Holiday Tech Toys 2013

holidaytechtoyIt’s that time of year again! The holiday season means gift-giving and technology gifts are hotter than ever. My Holiday Tech Toys list is in its seventh year and I like to list some of the best tech items to give – or get! But first one quick tip on technology gift buying: do not open any technology gift you give until you give the gift and the recipient is completely sure they want to keep the item. I know some people like to personalize gifts by placing cards or such inside the boxes of gifts, but with most technology gifts, opening them restricts your return options. An unopened tech gift usually can be returned for a full refund or exchange, but opened items are usually subject to a restocking fee. Keeping that in mind, take a look at this year’s Holiday Tech Toys and if you have any questions about holiday tech gifts, please get in contact with me.

iPad_Air_and_iPad_mini_with_retina_displayiPad Air/iPad Mini & iPhone, iPod Touch

The iPad has been one of the hottest tech gifts ever, especially since the iPad Mini was introduced last year. With the upgraded iPad Air and the new iPad Mini with Retina Display, the trend is sure to continue. The iPad Mini makes a great gift for kids since it can be used for educational purposes as well as for fun. However, rumors are that the new iPad Mini with Retina Display will be in short supply this holiday season, so shop early! Alternately, the iPod Touch is like a “mini” iPad mini in case you have a younger person on your gift list who wants an iOS device. Of course the iPhone is still a hot gift, especially with the new iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S models, but make sure you are getting the person exactly what they want.

consoles_2013_gen

Nintendo Wii U, Sony Playstation 4, Microsoft Xbox One

The new 8th generation video game consoles are all ready for purchase just in time for the holidays! If you are buying for someone, make sure you know which platform is their favorite. However, note that the prices are quite different this year. The Nintendo Wii U starts at $299, Sony Playstation 4 $399, and Microsoft Xbox One $499. I’m finding it hard to believe that parents are willing to spend $399, yet alone $499 on a video game console, so I have a feeling that many people will be passing on the more expensive consoles this year until the inevitable price drop that usually occurs. But if you have a hardcore gamer on your gift-giving list and they want one of these consoles, shop early as oftentimes new game consoles are hard to get.

The Nest Learning ThermostatNest Learning Thermostat

I reviewed the Nest Learning Thermostat last year, but it is still a great gift this year because it is an excellent example of a mainstream application of technology – and it can save its users a lot of money. Who wouldn’t want a thermostat that can be controlled from a smartphone even when you’re not home? Plus it “knows” when you leave the house so it can save energy. Read my review of the Next from last year.

the_leap

Leap Motion Controller

The Leap Motion Controller is a little on the techie side, but in the right hands (literally), it could be an excellent gift. The Leap is a small box that sits in front of your monitor and you can then move your hands in the air to control your computer. It may take a while for more apps to be written to take full advantage of the technology, but I believe that the technology of the Leap will have a place in the future of computing. If you have someone on your gift-giving list that is a forward-thinking techie type, check out the Leap. Read my preview of the Leap I wrote last year.

Activity-trackersFitbit, Jawbone Up, Lark

Personal activity and sleep trackers are a growing trend. They integrate with an App on your mobile device and help you keep track of sleep and fitness goals. Plus they have silent vibrating alarm clocks so that you can wake yourself up without disturbing your sleeping partner. The various models of Fitbit, the Jawbone Up, and the Lark are examples of this type of technology. Check them out and buy one for for your sleeping partner – or maybe do them a favor and buy one for yourself!

GoPro & MeCamfull_GoPro_HD_Hero_3_357728

“Action” cameras are getting very popular and no brand epitomizes the category more than GoPro. If you know someone in the market for a video camera, the GoPro is worth looking at if you think they ever want to shoot video from their own perspective or from something like a bike or surfboard. If the GoPro is too far out of your budget, take a look at the MeCam for a less feature-filled but more affordable option. The MeCam isn’t ruggedized or waterproof like the GoPro line of cameras, but they are wearable and are good for more casual uses or maybe for younger children who aren’t going to be doing “extreme” videos.

koomus_black_2_largeKoomus K2 Smartphone Car Mount

With as much as we do with our smartphones in the car, I think having a dashboard or windshield mount is critical. They allow you to have your smartphone in plain sight and easy reach, similar to (but even better than) your car’s radio. The key is finding a good mount that will solidly hold your phone but doesn’t break the bank. After much research I believe I have found a good option that is also a good value. The Koomus K2 is an affordable mount that will securely lock down your smartphone to either your dashboard or windshield and is easy to get your smartphone in and out of. It works with multiple types and sizes of smartphones. I’ve been using mine since I had to get a new mount to fit my iPhone 5S a few months ago. So far, I’ve been very happy with the Koomus K2, although my own car was a bit of a challenge to securely place the mount at first. The Koomus K2 comes in black or white to match your smartphone.

Doorbotimages

It’s about time we had an upgrade to the traditional doorbell. The Doorbot allows you to see who is ringing your doorbell through your smartphone. You don’t even need to be home. Doorbot could be a solution for those who would like a simple way to keep an eye on who is visiting their home without investing in an expensive security camera system.

iMac and MacBook ProApple MacBook, iMac, Mac Mini

For some, a traditional personal computer is still a gift they need to receive. With all the uncertainty about Windows, not to mention the increasingly destructive malware continuing to plague the platform, Apple’s Macintosh computers are probably the safest bet as a quality laptop or desktop gift. Many people aren’t aware that Macintosh computers can run Windows software if necessary, so you aren’t limiting yourself or a gift recipient when buying a Mac – rather you are giving them the most options possible. Plus since Macs are virtually immune to the onslaught of malware, a Mac can pay for itself over time in greatly reduced service calls. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are Apple’s line of laptops, while the iMac is Apple’s main desktop line. If you’re looking for a Mac on a budget, the Mac Mini can fit the bill nicely. If you are buying a Mac for someone, try to get as much information as possible on which Mac would be best for them and consult with a knowledgeable Mac expert before buying. Also, as I said above, do not open the packaging until the gift recipient is completely sure they want the Mac you purchased them in case you need to return the item.

BT4000__0001_Black_0Etón BoostTurbine 4000

As we become increasingly dependent on our mobile devices, getting caught with a dead battery can be a big problem. There are many models of portable “spare” batteries that can be used to recharge on the go. The problem is that we need to remember to recharge our spare batteries – they do us no good if they are also drained. However, the Etón BoostTurbine 4000 includes a wind-up turbine that we can use in a pinch to give ourselves a few precious percents of battery power. Simple but effective. I now have a way to survive in case of the apocalypse.

CryptoLocker is the Most Destructive Malware in Years

CryptoLocker

This is unfortunately all too real.

Some of you may have seen e-mails floating around, postings on social media, or news articles warning you of a new malware called CryptoLocker. Since most of us by now are  desensitized to these types of warnings, I’m sure many of you aren’t aware of the details. In summary, the CryptoLocker malware encrypts all the data on your hard drive and attempts to blackmail you into paying $300 or so in order to unlock your files. If you do not pay within a few days, you are warned that the decryption key will be deleted and you will never be able to recover your files. It sounds almost too sinister to be true – like something you would see in a movie. Unfortunately, I’ve researched this malware to be 100% sure, and it is in fact all too real. This malware is definitely serious enough to take notice of, so please read the rest of this article in order to best protect yourself.

The very first thing to be aware of is that this malware ONLY affects Windows-based computers. Apple Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPads, the iPod Touch, Android-based smartphones and tablets, and all other devices are NOT susceptible to this malware. So if you do not own any Windows-based computers, you can breathe a little easier but you may want to stay informed anyway.

If you own a Windows-based computer, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to ensure you have a working backup of all the data on your computer. This includes documents, pictures, music, video, and anything else that you store on your computer. (FYI – online services like your bank account are not directly affected.) In the case you are struck by this malware, if you do not have a working and current backup, your choices are, in reality, pay the $300+ ransom or lose all your files. This malware is no joke. It uses industry-standard encryption technology to scramble the data on your hard drive. There is NO WAY to decrypt your data unless you have the decryption key, which only the criminals behind the malware have possession of. Anti-virus software is capable of removing the infection, but it can not decrypt your data.

Speaking of anti-virus software, this would be a very good time to ensure that you have updated and working anti-virus software. Anti-virus software can stop the infection from taking hold, assuming it stays current enough to catch new variations as they appear. However, even the best anti-virus software can not stop all infections all the time, which is why having a backup is your best protection.

Honestly, I believe this malware is dangerous enough that if you or your business operate on Windows-based computers, this should seriously make you consider moving to a different computer platform. Up to this point, malware on the Windows platform has been costly enough, but this new strain of malware is specifically designed to destroy your data and hold it for ransom. At $300 or more per attack, not including the cost to clean your PC, it would only take a few instances of this malware to more than pay for a new computer. Changing to a new computing platform may seem like a drastic step, but if the future of Windows is ransomware this destructive, staying with Windows doesn’t seem like much of a choice.

If you are in a situation where you still require software that still only runs on Windows, there are methods to isolate Windows and significantly reduce your risk. In addition, if you need help ensuring you have an adequate backup plan, do not delay any longer. Please contact me today to discuss your options.

Get Hip with Your Smartphone

iPhone HolsterIt amazes me how many people struggle with their smartphones. I’m not talking about struggling as in trying to figure out how to use them, but rather in carrying them around all day. Women are pretty lucky because they have purses, but most men I see attempt to carry their phones in their pockets. Depending on which pair of pants one is wearing, a smartphone in a pocket can be a big hassle. Because of the effort involved getting a smartphone in and out of a pocket (that phone with the huge screen isn’t quite so handy now, is it?), many smartphones are dropped. Additionally, many phones are cracked when they get sat on or people forget the phone is in their pocket and they jump in a swimming pool. Life doesn’t need to be like this! For years I’ve been carrying my phone around on my hip, even before the iPhone came out. Carrying your smartphone on your hip is very convenient, keeps the phone out of the way, yet lets you get to the phone quickly and easily. Even after all these years, I often am asked by people about the hip holster I use for my phone. So as a courtesy to those people who literally can’t seem to get a handle on their smartphone, here is my guide to getting hip with your smartphone.

The most important factor for a hip holster is safety. You do not want your smartphone to fall out of the holster, nor do you want your holster to slip off your hip. However, you need to be able to quickly release the phone as well as replace it securely in the holster with a minimum of effort. Luckily, I’ve come across a brand that has consistently delivered a safe and sturdy hip holster across several generations of smartphones I’ve owned. Because of that, I will make this article very straightforward: if you want a good hip holster head straight to the web site of Seidio. I’ve owned several of their products over the years and when I needed a new holster and case for my new iPhone 5S, I didn’t hesitate to go straight to Seidio again.

One of the great features of Seidio’s product line is that they make holsters that will fit “naked” phones (i.e. without cases), as well as various holsters that are designed to pair with the cases they sell. This is extremely important because generic holsters may not fit all cases very well and then you’ve got your smartphone hitting the pavement. With my previous iPhone, I did not use a case and went with their “naked” holster. I believe I dropped that iPhone only twice in two years, and just once because I fumbled the phone/holster transition (that’s what I get for trying to carry too many things at once). For my new iPhone 5S, I went with Seidio’s Surface case and matching holster. I like the Surface case because it is thin yet protective and the holster keeps the iPhone securely locked in place. As with previous Seidio holsters, this one also lets me quickly and easily release the iPhone and then replace it with a satisfying “click” sound that lets me know that it is secure on my hip.

Seidio makes cases for a variety of smartphones, so regardless of the brand you use, check out their product offerings and get hip with your smartphone today!

Buying a New iPhone? Backup Your Old One First!

Backup your old iPhone and restore it to a new iPhone

Old iPhone, meet my new iPhone!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Apple has introduced their latest iPhones, the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. They go on sale at the end of this week so it goes without saying that hordes of people will be replacing their old iPhones very soon. I periodically get asked what is the best way to transfer data from an old iPhone to a new one. With the impending release of new iPhones, I figured now would be a great time to explain how to backup an iPhone and restore to a new iPhone.

One of the great features of Apple’s iOS – the operating system on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch – is its backup and restore capability. Not only can you backup your current iPhone in case of trouble, but you can also restore the backup to a new iPhone. This is very useful in case you lose your old iPhone and need to replace it. But it is also very useful when you buy a brand new iPhone. Instead of reconfiguring all your settings and apps, you simply restore from the last backup and your new iPhone will be configured virtually identically to your old one. In case you’re curious, this process also works for iPads and the iPod Touch. In fact, it also works across different types of iOS devices. So, for example, if your child was upgrading from an iPod Touch to an iPhone they could follow the same process.

In order to completely backup your iPhone, you must use Apple’s iTunes software on your Mac or Windows PC. While you can backup using iCloud, it is not as complete of a backup. If you have a Mac, iTunes is already installed. If you have a Windows PC, you may have already installed it, but if not you can download and install it from Apple’s web site. For the details of the backup and restoration process, I’ll point you to Apple’s support article on how to backup to and restore from iTunes. Make sure you follow the steps for iTunes, not iCloud. I also have a few more recommendations when backing up for restoring to a new iPhone.

First, when backing up with iTunes, you want to make sure you check the box that says “Encrypt iPhone backup“. The key here is that for security reasons an iPhone backup will NOT backup your passwords UNLESS you encrypt the backup. It is a bit of a pain to be prompted for all your passwords when you start using your new iPhone, so I highly recommend encrypting your backup to avoid this issue. When choosing this option you will be prompted to create a password for your encrypted backup which you will need to remember when restoring to your new iPhone. So make sure you do NOT forget this password as there is no way to restore your data if you forget this password. However, Mac users will have the option of storing the password in their Keychain which will remember the password for them.

Second, I recommend upgrading to the latest iOS version on your old iPhone before backing up and restoring to your new iPhone. I say this because your new iPhone will have the latest iOS version out of the box. While it likely won’t be a problem if your old iPhone is running an older iOS and you restore to a new iPhone with the latest iOS version, experience has shown that the smoothest transition is ensured if the backup is restored to the same iOS version. Generally speaking, upgrading your iOS version is very easy to do, as it can be done right from the iPhone. Here is the link to Apple’s support article explaining the simple iOS upgrade process. Just give yourself about 30 minutes where your phone will be upgrading and you won’t be able to take calls. The trick is that Apple generally releases a new iOS only a few days before they release their new iPhones. This year is no exception. So if you want to get a new iPhone on the day they are released, you need to make sure to update your old iPhone as quickly as possible. Apple is set to release iOS7 on Wednesday, September 18th, two days before the new iPhones go on sale. If you aren’t comfortable with upgrading your iOS, then I would say skip this step, but I wanted to make sure you have this information.

When backing up your iPhone to iTunes, the longer you take between backups, the longer each backup will take. So I recommend doing a backup a few days before you intend on buying a new iPhone, then following up with one last backup right before you go out to buy your new iPhone. Then you need to return home to restore your iPhone as soon as possible to return your iPhone to normal operation and get access to your contact information. Obviously, if you have your iPhone shipped to you, then you can perform these steps at your leisure.

Finally, if you are following this process (which I strongly suggest you do), and you purchase your new iPhone from your wireless carrier’s store, there is no need to have your salesperson transfer your contacts. Generally they ask if you want your contacts transferred as a courtesy, which is very nice, but since you have a full backup waiting for you there is no need for them to do this. It will save you some time and help you get out of a crowded store sooner.

So if you’re buying a new iPhone, don’t worry about needing to reconfigure all your settings. Simply back up to iTunes following my advice and you’ll be up and running as quickly as possible!

What Batteries Should I Get For My Wireless Keyboards and Mice?

BatteriesGiven the proliferation of wireless keyboards, mice, and other computer peripherals, battery consumption has become an increasingly important consideration. This seems especially true for Apple Macintosh users, as by default iMac computers come with wireless keyboards and mice, plus many MacBook users supplement their laptops with those same wireless devices. I am receiving questions from my clients more and more often asking about the best batteries to buy for their wireless gadgets.

The first thing to realize is that most wireless keyboards and mice will eat regular alkaline batteries for lunch. This is where most of my clients have gone wrong. It seems they are replacing batteries in a device around every month or even more often. For an office full of wireless devices, this can add up very quickly. Plus it also seems that certain devices act inconsistently with regular alkaline batteries. If you need to purchase a non-rechargeable battery for your wireless devices, you should purchase the “advanced” or “performance” type of batteries such as the Energizer Lithium or Duracell Quantum brands. For what it’s worth, the Apple devices usually come with Energizer Lithium brand batteries. However, high performance batteries are more expensive than alkaline batteries and their cost will add up over time. So I don’t recommend buying these batteries except in a pinch.

What I really recommend are a particular type of rechargeable battery called low-discharge Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH). I believe many people stay away from rechargeable batteries because of misconceptions based upon past generations of rechargeable batteries. Many people perceive rechargeable batteries as expensive and prone to failure. But the worst stigma associated with rechargeable batteries are that they don’t hold their charge and never seem to be ready when they are needed. The reality is that today’s new generation of low-discharge NiHM rechargeable batteries have resolved many of the issues that previous batteries suffered from. Low-discharge NiMH batteries hold their power on the order of months or years after charging. Unlike previous iterations of rechargeable batteries that lost their charge quickly, you can charge these batteries any time and they will be ready for use when you need them.

The Apple Battery Charger. It only shows two batteries, but there are six in the box!

The Apple Battery Charger. It only shows two batteries, but there are six in the box!

My first recommendation is Apple’s Battery Charger – even if you don’t own an Apple brand device. The first reason behind my recommendation is that this product comes with 6 batteries plus the charger for $29. This may be a little confusing given the picture on the box only shows 2 batteries, but trust me there are 6 batteries in the box. For $29, I think this is a very good price for high quality batteries and a high quality charger. For an individual this is a great solution, assuming your devices use AA batteries, as most keyboards and mice use 2 batteries each, leaving 2 spare for when you need them. But the main reason behind my recommendation is that the battery Apple uses is a low-discharge NiMH. Your spare batteries will be ready to go when you need fresh ones.

However, if you run an office full of wireless devices, the cost effectiveness of Apple’s Battery Charger goes down quickly if you purchase multiple units. Unfortunately, Apple does not sell their batteries separately. So I did some research into the type of battery that Apple uses and found out that they are most likely an OEM re-branding of the Sanyo Eneloop batteries. Eneloop were the first common brand to utilize the technology that allows for long storage life. What I also found was that there are now other brands of long storage life batteries and that pricing varied. I finally found a very knowledgeable supplier with great prices.

Thomas Distributing is a company based in Paris, Illinois, which is in central Illinois near the Indiana border. If you are curious, you can do a lot of reading about different battery technologies on their web site. But for simplicity’s sake, I’ll sum it up for you. After much research I choose a product called Maha Imedion as my battery of choice. Maha is an excellent brand and their Imedion series offers a high capacity, low-discharge battery at a great price. I’ll point out some items you should look at.

Maha ImedionMaha Imedion 4-Pack AA 2400 mAh Rechargeable Batteries

Maha Imedion 16-pack AA 2400 mAh Low Discharge Batteries

If your wireless devices use AAA batteries:

Maha Imedion 4-pack AAA 950 mAh NIMH Rechargeable Low-Discharge Batteries

Maha Imedion 16-Pack 950 mAh AAA NIMH Rechargeable Low-Discharge Batteries

If you need 9-volt batteries for something like a smoke detector:

Maha Imedion 9V (9.6V) 230 mAh Low Discharge NIMH Rechargeable Battery

Finally, you should also invest in a high-quality charger, as the charger can make a big difference in the performance of your rechargeable batteries. Apple’s Battery Charger is a good choice, but if you need to charge more than 2 batteries at a time, I recommend these chargers:

Maha MH-C9000 Advanced Battery Charger (can charge 4 AA or AAA batteries at once)

Maha MH-C801D Battery Charger (can charge 8 AA or AAA batteries at once)

Maha Powerex MH-C490F-DC 9 Volt (9V) Battery Charger 4-Channel Smart Battery Charger (can charge 4 9-volt batteries at once)

In addition to wireless mice and keyboards, low-discharge NiMH batteries can work great in other electronic gadgets such an Nintendo Wii controllers, remote controls, and some children’s toys. I have been steadily adding to my collection of these batteries over the last couple of years and have nearly phased out our use of alkaline batteries altogether.

If you have any questions about battery technology, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Energy Deregulation Demystified

Demystifying DeregulationI’ve received a few questions recently about electricity deregulation. Simply put, it has been possible for several years now in the state of Illinois, as well as several other states, for homeowners and businesses to purchase electricity and natural gas from competing suppliers. The great news is that often this can result in significant savings on energy bills.

For people in my area, the company that delivers their electricity is Ameren. Ameren also usually supplies the power. If you look carefully at your electric bill, you will notice that the charges are broken down into two main sections: power and delivery. Ameren will always deliver the power because they are ones who own the infrastructure: the power lines, transformers, etc. But with deregulation, you can choose a company other than Ameren to supply your power. Since the companies all compete for your business, you have opportunity for lower prices.

As simple as it sounds, energy deregulation can be confusing at times, especially now that there are many companies out there trying to sell you deregulated power. The key is to work with someone you can trust. Luckily for me (and you) I know someone that has been in the energy deregulation field for several years now. He knows a great deal about energy deregulation. In fact, he is the author of an eBook that explains the ins and outs of the topic so that anyone can understand.

Mike Grimes, the author of Demystifying Deregulation, is owner of a local company called Commercial Energy Consultants, who represent many different deregulated energy companies. Mike is happy to give you the straight story on energy deregulation and help you save the most money possible. Feel free to give him a call at 877-212-1400.

Free Multifunction Copier/Printer Offer

MX-3501N

A local business in the area is giving away a high-end color multifunction copier/printer to three qualified businesses! Metro East Office Machines from Belleville, IL is offering this promotion to only three local businesses who print or copy at least 30,000 pages a year. Besides the minimum page requirement, the only conditions are that the business agrees to a three-year maintenance contract and pays for the initial setup. Other than that, the multifunction copier/printer is yours to own, adding up to a savings of thousands of dollars!
For more information, contact Steve Clark, owner of Metro East Office Machines at (618) 234-5628 or info@metroeastofficemachines.com. I’ve known Steve personally for a few years now and his company is honest and reputable, so don’t hesitate to get more information if your business qualifies.

Non-Profits Can Save Money on Credit Card Fees

credit_cardsI recently became aware of a program that allows qualifying non-profit organizations to save money on their credit card fees. This is a relatively new program that apparently just became available this year. Called “Community Sharing”, it waives per-transaction fees on credit card processing for qualifying non-profit organizations. This allows these organizations to keep more of the money donated to them and use it for their causes, instead of passing it along to their credit card processing company.

I talked about this with Michelle McGee, a Heartland Payment Systems representative. She said that eligible organizations include churches, church associations, charities, medical providers, legal aid societies, volunteer service organizations, professional associations, museums, and in some cases sports associations. Basically, any non profit corporation that has tax exempt status at both the federal and state level should qualify.

If you are a non-profit and would like to learn more about the Community Sharing program, I encourage you to contact Michelle McGee at 618-567-4433.

FBI “Ransomware” Phishing Scam Affects Mac Users – How To Bypass

Mac FBI Phishing Scam

This is the fake FBI warning affecting some Mac users recently. Click for a larger view.

Update: This scam seems to affect Firefox, Chrome, and other browsers in addition to Safari

There have been reports in the news over the last few days describing a “malware” or “ransomware” affecting Macintosh users that attempts to trick them into paying $300 by posing as an FBI warning. While the situation is real, the details are often being mis-reported.

First, let’s be clear that if you happen to see anything like this, whether on a Mac or a Windows PC, do not pay the $300! It is not from the FBI. It is simply a scam. The FBI would not fine you electronically for copyright violations or distributing illegal content.

Second, while the scam is real, the method of “attack” on Macintosh computers is not a “malware” or “ransomware” as is being described by the media. Rather I classify it as a phishing scam. Do note that Windows computers have been targeted by variations of this scam for at least a year and on the Windows platform the methods of attack are in fact true malware infections. However, on the Mac what the scammers are doing can best be described as a user interface trick with the Safari web browser. While quite alarming and annoying, the attack is not actually infecting any Macs.

Mac FBI Phishing Scam DialogWhen a Mac user running Safari stumbles upon a web site that is hosting the fake FBI warning, the web browser is forced to load up 150 “iframes” that all require a confirmation to dismiss. This unfortunately acts to lock up the Safari browser until the user clicks “Leave Page” 150 times. The user doesn’t know they must click 150 times and the scammers hope that the user gives up and pays the $300 instead. Even if the user Force Quits the Safari browser, by default Safari will always reload any web pages that were previously open. This of course reloads the fake FBI warning web site and indeed it seems that the Safari browser is hopelessly locked.

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to bypass this phishing scam. Oddly enough this simple method is not being widely reported at this time and instead most articles claim that you must “reset” your Safari browser, which has the side-effect of clearing out your history, Top Sites, and other settings you may want to keep. If you happen to stumble upon this fake FBI warning web site, instead of resetting Safari simply follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Click on the Apple Menu in the upper left-corner of your screen and choose “Force Quit” from the menu. The Force Quit window opens.
  2. Make sure Safari is highlighted and click the Force Quit button. This should shut down Safari. Close the Force Quit window.
  3. Hold down a Shift key on your keyboard as you relaunch the Safari browser (usually by clicking the Safari icon on the dock)

Holding down the Shift key while launching Safari forces the browser to not reload any previously open web sites, bypassing the fake FBI warning page. Again, this phishing scam is not a true infection of any Macintosh computers. Once you bypass the fake FBI warning web site, your Mac is completely safe to use. You do not need any anti-virus, firewall, or other security-type software on your Mac to clean or protect your Mac from this scam. You may choose to download and install an alternate web browser such as Chrome or Firefox if you wish to avoid this issue until Apple patches the Safari browser to prevent the method behind this scam from functioning. However, even if you do stumble upon it more than once, your Mac is not infected or compromised in any way. But as I mentioned earlier, if you are a Windows user and you run into this scam, you are infected with malware and you will need to have it professionally cleaned.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this or any other technology security issue.

Working From Home is All About the Technology

workfromhomeI recently came across an article titled “Six tips on how to work from home successfully”. I think it is definitely worth reading if you are one of the following:

  1. An employee who is working from home, considering working from home, or trying to convince their employer to allow them to work from home
  2. A business owner who wants to do more work form home or has employees asking about working from home
  3. Someone who is considering starting a business and needs to decide if they will work from home, set up an office, or do a combination of both

The article basically goes over several things you can do to manage your activities in a way that keeps you productive, keeps you in touch with your co-workers, and makes sure you give the impression that you are actually working. But it does hit upon a couple of technology points which I believe are critical to successfully working from home or creating a work environment where employees can work from home. In fact, working from home is all about the technology.

The article states that one reason for a recent surge in working from home is that new technology makes it possible. But even before The New World of Technology kicked off about 5-6 years ago, the entire ability to work from home was predicated on technology. Without personal computers, cheap phone service, and then the Internet, working from home was near impossible before the 1990′s. The key driver now is the fact that new technologies allow even people who work or own small businesses to work from home. Prior to the last few years, working from home was something that only large businesses could support — or people working from home couldn’t do the same things that people in the office could.

The article mentions technologies like QuickBase, Dropbox (which I highly recommend), and Skype. Definitely these new technologies make it easier to work from home for those who work small businesses. But there are others as well. And working from “home” doesn’t always mean someone in a home office all day. Many people are on the road or away from an office as part of their jobs. Mobile access to data is the key. In order to support mobile data access, your office technology needs to get up to speed. The good news is that new technologies allow you to support mobile data access easily and inexpensively. But you must have a game plan and a basic understanding of the technologies involved.

I believe the ability to work from home is essential to the modern workplace. It can promote happier employees (as well as owners) and ultimately create a more responsive, productive, and profitable company. If you need help understanding the underlying technologies that can foster a remote workforce, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have or help you implement the technologies your company requires.