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March 5th, 2014

delorean-back-future-1024x675Ever accidentally deleted a file or wanted to go back to an earlier version after a document edit gone wrong? Windows has a fantastic feature that’s made for just this situation, but its largely a secret to the average user.

The feature is called “Previous Versions” and its a handy Windows back up tool. While not replacing your server image backups that are put in place for disaster recovery, this is a handy tool that any user can take advantage of.

Previous Versions, if it’s enabled allows you to restore a file from an older version of that folder if a file is accidently deleted, edited or otherwise lost.

Our quick guide takes you through the three steps you need to know to use Previous Versions – yes just three steps.

Step 1

To restore a problematic file – right click the Folder you want to restore a file from an older version then select ‘Restore Previous Versions’.

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Step 2

Click Previous Versions.  If the folder has any previous versions to show, you’ll be able to scroll down through a list of dates that a snapshot of that folder has been taken.

Double clicking a folder will open it with the contents it had at the date listed on the right of the folder name.

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Step 3

Clicking store will restore the entire folder and you’ll be giving a prompt to ensure it’s what you want to do.

You can also double click the folder and simply manipulate it like you would any other folder and copy the contents or a specific file to the folder you were working in with missing/wrongly changed files.

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December 5th, 2013

So, you’d like to open up two versions of an .xlsx spreadsheet to compare differences row-by-row. Seems simple, right? Just open them both up in separate windows and then arrange the two windows side-by-side. Just kidding, it’s not that easy. For some reason, Excel spreadsheets all open in the same application window, which is totally contrary to the way Microsoft Office handles Word documents. Never fear—there’s a way to compare two Excel spreadsheets side-by-side without using two computers.

Step 1 

Open the first Excel spreadsheet.

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Step 2 

Open the second Excel spreadsheet. You’ll notice that there are now two taskbar buttons for Excel. But no matter which one you click, it pops up in the same window. Frustrating!

Excel 2

 

Step 3

In Excel, Click the View tab.

Excel 3

 

Step 4 

In the Window section, Click View Side by Side. By default, this will show your two Excel spreadsheets in separate panes, stacked horizontally.

Excel 4

 

 

 

Step  5

To change the orientation, Click Arrange All. Choose Vertical to have them side-by-side, with one in a left-hand column and the other in the right-hand column.

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Step 6

Click Synchronous Scrolling. Now, when you scroll down on one window, the other will scroll down, too, making it even easier to compare differences.

Excel 7

 

October 17th, 2013

There is a new and very serious virus named CryptoLocker which is currently circulating the Internet.

The work of sophisticated hackers, this virus will evade most anti-virus and anti-spyware software and encrypt data on your individual computer and your network, making the data inaccessible.

The delivery is clever and very malicious.

CryptoLocker is known to be spreading via three methods:

  • Attached to emails which pretend to be customer support related issues from FedEx, UPS, USPS, Banks, etc.  When opened, the attachment will infect the computer.
  • Via exploit kits located on hacked web sites which exploit security vulnerabilities on your computer to install the infection
  • Through Trojans which pretend to be programs required to view online videos

You should NOT open any attachment you are not 100% confident is safe or click any unexpected or suspicious links sent to you from others.  These messages should be deleted immediately if received.

What happens if you become infected with CryptoLocker?

When the infection becomes active on your computer, it scans your local and networked drives for documents, pictures, and other commonly used file types.  It encrypts the files with a mix of RSA & AES encryption and hides the key.

Once all of your data has been encrypted by the virus, typically a screen is displayed that contains a ransom note on how to decrypt your files. In some cases it has been reported that the message purported to be from a law enforcement agency, claiming that the business concerned had broken the law. Depending on the version, the ransom amount varies.  The program also displays a countdown stating that you need to pay the ransom with 72 hours and failure to do so will cause the decryption tool to be deleted from your computer, making your data completely and permanently inaccessible. 

Reports on ransomware infections reveal that even paying the ransom does not always unlock your files.  Additionally, paying the ransom fee provides personal information to the hijackers which may result in additional problems as well as get your name on a known “good target” list. The key to avoiding having to pay this extortion fee is following safe computing rules and always having a good backup in place.

Unfortunately, at this time there is no other way to retrieve the encryption key as this is held by the ransomers. Using a brute force method to obtain the encryption key is not realistic due to its length and complexity and thus the length of time required to break the key is long.  Any decryption tools which have been released thus far from various companies will not work with this infection.  The only current solution after becoming infected is to restore your files from a backup. Prevention is the best course of action to protect yourself and your business.

cryptolocker AFP

An example Cryptolocker ransom screen which fools the user into thinking it is a from a legitimate law enforcement agency

“But It Couldn’t Happen To Me”

ABC News report that in 2012 police received reports of more than 30 attacks in Australia, but they suspect there has been a lot more. They also report that “ransomware” attacks are on the rise. It’s predominately businesses that have been affected but home users are not immune.

In Europe it is estimated there are 20,000 ransomware attacks each day.


Ransoms demanded for data

This ABC Lateline report and video provides firsthand accounts from an Australian business which was bought to a standstill after their server was infected with Cryptolocker.

This is a genuine threat which ALL businesses need to take steps to protect themselves from.

How do I prevent infection?

Updates are continually being released to antivirus software, spam filters and other network defences to try to keep this threat at bay, but users are the last line of defence. When in doubt, be safe and delete suspicious emails. Educate your co-workers and staff.  Call the sender if you think it may have been something legitimate that requires your attention. Or contact our support team who will be happy to help you review any suspicious emails or websites.

Again, the key to recovering from this malware (if a network machine becomes infected) is having good and recent backups of all data.

Additionally, for our fully managed customers we are putting in place measures to prevent this virus from launching from a workstation should it make its way into your systems.

If you need advice on how to protect yourself against these threats or want an audit of your backups to ensure you could recover from such an attack, please give us a call on 07 3003 1108 to discuss.

July 18th, 2013

lens19314357_76a901fab64124f5cfbc6b283e0cc984You know that sinking feeling when you see your beloved iPhone, your vital connection to your life and the world submerged in a liquid of any sort? It might be a puddle, a glass, a dog bowl, a bucket of water or even the ocean.

Just about everyone knows that you can’t drop electronics in water. But not many people know why, or what to do when this inevitably happens.

What’s an Ion?

Actually, it isn’t the water that breaks electronics; it’s the small particles that are dissolved in water called ions. These particles cause electricity to go places it’s not supposed to go – this is called a “short” and it’s what ultimately causes your device to break.

Are All Liquids Bad for Gadgets?  

Not all liquids are the same, ion-wise. Some have more ions than others. For instance, distilled water you buy from the store will have next to no ions, whereas sea water has a ton of them. This difference will determine exactly how bad it is to drop your gadget into the liquid. Say you dropped your phone in perfectly distilled water. It would probably work perfectly fine, although I don’t recommend making a habit of this! But if you wash your laptop in the Dead Sea, I doubt there’d be much you could do to rescue it.

What if Your Gadget Gets Wet?

In a perfect world, you would keep your electronics dry, away from any liquids that could damage them. But of course, things happen. As odd as it sounds, I’ve heard of electronics going in pools, toilets, tubs, koi ponds, and even being left on the lawn to be watered with the grass.

So the damage is done, your phone or mp3 player has inadvertently become a waterlogged pool toy. What to do now? Here are 4 Quick and Dirty Tips to save your device from a watery death:

Tip #1: Turn Off the Gadget
The first and most important thing is to turn off your gadget and remove any batteries or power cords. If the power is off, there will be no electricity to short the circuit. This will improve the chances that your device can be recovered.

Tip #2: Remove All Water
After the power is off, you should try to remove as much water as possible from the device, whether that means gently shaking it out, or maybe even taking off a few panels or pieces to get them really dry.

Tip #3: Submerge in White Rice
Next, get an airtight container and a lot of white rice. I know what you’re thinking: “Am I on the Nutrition Diva podcast suddenly”? Why white rice? Well for one, rice is great at soaking up water and it also happens to be a very common household item. These two things make it a perfect tool for absorbing all the water you can’t shake out or dry by hand!

Place your device and any pieces you’ve disassembled into the container with the rice and seal it up. The time you should keep your gadget in the container will vary depending on how severely it got drenched. If your phone decided to take a quick dip in the pool, a solid 24-hour rice soak should do the trick. If it made its way slowly through a cycle in the wash, you may want to keep it in there longer, up to a week. For an extra added boost, after the rice does its job, let your device dry in front of a fan so any remaining water evaporates naturally.

Keep in mind: The longer the rice has to do its job, the better the odds for your device. The earlier you take it out, the higher your risk of lingering water.

Tip #4:  Cotton Tips and Alcohol (Not Just for Parties Anymore)
If you know that water is stuck in certain small parts of your device, dab a cotton into some rubbing alcohol (or vodka) and then apply it to the specific parts of your device. This will work well for the internal parts of many gadgets that have circuit boards. The alcohol will help to speed up the evaporation process that happens when your device sits out in the open air.

Hopefully these tips will help you to salvage your soggy electronics, should the worst happen to them. If none of these help, find a good repair shop and read up to see if your warranty is still in effect and check to see if you can claim under your insurance policy.

This article offers general advice only. If in doubt consult an electronics repair specialist.

July 11th, 2013

Is your mailbox clogged up and overflowing? Every once in a while we need to do some spring cleaning for our mailboxes. We live in a world of non-stop emails and the clutter of information can actually hurt our efficiency.

If you use Microsoft Outlook 2010 to manage your email then we have a surefire process you can use to tame your mailbox.

Love your inbox again – follow our quick guide for some simple tips to lighten our email load.

1.) Review Inbox to delete any unneeded Emails Received.

2.) Review Sent items to delete any unneeded Emails Sent.

3.) Delete all emails in Junk Folder.

4.) Purge all emails from Deleted Items Folder.

5.) Right click Deleted Items and choose Empty folder.

6.) Archive older emails that you would like to keep.

Tips on setting up search folder to look for large emails with attachments

1. Click on Folder then click on New Search Folder. New search folder will pop up 

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2. Under ‘Organising Mail’ choose ‘Large Mail’

3. Click on ‘Choose’  button and enter ’2000 or above’ (each 100 represents 1 MB in size). This will no present you with a folder on your left hand with a search folder for items larger than 2000 KB.

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4. Delete or Archive emails as needed

Archive email guidelines and tips:

Once an email is archived, it will remove that email from the mail server. That email will no longer be accessible in webmail or on any mobile device. To access archive emails you will need outlook and the location of the archive file.

Archive email files should be store locally on your computer or in a network location if its related to work emails.

Option One – Manual Email Archiving 

1. Creating a Manual Archive file:

2. Click new Items drop down:

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3. More Items then Outlook Data File

4. Choose the Name of the Archive you want to create (i.e. Personal or Archive or Archive with Date)

5. Choose the location where the Outlook Archive will live and then click OK

This will create your Archive File on your left hand navigation pane base on the name you selected. You now can create folder or structure as you desire. This is an empty file, to move any emails manually all you have to do is highlight emails right click and select move to this file. (As a tip you can simply click and drag to this file.)

Option 2: Archiving using the Automatic Archiving tool in Outlook

Using this method outlook will automatically create the same folder structures currently in place under the archive file you choose to use or create.
Please be warned that once you choose to Archive, outlook will become unavailable until this process is finish. The only way to stop this is to close outlook but you will have to repeat this process again.
1. Click the File tab

2. Click Cleanup Tools.

3. Click Archive.

4. Click the Archive this folder and all subfolders option, and then click the folder that you want to archive. Any subfolder of the folder you select is included in this manual archive.

5. Under Archive items older than, enter a date. If you do not want to use the default file or location, under Archive file, click Browse to specify a new file or location.

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6.  Browse to find the file that you want, or enter the file name, then click OK. The destination file location appears in the Archive file box. The Typical locations should be save under Documents or My documents in Windows XP. Do not save your Archive file on the network unless specifically ask to.

7.  Select the Include items with “Do not AutoArchive” checked check box to include any items that might be individually marked to be excluded from automatic archiving.

8.  Once you hit OK, this will start the Archive process, Outlook will be unusable until this process is complete.

Turn Off Auto Archiving

By default auto archiving is turn off. This will confirm that it is.

  • In Outlook click the File Tab.
  • Click Options.
  • On the Advanced tab, under AutoArchive, Click AutoArchive Settings.
  • Clear the ‘Run AutoArchive every X days’ check box.
June 19th, 2013

Word’s built-in dictionary function is a really helpful tool as it recognizes and corrects misspelled words and grammar.  Sometimes, though, the dictionary won’t recognize words, and incorrectly marks them as misspelled.  This can be particularly problematic if you regularly type words and names that are relevant to your industry.

As this can be confusing and distracting, there is an option to customize and change the dictionary to avoid those mistakes. Check out this quick guide to customising your Office 2010 dictionary.

Creating a Custom Dictionary
Click on File in the ribbon menu, and select Options.

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In the new window that opens, select the Proofing tab, and click Custom Dictionaries.

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Click New and enter a name for your new dictionary. Click Save. The dictionary will now appear in your Dictionary List.

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Editing New Custom Dictionaries

There are 2 methods of adding words to your new custom dictionary:

Select your new dictionary from the Dictionary List, and click Edit Word List.
1. Type a word into the Word Box, and click Add. Do this for as many words as you want, and click OK when you are done.2.

2. When you are typing a word and it is marked as misspelled, right click on the word and select Add to Dictionary.

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Deleting Words from your Custom Dictionary
1. In the Custom Dictionary window (Follow the Creating a Custom Dictionary instructions above to find this), select the dictionary that the word is located in, and click Edit Word List.
2. Select the word to remove, and click Delete
3. Click OK when you are done

June 7th, 2013

The iPad’s parental controls allow you to restrict how your child uses the iPad, from disabling the Safari browser to limit which websites your child can view to putting an age restriction on the apps downloaded. You can even turn off app downloads completely, which allows you to closely monitor what your child is doing on the iPad.

The iPad parental control work by setting a four digit passcode on the iPad that is required when setting the different restrictions. Once enabled, you can set restrictions for apps, television, music and movies. The same controls can be set on your iPhone.

How to Turn On Parental Controls for the iPad

iPadParentalControls1

The first step is going into the iPad settings by touching the settings icon. It looks like a bunch of gears and is one of the default icons for the iPad.

Once in settings, choose the general settings from the left-hand menu. You should reach a screen like the one shown above.

Next, choose Restrictions to go into the iPad settings for parental control.

The next step for enabling parental controls on the iPad is to turn on the iPad restrictions. Simply touch the top of the screen where it reads Enable Restrictions.

You will be prompted for a four digit passcode. Choose something you will remember, but not something your child can guess like a birthday or the last digits of a driver’s license. If there is a significant date your like to remember in your past besides birthdays and anniversaries, that would be perfect.

The passcode for the iPad’s restrictions will need to be entered twice to make sure you don’t accidentally tap a different number than intended.iPadParentalControls2

Once you have the iPad’s parental controls enabled, you will be able to set different restrictions and even restrict some of the default applications that came with the iPad. This includes the Safari browser, YouTube and iTunes, so you can restrict your child’s ability to view websites, watch videos and purchase music from their iPad.

You can also turn off the ability to install apps. You can still get apps on the iPad by installing them to iTunes and syncing them to the iPad, which will allow you to have complete control over which apps are on the iPad.

If you don’t need that much control, you can set a ratings restriction for what type of apps can be installed on the iPad.

Another good thing to turn off is in-app purchases. Many free apps allow in-app purchases, which is how they make their money.iPadParentalControls3

You can follow the same procedure to set restrictions on your iPhone.

May 24th, 2013

When working in Microsoft Word 2010, don’t forget these handy tips and tricks to get something done quickly or to format your text more in a more pleasing way.

  • Press Ctrl+Enter to start a new page. A manual page break is inserted, which forces a new page automatically.
  • Press Shift+Enter to insert a soft return, which is useful for breaking a line of text, such as in a document title or an address.
  • Use tabs to line up your text. Never use spaces. One tab is all you need. If you’re typing more than one tab, you need to reset the tab stops.
  • Always use one tab between columns to line them up. That makes editing the information easier if you have to do it.
  • If you need to change page formatting in the middle of your document, start a new section.
  • Save your styles in a template! That way, you can use them for new documents you create without having to rebuild all your styles over and over.

Once in a while, you might need to insert an unusual character or symbol into your Word 2010 document. For those special times, refer to the following table.

Inserting Special Characters in Word 2010

Once in a while, you might need to insert an unusual character or symbol into your Word 2010 document. Or depending on your work, you might save time every day by using these shortcut combinations.

Character Symbol Produced Key Combination
Euro Ctrl+Alt+E
Trademark Ctrl+Alt+T
Copyright © Ctrl+Alt+C
Registered mark ® Ctrl+Alt+R
En dash Ctrl+minus sign (on numeric keypad)
Em dash Alt+Ctrl+minus sign (on numeric keypad)
Unbreakable space Ctrl+Shift+spacebar
Unbreakable hyphen Ctrl+Shift+- (hyphen)
April 26th, 2013

battery bunnyIf you’re an iPhone user you’ll have noticed that it’s battery lasts about as long as a celebrity marriage – nifty new features and apps aren’t much use if your phone’s dead.

We’ve put together a list of the top tweaks and tricks to get more life out of your battery.

Battery low and need a quick charge before you head out of the office – or off for a night out with your mates? A favourite trick we use here at Directions is to switch your phone into flight mode while it’s charging. This automatically turns off a bunch of power sucking features and gets your phone charged in double time.

Here’s our top tips for you to get the most from your battery.

location-servicesLocation, Location, Location
The biggest battery drain culprit is Apple’s location awareness. Reminders, Find My Friends, and the underlying software that allows Foursquare to do creepy/neat things like remind you to stop at a nearby cafe. No matter how you’re using it, your new iPhone is using its GPS and cellular powers to find itself in the world way more often than ever before. That’s a big drain for your battery. Luckily, you can turn a lot of it off.
To start, go into Location Settings, found in the main Settings list. You’ll see a long rundown of every app on your phone that might take a little bite out of your battery. Some make a lot of sense (Maps) while some make zero sense at all (Angry Birds). Use your judgment. Weather is a real killer — it’ll hunt for your location every time you drop down the ‘Notification Center’ to give you local forecasts. It’s cool, but horrible on your charge.
Now let’s dig deeper — at the very bottom of the list is a brand new button labelled System Services. Hit it.

  • Turn off Diagnostics & Usage (Information about how and where you’re using your phone, sent automatically to Apple)
  • Turn off Location-Based iAds
  • Setting Time Zone (Unless you’re flying to a different country every other day, you probably don’t need your phone to constantly see if you’ve moved nations and setting the time zone accordingly)

To turn Location Services off completely – Find it in Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services -> Slide to Off

fetch-dataFetch Email Less Often, Turn Data Push Off
The iPhone can be set to automatically suck email and other data down to it or, for some kinds of accounts, have data pushed out to it whenever new data becomes available. You’re probably realized by now that accessing wireless networks costs you battery life, so turning data push off, and thus reducing the number of times your phone connects to the network, will extend your battery’s life. With push off, you’ll need to set your email to check periodically or do it manually (see the next tip for more on this).
Find it in Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendar -> Fetch New Data -> Slide to Off

The less often your phone accesses a network, the less battery it uses. Save battery life by setting your phone to check your email accounts less often. Try checking every hour or, if you’re really serious about saving battery, manually. Manual checks means you’ll never have email waiting for you on your phone, but you’ll also stave off the red battery icon.
Find it in Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendar -> Fetch New Data -> Select Your Preference

auto-lockAutolock Sooner
You can set your iPhone to automatically go to sleep – a feature known as Auto-Lock – after a certain amount of time. The sooner it sleeps, the less power is used to run the screen or other services. Try setting Auto-Lock to 1 or 2 minutes.
Find it in Settings -> General -> Auto-Lock -> Tap your Preference

The Usual Suspects
Some battery tips will always work. Don’t forget about the tried and true methods: Turn down screen brightness, keep Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off, and switch off 3G data if you don’t need your data connection.

Condition Your Battery
Batteries are like muscles. They need to be worked a bit before they’re at peak condition. You can get big gains by draining your battery to almost empty, then letting it charge all the way back up to 100 percent.

 

April 4th, 2013

Outlook social conxIf you use Outlook 2010 or 2013, then you might have noticed a feature called the ‘Social Connector’. The Outlook Social Connector connects people you communicate with or have stored in your contacts folder in Outlook 2010 with their profiles on a number of different social networks.

This can be a very useful feature – but it also has some downsides. Check this quick guide to make sure you understand the benefits…..and the pitfalls.

The Good Bits

Increasingly, its via social networks we find out if someone has a new job or if someone has an updated phone number.  Despite having our “friends” or “connections” in our social networks most of us have contact details to our friends, family, colleagues and business partners in our Outlook contact directory, or some other address book application.  The Outlook Social Connector connects your Outlook contact directory with your social network list of friends and business contacts to give you all information in one place – Outlook.

 

In Outlook 2010 you have something called the “People Pane”. This pane is visible at the bottom of email and contact cards. By default the People Pane is minimized, you can expand the People Pane by clicking the arrow in the bottom right corner.

People pane

Even if you are not connected to a person, you can still see the profile picture of that person if they have set their profile as “public” on the social network, however you will never see any updates from that person. In order to see updates from the person you need to be connected to the person on the network, or the person has to have a setting in their profile which makes his or her updates public. The Outlook Social Connector uses the same security settings as the social network web site.

People pane linked in

You can ask to connect to a person directly from Outlook by clicking on the green plus sign and selecting the social network you want to connect through. You can be  connected to a person through several social networks. You will see a logo next to the green plus sign for each network where you are connected. You can see the profile pictures from each network by clicking the white arrows in the People Pane profile picture.  If you click on one of the social network icons, the profile of the person will open up in a browser so that you can see more information about the person.

Oversharing?

Do you “friend” work colleagues on Facebook? Then you’re now in danger of oversharing.

Here’s how it works. You send your colleagues a meeting agenda, and in the window below the message they see your profile picture and status updates from the social network sites where you are “friends.” That Farmville update from a few minutes ago. Party pictures on Facebook from the weekend before. And if your LinkedIn account is tied to Twitter, they’ll also see your tweets.

So if you haven’t already, you might want to think about putting all of your work colleagues into one group in Facebook (access by clicking on “Friends” and the then “Create a List”) and editing your privacy settings to suit.

Also, keep in mind that your Facebook profile picture will show up in the Social Connector pane – so keep this in mind and choose an appropriate photo.