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Updates and Musings - Archive

Upload 2-11-06   Upload 4-2-06  Upload 5-29-06  Upload 6-26-06  Upload 8-20-06  Upload 10-29-06  Upload 12-21-06

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Upload 12-21-06

Only 3 more shopping days until Christmas, and if you are in Colorado, there isn’t much happening thanks to the Blizzard of 2006!  It is an early Christmas present for the working man, forcing us to remain homebound for a couple of days as the snow fell, and fell, and fell!  Click here for a few pictures that should vouch as to why I only worked remotely on the 20th and 21st

2006 goes out with a bang, lot’s of things happening and new releases from Microsoft coming in early 2007.  Read my annual end of year newsletter here.  You’ll need Adobe Reader, which you can get here.

2007 holds a new start for JAG Computer Service.  We’ll be merging  with Computerworxs to form JAG ComputerWorks.  Our company is based on the same customer service and support that have given us success and growth.  Together, we’ll be able to provide even more services and create a stronger company that our customers can rely on to meet their computer and network needs.  Check out our new site, www.jagcworks.com, which will be updating soon.  I’ll continue my random Updates and Musings at the new site, and www.jagcs.com will still be around for you to reference.

What’s new on the site:  Find open source programs for Windows at opensourcewindows.org.  Ever needed to convert megabytes to kilobytes to bytes?  Use the Byte Converter.  Find 250 Free office templates and documents and keep from creating documents from scratch.   Another free Antispyware program, SUPERAntiSpyware!  Ever needed an e-mail address for just 10 minutes?  Get one at 10minutemail.com.  Get a FREE alternative to Microsoft's Office suite at Open Office.  Get your FREE CD Burning Software.  Pay a visit to Jeroen Kessels.  Check out beta marker.  Last but not least, a great reference for managing and maintaining your Windows infrastructure, thelazyadmin.com (don’t let the url fool you, we’re not lazy, we just don’t want to figure things out the hard way!).  Let's not forget our Mac users.  How about 20 useful OS X tips for you Mac users?

Since YOU! are Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, I’ve gathered up a few presents just for you.

Oops!  Accidentally deleted that file?  FreeUndelete from OfficeRecovery.com can help!

CoreFTP LE is a free FTP client for Windows from Core FTP.

SUPERAntiSpyware has a free version just for you!

Looking for a time sheet you can import into QuickBooks.  Get a free version for 10 users from Journyx.

Feel like pulling a prank on someone you love?  Try the BlueScreen Screen Saver

Need to get to your favorite programs faster without searching around for them?  Try InstallPad.

Find the BestFreeApps or the best free CleanSoftware.

Check out the Giveaway of the Day for free software daily.

Ever wanted to just take apps with you on your USB drive?  Now you can:  PortableApps.

Create and send a Picture to your phone with Pix2Fone.

Let’s have some Fun!

Elf Yourself courtesy of OfficeMax.

Learn how to make a Christmas Card Star.

Learn how to read a Binary Clock (and impress those geeks that have them!).

Check out a traditional English Christmas Dinner.

Become a Jedi Knight by training with the JediTrainer.

Check out some amazing Ice Sculptures.

Ever wonder where those animals that get tagged get off to?  Wonder no more.

Get Google’s Santa Tracker.  It’s not too late!

Get 142 Comedy and Novelty Christmas songs (bittorrent client needed).

Last but not least, enjoy these prettiest images and amazing storm photos.

There’s a lot of ways to help out and the holiday season is a great time to start.  Check out local charities to do something in your neighborhood.   Keep giving all year long, the need doesn’t end when we throw out the last piece of wrapping paper and finish off that last slice of pumpkin pie.  Relish what you have and share what you can with others.  It’s why we are here.

Operation Uplink – Providing Phone Cards for our overseas service persons

Freedom is not Free – Helping support wounded and injured military personnel and their families.  Needed now more than ever

The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

My final thought for 2006 comes from an unusual source (thanks to The Queensboro Shirt Company for bringing it to my attention), Bill Watterson, Author of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes.

“Know what’s weird?  Day by day, nothing seems to change.  But pretty soon, everything’s different.”

Since this is my last entry here at JAG Computer Service (watch for me at JAG ComputerWorks, you aren’t rid of me that easily), I also want to leave you with two of my favorite quotes from the past 2 years of these Updates & Musings:

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”  Winston Churchill

And, from the my very first entry, still something that bears repeating:

“Money don’t buy love, war don’t make no peace, we must rise above, we don’t own the world, we lease…”  The Fixx, ‘We Don’t Own the World’ from ‘Want That Life

Don’t look now, but everything’s different.  Talk to you soon from my new home, www.jagcworks.com - John

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Upload 10-29-06

Happy Halloween  Once again it’s that Hauntingest time of the year!  Glad Christmas stuff is out already!

First, a quick note about the MS150 Bike to the Beach.  My brother had to cancel this year a few weeks before the ride.  Without him to keep me company, we decided to do one of the rides after the first of the year.  If you donated, MS appreciates your support and help.  Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted on the next ride!

Never let it be said I couldn’t start a tradition and keep it going.  Let’s get to it, the top 5 IT Issues that scare me!  (Not to be outdone, of course, check out these 13 Scariest Things in IT!).

1.  LOSS.  It’s always at the top of my list.  Losing your data can almost be as frightening as losing your limbs like those unlucky travelers in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!’  There are many inexpensive backup methods, including backup to USB drives and inexpensive offsite backup.  JAG Computer Service offers an online backup service and we can help you set up daily, weekly, monthly and offsite backups to help keep your data secure.  It’s important to backup your data and also retain a copy of that data offsite.

2.  SAFETY.  E-mail safety.  Online safety.  Office safety.  Protect your investments by making sure you have an up to date antivirus program, use an antispam product (desktop or server), and make sure your office environment is geared towards at least making it difficult for someone to get at your data.  You’ll be glad you did, unlike those unfortunate crewman in ‘Alien’ who ignored the first rule of safety, don’t bring someone that might be contagious back on the ship.  It just might bite you!

3.  FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY.  There’s nothing worse than thinking you are protected and then finding out your sense of security has left you vulnerable.  This extends to making sure your antivirus product is working properly and updating, testing your backups and routinely monitoring your systems and networks.  It’s like barring yourself in the basement in ‘Night of the Living Dead’.  You feel safe from the zombies outside, but are you really?  Make sure your choice of products is doing it’s job, don’t just go with the most familiar name.  I’ve cleaned a lot of virus’ and spyware from computers protected by the number one and two antivirus products on the market, so much so that I now recommend using AVG in combination with Microsoft’s Windows Defender.  For office environments with more than 5 computers I recommend Trend Micro's Client/Server product.  When it comes to security, choose a product that does it’s job well and doesn’t try to be an all inclusive product.

4.  PENNY-WISE & POUND FOOLISH.  Some things it makes sense to not invest in updating, but there comes a time when holding on to the Pentium PC with 32 megabytes of RAM and running Windows 95 no longer justifies the savings.  The productivity gains that can be made by replacing your computer can often pay for themselves within months.  These same gains can be had by protecting your systems from spam and virus’, and by making sure you have disaster recovery plans in place to quickly get back up and running after a failure.  Call JAG Computer Service @ 303-637-9770 and let us evaluate your existing network and equipment and give you a roadmap that will keep you up and running.  Unlike Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode ‘Time Enough at Last’.  His bank teller character values books above all else, and when he survives a nuclear attack to become the last man on Earth, he finally can read all he wants.  Until his glasses drop to ground, the lenses smashing, leaving him unable to read.  He should have brought that second pair (a backup plan of sorts)!  (That reminds me, any fans of Night Gallery out there?  Boy did that spook me out when I was a kid!)

5.  DIAL-UP INTERNET ACCESS.  I’ve long tried to stay away from this subject.  I realize that high speed internet access is not free, but the cost has dropped dramatically compared to just a few years ago.  In order to properly support and maintain today’s computer systems, you need the ability to download new drivers, patches, fixes, updates and upgrades.  Dial-up just won’t do the trick.  Just like the teens in the Friday the 13th movies, that can’t quite run fast enough to escape a shambling living dead creature that gets them every time!

Quick note to QuickBooks users:  With the release of Internet Explorer 7 comes the first large use program gotcha!  If you are running QuickBooks 2007, you are okay to upgrade.  If you are running 2006, QuickBooks has a free patch for you.  They are working on a patch for 2005, but if you are on 2004 and earlier, it’s upgrade to a newer version of QuickBooks if you want IE7!  Read more about it here.

Looking to roll out Office 2007 when it’s released!  You’ll need the compatibility pack to help those who don’t upgrade exchange files with you.  You can get it here.

An early Christmas present from Microsoft?  From October 26 to March 26 people buying certain PC’s will get an upgrade voucher for Windows Vista or Microsoft Office 2007.  Read about it here.

What’s new on the site:  Want some online storage?  Want 25GB for free?  Check out AMD Live Media Vault.  Check out how to protect yourself from phishing scams at the Anti-Phishing Working Group.  Remember those games from years gone by, such as ‘Silent Service’ and ‘Police Quest’.  You can still get them for free at BestOldGames.net.  Check out the Best Free Apps to help you with whatever you might be needing.  Want to know how long your kids have been on the computer, try out the Computer Usage Timer (and while you’re their, look at some other software available from betamarker.com).  Want to see if your mail server is blacklisted, check out mxtoolbox.com.  Check your firewall for leaks hereAtomic Clock Sync is a free program to sync your computer’s time with an internet time server.  Speedtest.net is no longer in beta, and an excellent test of your internet connectivity speed.  From the FTC (our friends in the government) you can find out how to fight back against identity theft.  Check out the free goodies from Microsoft (and you thought they only charged for everything!).  Last but not least, check out a site that's all about wireless home networking.

Web site(s) of the month:  Hahahahahahahaha!  (That’s a typed version of a creepy laugh!).  Just in time for Halloween, here’s some site’s to ‘spook you up’!

A witch’s guide to safe computing’ is just the trick for the 31st!  Get all your spooky needs at Dr. Terror’s Bloodcurdling House of Horrors.  Make a Cylon Jack-0-Lantern.  Check out Ghost Towns around the United States (hopefully your town isn’t among them!).  You can also see the Ghosts of the Southline, abandoned railroad towns in southeast Arizona.  Last (literally!), get a coffin that is as individual as you!  Now you can make one final statement!  For those of you not in the Halloween spirit (horrors!), check out sunsets around the world live!  Next, hop over to Africa and check out the africam.com

Vista and Office 2007.  I’ve been using both since the early July.  I haven’t run into any further compatibility issues, and updates made to both products since July have made considerable steps towards stabilizing both products.  I’m using the regular version of Outlook now instead of safe mode, and aside from a few difficulties ‘waking-up’ from sleep mode, Vista is performing flawlessly.  While they may not be the have to haves that Microsoft would like them to be (although after using them, I have to have them!), once you’ve used either product I think you’ll have a difficult time going back, they are that much more intuitive.  If you’d like to test Vista and Office 2007 in your environment send us an e-mail and we’ll reserve our demo PC for you!

As the year is winding to a close (much faster than I would have imagined) JAG Computer Service continues to grow and change to meet our customer’s needs.  We’ve added online backup, remote monitoring and on demand remote control support to our offerings this year (e-mail us if you’d like to discuss these products), and next year will bring some very exciting changes!  Stay tuned.

For a good time in the Denver area, go see The Australian Pink Floyd Show.  They'll be in Denver on November 4th at the Paramount Theater.  You can get your tickets here.  It's a ripper!

I’ll leave you with a lyric that’s been rolling around in my head for the last couple of months.  It’s from Karl Wallinger and World Party, the song is ‘Is it like today?’ from the album ‘Bang!

‘Blood just looks the same when you open the veins’

Remember to vote, it’s all in our hands now!

Talk to you soon.

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Upload  8-20-06

Life’s the same, I’m moving in Vista - O, life’s the same except for my Palm Desktop…(with apologies to The Cars).   As mentioned in my last upload (6-26-06) I have switched to using Vista Beta 2 for my primary work PC, and Office 2007 Beta 2 for my primary Office software.   So far I like both.  You can see some screen shots here (Acrobat Reader required) to give you an idea of the visual changes, but looks aren’t everything, how does the software perform?

Stability-wise, Vista Beta 2 is as solid as XP SP2, I have rarely had to do a hard reset (powering off and back on) or ctrl-alt-del and shutdown to recover from a program crash.  The new start menu is a welcome improvement over the fly-out window we are used to.  Instead of expanding to the side, the start bar repopulates in-place.  Navigating around Computer (Formerly My Computer) is also improved, although it takes a little getting used to, and it isn’t consistent depending upon what you open (opening Computer  and then browsing from the address bar I find very easy, but opening Documents the navigation seems stuck in the documents folder, not letting you move up a level out of Documents).

Network (formerly Network Neighborhood, My Network Places) is also inconsistent.  Computers on my network that regularly show up from other PC’s come and go from Vista’s Network, making it difficult to just go get a file from another PC that I’m used to getting items from.

Printing support works very well, I had no trouble installing my network printers and using them.

The new Gadget sidebar is very cool and I look forward to seeing what applications get developed for it.  That said, I have a setup where I use Dual Monitors, so I have a lot of screen real estate, I can see where a single monitor user would find this sidebar not very functional, especially if you have it always on top.

Power saving works very well in Vista, and the PC awakes almost instantly when it’s gone to sleep.  Device support is still lacking so don’t expect all your peripherals to work if you decide to take the plunge and begin using Vista Beta 2.

The security feature I mentioned that was so annoying with regards to asking me multiple times if I wanted to download and save a file can be turned off through the Control Panel.  It’s called User Account Control, and it’s turned on and off through several different methods, the easiest being Users Accounts in control panel.  Note that Microsoft prefers you don't turn off the UAC feature, read about why here.

To power off the system you no longer have a Switch User/Log Off / Turn Off option.  There is a Hibernate, Lock Computer and then the full options at the bottom of the start bar, as well as a search bar.

Speaking of search I find it lacking from previous versions.   Microsoft is trying to have an index of your system to make searches faster, but I find that it can’t find what I’m looking for, and I’ve yet to find a way to search the Network for the computers that come and go from the Network view.

Backup is not as configurable as previous versions.  You  can choose between an automatic backup (which doesn’t backup system and temporary files) or a full backup, but you can’t specify specific files/folders, nor can you specify the backup file name.

As for my mention of Palm Desktop, I’ve been unable to get it to run under Vista.  Ultimately I will be moving to Outlook and syncing with my MotoQ  phone/handheld, but for now I’m still using my Palm V.  I can sync up just fine, but launching Palm Desktop just shows the Palm splash screen.  I tried several methods, including running in compatible mode, but nothing changed.  Ultimately I called upon an old friend which Microsoft now gives away (and I’m beginning to suspect for cases just like this, and to get users to move to new operating systems even though they have legacy software that won’t run on new systems), Microsoft Virtual PC 2004.  One hint I can give you when setting up a virtual machine, if you are going to use actual physical hardware that’s installed on your computer like COM and LPT ports, before installing the operating system on your Virtual PC, configure the virtual PC to use the physical devices rather than none, which is the default.  I installed Windows 2000 and then installed the Palm Software and I was in business.  I can even sync the Palm Pilot to the ‘virtual pc’ and update my calendar and contacts.  If you haven’t checked out Virtual PC 2004, now that it’s free give it a go.

I have found very few programs I use that don’t run under Vista Beta 2 (Palm Desktop is one, Adobe Acrobat version 6 for creating PDF’s, Creative Labs Web Cam software).

What about fun stuff?  There are a  couple of new screen savers that are very cool, and the look and feel of the OS is nice, as well as the display features.  I don’t have drivers for my video cards that support the new Areo Glass feature, but hopefully they will be available by the time it’s Gold and released to manufacturing.  All the things you are used to are there, Media Player, Burning capabilities, Movie Maker.  Those are items that I rarely use (I play music on my Windows Media Center PC) but I’ll try to test them out and report on them over the next few months.

If I like Vista, I like Office 2007 even more.  It takes some getting used to, but once you get it going, you’ll find it preferable to earlier versions.  The regular drop down menus have been replaced (augmented, really) by Dashboards that you can customize to suit your taste.   Although I mostly use Word and Outlook, the look and feel is across the suite.  The only obstacle that I had to overcome was Outlook would crash frequently.  The Crash Analysis indicates the problem will be fixed in the next beta version, but that doesn’t help me now!  I was almost at the point where I was going to revert back to Office 2003 to be functional.  As a workaround I tried running Outlook in Safe Mode, which doesn’t have some of the preview abilities of regular mode, but doesn’t crash (as often).  The only problem I have in Safe Mode is that sometimes Send and Receive hangs up and I’ll have to close Outlook and then use Task Manager to terminate the processes that are still open.

The little quirks are why I recommended only using Beta Software full time if you have some patience and can spend a little time finding the workarounds to stay productive.

Stay tuned as I’ll include updates in the next few months of how Vista Beta 2 and Office 2007 Beta 2 perform for the long haul.  Think you’d like to try Vista Beta 2 in your office but don’t have a PC for it?  Starting August 28th I’ll have a Windows Vista Beta 2 loaner PC with Office 2007 Beta 2 that you can try out in your office.  E-mail me for a reservation!

Update 10-29-06:  Due to a change in my brother's schedule we were unable to do the Bike to the Beach this year!  If you donated, thank you very much, your donation goes to help people in need!

You may remember this from October of 2005, and I’m going to do it again.  I’ll be braving the heat and vastness of Texas once again to ride a bike from San Antonio to Corpus Christi to raise money for MS.  To donate go here and enter in John Grein as the rider name.  Your donations will go to a good cause!  The ride this year is October 7th and 8th, you can read more about it here!

What’s new on the site:  In the Links section I’ve added an impressive new speed test and a Host Based Intrusion Detection System.  There’s also a link to the Internet Defence Phishery, a repository of phishing e-mails.  In useful utilities find Krunch, an online file compression service.  Can’t wait for Windows Vista Sidebar, check out Yahoo Widget’s.  There’s a new browser in the town, check out the bandwidth monitor that sits in your taskbar.  Restoration is a free file recovery tool. Check out a new internet protection product called GreenBorder (free to try, inexpensive to buy).  Thinking about switching to  Mac, here’s a handy forum.

Web Site(s) of the Month brings you a flash representation of the web searches AOL recently released to the public.   Some of the search items are ‘R’ rated, so view with that in mind (note, you only see the search terms, not the actual results of the search).  See what your Inbox has to say about you.  Check out some impressive Sand Sculptures, see where you can look up whose calling you, check out what flying was like in the 1960’s, sing Happy 25th Birthday to the IBM PC, find out what causes Heat Stroke.  Want to tell that annoying co-worker about their annoying habit?  Send an Online Message in a Bottle.  At last, Cricket is explained for us American’s, send a free photo e-card, check out the US Government Relocation Facility, known as the bunker.  Get nostalgic with drive in ads from the 50’s, find out where to get free food on your birthday, and while you are thinking about your birthday, put together the list of 50 things to do in your lifetime, or see other people’s lists. 

I’ve been talking for several months about a new product that I actually installed in July and will be rolling out to a couple of existing customers by the end of August.  Starting in September JAG Computer Service can proactively monitor your network and any devices on it to help assure you uptime and performance.  Let us mind your computers and network while you mind your business.  Watch your mail for a special invitation and pricing, or e-mail me for more information!

We’re into the Dog Days of Summer, and school starting is just around the corner, hard to believe it’s mid-August already.  If you haven’t already, take a moment to sit out back and look up at the sky, let your mind wander and look at the shapes the clouds make.  That little kid inside is still there, we just made him be quiet while we went to work.  Let him out to play for a minute.  They’ll be time for work later.  Besides, he misses you!

We'll talk again soon!

Deon and Jen, all the best to you!  Love, Dad

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Upload 6-26-06 

Windows Vista.  Not your father’s Oldsmobile.  I spent some time with Vista Beta 1, I liked it, but it wasn’t ready to work on full time.  Then, amid much fanfare, Microsoft released Vista Beta 2 to the public, hot on the heels of Office 2007 public Beta.  There’s a lot of buzz about Microsoft’s new operating system, some good and some bad.  How can you cut through all the hype and posturing and know if Vista is for you?  That’s what the Beta is all about.  But, being Beta software, the downside is that you can’t really just load it onto your home or work PC without some risk, such as you can’t get all your necessary applications to work.  If all your necessary applications don’t work there is a good chance you will be frustrated and unproductive.  Not a good combination.

With a drop of the other shoe, Vista likes it’s processing power.  The minimum requirements for Vista are still fluid, but Pentium 4 processors of 2 Ghz and higher (which is what most processors that shipped in the past year are), 1 GB of memory, and perhaps the biggest item, Video.  Video cards with 256 and more of memory will allow you to run Vista with the top down and the stereo blasting.  Oh, and it comes on a DVD, not a CD (at least the Beta 2 does, as did Beta 1).

Once Microsoft releases the minimum system requirements it will be easier to tell if your system will handle it or not.

The first of this year I obtained at low cost a Pentium 4 3.0 Ghz system after attending an Intel Channel Conference (Intel realizes that it helps it’s resellers to pitch their products if they can easily and cost effectively experience it).  With this system in the wings, I awaited Beta 1.  Since it was in limited release, and was a Beta 1 release, I wasn’t going to chance switching over to Vista, but did want to see it.  I installed it on the system with little trouble, it had all the drivers it needed, but it did have incomplete functionality in some of it’s areas (networking was fine under one created user, but a second user for no apparent reason couldn’t use any network functions, web browsing, etc.  That’s why it’s Beta, right!).

Now that Beta 2 is out and widely released, I attempted to install it from inside the Beta 1 OS.  The install would fail while decompressing files.  Next, I tried installing by booting from the DVD.  This completed successfully, and very quickly (perhaps 30 to 45 minutes from start to logging onto the system).

I liked Beta 1, and I like Beta 2 even more.  However, Microsoft has locked the system down extremely tight, so tight that downloading a file from the internet requires you to answer ‘Yes’ 4 times (I expected the 4th dialog box to say YES, I REALLY REALLY REALLY MEAN YES THAT I WANT TO DOWNLOAD THIS FILE).  The file in question is currently the only Antivirus software available for Vista B2, from Computer Associates.  Very kindly, CA is giving it away with a 1 year license.  I don’t know if Microsoft’s new Antivirus and Security product (called OneCare Live) will work on Vista, but Vista is not mentioned in the system requirements for OneCare Live.

Administrators will need to be able to minimize this security feature to keep everyone from hurting them when they install Vista.   I’m certain that when released, there will be a way to do this, but it’s not evident in the Beta 2 product.

How can you test Vista, and should you?  The answer is YES if you have a spare machine that can handle VistaVista is going to change the operating system enough that those in charge of their companies computer decisions should begin to explore Vista, get familiar with it, and be able to support it when the time comes.  Windows 2000 was a change from the 9x line, but not so much of a change that you couldn’t adapt on the fly.  Same thing with XP.  But the hour or so I spent with Vista has convinced me that it will be more difficult to learn this OS on the fly.

Don’t make your primary PC Vista unless you are ready to have your productivity go down while on the learning curve.

What if you don’t have a spare PC, or the spare time?  The good news is you have me.  Starting in early July, I will relegate my primary PC to a backup system.  The Vista B2 along with Office 2007 will become my primary working PC.  Through my monthly Updates & Musings I’ll let you know what I think about the new operating system and help prepare for the upcoming changes in both of these products.

By the time Vista is released (speculation puts it out the first week of December 2006, and others are saying it will be the first quarter of 2007) you’ll have a good handle on what’s good, bad, and ugly about the new OS and how to utilize it in your environment.  You can get another viewpoint here.

As an update to last’s month’s Updates & Musings discussing security, a few more items regarding physical security have reared their ugly head.  Read about a hard drive from a system that was returned to Best Buy for repair, only to be purchased by another person with all the data intact from a used resale distributor here.  If you aren’t certain what has happened to your hard drive, buying a new one for around 100.00 is cheap insurance so that you can keep or destroy the old one.

A system administrator who was unhappy with his raise planted a logic bomb (allegedly) on the employers servers and brought their nationwide network to a halt.  Read about it here.

Last but not least, read about a stalker who copied a woman’s keys when she handed them over for valet parking at a hospital, then hid under her bed for 2 days after hiding a video camera in the bedroom.  You'll find the article here.

I don’t think that the sky is falling (unlike Chicken Little), but I do think it’s time to step up our thinking with regards to physical security.  There are too many tools available to people that don’t have our best interest at heart that we have to ratchet up our thinking about how we go about daily routines.  The Federal Trade Commission has some helpful information on Identify Theft located here.

Also as an update to last month’s Updates & Musings regarding when you should upgrade your PC (hardware and software), Microsoft has announced the end of support life for Windows 98 and ME effective July 11, 2006.

What’s new on the site:  In the Links section, I’ve added a link to a helpful Windows XP from A to Z site, helping with those annoying little things.  A link to XP-AntiSpy, a freeware utility that let’s you disable some of XP’s functions.  You can check your DNS settings quickly and easy at Pingability.com.  Find out what those processes running on your PC are at ProcessList.com.  I’ve added a second bandwidth speed test from Ookla.com.  Want a quick way to check a domain name, you’ll find it at Iwebtool.com.  Check for newly deleted domains at DeletedDomains.com and see if that domain you want might be coming up soon.  Get some advice on Windows XP at UpdateXP.com.  Get some help with Windows at HelpWithWindows.com.  Measure and understand Lag (latency) in your online games at EndLagNow.org.

Websites of the Month, take a look at Swarm to see what websites people are visiting.  Think that tech’s don’t’ want to leave their mark, think again by seeing some of the ‘artwork’ put on the silicon inside your electronic devices.  Want to protect yourself from Big Brother, check out this article at TravelingForever.com.  With summer travel just now heating up, here’s tips on avoiding Jet Lag and Drowsy Driving from NetWise.com.  Next time you are in Bozeman, Montana, visit the American Computer Museum.  The Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter shows you how to Recycle IT! and turn your old equipment into useful technology.  For fun, read a new Zombie story online TheMorningStarSaga.com.  Watch how the Mrs. World 2006 Finale awarded the crown to the wrong Mrs. here.  Looking for a way to get those Vinyl Records into your digital world?  Cyberguys.com has the answer.  Want to generate a false identity?  You can do it at Zulugrid.com.  Check out some unusual hotels of the world to plan your next vacation.  See Call Center – The Movie and see why that support is so maddening!  Speaking of Call Center’s, here’s a sure-fire way to defeat technology at it’s own game.  Gaming anyone?  How about being an Air Traffic Controller Caffeine not included.  Defend your virtual PC against hackers as you try to hack others in SlaveHack.   Trivia buff, test yourself here.

I’ve mentioned it a couple times, but in July JAG Computer Service will be rolling out a server/workstation/network monitoring tool that will allow us to monitor and connect to your networks from any web enabled computer, keep your computers patched and up to date, and be aware of a problem and potentially fix it before you even know it’s happened!  This cost-effective tool is the link that can help keep your network, servers and computers up and running, allowing you to focus on the things that are important to you.  Contact us via e-mail or call us at 303-637-9770 to find out how we can implement this technology for you!

Some of you know I get my news from the best fake news show anywhere, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and after watching this boy am I glad.  It’s a must see if you watch Television News.  So many things haven’t come true (1984, Fahrenheit 451, 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Jetsons) but the movie ‘Network’ may have hit the nail on the head regarding entertainment and news colliding in the worst way!

Futurama’ is also returning to the airwaves according to this.  Why is it that HBO and Comedy Central seem to be the airwaves we need most?

May 30th went with a friend to see 'The New Cars' at Coors AmphitheatreTodd Rundgren is handling the vocals Ric Ocasek once filled.  The first song I wasn't sure I would like this new model, but after the second song, it was The Cars all right.  If you get the chance, take the new model for spin.  You can take them off your list Mr. Stephen Colbert!

June 24th my wife and I accompanied our friends to Nissi's to see 'Under a Blood Red Sky', a U2 tribute band.  The food was great, the venue was intimate for live music, and the band did a fantastic job.  To make a tribute band work you've either got to be good parody (think Weird Al Yankovic) or  spot on (think The Australian Pink Floyd Show), and these boys were spot on.  It takes guts to play U2's songs and they pull it off.  If you get a chance to see them, definitely go.  The ticket prices are a little lower than U2, and once they start playing you'll forget it's not Bono up on the stage.

I’ll leave you with a quote from 'Network' (you can read the full text here):

‘So, I want you to get up now.  I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.  I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Every voice matters.  Every person matters.  Do what you can to help others, you’ll find it’s the best way to help yourself.

Talk to you soon from my freshly loaded Vista Beta 2 PC.

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Upload 5-29-06

It’s the end of May and as we ease into summer I thought I’d ease into a couple of things that technology providers are often asked about.

Upgrading.  Hardware, software, operating systems.  Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part…of upgrading, that is (with apologies to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).

A good rule of thumb used to be that you should never be more than 2 releases behind the current version.  Using Windows XP as an example, following that rule could still have you running Windows Millennium EditionWindows ME is almost 7 years old (shipped October 25, 1999).  Windows 2000 came out in February of 2000, and XP came out in October 2001.  Windows Vista is scheduled to be released in 2007.  Show of hands, how many XP users out there want to remove it and install Windows ME?  I rarely run into a non-Windows XP system these days (interestingly, Windows NT being an operating system that I’m actually surprised to find).

As I wrote in my monthly Updates and Musings last year, I worked with a customer who has a custom written line of business application that won’t run on anything but the 9x or ME line of operating systems.  To work around that we installed Virtual PC and run Windows 98 inside of a ‘virtual’ PC on the Windows XP machine.  They now have 2 machines using this process and it’s working great as the programmer works to update the software to run on modern operating systems.

With each release of an operating system they have become more stable, easier to use, and work better with hardware than the previous system.  There are also new features that come out with each release (both operating systems and software packages.

Well, that’s a lot of nice information, but that still doesn’t answer the question.  So when should you upgrade?  Let’s look at each piece:

Hardware:  Home users if you are pleased with the responsiveness and speed of your computer, upgrade when you are faced with not being able to get support, your system is out of warranty, or when you want to utilize software that won’t run on your current operating system.  Business users should look at refreshing their desktops every 2 years and their servers every 3 to 5 years.  Productivity gains will outweigh the expense.  If a repair will cost more than 50% of the purchase of a new system, get a new system.

Software:  Upgrade when the software has new features you want or need or when the software has reached the end of it’s support cycle.  Keep in mind how you interact with other computers with regards to software.  Do you need to share your documents and files with others?  Staying close to current lessens the possibility that there will be issues with files.

Operating Systems:  If you replace your hardware this is a no brainer, get the new operating system with the new computer.  Currently, if you are not running Windows XP, you should be (speaking to the Windows crowd, I know that there are Mac, Linux, etc. etc. advocates out there, but coming from a company that supports Microsoft technology I am speaking to that audience).  What if I just purchased a new system, with Vista waiting in the wings, should I upgrade?  Yes, but no later than 2 years after it’s release.  By that time, you’ll know if you need the OS (programs you buy need it to run, hardware or features you want need it, etc.), the first round of things that break and need to be fixed will be done.

You should stay within 2 years of an operating system release for the reasons mentioned above for upgrading to Vista.  I recently worked with a longtime customer to replace a home computer.  The decision took months as the customer weighed the cost and need.  Ultimately, when we did replace the system, we also had to replace numerous other components as well (external Zip drive, printer) because those items would no longer work on the new system (due to both hardware incompatibilities and no drivers for Windows XP).  So, while waiting to upgrade, this customer also had to upgrade several items not planned for because the technology train kept rolling.  Sometimes waiting can be more costly than upgrading.

Give us a call if you’d like us to evaluate your current technology systems and help map out an upgrade strategy for your company.

Security has been on mind lately, not the virus/malware/spyware or someone hacking my computer/server/network kind of security.  Physical security, as in physical presence security.  As the technology train continues to roll on, the information we carry around with us is becoming massive.  What used to take a mainframe can now fit in the palm of our hands.  It’s not just company data or personal data that can be compromised from a financial standpoint, but it’s also other items, documents, pictures, personal e-mails.  Capitol One is so fond of asking ‘What’s in your wallet?’.  Let’s tweak that a little:  What’s on your laptop, what’s on your PDA, what’s on your cell phone?  How about that flash or thumb USB drive you carry around.  Now, imagine that it’s gone, what information does it contain that the person that stole/finds/borrows it have and what can they do with it.

Let’s look at a couple of recent stories:  The VA had a laptop and external hard drive stolen that contained information of 26.5 million people.  A person sold his laptop on e-bay.  While the person who purchased it feels he was not given what he was promised, the seller now has the unfortunate position of having the personal information he left on the laptop (because according to the purchaser, the laptop arrived in a non-working state, but non-working doesn’t mean that it can’t be made to work again!) posted on a webpage for all to see.  (Disclaimer: the information here may be deemed inappropriate by some individuals - consider it R rated material) 

Several weeks ago my own car was broken into while I was picking up parts and two laptops stolen.  Fortunately neither laptop contained information that could be compromised, but it started me thinking about physical security of items, and not just laptops, but cell phones, PDA’s, Blackberry’s. 

Any device that contains information about you, your company, your family should at the least be password protected.  If possible encrypt the data, or require a second password on the file so it can’t just be copied to another device.  Go through the information that is stored on the device on a regular basis, remove anything no longer needed, keep other information ‘generic’ in a sense that only you can decode or use.  Take care to keep items that have potential theft value hidden.  If something does happen to the device, make a quick inventory of what you need to change and do so immediately.  Absolute Software offers a product that can help secure your laptop and potentially recover it, as well as delete confidential information.

The two laptops were likely taken to a pawn shop or sold for quick cash, but in the condition they were in, neither likely brought much cash, but it could have been worse, there could have been the names, birthdates and social security numbers of 26.5 million people.

You may be thinking that mobile devices are the largest theft targets, but in reality they are just that, more mobile.  You should extend your thinking and security planning to your home and workplace.  One of the oldest axioms of network technology is that you give me physical access to the device and I can do what I want.  There is so much focus on keeping your network secure, but if your server closet has an open door, then there is really no reason to try and circumvent your firewall from the internet, a person just needs to get into your offices.

Call us to discuss how we can help secure your information and keep your data yours.

What’s new on the site:  In the links section, Uniblue has a free WinBackup software.  If you are using XP Home, you need this software!  Tired of all the ‘free’ software that comes on your new Dell PC, use the Dell De-Crapifier to easily remove it (disclaimer:  use at your own risk!)  Looking for free software to do something?  Take a look here.  Want some free computer tech support, give HFT Online a try.  Want to do a survey online, SurveyMonkey will do it inexpensively.  Check out FixMyXP to find answers to those items that need fixed.  A free firewall to help protect your children online can be found at NetVeda.

Website(s) of the month:  With upgrading and Windows Vista on our minds, a couple of sites to get in the groove with the new OS, Microsoft’s own Windows Vista:  Get Ready, and how to make your PC look like Windows Vista without upgrading.  Want to know who owns what, wander over to Columbia Journalism Review and find out.  Now that you’ve seen The Da Vinci Code (for the record, I haven’t seen the movie nor read the book), howstuffworks picks it apart!  Take a look at the highest viaduct ever constructed.  Not sure I could drive on it.  Speaking of driving, these have been out awhile, but they make me laugh every time!  Roger Ebert chimes in with the 102 movies you must see before you don’t want to see movies anymore.  For fun, check out the starz bunny club and see the movie parody’s done entirely by cartoon bunnies.  Brokeback Mountain is their current target, but join the club to see the rest.  Need a break, head over to the Bill Murray Soundboard.  Want to know what it’s like to work at Microsoft, check out this blog.  Have that desire to chuck it all and live on an island, here’s your chance.  Many of you know that Australia has cast it’s spell over me, I was delighted to find this interesting diary of a journey overland from England to Australia.

Stay tuned for exciting news in July as JAG Computer Service begins offering the Next Level in technical support!

On Friday May 5, 2006 Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon reached another milestone, 1500 weeks (that’s 28 years) on the Billboard charts (the first recording to do so.).  Read about it here, or better yet, go give it another spin.  It still sounds as good as the first time I played it out my bedroom windows much to the dismay of my dad.  I’ll try to keep it down this time…

I’ll leave you with a couple of thoughts, lyrics from the album that would follow Dark Side of the Moon, Animals:

‘You know that I care what happens to you,
And I know that you care for me.
So I don't feel alone,
Or the weight of the stone,
Now that I've found somewhere safe
To bury my bone.
And any fool knows a dog needs a home,
A shelter from pigs on the wing.’

And, from a fantastic book by Eric Idle (he of Monty Python fame), his diary of his comedy tour across America in 2003.  It’s a great read, full of interesting insights to the man and his life with and without Python, a thought from Bill Haber:

‘He who dies with the most toys, dies.’

Enjoy the summer, at the rate this year is going, it will be New Years before we know it!

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Upload 4-2-06

February gave way to March and silently we slipped into April.  St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, and Daylight Savings time are all behind us.  Now all we have to do is get by April 15th and we’ll be set for the year, right? 

Watching the Oscars (Host Jon Stewart got me to watch something I hadn’t been interested in seeing for years) it hit home that we are about to undergo a paradigm shift in entertainment.  As ‘The Who’ once sang, music must change.  But it’s not the music or movies that must change, it’s the mindset of the studios and record company executives that must change.

Twice during the show it was suggested that movies are best experienced on the big screen surrounded by strangers.  That may have been true at one time when the only alternative was a 27” CRT with questionable sound quality.

Today’s technology has brought us crystal clear large screens and incredible sound reproduction that can be enjoyed in the comfort of our living rooms.  No more cell phones, people talking, no more paying exorbitant prices for popcorn and soda.  Last but not least, you can pause the film if you need to use the facilities or get something from the fridge. Try that in a crowded movie theatre.

Sony’s recent debacle regarding hidden rootkit programs on purchased CD’s points out how the music industry is struggling with piracy (ironically, damaging their relationship with consumers who legally purchased their products).  Gaming companies are doing much the same, with a copy protection scheme reported to immediately reboot your computer if you try to copy any CD the software deems you shouldn’t.  No warning to save any work you might have open, just reboot.

The incredible success of the iPod shows that people want to take their music collections and have them available to them wherever they go and not be dependent upon the whims of the radio.

Each of these items illustrates how entertainment is a step behind the demands of the public.  It’s easier to blame falling revenues on piracy and illegal sharing of music and movies than to come to grips with the fact that the delivery mechanism must change.  The tastes of the public aren’t changing, just how we get what we want.

Recently I purchased several CD’s that I found quite by accident.  Ric Ocasek’s  (of The Cars fame) ‘Nexterday’, Billy Idol’sDevil’s Playground’ and Depeche Mode’sPlaying the Angel’.  All excellent music, all musicians I have enjoyed through the years, and all music I stumbled upon by accident because I don’t listen to radio or watch MTV.

Consumers are changing.  We want to watch movies where and when we want (including newly released movies).  We want to know about music that we like but don’t want to listen to gabby DJ’s and airhead morning shows for 2 songs an hour (and we'll pay for something that we can get for free as long as it’s the sound we want without the bits we don’t want.)  We want to purchase music, movies, and games without being considered an enemy of the corporation we are purchasing from.  Just because we purchase a CD doesn’t mean we're going to immediately upload it to a file sharing site.  What it means is that we found a product worth purchasing.  We do want the right to put that music onto our Media Center PC, make a copy of the CD for playing in our cars, and copy the music onto our portable devices.

What is going to change things?  High speed bandwidth and instant delivery of entertainment and software.  Although it’s hard to get around owning a physical item (we paid for something, we want more than just a receipt), eventually having access to music, movies, software from any location because you’ve paid for it will be just as important.  Fortunately for us, it's not too far off as it's already becoming a reality in the UK.

I think the sooner the corporations find how to deliver that to us, the sooner they can turn their fortunes around.

Springtime in the Colorado Rockies, which leads to summertime in the Colorado Rockies.  Which leads to what you should be doing to protect your computers and electronic devices from power problems.  Affordable uninterruptible power supplies with surge protection (UPS’s) are available everywhere (even from JAG Computer Service).  This is the time of year when power fluctuations, brownouts and rolling blackouts become reality more than we’d like.  Make sure your computers, servers, and expensive electronic devices (wide-screen televisions, plasma televisions, digital video recorders) are protected.  The minimal investment will definitely pay for itself in protection and preventing data loss.

If you’ve been waiting for performance increase, wait no more!  Dual-core processors are now the mainstream, and every dual-core machine I’ve installed (workstations and servers) have drawn raves from the recipients.  Where they really come into play is with processor intensive programs (such as anything put out by Adobe!).  If you want to accomplish more in less time, then it’s time to move to a dual-core processor.  Ask us for a quote today!

What’s new on the site:  In the links section, Get Net Wise and learn how to be safe online by visiting getnetwise.org, learn how to take electronics apart at takeitapart.net, check out Panda’s Virus Infection map, and see where you can keep your bookmarks online so you will never be without them.  Find out how and what you can recycle in the Colorado front range area courtesy of Eco-Cycle.  Want to be a hacker, here is the definitive guide.  Last but not least, a freeware Registry clean-up tool.

Web site of the month has some interesting distractions and some food for thought.  Find bargains at dealsatnet.com, learn how to simplify your life at The Simple Living Network, learn about snowflakes, get better at math and check out Desktop Earth 2.0.  See who owns the internet in this interesting and complex map.  For some serious contemplation, take a photo journey through nuclear nightmares and see how much things cost in terms of oil.  Lighten up with a bit of translation gone wrong (not for the easily offended).

Over the next few weeks JAG Computer Service will be partnering with a new technology to provide faster response and better service to keep your networks and computers up and running.  When was the last time your tech support called you about a problem before you knew about it!  Stay tuned!

Take a look at what my brother is doing with his company by reading this article.  Preserving history for all us.

Now that spring has sprung and we are doing some spring cleaning around the house, don’t forget to do some cleaning in your computer!  Click here for a few tips!

Enjoy the change of season, it’s time to get outside!  Talk to you soon.

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Upload 2-11-06

Happy New Valentines Day Year!  Or…doing a dime of Tech Support Time!

2006 came at break neck speed.  It's already February and time for Valentines Day!  I hope you had an enjoyable New Year, and are all ready to go for Valentines Day.  Be sure to get a little chocolate for yourself, because if anyone knows what you want, it’s you!

If you are looking for past Updates and Musings, you’ll find them on the Archives Page here.

January of 2006 saw a milestone for JAG Computer Service.  It was 10 years ago in January that I took that step into the unknown.  It hasn’t seemed like 10 years, and the support of my customers and friends and family have brought me to where I am today.  Thanks for a great 10 years, I’m looking forward to the next 10.

What was happening with computers in 1996?  Microsoft was busy releasing stuff, Windows NT 4.0 Beta 1, Windows 95 Service Pack 1 and Exchange Server 1.0 were all released.  NT 4.0 and Windows 95 were the predecessors to XP and Vista and Exchange Server is now on version 6.5.  My company has literally grown up with Microsoft’s current driving technology.  Looking back we have come a long way baby!  Take a drive down memory lane and look at this flyer from when I first started in business.  Things have certainly changed, and for the better!  For more about 1996, check out these links:  CNN - 1996 Year in Review - About - Focus on Windows 1996 - 1996 @ Answers.com.  It was quite a year!

Change is a good thing, especially when it benefits you!  Please join me in welcoming Sarah Cook to the JAG Computer Service support team.  Sarah is our new field technician.  She’ll be providing onsite and remote support to JAG Computer Service customers.  You can find out more about her here.  We are glad to have her onboard, and you will be too!

As U2 was fond of singing (and the rest of us along with them), nothing changes on New Years Day.  From the larger perspective that seems too true.  But from a personal perspective, I think it doesn’t always fit.  The new year is often a time to reenergize and rededicate yourself.  It’s a starting point to put the past behind you and move bravely into the future.  I am looking forward to the new year, even though it’s already whizzing past us.  I look forward to working with my existing and upcoming new customers to keep their business moving forward and make 2006 an exciting and prosperous year!

What’s new on the site:  Web Site of the Month features some interesting items, the first is 7 Myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster.  It’s been 20 years since that fateful accident brought home just how dangerous escaping the bonds of this planet is. Check out the U.S. Department of the Interiors Web Cams, everything from Glacier National Park to Washington D.C.  As a bonus, check out the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business 2005.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, check out Your Romance Level and why it’s a BAD idea to look up that old flame.  Watch Japanese illusionist Cyril Takayama as he puts a playing card THROUGH the glass porthole of a submarine.  Very cool.  Last but not least, check out why I wish I had more time on my hands.

In the Links section, peruse the Top 100 free software for Windows XP, Abuse.net where you can report network abuse and abusive users on the internet, The SeaMonkey Project, an all inclusive internet application from Mozilla.  Try out Microsoft’s IE7 beta 2, read the guide to Firefox Myths, visit GeekGirl’s, Petri.co.il, and tech-recipes for some computer self-help.  Learn more about firewalls at Personal Firewall Day and stopping BADWARE at stopbadware.org.  You can also download a new free Antivirus software, AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic.

Under Fun Stuff, plan your nights with the Daily Moon Phases Module.  Know when it’s going to be a full moon so you can avoid those often unpleasant werewolves.  Visit one of my favorite places on the web, LinkFilter.net where anyone can post anything, often amusing, newsworthy, and offbeat items.  Looking for a daily bargain, check out Woot.com.  One day.  One deal.  Want some good eats?  Visit Bear Paw Mixes.  Enjoy!  Stop by my brother's new venture, This Place In Time.  Preserve the memories of your loved ones or yourself.  Now you CAN leave your legacy for others to remember.

Quite quietly, Depeche Mode released ‘Playing the Angel’ in October of 2005.  It’s a great CD filled with excellent songs.  ‘Precious’ and ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ are my favorites.  We don't get older, we get better, right?!?

Here’s to a prosperous and wonderful 2006.  I hope our paths cross many times and we have reason to gaze up to the skies full of wonder.

Abraham Lincoln said it best: 

‘The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.’

Here’s to tomorrow!  Talk to you soon.

Upload 12-18-05

Only 6 more shopping days until Christmas, and only 13 days left in 2005!  2006 is coming ‘round the bend, and there’s no stopping it!  If you’d like to read my annual Christmas letter, click here.  You’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can get here!

What’s new on the site:  For December’s Web Site of the Month, an oldie but goodie!  The Electric Sheep screensaver.  In the spirit of the season, read about Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year, Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates, Good Samaritans making a difference in the world.

The Christmas season is a time to reflect on what we have, life ahead of us, join together with family and friends, and most importantly a time to share.  I’ve put together some gifts for you my customers, friends and family.  I hope you enjoy them!  Best of all, they are free!

Looking to switch browsers?  Now you can:  Download Opera here or Firefox here.

Need an Antivirus Program to keep your computer protected:  Get AVG Antivirus here or aVast! here.

Let’s not forget the Anti-Spyware:  Get Microsoft’s Anti-Spyware here, or try Winpooch here!

What about that firewall?  Get Zone Alarm’s free version here.

Need a backup program?  Get Cobian Backup here.

Now, how about the FUN presents!  Here’s a few links that I think you’ll enjoy.

To send an e-mail to the FUTURE, click here.

Not getting what you want under the treeThis can help you express your feelings.

Need some Christmas pictures to color.  Click here.

Want to read about the 10 least successful Holiday Specials of All Time.  Find it here.  (Now how is it I didn’t know about the Star Trek one?)

Last item in the bag of goodies, here’s a Snow Globe you can play with all day long!

There’s a lot places you can help out this holiday season.  Look around for local charities, but if you want to do something on a larger scale, I’m sure these charities would appreciate your help.

Operation Uplink – Providing Phone Cards for our overseas service persons

Freedom is not Free – Helping support wounded and injured military personnel and their families

The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army still need your help in getting those affected by Hurricane Katrina back on their feet

My final thought for 2005 comes from a quote by none other than Winston Churchill.  He was a fascinating and intelligent man, sometimes it’s amazing just how deep his understanding of mankind was.

'We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give'

May you find happiness and wonderment this season, enough to carry you through the year.

We’ll talk again soon.

John

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Upload 11-20-05

Wow, it’s November.  Seems like I just revised my website and began doing these monthly updates and here it is almost a year later.  I’ve enjoyed doing these monthly Updates and Musings, and updating my website to be a true resource for my customers.  I hope that you’ve found it an interesting and resourceful place to stop once in awhile during your travels around the web!  A first for JAG Computer Service in October, we installed our first Direcway Satellite Internet system in Casper Wyoming, and our second commercial system will be going live in Odessa Texas during November.  If you thought you couldn't get high speed internet, if you can see the southern sky, you can!

Keeping with my Top 5 Holiday theme, with Thanksgiving just around the corner here are the top 5 things in IT that I’m thankful for:

5.  Moore’s Law.  Moore’s law basically says that the number of transistors on a chip roughly doubles every two years.  What this allows is for faster, better, more powerful transistors to power our devices.  That’s made for great advances in computers, music, graphics, etc.  According to Intel, there ain’t no stopping them now!

4.  Microsoft.  While it’s not hip to like Microsoft, no single company (perhaps Intel would be a second close) has done so much to bring the computer into our homes and make it a part of our lives as Microsoft.  Imagine if you had to buy a computer, then buy the software to run it from the people that made the computer, if it needed service you could only take it back to the company that made it.  Microsoft leveled the playing field for computers, gave us a common base to build on and made it possible for us to be where we are today.  I know that Microsoft has not always played by the rules, and sometimes made up the rules as they went along, but how many other huge companies have done the same?

3.  Diversity.  Look at the choices we have for software, computers, electronics.  Everything from music players to GPS systems for our cars.  One generation ago these things existed only in science fiction and dreams of a far off future.  Now we can go to the store and purchase them.

2.  The Internet.  No single item has done more to shrink the world than the internet.  It’s put millions of items at our fingertips.  We can shop, plan vacations, look up information, talk to people, learn about other cultures, interact with them.  All thanks to the internet and the ability to send packets back and forth across wires and through the air.

1.  You.  My customers.  Without you, I wouldn’t be able to stay in the business I so enjoy.  Your continued support has allowed me to keep your business moving forward and keep you competitive.  I look forward to our continuing relationship as our companies grow and evolve.  Thanks!

What’s new on the site: 

In the Links section I’ve added quite a few items:  You'll find a link to the Eicar Virus test.  Ever wonder if your Antivirus is working or not?  Now you can test it without infecting your computer.  I’ve also added a link to a FREE Windows backup program, a WiFi Hotspot locator to help you find where you can go Wireless and a link to a new Anti-Spyware program a-squared.  Want to know about your computer, how much memory is installed, what the processor is?  Use Belarc advisor and wonder no more!  Lost your Windows CD-Key?  Try this utility to recover your key.  Ever wonder how your website stacks up against others, now you can rate it! 

For the Website of the Month you’ll find a link to the SpamStockTrader.  Ever wonder if those hundred’s of e-mails that are promising you the next big stock buy could pan out?  You probably already know the answer, but it’s an interesting study.  There is also a link to a Wired magazine article by Kim Zetter about how Adam Laurie hacked a hotel’s television system, revealing more than you would want!  Because it’s important, there also a link to the Wired article on Sony’s latest red-face mistake involving their ‘spyware’ in an attempt to keep their CD’s copyright intact, and the original blog that ferreted out the program, as well as a list of the CD’s that contain the software, and some follow-up information.  Think twice before you buy a copy-protected CD, you may be getting more than you bargained for!  Last but not least, ever wonder how many flights are in the air over the US?  Wonder no more thanks to Flightaware.com.

Finally, have you ever wanted to do something about those Phishing e-mails you get?  More than just delete them or forward them on to the site they are pretending to be and hope they get taken care of? If so, come along with me and shoot some ‘phish’ in a barrel.  Click here for a step by step walk through on how to actually try and get the site shut down (and feel like you've done something more than just delete the e-mail!)  You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can get here!

Thanksgiving is next week, and Christmas is lining up right behind that.  Take some time to enjoy family and friends through this season, and help wherever you can.  You’ll find it’s the best gift you can get for yourself.

Here’s a few Denver Area Charities (and a national one) where you CAN make a difference in someone’s life: 

The Denver Rescue Mission – A hand up. 

Epworth UMC – In the steps of Daddy Bruce

Operation Uplink – Providing Phone Cards for our overseas service persons

Be well!  Talk to you soon...

John

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Upload 10-18-05

Booo!  As we get ready for All Hallows Eve, I thought I would get in the spirit by putting the top 5 IT issues that scare me, and should scare you!  First though, just an update on my bike ride for MS.  You can read more about it here.  I did 120 of the 150 miles and it was grueling, but for a good cause.  If you would still like to donate and sponsor me on the ride, you can do so until October 31st here!

Last month’s upload I talked about a customer with a line of business application that would only run on Windows 9x machines, keeping him from upgrading to new hardware.  The solution we implemented is called Windows Virtual PC 2004 Microsoft also makes a Windows Virtual Server 2005 software.  Basically it’s a machine inside a machine, but it can communicate to the ‘outside’ world as if it were an actual machine.  On a new Windows XP computer, we installed Windows Virtual PC 2004, then installed Windows 98 Second Edition onto the virtual PC.  We connected to the network, mapped drives and printers, and installed the line of business application.  It’s been up and running for about 6 weeks now and working just like the Windows 9x boxes in the office.  If you've been putting off implementing something new without testing it, or have a line of business application that won't run on new versions of Windows, there is a solution.  Let us help you implement it today!

And now...here are the top 5 IT issues that scare me!

1.  LOSS.  Those poor people in the movie ‘Saw’ who feared losing something, like a limb or their life!  The loss I fear isn’t quite that dramatic, but it can be equally damaging to your business.  LOSS of data because you don’t have a backup (or a backup that works).  LOSS of productivity because you haven’t identified your single points of failure and put in redundancy (Mirrored or RAID hard drives, additional backup computers, backup phone lines).  LOSS of employee effectiveness because of virus’, spam, or time wasted on non-work related issues.  LOSS of uptime because you don’t have a UPS installed on your critical components.

2.  SAFETY.  Although you have to look for it, George Romero’s ‘Dead’ movies tend to have a social message underneath all the blood and gore.  But who has time for that when you are running from Zombies!  In each of the 'Dead' movies people barricade themselves behind something, walls, chain link fences, missile silos, boarded up windows and doors.  However, the Zombies just keep coming and coming, relentlessly hammering away, looking for a weakness, finding just a small opening, then turning it into a large opening, then finally getting in and making good on their promise of wanting to eat brains!  Welcome to today’s internet.  Cyber criminals keep pounding away, looking for ways to get into your network, sending you phishing e-mails to try and trick you into revealing your secrets, sending out virus’ to infect your network and capture your secrets.  Install a firewall (hardware or software), run antivirus on your server and desktops, use secure passwords, install spam filtering software, monitor your network.  On a weekly basis I see numerous attempts to get into the networks I monitor.

3.  The Enemy Within.  In ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (the original or the remake) they didn’t know who to trust, because at any moment anyone of them might have fallen asleep and been replaced by a pod alien.  Sometimes your worst threat comes from inside your own network.  Are your employees spending their time doing things other than work on the computers you provide them to do their jobs?  Do they have personal e-mail accounts that are outside of your virus software monitoring?  Are they always helping fix the network and constantly tweaking computers so they spend half their time being an IT person rather than doing the job you hired them for?  (One client I have was constantly having issues with their server and backup.  I would come in, analyze things and reset the backup, it would work for awhile, until the office manager decided it should be tweaked, then it would stop working properly.  Once that person left, the backup problems went away!).  I’m not saying you have to be militaristic and draconian about your computers and networks, but the internet has become an easy way to communicate with others and put easy distractions at your fingertips.  Filtering software and firewalls can keep your employees focused (and prevent them from visiting sites that might offend other employees, as well as compromise your network).  They also can filter by time and person, so you can let people surf the net before and after work or at lunch, just not when they shouldn’t be.  As always, I recommend a good written computer usage policy and sitting down and making clear to your employees what can and can’t be done on the company network and computers.

4.  Inoculation.  In ‘The Omega ManCharlton Heston was able to survive the horrible virus sweeping the country because at the last minute he gave himself the serum that guarded against it.  If you don’t keep your computers operating system updated, your antivirus definitions current, you are leaving a vulnerability that could lead to my number 1 Fear, LOSS!  It’s not just Microsoft that is constantly patching and upgrading their software, all major hardware and software vendors (even Linux and Firefox) release new versions, from printer drivers to router firmware.

5.  The Returner.  In the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ movies they always kill the monster guy, but what happens, he keeps coming back, over and over (and over!).  When you end a relationship with someone who has information about your network, your computers, your website, you need to protect yourself, and do them a favor as well:  Change passwords, disable accounts, remove them from access lists.  This should be true if it’s an employee, a vendor, a contractor.  When I’ve finished contracts with companies I encourage THEM to lock me out.  That way if something does happen they know to look elsewhere because I didn’t have the access to get into their network or modify things.

While these may not be as scary as the creatures in ‘Alien’s’ chasing you through a ventilation duct, they can be just as destructive to your company health.  Call JAG Computer Service today so we can start helping you alleviate these IT fears!

What’s new on the site:  Under Useful Utilities You Should Not Be Without I've added a link to Microsoft’s Antispyware program, a link to Trend Micro’s freeware page, which has an online virus scanner, and a link to Sygate's (makers of security products) Online Scanner to test your systems vulnerability.  Under Partners you’ll find information about a new service offering, Offsite Backup done over the internet to a JAG Computer Service server.  Let us help you backup your critical files to an offsite location!

Keeping in the Halloween Mood, the Web Site of the Month is a link to downloadable MP3’s of a collection of spooky Halloween songs to get you in the mood. 

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’:

‘Jack, please, I’m only an elected official here.  I can’t make decisions by myself!’ – The Mayor

Don’t forget to VOTE!

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Upload 9-5-05

It’s been a wild month since my last posting, a lot of information and events for us to focus on.  You’ll find links on the site to the Amazon.com donation page for the Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.  With all the things the internet has brought to us, the ability to get almost instantaneous information and to provide immediate help with no more than a few clicks of your mouse is one of it’s most powerful offerings.

By my next posting I’ll have (hopefully!) ridden a bicycle from San Antonio to Corpus Cristi to raise money, awareness and support for persons living with MS.  If you have a little left over from donating to help Katrina victims, sponsor me in the ride, I’d greatly appreciate it.

I’ve gotten my first look at the forthcoming Windows Vista and it’s cool.  I’m looking forward to the Beta 2 release when I can actually experience some hands-on and give you a more in-depth look at the next version of Windows.

For years my mantra to customers has been backup and antivirus software, but in February of this year I added a new item to the list.  Business continuation.  The recent events in New Orleans have shown us that it can be more than a failed hard drive or loss of power.  Disasters out of our control can change the focus of our business overnight from how can I satisfy all my customers to how can I start my business over.  Over the course of 48 hours, a city of almost half a million people (to contrast, Denver is just over half a million people) was shut down completely and thoroughly.  Power, water, phone service, internet connectivity, all gone.  The estimates for rebuilding range from weeks to years to never.  Peruse the New Orleans yellow pages to see the business' that were affected.  Size or type didn't matter, all of these business' are now facing very difficult choices.

Fortunately we live in an area that natural disasters are not common and the chance that the entire region would suffer such a catastrophe are very slim.  That doesn’t mean you should take business continuation planning any less seriously.  Evaluate the items that are critical to keep your business up and running, then put into a place a redundancy plan.  If your phones go down, can you redirect your lines to another number or a cell phone.  If your building is damaged where can you quickly relocate.  If your server or computers are inoperable or damaged beyond use, how can you quickly get back your data and get up and running.  What about your software programs?  How current are they?  I’ve recently been working with a customer on finding a workaround for a line of business application that will only run on Windows 98.  The main issue is that hardware being put out today doesn’t support Windows 98, which puts the customer in the position of not being able to move to new systems and hardware.  Are you in a similar position with a program that you rely on?

We can help you evaluate your needs and assist you in putting together a plan including backups (offsite and online), hardware replacement options, and internet connectivity and voice/data needs.  Give us a call today at 303-637-9770 to schedule an appointment.

What’s new on the site:  You’ll find links on the Main page, Links page, and Updates and Musings page to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Every donation counts and makes a difference! 

On the Links page under Virus and Hoax Information you’ll find a link to The Museum of Hoaxes with information about not only Internet and E-mail hoaxes, but hoaxes in general.  You’ll find a link to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, a joint project of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.  I’ve added a link to Snopes.com, the premier Urban Legends page.  Before you forward that e-mail about whatever, check to make sure it’s legit.  Snopes.com is a good starting place. 

In Useful Utilities you’ll find a link to Audit My PC with tests for checking out your firewall, internet speed tests and much more.

In Fun Stuff you’ll find a link to Bring Back Futurama (one of the funniest cartoons to hit the airwaves), a link to the Official 419 Fraud page of the Johannesburg South African Police Services.  The Memory Hole hosts a page of the Cold Shouldered Story of the Week, news articles that were ignored but probably shouldn’t have been.  For the Web Site of the Month, you’ll find a link to a fascinating article from Outside Magazine regarding deep water diver Dave Shaw.  I’ve also added a link to a true internet hoax, Walken2008, which shows you how convincing an internet hoax can be.  Personally, I thought other countries would likely pay attention if Christopher Walken paid a visit in Air Force One!  You’ll also find a link to the State Departments page on Identifying Misinformation, which I find a bit of a Catch-22.  Do we trust our government to give us the right Information on identifying misinformation?  We may be crossing over into The Twilight Zone!

I've also updated the Customers section.  Check out the company you are (or could be) keeping!

With so much to occupy our minds, might I suggest a couple of distractions.  September 23rd 2005 (send me an e-mail if you want to know what ELSE happens on that day) brings the release of Tim Burton’s new film, The Corpse Bride.  If you are a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas come join me on line (or, as my Australian friends would say, in the queue!).  Also, check this out, you might find an answer to that question that’s been nagging you for so long!  You don’t have to wait to go see The 40 Year Old Virgin.  The movie’s a riot, and it’s rated R, so leave the kids with a sitter and enjoy the film! 

Finally, to fulfill his last wish, Hunter S. Thompson's ashes were blasted from a cannon during the August 21st memorial service on his property.  What a way to go Gonzo!

Here’s a few links regarding New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.  Take care of yourself, and more importantly, let’s take care of each other, we’re all we’ve got – John

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/new-orleans-imagery.htm

http://ngs.woc.noaa.gov/katrina/

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,372455,00.html

http://billmon.org/archives/002120.html

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Upload 8-7-05

‘How ya going?’  This question was asked of me by many Australian friends.  When I tried to ask it of them, however, my Americanized brain would inevitable change it to ‘How you doing?’  ‘How ya going?’ just didn’t sound right when I spoke it.  My two week visit to the Land Down Under seemed to be over before it started, but it did give me a chance to get some information that I hope you will find extremely telling for your own business.

Click here for my Australian travelogue and pictures!

I'm catching up for June and July, there’s lot’s to talk about, so let’s get right to it!

First, Microsoft has announced the successor to Windows XP.  It’s called Vista, and it’s in Beta 1 right now.  I hope to have a copy soon so I can report on it to you.  It will be released in 2006.  While in development it was known as “Longhorn”.  There will be a server version to follow, as well as roll-outs of new office and other server applications to follow.

I left for Australia on June 24th, and returned to the United States on July 8th, a total of 15 days.  In that time, I received 2,996 e-mails to the 3 accounts I check.  Since I was in throes of Jet Lag, I decided to analyze how many of these e-mails I actually wanted, and how many were spam.  I use Outlook 2003 as my primary e-mail client and it has a generic spam filtering feature built in  which does a minimal job of organizing spam.  Here is the breakdown:

Total e-mails:  2,996 / 200 per day average

Mail that could immediately be deleted but that I wanted:  44 / 3 per day average

Mail that OL 2003 immediately put in the Junk E-mail folder:  2,832 / 189 per day average.

Junk E-mail that I had requested (newsgroup postings):  311 / 21 per day average

Total Spam E-mails:  2,461 / 165 per day average

Total Phishing e-mails:  61 / 4 per day.  Interestingly, Paypal was the largest target of phishing scams, with e-Bay being second, followed by various banks (of which only one am I an actual customer of).  See an interesting note regarding phishing scams below.

Many peers I talk with get similar amounts of e-mail per day.  It took me approximately 4 hours to go through all this mail to compile this information, or roughly 9 seconds per e-mail.  Note that I didn’t respond or read any e-mails that I wanted, I only categorized the mail for this information.

Many questions come to mind, first why do I get so much spam?  Well, the main reason is that one of my e-mail accounts has been in existence for over 10 years.  The longer you have an account, the more spam it receives.  I also have a 5 year old Yahoo account that I use for testing purposes when I’m at a customer site, and it gets a similar amount of spam, although I rarely utilize that address and it’s not included in this ‘study’.

Let’s apply this to a typical business with 20 employees.  For the purpose of this application, I’ll say each employee gets 25% of the e-mail I receive on a daily basis, or 50 e-mails.  That amounts to a total flow of 1000 e-mails per day into an organizations mail server.  Of that amount, 820 would be spam or non work related e-mail.  It’s estimated that employees spend 30 minutes each day dealing with spam, so if this company keeps to that average, 10 hours per day is spent on spam.  Now, if you are like me when I was the Production Manager of a print shop then you also quantify that by saying that not only did you lose 10 hours of productive time, but that the cumulative affect is really double (the employees could have spent those 10 hours doing actual work) so the net affect is a loss of 20 hours per day.  That may seem high at first glance, but since 820 total e-mails are spam of the 1000 the company receives, it averages out to just a little over 1 minute per spam e-mail, which isn’t that out of line.

Now, let’s call in the bean counters, shall we.  The average wage of the employees in our company is 15.00 per hour.  20 hours of cumulative wasted time per day, and our company is taking a 300.00 per day hit to deal with spam, or 1500.00 per week, an astonishing 6500.00 per month!  The cost of an excellent spam filter is 10% of that monthly cost.  It would pay for itself in less than a week at our 20 person company.

You can take these numbers and apply them to your own situation, then call us to talk about how we can install spam filtering software and keep your employees dealing with minimal spam.

Spam filtering software also has a very interesting and FANTASTIC side effect.  Though not an antivirus software, it does help protect your network because it filters e-mails and marks (or deletes) e-mails that are known spam or look like spam, which means that it greatly REDUCES the chance that your employees will open an attachment with a virus or follow an e-mail link to an unwanted web site.  Note that JAG Computer Service strongly recommends that both Spam Filtering and Anti-Virus solutions be employed for maximum protection of your network and data.

I mentioned Phishing e-mails, and I want to encourage users to report these e-mails to the company that is being targeted by them (I do!).  If the e-mail says it’s from Regions Bank, don’t click on any links in the e-mail, go the Regions Bank site and find their security section.  If you don’t know their site, go to Google and put in the name.  Most companies want to know about these threats to their customers and have an e-mail address set up for you to forward the mail to.  That way they can go after and shut down these sites.  You can also send the e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission: uce@ftc.gov, or send it to MillersMiles, a UK site that is a leading anti-phishing site.

While away on vacation I did stay in touch through e-mail with customers and my Alliance Partners, Computerworx and Bona-Fide Networks.  This alliance provides for continued support for our customers, no matter where we happen to be at the time.  I was also was able to utilize Remote Desktop and LogMeIn to check on customer servers, as well as receiving e-mails from the servers regarding status and from Backup programs as well.  I had gone to Australia in October of 2001, and the contrast of remote connection from then to now is night and day.  Contact us if you’d like JAG Computer Service to begin remotely monitoring your servers and network.

Speaking of Backup, with cheaper hard drives and USB hot-swap towers, tape media has a new challenger.  Backing up to disk can be faster and more reliable than tape.  For a humorous look at the new technologies featuring Monty Python alum John Cleese go to the Institute for Backup Trauma. Tape still has some fight in it, call us if you need to revamp, update or explore backup technologies.

What’s new on the site:  In the Links section I’ve added MillersMiles and FraudWatch International in the Virus and Hoax info section, as well as a link to the FTC and it’s information regarding Identity Theft.  got mac?  Visit our friend Scott @ Macintosh Solutions for help with the other other pc!  There are also PDF's available of the quarterly chamber informational newsletter we do, as well as some self-help tips for keeping you and your computer best friends!  Under Fun Stuff I’ve added a Web Site of the Month, which will have current and previous links to pages I’ve found interesting and educational.  At the top of this page is a link to the MS 150 where you can sponsor me in a bicycle ride on October 1st and 2nd.  I’ll be riding with my brother Brad to raise funds to help people living with MS.  I’ll also take all the encouragement I can get (150 miles in 2 days on a bike, I must be crazy!)  You can donate here. It’s all in keeping with our belief that part of our duty as members of any community (especially the community we call Planet Earth) is to give back and help others.  It starts with one person and builds!

At the end of July JAG Computer Service is rolling out a selection of support options designed to help you plan your IT spending and to begin to be proactive rather than reactive with regards to your data and network needs.  This includes some flat rate pricing for the installation of Spam Filters, Antivirus software and firewalls.  Check it out on the About JAG page!

On our main page you’ll note a new logo.  JAG Computer Service is now part of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist group.

While June and July had highpoints in my travel to Australia, it was a bittersweet time.  Prior to leaving, I learned that a colleague of mine, Kirk Ellsworth, who ran Solutions Consulting Computer Outsourcing IT in Brighton succumbed to complications related to leukemia.  We had worked on a few projects over the years together and it was sad news to hear.  It had been awhile since we’d had contact.  The last I heard he was through his chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant and things were looking up.  A fund has been set up for his two children at:  Kirk Ellsworth Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of Colorado, 111 S. Rollie Avenue, Ft. Lupton, CO 80621.  Any donation would be greatly appreciated.

While in Sydney Australia, my son called to let us know that our dog Skippy had died from stomach problems.  Skippy was a loved member of our family who only wanted a look from you to be happy.  I know she’s chasing squirrels through endless green fields somewhere, breaking occasionally to bark at the cars as they drive fast through the alleys next to it.  We’re gonna miss you Skip!

Events like this start you thinking as they will.  I drifted towards a lyric from ‘The Pretenders’ song ‘Time the Avenger’:

‘Nobody’s Permanent, Everything’s on loan here’

We all face loss in different ways, but what’s important is that we treasure the things that come into the orbit of our lives because we never know when they’ll break free of our orbit and onto the next phase, leaving us with memories.

Pick up the phone and call the person you love and tell them, it’s more important than clicking away from here to the next web site.

Talk to you soon – John

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Upload 5-31-05

Just made it under the wire for a May update, and as always, there is a lot to talk about and there was a lot going on! 

A couple of cool new things in the world of spyware/malware/adware, spam and ZOMBIES!  Not the undead, but the undead computers!  Zombies are machines that have been infected with a variety of virus’ or backdoor programs, and so go about their lives running these programs, often without the knowledge of the computer user or owner.  CipherTrust, a messaging security company, now has some interesting telltale stats you can view, including Sources of Spam, ZombieMeter, and Phishing Stats.  The even cooler thing, is that someone (our Government), is trying to do something about it.  They’ve started Operation Spam Zombies.  The idea is to educate and assist users, companies, and internet service providers in stopping these ongoing nuisances.  There is real cost to what these programs do, both in lost productivity, IT spending, and data corruption.  MyDoom is estimated to have cost companies and users 4.5 Billion dollars in clean up and repair.

Protect yourself.  Have an active and up to date Antivirus program running.  Use a reliable Anti-Spam product and Pop-Up Stopper (you’d be surprised at how many programs that claim to be beneficial for you are actually the very thing you are trying to stop!).  Use a Firewall.  Keep your system up to date by downloading and installing service packs and critical updates.  You can find links to many of these products for FREE on our Links page.

May saw Intel take the next leap in processor technology.  Dual-Core Processors are now available for Workstations, and will be available for Servers and Laptops next year.  What is Dual-Core?  It’s essentially 2 CPU’s on one processor.  Can your computer do twice as much as a single core processor?  No, but the performance leap is incredible, and your ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time is greatly improved.  Watch for AMD to follow suit with a similar offering.  The focus for chips has moved away from sheer speed to better performance and management.  The ability for the computer to slow itself down when it’s idle, using less power, putting off less heat, and performing much quieter, as well as optimizing performance for the operating system is going to bring us a better computer experience.

Nothing can be harder than moving an existing server to new hardware, especially if it’s a Small Business Server box.  Thankfully there is an easy method for moving everything over.  It’s called ‘Swing-It’, and we’ll be doing 2 migrations over the next two months.  If you’ve got an existing SBS server and you’ve put off upgrading to new hardware because you have concerns about how seamless it will go, don’t wait any longer.  Call us today!

If you don’t know what Small Business Server is and how it can help your business, then let’s talk.  Microsoft has taken the best of it’s technologies, Exchange Server 2003 for mail, Windows Server 2003 for file, print and fax sharing, and in the premium editionISA Server for Firewall and Proxy and SQL Server for database needs.  In true Microsoft fashion, it’s priced very attractively, much cheaper than if you were to purchase the parts separately.  If it’s time to get serious about a server in your business, and you need less than 75 users (the limitation on Small Business Server is 75 client access licenses), then it’s time to think Small Business Server 2003.  We have many clients taking advantage of this technology and it’s helped them grow their business while minimizing their costs.

In our continuing quest to provide more services to our clients, working with the Intel Channel Partnership, JAG Computer Service can now help clients with their high speed cable and DSL setups, from seeing what is available in your area, to ordering the service and helping with the installation.  If high speed is your next move, give us a call!

Just when you thought computers couldn’t do anymore, I saw this outstanding video.  The link is down so I can’t direct you there, but what it showed was real-time insertion of computer generated objects into live video.  This is called Augmented Reality.  Find links to this technology here.  You’ve already gotten a taste of it with the insertion of the yard lines in football games or how the hockey puck is followed in hockey games.  In the video I viewed, the presenter was holding nothing in his hand, but on the projection screen, inserted into the live video was first a flower, than a light saber.  The image followed his movement appropriately and smoothly.  They also showed miniature humvees and tanks driving around on the table in front of him, and reacting to the levels of the table.  Pretty soon, seeing won’t be believing either!

What’s new on the site:  In the links section you’ll find information on Spyware and Malware, added a link to BreaktheChain.org (a great resource for spam mails circulating the internet), and updated the free firewall section.  In the Fun Stuff section, I’ve added a few Reality Clocks with interesting stats about what’s happening in our world.  I’ve added a link to Watching America, a site that translates news from around the world to let us know just what they REALLY think about us.  Last but not least, we’ve updated the About JAG Computer Service section to include the recently passed Microsoft Certification Test #070-282, Designing, Deploying and Managing a Network Solution for Small and Medium Sized Business.

I’ll leave you with a couple of thoughts.  A few months back I mentioned a quote from Hunter S. Thompson, the father of Gonzo journalism.  He took his life on February 20th of this year.  Johnny Depp, who played Hunter in the movie ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, is making Thompson’s last wish a reality:  To go out with a bang!  The memorial service to be held on the 20th of August, will have Thompson’s ashes blasted from a cannon inside a 45 meter monument, spreading them over his property in his last great public stunt.

It’s nice to see a celebrity actually put up their own money to do something that means something to them, rather than just lending their name or face to the cause and asking the rest of us to do something about it.  Thanks Johnny, let’s hope it catches on!

I’ll close in the spirit of Star Wars, which saw the release of ‘Episode III, Revenge of the Sith’ in May 2005.  I remember thinking there is no way we’ll ever live to see the first three movies after ‘Return of the Jedi’ came out.  Funny how life has a tendency of doing what we don’t expect!  Here is a quote from Yoda, everyone’s favorite Jedi muppet  (the movie is good, by the way!):

‘When 900 years you reach, look as good, you will not.’

Here’s to the next 900 years.  I’ll talk to you again in July after a quick trip down under to the land of Kangaroo’s and Koala’s! - John

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Upload 4-19-05

April Showers bring May Flowers, and at the end of April Colorado is beginning to enter it’s afternoon thunderstorm season.  Summer is around the corner, and it reminds me of brownouts and power outages, which brings me to UPS’, uninterruptible power supplies.  UPS' are not just for servers anymore, although if you don’t have a UPS on your server, you should get one.  APC, Powercom and other manufacturers have models available for less than 100.00.  Not only do they provide uptime to allow for an elegant shutdown of your server or computer, but they also condition the power coming out of your outlet and into your equipment.  With more and more electronics (Tivo’s, ReplayTV, Big-Screen and Plasma TV’s) becoming commonplace in the home, having a UPS protecting these devices is a worthwhile investment.  Call us for more information on getting you protected with a UPS!

Spam!  I’ve mentioned it before and I’m bringing it up again.  A recent install of Spam Filtering Software GFI Mail Essentials has shown that 70 – 80% of the e-mail coming into an organization is unwanted mail!  If you are hosting your own mail server, it’s time to think about a spam filtering solution.  Call us for more information!

If it’s time to consider web filtering, there are many products available that can keep your companies time on the web productive and safe.  The new line of Watchguard Firebox X’s not only act as a firewall, but can filter e-mail and web browsing as well, all in one package!

Coming soon to the sky near you…Wild Blue internet service.  If you are just out of reach for cable and Qwest DSL, and want an alternative to Starband and Direcway or microwave or wireless broadband, JAG Computer Service is partnering with Murphey Telephone to become a Wild Blue satellite speed provider.  We’ll keep you posted as we go through the process.

What’s new on the site:  Check out the links on how to recycle your old computer, how to know if the spyware program you downloaded is really worthwhile and the parent site that is all about spyware, learn about spoof e-mail and web sites (commonly known as phishing), a new free antivirus product Avast!, one of the coolest web tools around, Keyhole (you can see your house from there!) and in the fun stuff, check out the home page for Mystery Science Theater 3000, helping me stay sane (or not!?!) since the early 90’s. 

Doing Time for a worthy cause!  On March 24th I went to Jail to raise money for MDA.  Thanks to my friends and customers who helped me raise almost $500.00, and overall the volunteers in Brighton raised over $28,000.00!  What a feat, it was great fun and I met some interesting and fun people.  For those of you who want to see what I look like as a jailbird, here is a photo taken moments before my attempted escape!

 

Someone asked me last week what the coolest technology coming down the line was.  Leave it to 3M to be the ones to bring it to us.  Optical technology that can be coated onto glass, providing us with unlimited possibilities for shading, displays, color changing, you name it.  Click here to check it out.  As for what’s cool because you can get it now, I’m still not bored with my Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.  I’m still having a blast and it’s become the entertainment center of our house.  Check it out and see how we can get you one! 

I couldn’t sign-off without touting my favorite new CD, Bleed Like MeGarbage is back with a great new album.  Now if Shirley and Company will just get that Denver date set so I can mark it on my calendar…. 

Of course, my thought for the month comes from Bleed Like Me, the song ‘Sex is Not the Enemy’ 

‘a revolution is the solution’

Be good to each other - John

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Upload 3-20-05

Welcome to the March Madness edition of my Updates and Musings!  It’s been an exciting month for JAG Computer Service as we’ve began using some cool new technologies.

LogMeIn is a versatile, cool remote control utility.  Best of all, for single use instances it’s free!  A 3 megabyte download to install and configure on the target (or computer to be remote controlled), an Active X download and installation on the computer you are accessing the target machine from, and you are remote controlling your computer from any web browser in the world!  It’s a very secure system, requiring double-authentication (you log into the service, then you log onto the machine you will be controlling).  Over the next month, JAG Computer Service will be folding this technology into our service offering, allowing us access to clients servers and desktops for an affordable monthly fee, and provide on-demand service over the web to assist customers.  The nice thing about this offering over other available offerings (Live Meeting from Microsoft, GoToMyPC, WebEx) is it’s affordable, the Pro solution is 99.00 per year.  Watch for links from our site to theirs as they begin their reseller program, and contact us if you are interested in how we can proactively monitor your servers and network to keep your availability and uptime at a maximum.

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.  Since I saw this demo’d at the Intel Channel Conference back in November, I thought, I want one!  In December, Microsoft included it (the software) in the Quarterly shipments we receive from them with new and preview software.  I then set about building my Media Center PC.  Since I could only do it in my spare time, it’s been a project for a few hours here and there since December, but it’s finished!  Have Computers and Entertainment systems finally merged, is this the all inclusive home entertainment system we’ve been waiting for?  If it’s not, it’s very close.  So, what can you do with a Media Center PC?  Watch and record television, listen to CD’s, watch DVD’s, record programs to DVD, rewind and pause live TV, rewind and pause radio.  With the Media Center Extenders, you can extend the offerings of your Media Center PC to any room in the house and to your X-Box.  Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is available only through OEM distributors (like JAG Computer Service).  E-mail me if you'd like a quote.  If you want to see one in action, keep reading to see how you can! 

If you are in the North Denver/Brighton area, come see us at the Brighton Chamber of Commerce Trade Show on April 7th!  We’ll be there demo-ing Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, giving out CD’s with useful utilities and information, you can sign up to see Windows XP Media Center Edition on the Big Screen (TV, that is), and get to see what I look like in person.  It’s at the Adams County Fairgrounds, 9755 Henderson Road, Brighton, CO 80601, April 7th from 4:00 – 7:00 PM (click here for map

What’s new on the site:  You’ll find a link to LogMeIn remote control software, I’ve added live feeds from Sophos Antivirus and E-mail software that show information regarding Virus’, Virus hoax, and the top Virus threats.  There are links to high speed internet providers, both wired and wireless!

You may or may not know, JAG Computer Service is very involved in giving back to the community.  Over the years we have donated both time and refurbished computer systems to local charities in need, as well as the Denver Rescue Mission and providing phone cards to our servicemen overseas.  Keeping with that tradition, I’ll be going to JAIL on the 24th of March to help MDA.  You can help me and the MDA out by donating here.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the David Byrne song, 'The Cowboy Mambo (Hey Lookit Me Now)' from the album 'uh-oh',  that kind of puts some perspective on things: 

‘We are all flowers growing in God’s garden, that’s why he spreads the sh*t around!’

Talk to you soon - John

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Upload 2-24-05:

Happy St. Valentines/President’s Day Day!  It’s been almost a month since I last updated and mused, so while on hold with Dell I thought I would pour some of the thoughts in my head out into a Word document (to be transferred to html and uploaded to the web site!).

What’s been on my mind the past few weeks is simple, redundancy and availability.  When it comes to networks and computers, those two items go hand in hand.  It’s been a mantra for many years in my December newsletter, backup backup backup!  But is backup enough anymore?  Backup can allow you to recover files and folders if something happens today, but how long will it take, how long will you or your employees be doing the filing and straightening up the office while items are restored from backup to a repaired system.  Are you checking your backups to make sure you can recover from them (many a tale are told of the faithful backup that couldn’t be read when the time came!)

So…if backup is not enough, then what?  Keeping in mind that we are all on a budget, here are some things to consider and create a plan of action on.  What is the critical link/item in my computer/network/internet connection that if it were out for more than 1 or 2 hours, would cost me and my employees idle time, or keep me from doing business as usual with my customers/suppliers.

Take those items, than put together a redundancy plan.  If it’s Quickbooks on the bookkeeper’s PC, and the bookkeeper’s PC went down, do I have Quickbooks on a second PC, can I easily get to the Quickbooks files so that they can be up and running on a second machine?

If it’s e-mail, do I have an alternative address (such as an AOL, Yahoo, MSN e-mail address) that people can reach me through.

From a server perspective, am I running a workstation as a server?  Do I have availability configured into my server configuration?  Availability items such as RAID arrays and mirrored drive options can now be found on Desktop Boards instead of special server boards or expensive SCSI cards.  For a few hundred dollars you could have redundancy and uptime in your server (or workgroup/workstation server) to keep your company running.

As backups go, are you testing them?  Have you recovered a file to make sure it can be done?  Are you backing up the right data?  More importantly, do you have a rotating backup scheme that involves putting a backup into a safe or an offsite location so that if something happens to where my backup drive is, at least the data is safe in another location?  Speaking of backup drives, how readily is a replacement drive of the same type available in case something happens to the drive I’m using?  If it’s an old discontinued model with tapes that you have to wait 3 weeks for, it might be time to look at something a little newer!

What, you might ask, got me on this line of thought?  Did a customer have a terrible catastrophe and lose data and valuable work hours?  No, nothing spectacular like that.  What I have noticed, however, is that more and more blips and glitches on the radar such as intermittent outages of internet access, minimal problems with PC’s, etc., items that used to be annoyances and could be worked around easily, no longer can be tolerated, even by the smallest office, be it a home business or a 20 person printing company.

We all want the reliability of the phone company for everything else in our lives.  You pick up the phone, dial tone, you can call someone.  But...when that moment comes when you can’t call someone, what happens?  Contact us if you want some help evaluating your current systems and want to minimize your exposure to downtime and lost productivity!

What’s new on the site:  Well, I added some links in the Links section, under Useful Utilities.  You can test your browser for pop-ups, cookies, and JAVA!  Want to know if your firewall is really doing anything, then follow the link to test your firewall!

I’ve added Colorado Analytical to my customers section, enjoy their new web site!

I’ll leave you with a quote from the man that invented Gonzo Journalism and took the world off-pace every now and then:

‘I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.’

Hunter S. Thompson

The world is a little less strange now without you…

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Upload 1-23-05:

Happy New Year!  It’s almost the end of January, time doth fly when you don’t pay attention!  This is the first of one to two times per month updates where I can provide timely information and trends, and perhaps give you something to think about once in awhile.  As my Year End newsletter said, Spyware is becoming a bigger and bigger issue all the time.  Fortunately, there are getting to be more and more tools out there to help us in the battle.  Microsoft has a Beta Spyware tool (www.microsoft.com – click on downloads – search on spyware).  The Beta tool works well and it’s got some nice Advanced Tools built into it, and it also can run as a protection tool much like antivirus.  It’s not a catch everything tool (at least not yet), so I advise running it and Adaware (www.lavasoft.de) to keep your machine clean from adware-spyware-malware.  One other note about the Microsoft tool, it only works on Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003. 

Spam, spam, spam.  I’ve installed two different spam filtering products at two of my clients and both are working very well.  If you run your own mail server, you should consider a spam filtering solution.  The cost for the software ranges from 300 – 600.00 depending on the product, and they both are catching between 80 – 90% of the spam coming into these organizations.  It’s estimated that users can spend up to an HOUR PER DAY! dealing with spam.  These products can help you get your hour back!  Contact me if you want more information. 

I’ve also branched out into the closed circuit television arena at the request of a client to replace their existing system.  With digital video recorder technology and network based viewers, you can put a camera recording system into your home or business for as little 2000.00 to 3000.00 depending on features, number of cameras and the installation time.  No more banks of monitors or changing video tapes, you burn archive video to a CD or DVD, and you can monitor the camera view on any network enabled PC with the client software, even over the WEB

What’s new on the site:  Check out my new partnerships with GFI, Digital Medix and Drive Savers, Red Rock Technology and Sentry Security Systems.  I’ve fixed a link to McAfee’s virus information library, added a customer link to Seniors Inc! (a long time customer, I might add!), and added a ‘Terror Alert’ indicator and a link to help take down ‘phishing’ sites in my Fun Stuff area.  To close out January I want to wish everyone a prosperous 2005 (shouldn’t we have flying cars by now?) and with all the things going on in the world, let you know there is still some things to be EXCITED about:  The new U2 album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is probably the best work they’ve done, the new Duran Duran album is right up there Astronaut, Garbage has a new album coming April 12th Bleed Like Me, if you want to feel good about politicians again read ‘Winston Churchill A&E Biography’. 

 I’ll leave you with a line from ‘We Don’t Own The World’ from The Fixx album ‘Want That Life

 “Money don’t buy love, war don’t make no peace, we must rise above, we don’t own the world, we lease…”  Talk to you soon - John

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