives, often from a different originating email address and whilst they look ‘genuine’ they aren’t. Many hope you will reply, perhaps saying ‘no thanks’ or by clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link. Don’t do either, Please. This action simply flags up that the email they have used is real, still works and is active. Cue a barrage of other emails as your email quickly gets sold on by the ‘phishers’. The only time to use the unsubscribe link is when you buy something online and the site ignores your ‘no follow up’ request and sends you further emails.

I also had an email claiming to be from an Irish couple who had won the lottery and were giving some of the money away. It included links to a BBC news report about the win. Whilst the story of the lottery win is true, further searching revealed that the scammers had (of course) moved in and were trying to trick people into applying for funds by sending out emails. Never forget that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There has also been an outbreak of ‘click-bait’ virus warnings. You’ll know what I mean when I say your computer suddenly freezes with a warning on screen that you have a ‘virus’ and you must call the number on screen. Usually, this is easy to bypass, as long as you don’t panic. If using a desktop PC, turn it off, either by pressing the power button and letting it shut down, or by pulling the power plug out. On a laptop, press and hold the power button for about 15 seconds. Don’t release it when the picture disappears but keep it pressed. Once off, you can restart the laptop/PC and all should be OK. Open the browser you were using but don’t click on the ‘restore websites’ button, (if you do, chances are you will be back to square one) and you should find you can use it as normal. If you get locked out again, the temporary internet files storage will need clearing. Best ring me about that.

This article was going to follow on from last time’s one about Browsers, by discussing search engines. That very quickly turned into something approaching War and Peace size so was put to one side for now. Instead, you might be interest to check out the free Internet Archive ( This currently has masses of archived films, TV Shows, books, magazines and music which you can download. Grab it while you can though as ‘big business’ has decided to challenge the Archive over copyright issues so some of it may ‘disappear’ unless you pay for it.


Let’s discuss Internet Browsers as I know there is still a lot of confusion about them. The first question is; what is ‘an internet browser’? Put simply, it is a program (or APPlication to use modern parlance) that you use to look at webpages on the internet. So, when you are looking for something on Amazon or e-bay, or reading the news on the BBC or newspaper site, you are said to be ‘browsing’ the internet, (Some also refer to it as ‘surfing’ the internet but let’s not add to the confusion!). The program or App that you use is known as an internet browser.

The two commonest browsers are Microsoft Edge (the blue swirly wave symbol) and Google Chrome, (the coloured wheel symbol). There are other browsers beside these, in fact there are lots of them. There is Brave, Firefox, Vivaldi and…. Well you get the idea. Edge comes ‘free’ with all versions of Windows, whereas Chrome (and all the others) has to be installed. Now I should add here that Google Chrome was originally created for use on Android phones and tablets. If you have an Apple ipad or iphone you will use Safari for the internet. Both Google and Apple have created versions of Chrome and Safari that work on Windows PCs, but I’m not going to look at Safari here.

The actual core differences between Edge and Chrome are tiny, as they are both written by the same team of people, using the same coding. It’s a bit like the difference between (say) Tesco and Morrison’s. They look very similar, but just have different branding. Most browsers track what you do, where you go, what you buy, much like your shopping loyalty card (if you have one). Websites also track you, which is why you get those annoying ‘allow cookies’ pop-ups. Whilst you can add an ad-blocker to Edge and Chrome, some other browsers specifically don’t track you or allow pop-ups. In fact, they actively advertise that they don’t track you and automatically block sites that attempt to try. Brave is one that I use if I want to look for things that I don’t want to find popping up on Facebook and other social media apps later.

Another part of the internet browser to consider is ‘The Search Engine’. You can set your browser to use any search engine, and trust me when I say there are probably more search engines out there than you can shake a stick at. Microsoft promotes using its Bing search engine with Edge, while Chrome wants you to use Google search (unsurprisingly). The Brave browser uses a search engine called “DuckDuckGo” which doesn’t track your searches. You can set DuckDuckGo to do your internet searches in Edge and Chrome by changing this in ‘settings’ on your browser or you can install the new DuckDuckGo internet browser which claims to block all website tracking and also adverts on Youtube. I have started trying this out recently and it seems OK so far.

I hope that’s given you a bit of an insight into browsers and search engines. It is a tricky subject to cover in 600 words so if you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Lastly this time; my trial use of an uninterruptible power supply on my phone line has been a great success. We’ve had a few power cuts recently and the UPS has kept the internet on and also kept the Sky-box happy too. Quite useful being able to use the laptop when the power goes off as it too, runs off a battery!

June/July 2023

I need to return to an old subject which I’ve covered several times in the past: Backing up your files. The reason is because I have recently had several failures of solid state drives (known generally as SSDs) which meant that data could not be recovered. Luckily, none of these resulted in lost pictures, and documents but it could have done.

Since personal computers came into regular use, they have used some sort of ‘drive’ to store your files. In the beginning, there was the 5¼ inch ‘floppy disc drive’ so called because of their size and the fact they were, floppy! Then came the 3½ inch floppy drive, that wasn’t floppy at all as it was in a hard plastic case. At about the same time, hard drives came into being. So called because the storage disc was sealed in a metal case. These are the ones we’ve been using for years but they are relatively slow by modern standards. I could describe why but that would fill the rest of this article and put you all to sleep!

A few years back, floppy discs (the ones that are not floppy) went out of fashion as their storage capacity was quite small and whilst there was a move to using recordable Compact Discs, these took a long time to record and could only be used once (until re-recordable ones arrived – but they never caught on either). What replaced the floppy disc was what became known as the ‘USB Penstick’. There are lots of other names too but they all plug into a USB slot on the computer and can be read and written to at will. The storage capacity of these has gone up and up, while the price of them has stayed really low. They are fast because they have no moving parts, as everything is stored on integrated circuits (chips to you and me).

So far so good. The next step was to replace the hard drive, with its spinning magnet disc, with a drive full of chips, hence we have SSDs. Because these are fully electrical, they are susceptible to sudden electrical failure. That is, they go phutt! with no warning.

If an old-style hard drive failed, there were various ways you could get at the stored data, as it was held on the internal magnetic disc. However, if an SSD fails, you can only, possibly, get at the files by opening the case and unsoldering the storage chips. These are then put into a separate piece of kit to read the contents. Hopefully the chip won’t have been damaged by the short circuit because if it has there is no way back. Data is gone forever.

Which brings me to the point of all this, PLEASE, please make sure all your files are backed up, and backed up regularly too! Use either an external hard drive or use online storage, such as onedrive or Google docs. Incidentally, Android phone photos get automatically stored in google photos. Apple photos should get stored into your icloud account. These can then be viewed on your computer by signing into google or icloud.

Next time I’ll discuss online storage as google limits you to 15Gb of free storage and then makes you pay for more. Every photo you take, fills up that 15Gb so if your phone keeps saying you’re running out of storage, that’s why.

April/May 2023

This year I reach 70. A terrifying thought. It also means I have been messing about with computers for the best part of 50 years, having got hold of my first one, a ZX81 (with the famous additional wobbly RAM-pack on the back) back in 1982. Computers have come a long way since then. Oh the hours spent typing in programmes from magazines, and then the hours spent spotting the mistakes so they would actually work! Time well spent I think because every computer, ever since, has pretty much worked to the same principles meaning that when I see a problem today, identifying a fix becomes almost second nature. I did say almost though as I still get stumped occasionally. Those early computers used a single ZX80 processor but todays ones can have 24 processors in one device. Trying to understand how these are made really does make your head hurt.

Now, just as we were getting used to Windows 11, comes news that Microsoft are working on Windows 12! (no really – they are!) Marked for release in 2024 apparently, which is interesting as they are supporting Windows 10 until October 2025. Windows 8 (and 8.1) are now out of support since January 2023 so if you are still using this, now is definitely the time to get that upgrade to Windows 10 done. It’s still a free upgrade and while that’s being done, get a Solid State Drive (SSD) installed too. This will massively speed up your computer, and that’s a promise! The proportion of computers running Windows 10 has apparently now reached 74%. Most Windows 10 computers aren’t able to upgrade to windows 11 (and beyond?) because of technical restrictions that Microsoft decided to implement.

There is currently a ‘push’ from technology companies to get all websites to have HTTPS at the start of their domain name. HTTP is Hyper Text Transfer Protocol and the added ‘S’ simply means secure, so that the connection between your computer and the website is locked, (the padlock symbol) and cannot be hacked. You should never try to purchase anything online from a site which doesn’t have HTTPS and the padlock symbol. Some internet and email providers have been enforcing this by ‘bouncing’ emails back saying they cannot be sent. To explain further (and easily): If I send an email to a gmail account, when Google receives the email, it checks the sending mailserver against a list of ‘secure’ mailservers. If it’s not on the list, Google bounces the email back. This is exactly what started happening to me recently. In order to pass this test, my website and associated mailserver, had to have to have a ‘Secure Socket Layer’ (SSL) added to the DNS records held globally. Unfortunately, this does come at a price. Sorry if that got a bit ‘techy’!

News from across the pond (in the US) of a new (and scary) scam. Apparently, scammers can now use Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to mimic real voices. If they can get a short audio sample of your voice, the software can create whole sentences which they can use to try and trick friends or relatives. One report says that a lady got a call from her ‘Grandson’ saying he’d been arrested and needed bail money. Luckily their Bank Manager was aware of the scam and alerted them so no money was lost. This comes after a flood of text messages allegedly from a relative asking for help and money tricked a lot of people last year.

Remember, scammers need money and will not go away. Always be suspicious of any phonecall or text message that comes out of the blue, especially with an element of urgency in it. I know I keep banging on about this, but I don’t want you to get caught out. If in doubt, hang up and ring Stephen!

By the way, I may be almost 70, but news of my impending retirement have been greatly exaggerated!

February/March 2023

I dislike starting every article about scammers, but sadly, they aren’t ever going to go away, and I still hear of people falling for their convincing patter. Since the last Outreach, three people came within a whisker of being taken to the cleaners, one of whom had been caught before (which made it harder to understand why they went along with it the second time). I do try to instil in everyone that no-one, (I repeat, no-one) will ever ring you from Microsoft, Windows, BT, et al, to tell you your computer/router is infected with a virus, or has been hacked. Neither will a Bank ring you to tell you that your account has ‘suspicious’ activity on it. Beware too of the ‘parcel delivery failure’ text message or the email, that ‘so-and-so has failed to get a payment for a new iphone’ email. Be instantly suspicious of any, out-of-the-blue phone call or text message, especially ones with an element of urgency (you must do this now or your account will be closed – etc).

The simple watch-words are; with phone calls, “if it’s out of the blue it’s not for you” and text/email, “if it’s out of the blue, don’t click through”. If you really aren’t sure, hang up and ring me! I much prefer telling you ‘it’s a scam’ than trying to fix a compromised computer with locked/deleted files.

And now for something completely different (well almost). Those of you using Windows 10, who have a PC/laptop that is capable of running Windows 11, have, until recently, been able to stay on Windows 10 by saying ‘not yet’ to the upgrade. Not anymore. During December, I noted computers are now having the upgrade installed on them whether you wanted it or not, as if it were a normal update. Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Windows 11, as it isn’t a lot different looking from Windows 10. There is the usual thing about making menus etc look different, and shoving the short-cut bar, which has always been in the bottom left of the screen, into the middle (like an Apple computer screen). Windows 10 will be supported (with updates etc) by Microsoft until 2025 and probably beyond if there is a major security issue. Older Windows 10 computers won’t ever (as far as I can see) be allowed to upgrade to Windows 11.

I am still finding the odd Windows 7 and 8 computers in my travels. I can still upgrade these to Windows 10 with a free upgrade licence from Microsoft. At the same time, I would also fit a solid state [hard] drive (SSD) to really speed things up. In fact, every computer benefits from having an SSD fitted in place of a hard drive. I may have mentioned this before but an SSD has no moving parts inside it, it’s just integrated circuits, meaning it is much, much faster at transferring data than previous models. If using your computer feels like wading in treacle, then this is the way to rejuvenate it.

Keep safe and don’t fall for a scam.

December 2022/January 2023

If we ever wanted to know how dependant we have become on the Internet, we were reminded recently at the beginning of November, when at around 6pm on Sunday the 6th, all broadband in the local area went off, and stayed off until around 10am on the Monday morning. It followed an almighty flash and clap of thunder in the middle of the afternoon but whether or not the two events were connected I’ve not been able to ascertain. I’m sure, like everyone else, I started unplugging routers and telephone cables to see if it would come back on. Unlike when the power goes off, you can’t tell if it is just your house affected because you have no internet to check. With the router off, mobile phone coverage is also lost unless you can hang out of an upstairs window. I actually drove down to my shop in Horrabridge to test my router, which is when I discovered how widespread the failure was. Happily, normal service resumed and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 & 11 have proved to be very reliable and although we cuss when yet another update arrives, they are important to keep the software running smoothly. Most updates are installed automatically, but not all of them and I find a lot of computers I go to have updates waiting for you to install them manually. This wouldn’t be an issue if you were prompted to do this but you aren’t, (and in any case, many would be reluctant to click an ‘install updates now’ link in case it was a scam) so it relies on you checking yourself. And here’s how you do it.

First save any work you’re doing and close any programs you have open. Windows 10 & 11 have a slightly different look to what we are going to do, but fundamentally, the steps are the same. All ‘clicks’ are left mouse button unless specified otherwise. Backing up your computer isn’t crucial at this point (you are backing up anyway aren’t you?!) but is advisable of course.

Click on ‘Start’, then ‘Settings’ (which is the cog wheel icon). Now click on ‘Updates & Security’ then ‘Windows Updates’. Regardless of what it says at the top of the page, click on ‘Check for updates’ and wait for it to finish checking. You may find it now automatically does an install, but there may be an ‘Optional Feature Update’ lower down the page which needs you to ‘Download and Install’. You may also see ‘View optional Updates’ which when clicked, takes you to ‘Driver updates’. Click on this and then tick any boxes shown and download and install these too.

If your Windows 10 computer is able to run Windows 11, you will also see that offered as an ‘update’, but it’s up to you whether you do or don’t install it. There is a ‘not yet’ option to click on for this. At the end of all the downloading and installing, you may or may not be asked to restart the computer, but do it anyway. When you’ve done that, repeat the above until clicking ‘check for updates’ just returns you to the ‘You’re up to date’ message.

Well that’s another year done! May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

October/November 2022

As many of you know, I am not a fan of ‘driver update’ software. I always find they are pretty useless at doing anything other than separating you from a few quid in your bank account. Usually arriving via an accidental ‘click-bait’ event, they ‘scan’ your PC for ‘outdated drivers’ and when you click on the ‘fix now’ button, low and behold you have to pay a licence fee. Happily, at that point, most of you go ‘no thank you’ but then have to put up with the nagging pop-up. Worse still, is when the software also starts warning about potential ‘viruses’ etc and if you ‘just click here’ it will all be sorted. Yea, right! But apparently, not all these programs are bad and I have been alerted to one called “Snappy Driver Installer Origin” (great name by the way!). It’s free, completely free with no nags or pop-ups. I’ll be trying it out on a few machines to see how it is so I’ll keep you posted.

My uninterruptible power supply (UPS) which I have been trialling has been great. With all the recent power cuts and brown-outs, out broadband has stayed rock steady, along with the Sky Q Box! Our laptops, with inbuilt battery, have meant suffering in the dark has become normal!

As we move more and more into the era of two-factor authentication, (2FA) the need to keep security details and passwords up to date are becoming even more important. This includes any mobile phone number you have registered with a website. It is more usual now to keep a mobile phone number but I still find the occasional one listed that hasn’t been active for years. Another issue is any second email address you may have had. This is a more common problem where you have switched, say, from BT to TalkTalk, and have not used the ‘old’ email for a long time. Sites which are especially strict about recovering accounts are Microsoft, Apple/icloud, Google, and BT but of course there are others. If you have an Apple phone, then you will have an Apple/icloud account and a Google account if you have an android phone. Both of these will be secured with your mobile number. Microsoft accounts come in many flavours! If you bought a Windows 10 or 11 computer, chances are it made you sign up for one, and if you have/had a Hotmail account, or an Outlook account, they are also Microsoft. All ‘different’ but actually the same.

These all store phone numbers, email addresses and have ‘security questions’ stored which you have to answer 100% correctly to get back into your account if you lose the password or get locked out. So now is a good time to go and check those settings.

You should also regularly change passwords for Facebook, Twitter etc to keep the hackers at bay, but I’ve said that before.

As we switch to 4g/5g phones and routers, the lack of a mobile signal in your home will get less of an issue. Any new mobile phone should have ‘wifi calling’ built into it but make sure it does when buying or upgrading. And ask if it is compatible with your ISP (BT, Sky, TalkTalk etc) as not all phones are. I had to buy my Samsung mobile through Utility Warehouse (my utility supplier) in order to be able to make calls from inside the house. But now we have four-bars indoors so no more ‘Game of Phones’! Hurrah!

August/September 2022

The scammers have been busy lately and they keep trying new angles and variations. A nice foreign sounding chap (usually called Kevin, or Colin) has been calling to tell us that our ‘router is reporting that it has been compromised’ etc etc. It’s quite fun stringing them along for a while, but when they ring at the crack of dawn, you generally can’t be bothered and give them short shrift.

Another scam in the headlines recently is the message from a loved one explaining they’ve broken their phone and so are using a spare, but they need bills paid urgently. There are excuses given as to why you can’t ring them and they entice you to pay, with the promise of reimbursing you later. As a variation to this, and literally as I was writing this article, I received a message from a friend asking ‘if I used Amazon?’ I replied that I did and then received the following: “Good to hear from you, I’ve been trying to purchase a £200 Amazon E-Gift card by email from Amazon, but it says they are having issues charging my card. I contacted my bank and they told me it would take a couple of days to get it sorted. I intend to buy it for a friend of mine who’s having her birthday today. Can you purchase it from your end for me? I’ll reimburse you once my bank sorts the issue out. I am just trying to put a smile on her face in these trying times. Let me know so I can send you her email address.

All very plausible? Could be, and this how the scammer usually gets in. I wasn’t suspicious of the first enquiry as my friend is on holiday and they might be asking a genuine IT question. But the second message rang a very large alarm bell, simply because they wouldn’t use that form of wording with me. Also note the element of pressure, the ‘birthday’ is today, no time to check etc. Always, always, always be suspicious of any message that seems out of the ordinary, both on text messages and email. Always ring or message the person on the number you usually use. Wait a decent time for them to reply if they don’t pick up immediately. You can also check with friends to see if they’ve received the exact same message, which is what happened here, with about a dozen people receiving the exact same message. Remember: Scammers never give up!

Back on the IT front, Microsoft has sent out a reminder that support for Windows 8, (or Windows Hate as it is usually refer to) runs out on the 10th Jan 2023. You shouldn’t really be using this anyway as the upgrade to Windows 10 is still available, still free, and better. Incidentally, if you are still on Windows 7, the upgrade to 10 for this is also still available, and free. Whilst on the subject of upgrades, I have continued to rejuvenate laptops and tower PCs by fitting the latest Solid State Hard-Drives (SSD) in them. It really is astonishing the increase in speed that is achieved by doing this. So if your PC is dragging its proverbial feet, then this is a worth-while upgrade.

June/July 2022

I’m going to start this month’s article with a regular reminder to back-up your data and photos. This is because I have had two hard drives recently which failed completely, meaning the data is trapped inside and will need specialist (ie expensive) work to recover it. Both of these were Solid State Drives (Known as an SSDs) and while they will make your computer run and perform faster than one of the mechanical hard drives, because they are made up of integrated circuits then tend to just stop working. And they don’t usually give much warning of impending failure either.

Following on from last month, when I reviewed Anti-Virus software, my attention was drawn to a Which Report, that didn’t rate Microsoft’s Defender Anti-Virus very highly. I do quite like reading their reports on things but I think they may be off the mark this time. Based on my experience with you all, I’ve not had anyone using Microsoft’s AV get infected with a virus. I touch wood as I type that as they could be famous last words! I sincerely hope not.

A banking service I found out about recently could prove extremely useful for everyone. If you think you’ve been scammed, then pick up the phone, make sure you have a dial-tone and then dial 159 and you will be instantly connected to your Bank. This number has been set up by the Banks and Financial Institutions to try and stem the tide of fraud that is costing us all millions. You can read all about this by going to the website; The phone number (159) has been set up to be similar to ringing 101 (for Police) or 111 (for the NHS).

And another tip for you is about Paypal. This excellent online payment service has been around for quite a while. It’s a great way to protect your debit/credit card when paying for things online as the person you’re buying from doesn’t get to see the card details. However, I discovered you do have to keep an eye your Paypal account, as some services you buy, can set themselves up as ‘auto-payments’ within Paypal. The first you realise this has happened is when you see a mysterious payment on your bank statement, so if you have a Paypal account, log in, click on ‘Activity’ and then ‘Type’ and then select ‘Pre-approved payments’. Hopefully you won’t find anything but I found several ‘auto payments’ for software I had tried and then rejected.

I’ve heard that the plan for a mobile phone mast to cover Buckland Monachorum, may have been ditched. Although the planning permission for a mast near the sewage works is still live, there seems to be no enthusiasm from Vodaphone (I think) to undertake the work. Airband have been busy running in cables everywhere so we will have to wait and see if things improve. Certainly, if you have a router that can provide 4G (such as BT one) and your phone does WIFI Calling, you can make and receive mobile phone calls at home. I used to have a Utility Warehouse ‘WIFI Calling’ box plugged into my router, but have been able to turn that off now. Bliss! No more sticking the phone out the window to try and get a signal!

April/May 2022

Many of you will know, that I’ve been recommending Kaspersky anti-virus products for over 30 years. Not anymore. I obviously haven’t spoken to Eugene Kaspersky about the Ukraine situation, but regardless, I no longer feel happy about having Russian software on my computer. It is a shame because it has kept me (and many of you, my customers) free from viruses for all this time. Luckily, there are many good anti-virus products out there now and I have switched to using Norton 365, which is something I never thought I’d type. Currently (early March) a year’s Norton 365 is just £10, if bought from their website,

I have heard unofficially that a call was put out for hackers and scammers to target Russia so it may be that for a while, there will be less scams going around. We will see. But it may be that we may get reciprocal attacks coming back the other way, so don’t let your guard down.

The phone has been quiet for several weeks and I’ve not seen any phishing emails recently either. They haven’t gone away though. I heard recently, from someone who was suddenly bombarded with dozens of random email messages, in various languages and seemingly unconnected. However, after further ‘digging’ they discovered to their horror, that someone had hacked their savings account and were in the process of transferring their life’s savings to a rogue account. The transfer was stopped and nothing was lost, but in conversation with the fraud department, they discovered that towards the end of last year, they had apparently been tricked into ‘updating their account details’ on a completely fake banking website. Why the scammers then waited several months before trying to remove funds is anyone’s guess, but it does highlight a good point. If you get a request to ‘update your account’, always type in the bank or business website address yourself, never click on a link in an email. I have seen a fake Lloyd’s website and it was very good, and could easily catch you out.

If you want to create a desktop shortcut for your bank website, (so you don’t have to keep typing it in each time) then this is what to do. First, Google Chrome: Open the website you want. Now go to the top right and click on the three dots. From the drop-down menu, select ‘More Tools’, then ‘Create Shortcut’. Give the shortcut a name and click ‘save’. The procedure for Microsoft Edge is different. Open the website as before and click on the URL so it highlights (goes blue). Hover the mouse over the highlighted address and then right-click the mouse and select ‘copy’. Now go back to the desktop, right-click on an empty area and select ‘New’ then ‘Shortcut’. Paste the link you copied into the bar, click ‘Next’ then give the shortcut a name and click ‘Finish’.

I am going to run a ‘repair table’ at the monthly Village Hall Market & Coffee Shop, for people to ask computer/IT questions, or to ask about getting a repair on some household item or another. So if you’ve got something at home that’s broken (Lamp, tape recorder, jukebox – yes I can repair jukeboxes!) and you don’t know who to ask about getting it repaired, do drop by for a chat. I can’t promise to be a miracle worker, but if it saves one thing from the tip, that would be fantastic.

February/March 2022

I should really start this article by wishing you all “A Happy New Year”, bearing in mind it’s only the 6th January as I type this. But of course it will be February before you read it, so maybe “How’s the year going so far?” might be more appropriate. We might even be on lockdown IV by then if ‘Plan B’ doesn’t hold up, or maybe looking at a new Prime Minister?

The scammers were busy thinking up new ways to trick us before Christmas, with the ‘parcel charge’ scam. They have also been targeting facebook accounts and if someone you know gets hacked, you get sent an “I think you’re in this video” message from them. I’ve not found out what happens if you click on the link. Another one is targeting people by posing as a friend or family member in need of help and asking for money. These messages can be via email, text or whatsapp so be careful if you get one of these as quite a few people have lost money from this one so ALWAYS be suspicious of money requests, especially when there’s an element of panic or urgency in the message.

With accounts being hacked, you should think about updating those passwords you haven’t changed since, well, whenever.  While you’re doing this, also see if you’ve set up a recovery phone number or other email address and check that they’re still valid. I’ve had the odd few occasions where the recovery phone number is an old mobile number, long since replaced.

An interesting item has been in the news recently about phone lines. It seems BT (et al) are keen to get rid of ‘fixed land lines’, (those copper cables bringing the phone system to your house) and we will all have fibre-optic cables coming direct to the home instead. This will be known as ‘fibre to the home’ or FTTH, whereas now we have ‘fibre to the cabinet’ or FTTC. “So what?” I hear you ask. Well, the current copper land-line system is not affected by power cuts. If the power goes off to your house (or town/village) you can still call friends, or for help, because the system has a back-up supply in the telephone exchange to keep your plug-in phone working, (although of course the broadband is lost because it relies on a powered router in your home). The new system, uses “Voice Over IP” or VOIP for short (love all these acronyms!) and relies on the router in your house for a connection to the phone system. This means when the power goes off, so does your router, and bingo, no phone to call for help on! Now this isn’t too much of an issue if you have a decent mobile signal, but how many of us do? And how many of you have ‘WIFI Calling’ on your mobile which relies on, yes, you’ve guessed it, your router!

The answer will be to have your own battery back-up system. Some, (mainly businesses) have been using these for years to keep their computers going in a power cut, and to protect them from power surges. They vary hugely in price, size and how long they will keep things running, (which of course is also dependant on what power is drawn by what you have plugged in) but a reasonable sized one for your home should cost less than £100. I’m going to be trialling one at home to keep our current broadband running in a power cut, so I’ll keep you posted on how I get on.

December 2021/January 2022

For those of use who use Word 2016/19, there is one irritating feature which is easily switched off, if you know where to look. When you start Word, you are presented with a ‘Start Screen’ which is useful the first time you open word but drives you mad afterwards because to get to your documents there are umpteen clicks to do to get there. To bypass the ‘Start Screen’ (or should that be ‘Start Scream’?) then click on File, then Options. Under the ‘General’ heading, find ‘Start up options’ at the bottom and untick ‘Show the start screen…….’. Click OK and Word will now open automatically on a blank page

Another irritation is that when you click to open a document, Word presents you with a ‘Recent Files’ screen and to get to your documents, there are more clicks! To get Word to go to your Documents folder straight away, then it’s File, then Options, then Save. Now put a tick in the option ‘Don’t show the Backstage when opening or saving files’. Click OK again and Word will now open directly to your Documents folder!

October/November 2021

As previously mentioned, Microsoft took everyone by surprise by suddenly announcing the ‘end’ of Windows 10, and the release of Windows 11. I have now had a chance to download and install a copy to see what it is like. The first thing you notice is that the ‘start button’ which has been in the bottom left of the screen since Windows 95 (yes that’s short for 1995 when it was released!) has now been moved into the centre of the bottom taskbar (although this can be moved back to the normal left-hand side quite easily). Any similarity to the Apple taskbar is no doubt co-incidental! First impressions are that everything looks different, but is still the same so it looks like ‘All Change – but stay the same’.

So what else do you need to know? Well, the release date is the 5th October (so not long after your copy of Outreach comes out) and apparently, your PC/Laptop will tell you when it is ready to install. Upgrading from Windows 7, 8 & 10 is free. There are some caveats though. The main one seems to be that you will need to have Trusted Platform Module (TPM) installed on your computer. Not every computer will have this as it is built into the processor, and/or the motherboard. Despite the fact that my test PC was built early in 2020, it didn’t have TPM installed, and it wasn’t part of the motherboard. I was able to download and install it though once I had enabled the option. There are other blocks to you getting Windows 11, to do with the amount of RAM, processor speed and available hard disc space, but these are best left for me to answer.

I will be testing more, slightly older, computers in due course, to see how the arrival of Windows 11 affects them. Microsoft say that Windows 10 will continue to get the updates until 2025, but these are likely to be just ‘bug fixes’ and not any new features as has happened in the past. Any new laptop or PC bought now should come with a sticker saying it is Win 11 compatible. I noted that several PC adverts say that they come with a ‘free upgrade to Win 11’ as though it was some sort of special bonus!

I have continued to upgrade computers with the new Solid State Drives, turning machines that seem to be wading in treacle, into fast nippy ones. This works especially well with ones that were originally Windows 7 and just had the free Win 10 upgrade in 2015+. So if your computer is one of these, or just seems really S-L-O-W, then get in touch and I’ll see what might be possible.

August/September 2021

The big news this month is that while we were awaiting the latest update to Windows 10, Microsoft suddenly announced that they were releasing a new version of Windows, called, Windows 11. This surprised everyone in the IT world as Microsoft had previously said that there would be no new versions of Windows, as they would simply release updates and improvements to Windows 10. I haven’t had a chance to download and try the ‘beta’ version of the new version but I expect you will be hearing more in due course.

Scammers have been busy with the ‘Amazon Account’ renewal phone call, plus I’ve had emails offering a Government Covid refund on my TV licence and emails trying to trick me in bidding for government Covid business grants. A very plausible looking TSB email had me looking twice because it was so good. Even the email address looked perfect but the link to click on went somewhere very strange which didn’t have TSB in the URL! All phishing emails can be sent to: and you should get a confirmation email back.

If, like me, you are a fan of Family History, you may have old photos of relatives from way back when. There is a website which can bring these photos to life, literally! Some will find the effect somewhat creepy, but I was amazed. You upload the photo of your relative to the site, and after a few seconds, it produces a short ‘movie’ of the person. It has to be seen to be believed so if you want to take a look, head for: ‘’.

Now I return to one of my bête noires: passwords. I’ve just spent hours trying to convince Microsoft that the account the customer has forgotten the password for, is actually theirs. But with Microsoft, the computer says ‘NO’. The problem is worse because having set their account up using an online account, they put in a ‘normal’ landline number for the recovery as they don’t use a mobile. This means, that when you try to recover the account, the code is sent via text, which doesn’t work on a landline. You can’t ring them so have to fill out a ‘recovery form’ which the computer says isn’t enough and to fill out a form and round and round you go!

I went to a house a while back and working on my own upstairs, I needed to log into their WIFI to get a file. I called downstairs and asked for the password. The reply came back, “Start with a capital ‘s’ and then 1234”. Five letters? OK, well it’s their password I thought. However of course I couldn’t get that to work. Kept trying slight variations but eventually admitted defeat. “Can’t see what the problem is” after I called to check it. Customer comes in and types ‘S t a r t 1 2 3 4’!

Stay safe.

June/July 2021

I am pleased to say that I can open my shop in Chapel Lane, Horrabridge again on Wednesdays. You will also be able to admire the shiny new tarmac outside the shop as DCC have resurfaced the whole of our road at last. This means no more getting soaked from cars splashing through the numerous puddles in the road. If you do call in, please continue to mask up before entering.

I do need to highlight once again, that phone scammers are active in the area. I’ve had fake undelivered parcel messages, fake amazon account and ‘internet going to be disconnected’ warnings, but my favourite, (if there is such a thing) is the message that my national insurance number has been used for illegal activities! Scammers have also been sending email messages about closing my email account, (interesting, as I run my own mailservers!) about untold riches to be earned from bitcoin, plus ‘special offers’ from various supermarkets if I complete a survey. This can all make you very cross of course, but the Delete key is very therapeutic! As is winding up a phone scammer by pretending to play along with them. They won’t ever stop trying, so always remember the phrase; If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you.

The next big update of Windows 10 probably won’t arrive on your computer until the autumn but updates still continue to arrive regularly every month (usually on the 2nd and/or 4th Tuesday). To see if your computer has updates waiting to be installed (as not all are done automatically) then click on start, then settings, then ‘updates and security’. Even if it says it is up to date, it is worth clicking ‘check for updates’ to double-check. You get ‘optional updates’ from time to time, and you may also see an ‘additional updates’ option listed. If you click on either of these, there will usually be extra patches and driver updates available. 

One thing worth highlighting is that Microsoft is very keen for everyone to have an account with them and will try all sorts of ‘tricks’ to get you have one. For instance, when setting up a new PC or laptop, you get to a stage where it suggests connecting to your WIFI. If you do, you then cannot escape from the ‘sign in to Microsoft’ trap. Clicking ‘I don’t have internet’ gets a veiled threat about not setting up correctly but at least you can create a simple username for logging onto the computer. A recent Windows 10 update presents you with a ‘complete the set-up of your account’ screen. Clicking ‘next’ immediately tries to get you to sign in to Microsoft, which, if you normally sign in with your name, you won’t want to do. For the moment, you can cancel this and continue as before but I wonder how long it will be before it becomes mandatory. 

As always, I am happy to help with any such issues so please don’t hesitate to call if you have a problem.

April/May 2021

As we become more savvy with attempts to scam us out of our hard-earned cash, so the scammers will attempt to thwart our defences with more cunning and sophisticated tricks. From spoofing legitimate looking local phone numbers, to giving themselves ‘normal’ sounding names and now another twist, using an ‘English accent’ phone message rather than a terrible American accent one. Had this recently with the ‘amazon prime renewal call’ which seems to be back in favour right now. There was the requisite local(ish) code phone number and a lady’s voice thanking me for renewing prime for £79.99! If you get one of these, don’t press 1, just hang up. Remember: If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you.

Likewise, with email. I’ve had lots of Morrisons/Sainsburys/Waitrose, ‘Shopping Experience’ email with a £90 ‘exclusive offer’ as bait, (from strange domains ending in .XYZ and starting with ‘deutsch’ in the name) plus get-rich-quick schemes from Bitcoin and Martin Lewis. I don’t understand ‘bitcoin’. I have tried but it sounds like a cross between a ponzi scheme and the emperor’s new clothes! How can something you can’t hold, see or ‘own’ be worth £60k each?

Looking ahead, (won’t it be nice to get to the pub, socialise and sink a nice pint or two of Doom!) the next update to Windows 10 is due in May. Hard to tell at the moment if there will be major changes. In the meantime, make sure you have version 20H2 on your PC. The quick check is to click on Start, then type ‘winver’ (without quotes) and press enter. If you haven’t got 20H2, then click Start, then Settings, then scroll down and click on ‘Update and Security’ and then ‘Windows Updates’. Install any updates that are waiting, including any which are ‘optional’.

Many of you will have be ‘warned’ by Google that they are limiting the free storage they give you with your account. I don’t have much but it prompted me to find a way to back up all my google pictures without laboriously clicking loads of photos. There is an easy way (there usually is!) and it will download ALL your google data if you are so inclined. Go to “” and scroll down the very long list of things that google has about you (more than you ever thought I suspect). I just wanted my pictures so I ticked the photos box and waited. You eventually get an email with a link to download the files. They are all ‘zipped’ up so will need to be ‘un-zipped’ for you to view them.

And to finish: An IT engineer returned to his desk to find a message saying “please ring Mr Thompson – it’s urgent” and a phone number. He didn’t recognise the name but rang the number. A child’s voice answered the phone. “Hello?” said the voice. “Can I speak to Mr Thompson please?” asked our engineer. “No, Daddy’s not here.” said the voice. Long pause, “Ok…….is your Mummy there?” enquired our engineer. “No. ‘fraid she’s not here either” said the voice. Another pause, and getting slightly exasperated our engineer asked, “well… there anyone else there I could speak to?”. “Oh yes!” said the voice, “my brother’s here.” “Great!” says our engineer, “Can I speak to him then please?”, and the voice replied, “Yes, OK, I’ll just get him for you.” The phone was put down and there was an even longer pause, Finally, the voice returned. “I’m sorry, but I can’t lift him out of his cot!”

Keep Safe!

February/March 2021

As lockdown Mk3 begins to bite, more people are asking about replacing laptops and PCs, or just getting their current ‘kit’ going faster. With more of us working (and schooling) from home, decent IT has become a must-have. Parts for tower PCs are still readily available but unfortunately, laptops are in short supply due to the very virus which is keeping us in doors affecting production. But what should you be looking for anyway?

Well if you are thinking of buying a new Windows 10 laptop, then the things to look out for are these. Processor: Avoid anything that has an intel Celeron processor as in my experience, they slow down very quickly (there’s an oxymoron for you!) and will drive you mad. But intel Pentium processors are OK but if you can find an ‘i3’ or ‘i5’ processor they are much better again. If it says AMD Ryzen 3 or 5, they are also great processors. You want a minimum of 4Gb RAM, but 8GB is better (more than that is a waste with day-to-day computing) and you want a minimum of a 256Gb Solid State Drive (SSD). Here, it is the SSD which is crucial as these drives are much, much faster than traditional ‘spinning’ hard drives. Screen size is up to you but generally, 10in/11in are great if you travel a lot, (not much good at the moment obviously) and 14in/15.6in are perfect for day-to-day working at home. There are 17in laptops available too if you need a bigger screen. With all these, it is possible to connect a second screen, (usually now via an HDMI cable) for multi-screen working.

If you already have a laptop, but it now seems slow, replacing the hard drive with an SSD and a fresh install of Windows 10 will almost certainly give your laptop (or tower PC) a new lease of life. I am happy to advise you with this upgrade. Just send an email or give me a call.

Keeping in touch with friends, relatives or business colleagues has never been easier during a lockdown. Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc, the variations are seemingly endless. They all use the Internet as a connection medium, meaning there are no call charges, so you can contact your cousin/aunt in Australia for free.  

I have held and taken part in Zoom meetings and it’s really easy to do. If you are holding one for a group of people, (friends or business perhaps) then you will first need to create an account on the Zoom website. Create your meeting by selecting a date and start time and Zoom provides a link for you to send to each person you want to invite. At the appointed time, you start the meeting and as your invitees click on their link, they are brought to the meeting’s ‘waiting room’ and you click to allow them in. You don’t have to use video if you don’t want too, although that is part of the fun. A free account allows you about 45 minutes for your meeting but you can simply start another if you want to continue. For a longer meeting, you will need to pay a monthly, or annual fee. 

You do need a reasonable broadband speed for Zoom but luckily our broadband speeds are now around the 35Mbs (apologies if yours isn’t). I have mentioned before about the differences but if you want know more, head over to the Buckland Computers website for more information.

Take care and stay safe.

December 2020/January 2021

Thank you once again for all the kind comments about these articles. I’m glad you find them informative and entertaining. I’m pleased everyone is now more aware of what the scammers get up to and if it stops them getting money, that’s a great result.

Following on from last month, where I mentioned ‘Quick Assist’ which I can use for remote access to your computer, I came across something which, potentially, could lead to serious problems if not guarded against. In fact, it was so obvious an issue, I’m surprised I didn’t spot it before. It’s to do with the way website passwords are stored on your PC.

I am fairly relaxed about whether you have a password or not when you start up your computer. My rule of thumb is usually that if you have work files, or children, then a password is a good idea. If you are the only person using the PC, then it’s not really necessary. I may change that opinion now. The reason for this is as we merrily go on day-to-day surfing the internet, buying things from Amazon, e-bay etc, we usually click the helpful “save this password” prompt so we don’t have to keep retyping it. This also happens with email passwords too. Which is where this particular alarm bell was sounded.

I was setting up someone’s email on a new laptop, when, having been asked for their password, said those famous words “I don’t have one, I click on ‘email’ and they download’. Groan! Whilst they consulted several notebooks, I recalled that in amongst the many settings in Microsoft Edge (and Google Chrome) there is a ‘Passwords’ option and that clicking on this, you get a list of all the websites you have visited, along with their stored passwords (if you clicked ‘Save’ that is). Seconds later, I had the person’s email password and was able to tell them what it was!

But it dawned on me afterwards, that if I could get that password so easily, then a scammer logged into the PC could do the same, (or anyone else for that matter) and get all your other website passwords too. When I checked this out later, I found that if there is a password set to log into the computer, when you try and access any of the stored ones, you are asked to confirm the login password, before you can see it. If there isn’t a log-in password, you can read any of the stored passwords quite easily. To view these, open Edge or Chrome, click on the three dots (top right) and select ‘Settings’ then ‘Passwords’.

So now you’ve all come back from looking at your passwords, what should you do? Well, if it’s just you using the PC and you are confident never to let anyone have access, then don’t worry. But, it might be a better idea to secure your files with a password, right now. And also go through that password list writing down all the ones you’d forgotten.

To set a log-in password, go to Start>Settings>Accounts and click on ‘sign in options’. You can create a password, and then if you prefer, create a pin-number too, to secure access. I tend to avoid the ‘sign in with your Microsoft account’ option personally but if you have a Hotmail or Outlook email address from Microsoft, then it’s up to you if you want to use that instead. If you have any concerns, just call me and I can help.

Stay Alert, Stay Safe, Beat the Scammers!

October/November 2020

I have come across several PCs and Laptops which haven’t picked up April’s Windows 10 update and one or two of them have had very old versions of Windows 10 on them. The numbering sequence of Windows 10 is quite easy to follow if you know what to look for. Before I tell you what to look for, here’s how to check your version of Windows 10. With your computer on, right-click on the start icon (bottom left corner of the screen) and then select ‘Run’ from the menu. Type ‘winver’ in the box and press enter. A window will open with details of your version of windows (see pic).

If it says you have ‘version 2004’. This is for the April release in 2020. Last year’s numbering was 1903 (March 2019) and 1909 (September 2019). The numbering for previous years is the same, going back to the year 2015. Hopefully, you won’t have anything that old, but I have found some computers with 1803/1809 (March/Sept 2018) on them. These have been running very slowly!

Windows 10 is pretty good at keeping itself updated, but it can get out of sync and needs the odd ‘prod’ to get it back in step. To do this and check for updates: Click Start>Settings and then select ‘Updates and Security’ from the list. You may have to scroll down to find this as it’s at the bottom. Even if Windows says ‘you are up to date’, it is worth clicking ‘Check for updates’ and forcing it to check. Another possibility is that you will see a message about a ‘feature update’ which you have to ‘download and install’ by clicking the link. Note: if you have to do that, it will take quite a while to download and install!

I am also aware that there is a problem with some versions of Outlook (in Microsoft Office). If you try and search for a particular email, a message will appear above your search saying ‘Something went wrong and your search couldn’t be completed’, but then carries on and does the search anyway. This is a bug which came from a Microsoft update a while back. They are supposed to be working on a fix but it hasn’t reached me yet if they have!

A recent addition to Windows 10 that I have found very useful, is a feature called ‘Quick Assist’. Supposing you have a problem on your computer that I could fix easily if I were in your home, but we don’t want to risk a visit in these interesting times. This is where ‘Quick Assist’ will help. Both you and me run the program I click on give assistance, and you click on receive assistance. The app shows you a code number which you give to me and I put it into my PC and ‘Hey Presto!’ I can control your PC. Obviously you should only use this with someone you know as it won’t be long (no doubt) before some scammer cottons on to this and tries to get access to your PC. Currently these scammers use other forms of remote assistance to rob you. Never, ever, give access to your PC to anyone who rings you and claims to be from some big sounding organisation, no matter how plausible the tale they spin you sounds. It Will End In Tears! Yours!!

Stay Alert, Stay Safe, Beat the Scammers!

August/September 2020

Email passwords! They are the bane of my life! I have lost count of the number of times I have gone to set up a new PC or laptop, and asked for the person’s email password, only to hear “I don’t have one. I click on BT/Sky/Google and it just comes up.” There then ensues several minutes of pointing out that there is an email password and that it was used on day 1 on the old computer which then remembered it for ever more……..until today when you need it!

We then have fun with the security questions (especially on BT) which were also used when the account was set up. First pet/car/friend/teacher, I’ve been through them all and as for mobile phone recovery numbers, it is very rare that the number that BT/Google has is the current mobile number! Having exhausted all these, it’s time ring ‘support’ (or the un-helpful desk as I like to call them). It used to be the case that when you got through, they would simply reset the password and allow you to get back in, but on one occasion recently, I was locked out of Hotmail for a month (yes, a MONTH) and on another, I found that BT would only post (yes POST – snail mail) a letter with a pin code, which you then had to ring up (again) with so that they would then reset the password for you.

So when was the last time you checked your email password and security seconds? Yes, I thought as much, probably never! OK, I know some of you have, but many haven’t and you should do it. Change the password for something new. Avoid obvious ones. Believe it or not, 123456789 was one of the most ‘popular’ passwords used last year. I have covered how to make a tricky password in the past but it is worth repeating. A favourite date is good, either just using numbers, or mix up numbers and letters, eg: 01012020 or 01jan2020. My personal favourite is to think of a phrase you like, a line from a film or a song, or maybe a quotation, and then use the initial letters from each word.

Just thought; we could have a bit of fun here. Work these out!! Omutbdfom or yamtssfa (hint: ones a song, one is Shakespeare). Or satccott  and tlotrrotk (hint: a poem and a film).

Additional – Nov 2020: I came back to this and tried to remind myself what these were! FAILED!! Omutbdfom is ‘Once more unto the breech dear friends’ but yamtssta I really can’t recall at all!! But satccott is ‘stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’ and the film is ‘Lord of the Rings, Return of the King’ (thanks to my friend Meg Langton for reminding me of this one!)

There! Chuck in a capital letter, add a number and you can have an easy to remember password that will be unique.

The reason I really brought up the topic of passwords, was because of an incident with a scammer. They tricked their way onto the person’s computer and proceeded to lock it with their own password, and then proceeded to delete the stored email password. I’ve never had a scammer do either of those things before and whilst the first was easy to resolve, the second….well you can guess from above what happened next!

Scammers are getting cleverer as we become more aware of their trickery, and people are still being caught out. I’ve said it before and will keep saying it, NEVER, never, ever respond to a phonecall claiming to be from Microsoft, Amazon, any Bank or from any official sounding ‘company’. Never, let them have control of your computer under any circumstance, even if it sounds plausible, because I can guarantee 100% it isn’t and I can also guarantee 100% You Will Lose Money.

There is one thing you need to remember: If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you.

June/July 2020

Windows 10 is proving to be a very robust operating system, and very quick too. Updates (generally) get installed with no fuss too. I know that many people were nervous of switching from Windows 7 and had heard ‘horror’ stories of problems with Windows 10 but I am pleased to say that once switched, everyone has said how similar they are to look at and work on. And the bonus has been that ‘old’ PCs have suddenly become rejuvenated and quicker to use.

However, and to return to one of my familiar themes, ie backups, I have found it does have a weakness (if you can call it that) in that when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in style! I have had two or three machines very recently which have all being working fine, but then suddenly refusing to start up. Closer investigation has shown that the hard drive has become corrupted in such a way that the data on it cannot easily be recovered. It is even more of a problem with some laptops which have their hard drive built into their motherboards, meaning you can’t unplug it to work on it on another PC. This means data is lost….permanently.

So please do back up regularly, especially if you have precious photos and documents. Cloud backup, using Microsoft’s Onedrive (which is installed with Windows 10) is also available.

The Internet and IT in general have been a wonderful resource to have in these days of ‘LockDown’. Being of a certain age, I can recall when having a phone was unusual, and there were only two TV channels. These started at 5pm and shut down at midnight, unless there was cricket or sport to show. Facts which send shudders through most teenagers!!

I will say though, that at the moment, scam phonecalls have all but dried up, and although I still get regular ‘get rich quick’ emails, fake invoices, phishing emails and endless emails offering to ‘run my website’ to get more custom. This is especially amusing with the RAF Harrowbeer history site. I often wonder if they bother to look at a site before sending the email (I guess not). What extra business they think they can bring to a closed, WWII airfield goodness only knows, although I did like the Viagra email I received for Harrowbeer!!

But the most irritating scam email is the one that comes from someone you know, in that their name heads up the email, but the actual email address is something completely random. It usually just says ‘Hi S’ or similar and then there is a web address and nothing else. My Kaspersky anti-virus always stops any attempt to visit said web-link and most (if you override) have been shutdown so I have no idea what these are attempting to do although I suspect you would end up with a virus on your computer at the very least. Thank goodness for the Delete key.

That’s all for now. Please do get that back up done. You’ll only realise you need to back up, the day you need the back up to recover files!

April/May 2020 (written before COVID-19 struck)

Email has been keeping me busy of late. Some customers are still using ‘Windows Livemail’ to read and send email and unfortunately Microsoft stopped supporting this software some years ago and when it goes wrong, it is difficult to recover messages etc. A recent Windows 10 update threw a spanner in the works causing all sorts of problems with the screen display. It was one of those faults where, as you look at the problem, you think, “How is that even possible!”. Quite often an error requires drastic action and I have to ask my least favourite question, “Can I have your email password please?”. The often quoted reply is “I don’t have one, the email just arrives.” Which leads me now to ask, if I had to reset your email software, do you know what your password is?

Gmail and Hotmail/Outlook have quite a good email reset system using a secondary email address or a telephone number. Known as ‘two-factor authentication’ these work well, providing you keep them updated! Many of you will know I am quite keen on the regular changing of passwords to keep one step ahead of the scammers, so if you haven’t changed or updated your passwords for email, amazon , or any one of the myriad of shopping sites, then it is worth taking the time to check or renew them. Do not forget to check the phone number that you have listed for emergency use is also your current one.

By the way, Banks will soon be demanding to know a phone number or email address, when you make any large purchases, either on line or when on the high street. What’s going to happen is that you will automatically be sent a one-time security code to confirm your purchase. Whilst this should help with credit card fraud, it does make your mobile (and phone number) a target for scammers.

There have been reports of thieves getting a person’s mobile provider to switch their phone number to a new phone, (by pretending to be ‘you’ and claiming that the original phone is lost). If you don’t use your phone much, the first you will realise something is wrong is when you go to make a call and the phone is dead. The scammer then has a phone with your number on it, and well, you can guess where that’s going. How the phone networks are going to deal with that potential problem is anyone’s guess?

Just as I was completing this article, I had a fresh ‘scam phone call’. This was ‘from HMRC’ saying I was being prosecuted for ‘tax fraud’ and that if I didn’t press ‘1’ immediately to speak to ‘an HMRC agent’, a warrant for my arrest would immediately be issued. Total rubbish of course, because if I was being investigated, they would be unlikely to warn me before turning up to arrest me! However, quite a frightening phone call to receive if you were a vulnerable person. If you get any such call like this, just remember, (and pass the word) to hang up the phone and never engage these awful people in conversation.

February/March 2020

It’s pleasing to hear from feedback, that scammers aren’t doing so well locally as people wise-up to the phone calls alleging that your ‘internet is compromised’ etc. However, don’t think for a moment that they won’t be back with some other plausible story to try and get at your money. Please continue to pass the word that no-one is going to call you to tell you that you have a virus, or your Bank account has fraudulent activity on it, and never, ever, ‘Press 1’ to speak to someone. If you aren’t certain, hang up, then wait a while (or get to another phone on a different number) and ring whoever the caller was pretending to be to check their story.

Please make sure you have your precious photos and files safely backed up as I think ‘ransomware’ may come round again in 2020. Never open suspicious emails, or links within them. I know I’ve said this before, but it needs repeating.

When you read this, Windows 7 will have passed its sell-by-date with Microsoft and won’t receive any more updates and patches. Microsoft have said that their anti-virus package, Microsoft Security Essentials, will continue to get updates for the foreseeable future. This is a reversal of their earlier statement saying it wouldn’t. They realised that as they had to keep updating it for Big Business (such as the NHS) they might as well let the rest of us have it to.

I have recently upgraded a lot of Windows 7 PCs to Windows 10. Most users have said they dreaded the upgrade as they had heard Windows 10 wasn’t good and caused problems (amongst other things). Happily, all have said they didn’t see much difference with the operating systems and were generally pleased with their ‘new’ PC. Several have said their machines seemed to run faster too, which is generally what I have found. So it’s not too late to upgrade if you still use Windows 7. The upgrade licence from Microsoft is still free (even though their website says you have to pay!) if you go about it the right way.

I have mentioned that a new version of the internet browser Microsoft Edge was being worked on. By the time you read this, many of you will have had it automatically installed via windows updates. The new ‘Edge’ is a vast improvement on the old version, being quicker to load webpages and easier to configure to the way you want it. You can spot if you have it because the blue ‘e’ changes to a blue circle.

Finally, a little while back, we were travelling home at night on a GWR train from London. We were pleased to find the Pullman restaurant car service was still functioning, (anyone can use this BTW, you don’t need a first-class ticket) and as we were wondering where we were, we brought up Google Maps on our phone, and were able to track our exact location by following the blue dot on the screen. Sad to say It got quite addictive watching it!! I mention this because we realised it would be jolly useful if someone was meeting you at the station, to be able to tell them exactly where you were.