Email Frustrations From a Tech Point of View!

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Hello again world! I normally sit here and write technical articles or recent findings on a product, but I felt the desire to switch that up a little bit and talk about something that needs to be put out there. This topic is something that sometimes puts end users in a bad spot and is an utter frustration to a tech.

In my day-to-day as a tech, my primary focus is email. From email servers, to cloud based solutions, to end user support, I do it all. From my point of view, there is one thing that really grinds my gears and that is people using their “Deleted Items” folder as storage. Yeah, to some of you this may sound silly. But believe it or not, there are a bunch of people out there who will delete emails (sending them to the deleted items folder) just to clear them out of the inbox, and they will go back to them as needed. See any issues with this?

The deleted items folder is there for deleted items. Too frequently I get calls from users saying that their Outlook is acting funny (usually because their PST file* is huge), so when I start troubleshooting, I see that they have thousands upon thousands of emails sitting in the deleted items folder. Then I get told not to clear those out because they need them. Also, I get frequent calls from people who need emails recovered because they were accidentally, permanently deleted. I spend time trying to track down the email from a backup of their inbox just to find out that it was in the deleted items?!

The moral of the story is this: please stop using your deleted items as storage for emails. This folder’s intended purpose is exactly what it is labeled: DELETED ITEMS. If you are in need of creating folder structure for emails that you do not want sitting in your inbox, or if you need a solution for archiving, please-please-please call Everon. We are more than happy to help with this. This will help prevent your headaches of accidentally losing emails and will make your techs much happier when they are troubleshooting your email client or restoring email. Friends don’t let friends use their deleted items folder as storage. They just don’t. Cheers!

*Note: PST, a.k.a. the Personal Storage Table, is the file on your computer that is comprised of ALL of the email that is in your outlook, everything from your Inbox, to your Sent Items, to your Deleted Items.

Mac Tips for Techs: NetSpot

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A while ago at Everon I had to troubleshoot a pretty complex wireless system, set up by Cisco. I had to call Cisco to discuss their setup, and I was fortunate enough to get a technician who was so passionate about his job, he decided that once the issue was resolved, he would like to give me a 1-2 hour lesson on wireless technology, regardless of the Cisco brand. For the 1-2 hours he spoke to me on the phone, I feverishly tried to write down notes on every single thing he said. I wish I’d had a record of the call we had together, as I would go in and make better notes. It was one of the best lessons I have ever received.

Technicians who work on certain brands, whether it is HP, Dell, Cisco, whatever… in my experience they all seem to be reading off of a sheet and don’t really care if you understand what they are discussing, as you blindly follow their instructions. And, for the most part, I do blindly follow their instructions. (Because how can I argue about the results? Its their equipment!) But occasionally you will find that one technician who is so passionate about his (or her) field of expertise, that he would like you to experience it as he does. I was so fortunate to have this experience come to life a few months back. (In all honesty, I think that is the way some of our engineers operate here, at Everon, as well. We don’t have rigid scripts, we get a call, and we work on it based on our own, personal knowledge, the knowledge of our peers around us, and various tools, so every interaction can be different and exciting. If you are excited to learn what we are doing, we are equally as excited to teach you!)

Anyways, that is my tangent on technicians, now back to wireless technology….

Out of everything the Cisco engineer showed me, one thing he said needs to be done before you purchase any wireless equipment is a wireless site survey. I had never thought of that previously, but it makes sense. How do you know what you need? How much ground do you need to cover? What type of signal strength can you get by with? All of these questions can be answered by a professional who does site surveys for a living. However, if you were interested in doing one yourself, or even if you needed to troubleshoot your existing wireless, what tools do you have at your disposal? It isn’t like you can actually see wireless to be able to troubleshoot, so what can you use to help you understand wireless? (There are many different products for Windows machines, none of which I will get into here, as this article is for the Mac engineer who is in need of troubleshooting wireless.) I encounter instances like this all the time, where I am sent out to a client’s location, and I have to troubleshoot much more than a simple Mac. Sometimes I will need to troubleshoot their environment and, for wireless environments, I find the best tool for anyone with a Mac is NetSpot.

NetSpot can be downloaded here for free: http://www.netspotapp.com/netspotpro.html

NetSpotThe Pro version is for commercial use. The free version can only be used on you and your friends’ home networks. My advice would be if you are going to begin doing site surveys, spend the $149.00 and get the Pro version. The Pro version also includes unlimited data points in every zone (the free version allows 50), flexible grouping of various items in the survey such as APs, SSIDs, channel, vendor, etc (free only allows grouping via SSID), and much more.

However, if you are learning how to do wireless site surveys, the free version is great. It gives you a ton of information on your wireless network, such as the SSID, band (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz), security (WEP, WPA, etc), vendor, mode (b/g/n), level (signal to noise), signal percentage, the noise in DBm, and much more. It updates in real time, and doesn’t take up much battery life on your Mac. Using this app is a great first step into reviewing a network, as it will easily allow you to see any issues without the need to jump into the AP or wireless router.

Check out this tool, and if you would like to discuss it further, any of our engineers at Everon would love to talk wireless! Call us at 888-244-1748.

 

Tech Tips for Techs: Windows 10 and the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client

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As a tech who provides remote support, I rely fairly heavily on several VPN clients to connect to a variety of networks for my day-to-day work. I recently acquired the Technical Preview for Windows 10, and immediately installed it on one of my spare laptops.

(Disclaimer – I subscribe to the “every-other-one” theory in regards to Microsoft OSes. This is to say that every other operating system that M$ releases is a complete piece of garbage. e.g.,

Windows 3.1 – crap
Windows 3.11 – not bad
Windows 95 – crap
Windows 98 – not bad
Windows ME – crap
Windows 2000 – not bad
[exception] Windows XP – not bad
Windows Vista – crap
Windows 7 – not bad
Windows 8 – crap

I completely skipped Windows 8 because I despise the interface, so I avoid it like the plague.)

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Microsoft’s Windows 10 Start Menu

That said, I’m surprisingly not-as-disgusted by the Windows 10 interface as I thought I might have been, despite how many remnants of 8 are hanging around. I have to hand it to Microsoft — they did a pretty good job melding the two without completely offending the zealots of both the 7 and 8 camps. After deciding not to promptly format the hard drive after the install, I started installing most of my ‘regular’ applications onto it without any drama until I got to the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client.

I should have known.

After typing in my firewall’s address and pressing Enter, I was promptly greeted with a message saying "Failed to initialize connection subsystem." Gee – that’s nice. A cursory search of the intArwebz brought me to a couple of common things and solutions people have seen with this piece of software: changing the name of the connection in the registry, uninstall and reinstall, deleting multiple instances of the VPN adapter, etc etc. Of all the things I tried, I didn’t think to try the most obvious (which was the winner, I might add.) So much for the K.I.S.S. principle.

First, I changed the DisplayName of the vpnva service in HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\vpnva by deleting the string of garbage in front of the word Cisco (@oem8.inf,%VPNVA64_Desc%). This caused the connection process to “think” a little longer than normal, but ultimately brought up the same error. Drat.

Second, I noticed that the VPN Adapter in my network connections was disabled. Re-enabled it… same problem. Ugh.

Third, I tried uninstalling, cleaning out the registry, rebooting, checking the registry again, rebooting again, and reinstalling. Same problem.

Fourth, I was going to manually tell it to Run as Administrator, but before clicking the option I was reminded about Compatibility Mode. D’oh! How could I have forgotten that? I set it to run in compatibility mode for Windows 7, fired it up, and it connected. Like a charm. No fuss, no muss. Evidently, there’s something about the Windows 10 kernel that causes the 3.1.x AnyConnect software not to want to connect. So for anyone out there running on the bleeding edge, and you use Cisco’s AnyConnect client… check the simple things first. ;)

 

When is enough, ENOUGH? Is it time to just buy a new computer?

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When is enough, enough? There are many scenarios in life where this question could apply, but I want to talk about computers. Like a majority of us, you are probably a thrifty person, or at least try to be. Whether is it buying your printer paper from a company that is cheaper than your previous vendor or buying product licenses in volume, there are plenty of opportunities to save money. That said, if you have that “troublesome” computer in your company (and we all know what it feels like to have “that” machine), how much money are you going to put into fixing it until you finally give into a purchasing a new computer?

Let’s take a brief moment to put some rough numbers to it and hopefully shed light on some things. If you were to pay a technician an hourly rate of $50/hour (yes, this is a low number, but will help solidify my point) to be onsite and troubleshooting/repairing a computer you purchased 4-5 years ago, it more than likely will take anywhere from 1-3 hours for a “normal” problem. Once troubleshooting is done, there could be the additional cost of hardware, as well. So let’s say it is determined, after 2 hours of troubleshooting, that you have a bad NIC (network interface card). That would cost $100 for the onsite rate and let’s say $50 for a new NIC. That’s $150. With this being an older machine, 4 months later you start having more issues. This time the tech is out for another 2 hours and determines that your video card is bad — that’s another $150. (Those numbers don’t even reflect your employee’s lost productivity due to a slow or non-working machine.) I am guessing you are catching on. 

Computers are not that expensive anymore. You can pick up a rather good desktop for $400 and they can last 4-5 years. So why would you spend $300 (just in those 2 examples) on a computer that is old, slowing down, and, frankly, out-of-date? I understand the sticker shock of spending $400+ on a new machine. But as time goes on, more issues will arise, and that $300 you spent on repairs will turn into $500+.

In closing, I would just like to say, for the sake of your time, money, and headaches: if it is going to cost more to fix something, just buy new! And please keep in mind that we, here at Everon, are always here to help you on the purchase of your new machines. Call us at 888-244-1748. Your Account Manager can advise you on the perfect replacement to keep you and your company up and running smoothly and quickly. And saving you money in the long-term!

 

Mac Tips for Techs: Carbon Copy Cloner

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apple logoAs I’ve been getting into my blog-writing career here with Everon, I have been writing a lot of posts about Macs. My love of Macs started before I got into IT. Now that I am in IT I realize that, although I know a lot about the Windows OS, I am not as familiar with Macs, despite owning a few. In all reality, anything you do with a PC can be done on a Mac. (And there are many really cool tools that help you achieve your goals.)

In previous blogs, I have discussed a great cleanup tool called Onyx. I also discussed using the Network Utility tool for a Mac. In my latest blog, I want to discuss a tool that, before we were aware of the tool, we had tried for DAYS to get this working. This tool took our days of work and finished the job in 30 minutes. (I know: anyone who is more Mac-savvy probably could get the job done quicker, but for a Windows engineer, this was a tough task). The tool is called Carbon Copy Cloner.

Carbon Copy Cloner effectively and easily clones a drive in its entirety, so you can put a new drive in and change out hard drives. This is extremely important for many reasons. First off, if your drive is showing SMART errors, and you know the drive might fail soon (which you can find out by using Onyx), you will want to get a new drive in there ASAP. Also, in our case, the client wanted to go from a 240 GB drive to 1 TB in order to increase his disk space. I would also recommend using this if you want to use a solid state drive, as that is becoming the go-to for fast, reliable hard drives.

You can purchase a copy of Carbon Copy Cloner here: https://bombich.com/. However, you can also demo a 30-day trial, which works great for cloning one drive onto another. When starting up CCC, you simply choose your source drive and destination drive (also really great for complete backups), and allow it to copy.

carbon-copy-cloner-image-copy-your-hard-drive_2Once done, if you were copying your bootable drive, you could then put the new drive in and boot off of it.  If you are using it for backup, you could then mount the image and grab whatever you need. It is literally a one-for-one copy of your drive.

This product has a ton of other features, but I am not going to get into the details about those, as you can go to the site and review yourself. However this is my go-to every single time now for closing and replacing hard drives for a Mac. I would strongly urge you to review this product as well.

Up next for my Mac Tips for Techs: NetSpot. Your go-to tool for reviewing wireless networks.