Wipe your devices clean before selling or disposing of them

I purchased a NEO by Alphasmart off of an action site this week and I was shocked to discover it still contained verbiage children had typed into files on the device.  Fortunately, nothing confidential was in the files (from the content I learned the teachers last name and what city they were in) but it really surprised me that the seller didn’t take the time to remove user data from the device.

If you are going to sell or dispose of a device capable of storing user data (this includes the most basic form of user data storage: paper), remove the data to the best of your ability before the device is sold or disposed of.  This is standard protocol in IT and it should be standard protocol in any home or business for the general safety of all parties involved.

These are just a few items capable of storing user data and some tips on how to remove data:

  1. NEO by Alphasmart – select “on” > select desired file (i.e. “file 1”) > select “clear file” > select “y”
  2. Mobile phone, smart phone or tablet:  each one is so different, look up online instructions based on who your manufacturer is; here is an example for an iPhone – http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5661
  3. Computer – http://www.wikihow.com/Wipe-a-Computer (each one is so different, look up online instructions based on who your manufacturer is)
  4. Copier, Printer, Fax – each one is so different, look up online instructions based on who your manufacturer is; here is an example for a Lexmark printer – http://www.lexmark.com/publications/pdfs/2007/c925x/UG/html/en/erasing-printer-hard-disk-memory-topic.html
  5. Snail mail – when friends and family send you snail mail, be sure to tear their return address as well as your mailing address off of the envelope, these two small bits of paper are to be placed in the pile of paperwork to be shredded or burned.  Avoid disposing of this information in general trash.
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Unsupervised children on the internet = TROUBLE

Untitled-7Why unsupervised children are allowed to use smartphones (or any internet enabled device for that matter) is baffling to me.  I am even more perplexed as to why we often look to manufacturers to place parental controls on these devices.

Leaving a child alone to explore the internet is like setting him or her down in the middle of a city, whose population consists of nothing but the most horrid reflections of humanity, and just walking away so the little ones are all alone to flounder aimlessly among a vat of degenerates.  I certainly wouldn’t rely on a third party to try to control this sea of horror.

Unfortunately, for the vulnerable and naive, the Internet harbors a large number of suspect individuals who, for whatever reason, find great pleasure in attempting to destroy others while under the incorrect assumption of complete anonymity.  Interacting with such individuals can carry a heavy price as outlined in numerous studies regarding youth and the electronic world (here is one of many examples of such studies: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-teens-phones-happiness-20180123-story.html)

Plenty of smart people succeeded in life well before all of our fancy devices showed up so don’t worry that your child is going to suffer intellectually by having limitations on internet usage.

A few short examples of potential red flags:

  • For gaming systems:  many have chat features, cameras and microphones built in or they take advantage of cameras and microphones built into television units they connect to.  These systems are often a target by degenerates in an attempt to communicate with children.  Carefully review the documentation for your gaming system as well as any smart tv the system may be hooked up to so you understand potential points of risk.
  • For online games:  many have chat features, cameras and microphones built in or they take advantage of cameras and microphones built into the device accessing the online games (pc, laptop, smartphone).  Carefully review the features and rules of the online game community before allowing your child to participate while supervised.

Do you really want to give your child the power to broadcast statements to the entire world or to be able to interact with the entire world in ANY way? Adults can’t even handle this power, how can we expect children to even comprehend this type of power and the subsequent repercussions of such power?

Discuss the dangers of the internet world with your children just as you discuss the dangers of the non-internet world with them so they go in with their guard up and monitor their usage so your children can grow up to be fabulous contributors to the world:)

Malaysia Flight 370. Why is it taking so long to get answers?

The nice thing about technology is the crafty code we can build into devices to tell us the state of things at any given time.

In IT, I routinely monitor applications I’ve written via alerts I’ve built into the applications to alert me when trouble is brewing.  When these alerts come in, I then investigate the errors in the alerts as well as log files on servers for reasons as to why abnormalities occurred.  These simple investigations of mine, in a small IT shop, are quick.  The investigations usually consist of only a few hours of sifting through log files, reviewing alert error messages and discussing symptoms with users and in the end we have determined the issue and have implemented measures to prevent the issue from occurring in the future.   However, with a large IT shop and lots of log files, these investigations can take a seriously long time just due to the massive amount of data that needs to be carefully reviewed (line by line).

During large-scale investigations, theories of what has taken place may change moment to moment based on the data being reviewed at that moment and the number of specialist called into the investigation.  It is only when all data has been carefully reviewed that a solid statement of what is believed to have occurred can be made.  I’m sure there is a massive amount of data that has to be reviewed in the case of a plane disappearing, everything from log files of data coming from the plane to satellite imagery.   I am confident the investigators, no matter what country they are in, will eventually come to a sound conclusion once all data is reviewed.  Until then, with great sadness, we can only exercise patience and avoid making quick decisions based on fear, speculation or intense sorrow.

Simple Methods to Avoid Getting Scammed at Home

Phone and Email

By default, many humans find it extremely difficult to ignore a ringing phone when they do not recognize the phone number on caller id and to ignore emails when they do not recognize the sender of the email.  For some reason, the unknown communication represents the Iron Lotus of all communication, in our minds it is a communication that could change our lives, we cannot ignore it.  Criminals know this, that is why they call your phone and send you emails and in return many criminals often leave the encounter with cash from your pocket or data about you that they may later use to obtain your valuables.

  1. Avoid answering your phone if you do not recognize the number.  By answering the phone, you will divulge information about yourself that you do not want a criminal to have.  You don’t think you will, but just by answering the phone you’ve already given them your sex, possible race, and that your phone number is valid.  All of this is revealed even before the criminal begins asking you questions and trying to trick you into believing they are contacting you for a legitimate purpose. Avoid all of this by ignoring the call.  If the calls become frequent, then just have the number blocked.
  2. If a caller keeps you on the line for an extended period of time asking you confusing questions or tries to initiate an argument with you, then this is your queue that you are dealing with a suspicious individual.  End the call immediately.  Based on what was said in the conversation determines your next step, if they were trying to scam you out of confidential information and/or money, contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams.  But if they actually threatened you or your family, you will want to contact your local police department.  Make sure you clearly document the conversation and their phone number before passing the information onto the FTC or police, they can’t do anything unless you provide facts, date, time, etc.
  3. Avoid opening and replying to emails from people you do not know.  Those links at the bottom of emails that instruct you to “click here to unsubscribe from this email list” are only legitimate when it comes from a reputable company, if the link is at the bottom of a malicious email, then, when you click on it, you are just telling the criminal your email address is valid and the clicking action may initiate malware.  Avoid all of this by ignoring the email (flag it as spam, delete it, etc).

Disposing of Documentation

Avoid throwing away any paperwork that contains information about you, your family, your friends and your investments (name, address, phone, email, account numbers, etc.).  Paperwork containing this information should be shredded or burned in your fireplace on a regular basis.

Storing Documentation

When storing paperwork that contains information about you, your family, your friends and your investments, secure the paperwork at all times.

  1. If the paperwork is on your computer, then your computer must be password protected and your anti-virus software and firewall software need to remain up to date.
  2. If the paperwork is a hard copy in your home, then you need to secure it out of site in a locked desk, file cabinet or safe.

How to Submit a Meaningful IT Helpdesk Ticket

If you are interested in getting an IT related issue solved as quickly as possible, avoid submitting vague IT Helpdesk tickets.  Examples are verbiage such as:

  1. “My printer doesn’t work.”
  2. “My computer doesn’t work.”

This vague communication gives the IT department very little to go one when they begin an investigation into the root of the problem you are experiencing.  Try to be as specific as possible in your communication so your ticket may be routed to the correct IT person quickly.  Here are few examples of how to clearly communicate an IT issue for faster resolution:

  1. From a Microsoft Word document, I select File > Print > I select my laserjet printer > Print.  The printer initiates as if it going to begin printing but then it just makes a “ding” noise, displays no unusual error messages and never prints the document.  I turned the printer off and then on again, this did not resolve the issue.  I rebooted my computer and turned the printer off and then on again, this did not resolve the issue.
  2. When I turned my computer on, I was able to login but the icons never appeared on my desktop, I just see a light blue screen, it has been in this state for approximately 11 minutes.  I attempted to reboot the computer and I am getting the same result.

Clear communication will not only help when troubleshooting computers, clear communication will help facilitate the resolution of all kinds of matters in other areas of your life.

Getting Open XML up and running for .NET C# Web Applications

I had to get this set up quickly on Friday for a web application that creates a Microsoft Word document on the fly and I write text to the document.  Just in case you need to do the same and haven’t had time to research how to do this yet, these are the exact steps I went through to get this up and running for my web application:

  1. install OpenXMLSDKV25.msi first and then install OpenXMLSDKToolV25.msi, they are here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30425 (hit the download button and select each one)
  2. create a project in Visual Studio
  3. add this reference to your project: DocumentFormat.OpenXml
  4. add this reference to your project: WindowsBase
  5. in top of your code behind of project add this:

using System.IO;
using System.Xml;
using DocumentFormat.OpenXml;
using DocumentFormat.OpenXml.Wordprocessing;
using DocumentFormat.OpenXml.Packaging;
using DocumentFormat.OpenXml.Spreadsheet;

  • in your code behind of project, add this code (run code and you will find your new document with your text of Hello World in it):
    protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
    HelloWorld(@”c:\test\testDocument.docx”);
    }
    public void HelloWorld(string docName)
    {
    // Create a Wordprocessing document.
    using (WordprocessingDocument wordDocument = WordprocessingDocument.Create(docName, WordprocessingDocumentType.Document))
    {
    // Add a new main document part.
    wordDocument.AddMainDocumentPart();
    //Create the Document DOM. wordDocument.MainDocumentPart.Document = new Document( new Body( new Paragraph( new Run( new Text(“Hello World!”)))));
    // Save changes to the main document part.
    wordDocument.MainDocumentPart.Document.Save();
    }
    }

HAPPY CODING!

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