Note: There was no article in November/December.

September -October 2018

As I was pondering what to put into this month’s article, several stories hit the headlines. First there was the sad story from the Tavistock Times, that yet another person had fallen for the ‘talktalk’ “we owe you a refund so if we can just have your bank details…..”. This resulted in £20,000 being stolen from them. It is so frustrating to keep hearing of this happening, given all the publicity in recent months. So I will repeat it once again here: if someone rings and starts telling you that there is a fault on your phone/computer, or you are owed money or whatever, treat the caller as if they have the plague and HANG UP!

The second one is a slightly new twist on a phishing email. We’ll call this one ‘sextortion-ware’! The email alleges that you have been viewing ‘naughty websites’ and that this person has put a virus on your machine and has videoed you in a ‘compromising position’ shall we say! Well this is a family magazine!! The email also lists an old password you might have used in the past, so evidently hacked (or bought) from somewhere. A sum of money in bitcoin is demanded, or else all the contacts in your address book will get to see the video. Unfortunately for the scammer, when I got this email, it arrived in all my other accounts too, they were all from different ‘people’. Some had the password in, some didn’t. A variation of this email uses a phone number in place of the password apparently. Anyway, I hit the delete button.

Another threatening call we had, was from ‘BT Technical Department’ who were going to turn off our broadband for two weeks because of attempts to hack our account. When we started quizzing them, they first claimed to be a Government department, but then ‘James’ (with a thick foreign accent) got suspicious of our questions and rang off. A quick check online revealed a number of people reporting the same type of call.

The last story was about a free program called ‘Ccleaner’ which I have recommended in the past as a great way to clear out temporary files etc on the your laptop or PC. It seems that the Company that created the program, Piriform’ were bought up by Avast, the anti-virus Company. Ccleaner was still free to download and use, but now had hidden ‘extras’ which weren’t so good. First, unless you unticked the monitoring tick-boxes, Ccleaner installed itself and ran in the background, ostensibly looking out for a build-up of junk files but in doing so, sent tracking data back to Avast. It also kept popping up adverts all the time. To start with, you could turn this off, but the next update seemed to make this more difficult! After lots of online complaints from users, the update was withdrawn and we are now waiting for a completely new version. So if you use this program, ignore requests to update it and stick with an earlier version.

July/August 2018

Recently, June was ‘Scam Awareness Month’. However, I think every month should be the same as I [sadly] here of more and more people being caught out. And please don’t think ‘It’ll Never Happen To Me’, because it can and will happen when you least expect it.

It generally starts with a phone call. There’s a problem with your computer, phone line, internet account, bank account etc. After some smooth and clever conversation, they’ll say they just need access to your computer to ‘check some things out’. Before you know it they’ll be asking for account details, so they can give you a ‘refund’ as you appear to have paid too much, and, well, you know the rest.

Now; just remember that when you have had a fault on your phoneline, how difficult it was to get anyone to agree there was a problem, and to get someone to come and fix it! BT/TalkTalk (or whoever) don’t care if your phone doesn’t work, as long as you keep paying money.

So Rule 1 is: treat anyone who rings you out of the blue (and who you don’t know) as if they have the plague. And Rule 2: If you think it sounds OK, Be very, very aware of Rule 1 and hang up as quickly as possible! Be aware too, that if you have ‘caller display’ activated on your line, it is all too easy now to ‘spoof’ a phone number and pretend to be calling from somewhere they’re not. So even if it looks like a local number, it may not be.

There are quite a few email scams still doing the rounds, although I have noticed that some of the classics (e.g. person has 25 million dollars he/she wants to share with you) have disappeared of late. They have been replaced by fake invoices infected with a virus, or ‘phishing emails’ which hope you’ll respond/call to ask why you’ve been contacted. Some other old favourites to watch out for: Your computer will never tell Microsoft (or anyone) it has a virus. Ignore all ‘speed up my pc’ links too, as they are all bogus. Remember too, that your Bank will NEVER ask for your pin number or anything to do with it. Never discuss your account if someone rings you, always hang up, then ring your Bank to ask if they were trying to reach you.

That all sounds really scary but as long as you stay alert, you’ll be OK. Generally, if something sounds to good to be true…..it probably is.

May/June 2018

By the time you read this, the latest version of Windows will either have arrived, or be about to arrive on your Windows 10 laptop or PC. Microsoft now releases a ‘new’ version of their operating system in the Spring, and then follows it up with a revision in the Autumn. The new Windows 10 is version 1803, (2018, 3rd month). You can find out what version you have by clicking on the ‘Start Button’ and typing “winver” and then pressing enter. Version 1709, (2017, 9th month) was the last version, (then back to 1703, 1609 etc). Once it’s installed and the computer has restarted you are asked a number of new questions before you can get up and running.

The first prompt is for you to choose whether you want to use speech recognition (to control “Cortana”). Then you must choose to let Microsoft know where you are in the world. This can be useful for weather forecasts etc, and can be used to track/locate your laptop if it gets stolen. The drawback is you must have a Microsoft Account set up, which not everybody has, or wants. Next it’s a prompt about sending diagnostic data to Microsoft. The ‘full’ option is quite nosey so you may want to click ‘basic’. The final prompts are to do with how much info you want Microsoft to know about what you do, and whether you want ‘targeted adverts’, (probably not!).

In between the Windows 10 upgrades, you get all the usual updates which arrive whether you want/like them or not. The argument is that this is better for ‘security’ purposes but whether that’s true or not is anyone’s guess! It’s just that you can guarantee that the moment you need to quickly turn on or reboot your computer, is the exact moment that it decides it needs to install that latest update…..which inevitably goes on for ages, while you pull your hair out in frustration.

After upgrading a laptop recently, I was asked if it was worth creating some new ‘system image’ DVDs. In my view this is completely pointless, as no doubt by the time you might have a need for them, the Windows 10 on your laptop will be way out of date and it would be a waste of time restoring the image, because you would then have several years worth of updates to wade through!

By the way: If you are still using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, it is still possible to have your computer upgraded to Windows 10. Microsoft decided to give Windows 10, free, to all Windows 7/8.1 computers and that still is the case today. The free upgrade option was rather forced through initially which caused a lot of irritation, especially when you suddenly found you had it when you hadn’t been given the choice. After the initial twelve months, the automatic upgrade was turned off so it no longer happens automatically. Please get in touch with me if you would like to know more.

April/May 2018

Well, Buckland Monachorum has had its Superfast Broadband connection for about three months and what difference it has made. Downloads happen in a blink and the days of watching the spinning circle in the middle of a TV programme seem to be long gone. Remember, if you want to take advantage of the faster speeds for broadband now available, you have to contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to get them to switch you over to the new service. If you are ‘out of contract’ you can probably haggle for keeping the same price you are paying now to get the faster speed, (I did just that for someone quite recently) by threatening to go elsewhere for a phone deal. If you are ‘under contract’ you will probably just have to smile and find the extra cash, but remember, there is usually a deal to be done if you are pushy enough!

 I had a ‘blast from the past’ recently when someone rang when their mouse stopped working and they needed to shut their machine down. There are all sorts of keyboard shortcuts you can use if the mouse stops, and some are just as useful anyway.

For instance: Do you use Explorer to look at files? With Windows 10, Microsoft, (rather unhelpfully) has decided you no longer require that useful ‘My Computer’ icon on your desktop. The quickest way to get to Explorer is to hold down the ‘Windows key’ and press ‘E’ at the same time. Walking away from your PC and don’t want anyone looking at your screen? Windows key + L will lock the screen and ask for the password (if you use one) to re-open where you were. Want to print the current screen you are looking at? Press Ctrl + P to bring up the print box. Press the Windows key on its own to bring up the start menu. Now experiment with using the ‘TAB’ key and the four arrow keys to move around the various menu options. Got several programmes running and want to swap screens? Windows key and TAB does….well go ahead, try it! You’ll see!

Another neat trick if you quickly want to go right back to the desktop; move the mouse to the very bottom right-hand corner of the screen. To the right of the clock is a tiny oblong. Click on that and hey-presto, all your open programmes will shrink to nothing! They can be re-activated by clicking on their icon on the taskbar, so don’t worry, they haven’t been turned off. Windows Key + D does the same thing BTW. There are lots of these things to use, some useful some not so. Experiment!!

Now, back to the missing ‘My Computer’ icon in Windows 10. If you really want it back, right mouse click on the empty desktop, select ‘Personalise’, then ‘Themes’. Now look for ‘Desktop Icons’ on the right, or scroll down to see it and click on it. From the window that appears, you can tick the box to reinstate the ‘My PC’ icon. Note, there are other options there too if you want them.

February/March 2018

The New Year started well in Buckland Monachorum, with the news that the super-fast broadband cabinet outside the Village Hall had become operational. To benefit from the new high-speed broadband, you have to ask your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to be switched to the new service. You will be sent a new router, because the ‘old’ broadband is ADSL, whereas the ‘new’ broadband is VDSL. That’s ‘Asymetric Digital Subscriber Line’, and ‘Very-High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line’ if you’re interested, (just as well they didn’t go for VHBRDSL!).

But is it worth it? Well, it took two weeks for the switch to happen, but here in Modyford Walk, we went from 3.8mbs to 38.3mbs in the space of five minutes, and all for an extra fiver. You can also get a 75Mbs service too but you will pay more again for that speed. Type ‘can I get superfast broadband’ into Google (other search engines are available!) and follow the links to the Openreach website. Put in your postcode and address and their website will tell you what speed you can expect to get.

So why did Openreach suddenly rush to put in the cabinet and connect it up, having dragged their proverbial feet for so long? Well, if I was a really cynical person, I would say that the arrival of the Skylight Broadband Company and their WIFI broadband service above the Village near Longash, (which Openreach HAD to connect to the fibre network) caused a bit of a panic, in that BT could suddenly see a mass migration of customers leaving to use the alternative WIFI broadband and phone service. Was it a coincidence that the Village Hall Cabinet was turned on a week BEFORE Skylight’s service was connected? Hmmmmm!

The Skylight Broadband people will be at the next Village Market & Coffee Shop on the 10th February (10am to Noon) to answer questions about their alternative broadband service. They have a repeater fixed to the Village Hall to give full coverage of the Village for anyone who wants to switch from a landline service. As a ‘thank you’ they have given the Hall a free broadband connection.

Just before Christmas, Kaspersky Anti-Virus was in the news, when the US and UK Governments decided to drop using the programme, in case it was feeding sensitive information back to the Russians. As a Kaspersky re-seller, I was asked if it really was safe to use. My answer to that was that if the US and UK Government’s both used it to protect their IT, then it must be good! As Eugene Kaspersky stated, it would be commercial suicide for them to allow data-stealing as suggested. I agree and suspect this was a simple ‘back-covering’ exercise.

Finally…..If you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8 laptop or PC, I should be able to get you a free upgrade to Windows 10, if you now want to switch. Please get in touch if you are interested.

January 2018

I have had some lovely feedback following my article last time about interesting sites to visit. However, one old favourite I didn’t mention was Google Earth. It’s still going strong and as well as viewing just about anywhere on our planet, you can now also skim over the surface of the Moon and Mars. There is also a ‘Sky’ option which lets you browse around the known universe, viewing the latest satellite and Hubble telescope images. Although much of the satellite imagery [of Earth] is now available via Google Maps, it is well worth downloading the Google Earth application and installing it on your laptop/PC as it offers far more options.

If you didn’t know, you can use Google Maps to find ways of getting from A to B. Click on the little arrow symbol by the search box and type in a start point and destination to get suggestions on various ways to travel, with their relative times etc. It’s also a quick way of finding distances when someone says ‘how far is it from Plymouth to Yelverton’  (9.5 miles if you’re interested).

I will look out some more interesting websites for you in the future but for now we’ll return to more mundane things.

Buckland Monachorum is still waiting for BT Openreach to upgrade its broadband connection. Some very nice workmen recently spent a morning putting a shiny new green box at the top of the hill outside the Village. Unfortunately, they replaced the wrong box! The one they should have been doing is outside the Village Hall as it was moved many years ago when there was almost an accident with an engineer working on the one on the hill. Hey Ho! More delays!

An alternative broadband service is now available in the area for those fed up with waiting for BT to get their act together. Skylight Broadband have recently erected a mast near Alston Farm which offers a form of WIFI broadband. They offer various packages of broadband services and it is possible to have a ‘normal’ telephone on this using Voice Over Internet Protocol (or VOIP for short). You can even keep your current phone number I understand. They are based in Kingsteignton and their website is www.skylightbroadband.com. I have suggested they visit the next Village Hall Market and Coffee Shop on the 9th December, so watch out for posters etc in due course.

Now, just to finish off, here’s a couple of ‘quickies’. If your ‘task bar’, (the bit that has your program icons, clock etc on) is not along the bottom of the screen where it usually is, but up one side, or at the top of the screen, you can move it back by putting the mouse pointer into the empty part of the bar, holding down the left mouse button and dragging the bar back to the bottom. Desktop icons too big/too small? Left click onto an empty part of the desktop, hold the ‘Ctrl’ key and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to resize the icons. Right-click and select, ‘Sort by’ then ‘Name’ to tidy them up.

That’s all for this month. Remember you can read this, and previous articles on the ‘Weblog’ page on www.bucklandcomputers.co.uk.

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