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. ;)

 

Google Chrome Malware Cleaner

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Google Chrome has quickly become a top contender in wanting to be your internet browser of choice. With its speed, customizability, and ease of use, I thoroughly enjoy and recommend it to everyone. Unfortunately, when any application starts to gain attention and a user base it also gains the attention of malware developers.

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Browser malware can interrupt many things. It can hijack your searches to other search providers. It can add an incredible amount of ads and/or pop-ups. Or it can simply just slow things down to a crawl when browsing or opening/closing the application itself.

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That’s where the Google Chrome Software Removal Tool comes into play. It is available to download at https://www.google.com/chrome/srt/.

Downloading and running the tool will do a quick scan, which will check for anything suspicious, then request to clear caches and such.

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Very handy tool worth checking out, if Chrome is acting up for you. Only takes a few moments! 

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.

 

Microsoft Announces Windows 10!

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The new Windows 10 Start Menu, with customizable panel

Windows 10 is on its way for a release before the end of 2015! Microsoft announced earlier this week that they are releasing their latest operating system on all platforms before the end of 2015, which includes Xbox, smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops.

This is very exciting news, however, the first question anyone who’s following Microsoft might ask is: “What happened to Windows 9?”

Microsoft has been talking about its imminent Windows 9 OS, pretty much ever since the backlash over a missing Start Menu in Windows 8. So why are they abandoning 9? They chose to move forward from 9 to create a unified theme between all platforms. Here is the direct response from Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft:

“This product, when you see [it in its], fullness, I think you’ll agree with us that it’s a more appropriate name. That fullness applies to Windows Phone, too, which will see Windows 10 as its next major upgrade. Windows 10 is built for “screens from 4 to 80 inches.”

Terry Myerson, MS Executive Vice President also states:

“Windows 9 name wouldn’t be right, given the new One Microsoft internal strategy. Hence the move to Windows 10.”

This move to Windows 10 is going to be a huge test for Microsoft, as it is increasingly becoming whispered that Windows 8 is considered a failure, along the lines of the Windows Vista OS.

From early previews of this new OS, however, great things have been said. (For anyone who would like to try the early preview of the Windows 10 OS, you can sign up and download the OS for free here: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=510225 (64-bit preview).)

From the early preview, Microsoft has stated it is interested in taking the best parts of Windows 7 and Windows 8 to combine into creating the best operating system yet. Going to a unified operating system for all of Microsoft’s platforms will present a nice solution to integration of the various platforms into a small business environment, making the transition from smartphone, to laptop, to tablet a much easier process for even the most basic user.

Here at our Everon office we have downloaded and installed the tech preview for Windows 10. Just from the past few hours of reviewing it we can report that Microsoft has included a ton of features that are going to help technicians troubleshoot the OS quicker and more efficiently. Stay tuned for future blogs on the various features and find out what you can expect from Microsoft, with regard to this OS. If you have any questions about it, feel free to call our technicians at 1-888-244-1748. We are pretty excited about the changes they have made and would be happy to share our excitement with anyone willing to listen. :)