Windows 10 Creators Update

A lot of Windows 10 users were annoyed when the Anniversary update, released a year after the initial release of Windows 10, suddenly decided to install itself on their machines without so much as a polite warning.

Well, this is due to happen again this month (April 2017) with the new “Creators” update, and again, most users will not have the power to prevent it. Anyone using Windows 10 Home with the default Windows Update options could find it downloading any time after April 11th. It will then be scheduled to install any time outside “active hours” which if you haven’t changed them should be 8am to 5pm. Windows will target users of new, tested devices first, and then roll out to older machines later.

You can reschedule this  restart and install in the Windows Update settings (under “Restart Options”) but you can only delay it up to 6 days.

Users of Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or Education can defer the update further. In Windows Update settings, click “Advanced Options” under “Update Settings” and  then put a tick in the “Defer Feature updates” box. This will allow continued normal updates to be installed but will block the Creators update.

However, despite all the problems people report when installing Windows Updates, I would still recommend you install the Creators update. Among other things it promises a better Windows Update mechanism which will give users more control over when an update will install, and allow you to postpone restarts so you don’t lose your work to an unexpected reboot. There are many other improvements too, which should make Windows 10 much more bearable for most.

If the update does cause problems for you, contact me or a local professional, who will be able to help you.

Virgin.net email address closure

People with Virgin.net email addresses are probably already aware that they are going to lose access to this service soon, but there seems to be some confusion as to exactly when.

Virgin Media sold part of their business to TalkTalk last year and that included responsibility for these addresses, and it seems that TalkTalk are not going to maintain them. I have not been able to find an exact date, but it is suggested that the cut off will be at the end of June, so only a few weeks from now.

To avoid loss of email , the simplest approach is to connect to the mail service using an email client such as Windows Live Mail. Outlook or Thunderbird. and copy the mail into folders that are stored locally (on your computer).

You are going to need to get an alternative address and let everyone know you have done so. The earlier you do this the better, as there will be a transitional period where people are still using the old address. If you have that transitional period early enough you can monitor the incoming mail and let people know of the change by replying to them, or logging on to a website that has the old address and changing it to the new one. If you leave it to late, you won’t be able to tell who is still trying to mail you on the old address!

There are a few options for free web-based email. You could choose Gmail, Outlook.com (Microsoft, formerly known as Hotmail), Yahoo, or many others. My personal preference is for Gmail. Web based mail means that when you change your ISP you don’t need to change your email address too.

Alternatively you could buy your own domain name and get a web host to provide you with mailboxes. This is a cheap (but not free) way to have control over your mail. I recommend Vidahost for services like this.

If you have any questions or need any help with the process of getting away from a virgin.net address, or just with email in general, please feel free to contact me.

Upgrading to Windows 10 – Don’t rush into it!

Now that Windows 10 has been released and is being rolled out to everyone who reserved it using the little icon that’s appeared in the system tray over the last few months, I thought I should issue a word of caution.

Although Windows 10 may be a fantastic OS, and we may all want to start to use it eventually, at the start of the life of any version of Windows it takes time for software companies to make their software fully compatible with it. So if you rush into upgrading to Windows 10 without making sure that everything you have installed is compatible it can cause some fairly serious issues.

A common problem is that of antivirus software being unready, or needing special precautions during the upgrade. If compatible, some AV may still need to be removed before the upgrade, and then reinstalled once the upgrade is complete.

PC manufacturers can also lag behind when it comes to making the pre-installed software and hardware drivers compatible with new versions of Windows. At best this can lead to messages popping up all over the place to say things cannot run, and at worst this can lead to a non-bootable computer.

Some tips:

  • Do your research. Make sure that all your essential applications support Windows 10.
  • Look at the computer manufacturer’s website to make sure that the drivers for your hardware will work on Windows 10.
  • Consult your antivirus vendor to see if any special precautions need to be followed when upgrading.
  • Backup. Make sure that all your data is backed up, and if possible create an “image” of your whole PC so that you can revert if the upgrade does not go to plan.

Malware seen today – BT Digital File

A customer asked me about an email they received today, and I wanted to pass on a warning to anyone who receives anything like the following…

Subject: Important – BT Digital File

Dear Customer,

This email contains your BT Digital File. Please scan attached file and reply to this email.

To download your BT Digital File please follow the link below : <LINK REMOVED FOR SAFETY>

If you have any questions or forgotten your password, please visit the “Frequently Asked Questions” at bt.com or call the helpdesk on 0870 240 5356* between 8am and midnight.

Thank you for choosing BT Digital Vault.

Kind regards,

BT Digital Vault Team

*Calls charged up to 8 pence per minute on the BT network (minimum fee 5.5p). Mobile and other network costs may vary. See http://www.bt.com/pricing for details.

Please note that this is an automatically generated email for your information only. We are sorry, but we can not respond to a “Reply” to this address.

This electronic message contains information from British Telecommunications plc, which may be privileged or confidential. The information is intended for use only by the individual(s) or entity named above. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this electronic message in error, please delete this email immediately.

Registered office: 81 Newgate Street London EC1A 7AJ Registered in England no: 1800000

The link in this email seems to be variable but will be designed to lull the user into a false sense of security. For example the one in my customer’s email was a school organisation, “woodingdeanptfa.org”

DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK IN THIS EMAIL! DO NOT DOWNLOAD OR RUN ANY ATTACHMENTS THAT MAY BE INCLUDED WITH THE EMAIL!

Other subjects seen while researching this problem are:

  • We have received your secure message (from Santander)
  • Customer Account Correspondence (from Lloyds)
  • (AR01) Annual Return Received

As a general rule, never open attachments on emails that look like they may be generic, even if they are from people you know. Viruses and malware will spread through an infected users address book, making the recipients think that the mail has been sent to them by a trusted source. If in any doubt whether you should open an attachment, ask the sender whether they knowingly sent it. If you don’t know the sender, and the email is unsolicited, don’t open the attachment.

Heartbleed – The Basics

heartbleed.jpgThere has been a lot of publicity recently about the Heartbleed Bug, but a lack of a basic explanation of how it affects people and what they can do about it. The advice and information given out by security companies should be considered more expert than this page, but this is an attempt to make the information more accessible to the non-technical.
A Q&A page answering some questions about the bug can be found here http://heartbleed.com/ . It may, however, be too technical to be useful to many.

OpenSSL is the technology used by many, but not all, sites on the internet that encrypt data to protect it during transmission. The bug means that it is possible for someone to access the data that is encrypted by affected versions of OpenSSL. It does this by compromising the keys used to encrypt the data. The versions of OpenSSL that are vulnerable in this way have been around for a couple of years so many sites around the web are affected.

What can you do?

There is a limit to what you as a user can do to protect yourself from this, as it is mainly based at the website end rather than at your computer (although routers and other devices can also be affected). However, if you want to be as safe as possible you can change your passwords for affected sites. This will only work if the site in question has fixed the bug in their system by updating their version of OpenSSL, so go to the website and check first, or consult the lists mentioned below. Changing your password before the site has been fixed will be wasted effort.

To find out whether a particular site is vulnerable, users of the Mozilla Firefox can download and install an add-on that automatically checks sites from here https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/heartbleed-checker/

Other users can test whether a site is vulnerable or has been fixed by going to this site https://lastpass.com/heartbleed/ and putting in the address of the site in question.

Check the organisations with which you hold sensitive information, ie banks, social media and email. If they were affected but have now issued a fix, change your password. If they are affected but haven’t patched there’s not a lot you can do yet. A list of a lot of major websites and whether they are affected can be found here http://mashable.com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected/

Home routers can also be affected, so it is worth checking the website of the manufacturer of your router to see if it is affected and if there is an update for the router firmware available.

Some websites have been proactive about informing their users of the dangers of Heartbleed, often by emailing and requesting that users change their passwords. It is important that you do not let this take precedence over advice you may have been given not to click on links in unsolicited email. It would be very bad practice (although some sites including Mumsnet have done it) to email users and request that they click on a link to change their password. Do not click on these links. Go to the site in question and do it from there. It would not be at all surprising to find senders of spam and “Phishing” emails sending out fakes email over the next few weeks claiming to be legitimately requesting you to change your password in an attempt to get you to give it away. If in doubt, hover the cursor over the link and the real destination will be shown in a little pop-up box, or in the bar along the bottom of your browser or mail client window. If it doesn’t look right or you are in any doubt you should never click a link in an email.

That’s about all you can do, I hope this helps!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas to everyone who knows us. We hope everyone still manages to have a wonderful Christmas despite the terrible weather in the UK and, most importantly, that everyone is safe.

I hope we’ve been helpful this year and can do more to help you in 2014.

Severe VirginMedia broadband issues in the Dorking area

For anyone becoming more and more frustrated with the VirginMedia broadband service, particularly in the Dorking area, I wanted to give an update on my own experience, and that of those of my clients who are with VirginMedia.

On Thursday morning I started work at 9am and found I had no internet connection. I am on the VirginMedia 30Mb package and although I have never managed to get more than 17Mb it is normally a stable connection. It was down until approximately 11.30am which was, frustratingly, the exact moment I managed to get through to someone in support.

I had already rebooted my router several times before phoning, but was advised to do it again, even though I told them I now had a working connection. The “support” engineer also rebooted it remotely and told me I didn’t have a problem. I asked how I knew it wouldn’t immediately come back and was told it wouldn’t.

Ever since, the connection has been unusable. Although the connection is up, and speed test sites such as www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk report I am getting the speed I am used to (17Mb), pages will not load unless I stop and refresh the page many many times. A perfect example of a page that is difficult to load is any page in Virgin’s own support forum. The fact that speed tests work ok allow the Virgin support personnel to test the speed of the link and inform you that all is ok and refuse to do anything more for you.

I have spoken to another support agent, but received the same “reading from a script” level of support. She informed me eventually that an engineer would be sent out, but that she’d had to put “broken cable” on the form because she didn’t understand my long and detailed description of the issue. She didn’t tell me when I should expect the engineer though, so I don’t expect them any time soon.

I have tried all the tricks at my disposal, such as using alternate DNS servers (OpenDNS and Google among others) with no improvement.

So far, in the 4 days since the problem started I have spoken to 4 clients who are experiencing the same issue, but I am prepared to say that it will be affecting all VirginMedia broadband customers in the area. A look at the forums shows people with similar problems in Leatherhead, Fetcham and other areas.

I have begun to express my frustration on Twitter (@HolmPC), Facebook and here on this blog in the hope that if enough people complain, VirginMedia will be forced to acknowledge and fix the problem. I also expect that such a low level of service should entitle customers to some sort of refund, at least for the period of time the connection has been unfit for purpose.

Are you seeing the same thing? Please let me know, and express your frustration to Virgin too!

Update: 12:52 on Monday 28th
I have just called VirginMedia again and received a recorded message saying they have identified the problem and hope to have it fixed by 4:40pm. Let’s wait and see.

Update: 8:36 on Wednesday 30th
A day and a few hours later than originally promised, but it seems to have been fixed around 8pm yesterday. If you are still having problems please let me know, but either way give 150 a call and insist on compensation for your down time.