Friday, 11 January 2019

It's all in a Name

You know, it still surprises me how many times I see a vehicle go by with beautiful sign written information on it advertising the business.

It looks amazing, beautiful graphics, great logo, snazzy colours. And then... you see it... the email address.

fredblogsservices@gmail.com or @btinternet.net or @yahoo.com

All signs of a free website, no sign of professionalism.

For not much more than about £20 per YEAR you can purchase your own Domain Name which looks so much more professional and is not as easy to manage as you'd think.

If you've gone to the trouble and expense to get your Company Vehicle Sign-written, then why not get a domain name first and make it look so much more professional?

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Wherever Next?

Working in IT has often given me reason to be amazed at the next thing that comes out.   People automatically expect me to understand everything about I.T., but in reality you end up just trying your best to stay up to speed with the latest tech that affects your own line of business.  But it never stops the fascination.

A few examples need to be made:-


  1. Google's Automatic Self Driven Car (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiwVMrTLUWg)
  2. Google Duplex (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5VN56jQMWM)
  3. Oculus Interface (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMiAPnVvzAQ&t=101s)
  4. Anki Vector (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy2Z2TWAt6A)

You might wonder why I've chosen those 4.   Have a look at the associated links for Videos that will explain them a little more.

In essence, technology has pushed forward into a new zone, that of taking on a greater part of our lives. 

It's going to start driving our cars, making decisions on the road, having conversations with people that we no longer have time for, developing virtual places to meet our friends so we don't have to leave our homes, and providing robots in the home instead of pets.

"Now hang on", I hear you say "You're an I.T. guy, surely you LOVE all this stuff?"

Yep, I do. But I'm balanced about it all too. I see the need for technology in certain areas of life, but never at the expense of taking it away from our physical abilities. 

They say it was never an exercise freak that invented the remote control.. it's true... once we allow a machine to do a job that we would normally do, then we stop training ourselves to do it.

We don't need to walk around a store to buy shopping when we can sit at home and do it online. We don't need to meet people in person if we can meet them in a virtual room. We don't need to enjoy the experience of driving, if the computer can drive for us. We don't need to make a phone call and talk to somebody if Google can do it.

I'll let you decide what you think is happening to technology. I'm not against it, but I won't let it take everything from me. 



Friday, 23 October 2015

Sneaky Assistant

We all love a new update, and I certainly love to see what Apple have included on their latest patches or operating systems.

However, sometimes the small additions can get overlooked, and today's article is to make you aware of one of them.

It's called 'Wifi Assist' and its tucked away in... No, not in your WIFI settings but in your MOBILE DATA settings. Go into Settings, Mobile data and scroll to the bottom and you'll see a little switch there.

When it is switched on, it will monitor your Wifi signal strength and when it deems that it's too weak, will divert your data through your mobile phone providers data plan.

Now that might seem to be really helpful at first... Until you realise that your Monday night Netflix Film evening in the distant corner of your house on your iPad was channels through your Data Plan.  

Spiralling Data Costs on your mobile plan? Maybe so, maybe not, but it's worth being aware of this feature and how it works.

Simply switch it off to force your mobile device to use Wifi all the time it's connected to it regardless of the signal strength.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Costly New Feature?

Came across an interesting situation today. My wife complained that her last mobile phone bill was £20 more in a month than normal.  Additional Data had been used.

After initial investigations, nothing became apparent. Until she had issues with connecting to the wifi of our home network and her iPad connected to her personal hotspot on her phone without it being switched on!

I will admit it took me by surprise, but it seems Apple introduced a new feature which automatically allows devices that share the same iCloud account information to use personal hotspots on devices, whether they are switched on or off and whether you change the passwords or not.

While there is a great debate about the security issues involved in this update (for example, when your personal hotspot is switched off, your device is still broadcasting it's SSID for all to see) the main issue for us was the unknown costs.

For while my wife was out with the children, in a location that had no wifi, the iPad found the hotspot which was switched off on the phone, activated it and used the data on the phone without her knowing it was going on.

Yes, it advertises a big blue bar across the phone when a device is connected. But if the phone is in a bag within range of the two devices, it can all happen silently and you could find yourself going over your data limit.

You can't switch it off.  If you switch off the hotspot, the other devices can switch it back on.

The way we managed to prevent it from searching and finding the iPhone, was by turning off the BLUETOOTH on the iPad which prevented the two devices from covertly talking to the outside world.

Monday, 29 September 2014

A Sort and Battery

One of the most common questions we ask regarding mobile phones is "Why doesn't my battery last very long any more?"

This is particularly the case with smart phones, and when you look at the industry at the moment, we would guess that over 95% of phones sold on the market now fit this category.


So why does the battery seem to fail so quickly? Are you finding that you're having to charge the phone every night, or even partway through the day ?


While there are items on the market to help with this issue (We have stock ourselves of emergency phone batteries that you can carry in your bag to charge your phone up while you're out and about) it doesn't answer the question "WHY?" 


One of the things to remember with smart phones is that they're no longer just a phone.  They contain GPS systems to work as SatNav, they collect emails, connect to your social networks, take pictures, videos, messaging systems, train timetables, internet viewing, music processing systems and that's just the START of some of the apps that people most commonly have on their phone.

People say that they close the apps down after use, but what is commonly forgotten is that a lot of the apps run in the background, as system services.  Some of these services include "location services" a way that the phone can tell the app exactly where it is. This might be to stamp on a photo the location where the picture was taken, or might be so that it can post your location when you update your Facebook status.

Some of these might be important, especially if it's the core reason you have the app installed - like a SatNav. But we certainly need to ask if it's vital for this service to be constantly running if we don't particularly NEED that feature on that app. Do we really need people to know exactly WHERE we were when we posted a comment? Could that be a security risk for example (i.e. comment posted when we are not at home, means our home is empty?)

By going through the settings of the phone and switching off some of these location services, this will greatly increase the life of the battery.


Other tips include switching off PUSH notifications, on emails (particularly if we prefer to check for messages, instead of the phone pinging at us every time we receive an email).

Screen brightness is another feature we can reduce. You might not notice a small drop in screen brightness for most of the time you use the phone, but this will greatly increase the battery life.

The way we charge the phone is equally important. Regular charging a battery when it's not necessary can actually reduce the life of the battery. Installing a battery charging app can be a valuable way to ensure that the battery gets the charge at the correct rate and receives a proper schedule of charging.

Why not go through the apps that you currently have in your phone and ask yourself how many times you've used that app in the past month or so.  By good housekeeping, we can all improve the service life of the device that could be a life saver - if treated with care.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Clouded

I hope I'm not the only person that was a little sceptical about "The Cloud" when it arrived.  I'll confess that the thought of all my data being out of my control, possibly open to attack, made my hair stand up on the back of my neck.

I won't say that I'm stuck in the 80's or 90's, but I guess I like to ensure that technology is going to work as it says it will before I jump in with both feet. 
Is that a lack of faith in the tech? Maybe it's just I'm getting tired of spending late nights trying to repair the damage caused by the early leaping.

As an example, we've been using a Dropbox account to synchronise data between two offices.  Two servers have their own accounts and share a folder so that work we create on one server is available moments later on the other. It's not instant, but it's quick enough for the purpose of the documents we're creating, and gives us the confidence we needed to rest our hopes on the backup element too.

Interestingly, we had an email from Dropbox to say that our account had been upgraded free from 50GB storage, to 1TB.  This made me sit up.  Currently, we make backups of our server onto 1TB USB drives which are on rotation. Now, with a little folder re-organisation, we can throw all the slow and static data into the Dropbox folder, which gets synchronised within moments.

Suddenly the need for the backup drives is dying.  The worry that the drives will fail, the concern that the backup software didn't do the job, the risk of a fire, the worry of the drives being stolen off site....

Is my view being clouded? Maybe. Maybe in this case, that's a good thing after all.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

DNS Its All in a Name

We use them every day, and yet behind the scenes things happen pretty quick to disguise what's really going on. What is it? 

DNS - Domain Name Server.  This is a computer that sits on a network (in this instance the internet) and converts a fancy domain into a slightly harder to remember IP Address.  Confused yet?

Basically, every computer that sits on a network is assigned an IP Address. IPv6 is the newest standard, but for today's purposes we'll look at the IPv4 version, which is a set of 4 numbers separated by a dot.  Each number can go from 0 to 255 so an IP Address might take a format like this - 192.168.0.1

As you can imagine, with each set of numbers ranging from 0 - 254, you can have a lot of numbers. 4,294,967,296 in fact.  You can't have duplicates, so each computer has a unique address on that network.

Now, lets say you want to look at a web page on one of those computers.  I'd like to search for a new watering can, so I might typically go to Ebay to have a look. 

So I go into my internet browser and in the top I type http://23.67.255.200

Ah, browsing Ebay is so much fun. I must Google and find some news to read. Google is http://173.794.41.83


Oh, look out the window, there is my window cleaner. And on the side of his van he has his web site http://94.136.40.103

Wait a minute. That's a bit hard to remember, isn't it? And to make matters worse, tomorrow I might find that Googles IP address has changed as one of their servers might be down for maintenance....

Surely it's easier to remember ebay.co.uk or google.com ?   This is where a DNS Server comes in.  It's job is to keep record of domain names (i.e. google.com) and remember which IP address they point to. When you type google.com in your browser, a Domain Name Server will quickly translate that into the correct and current IP address and your browser will find the web site there.

The importance of a Domain Name Server is apparent, without them running in the background, the internet would be a totally different experience.