Category Archives: Windows

Today is “World Backup Day”

If you have an electronic device (computer, phone, tablet), chances are that it can be backed up. Today, World Backup Day, serves as a reminder that you should be backing up those devices on a routine basis.

Backing up your data means making a second (and a third copy is recommended) of all of the data on your device. The 3-2-1 strategy is best – always three copies of your data, data stored on two different media, and one copy off-site.

You should backup because loosing data is not as uncommon as you might think. Devices can be lost or stolen. Or they may simply suffer a hardware failure. Increasingly too there is the threat of the data on your device being held for ransom.

Start a habit today of making routine backups. You can even go to the World Backup Day website and take the pledge to back up your data.

DON’T Plug in Just Any USB Drive!

Unknown

We have been aware of the threat of USB devices with auto-run malware for some time. More recently a worse device has surfaced, a USB Killer. This sounds like some fictional device you would see in a movie, but it is real.

This looks like any other USB drive, but the hardware is such that seconds after inserting it into a USB port, a disabling charge will be delivered. The USB Killer device charges up an internal capacitor from the 5V power supplied by the USB port. Once the charge reaches a high level (more than 200 volts) the capacitor is discharged back into the port. This process is repeated for as long as the device receives power. The power surge is fatal for most systems. The USB Killer device can then be unplugged and used again and again.

Not only have these devices been designed and tested, you can order one on-line from a Hong Kong company for less than $60. The product is advertised to “test USB ports for vulnerability”. Now at $60 each someone isn’t going to be buying and spreading the devices around, but it is cheap enough that someone up to no-good could purchase and then fry several several devices. How often do you see a laptop left unattended for a few minutes in a cafe?

The manufacturer claims “Our tests reveal that more than 95% of all devices using USB ports will be damaged permanently or completely destroyed by a USB power surge attack.” They do go on to say that “To date [August 16, 2016], the only hardware that resisted … tests was the latest model Macbooks ­which optically isolate the data lines on the USB ports.

If the evil doer is more creative, they can build their own device. I found one YouTube video where a $3 USB device was purchased on-line then modified to deliver a killing charge. Explicit “how to” instructions were given on how to weaponize the device.

What makes this scary and dangerous is that a recent study conducted by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan and Google indicated that ‘found’ USB drives are often plugged into a computer. In this particular test 297 devices were spread around the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. The result was that they found “that users pick up and connect an estimated 45%–98% of the drives we dropped.

Keep in mind that these USB Killer devices can affect any system with a USB port – computers, TVs, entertainment systems, autos, etc.

How do you protect yourself? If you find a USB drive do not plug it in!


See my other cyber security articles


 

macOS -PrimaveraReader

PrimaveraReader for Mac

Product Announcement – Malmoe, Sweden – Following the great success and market acceptance of the version for Windows, PrimaveraReader is now available to project-oriented organizations and teams working on Mac OS X platforms. PrimaveraReader allows users to open and view project data exported from Oracle(R) Primavera P6 in .XER or .XLS file format.

PrimaveraReader is designed to deliver the well-known view of project information among all parties involved, providing quality of data, interactive views and complete preview of data.

Key product features:
* Complete preview of project data from .xer and .xls files

Open, view and print data from the project schedules without the need of importing it in the database. It gives accurate insights into the project progress by having all calculations for dates, durations and resource assignments on each level of the project, based on a specific calendar assigned to them. Use the Calendar details to get information on working hours for global, project and resource calendars.

* Import custom layouts and user defined filters

In PrimaveraReader users can apply different layouts to group, sort and organize data for better decision making. Besides the default layouts and filters, PrimaveraReader allows the use of your customized layouts exported as .plf files, which saves you time regarding configuration and gives a fully integrated view among the users.

* Display WBS, EPS and OBS views

The software offers additional breakdown structure previews for improving the working environment with visual charts.

* Dedicated customer support

Although the product offers plug & play setup solution, it comes with a dedicated 24/7 customer support.

PrimaveraReader is applicable to all project oriented organizations; from smaller projects to large scale project and portfolio oriented enterprise corporations and is available for Windows and Mac OSX platforms.

The product price remains the same as the Windows version – $249 for a perpetual license, with the cost also including 1Y SMA. Larger organizations can request a quote for a special price corresponding to the number of licenses required. PrimaveraReader can be purchased from the website.

All interested parties can schedule a free demo session for further details or download a free 15-day trial. To find out more about PrimaveraReader, visit the PrimaveraReader website.

macOS -TunesKit Audible Converter

Product Announcement – TunesKit Studio of London, United Kingdom has released  TunesKit Audible Converter, a new DRM cracker for Macintosh and Windows. Unlike its existing Audiobook Converter, and other common Audible audiobook converters that require users to install iTunes to authorize their Audible account before conversion, this innovative new application can easily remove DRM from any Audible audio book by converting the AA, AAX files to unprotected MP3, AAC, M4A, or FLAC formats without account authorization. The conversion speed is up to 100X faster than any other Audible audiobook converters in the market.

Developed exclusively for Audible users, this unique solution makes removing the DRM code from Audible audiobooks easier than ever. Anyone can use TunesKit Audible Converter without any DRM knowledge necessary. Thanks to the advanced DRM decrypting processor adopted by TunesKit Audible Converter, this smart audiobook conversion tool is capable of stripping DRM from audiobooks downloaded from Audible as well as converting existing DRM-locked formats from AA, AAX to common MP3, M4A, M4B, FLAC, AAC, OGG, AIFF, APE, FLAC, WMA, WAV, M4R, MKA, AU, etc. with original metadata, ID3 tags and chapters preserved.

In addition to those popular audio formats, TunesKit DRM Audible Converter also allows users to choose lossless audio as output by retaining the parameters like audio codec, channel, bit rate, sample rate, and more – exactly the same as original audiobooks. What’s more, it supports audio splitting – users can split a large audiobook into smaller segments according to their own requirements either by time frame or chapters while converting the DRM-ed Audible books.

Another advantage of TunesKit Audible Audiobook Converter over other programs is the super speedy conversion at 100X. Since it doesn’t need to work together with iTunes or any other extra hardware or virtual CD driver, it will convert the hours-long DRM-ed Audible audiobooks within a few seconds only.

TunesKit Audible Converter is available for both Mac and Windows platforms. It’s fully compatible with the latest macOS Sierra 10.12 and OS X 10.8 or later, and Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP as well. It will get frequent updates to support every new upcoming release of computer system and Audible DRM technology afterwards.

macOD -MacHTTP.js

Product AnnouncementMacHTTP.Org of Leesburg, Virginia has released MacHTTP-js Preview for macOS, a full-featured Web server for 21st century desktops and servers. MacHTTP-js is a modern take on the classic stand-alone, desktop computer Web server plus a whole lot more, using current state-of-the-art technology while derived from the core ideas that went into the creation of the original Mac Web server, MacHTTP.

MacHTTP-js eliminates the need to understand arcane command line tools or to be an expert in deploying Linux-based servers. Instead, it returns to its roots as a double-clickable application with a friendly user interface allowing anyone technical enough to operate a text editor to set up a web server or create compelling Web applications on their desktop which can be migrated to public servers.

Implemented with modern technologies like node.js, Express.js, and Electron, MacHTTP-js is designed for upcoming versions to run on multiple different operating systems and computers, from Macs running macOS to Windows 10, various flavors of Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, RHEL, etc.), and even Raspberry Pis running Raspbian or container-based systems like Docker. These other versions will be released as part of the final release of MacHTTP-js, coming soon. This software is a Free Opens Source Software (FOSS) project.

The Preview version of MacHTTP-js runs on any version of macOS that is actively supported by Apple. For more information on MacHTTP-js, or to download the fully functional MacHTTP-js Preview version on macOS, free of charge, visit their web site.

macOS – OnlyOffice 4.1.1

Product Announcement – Ascensio System SIA of Riga, Latvia, the developer of IT solutions for business, today is pleased to announce that they have opened the source code of its ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors, presenting a free and open source alternative to Microsoft Office for Mac OS. ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors is an office suite that combines text, spreadsheet and presentation editors, allowing anyone to create, view and edit documents offline. Being fully compatible with MS Office, the editors support all the popular document formats, including ODF.

The application features all types of formatting options and allows users to edit complex documents as well as easily switch to online mode and collaborate on documents with colleagues or teammates. The collaborating features include real-time co-editing in two modes, reviewing and tracking changes, commenting, built-in chat. The editors also support connecting third-party plugins. Developers can use these plugins to add specific functions they need to the editors.

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS 10.10 or higher
  • Windows (both 64-bit and 32-bit)
  • Linux also supported
  • 193 MB

ONLYOFFICE 4.1.1 is now free and available worldwide. The office suite is available under AGPL license v3. This means you’re able to download and use ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors without any restrictions. The application can be downloaded from the official website, the source code is now available on GitHub.

Another Source of Tech Information

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-1-45-23-pm

I saw a article about How-To Geek, an online tech magazine, and thought that it might be something of interest to my readers.  It includes articles targeted at both the technical and general readers.

The site was founded in 2006. Articles are divided into the categories of Windows, Linux, Office, Gadgets, Mobile, Hardware, Apple, and Geek School. This might be a good addition to your ‘tech’ leisure reading.

I have subscribed to their RSS feed so that I get all of their articles in my RSS reader (I use the FOSS program Vienna).

Review of Slack

Updated 3/11/16

slack_rgb

What is Slack? Slack is a collaboration tool for groups that was developed under the leadership of Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield. It allows for synchronous communications from a variety of devices. Messages can be sent to groups or individuals
on a Slack Team. The groups are collected in ‘Channels’ and any message posted to the Channel is readable by any member of the Channel. The Channel members can also scroll back to see what messages have been exchanged in the past.

Channels are organized into both public and private categories, with the private Channels restricting members to be added by invitation only. One-on-one communications between individual Slack Team members are private. The tool allows messages, files,
images, links . . . a variety of information to be shared. Messages are searchable so past posts can easily be found.

Every Slack Team has a ‘general’ channel which all Team members are automatically a member of. Additional channels can be created as needed by the Team. The @ character can be used when writing a message to alert an individual, or all of the members of a given channel of the new message.

Multi Device Group

Slack is a cross platform solution:

  • Web interface from any browser
  • Apps for mobile devices running iOS, Android and Windows Phone
  • Apps for OS X (10.9+), Windows (7+) and Linux

Pricing of the service is available at three levels:

  • Free
  • Standard $8/mo. – unlimited integrations, unlimited searches
  • Plus $12/mo.  – more features above Standard

I have been using the Free account for a few months now and find it to be extremely useful. The Free account is limited to browsing and searching only the last 10,000 most recent messages, but that is more than enough for my use cases. I particularly like that I receive notifications on my Apple Watch when a new post has been made. It is much quicker and easier to glance at my watch instead of getting my iPhone out.

Several of us within the IEEE Central Texas Section have been using the tool and it has been very helpful in planning events. The Capital Macintosh User Group (CapMac) has recently begun using it as well. Even though I was out of town last weekend, Slack let me interact with other on the CapMac board to plan our last meeting. Once you begin to use Slack you may want to reach out to other established, public Teams. You can visit Slofile and there search their database of public Slack communities.

Slack has good information for new users on how they can get started including a brief video tour. Slack can be set up to allow any to join, allow any from a give set of email URLs to join, or join by invitation only.

Pros

  • Has a Free level of service
  • Supports multiple Slack Teams
  • Cross platform
  • Use of ‘channels’ to voluntarily collect similar posts
  • Good ‘Getting Started’ resources
  • Flexibility in controlling participation
  • Large and growing list of public Slack Teams
  • Works with Apple Watch

Cons

  • Wish more integrations were available for the Free level
  • no conversation ‘threads’

I highly recommend this App and service. Whether you choose to use it for your business, club or just your extended family, it is a great and easy way to communicate.

References:

  1. What Slack is doing to our offices—and our minds – added 3/11/16

See my other iOS, OS X and Web Tools articles


System Benchmarking with Geekbench

System Benchmarking with Geekbench

Have you ever wanted to see how well your system performed? Or compare two systems?

One way to do that is an way is with the application Geekbench 3 from Primate Labs. This program is cross platform with version for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. A free version is available, with expanded versions ($9.99, $14.99 and $99.99) for purchase.

The software can be downloaded from the web site and run on your system. When I ran Geekbench 3 on my 2011 Mac Mini, it took just over 2 minutes to complete the test. Tests are performed with a single and with multiple cores if they are available. Tests simulate real-world use including encryption, compression/decompression, floating point and memory performance. There is a detailed description of each test Geekbench 3 performs on the web site.

Primate Labs provides a reference chart for both Macs and PCs for comparison.

This App is not something I will use every day, but is nice to have in my digital tool box.


See my other Mac OS X and iOS articles


Transferring Files To and from Your Mac

I, like many others, often find myself in the position of needing to transfer files between my Mac and my other computers. The first thought is to simply pick up a USB thumb drive, inert it into the source computer, copy over the file the move the thumb drive to my Mac and copy it off. Sounds simple. But . . .

The source computer in my case will either be a Windows 7 machine or it could be an Ubuntu Linux machine. That dictates that the only commonly accessible file system format of USB Thumb drive would be one with the FAT32 or ExFAT file system. This is because OS X in addition to reading OS X file systems will read only the FAT32 and ExFAT file systems. Most thumb drives come formatted as FAT32. In most cases is not a limitation, however in my case I want to transfer large media files (greater than 4GB) and the maximum file size under FAT32 is only 4GB. I could have reformatted the thumb drive to ExFAT as it does allow larger files than 4GB, but I didn’t want to reformat. And transferring with a thumb drive can be excruciatingly slow. So how did I solve this problem?

I applied the file sharing technology in OS X, Windows, and Linux. All three types of computer can be set up as a file sharing host, and each can be set up as a file sharing client.

For transfers from the Windows 7 machine I chose to set it up as the host.

  1. To do this I had to enable file sharing on the Windows 7 machine. To do this go to the Control Panel >> Network and Sharing Center >> Choose Homegroup and Sharing options >> Change Advanced Sharing Settings >> click “Turn on File and Printer Sharing”. When I did this on my wife’s Windows 7 machine I found that file sharing was already enabled.
  2. I needed to know the IP address of the Windows 7 machine so I could connect to it from my Mac. Click on Start >> Control Panel >> Network and Internet >> Network and Sharing Center. Click the link next to Connections (in my case Local Area Connection as the Windows 7 machine is hard wired into my home network) >> Details. In the pop-up window the IP address assigned to the machine will be listed. Jot that down as you will need it.
  3. Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 11.31.45 AM
    On your Mac go to Finder >> Go >> Connect to Server. There type in smb://192.168.1.75 (use the IP address you found for the Windows machine in #2 above). You will be prompted for the user ID and password for the Windows 7 user. You can generally leave the workgroup at the default value.
  4. Once authenticated, the directory shared from the Windows 7 machine appears on the Mac desktop and you can transfer files between your Mac and Windows machine.

The exact details will vary some depending upon which version of Windows is in use, but the referenced articles should help you past those difficulties.

For transfers from the Ubuntu Linux machine I chose to set up my Mac as the host.

  1. First File Sharing must be enabled on your Mac.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 7.01.26 PM
    Go to System Preferences >> Sharing. Click in the check-box next to File Sharing on the left side of the window.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 7.17.11 PM
    Then click the ‘Options’ button and click the check-box next to ‘Share files and folders using SMB’ then click the check-box next to the user ID that you want the shared.
  2. Then you will need to find out the IP address of your Mac.
    Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 5.44.55 PM
    Go to System Preferences >> Network. There you will find the IP address of your Mac. Jot that down as you will need it later.
  3. On the Ubuntu system I then clicked on Files >> Connect to Server.
    Screenshot 1
    I used the server address of smb://192.168.1.70 (use the IP address you found in #2 above). The file browser will then open with a directory view of the shared Mac files.

In either case, once the server connection has been established, files can be manipulated as if they were in a local system directory. How long these transfers will take will depend on the network the computers are sharing. An example copy is shown below from my Ubuntu system to my Mac.
Screenshot 2

References:

  1. How to share files between Windows and Mac OS X
  2. How to Share Files Between Windows & Mac without AirDrop
  3. How to Share Files Between Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs on a Network
  4. OS X: Sharing files between Windows and Mac

See my other OS X articles