iPhone 6…Some Interesting Changes

iPhone 6

 

The anticipated iPhone 6 is on its way and it has some interesting changes. One of the most intriguing changes is that it now will come in two sizes. A 4.7 inch screen and a 5.5 inch screen. This might make some Apple users who are considering a jump to an Android model which comes with a is a larger screen stay put. It also has a camera with better resolution and the much anticipated iOS 8. The new OS allows for more seamless integration with the device and the desktop. iOS 8 also has some health related applications in it which allows the use of ear sensors or wristwatch style devices. I was thinking about changing smart phones to try something different but the fact that Apple has a larger model coming in 2015 might make me stay. What can I say…..we are all creatures of habit :)

Building Your own Home Security System

camera

Home security systems are becoming more and more prevalent this days. Whether you have a monitoring system through a company where you pay a monthly fee or you have your own system that you monitor yourself, there is a lot to choose from.

Now if you have a security system monitored by a security company, this article is not for you. If you have purchased a home security system by companies like Lorex and Flir this article is also not for you.

This article is intended for those individuals who like to tinker a little bit and happen to have an older but still useful PC around.

Building the DVR unit

In this example I have an AMD Athlon X2 Duo-Core Processor, 3GB RAM with a 500 GB HD. You may be able to get away with lower specs but keep in mind, the more cameras use with your system, the more processor speed, RAM and HD space you will need.

I found two very good pieces of software you can use for your DVR unit. Both are open source. One runs on Windows (i-spyconnect) and the other is for Linux (ZoneMinder). Both can hook into several different types of cameras (USB, CCTV, Ethernet Wired or Wireless). You can view the cameras inside and outside your network. They both have user forums where you can get advice if you run into problems during set up or just need a little support when tweaking things. I-spyconnect has a notification service you can subscribe to if you want (SMS and email) however that is where software stops being free.

It really boils down to whether or not you want to build the DVR unit as Windows machine or a Linux machine. I have built many a Linux box (in recent years my favorite flavor was Ubuntu) but for this article I will be using Windows, therefore i-spyconnect will be the security software I will use.

So now I have an older Windows 7 box built with i-spyconnect installed on it, time to get some cameras working.

The Cameras

Since the computer will be on my home network, I have decided to purchase some inexpensive wireless IP cameras (wanscam). I found them for about $40 USD online. They will be installed inside as I have good viewpoints from inside my house. If you need them outside you will have to probably spend a bit more for the cameras and have to possibly deal with cabling and power issues. This might drive up the cost a little bit. Right now I am into about $200 plus my time to install the cameras and configure the software. If you find yourself spending $300 – $400 for equipment (remember the computer and software are free) you might want to look into a prepackaged system you can get from companies like Lorex Technology. At that price, you can get the system and 4 cameras (some even come with wireless cameras). All you have to do is invest some of your time setting it all up. However, I like to tinker so I will continue with my home grown system….

Weather you purchase indoor or outdoor cameras, things you will need to consider:

-          Does the camera come with PTZ options (Pan Tilt Zoom)?

-          Does it have motion sensors?

-          Does it have infrared for Night Vision?

-          Do you want a fixed camera or a motion camera?

Also, before you start drilling holes in or outside your house, it is also a good idea to rough out where you want the cameras to be and then see what they look like through the monitoring software. I would put them anywhere a potential criminal could gain access to your house (front, side, back doors, garage doors, driveways, patios or verandas, etc.)

Once the cameras have been configured for your home network (been given IP’s, a username and password has been set for them) you can add them to i-spyconnect. I found a great tutorial on YouTube that helps you do just that (Tutorial here).

On a final note, one of the features I found in the i-spyconnect software was concerning storage and was in the settings of the software. I made note of where the camera recordings were being stored and set it to overwrite older recordings to save space. I will have to see how many days it can store before it starts overwriting. I only have a 500 GB HD but if you want to estimate how fast your set up will use hard disk space (i.e Number of cameras, quality of recording , HD size) you can go here

I hope this article gives you enough information about installing your own security camera system. As you can see, it requires a little bit of work but if you have the right combination of spare hardware lying around and the need to tinker, it might just be the cool little weekend project you have been looking for!

Dan

Artisteer Makes Web Designing Easier

Whether you are designing a static website, content management template or responsive design for rendering on several types of devices, Artisteer makes it easy for you to quickly build a design. All that is left to do is some style and colour tweaks and off you go!

I am not saying that it takes over the whole process but it gives you a running start and let’s your creative juices start faster :p

What I like is that I can start with a design, try out different headers, menus, vertical menus, add slide shows, try different colour schemes, etc. I don’t feel like I have to reinvent the design each time. I can also do a little content work inside the template knowing I can always change it after the fact with the web files the template produces afterwards.

I was first introduced to it about two years ago and it has gone through a great transformation in that time. It has a lot more templates to choose from and what it has done for responsive design is great!! I first tried it as a demo but then happily purchased the software when it came time to. The time it has saved me has been enormous.

I have been able to reduce the time it takes to design a website and make changes during the initial phase of the design, passing the savings on to my client!

If you are into web design and have not used this software before,  you should check it out. If you need help with a website contact me!

 

Dan

A Windows 8 Primer

I am fairly new to Windows 8 (It is now 8.1 as of April). I have basically been using it for about 6 months now and I am pretty sure that I haven’t tapped into all its abilities. From what I understand, it has been designed to be used over many devices (some of them being touch screens, like Windows tablets and touch screen enabled PC,s / Laptops / Netbooks etc..).

I do use the machine daily and I have to admit, coming from Windows 7, I do use the Desktop Tile a lot. It is more familiar. However, there are some functions that require you to use the new features of Windows 8 whether you like it or not. I actually do not have a problem with this. I have always looked at it as a new way doing things and treat it as such.

So here we go…Here is one way to get started with Windows 8….

Getting Started

When you first turn on your Windows 8 computer you will get your normal login screen:

NOTE: Any mention of swiping the screen with your finger only applies to those devices that are touch enabled. If your device does not support this, use instructions for the mouse.

When you logon you will either go to the Desktop or Start Screen. My installation puts me on the start screen and then if I need to go to the Desktop, I just click or tap the Desktop Tile. If you end up on the Desktop, all you have to do is click or tap the button on the bottom left of your screen. The Start screen in Windows 8 shows all the apps on your computer. The Start screen is a personalized list of what apps you access regularly. If they are too numerous to show on one screen, you just use the scroll bar with your mouse at the bottom of the screen or swipe your finger left at the bottom of the screen to show what other apps you have on the Start screen.

To show all of the apps you have on your computer, just click or tap the down arrow on the Start screen and you will see an alphabetical list of all the apps on your computer. You can either launch them from there or right click on them (press and hold if you are using touch) and chose “Pin to Start” to add it to your Start screen. If you want you also choose “Pin to Taskbar” and it will be at the bottom of your Desktop tile screen.

What I like to do (because I am a bit old school) is that I like to run most of my programs from the Desktop Tile. When I install a program, I check to see if an icon has been added to my Desktop tile, if it has, great. If not, I go to the Start screen find the app and I do this:

  1. Right Click or press or hold on the item on the Start Screen
  2. Choose “Open File Location”
  3. An Explorer window opens up in the Desktop tile.
  4. I copy the shortcut to the Desktop.
  5. Voila, I have an “old School” way of getting to the program!

Using the Sidebars

The Window 8 screen has two very cool side bars. The left one allows you to cycle through open tiles and even allows you to have more than one tile open on your screen.

The Left Sidebar

To access the left side bar, just click your mouse or swipe up to the left and it will show you all running Tiles on your system. From there you just click or tap the tile you would like to access and it comes to the front of your screen.

Example of Left Sidebar

The Right Sidebar

To access the Right Sidebar, just move your mouse or swipe up to the right and down and it will show you the most used functions of your system. From here your can search for programs, share screenshots of your system, access your Start screen, access devices like printers, and common settings like the control panel.

Example of Right Sidebar

Two tips to help you with Windows 8

Since Windows 8 is a bit of a departure in design from previous versions of Windows, you might yourself wondering “how to I find this program or Start menu item”???

  1. Using the Search in the right sidebar – Activate the right sidebar and click or tap on the search icon. Type in the name of the program you are looking for (i.e. Snipping Tool”). When it appears, click or tap on it and the program will run. You can also use this as a chance to pin the item to your Start screen or task bar.
  2. When in the Desktop Tile, Right Click or Tap and Hold on the Start Button – Doing this will bring up a contextual menu of item that similar to the old start menu (Like the Control Panel and Device Manager, etc.)

This information should give you a good start with Windows 8. When you get more acquainted with windows 8, I am sure you will want to delve into some of its more unique features.

If you would like any tips please Contact Me or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+

Dan

Why it is Good to “Unplug” for a Week

Unplug for the week!

 

I just got back from some time off and I have to say I feel refreshed. So if you are wondering why there was no posts last week you can stop wondering…. :p. You all know the feeling….You are inundated with work, you feel like your smart phone or tablet is an extension of your hand and / or you are chained to your desk. Vacation is looming and you are excited about getting away. Make sure that when you are away you try to unplug for the week. Here’s why:

1. it’s not all about work – Yes, work is very important but it is not the only thing in your life. Take this time to shut off all work related devices and go have some time with your family to reconnect. Whatever you like doing outside of work (Camping, Hiking, Boating, Golfing, Reading, etc.), try to do it uninterrupted. You will thank yourself.

2. You get to re-focus your energy – Maybe you have an idea that may or may not be career related. You can take this time to actually think about it. There is no distraction from work.

These are just a couple of reasons why it is good to take a break when you are on vacation (If you really need a reason). At the very least, make sure you only turn your device on to check email or voice messages at night after the kids are asleep at the end of the day or near the end of the trip when you get home.

Make sure you’re out of office message on your email and your voicemail greeting on your phone explains that you only have periodic access to your email and phone and if the issue cannot wait until your return, to contact one of your counterparts (you would list their contact info in the message).

If you do this, you just might have a relaxing vacation! As always, if you need any help or advice with all things IT, contact me!

Want Faster Wireless Speed?…..Upgrade Your Router!

Faster Wifi

 

Have you had a wireless router for a few years and over time added more and more devices to it? Have you also added a subscription streaming service? Now your once fast WiFi router is now slowing. Maybe your Internet Service provider decided to upgrade your equipment and they sent you a “combination unit” of a modem / router / WiFi  access point and the WiFi part of the unit has limited range?

In both cases, upgrading to a newer dedicated unit can resolve any performance issues. Today’s newer WiFi routers are built to newer standards (It goes A, B , G , N, AC) with AC being the latest standard. The newer standards take into account that you will have many wireless devices connected to it streaming bandwidth intense applications. Their wireless speeds even rival that of wired standards.

Unfortunately, in the case of a combination unit provided to you by your ISP, you will have to do some hunting around Google to find instructions on how to put the device into “Bridge mode” so it will only act as a modem and then you can let the third party wireless router take over.

Here is a great article that explains the wireless standards. Here is a great wireless router I would recommend to bring your wireless speed and reliability up.

As always contact me for any pointers!

Dan

 

Beware When Googling for Software!

I have witnessed this happening to people first hand. A lot of times my clients come to me with a machine that was functioning fine that day, but a seemingly innocuous search for some popular software had them click a link and that was it…the machine was infected with malware.

Here is a common example: You would like to try Firefox as a browser. So you decide to Google for it. The first link that shows up in the search results says “Firefox 100% free, Click Here!”. Unfortunately you do and the download you were expecting was not the one you got.

Now the malware on your machine can be no more that nuisance or it can be downright nasty. Either way, you would rather not have it on your machine. Checking for malware is well cited in my guide to keeping your computer running well.

My advice is if you know the name of the software you are trying to look for, look for the companies website in the link:

In this example, a search result for Firefox brought a few results. Notice the top results are not legitimate. That is why you really need to read carefully before you click. You just may save yourself several hours of headache afterwards.

If you would like any tips please Contact Me or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+

Dan

Why you Should get Professional IT Support Even Though you Don’t Have an IT Staff

Have a professional do the heavy lifting....

A lot of organizations are not large enough to have an IT staff member let alone an IT department. Even though this is the case for a lot companies, it still doesn’t mean you should be without professional IT support. If you are a small technical firm whose product is software or web design etc., maybe you could get along without a professional IT partner. However, if you are a small to medium size accounting firm or manufacturing concern, you should at least have an IT pro doing the heavy lifting, like maintenance on servers or major changes to the network or security. I came across a great article on Linked In that explains exactly this issue. You might save in the short term but it may come to haunt years down the road.

If you have a personal, small or medium sized business and you would like your infrastructure assessed by an IT professional, let me know. I can give you some pointers and if some work needs to be done, I am here to help.

Reach Out to Me

Why you Don’t Facebook about your Job

Don't Facebook about your Job.

It may seem like common sense but using Facebook to flame your boss or work colleagues to your “Friends” could come back to haunt you. You may have been having a bad day and need to blow off a little steam but unfortunately this is not a good way to do it. Here are some reasons why:

1.  It is unprofessional – This may be a stop on a long career in the field you have chosen but acting unprofessional on Facebook may not help  you.

2. You don’t know who your Facebook friends have as friends – Have you ever looked at all of your friends on Facebook to see who they know? Probably not, it would take forever. So when you post something, you really aren’t sure who is going to see it. Even if you separate non-work related friends on Facebook and work- related friends on LinkedIn you are still not 100% sure.

3. It’s just not nice – Have you ever hear your Mom say “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing at all”. Enough said.

I tell a lot of people in this digital age the most important commodity is your privacy. You can Google pretty much anybody. There are companies whose job it is to search the Internet and make sure their clients online representation is in check. If you do not want something to come back to haunt you, don’t post it. It is probably your safest bet.

If you are upset about work in some way, it is probably better to step away from the keyboard until you have calmed down a bit and let cooler heads prevail. You will never regret that….

Going Abroad? How about Unlocking your iPhone?

Unlocked iPhone

I had to help with this the other day and I thought I would share. Apparently if your are going abroad to places like Europe it is cheaper to buy a SIMM card and use it in your unlocked phone then to purchase an overseas phone and data package from your North American carrier.

In this case I had to unlock two Rogers iPhones. It is a fairly straight forward process but a bit lengthy. I will share the process and you can decide if it is something you want to do.

Step #1 – Backup your iPhone

Plug your iPhone into your computer (This assumes you already have iTunes installed and use it at least every once and awhile). iTunes may ask you to update itself which you might as well do since you will need to do eventually. Now if you have the phone set to automatically sync, it should backup during the sync. If you are not sure, click the iPhone button at the top right of your main iTunes screen. You will then see this screen:

screenshot

The latest backup will show on this screen. You can manually backup by clicking the “Backup Now” Button. I will let you decide where the backup should be stored (On your computer or iCloud) and whether or not to encrypt the backup.

Step #2 – Call Your Carrier and Have the Phone Unlocked

Once you have the phone backed up, call your carrier and tell them you want the phone unlocked. They will go through the process of verifying your identity. They will ask you what your iPhone number is and your IMEI. It is a 15 digit code and you can get it by going to Settings / General / About on your phone. They need to send this info to the Apple server for unlocking. Now the fun begins……

Step #3 – Restore your iPhone

Now you have to restore your iPhone to default settings. With your iPhone still plugged in to iTunes, Click “Restore iPhone” and it will ask you if you are sure since it will be wiping everything from the phone. You have already backed the phone up so you have nothing to worry about, right? It will take some time to restore the phone and if the iPhone is due for an iOS update it won’t wipe the phone until the update has been done. Depending on how busy the Apple server is and the speed of your internet connection, this process can take anywhere form 20 minutes to several hours, so get comfortable…..

Step #4 – Restore from Backup

Once you have restored your iPhone to default settings, iTunes will notify you that this has been done and that the phone is unlocked, hooray! We are almost there. Since the iPhone is reset, iTunes will ask you if you want to set up the iPhone as new (don’t do this) or restore from Back up. Choose the most recent backup from the dropdown list and then click restore. It will take a bit (iTunes will tell you how long it will take). It really depends on how large your backup was. When it is done, voila, you have an unlocked iPhone with all your apps, pictures and media put back on it. Now you can go abroad and use whatever carrier you want at a better price then a roaming package from your home carrier.

Note: While you are away, you might want to store your home carriers SIMM card in a safe place. Also, you might want to bring your SIMM card tool while you are at it as well!

As always I am here to help so reach out to me!