Tech news

Office 365 Licensing Change | Chilliwack & Abbotsford Computer Consulting Experts

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Later this month, Microsoft are rolling out changes to the way it manages your Office 365 license. According to their official update notification “These changes will help simplify activation management and streamline the Office activation experience for users.” Most people will probably not notice a difference, but if you happen to run your 365 on multiple devices, you may see the change.

Subscribers can use their Office 365 account on up to 5 computers, 5 tablets and 5 smartphones. Currently, if you reach the device limit, you are asked to deactivate one of your installations before activating Office on a new device. Once the change comes into affect, you won’t have to anymore! Office will simply log you out of your least-recently used device when you reach your login limit.

As before, you will still sign-in to activate Office on your devices, and Office will automatically pick up the credentials and activate Office, if single sign-on is enabled.

For subscribers on the Monthly Channel, this is expected to start in late August, (although no specific date has been announced yet), and like all other updates, will just happen automatically.  

Windows 7 End of Support Announced - What To Do Next! | Chilliwack & Abbotsford Tech Support Experts

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Windows 7 may be close to hitting it’s 10th birthday (that’s about 72 in tech years!), but it still remains a fairly popular operating system. Well, we have some sad news for you, if you own 1 of the almost 40% of PCs still running Windows 7, – its End-of-Life has been announced. January 14, 2020 is the day that Microsoft will cease to update or support Windows 7, and it is now on the “extended support” phase.

So, since the date has been announced and rapidly approaches, now is time to start thinking about upgrading to Windows 10. (And just in case you forget, Microsoft is releasing a Windows 7 update which will give notifications to tell users to upgrade before January!)

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What happens if I don’t upgrade?

Your Windows 7 will carry on working BUT you will no longer receive any security or feature updates, meaning you are VERY vulnerable to attack from new viruses or hacks.

What do I do to upgrade?

Upgrading is easy. If you want to stick with the comfort and ease of staying on a Microsoft platform and upgrading to Windows 10, you just need to buy a copy of Windows 10, download the installation file and run it. If you are an Office 365 Business subscriber, though, the news is even better – you can upgrade all of your licensed devices for free!

 A cheaper option is Windows 8, but that’s not really a smart option when you are going to just run into the same End-of-Life problem in a short while anyway… plus Windows 10 is simply better!

There are other options:

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Linux – Free but does work quite differently, so will come with a bit of a learning curve, plus it will not run your favourite Windows Office apps, like Word. There are Linux alternatives though.

Mac – Apple machines do typically age better than PCs but it is the most expensive way to go. Many of your favourite apps/programs are also available for Macs, but you will have to purchase them again too, thereby upping your budget again.

Whatever route you choose, we STRONGLY recommend backing up all of your files first… even though the Windows 10 upgrade asks if you want to keep your files.  

Will my old computer run Windows 10?

That depends on what is in your computer, of course… and there is a chance that it may not have the spec, in which you case you may need to look at upgrading your machine. According to Microsoft, the minimum requirements for Windows 10 are:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or System on a Chip (SoC)

  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit.

  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS or 20 GB for 64-bit OS. (And the upcoming new version - 1903 - actually requires this to go up to 32 GB)

  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.

  • Display: 800x600.

Realistically though, if your computer does need a hefty hardware upgrade, by the time you add up the parts and effort, you may want to just consider investing in a new PC.

This sounds scary… I have a whole office of computers that need to upgrade!

Don’t panic… that’s what we are here for! Our skilled IT Support Team can take a look at your current machines, and let you know what options are best for you, along with how much they will cost and how long it will take. Then you can just leave the rest to the pros! Give us a call on 778-771-0184 or email info@wildfrogsystems.com and we will be happy to help.

Is AI as scary as it sounds? | Fraser Valley IT Consultants

AI (or artificial intelligence) is such a big buzz word/phrase, right now, as more and more new products are claiming to use the technology, with plenty more predicted to come. AI is everywhere… from transportation to healthcare. This year’s CES even featured a few products claiming to be AI-infused, although how many of these products are actually AI? Should we be worried about the rise of the machines? Well, it really depends on what your definition of AI is.

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To many of us, you say AI and you immediately conjure up scary images from movies like Terminator or iRobot, with a real fear that one day machines will eclipse mankind and relegate us to some form of servitude or post-apocalyptic society. In reality, the version of AI that we are now seeing is actually a subcategory called machine learning. It is really a form of coding that is allowing a machine to finish its programming by learning from various patterns and behaviours that it observes. It really doesn’t have an awareness of self or independent thought beyond the given task. (Big sigh of relief there!)

So, looking at real world examples, take the self-driving car. It uses the data, rules and parameters that it was given (highway code laws, maps, your chosen route, collision avoidance rules) to navigate roads it hasn’t travelled on before and get you to a destination. It may use AI to make an instant decision to avoid a collision or choose a better route in a heavy traffic situation, but it doesn’t actually think spontaneously for itself and only seeks an outcome to arrive at a predetermined destination in one piece. No sudden distracted diversions because of its personal opinion that it thought the little red hatchback was cute and wanted to see where it was going! (On the very rare occasions when these cars have been involved in an accident, reports have shown that 94% of those cases were, in fact, as a result of human error, not the technology).

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It really does have some great benefits, as a computer’s black or white “thinking process” can see patterns that the human brain can miss, leading to better results. The learning process also means far less initial programming, as you are not giving it every single scenario or piece of data to work out its results – it is figuring that out on its own. Used right, machine learning can make more accurate predictions, so companies can make business decisions based on that data-driven outcome.

Machine learning technology can save lives –medical tech that requires action when it knows body chemistry isn’t correct (eg an insulin pump that uses data to know when to deliver a dose). It can save time and money – predicting a product’s performance success & making design adjustments in the early development stage, rather than having to spend more time finding those flaws at the prototype stage. The benefit list goes on.

Of course, research and development into AI is still very much ongoing, and its definition (& role in our society) will definitely change over the next 10, 20 or 50 years. It may replace the jobs of some, but it will create jobs in other areas. For now, though, it is very much at the forefront of current technology development trends and is something to embrace rather than fear.

Massive New Data Breach Found! | Chilliwack IT Support Professionals

Troy Hunt, the man behind the popular data breach website, Have I Been Pwned, has recently reported a huge new collection of user data has been found on one of the hacking forums. Now, when I say huge, I mean massive… enormous… gigantic… colossus… well, I think you are probably getting the picture. So, exactly how big was it? This data breach contained 2.7 BILLION records, from over 770 MILLION compromised accounts!

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The breach is the largest single one ever to have been loaded onto the Have I Been Pwned website and contains a staggering 21+ million unique stolen passwords. The exact origins of where the data was taken from is a little harder to pinpoint, but experts believe that most are from a collection of older websites and breaches. So, if you are the smart sort of person, who regularly updates their passwords and uses lots of different ones, you shouldn’t be too concerned. However, it will still be a good idea to head to the Have I Been Pwned website and enter your email address. If it tells you that your address has been found in any data breach, it will list them for you. (So, you can then go to these sites, if you do still use them, and change your details.) This huge breach, mentioned above, will be named Collection #1.

Of course, as long as there are hackers, data breaches will continue to happen. The best way to protect yourself is follow these tips:

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  1. Use unobvious complicated passwords. The best ones are the ones made by random password generators. (Even some browsers like Chrome have these built in). Make them at least 8-12 characters, with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

  2. Use a different password for every place you need one! Sounds scary for anyone who can’t remember what they had for breakfast… but tip #3 will come to your rescue on this one.

  3. Keep your passwords somewhere safe like a digital password manager (LastPass, Sticky Password, Dashlane, 1Password etc). If you are “old school”, even a notebook works! (Hey, if your house or office ever gets broken, chances are that they will be skipping out with your TV or laptop and won’t give a scrappy notebook a second glance!)

  4. Update your passwords regularly. They say passwords are like underwear… keep them out of sight and change them often!

Is Tech Fraud Getting Worse? | Abbotsford & Chilliwack Tech Security Consultants

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Tech Fraud IS on the rise and no-one is safe! A quarterly report was recently released that looked at who tech scams are targeting… and the results were both interesting and a little scary.

Overall, the summer saw a 25% rise in the number of email fraud attacks on targeted companies, but what is scarier is that also meant a whopping rise of 85% on the same quarter last year!

DANGEROUS EMAILS ON THE RISE

The amount of malicious emails, appearing in inboxes rose by 36% on the previous quarter. Among all that nasty stuff, 11% were ransomware emails.

WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?

It is a particularly devious scheme where you will be sent an innocent looking email containing a link or file. That file, when clicked, releases a virus that locks you out of all your data. You then receive an email demanding payment for your data’s release – often in bitcoin or other electronic funds. The ransom amount can vary, but typically costs a company thousands of dollars.

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TECH SUPPORT FRAUD IS GROWING FAST

One of the most famous forms of tech fraud, is (surprisingly) now also the biggest growing one – the good ‘ole Technical Support Fraud! (The one where you receive a call from a thick-accented individual in a noisy call-centre, claiming to be something like Microsoft Windows). Given the amount of publicity and public education that this form of fraud has attracted (not to mention a slew of YouTube videos with people winding up these scammers), it is surprising to see it is still growing, but it is. This quarter’s attacks jumped by 36%... which gives an astounding 400% increase on the same period a year ago!!

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SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT SAFE

The report also showed that attacks are now coming from more directions than just email and your phone. Social media is gaining its fair share, with the most popular being from “angler phishing”. This is where fraudsters create fake accounts that mimic famous brands. Then when someone has a legitimate customer service requests, they swoop in and pretend to be that brand in order to gather the customer’s information.

Overall, all types of fraud were on the increase, with no discrimination in who they targeted (all career levels) or where they targeted (all industries and all company sizes, with retail and government hit hardest).

HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES AGAINST TECH FRAUD?

The burning question is how can you protect both yourself and your staff? Preparation is your biggest weapon! Here are a few things to help to get you started…

  • TRAINING - Knowing what to look for and educating all of your staff on what to spot, is the best plan. You can check out one of previous blog posts to see what the telltale signs of a scam email are.

  • BLOCKERS – up-to-date spam filters and virus software can help filter out most of the threats before ever reaching your inboxes.

  • BACK-UPS – a regular back-up of all your data means far less downtime (if any) and huge cost savings in the case of a ransomware attack. You don’t have to buy back that information if you already have another copy somewhere else!

You can see the rest of the report, including more stats on the different targeted departments and industries, here. If you would like more information on how to protect your company’s systems, whether it is a good virus software and back-up solutions or staff awareness training, you can contact us at Wild Frog Systems, and we will be happy to help! Email info@wildfrogsystems.com or call 778-771-0184.

Office 2019 is Almost Here! | Fraser Valley IT & Tech Support

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The countdown is ticking ever closer to Microsoft’s launch of its new version of Office for fans of the perpetual license model. Office 2019 is rumored to be released on October 1st of this year, although commercial users have been able to play with a BETA version for a few months now. So, what’s the difference between Office 2019 and Office 365?

Put simply, Office 2019 is perpetual license version – ie you pay a one-time license fee and that’s it! In contrast, Office 365 is a monthly subscription version and run online. So, the latter benefits from more regular updates and better features than it’s offline counterpart.

The cloud subscription version (Office 365) is still the way Microsoft really want you to go – at least that’s how the marketing seems. They seem to be pushing the online version way more, with more support available for subscribers, along with regular updates and more features.

But, there are still many who either don’t like the growing trend of the subscription model or are unable to switch short term, and Microsoft acknowledges that, hence why this perpetual license option being available. However, many experts are speculating that this will probably be the last perpetual license version that Microsoft will develop.

What’s new in Office 2019?

According to Microsoft’s website, the features will include:

In Word – a new black theme & new sounds, learning tools captions & audio descriptions, text to speech, improved inking functionality and improvements to accessibility.

In Excel – funnel charts & 2D maps, new functions & connectors, publishing capability to PowerBI, enhancements to PowerPivot & PowerQuery.

In PowerPoint – zoom capabilities for ordering of slides within presentations, a morph transition feature, inserting/managing Icons, SVG & 3D models, improved roaming pencil case.

In Outlook – Updated contact cards, @mentions, focused inbox, travel & delivery summary cards, and (with an Exchange online account) Office 365 Groups.

What else do I need to know about Office 2019?

The most important thing to consider, if you are planning to upgrade, is what operating system you are running on your computer. Office 2019 will not (easily) run on any system older than Windows 10, Windows Server 2016 or macOS Sierra. This new suite will also only receive 5 years of mainstream support followed by roughly 2 years extended (compared to the 5 and 5 of previous versions) – meaning that support of Office 2016 and 2019 will finish on the same day – and further evidence of Microsoft’s possible plan to ditch perpetual licenses in the future.

If you are looking to upgrade and have questions on which version is better for you, drop an email to the Wild Frog Systems IT Support Team at info@wildfrogsystems.com or call 778-771-0184.

Is Flash dead? (The Adobe one... not the super-speedy DC Comics one!) | Chilliwack Computer Support

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Whilst you may occasionally still come across a website using Flash to dazzle you, the only real time you see it, these days, is when you get to a site that uses it to run video... and too it often tells you can’t view the video unless you update your version. Of course, if you have surfed there on an Apple device, you will have seen the even bigger brick wall of “This device does not support Flash”! So, is Flash dead then? Not quite yet, but it is living on borrowed time now, so I think we can safely say that it is NOT something to consider if you are building your business a shiny new website.

Flash always had a number of drawbacks to start with, like its many security issues, the need for your viewer to have a player installed to see the content, and its ability to eat up your device’s power and memory. It was also starting to get on the nerves of prospective consumers. One expert in an interview with Marketing Sherpa compared it to taking a performer to your local supermarket and, when a customer tries to enter, having your performer stage a 2 minute show all about the shopping experience they are about to have. In today’s busy world, how many customers would stop and watch the show, compared to the ones trying to push past him as quick as possible. (How many times, when watching YouTube, do you hastily click on the Skip Ad button? Same thing!)

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A few years ago, spurred by the power issues on mobile devices, Steve Jobs announced that Apple products would not support Flash at all… and so the first massive blow was given to this Piñata. The beating continued from other directions like Chrome and Safari, and last year, Adobe finally announced that it would finally pull the plug on Flash at the end of 2020.

The end of Flash may be coming, but that doesn’t mean the end of flashy websites. There are other ways to make your site look slick – whether it is just picking a great, straight-to-the-point design, or by using HTML5, which has replaced a good deal of flash functionality but without most of the cons (particularly the power issue). Your customers will definitely appreciate your site’s ease on their device batteries!