AARP presents a webinar to help you ID the “bad guys”

I highly recommend anyone sign up and watch these webinars. Be smart and protect yourself!

They look like the real thing, but they’re really just impostors after your identity and your money. It’s not too late to learn how to recognize and protect yourself from these clever con artists.
Don’t wait—sign up for AARP’s free, two‑part webinar today. Experts from AARP and the FTC will answer your questions live and teach you about romance scams and government impostor scams—two of the most common varieties. You’ll learn how they target people on dating sites and how they pretend to be government representatives.
Discover the local and national resources available to you. Protect yourself by registering now for this must‑see webinar from AARP.

The Impostors: Keeping Yourself Safe From Scammers
Part 1: Valentines, Candy & Online Romance Scams
Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 7 p.m. ET
Part 2: Fake Tax Bills: Protecting Yourself From the IRS Scam
Thursday, February 7, 2019, 7 p.m. ET

AARP Membership Newsletter

Register here

Even if you cannot attend the live webinar, register anyway and they will email you the recording and you can watch it anytime!

Another Day, Another Ransomware Attack: “Nyetya”

The Bad Guys know no shame. It appears they’re going to try every one of the tricks that was leaked from the NSA tool kit. Oh, goody. I’m saying “nyet” to “Nyetya”.

If you have servers (or even one server) you need to make sure you have all the latest patches from your Server Software Vendor — besides Microsoft that also extends to Linux (and all the variants) and even Apple products. There is no “safe” operating system from these latest attacks. Your computer (workstation) is the perfect delivery mechanism for the server attack so it’s important you keep whatever Security Suite you have up to date and fully patched. (I’m assuming you’re already keeping up with all the Microsoft and other Operating System Vendor updates regularly, right?!?)

We can provide assistance with patching all of your equipment and we also sell the Trend Micro Security Suite. We can cover your servers and your workstations (even your mobile devices) with some of the very best protection available on the Internet. You can book us online at and we’d be happy to assist you in keeping the Bad Guys at bay.

Want to know more about this latest round? Here are a couple of really good informational sources.

From Trend Micro:

From Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group’s Blog:

The New Normal? The Bad Guys and You Part 2: The Smack Down

In Part 1 we talked about what the Bad Guys could potentially gain from targeting you and your “nothing worth stealing.” But I think you saw that maybe you do have something worth stealing after all.

“Great, guess I’ll throw out the computer and no more email!”
Probably not a good idea and certainly not practical. It’s better to understand what you can do to protect yourself. Please allow me to digress for a moment into an analogy. It used to be that one could leave their doors unlocked and not worry about getting robbed. You can still leave your doors unlocked, but if you do get robbed — what do you think is the first question the Police and Insurance Company will ask? How much help do you think they will really be?
So we all put locks on our doors. That involved us carrying keys. The hassle!! Some decided to leave them under the mat or in a fake rock (or fake dog poo) near the door. That’s pretty handy. The criminals think so too. That turned out to be almost as useless as just leaving the door open.
So we get fancier locks. Something with a punch code. That’s pretty great until the battery dies in the unit (you forgot to replace it) and you still need the key to get in. (Did I leave it under that suspicious looking dog poo?…)

“There’s no way to win so why bother?”
For the same reasons you still lock your door and hassle with the key, you should be taking the time to create yourself a password scheme that includes upper and lower case letters, special characters (!@#$%^&*), and numbers. Have a minimum of nine characters — 12 and above is much better. Having a passphrase is often quite helpful. Don’t include personally identifiable info in your password (e.g. names — yourself, significant other, kids, etc.) but make it meaningful to you. TheRock!3Mount@1ns is an example of an extremely simple passphrase. (Don’t use it — I just gave it to you and all the Bad Guys. I’m sure it’s in a list now used to crack passwords. If you were using it, I’m really sorry. I didn’t know!) The absolute BEST passwords are the randomly generated ones but that can get really hard to manage.

“I have too many passwords to remember as it is and now you want me to make them harder?! Are you CRAZY?!?!”
Well, I’m not quite right, but I wouldn’t call it crazy. 🙂
There are lots of ways to manage passwords. If you are like many of my home clients, you have a workstation or laptop that stays pretty much in one place and that’s where you go to access the Internet. I’m going to suggest something totally radical for you to use as a password manager: a small notebook kept in a drawer somewhere near (but not next to) the machine. Keep each site on a single page so you have room to change the password as you need to. I just made security nerds everywhere scream out in pain. Take heart security nerds, I’m suggesting the electronic solution next. This recommendation is playing the odds — I’m making the assumption that the chances of a physical break in and the criminal specifically looking for and taking that notebook is fairly low. (You had the door locked, right?!?) Way lower than the online Bad Guys.

“Fancy passwords are a real hassle”
There is an electronic management solution — lots of them actually. PC Magazine recently reviewed and proclaimed “The Best Password Managers of 2017“. Don’t want to invest in a management solution? There are free options like a product called Password Safe. Another even more secure option is presented by Felicia King at Quality Plus Consulting making use of Password Safe and a product called YubiKey. She outlines the strategy here.
If you use a product like Password Safe you will be able to randomly generate passwords and electronically store them in an organized fashion. It’s that notebook on your machine. Of course, you’ll want to keep a backup of your password file — but you’re backing up the important data on your machine regularly anyway, right?? Right??

“I’m still confused and need more help.”
You’re in luck — we can help. You can schedule an appointment online here.

Wannacrypt? No thanks!!

There’s a new Bad Guy in town and he’s holding us all up for a “King’s Ransom”. Especially if you dislike patching your devices regularly or you’re still steadfastly holding on to that old XP machine. But you ALWAYS update your machine when Microsoft releases patches, right??

According to, Ransomware is:

“noun, Digital Technology.

1. malware planted illegally in a computer or mobile device that disables its operation or access to its data until the owner or operator pays to regain control or access.”
As reported yesterday (5/13/17) by ZDNet’s Danny Palmer ( this one is SO BAD that Microsoft has actually released patches for the “dead” (AKA no longer officially supported without a REALLY expensive contract) OS’s — Windows Server 2003, Windows XP and Windows 8 (including RT).
If you’re using one of these systems, head over to Microsoft’s blog page on the subject ( to get the patches you need.
Need help with this? Want more security advice? Contact Us and let’s talk!

Apple recalling faulty USB-C charging cables

Apple announced on 2/12/16 that they were recalling some of the USB-C charging cables for MacBooks.

A limited number of Apple USB-C charge cables that were included with MacBook computers through June 2015 may fail due to a design issue. As a result, your MacBook may not charge or only charge intermittently when it’s connected to a power adapter with an affected cable.

Apple will provide a new, redesigned USB-C charge cable, free of charge, to all eligible customers. This program also covers Apple USB-C charge cables that were sold as a standalone accessory.

For MacBook owners who provided a valid mailing address during the product registration process or Apple Online Store purchase, Apple will send you a new cable by the end of February 2016.

All other eligible MacBook owners should use the replacement process below to receive a new USB-C charge cable.

How will you know if you have a bad cord?

Affected cables have “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” stamped on them. New, redesigned cables include a serial number after that text. See images below.

apple usb c

Apple will need the serial number of your MacBook to make sure you qualify for a replacement cable. You can take your MacBook to an Apple Store, an Authorized Apple Service Center or contact Apple Support.

How Microsoft Surface and the App StaffPad are empowering music creativity

Lead photo: Eleven-year-old composer Garrett Weyenberg, right, and StaffPad creator David William Hearn are pictured in Angel Studios in London on Jan. 29, 2016. Photo by David Palmer.

From Microsoft News:

The songs began when Garrett Weyenberg was 2 and would climb onto a piano bench and make up little tunes, each an ode to things like snowmen or peaches. By ages 5 and 6, he was composing full, intricate songs, sometimes scooting his entire body along the piano to play multiple octaves.

By age 10 last year, Garrett finished an eight-minute piece called “Sonatina in G Major,” a lively work in three movements that won a regional composition contest. It was just one song in a vast oeuvre of original music, built from a lifetime of melodies flowing from Garrett’s head. But until recently, he had no easy way to write his musical thoughts, no practical means of saving his music and sharing it with others to play.

That all changed when Garrett turned 11. He got a Surface Pro 3 for his birthday and started using StaffPad, a notation app that lets users handwrite music and save it for editing, playback and sharing. Designed for Microsoft Surface, the groundbreaking app uses the device’s pen-and-touch technology for a natural, tactile experience, and combines it with modern tools in handwriting recognition, orchestral playback and score editing.

“I like that it’s really simple and intuitive. I can just jot down ideas and it’s easy for me to get a song down now,” said Garrett from his home in McKinney, Texas. He can now write music wherever he is – at a piano or in the car – and his scores are saved in OneDrive for seamless syncing and access across devices.

Garrett recently flew to London to meet the creator of StaffPad, David William Hearn, a composer and music producer known for his work in TV and movies, from “Friday Night Lights” to “Les Misérables.” After Garrett’s mom emailed Hearn about StaffPad, the meeting arose as a way for Garrett to meet the man behind his favorite app, and for the maker to meet a young musician empowered by his creation. The two worked on one of Garrett’s songs in a session filmed for a new video by Microsoft.

“He’s obviously a very talented kid, very musical,” said Hearn, who’s based in London. He’s thrilled that StaffPad, available exclusively in the Windows Store, enables creativity in musicians around the world, from kids like Garrett to retired hobbyists to professional composers.

“It’s amazing how far-reaching music is,” he said. “There’s so many people writing music, so many people creating, which is just such a lovely thing. It goes so far beyond what I thought we could achieve with the app.”

Hearn was inspired to create StaffPad while working on a film score and wishing there was a way to make quick edits with other musicians, instead of having to go back to his studio and fire up his computer. He also wanted to return to the ease of handwriting music and evolve it with technology.

“There’s nothing more natural and fluid than picking up a pen and writing down your musical thoughts,” said Hearn. “It was really an idea of how we could push written music forward.”

StaffPad converts handwritten notes into a beautiful typeset score, with no mouse, keyboard or complicated notation software to fiddle with. The app’s simple interface enables musicians to focus on music and not technology, and Surface tablets deliver a smooth, mobile and productive experience.

“Before StaffPad, I was really just sort of chained to the desk,” said Hearn. “It’s great to have the option to move away from the computer and get outside, or sit down at the piano and just write as you would on paper.”

Recently updated for Windows 10, StaffPad now has a handy “Composer Assistant” that knows voice commands to add woodwinds or change the key signature. And Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform means StaffPad works on the 84-inch Surface Hub, a great educational tool Hearn is using with the Royal Academy of Music in London on new ways to teach music in a lecture hall.

Before Garrett had StaffPad, his mom used to record hours of video of him playing piano, so that he could later score his music. But notating was so tedious that it rarely happened. It took Garrett a year to write his seven-page “Sonatina in G Major,” a feat he said would now take a week or two with StaffPad and Surface.

“He is composing music in his mind daily,” said Garrett’s mother, Stephanie Weyenberg. “StaffPad truly has been the game changer for him.”

When a medical condition left Garrett in excruciating pain in recent weeks, writing music was an emotional balm, and the technology enabled him to write from bed. It’s helped deepen his love for music as a form of expression and a way to connect with others.

“It’s kind of cool for me that other people could play something that originally I was thinking,” he said.

For Microsoft, StaffPad highlights the power of technology – from natural touch input to Surface Pen precision —to help people young and old express creativity in new ways.

“We’re so inspired by Garrett’s passion and use of StaffPad’s powerful capabilities, the way David envisioned for every professional, educator, student or individual,” said Mona Cao, product marketing manager for Surface.

“It’s digital creation at its best.”

Story by:  Vanessa Ho, Microsoft News Center Staff

iPhone “Error 53”: a “feature” that bricks your phone


What is “Error 53”?

This “feature” effects any iPhone that has the fingerprint sensor in the home button. It does not matter if you don’t use the fingerprint function — there’s a chip built into the home button cable that is synchronized with the main logic board. If that chip or cable is damaged, the home button works fine (without fingerprint). BUT the next time you upgrade the iOS the phone ends up in an endless boot loop. Why? Because the logic board asks the chip “you out there?” and if there’s no response (because the chip is damaged) the phone locks down to “protect your security.” In a stunningly brilliant move rather than have a useful “this is why it’s not working” message pop up, the cryptic “Error 53” rears its ugly head.

Why should you care?

Ever broken your screen? If the “3rd party” tech fixing it isn’t extra careful you could be carrying around a $600+ iBrick at your next update. The idea here is that Apple wants you to bring in your phone to Apple for repair. Then they can pressure you to upgrade or repair/replace the device for a kingly sum (it IS Apple and that IS what they do.)

I have personal experience with this “feature.”

Because I repair screens on phones, I ran into this “feature” shortly after the i6’s were released. I ended up replacing two i6 phones for customers because I damaged the home button cable. At that time, Apple Support had no way to “fix” the issue — at least that was the story I received from them at the time. They initially quoted me $300 for the home button repair (A new phone was $700 then) before deciding that they couldn’t help me at all. There is no insurance for small devices like phones for techs — I had to pay for the phones out of pocket. Ouch.

It gets worse

It would seem that “Error 53” is coming up for people that have never had their phones repaired or cropping up much later after a repair was made. Apple’s justification for this is (as sent to ZD Net):

“We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device’s other components. If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.”

The thing is — you can’t just swap the home button and have the fingerprint move with it. The fingerprint data is stored on the logic board of the phone. There appear to be no “smarts” in the home button chip that store any information other than how to read a fingerprint and to “phone home” to the logic board. If you swap the button, all you get is a fingerprint-less “regular” home button. iFixit tested this.

And the lawyers salivate

In what should be a surprise to no one, Apple is currently being slapped with a bunch of class action lawsuits. I don’t think this type of action is necessary, but it might be the only way to get Apple to figure out a better way to handle this “feature.” Or (and probably more likely) it will encourage them to “dig in” and fight all the way. That helps no one. Including Apple.


For a really nice Q&A layout to the Error 53 issue, check out this article by  of ZDNet:

Here’s the link to iFixit’s Investigation of Error 53:

Data in the clouds or under the sea?

A New York Times article published on 1/31/16 highlights a new data center project from one of Microsoft’s Research groups called NExT (New Experiences and Technologies) that is solving a big data center problem (heat) with the cool ocean waters.

Today’s data centers, which power everything from streaming video to social networking and email, contain thousands of computer servers generating lots of heat. When there is too much heat, the servers crash.

Putting the gear under cold ocean water could fix the problem. It may also answer the exponentially growing energy demands of the computing world because Microsoft is considering pairing the system either with a turbine or a tidal energy system to generate electricity.

The effort, code-named Project Natick, might lead to strands of giant steel tubes linked by fiber optic cables placed on the seafloor. Another possibility would suspend containers shaped like jelly beans beneath the surface to capture the ocean current with turbines that generate electricity.

The experiment was a success — so much so that they extended the time and even ran some commercial data processing projects from the Azure cloud service.

The first prototype, affectionately named Leona Philpot — a character in Microsoft’s Halo video game series — has been returned, partly covered with barnacles, to the company’s corporate campus here.

It is a large white steel tube, covered with heat exchangers, with its ends sealed by metal plates and large bolts. Inside is a single data center computing rack that was bathed in pressurized nitrogen to efficiently remove heat from computing chips while the system was tested on the ocean floor.

This type of experiment leads to many other exciting options — better server hardware (can’t send a tech in the middle of the night to fix them under the sea), greener power (tidal wave generation, enhanced hardware power efficiency), etc.

It’s entirely possible that in the near future when you’re using the “cloud” you might actually be “under the sea.”


Why Microsoft wants everyone to have Windows 10

Microsoft is in what appears to be a huge rush to get everyone to upgrade to Windows 10. They’ve even put a date on when they will quit giving it away for free: July 29, 2016.

Why is that and what’s the rush you ask?

There are a few good reasons to get everyone on the same playing field. It’s easier to issue patches and updates if you don’t have to create and test four (or more) different versions of whatever exploit the bad guys found. You wouldn’t have to worry about anything that was over 10 years old and still using software that has been full of security and performance holes for the last eight. That old, slow hardware that diminishes the customer experience can be retired. These are the reasons that come from the top of my head. There are more and (likely) better reasons than these few.

So how will Windows make money off of this? They’re giving it away for free.

One billion devices. (It’s necessary to do that line with your best Dr. Evil voice impersonation.) Microsoft has set a goal of getting Windows 10 on one billion devices. The fastest route to that goal is giving it away for free. They have a sunset date of July 29, 2016 but it seems logical for them to continue past that date as they haven’t quite reached one quarter of their goal (200,000 at last report). One billion devices delivers enough customers for developers to come back to the Windows Store and start designing those Apps we’ve all become so familiar with. The Windows Store really is pathetic compared to Apple’s iTunes and Android’s Google Play stores. Apple already is on over a billion devices and reported $31 billion dollars in sales per year. In Apps and “services”. That’s not a fair comparison you say? Microsoft is an operating system on a computer, not a phone. True — until now. Microsoft is building Windows 10 as a “universal platform” that works on all your devices from desktop to tablet to phone. It’s designed the App Development kit to enable developers to take advantage of all those different screen sizes in one set of code so that the experience is consistent across all those different devices.

Microsoft is taking a page from the Apple and Google model.

Apple gives away its OS. So does Google (Chrome OS). Apple makes its money from a 30% cut of the pie for every sale in it’s app store. Google primarily sells advertisements (and by extension your tracked data). Microsoft giving away Windows 10 to encourage you to engage in their own subscription model. Office 365 is the current “flagship” with what Microsoft hopes is the Microsoft Store nipping at its heels IF they can get the developers on board. Microsoft has been dabbling with the advertising (like in the free email client, but so far has stayed away from it on most other things. I hope they continue to do so. I will gladly pay for a subscription if it means I can stay “commercial free.”

It ends up being a numbers game.

One billion devices provides incentive for developers to create; users to buy and Microsoft to make money. They take a “hit” on revenue up front, but in the long game they come out ahead as we buy Apps and Office365 and whatever other subscription based product they come up with. It makes sense to me to just continue to offer Windows 10 for free as an upgrade with a small fee for the OS on new devices that would be part of the purchase price (like it is now). Only time will tell what strategy Microsoft will use but it looks like they’re on a path that can keep them relevant and solvent. Even when they’re “giving it away.”

Source Article for my ramblings: