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IT Services, Networking and Managed Services Blog

1: Open Source Saves Money

This debate needs to finally be put to bed. Study after study has been done–some of which are sponsored studies by invested parties -but the truth of the matter is both initial and ongoing costs will be  lower if you go with open source. Many of the past studies pointed to one main idea that is, really for the most part, no longer relevant – cost associated with training users. Here’s the big thing, ninety percent of what employees do now is done within a web browser. Gotta’ face the facts, most workplace users today could get by with a Chromebook and still be able to get their job done. No one needs to be trained on how to use Firefox or Chrome. Furthermore, if your employees have to be trained on how to use web-based software, the platform won’t matter anyway.

When you add to this the considerable cost you’ll save on your company’s backbone (server OS and software), the savings really start building up. Besides, on the server side, you’re probably going to be using open source anyway. You can’t get away from it now. So, when you know opting for CentOS or SUSE as your server OS could save you tens of thousands of dollars in licensing costs, why would you go any other way? Ask any admin who has worked with Linux servers, and you’ll find those servers need MUCH less maintenance and upkeep than the competitor’s solutions.

2: Fewer Headaches

When working with a proprietary network, one of the biggest pains that will drain your IT budget and your productivity is system cleaning. With enough employees, the IT guys can quickly get up to their necks with malware and virus cleanup requests. When you use open-source platforms (such as Linux), this won’t be the case. Though there are plenty of naysayers who will argue against using Linux on a desktop, imagine how your bottom line would be if productivity was almost never halted by malware or viruses? I’m not saying that productivity will double, triple or never be put on hold, but you’ll see a noticeable reduction in your down time. Your IT guys can then focus on what’s really important to your company, such as servers, networks, and network security.

3: Try Before You Buy

With almost every imaginable piece of open-source software, you can try it out before you invest either of your time or money into a single piece of software. Even the operating systems themselves! You can download an image of a Linux system and run it without making any changes to your PC (called a Live CD). You can download almost every Linux distribution there is, try them all out, and then make your choice based on that experience -all without having to install a single thing. And with most open-source web-based programs (such as CMS, CRM and HRM tools), there are demonstrations to try or even virtual images you can fire up in VirtualBox (again, without having to install anything). A great place to find new virtual appliances to try is Turnkey Linux. Turnkey lets you to easily test systems such as GitLab, LAMP Stack, SugarCRM, OwnCloud, Orange HRM, and many more.

4: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

When you’re working with proprietary operating systems like Windows or Apple, you work how you’re told to work. If you want Windows or OS X, you are stuck using their interfaces and adhering to how they dictate. But, if you work with open source software, you work your way. If you don’t like the way something looks or acts, you change it and keep working. If you don’t like the default user desktop that ships with Ubuntu, use a different one. With respect to customizing open source, there are almost no limitations. This is YOUR business, and you should be able to make the technology conform to YOUR preferences and requirements -not the other way around. With open source, that’s the norm.

5: You’re Not Really Doing Anything New

Think about this… enterprise-level companies are already depending on open source software. They aren’t just going to try open source with various and sundry open-source projects -they depend on an array of open-source programs to keep them up and running. We’re talking big data, and it doesn’t get any larger than that. A lot of start-ups that consider the open-source path think they are an island in a sea. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Nearly everything you are considering doing has been done with open source and done with great success. Familiar companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter -all of which place the backbone functionality of their business on open-source software. If they can do it, so can you. And when you’re not quite sure of how to proceed, you just need to follow their examples. Check them out at Google’s open-source blog or Facebook’s open-source projects.

6: You Will Have to Overcome a Few Hurdles to Try Open Source

Realistically it won’t be 100% smooth sailing (but almost nothing is in the world of business). If you have employees that don’t work out of a web browser, you might end up with file incompatibilities. For example, you might have clients that send you MS Word or MS Excel documents that rely on some odd extended features. You might figure out that LibreOffice or Google Docs won’t quite “translate” those features with complete accuracy. When that happens, what can you do? You might actually have to pay for ONE Office 365 license for that particular employee. Or, what if you have an old piece of proprietary software your business needs?

Here’s the deal… you don’t have to plunge in to the open-source pool and never come up for air. There’s nothing wrong with mixing up the environment. If you can’t do business without a particular program, then you might have to make an exception. The great thing about open source software is that it plays well with a huge majority of exceptions. You drop a Windows 7 machine on to your network, and nothing will blow up or snitch to the “open-source police”. The good thing is that an overwhelming majority of employees don’t take advantage of the advanced features of MS Office that tend to hinder compatibility with open-source alternatives.

Sound interesting?

Give us a shout at 612-276-2308 and we can start to steer you in the right direction to saving time and money when you try open source software.

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Toshiba Satellite L855-S5405

Toshiba Satellite L855

We received one of the Toshiba L855 models in to the shop for depot repair.

It was difficult to find any pages about how to boot a toshiba L855-S5405 to CD, but eventually we found it. The procedure to boot the laptop from a CD is to hold the F12 button and then press the power button. Continue to hold the F12 button to boot a toshiba L855-S5405 to CD and you’ll be in business in no time.

Hope this helps someone out there.

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Free Remote Access Tools

Free Remote Access Tools

There are plenty of great paid remote access tools out there, but if you’re in bootstrap mode you want free remote access tools.

In my eyes, there are basically only two real options for free remote access tools. These are time tested and stable solutions to use in your home or in your small business.

  1. Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol. This is a decent “no frills” remote access tool and it’s installed by default on the professional versions of Windows. It also has been ported to a Mac client (see http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=18140 ) which allows a Mac system to remote in to a Windows PC. This is the more polished and simple of the two free remote access tools I’m bringing up here.
  2. VNC or “Virtual Network Computing”. This is a flexible tool that’s platform independent (you can use it on windows, mac or linux). It’s the more configurable of the two free remote access tools but it’s also not as user friendly. You can chat, transfer files, encrypt the connection between the computers, it works with NAT (routing stuff on your home router), its a very small program so it doesn’t use much memory and you can also configure different users on the host computer.

There’s one more of the free remote access tools that’s worthy of an honorable mention…

Chrome Remote Desktop. It’s new, and honestly I haven’t had time to try it out yet… but it definitely looks interesting. Have you already tested it? If so please comment on how you liked or disliked it. Thanks!

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Your WiFi is dropping the connection

three reasons your wifi is dropping the connection

Your wireless network connection is dropping usually due to one of three main reasons:

  1. Wireless adapter drivers. This is usually when you just got a new wireless adapter and installed it with the driver CD that came with the wireless adapter. The manufacturer probably updated the driver after that driver disc was printed. Search for the manufacturer website and look up the model number on their site to get the newest driver.
  2. The second reason your WiFi is dropping the connection is that the wireless adapter radio in your computer is failing. This could be due to age or due to a manufacturer defect. You can deduce this by testing with other devices. Do you have a tablet? An Android or iPhone? Does the WiFi drop the connection for those devices at the same time as your computer’s WiFi connection? If not, then you’ve narrowed the problem down to your PC’s wireless card.
  3. The third reason your WiFi is dropping the connection is the possibility that the wireless router radio is failing. If this is true, all your devices that are connected to the wireless network will be dropping the connection at the same time. You can try updating the firmware of your wireless router by once again searching for the manufacturer and model number of the router. A typical search I would use is “download (model) (manufacturer)”. The keywords placed in the beginning of the search term have slightly more weight than the trailing words in the search term. I have not contacted the search engines directly to confirm this, but they would likely not tell a non-employee as it would probably be considered a trade secret.

If you have any questions about this article, or if your WiFi is dropping the connection, please feel free to contact me via our contact page (from someone else’s computer) at http://www.broadviewtech.com/contact.html

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nsa-daten

     Our government spying on us inside our own country is indeed worrisome. So much that eight major tech companies are pushing back for reform on how the government monitors its citizens. These companies are Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo and AOL (Yes it’s still alive). To summarize the intent of these companies in pressing for reform, they want the monitoring to be more specific. Not broad like it is now. For details about this open letter they drafted about how to get your internet privacy back, read here .

     The trouble with doing the NSA’s job is they don’t always know specifically where to look for the bad guys online in this current information age. There’s millions of people online, all talking and chatting about everything under the sun. How do they know who is a threat and who is not? They can’t… it’s impossible to hire enough people to monitor the entire internet day and night. So their solution is to justify (basically) making a copy of EVERYTHING and then sifting through it later with computers. So then when another idiot tries to wreck another plane flight, fails, and gets his iPhone siezed… it doesn’t matter that the contacts and call history are all deleted. The NSA just plugs in his number to their huge database of all phone calls made in the US for the last 6 months (copied from his cellular provider’s billing records) and voila, they have some solid evidence to move on and try to hunt further up the food chain.

     If you’ve been doing some Christmas shopping online and then visited your favorite social website, pay attention to the ads that show there on the social site. They are going to be the same products or related products to what you were just shopping for. Wouldn’t it be nice to get your internet privacy back? This happens because of something called tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are very small text files that your browser usually keeps to set preferences on different websites you visit. Some remember your username and type it in to the page for you as soon as you get there. Others change font sizes so those with poor eyesight don’t have to redo the settings for large fonts. Advertisers can enter information in these cookies to keep track of what stuff you’ve been shopping for online and then social media sites take that information and use it to serve up “relevant advertisements”. You can get more information about how the NSA uses them at the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.

     What can I do? There are some simple basic measures you can take to stop a lot of the spying and advertising going on and in turn get your internet privacy back (most of it anyways). First, use a good browser like Chrome or Firefox. Second, install a few plugins or addons like HTTPS Everywhere, and then install a script blocker like NoScript. Set aside some time to use these new additions and thoroughly read the tutorials. These are “whitelist” apps. They learn what websites to trust from your input, and they block everything else. So… if you play around with them a while you will be able to figure out what websites are serving up advertisements, sending cookies, etc etc.. and you will be able to do a pretty good job of blocking the unwanted stuff by teaching these apps who you want to trust and who you don’t want to trust.

For your cell phone, there are a few secure messaging apps like Wickr, Redphone and Textsecure . These, along with a good antivirus software would give me enough peace of mind to say not just any beginner hacker can get in to my phone. These tips summarize a few ways you can get your internet privacy back. Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggest the apps you use to take back  your privacy.

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Disclaimer: do not touch the board and or chips on the board, they are HOT and can burn your skin.  Broadview Technology Solutions LLC is not responsible for personal injury or liable for property damage related to this procedure and or alteration of your Raspberry Pi. This material is provided for educational purposes only.

If you’ve ever used  your raspberry pi for any length of time and put your hand on the case or maybe even been brave enough to touch the board,  found out warms up pretty good. So here’s a very brief writeup on how to install raspberry pi heatsinks. We begin with a thermal image of a raspberry pi while it is powered on.

raspberry pi thermal image

Raspberry Pi thermal image

The image above is courtesy of modmypi.com gives you a pretty good idea where you should install raspberry pi heatsinks. The lower left corner red area appears to be a component of power regulation since it’s located near the power input and has a capacitor there as well.  The red area in the center of the board is the CPU ( Broadcom BCM 2835 @ 700MHz ), and the reddish area on the right centered vertically is the LAN controller.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. We ordered a raspberry pi heatsinks set from Ebay for about $4 USD. It took about 3 weeks to get here, so you can imagine where it came from. The heatsinks came with two sided thermal tape applied to them. We are using a Raspberry Pi model B. Here is a shot of the Pi with the heatsinks before we installed them.

raspberry-pi-heatsinks-1

The Raspberry Pi heatsinks before installation

The installation was very simple, but I wish I would have had a large tweezers to hold the heatsinks straight while installing as your fingers get in the way of the USB, LAN and audio ports when you try to install the heatsink on the LAN controller. The CPU is readily accessible to install raspberry pi heatsinks, just peel off the double sided tape and stick it on. The power regulating component in the lower left of the thermal image is right next to a cylindrical component called a capacitor. It’s on the other side of the cylinder from the power port where you plug in the power. With the kit we got, the aluminum heatsink (the smallest, silver colored heatsink) was a little bit large for the components, but if you’re very careful about placement, you can avoid touching the capacitor and the small yellow component on the board nearest the board marking “C11″.

Here is a shot of the end game… how to install raspberry pi heatsinks…

install raspberry pi heatsinks

Done with the installation of raspberry pi heatsinks.

That’s it. Thanks for taking time to read How to install Raspberry Pi heatsinks and we wish you luck with your own installation. Please post or email with any questions or comments.  Have a wonderful day!

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Did your PERC card die? Is it time to replace the battery in your Dell PowerEdge 1750 server? If so, here’s the lowdown on how to get it done.

Disclaimer: Anyone attempting to perform this hardware installation or swap should have a current FULL BACKUP of all data before performing the steps!!! The author assumes no liability for any loss incurred by following the provided instructions.

So now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get started with how to install a PERC 4i Card.

Shut down and power off the server, then unplug the power cords from the server and open the case. The red shaded area represents the space in which the PERC 4i card will be installed.

PowerEdge 1750 inside

PowerEdge 1750 inside

Obviously to install a PERC 4i card you need to have it handy, so discharge any static electricity from yourself and put on a static discharge bracelet. Open your PERC 4i card and place it within reach of the server.

Dell PERC 4i board and battery

Dell PERC 4i board and battery

If you are standing near the front panel of the server with the case fully opened you will see near the rear left a set of 4 white plastic standoffs with clips. They will match up with the holes in the corner of your PERC 4i card.

Gently position the PERC 4i card under the PCI slot edge first, then ensure all standoff posts are aligned to the holes on the PERC 4i card. When they are, press down on the right front and right rear corners with equal pressure until you hear the retainer clips snap to hold the card down. Then press the left side front and rear corners down also with equal pressure.

PowerEdge 1750 with PERC 4i Installed

PowerEdge 1750 with PERC 4i Installed

Next if you have the optional battery backup for the write cache, look towards the front of the server (closest to you) just behind the backplane. There are two sets of the white plastic standoffs, one for a DRAC and then two outside the 4 standoffs for the DRAC. The furthest right and the furthest left standoffs are the ones to use. Please don’t forget to connect the battery to the mainboard. There is a screenprinted label on the mainboard which says “RAID BAT”, the connector is near the rear left corner of a QLogic chip on our mainboard. The connector is keyed so it should only fit on one direction.

After lining up the holes in the battery holder with the white plastic standoffs, press evenly  on both ends of the RAID battery holder (the black plastic half moon shape) to attach it to the motherboard. After the battery backup is installed, it should look like this (note red shaded area in photo).

 

Poweredge write cache battery installed

Poweredge write cache battery installed

After you verify that the battery is connected to the board you are ready to power up your server. Close the case, reconnect your power cable and power on your server.  You should see confirmation during the boot process that the PERC 4i card is installed and the battery backup is working.

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Free Public DNS servers are a great gift to the internet community and home users should make use of them whenever they can. For those of you who don’t know what DNS servers do, they help you surf the web more easily. If you want to get to Walmart.com, you type in “walmart.com” to your web browser and voila- you’re at walmart.com a second later. Behind the scenes what just happened (measured in milliseconds) is your computer sent a message to a Domain Name System server and said “what IP address is walmart.com?”, the DNS server replied “161.170.244.20” so then your PC opens a connection with the IP address 161.170.244.20 to get walmart’s main web page along with all the pictures and text to tell you about their prices and product offerings.

So why does it matter which DNS server you use? Because most free public DNS servers out there don’t think about where they’re sending you to before they give the answer with the IP address. Say you’ve been surfing the web and accidentally caught a virus which installs some malware that wants to turn your computer in to a remote controlled zombie! (see: Illegal BotNet) The malware will try to reach out on the internet to some weird URL like commander.afeawlkjfe.org to receive further instructions about downloading *more* malware programs to further secure the commander’s control over your computer (imagine a burglar breaking in to your house, drinking your beer, eating  your sandwiches then leaving a side and a back window open in hopes that you won’t notice so he can come back later).  Or it may reach out for a small spam generator so it can force your computer to send nasty spam emails to email lists. Or generate bogus traffic to jam up walmart’s website (see: DDoS)!!

How do free public DNS servers help? When you set up your computer’s network connection settings, you can specify  which DNS servers your computer makes requests to. I won’t get in to a lot of detail, but if you choose a DNS server that is aware of those bad URLs (like the commander.afeawlkjfe.org) it will give the wrong IP address on purpose to your computer. So the malware that made its home in your PC can’t call the commander for instructions on what to do next. So unless it has a built in set of instructions, it can’t do much more harm to your PC or the other systems on your network.

Sign me up! How to add the free public DNS servers addresses varies from version to version of Windows or Mac systems. Usually these days you have a modem with a wireless router that will give your computer the DNS addresses as soon as your PC gets on your home network. So to do it the right way, you should set the free public DNS servers at your modem or router. If done that way, every computer in your house will get those DNS servers that you specify.  Below I’ve compiled a list of free public DNS servers that will serve different purposes. Some block malware and viruses, while others are even more protective and even block content inappropriate for minors.

Free Public DNS Servers (no thorough blocking)
Google  8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4
Level3  4.2.2.1 4.2.2.2 4.2.2.3 4.2.2.4 4.2.2.5 and 4.2.2.6

Free Public DNS Servers (Some Malware and Virus Protection)
OpenDNS 208.67.220.220 208.67.222.222
Norton Internet Security  198.153.192.40 198.153.194.40

Free Public DNS Servers (Malware, Virus and Some Adult Content Filtered)
Norton Internet Security  198.153.192.50 198.153.194.50

Free Public DNS Servers (Malware, Virus and Most Adult or Objectionable Content Filtering)
Norton Internet Security 198.153.192.60 198.153.194.60

Free Public DNS Servers (For the Privacy Conscious- They promise to delete all web requests within 24 hours)
OpenNIC  202.83.95.227 216.87.84.211 64.0.55.201 184.154.13.11

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What do  you do if you have large files that are not irreplacable, but you just want to make sure that you can recover them in the case of a HDD crash, power outage or brownout? Back it up locally! Mind you this is NOT a replacement for encrypted online backup. In the case of a manmade or natural disaster you WILL lose your files if you do not have an offsite backup. DO NOT use this in place of an offsite backup for any important files you need for your business!!

Now that the warning’s out of the way, I’d like to share how I set up a very simple Linux bash script for my DIY Small Business PC Backup. My Ubuntu box is running on old hardware, its an old AMD K6 CPU with a gig of memory and some PATA drives I threw in it, so I can’t really reliably tell when they will decide to push daisies. I purchased an external HDD from MicroCenter and plugged the external 2.5″ HDD in to my Ubuntu samba server. Thank you to the wonderful coders at Ubuntu because it automatically mounts the drive to /media/mybook . Next I needed to write a simple bash script to compress and copy the folder I needed backed up to this external drive, and then email me that the process completed. The data is a folder that does not change often (it’s ISOs of OS discs that I use for reinstalls on customer systems if their HDD fails and they have only the CoA). 32GB of them to be precise. So, off to writing that bash script for my free DIY small business computer backup. You can use vi or your favorite linux file editor and enter the following… I will use /home/user as the source directory and /media/mybook as the target.

#!/bin/bash
### backup /home/user to /media/mybook/userbackup.tar.2bz
tar -cjf /media/mybook/userbackup.tar.bz2 /home/user

###  write email text to a temporary text file
echo “To: myemail@myhost.com” > backup.mail
echo “From:myemail@myhost.com” >> backup.mail
echo “Subject: My backup complete” >> backup.mail
echo “” >> backup.mail
echo “Scheduled folder backup completed at Home office” >> backup.mail

### send email from text file
msmtp -t < backup.mail

This DIY small business pc backup script compresses 32GB of ISOs to about 30GB. So that’s about a 6% disk usage savings- not bad! Now I needed to automate my DIY small business computer backup so my computer does it instead of me having to remember to do it! Enter crontab! Crontab is like a scheduler for your system that runs all your scripts on your schedule. In this case my files do not change often so I’d like to back them up weekly.  To edit your user’s crontab file you just log in as the user you want to have run this script and enter the command “crontab -e”. That will open your editor. Inside you must update when you want the script to run and enter the path to the script. Here is an example below…

# m   h   dom  mon  dow   command
0    6     *        *          1       /myfolder/backup-script.sh

To understand the abbreviations / settings I have spaced them apart a little farther than they are in the actual file. The abbreviations stand for (from left to right) Minute, Hour, Day of Month, Month, Day of Week and Command. Since I would like my script to run every Monday at 6:00AM I entered  0 6 * * 1 and then gave the path to the script /myfolder/backup-script.sh . Now each monday morning when the backup completes, I receive an email stating that my DIY small business PC backup is done. I don’t need to worry about logging in and checking up on it in the system logs, verifying that the files are actually present in the external drive, or any silly thing like that.  It’s just automated and I don’t need to think about it just check the email and delete it. I chose to not clean up after the process because then if I don’t notice the absence of the email in my inbox for a few weeks, I can view the timestamp on that backup.mail file and see when the last time the script ran.

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Just checking in again, our team statistics for folding at home ranks us at 18,293 of 217,704 teams. That’s an increase of 1,957 places! Please donate your spare CPU cycles today! Join team 150964 to help cure cancer. Thank you to all who have helped make progress towards a cure for cancers, alzheimers, huntingtons and parkinsons!

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