About Domain Privacy

For owners of web-site domain names, domain privacy is an option that is available to conceal the ownership of a domain name.

The international organization for domain names (ICANN.org) requires that the domain owner information is filled out and accurate, since this information is used to verify ownership of a domain name in disputes and renewals. However, this information is publicly visible and can be downloaded in bulk, leading to unsolicited advertising sent to the domain owner.

When domain names are registered, they default to displaying the owner’s name and contact details. This information may include address, e-mail, phone and fax numbers. This information is established when a domain name is first registered and is usually copied from the information used to establish the account. There are a variety of reasons the domain owner may choose to conceal or limit the information displayed.

While it may be tempting to leave the ownership information blank to prevent spam or conceal the identify of the owner, this can result in problems with establishing the true owner.  Domain ownership information is also necessary for domain renewal and when transferring a name between registrar providers.

Ideally, the domain ownership information should match the identify of a person or business that can be verified with government issued documents, such as a passport or driver license.  In a situation where ownership must be proven, the registrar will require a copy of a government issued document to establish the correct owner of a domain name.

In the worst case scenario, a blank domain owner could be challenged and seized by another person, leading to loss of the domain name.

To examine the public record of a domain name, the WHOIS command is a widely available service that every registrar provides to display the information on a domain name and ownership.  There is also a free Windows WHOIS program that can be downloaded and used to check domain names.

Recommendations for domain ownership:

* domain ownership should reflect the actual domain name owners name, not the registrar or hosting providers name.

* use a valid e-mail account that has good quality spam defense.

* do not include the fax number; enter 999-999-9999 instead to avoid spam faxing.

* avoid buying domain protection, it is a frivolous charge and it can create obstacles to domain transfer.

* domain privacy services are useful when a domain owner identify must be concealed for privacy or security reasons.

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2013 Sports Timing Events

In 2013, 48 events consisting of over 100 individual races were timed for these promoters using CrossMgr software and J-Chip RFID timing hardware:

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Common Computer Startup Problems and Solutions

There are a variety of situations where a computer will fail to startup properly. These situations often fall into one of the categories below:

No power on: 

This is used to describe a laptop or desktop where the power LED lights do not display and there is no image on the screen. For a laptop, a broken charger connector, failed motherboard,  failed power supply or dead battery will prevent startup. Test using a replacement charger and battery.

For a desktop, a failed motherboard or failed internal power supply will prevent power on. Some desktop/tower computers also have a power switch on the back of the computer that must be turned on in addition to the front panel power switch.

For desktop computers and servers connected to a “UPS” (uninterruptible power supply) the UPS unit relies on the internal battery power to start unit, even when there is sufficient utility power from an outlet. When a UPS cannot be turned on, this is an indication the internal batteries are failed and require replacement.

Power on, no video:

This is used to describe a laptop or desktop where the power LED lights indicate that the computer is turned on but nothing displays on the screen. For a laptop, power on without any image on the screen can be caused by a failed CCFL backlight inverter or failed LCD panel.

For a desktop, when no image is present on the screen, the screen may be failed. Also, a loose power cord or monitor cable may prevent an image from displaying. Test by replacing with a known good working monitor.

When a computer is using both the Hibernate and Standby power saving options, it is possible for a computer to first go into standby mode and then hibernate and shutdown. This can result in a blank screen when the computer resumes from Hibernate, and then fails to resume from standby mode, leaving the user with a black screen and no cursor.  This can be resolved by forcing a shutdown by holding down the power button for more than 4 seconds and then turning the computer back on.

Power on, scrambled video: 

This is commonly seen on laptops with a cracked LCD panel. LCD panel replacement is required. This is rarely seen on desktops but occurs where there is bad video memory or a failing video card.

Power on, Windows XP restarts:

The default behavior in Windows XP is to restart when there is an error that stops Windows from working. The result is that Windows will briefly flash a blue screen with white writing, and then restart the computer. The restarting can be caused by a bad motherboard, overheating CPU, failing RAM memory, hard disk drive error, virus, or corrupt NTFS file system.

Any of these problems will generate a Windows stop code 0x7B, preventing Windows from starting up until the problem is diagnosed and resolved. The automatic restart option can be disabled to allow display the stop error code, which will aid in diagnosing the type of problem.

Power on, Windows Vista/7/8 startup repair:

Windows Vista/7/8 try to perform a startup repair that checks for common problems and tries to fix them. This startup repair can take 5-20 minutes and will restart Windows when finished attempting the repairs. For problems including overheating, failed components, bad RAM, virus and hard disk drive error, the startup repair will not resolve the startup failure and Windows will continually repair and restart until the problem is diagnosed and resolved.

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Planning for the end of Windows XP

Microsoft Windows XP has become the most widely used and installed desktop operating system, with over 60% of U.S. businesses running Windows XP as of 2013. Since introducing Windows XP in 2002, Microsoft has provided free software updates that add features and fix security problems exploited by viruses. However, Microsoft will not be providing updates indefinitely.

Instead, Microsoft will stop issuing security fixes to Windows XP, Internet Explorer 8 and Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. It is possible and likely this deadline will be extended, and its also likely that Microsoft may issue security fixes for major problems that significantly affect large groups of Windows XP users. The best course of action is to begin upgrading or replacing Windows XP computers with Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8.

Windows XP 32-bit with service pack 3 (SP3) can be upgraded to Vista 32-bit SP1 and then the service pack 2 update for Vista must be installed. Only after upgrading to Vista SP2 can a computer be upgraded to Windows 7. Note that 32-bit versions of Windows XP cannot be upgraded to any subsequent 64-bit version of Windows. 64-bit versions of Windows Vista/7/8 provide support for computers with over 4gb RAM, while 32-bit versions of Windows are limited to recognizing only the first 3gb of RAM (4gb minus video memory usage).

There are no direct upgrades from Windows XP to Windows 7/8; instead, computers must first be upgraded from XP to Vista, and then from Vista to Win7 and then Win8. Performing an upgrade preserves all programs, data and settings, replacing only the operating system files with the newer version.

When changing to a 64-bit version of Windows Vista/7/8, there is no upgrade path available from 32-bit Windows. Instead, a new copy of Windows must be installed, requiring all applications to be re-installed. The previous version of Windows can be retained and the computer can be dual-booted to allow switching between versions of Windows on restart.

Along with the planned demise of Windows XP, new computers are no longer including hardware drivers for Windows XP, instead limiting their support to only Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Frequently asked questions about the end of updates for Windows XP on April 8, 2014:

Q: Will Windows XP Home or Professional stop working on April 9, 2014?

A: Windows XP and all other programs on Windows XP will continue to work without interruption after April 8, 2014. The Windows update feature will not provide new updates and security fixes for Windows XP, Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus and Internet Explorer 8 after April 8, 2014.

Q: What should Microsoft Security Essentials be replaced with when it stops updating?

A: There are a wide range of anti-virus programs that will continue to work on Windows XP. AVG and Immunet both provide unlimited free licenses for their anti-virus software. Microsoft will extend the support of Security Essentials until April 2015 to ensure that XP computers are protected.

Q: Can existing computers with Windows XP Home be upgraded to a newer version of Windows?

A: Yes. Windows XP Home SP3 32-bit can be upgraded to Windows Vista Home Basic/Premium/Ultimate 32-bit. Windows XP Home cannot be upgraded to any 64-bit version of Windows. Instead, a new installation of Windows Vista/7/8 must be performed if choosing the 64-bit installation. The 64-bit version of Windows is an optional choice that provides support for computers with more than 4gb RAM.  When upgrading Windows, the computer should have a minimum of 2gb RAM. Using less than 2gb RAM will result in a significant drop in performance.

Q: Can existing computers with Windows XP Professional be upgraded to a new version of Windows?

A: Yes. Windows XP Professional SP3 32-bit can be upgraded to Windows Vista Professional or Ultimate 32-bit version. Windows XP Professional cannot be upgraded to any 64-bit version of windows. Instead, a new installation of Windows Vista/7/8 must be performed if the 64-bit version is selected. The 64-bit version of Windows is an optional choice that provides support for computers with more than 4gb RAM. When upgrading Windows, the computer should have a minimum of 2gb RAM. Using less than 2gb RAM will result in a significant drop in performance.

Q: What does 64-bit Windows Vista/7/8 provide?

A: 64-bit Windows provides support for computers with more than 4gb RAM. While 32-bit versions of Windows can run on any computer, 32-bit versions will recognize only the first 4gb of RAM and ignore any additional RAM memory.

Q: Can Windows XP continue to be used after April 8th, 2014?

A: Yes. Both FireFox and Chrome web browsers will continue to work on Windows XP, so these can be used instead of Internet Explorer 8. Note that Internet Explorer 8 cannot be removed or disabled, but you can delete all shortcuts to it and make another browser the default browser for all web pages. Microsoft Security Essentials can be removed and replaced with other free anti-virus software.

 

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Disaster Planning

Disaster planning involves identifying the failure points in an entire system and then addressing those issue using fault tolerance, backup and response planning. The success of a disaster plan is determined by how quickly and effectively the system can be restored.

Writing a computer disaster recovery plan starts with deciding if failures will be treated on a system or component level. For example, a desktop computer can either be entirely replaced or repaired by diagnosing the failing component. Generally, the most failure prone part of any system are the moving parts. In computers, these items include fan motors and hard disk drive motors.

Part of a disaster plan for computers and phones should also include a maintenance plan. Many of the internal disasters that happen to a business computer system are a result of delayed or overlooked maintenance. Common maintenance items include:

  • software updates: weekly or monthly.
  • fan cleaning: annually
  • hard drives: test annually, with replacement every 5 years or 50,000 power-on hours.
  • UPS batteries: test monthly, replace every 2-4 years.

Workstation and laptop hard drives:

Every computer has an internal hard drive that stores all of the programs and data. Hard drives can fail in many ways, either gradually or suddenly without warning. In addition, they are susceptible to viruses and software malfunctions that can disable a station or entire network.

For workstation backup, we recommend installing a second internal hard drive or connecting a USB backup drive and using Ghost to create a single off-line mirror image, or Novastor backup software to create multiple compressed backup files while the system is in use.

While newer solid state storage devices (SSD’s) are more reliable, they are still subject to failure for different reasons. For laptops, replacing a hard disk drive with an SSD provides improved protection from shock and movement damage. When upgrading an existing computer from hard disk drive to solid state storage, retaining the original hard drive along with the SSD can be a useful and effective way to provide a second drive for backup storage in each station.

We recommend Novastor Professional workstation backup software, since it includes all of the features necessary for disaster recovery, including: open file backup, compressed backup files, scheduled backups, bare metal disaster recovery and e-mail notification.

For the ultimate in workstation recovery, Novastor can be configured to copy all files from a primary drive to a secondary drive, along with storing image recovery files in a folder on the secondary drive. The backup copy option ensures the secondary drive is immediately usable during a primary drive failure, while the additional backup files can be valuable for restoring missing or corrupt files.

Server hard drives:

Windows 2000/2003/2008 server software includes disk mirroring as an option. Disk mirroring requires two hard drives. Data is saved to both hard drives simultaneously, but can be read back from the drives separately (called “split seeks”) for improved performance. This provides protection from both disk errors and disk failure in a single drive.

While many high-end servers include hardware features for RAID disk mirroring or striping, we recommend avoiding them due to their complexity. Hardware RAID features also mask the SMART attributes on a hard drive, making it difficult or impossible to diagnose or predict a failing hard drive.

When planning the backup of a server, image backups will provide a faster restore better suited to rebuilding an entire server. Individual file backup will permit restoring files but requires more work when rebuilding a system from an empty hard drive, also known as a bare metal disaster recovery.

In additional to a local USB backup drive that remains connected to the server, we recommend two additional portable USB drives that can be exchanged and removed off-site. These portable drives maintain a copy of all of the backup files.

While off-site backup is possible using an Internet connection, these services create a recurring cost and rely on overnight shipping using a USB hard drive when a full system restore is required.

Backup monitoring:

Backup systems should be regularly monitored for failure. Frqeuently, backup systems are found to have stopped working without notice, resulting in wider data loss. Choosing backup software that provides an e-mail notification is a valuable method for monitoring a backup. In addition to reporting, the actual backup files should be checked to confirm the creation date and size.  Significant changes in backup size or duration should be investigated.

Spare computer systems:

Every office should have at least one spare computer and monitor, so that when an existing computer fails and is removed for repair, the spare can be setup as a replacement.

Internal phone systems:

Traditional phone systems rely on a controller or “PBX unit” that is subject to wear and failure. Having a single “POTS” jack available near the phone controller, along with a long cable and handset, can provide a simply and effective work-around to receiving calls while a phone controller is being repaired.  In addition, we recommend connecting phone systems to a battery backed UPS to provide power to run the phone system during an outage.

For newer VOIP phones and service, the phones are frequently powered using a Power-Over-Ethernet switch, so connecting both the POE switch and Internet connection (router and Internet service) to a UPS is necessary to provide phone service during a power outage.

We recommend avoiding the use of POE switches, since they are much more expensive than regular Ethernet switches. They typically run warm and have multiple fans due to their high power output, requiring a larger UPS and additional cooling.  POE switches are also a significant single point of failure, disabling all phones and computers when they fail.

For existing systems that already have a POE switch, a good disaster plan includes power transformers with battery backup (UPS) for important phones, such as a reception desk.

External phone service:

For traditional analog phone service, an external failure can be caused by an equipment outage at the telephone company central office (CO) or in the lines between the CO and phone system. In either case, phone companies are generally aware of these outages immediately, since the circuits are monitored for disruption. While re-routing phone service to a cell phone or voice mail is possible, there can be delays of up to 24 hours for the phone company to process these requests.  We recommend contacting your telephone service provider to review the available options for handling outages in advance of a failure.

Voice-over-IP service (VoIP):

VOIP services rely on an Internet connection instead of a traditional central office for communication. While an Internet outage can disable both voice and data, many VoIP systems include a “network availability number” feature. The VoIP provider can automatically re-direct incoming phone calls to designated phone number, ensuring no calls are lost.

VoIP systems can also be configured to automatically send incoming calls to voice mail when there is an excessive number of incoming calls or unavailable additional lines. These options can usually be found in the web page control panel provided by the VoIP provider.

Web sites:

In addition to backing up the files from a web-site, a common point of failure is the zone file. This is a configuration file that stores names and IP addresses for all of the Internet options for a domain. Zone files can easily become defaulted during a system upgrade, resulting in e-mail and web-site outages.

Simply printing a copy of the zone file can be invaluable in restoring e-mail and web-sites during an outage.  This can be done using a zone file utility, or by request from the hosting provider.

E-mail can be stored locally in an office, either on a workstation (typically Microsoft Outlook) or a server. Generally, a backup of the e-mail files is included in any full system backup.

When e-mail is accessed using IMAP4 or web-mail from an external mail server or service (such as Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) it can be more difficult to arrange a replacement service or restore missing data.

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Learn to recognize a virus

The most powerful and effective anti-virus protection isn’t software you can buy. Instead, its a computer users ability to carefully read a web-site and e-mail message to delete fake messages. Consider that a well trained user that carefully checks e-mail and web-sites can use a computer without anti-virus software, while an untrained user with anti-virus software that clicks on every e-mail and web page is going to get a virus.

Here are some tips on how to become a better anti-virus user:

Start by treating all new and unrecognized e-mail as fake. Whether an e-mail comes from a known friends e-mail address or a corporation, it can be a fake message.

Watch for multiple extensions on attachments. When an attachment to an e-mail has a compound filename with multiple extensions, its a sure sign its a fake. For example, an attachment named “readme.pdf.exe” is actually an executable file due to the .EXE extension, and not a PDF that would be opened with Acrobat.

Preview e-mail links by pointing to them with the mouse, rather than clicking on them to see what web-site they display. Clicking will launch the web page and start the virus installation, but pointing to a link will reveal the destination and help identify a fake web-site.

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Electronic Waste Recycling Results

We have been offering free electronic recycling services in co-operation with Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery, an authorized waste collection firm that collects our electronic waste material. As an authorized disposal site, we report to the New York State Department of Environment Conservation our annual collection total for all items. We’re pleased to report that we have collected almost three tons of material that was diverted from landfill and local incineration and instead sent out for recycling and re-use.

2012 totals:

630 pounds of computers.
1509 pounds of computer components.
718 pounds of small electronic equipment.
104 pounds of televisions.

Total collected: 2961 pounds.

2013 totals:

161 pounds of computers.
1099 pounds of computer peripherals.
522 pounds of small electronic equipment.
888 pounds of televisions.
Total Lbs. 2,670

We have the capability to collect far more, so we’ll continue to encourage anyone to bring in their computers and televisions for recycling.

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Java by Oracle: Avoiding Virus Exploits

Java software is widely used to help display web pages and add features to web-sites. Java software is provided free, and integrates into Microsoft Internet Explorer and other web browsers, where it helps to display all of the features in a web-site.

However, Java software is also a frequent source of virus problems. Virus software programs will exploit and take advantage of features or limitations in the Java software, allowing a program to jump from a web-site and take control of a PC. This results in advertising or malware software infecting a PC.

Because Java software is widely used and installed on hundreds of millions of computers, it is the prime source of attacks by virus programmers.

What makes the Java exploit more significant than other problems is that the software and instructions for exploiting Java are available to rogue programmers in the form of an exploit kit. This kit allows a rogue programmer to add their particular virus or advertising to the exploit software. Rather than a single programmer discovering a software loophole and exploiting it for their own use, the Java exploit kits allow a wider group of rogue programmers to quickly unleash their malware.

Use these tips for avoiding a Java exploit problem:

1. Update Java often and run the latest version.
2. Remove old versions of Java using Windows add/remove programs.
3. Avoid clicking on advertisements or fake warning messages when visiting web pages.
4. Use Malwarebytes to scan and remove files that interfere with web browsing but aren’t detected by anti-virus software.

Unfortunately, Java software doesn’t remove older versions, so updating Java doesn’t always provide protection from viruses that exploit previously installed or older versions of Java. Using Windows add/remove programs (inside Control Panel) provides an option to list and remove older versions of Java software.

Java software for your computer, or the Java Runtime Environment, is also referred to as the Java Runtime, Runtime Environment, Runtime, JRE, Java Virtual Machine, Virtual Machine, Java VM, JVM, VM, or Java download. Any of these names may be listed in the Windows add/remove programs and should be removed, leaving only one copy of Java.

Use this link to get the latest version of Java: http://www.java.com/en/download/index.jsp

Removing Java entirely is not recommended, since it will prevent many web-sites from working properly.

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A few things you should never do on a computer

1. Never click on any link or web-site that says “Find out who unfriended you on Facebook.”

All offers to find out who unfriended you on FaceBook are fake. Clicking them will install advertising or fake anti-virus software. Also, there is no feature in Facebook that will tell you if or when someone removed you as a friend.

2. Never carry a laptop with the cords connected.

Moving a laptop with the power cord connected will bend and break the power jack inside the laptop, leading to charging failure and a costly motherboard repair. Unplug a laptop before moving it.

3. Never put a laptop in your luggage.

When travelling with a laptop computer, always carry it on the plane with you. When a laptop is stored inside luggage, the glass LCD screen will crack as other luggage is stacked on top.

4. Never drop a laptop with a hard drive.

Most laptops have a hard disk drive inside, which has moving parts that are aligned with precision. Even setting down a running laptop gently can create a shock that will damage a regular hard drive. Only a few newer hard drives have G-shock protection, where they can detect a free fall and retract the disk drive heads from the platters before impact.  When a laptop is shutdown and powered off, it has a much higher protection from shock, but can still be damaged from a fall. Only laptops using the newest solid state technology (“SSD”) are immune to shock and falls.

5. Never use a short or simple password.

Passwords with fewer than 8 characters can be compromised in minutes by malicious software programs.   Using longer passwords that include numbers and symbols can make it difficult or impossible for an attacker to steal a password.

6. Never click an e-mail or web page link without checking the link first.

All deceptive emails and web pages rely on using realistic images and links to deceive users into thinking they are legitimate. The best protection from deceptive links is inspection; simply point to the link to show the target destination, and then consider if it matches the actual web-site.  A sure sign of a fraudulent link is a web page that does not match the e-mail address.

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Sports Timing Service

In addition to computer sales and service, we’ve added an entirely new service: sports timing. Our sports timing service grew out of an opportunity to solve a computer problem for the Buffalo Bicycling club, a local bicycle racing club. They purchased a computer controlled RFID timing system from J-Chip USA for bike races, but needed help with both operating the system and configuring the software.

We got involved with race timing in the spring of 2012, successfully scoring races with the new system throughout the summer of 2012 for the Buffalo Bicycling Club. Our timing services expanded in 2013, adding new events as other promoters became aware of the outstanding features of the J-Chip RFID timing system and CrossMgr software.

You’ll still find us open weekdays at our office on 1325 Millersport Hwy., where we are performing computer repair service, but on weeknights or weekend mornings, we’ll be outside with the RFID timing equipment and a laptop, ready to time the next racer. For more information about the origins of our involvement in Sports Timing, read about The J-Chip Project here.

 

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