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AT&T raises smartphone early termination fee to $325

ATT Logo

In a desperate attempt to keep users with them, AT&T announce a couple of days ago that they are upping the smartphone early terminiation free from $175 to$325 starting on June 1st 2010.  I wonder if this could have anything to do with AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple’s iPhone expiring and the rumors of the next iPhone to be on Verizon.
     An AT&T spokesperson claimed in a statement that the change has nothing to do with such rumors, and is actually to keep in line with the competition. Verizon implemented a similar tiered scheme for their termination plan late last year.  Though I’m a little confused here, were you want to be better than you compitition not as bad as them.  To me this smacks of desperation, if AT&T was truely being competitive, they’d lower the termination fee to compete with Verzion.  Though the $375 termination fee will “step-down” in price as you go through your contract, though supposedly even in the 23rd month, it’d still be $95 to cancel your plan.
    If the rumor is true and Verizon does get the iPhone then this may be AT&T’s only chance to try to make money off the people leaving for Verizon.  If you’ve talked with most iPhone users, many would say that AT&T coverage with their phone is horrible with many dropped calls and spotty coverage.  Though to be honest, here in Philadelphia, I don’t have any problems with my iPhone.  People who did have a problem with AT&T’s service, that I talked to, would gladly pay that amount to be free from them.
    It sounds like AT&T rather than solving their problem and being the best in the market, would rather attempt to trap you into dealing with them then being the best phone providor.  To me this is just plain bad buisness practice.  I always learned that to compete in buisness you needed to be the best…not be exactly where your compitition is.  Maybe that mantra is dead, and AT&T would rather have your money than you.

Microsoft Security Updates: May 25th 2010

Windows

On Tuesday May 25th Microsoft released a round of minor updates for the Windows Operating System.  Here’s what they are and what they do:

SECURITY UPDATES:

Update: KB982632-Windows 7/KB981793-XP
Type: Recommended
Affected Systems:
2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 7, NT
What it does: Install this update to resolve issues caused by revised daylight saving time and time zone laws in several countries
Size: 30 KB – 501 KB

Update:KB982632
Type: Recommended
Affected Systems:
Windows 7
What it does: Compatibility View List update for Windows 7
Size: 355KB

Update:MS10-022 / KB91332
Type: Important
Affected Systems:
Windows Vista
What it does: This updates fixes a security hole in VB that could allow an unauthorized user from gaining access to your computer remotely.
Size: 216KB

Update:KB976662
Type: Recommended
Affected Systems:
Windows Vista
What it does: If you have JSON activated on your IE8 installtion, then you will see this update.
Size: 329KB

Update:KB971961
Type: Recommended
Affected Systems:
Windows Vista
What it does:JavaScript has a security hole in it, and this update patches that hole and makes your computer more secure.
Size: 328KB

Support For Windows XP SP2 and 2000 will end soon!

Windows

    If you haven’t updated to Windows XP Service Pack 3, you should really look into that prior to July 13th 2010, if you ever want help from Microsoft.  After July 13th 2010, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP Sp2 as well as Windows 2000 Operating Systems.  Though Microsoft hasn’t given any indication of removing support for Windows XP SP3 anytime soon, so that’s good news!
  Now when Microsoft ends support, it doesn’t just mean that they won’t take your phone calls, it means that they stop releasing updates for that version of Windows XP.  I never recommend that your computer not be getting these important security update, so if you have Windows XP Sp2, then go to Windows Update and get your computer updated with Service Pack 3.  If you have Windows 2000 products, then it is important to update to a newer version, it’s a good time to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008.
    Now Microsoft will still offer some resources to help you with some problems you may encounter but most of that is currently available and wont be updated.  They resources will include troubleshooting tools, FAQs, Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, and stuff like that.
    Service Pack 3 on Windows XP is Free for any users of Windows XP, so make sure that you get the update.  This update is just like most service packs, it installs and requires a reboot to finish the installation.

Q&A Monday: Remotely Turn on Computer?

question-markQuestion:

I constantly turn off my home office computer when I am not using it to save energy.  I don’t think this is possible, but I thought there would be no harm in asking you the question anyway.  Is there a way for me to remotely turn on my computer when I am not in the office?  I find that, a few times a month, that when I am not in the office, that I need file on the computer, or I need remote access to a program that resides on that computer and its off.  Is there a way that I can turn on my computer from anywhere with an internet access without having someone physically turn the device on.

Howard Hernandez
Baton Rouge, LA

Answer:

    This is a great question.  It’s a little known secret that some computer are actually capable of being turned on remotely.  To accomplish this there is some configuration that you need to do, but after initial set up it’s pretty easy.  Let me take a moment to explain how this works.  I’ve gotten calls from people in the past that after their computer is shut off a light remains on, on either the power supply or network card, and wanted to know if the computer is off.  The computer is off, but technically it’s not completely off.
    The computer may be waiting for a special command, called a “magic packet” to spring the computer to life.  Once the command is received the computer turns back on and is accessible, just like you went home/office and turned the computer on itself.
    To set this up, you’ll need to do some configuration.  You’ll need to go into the BIOS settings of your computer and see if the Wake on Lan setting is on, and if it isn’t then turn it on.  This will make the computer listen for the magic packet sent to it.  The next thing you are going to want to do, is decide what program you are going to use to send this magic packet, because it affects how you are going to configure your router.
    I suggest that you find a online Wake on Lan website, so that even if you don’t have access to a computer with pre-installed software, you can still be able to wake up your computer, now the downside to that is usually these sites already have a port then send the packed to, and you’ll need to configure your router to match.  In the one I have in this entry, you need UDP Port 9 opened.
    If like me, you carry a laptop around everywhere, then you can install a program, and then send the packed from that program.  The advantage there is that you can choose your own port to send to the magic packet to.  I would suggest that if you do that, you choose a higher port number so that you don’t conflict with anything currently running on it, or something you might need later.
    Another suggestion that I would like to make, is that if you haven’t already, sign up with a service like DynDNS.com, so that you’ll have an easy to remember hostname, then your current external IP address.  Also this gives you the advantage that if you ISP changes your IP address, the DynDNS software updates automatically too, and you wont have interrupted ability.  If you have a static IP address for your business or just pay for that luxury, and you don’t want to download and install DynDNS updating software, then you can find out your external IP address online.
    Once that is all configured then all you need to do is test out and make sure everything is set up correctly and make sure you computer comes online when you command it to.  To do that, you’ll need some information, like the MAC address of your computer and the external IP address (or the hostname), and test it out.  It’ll help you save energy and still give you the ability to get file or website stored on your computer.

NOTE:  If you have a Linksys router and you followed the steps above and you still couldn’t get it to work, then try the steps listed here, and use the work around.  Apparently Linksys has a setting that will conflict with the Wake On Lan request from getting to you computer.

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If  you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question.  Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and check back Wednesday and Friday for other technical insights.

Facebook and Others Sending you Data!

facebook_logo The Wall Street Journal had an article, where it reported that Facebook and several other popular social media sites were sending information to their advertisers when you click on an ad.  This information could help companies find your name or other personal information without you consent…despite claiming they don’t do that without your consent.
The sites participating in this practice are Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, Hi5, Xanga and Digg according to the Wall Street Journal.  These companies defend their current practice of sending user names or ID numbers tied to personal profiles being viewed when users click on ads.  Even Twitter was caught sending usernames to advertisers when clicking on an ad.
This isn’t something that should shock people any more, when you give your information to sites like facebook, they feel like that code is worth money, and potential advertisers salivate at that data.  It’s something that benefits both companies why wouldn’t they do it?  I’ve heard rumors that lawmakers are looking at laws to govern how websites share our information.  That’s what we need more laws.  What happen to us protecting ourselves online?  Let the news and the people who use the sites protect us, just like it worked this time.  Facebook messed up, people got mad, facebook is trying to save face now.
I think that unlike most people I don’t blame Facebook or any other social media website, I blame us.  We fill these websites will all of our personal information and then get offended when it gets used against us.  I tend to think that we have forgotten that there is no real thing as privacy on the internet.  There was a time when we were unwilling to put so much of ourselves online.
Though I can understand where people are upset with Facebook.  They made the classic mistake when it came with technology.  You can make public information private, but not private information public.  Facebook protected your privacy vigorously at first and then tried to release their grip, and that was their problem.  Look at Twitter, they make no claim that your information is protected, you tweet it and everyone can see it.

Original Article: Wall Street Journal

Hide Drives from Your Computer in Windows 7

WindowsIf you’ve got drives in My Computer that you never access, such as a USB Flash drive that is used s olely for MagicJack, a floppy drive, or a network drive only used for a particular piece of software, then you might want to hide the drive from your computer, so it doesn’t bother you.

Now note, that this just hides the drive from view, the drive will still be accessible from the command prompt or typing the drive letter in manually.

In this example the V: drive is the magic jack drive and I just don’t need to see the drive, as when I have USB drives and such plugged in it’s just one more thing I don’t need to look at.

HardDriveView

NOTE: These following steps require you to modify the registry on your local computer, as with every registry modification, please back up your registry prior to going any further.

Open up regedit.exe by using the start menu search box, and then browse down to the following key.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

If the Explorer key does not exist, you can right-click on Policies, select New Key and name it Explorer.

The NoDrives key should not exist by default, so you’ll need to create it with right-click -> new 32-bit DWORD and name it NoDrives.

Reg

Creating the DWord will ask for a Hex or Decimal value so that you can select the drive to be hidden.

EditDWord

I’ve done the hard work for you, and compiled the list of drives below so that you don’t have to do the work.


Drive Letter


Decimal

A1
B2
C4
D8
E16
F32
G64
H128
I256
J512
K1024
L2048
M4096
N8192
O16384
P32768
Q65536
R131072
S262144
T524288
U1048576
V2097152
W4194304
X8388608
Y16777216
Z33554432
All Letters67108863

Now the changes aren’t instant, you’ll either need to restart your computer, or you can go to the task manager stop the explorer.exe process and then go to the file ->New Task and type explorer.exe and that will restart it.

Look, now that pesky MagicJack drive is hidden: Drive V Missing

*NOTE: This works on Windows Vista

To Unhide the Drive

To unhide the drive at any point, you just simply browse to the registry path and delete the newly created NoDrives key, then the drive will reappear during the next reboot.

Apple Releases Update for Java on OS X 10.5 and 10.6

apple-logo1 Apple has released Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 7 and Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 2 to address multiple vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial-of-service condition.

I would recommend that anyone who has a Apple computer or administrates an apple computer goto your software updates and install the updates if available.

Check Apple’s KB for more Information:

OS X 10.5 –http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4170

OS X 10.6 –http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4171

Facebook Privacy Scanner

WindowsA lot of recent concern over Facebook and their recent privacy changes and people are either talking about deleting their Facebook pages or trying to navigate the privacy settings to keep them safe.  The latter is what I though I would do, since when I’m not at work, I’m addicted to Facebook.  I thought I got the security settings that I wanted to keep me safe, and went about my everyday business.

Of course that wouldn’t make a very good blog entry would it, I as a tech guy changed my settings and it worked well.  I recently came across a site ReclaimPrivacy.org.  Thinking that it would be good to try I tried it.

Now it’s a little different than you just go to the website and give it your information.  Once on the site it gives you some directions on how to run the site.  You need to add a link to your bookmarks and then login to Facebook and click the bookmark.  For one I like this site, because I’m putting in my login information into their site, their link brings up script after I log in (via the bookmark).

Though the site alerted me to some settings, that I didn’t mind having public like my website and my hometown, it still help me find something that I forgot, the ability for my friends to share my information, even though I personally opted out, you need to opt your friends out of sharing your information.  Though I made sure I was safe, even I forgot something, so make sure your safe and everything is the way you want it.

Site:ReclaimPrivacy.org

Question and Answer: Stop Domain Users from Installing Files

Question:

I have Windows 2003 domain and some users have local admin rights. I would like to prevent these users from installing any software on their PCs.

Bobby Clem
Boulder, CO

Answer:

    In an ideal world we wouldn’t have users who were also local administrators, but we in the IT world often have perfect systems to work with.  In the past I’ve had programs which needed to be installed and run as a local administrator, but luckily I wasn’t able to lockdown accounts due to policy.
    One way that we lock out installing accounts in a domain is to use Group Policy to lockout programs like setup.exe and install.exe to run. As I said this isn’t a perfect solution, but it will eliminate some of the most common install files.

To enable and list the programs you don’t want run go to

User Configuration->Administrative Templates->System->Don’t allow
specified Windows applications in group policy editor.

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If  you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question.  Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and check back Wednesday and Friday for other technical insights.

Linux Newbie Mistakes

Linux_Logo Being a Network Administrator I’ve ran my fair share of Linux servers with various Linux OS’s on them doing many things.  I’ve decided to give you some tips on using the Linux OS when you are more familiar with another OS.  This isn’t meant to give you everything you need, but give you the ground to build upon.

One of the first things I noticed when working with Linux for the first time, many year ago was Linux does not run “.exe” files.  Linux is like the other OS’s by the fact that it has it’s own install files.  Now there is a way around this by installing a program called WINE, but that’s another lesson. So you can’t just bring files over from Windows and expect them to work.

Also a lesson to learn is not every version on Linux is the same, just as every version of Windows or Mac OS is not the same.  In fact it’s worse than that, as every version of Linux is made by a different company.  Make sure you experiment and find which one is best for you needs.

Also learn the basic Linux commands, I couldn’t tell you at first how many time I would type “dir” or other windows commands into the prompt and then get upset when nothing happened.  Linux is not Windows, so take some time and learn the basics.  In the same vein as that, Linux disk structure isn’t like windows, there isn’t a “C:\” in Linux.

Updates are just as important to Linux as Windows.  In my career I’ve been guilty in the past of ignoring updates to a Linux server because I just didn’t know how.  This was disaster when the network was hacked and a server without years of updates was taken over and had to be physically removed from the network.  I would have never treated a Windows machine like that, but we often do it for Linux, make sure you learn enough to keep it safe.

Hopefully these will help you when you first encounter a Linux server at the job, even if you don’t I recommend that you get a working knowledge of Linux because you never know when it’s going to come in handy.  Especially if you ever need to use any tools from my article: Admin Toolkit: 5 Linux tools you need for Windows

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