Nybbles and Bytes...

loves good coffee!

Nybbles and Bytes...

wants to know if you need this button on your keyboard...?

Nybbles and Bytes

...loves exotic places...

Nybbles and Bytes

is occasionally old school...

Nybbles and Bytes

loves smartphone debates...!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is Cell C LTE any good? Maybe this will help you decide...

I had a rather joyous moment last week when after a very, very long wait, a small "L" suddenly appeared at the top of my Lumia 930 screen, in place of the usual boring "H+"...

Cell C
Cell C (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For those of you who may not know, that means "LTE" - in short, a much faster mobile internet connection which Vodacom, MTN and 8ta have been offering for a while now.

Cell C is traditionally always the late guy to the party, but I have to say that this wait was indeed worthwhile.
From the moment that I noticed that LTE became active on my phone last week, I have been taking speed tests at random intervals and all around JHB on my daily travels.
From Glenhazel to Edenvale, Bedfordview to Rosebank, Illovo to Orchards - check out the results below to get a summary of the Cell C LTE experience so far...

Downloads peaked at an impressive max. speed of 54.51Mbps, and Uploads peaked at 15.26Mbps, depending on signal strength.
Overall not a bad show I have to say, but certainly a quick way to eat through mobile data!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Avast for Business goes free...

Following on from my previous post about Cryptowall, Avast recently launched a free business version of their proven antivirus software.

Avast! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the personal version of Avast Antivirus has always been free, the huge difference here is twofold:

  • The free business version runs on PC desktop and server platforms (Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, SBS, Server), as well as Apple Macs (that old saying "Macs don't get viruses" no longer applies, folks);

  • The solution is cloud-based.
    This is a big plus, since it can then be managed, monitored and administered from virtually anywhere.
Traditional business antivirus solutions, which are designed to protect servers as well as workstations, can set you back a fair deal.
Startups and smaller businesses however, may not have the capital to put down on commercial antivirus solutions, and this is where Avast comes in.

I am currently testing the free business solution to get a feel for it, and interestingly, there are no limitations in terms of installs or licences, so you can install it on as many devices as you need to:

The cloud-based control panel is also well laid out, and provides a tidy overview of your protected devices, as well as a real-time threat status.
I have to say that it all looks rather appealing, especially since it costs the same as a breath of fresh air...
The only real "gotcha" is that you can upgrade to a premium paid version.
This obviously offers a more formidable arsenal of antivirus wizardry, however I expect that most users will find the free version more than adequate.

Cryptowall is back on the prowl, so watch your back...

Back in 2014, a nasty virus called "Cryptowall" reared its unsightly head in the computer world, and it proceeded to leave a fair deal of pandemonium in its wake.
Of course once antivirus definitions the world over became aware, the threat was largely eradicated and peace reigned in the Kingdom of CPU.

These things are like a bad rash though, and there has of late been a resurgence of this particular bad boy on PC's all over the place.
Hell, Carte Blanche even featured an article on the virus a few weeks back - I'm sure the wonderfully talented humans who coded it must be awfully proud! Well done guys! 

Anyway, back to the post - in short, watch your back as you normally would when dealing with the internet, email, flash drives from other PC's, pretty much as you would do when walking down a dark alley at night.
This particular threat entices the hapless victim by means of links on dodgy sites, links within the attachments of spam mails and a variety of other sneaky tactics.
Once the user clicks on the link, if not stopped by an antivirus, the virus will then initiate and continue to install itself in memory, and as a startup item on the infected PC.

Symptoms of Cryptowall (how you know that you are infected...):

  • Cryptowall scans the PC for folders which contain your meaningful data - here we are talking about the Desktop folder, My Documents etc.
    It also scans mapped network drives - these will become infected as well, but only specifically mapped drives.

  • Next, it encrypts every "work" file that it finds - this includes Word documents, Excel documents and PDF documents, among others.

  • Finally, it dumps approx. 4 files into every folder that it has encrypted, named "HELP_DECRYPT.ext" - each of these files provides instructions on how to decrypt your data, and it's pretty simple - pay up. Yup, all this virus amounts to is extortion.
    The variation of the infection that I recently dealt with wanted payment in Bitcoins, but I'm sure they take Diners Club, AMEX, VISA and many other forms of payment too :)

  • Any attempt to now open an encrypted file will result in a generic program error, as if the data within the file is corrupted.
    At this point, panic may set in.
    This is justified, since there is no way to decrypt the files without paying up, unless you have a recent intact backup of your files. Do not plug your backup drive in, until you are 100% sure that your PC is clean again.
    For a very technical rundown of the threat, including cleaning and recovery options, check out:
You DO NOT want to see these files on your hard drive...
So in essence it's a pretty simple virus, but the impact that it can have on a business with a lot of data is HUGE.
After going through a rough few days taking one of these bad boys down recently, my advice to end users is simple - protect yourself in every possible way, and that isn't limited to antivirus software.
Sure, getting yourself a great antivirus like Avast is a non-negotiable, however always tread carefully when making use of a public domain like the internet.

Watch where you browse. 
Triple check who sent you that not-so-kosher looking email.
Don't click on that link in the body of a "banking" email, and if you do end up being on the very unfortunate receiving end of one of these, make sure that your data is backed up somewhere off your PC - preferably on an external drive.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Netgear modem refusing an IP address change? Try this...

In my line of work, I install new ADSL modems on an ongoing basis, and I often need to change the default IP address that the modem is setup with.
One of my best sellers is the Netgear DGN2200, however I ran into an odd problem recently which puzzled my poor brain to pieces, until one of the awesome tech support guys at Netgear shed some light on the situation.

The webpage when you setup the modem IP address looks something like this:

It all seems pretty simple - fill in the new IP address, and hit Apply at the bottom.
Done, right?
Not in this case - no matter how many times I tried, the router would reboot, and then revert to the original default "" IP address.
Highly frustrating.

Even Google was clueless - combing through the search results revealed nothing of use.
At the end of my wits, I fell back on the support guys at Netgear - I mean after all, that's what they are there for, surely?

2 words: "Change browsers."

The answer to a problem which became a rather unpleasant throbbing pain in my right temple, was that simple.
Accessing the web interface of the router from Internet Explorer 11 rather than from Chrome, and performing the exact same steps, resulted in a fresh new IP address.

Now if only all IT problems were that simple to fix :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This has to be the king of PC error messages...

This is not what you want to see when copying files from a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini...:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Simple cool stuff to do with the kids during the break...

So the school mid-term break is now in full swing for the parents among us, and after Disney Junior (DSTV channel 309 for those non-parental readers) is all maxxed out, we have to start getting a little bit more creative in terms of stuff to do.

After all, this is meant to be quality time that we should be spending with our kids, is it not?

So it occurred to me that all we really need to do, is go back to basics.
I dusted out the crazy cobwebs in my noggin, and took a trip down memory lane, back to when I was a kid who still held school holidays in high regard.
Man, those were the days - endless weeks of free time, so much free time... where did all the time go?
Does time diminish as one grows older? I guess in a way it does, but that's a subject for another day...

Anyway, I came up with a few simple things from my childhood that often provided hours of entertainment, and which still apply today.
Just because we live in a world full of iPads and WIFI, doesn't mean that our kids can't still enjoy some of the same things that we did while growing up.

Next time you are at a loss for something fun to do, maybe this list will be of some use:

  • Build a puzzle:
    I used to spend hours as a kid on jigsaw puzzles, and they fascinate me to this day.
    The kids also love them, even from a young age.

  • Make some Lego:
    Does anybody not enjoy Lego? 
    From building crazy castles as a kid, to creating massively reinforced cars (only to smash them into the nearest wall), Lego is truly timeless.

    Lego at work.
    Lego at work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Roast marshmallows:
    This one requires some adult supervision obviously, but it's a favourite and generally accompanies any braai as a sweet treat afterwards.
    Avoid contact with clothing...!

  • Swim:
    Kids go nuts for pools in summer. It's that simple.
    If the weather permits and you are fortunate enough to have access to a pool, get in.
    We have some pretty awesome summers here in South Africa, so we may as well make the most of them.

    Blue-water-pool (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Make a fire:
    Lighting up a fire at sunset just does something for the soul. Perhaps somehow it connects us to our ancestral roots, to a time when fire was vital for survival.
    Who knows - all I can say is that even as an adult I still enjoy a good fire, be it a campfire or a small log fire to roast some marshmallows over.

    Just flames
    Just flames (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Stargaze:
    While stoking the fire, why not turn your eyes up to the heavens and pick out some of our celestial neighbours or constellations.
    Apart from the moon, several of the planets in our solar system are easily visible in our night skies, and with dark enough skies and cloudless conditions, even amateur equipment can reveal a surprising amount of detail on objects such as Saturn and Jupiter.
    Pretty awe-inspiring, and appreciated by young and old alike.

    English: Pleiades Star Cluster
    English: Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Create silence:
    Here is one that I struggle with a lot, but which I still try to achieve, however difficult it may be.
    When you get home, switch your cellphone to Silent. It has been ringing all day, with a thousand different people vying for your attention.
    So ask yourself, how many of those people are more important to you than your loved ones?
    It's not easy I know, but in a world where constant noise is the order of the day, a little bit of silence can't be a bad thing. 
If it's an excursion you are looking for, then head over to our other blog - Plebs with Kids, where we review kid-friendly spots in and around Johannesburg.

As I type this post I keep thinking of new things that I want to add to this list, so I guess this post will be a bit of a work in progress.
Can you think of anything that you loved as a kid, that you feel deserves a mention?

Drop me a comment below and maybe I'll add it in :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Get your 50GB of FREE cloud storage...

There are dozens of cloud storage providers out there today who all provide free and paid storage options to new customers.
Putting a copy of your data on the cloud is a great way to guard against potential device failure or loss, however the amount of data that we generate nowadays is rather a lot...

The traditional 2GB free data offering from Dropbox just doesn't cut it anymore - Microsoft moved the goalposts somewhat with their 15GB free offering, but even that will still be used up pretty quickly once you start syncing photos, videos and music to the service.

Enter Mega - launched in 2013, it was founded by the same chap (Kim Dotcom) who founded the now defunct Megaupload in 2005.

Mega essentially operates in the same way as Dropbox - you install a sync client on your PC, and this keeps a dedicated folder on your PC in sync with the Mega servers, to the tune of 50GB of free data.
Now 50GB is a lot of data in an any language, and it pretty much beats any other free offering out there.
I have been trying out the Mega service myself, and it has been fairly painless so far, with a nice web interface to boot.

Give it a shot if you need free cloud storage (and who doesn't?):


Comments welcome - free services like this will hopefully keep the big guys competitive and on their toes, provided that they keep their systems more secure than Apple, that is... ;)
Oh and one last bit of advice - keep your most personal intimate pics off the Cloud, lest they should fall into the wrong hands!