Going to Barcamp in Berkshire 7 July 2012

Keeping up to date with developments in computing for your business

I’m looking forward to my first visit to Barcamp Berkshire, to mix a bit more with IT professionals and those interested in pushing the boundaries of computing.

It makes sense to keep up to date with technology. Even if you are not going to be the person doing the programming or installation, it is crazy to be ignorant about what can be done and what is available in terms of computing and other technology for a small business. And with sponsors like Paypal, O2, Bytemark and TechSmith this is a serious audience.

Choose an unfamiliar place to network

Although I may not fully keep up with the delegates, I will be able to appreciate view of IT professionals regarding:

  • what they think are exciting new ideas (rather than what the marketeers want you to think are amazing ideas)
  • what is considered to be more hype than long-term benefit (see above)
  • what they find frustrating (why ask for a system that is unpopular to support?)
  • what they enjoy working on (makes sense if your kind of requirements are satisfying to work on, because you will find suppliers who are keen to help you)
  • what hardware or software is considered to be under-appreciated (because you may get some bargains or get ahead of your competitors by using it to its real potential)

So in my view I will be getting inside information that may be more frank and open than I would get from a trade conference or supplier network. I also expect to make some new friends and contacts and soak up enthusiasm as opposed to sales pitch.

So stretch yourself and consider your networking in a different way.

Adding an Epson Stylus DX7450 printer / scanner

My old HP Multifunction printer gave up the other day, so as I do not do a lot of printing I got the next printer / fax on my local freecycle (http://www.uk.freecycle.org/) for nothing. For those who don’t know, freecycle is a generic name for a load of locally operated forums, where people can offer or request any item that they either want to get rid of or need. The main rule is that no money should change hands, and the result is a load of stuff which would have gone to landfill is re-used.

I immediately found and Epson Stylus DX7450 printer a few miles away, checked that linux supported it (http://www.linux-drivers.org/)   and collected it. Although it came with the windows driver cd I use Linux Mint (a free operating system that can replace Windows or Apple’s OS) (http://www.linuxmint.com/) so did not need that. Here is how I set it up.

  1. plug printer into mains, connect usb lead and switch it on
  2. go to system > administration > printing and click on ‘add printer’
  3. the system offered the new printer as first choice. Select ‘apply’
  4. a message window asked if I wanted to print a test page – I did and it was fine

The next stage was to test the scanner because the scanner programmes (Acquireimages, Simple scan and Xsane) did not list it. I immediately found the answers in this forum http://forums.v3.co.uk/showthread.php?t=208231, which referred to this set of instructions http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1581065. I’ll repeat what worked for me now:

  1. check that you have an epson configuration file by opening terminal and typing 

    cat /etc/sane.d/epson2.conf

  2. what I got was a load of stuff the same as the original post, so it proves that I had the right file and just need something added to it
  3. type

    sudo nano /etc/sane.d/epson2.conf (this will start to edit the settings file) or use the command in the forum posting that I referred to

  4. position the cursor on the line before #Network …… and type

    usb 0x4b8 0x838

    it is best to copy and paste this to get it 100% accurate

  5. if you did it my way, type ctrl + x to exit, y to save the file
  6. switch the printer off then on again. The scanner now works!

So the conclusions are:

  • freecycle is fantastic for a load of things, especially if your business is not critical on them and the time spent collecting is not more than time to order a new one
  • recycling this way does two people a favour – the donor did not have to take it to the tip
  • linux supports most hardware out of the box
  • linux forums are wonderful, free resources where you can find most answers

Happy recycling, scanning and printing!

Getting rid of scam emails and calls

Recent campaigns to prevent scams

February was “Scams Awareness Month” when the government’s National Fraud Authority re-launched its “Action Fraud” 24-hour online reporting service, aimed at reducing letter post and telephone scams said to be cheating Britons out of millions of pounds per year. In March, Action Fraud set up an additional reporting service to tackle scam e-mail messages, establishing a dedicated e-mail address – email@actionfraud.org.uk – where scam messages can simply be forwarded. The plan is for all e-mails sent to Action Fraud to be shared with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the City of London Police, for collation and analysis. “This will enable crucial intelligence to be gathered and preventative action to be taken, seeking to disrupt the fraudsters and close down the links between them”, according to Dr Bernard Herdan, CEO of the National Fraud Authority, who runs Action Fraud. He added: “This is the first time we have been able to collect and analyse scam mail and e-mails in this way. Collecting intelligence is the key to us being able to disrupt the activities of fraudsters and target their networks for closure”. One bank – HSBC – has been running its own scam reporting service since last year, asking targeted e-mail recipients to forward any suspect messages involving the bank to phishing@hsbc.com.

The response from Action Fraud

If you take up the government’s invitation to forward scam e-mail messages to Action Fraud via email@actionfraud.org.uk, they may be ‘bounced back’ – apparently rejected by a standard spam filtering service (at first glance the worst possible thing to have in place for a service specifically designed to accept mail with dubious content).

But according to Action Fraud “Please note, We have still received the scam emails you forward to us even if you get a bounce back message. The bounce back message just means the email has gone into a holding area for spam, which is then released and received by us as usual”, so all seems OK.

As an alternative, Action Fraud suggest sending printed copies of scam e-mails to their offices in Manchester, although the very information they need – about the true senders of the messages and the ‘click here’ links that reveal the addresses of fraudulent Web sites – are unlikely to survive when translated to paper.

Ideally, you need to forward the entire email in as complete a form as possible – your email viewer (outlook, thunderbird or other) may strip out the details of links)

So, fingers crossed.

Note – this update has been extracted form the monthly newsletter of Zen, a highly recommended broadband provider.

Website not working in Internet Explorer?

I am often asked by people why a site will not display properly in some browsers, or even what are all these different browsers about. This post will go a little way to explaining why – I will do a more comprehensive factsheet to download when I have a bit more time. These are my personal findings and I am happy to amend anything that the producer of a browser believes is incorrect.

What is a browser?

The browser is the programme that you use to look at the internet. It will have names like Internet Explorer (IE), Safari, Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome, Konqueror or Netscape. Sometimes you look in a window that the company supplying your internet connection supplied, so it may have Yahoo, AOL, Virgin or similar stamped on it. I will explain how to find out which one you are using further down the page.
Some of you may have recently discovered these names, following a court ruling that Microsoft makes its users aware that they do have a choice.

Which browsers are least reliable?

This one is tricky to answer without legal repurcussions, but I’ll have a go.
The most ‘problems’ arise with people using Microsoft Windows users, who have not replaced or upgraded their browser.

Which browser do I have?

This will normally be the name on the icon that you click to get to the internet. As browsers change over the years they tend to keep the same name, but get a version number and it is useful to know this. You can find it by opening the browser and clicking on the help > about menu at the top. This will say something like Internet Explorer version 6.13.4, or ‘firefox 3.0.1’ for example. Make a note of the first two numbers (e.g. 6.13 or 3.0).

What do I do now?

If you are on Internet Explorer 7.xxx or a lower number, you should definitely change. Both versions have security problems, both have problems displaying some web pages and both are very slow compared to the alternatives.
Normally Microsoft windows updates regularly and free of charge, so this should be simple (I’ll detail it in the factsheet or you can look up ‘upgrade windows explorer’ in a search engine). As an alternative to a newer version of the browser that Windows supply, you can just as easily (and free of charge) use another one that is named above (at the time of writing both Firefox and Google Chrome are the most used in the world).

Which one is best?

This is a very personal choice and the differences vary almost daily. At the moment, most people find Opera displays pages the fastest, Chrome and Safari second, Firefox next and finally Internet Explorer(all versions) the slowest. Firefox has the most ‘extras’ that you can add to it with Chrome just behind – if you like extras you will know who you are. Chrome and Firefox are particularly simple to keep pop-up adverts away, which most people would appreciate.
Currently they are all free of charge, all except Internet Explorer will work on any computer, and none affect anything else that you use.

What would stop me from changing my browser?

Some larger organisations had programmes written to work on Internet Explorer 6 (mainly company intranets). Unfortunately, these might only work with Internet Explorer 6 so the organisation has a dilemma – upgrade Explorer to view the world’s current web pages properly and revamp the intranet, or keep the old intranet and lose out on the rest of the web. Nothing technical stops them from installing any of the other browsers for you to use the web efficiently now and keeping the old Explorer version just to access their intranet. There may be a problem with internal politics, but that should not prevent you from using the internet properly if your job requires it.

How has the internet coped so far?

In short, designers have had to create web pages according to the published web standards, then add extra bits of code that check what browser you are using and add extra bits of code to make them work. Others have chosen to ‘dumb down’ their site and use features that were build into the internet, but IE cannot handle.
For interest, both Google and Facebook (amongst others) have decided not to invest time from now onwards making their pages work with old browsers, because of the extra time and cost involved.
Do remember that the main points are:
  • all the options are free of charge
  • you can install several different browsers just to try them
  • most will copy your existing favourites or bookmarks
  • if you stay on IE 6 or IE7, you are definitely missing out on security, speed and features others have enjoyed for years.

Happy surfing!