AVG Free Antivirus is a great, free antivirus solution made by AVG Technologies. Many people use AVG, and I have come across a few clients that have accidentally upgraded their Free version to the Paid 30 day Trial version, causing headaches.
The problem occurs when updating AVG Free, and clicking ‘Next’ through a series of screens. On the “Select your product” screen, AVG have pre-selected the “Internet Security Trial/Full Protection” option, which will upgrade you to the paid trial version of AVG.
To avoid this situation, you need to select the “Anti-virus Free/Basic Protection” button, before clicking ‘Next’.
Clients regularly ask if it possible to downgrade AVG back to the Free version.
Yes, if you have accidentally upgraded your AVG Free to the AVG Paid Trial, you can downgrade AVG back to the free edition by starting to uninstall AVG. During the uninstallation process, you will be given the option to downgrade AVG back to the free version.
- Open Start – Control Panel, and then click Programs and Features.
- In the list of installed products select AVG, and then click Uninstall.
- Click the option Switch to AVG AntiVirus FREE.
An AVG installer will run, and downgrade AVG to the FREE version. Wait for the installation to finish, and then restart your computer.
Some clients recently noticed all my memory cards and USB sticks have pictures, making it much easier to identify which stick is which when trying to save a file on to one.
This can be performed using Windows autorun pictures.
To complete this, you’ll need a picture in icon (.ico) format. You can either download an icon file, from sites such as https://www.iconfinder.com or make your own icon from any picture, using an Icon Editor program such as Greenfish Icon Editor Pro.
Locate a picture of your USB stick. I try to find an exact picture of the stick, using a Google Image Search. In this case I searched for “Verbatim 32GB Store n Go USB”
View the picture, Right click on it and select ‘Save picture as’, and save it to your desktop.
To transform the picture in to an icon file, I used Greenfish Icon Editor Pro. The video below demonstrates how easily that’s done.
Save the icon file directly into the USB stick, as ICON.ICO, making sure you save the file in ‘.ico’ icon format.
Create a text file on the USB stick, called AUTORUN.INF which contains the following code:[autorun] icon=icon.ico
*Some additional notes about autorun are at the bottom of this post.
Finally, I make both the icon and autorun files read only and hidden, using Windows Explorer – selecting both files > Right click > Properties and ticking the Read Only and Hidden check boxes.
All done – Just remove and remount the USB drive to see your changes.
The following video demonstrates how it’s done.
YouTube Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YprCOwTUlns
Note: The same method can also be used to identify Memory Cards and Hard Drives.
Some notes about autorun:
The autorun feature has many more options, such as the label option, which names the USB stick – eg: “label=MyUSBDrive”.
Autorun is quite an old feature, first introduced with Windows 95. The option commonly abused is the “open=Setup.exe”. This has been abused to automatically run malicious software, without the user knowing.
This was patched at some point during the life of Windows, and Windows must now be configured to allow Autorun.inf to launch items.
An Autorun command reference is located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autorun.inf
In this hot weather we know to keep ourselves, our children and our pets cool, but its also a good time to check on your PC’s health – perhaps its an overheating pc
Computers will shutdown when they are too hot, in an attempt to protect themselves from excessive heat damage, but permanent damage can still occur.
How do you check the PC’s temperatures ?
The majority of PC’s show their temperatures in the BIOS screen, but this requires a reboot to access it. It’s much easier to view the PC’s temperatures by downloading and installing SpeedFan v4.49, a FREE tool available from the Tailormade IT Solutions website:
“SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips.” Source: http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php
If you do notice high temperatures, or are experiencing strange shutdowns and outages, this can result in permanent damage to your PC, and reduce its life span.
Thermal Paste being applied to a CPU
Tailormade IT Solutions recommends and provides PC maintenance services that investigate and resolve overheating PC issues, including:
Dust Removal – Dust is a great insulator, and cleaning out that build up of dust inside the PC will help it breathe better and run cooler.
Fan Checks – Ensuring your internal PC fans are not damaged, and are working correctly and effectively removing heat from the PC.
CPU Thermal Paste – The PC’s brain, or CPU, generates a lot of heat. Checking and reapplying the Thermal Paste on the CPU can assist heat removal from this important component.
Additional Cooling – Installing upgraded or additional heatsinks and fans, including water cooling for extreme desktop PCs. Laptop owners can also purchase laptop cooler pads.
Please note that the following method of cooling your PC is NOT recommended.
BitTorrent Labs has just released a new tool called BitTorrent Sync, which is used to sync files/folders from one PC directly to another. It works differently to cloud based products like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft Skydrive.
With a variety of backup options now available, its surprising that many users don’t consider backing up important data until its too late.
In this post, Tailormade IT Solutions discusses backup options and some of their pros and cons, including their ease of use, safety, security and suitability.
Tailormade IT Solutions can configure a backup routine that ensures your data is safe.
Copy Files Locally
I’ve met users who simply plug in a USB drive and copy data from their computer manually. For example, copying the My Documents folder to a USB drive, CD or DVD.
- User has to remember to backup regularly;
- backup data is held on-site and susceptible to physical loss.
Automated Backup – Locally
The next step would be an automated backup solution. Data is a lot safer if the backup routine is automated and regular. These backup routines typically work at a certain time, and copy information to a USB drive. Users should disconnect the backup drive when not in use.
- Set and forget peace of mind.
- Data held on-site.
Automated Backup/Sync over Network
If you have multiple computers, your can set one aside as a backup PC, and configure all other computers to backup at a certain time to that location. This can work locally or through the internet, using the new BitTorrent Sync tool.
- Set and forget peace of mind.
- Data held on-site.
Automated Backup/Sync to Cloud
Using cloud storage providers (such as DropBox, SkyDrive or Google Drive) to syncing folders has become very popular. These services allow you to automatically sync a folder from your computer to a internet server. With your login details, the server can be accessed from any computer in the world.
Cloud storage providers offer varying levels of service and security, but they also retain ownership of your data in the fine print, and commonly limit the sizes of files you can upload, and/or total server size.
- Data is held off site, and accessible from anywhere in the world.
- Data held by cloud providers is owned by cloud providers.
If you need an IT professional to configure a backup routine for you, contact Tailormade IT Solutions
As a work around, you could use VLC media player which includes a feature to artificially increase volume of a video to 200%
But why, when this simple fix will mean you can continue to watch content with loud volume within Windows Media Centre.
- In Windows, right click the speaker icon in the system tray, and select Playback Devices.
- Double click your default output device.
- Click the Enhancements tab.
- Tick the checkbox for Loudness Equalization.
- Click Ok to close, and return to the Desktop.
Finally, in Windows Media Centre, select Settings from the Tasks menu, then select TV / Audio and tick the checkbox for Auto Volume.
Note: VLC Media Player is great software, which is very useful when content is out of sync.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware defines a category of malicious computer software that encrypts the users data, demanding a ransom be paid to the software creators.
Recently, ransomware has become more common, and means your backup routine is more important than ever.
Is ransomware common?
Dozens of victim businesses have gone public detailing how thousands of dollars had been lost paying ransoms to unlock encrypted data — or in lost productivity by choosing to cut losses.
In the last 6 months, many Australian businesses have had their data held to ransom:
- September 2012: NT based TDC Refrigeration and Electrical had vital financial records encrypted, forcing it to pay a $3000 ransom.
- November 2012: Deanes Buslines was similarly confronted with a $3000 ransom after having its critical data locked down.
- December 2012: A Byron Bay school found its records encrypted and a ransom demanding $5000. The school could not pay, and after trying to bargain with the Eastern-European attacker, forfeited the data and recovered a limited data set from forensic analysis.
- Gold Coast medical practice The Miami Family Medical Centre was held to ransom by hackers demanding $4000 to decrypt sensitive patient information.
- February 2013: Melbourne bus company Firefly Coaches found its data had been encrypted and its Windows machines were locked down. A ransom notice was left demanding $5000 for the decryption key to unlock the data. Firefly had backups.
Firefly, a small family owned business in Avondale Heights, did what many of us fail to do – maintain regular, tested and “air-gapped” backups on a drive which was kept physically separate from the PC network.
A video by Symantec
How does ransomware infect?
Many of these ransomware attacks have occurred initially by visiting through malicious websites which deliver malware using drive-by-download or by opening malicious email attachments / clicking malicious links.
The attackers then breach the company network by brute-forcing open RDP credentials. The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) function, which allows remote access, is commonly unused and should be disabled (on port 3389).
How to protect against ransomware
A few simple steps will reduce your chances of being infected with ransomware:
- Ensure your computer system has the latest update patches installed.
- Be wary of opening email attachments and clicking links in spam emails, or installing software from untrusted sources.
- Be wary of visiting websites that suggest you need to update/install software, drivers or video codecs.
- Backup important data !!!
Once your data is held to ransom, there are only 3 options: 1. You can pay the ransom demanded, which is generally $3000-$5000 and provides no guarantee that your computer/files will be returned to you; 2. Attempt to crack the encryption using a decryption tool, or 3. Completely wipe and reinstall your system from backups.
Clearly just having a backup stored on a USB drive that is always connected is not safe from the attackers. You need to remove external hard drives, or they will attack them and lock them down too. For many businesses, a sensible “air-gap” solution is to ensure backups are taken off site, as this also prevents against data loss in the event of fire.
Panda Security have released a ‘Panda Ransomware Decrypt‘ tool.
Note: There is also fake ‘Australian Federal Police Ransomware’ which behaves in a similar fashion: Locking the computer and demanding money, with the attackers pretending to be Australian law enforcement officials. The lock screen looks fancy (shown below) but would the AFP accept Ukash ?
On 8th February 2013, a new documentary was released directed by Simon Klose. The documentary “TPB AFK – The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard” is based on the lives of the three founders of The Pirate Bay – Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm.
Of course, The Pirate Bay is one of the best known file-sharing brands and the site has a well-earned place in Internet history. Swedish filmmaker Simon Klose has documented part of their struggle as they are targeted by several court cases over the years.
What not many people know is that the three founders of The Pirate Bay often pretended to get along in public, but had some big fallouts in private. This becomes quite apparent in the documentary.
TPB-AFK is the first film to premiere both online and at a major film festival, and can be downloaded and shared for free. The full film is released under a Creative Commons license onto The Pirate Bay and other BitTorrent sites. 3 versions of this documentary are legally available for download from the Pirate Bay website.
The film runs for 122 mins.
YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTOKXCEwo_8
Torrent Link: https://oldpiratebay.org/torrent/6243351/TPB-AFK-2013-720p-h264-SimonKlose
Here is the trailer for the documentary, called TPB AFK.
Why pay for a separate Mobile Internet connection for your laptop, when your phone already includes a Data Allowance ? A few people answer: Because I don’t know how to setup an Android WiFi Hotspot.
This is a short guide on how to setup a Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot on your Android phone, and connect a Windows laptop to it.
You can then cancel your laptops Mobile Internet connection and save a few dollars.
Step 1: Configure Wi-Fi hotspot on Android phone
In the Android phone settings you will need to find the “Tethering and portable hotspots” menu. In this example (using a Samsung Galaxy S2 running Android 4.0.3) it is found by tapping the Android Settings button from the main screen, then tapping “Settings”, then “More” and “Tethering and portable hotspots”.
Initially you will need to configure your Wi-Fi Hotspot by selecting the “Configure Wi-Fi Hotspot” option.
In the following screen (shown right) you will need to enter a Network Name (SSID) and select what Security you want to use, then enter a Password (if applicable).
Remember these details: Later you will locate this network name (SSID) using your laptop and enter the password.
Tap “Save” to return to the “Tethering and portable hotspots” menu.
Step 2: Activate your Wi-Fi Hotspot when required
It is good practice to only activate your Wi-Fi hotspot when you need it.
Using your Android phone, navigate to the “Tethering and Portable Hotspot” menu, then tick the box next to “Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot”.
This will activate your hotspot using the settings you just configured.
The Wi-Fi Hotspot icon will appear in the status bar of your Android phone, as shown below.
If this step seems a little cumbersome to use frequently, there is also a free Android App available, called Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot, that will turn your Wi-Fi Hotspot on/off using a desktop icon, without you having to navigate to the “Tethering and Portable Hotspot” menu.
Google Play Store link:
Step 3: Connect the Windows Laptop
Using your Windows laptop, click the Wireless networks icon in the system tray (next to the clock) and you will see your Android Wi-Fi Hotspot in the list of available networks.
Select the Wi-Fi Hotspot network name and connect to it, using the network password (if applicable). If you select the “Connect Automatically” checkbox, Windows will remember these details and connect automatically whenever the Android Wi-Fi Hotspot is active.
Multiple computers can be connected to the Wi-Fi Hotspot, and can use large amounts of data, quickly. Make sure you keep an eye on your phones monthly data allowance using your ISPs free App (if available).
Android phones come with a built-in file explorer, called “My Files”, but this app can only browse the phones memory card.
To improve your Android Windows Networking and copy files easily across the network, download and install a free app such as ES File Explorer, available from the Google Play Store.
First, lets setup a Network Share folder in Windows, which will be visible on the network, and to the phone. Once set, Windows will remember this share setting.
On your PC, using Windows Explorer, browse to the folder you want to share. In the example picture shown below, I am using the ‘New Folder’ on the desktop. (Click on the image below to zoom in)
Windows 8 Network Share Folder
To setup a folder as a Networked Shared Folder in Windows:
- Right-click on the folder you want to share.
- Choose ‘Properties’, and then the ‘Sharing’ Tab.
- Click on the “Advanced Sharing’ button.
- Select the “Share this folder” checkbox, and enter a name.
- Click the ‘Permissions’ button.
- Select ‘Full Control’.
- Click ‘Ok’, ‘Ok’ and ‘Close’.
This folder is now visible on the network and you can access (read and write) this folder from other network devices. You can repeat this process for multiple folders on multiple devices.
Now to the Android phone: To transfer files wirelessly using ES File Explorer on the Android phone, you will need to be connected to your network Wi-Fi, and download and install ES File Explorer from the Google Play Store.
Left: Android Phone, Middle: Network Devices, Right: Share Folders
When starting ES File Explorer, the ‘Local’ phone memory card is displayed, and you can swipe to the right to see the devices on your network.
Alternatively you can tap on the ‘Local’ button to bring up this menu (right), where you would select ‘LAN’.
Initially you will need to add your PC. To do this tap the Android Settings button, then tap “New” and “Server”. Enter the IP Address of your PC and a friendly name in the “Display As” box. Depending on your networking you may need to enter Login and Password details for that PC too.
Tapping on the PC (Eg: WIN8-AMD) displays a list of the shared folders within it, and tapping on those shared folders will navigate you to the shared files.
ES File Explorer also uses a handy toolbar featuring buttons for common tasks such as selecting, cutting, copying, pasting, and deleting files.
ES File Explorer can also connect to nearby devices via Bluetooth, and Web / FTP Servers on the internet. Here’s a short YouTube video demonstrating these and some additional features:
ES File Explorer lets you copy files to/from your Android phone and your PC.
Google Play Store link: