Tech Tips for Techs: Outlook Signature Creation

Standard

 

I recently had a client ask me how to input photos and hyperlinks into  his Outlook signatures, to make them stand-out better. I realized this is an often-overlooked art that should be well-known.

In order to recreate the steps necessary for this blog, I am using an Exchange account with Outlook 2010. Your results might vary.

In order to edit and create signatures, in Outlook 2010 you can browse to:

File –>Options –>Mail –>Signatures. 

This opens a window that allows you to create and edit your signatures. Let’s start by creating a new signature. 

Set up the normal text you need in the signature. As you can see, the options you are given is very similar to Word. You can modify the color, font and size of all text. Input everything you need and, once done, you are ready to insert hyperlinks and really take your signature to another level.

The first step is to download all of the photos you need in your signatures. Many professional social media sites give you links that they prefer you to use. Microsoft also gives you links and a brief tutorial here as well.

Once you have the photos downloaded, you can insert them into your signature. Click on the “insert picture” link, navigate to your photo, and insert it into your signature.

Sign1Once your picture is in the signature, click on it (you will see blocks appear around the picture) and click the hyperlink button.

Sign2

This opens a new window that allows you to type the hyperlink you need to input.

sign3The middle area does not matter what it is set on. You just to have to ensure you are choosing the first option on the left “Existing file or Web Page,” and then type the address properly in the address bar. Once you do that, you will have a clickable link in your signature!

A couple of things to note about Outlook signatures: The type of signature creation I am reviewing with you is only for users who can read HTML emails. If the client to whom you are sending an email cannot read HTML for their email (i.e. if they are using Outlook Web Access), then they can only see Plain Text.

Plain Text is a type of view that does not allow for pictures, or any editable features, such as colored, specialized fonts. I would also recommend creating a signature that you can use for Plain Text, should you need it. This is just a standard signature with no color, no special fonts, no pictures or hyperlinks. You can then pick and choose what signature to use. This is convenient to ensure any formatting you create always stays current with your brand.

Also, once you input the pictures, you do not need to save them on your machine, as once you input them into Outlook, Outlook takes the pictures and saves them into their AppData. If you set up your signature and test, be aware that if you are testing with an account that cannot send the email back in HTML, it will break the links.

One example is if you set up the links, then send to your Gmail account, and respond via Gmail on a smartphone, it will send the email back and the formatting will show the name of the picture, and NOT the picture itself (hyper-links will still work, but you won’t see your photo)

See below for an idea of what this looks like when you receive a reply that is not formatted in HTML:

sign4

 

Pictures can be in any format that is acceptable for pictures (.gif, .jpeg, .png), and when you add them to your signature, it really enhances the look and marketability of your brand!

Sign5

 

 

Mac Tips for Techs: Activity Monitor -the Task Manager for a Mac

Standard

 

Before my Mac completely ticked me off, and I broke up with Apple, I was dealt a blow had been frustrating and ongoing (more on that in later blog posts). I had not been able to get my machine to turn off the digital optical out; my speakers were unusable on my MacBook Pro.

Because of this, and after a ton of Google research, I had been trying various troubleshooting techniques. One of them was to stop the CoreAudio service.

On a PC this is simple: you open Task Manager, you browse the running processes, and you kill them. However, how do you stop processes from running on a Mac? You can use a great utility called Activity Monitor, which is a built-in tool on the Mac that can be found by typing Activity Monitor into your spotlight.

ActivityMonitorFrom here, this should look pretty similar to Task Manager. You have your processes listed, and you can sort the list in a variety of ways. You can also select individual processes and click the X in the upper left-hand corner to kill the process.

You can also search the processes via how they affect memory, energy, disk, or the network, in addition to the default of CPU. This is crucial if you are troubleshooting certain issues with your Mac — such as whether you are low on RAM, or maybe the Mac’s battery life is dying too quickly (check the energy tab).

This is a great tool for troubleshooting a Mac, and should be included in any technician’s toolkit.

 

Dear Mac Users, sorry for your loss…. move on.

Standard

 

Lately I have been writing a lot of blog posts for my love of all things Apple, and for the most part I am still very much in love with Apple products. However, this week has been hell for me with my Mac mini at work. I feel the need to vent here.

As I have mentioned before in blog posts (found here and here), you might want to think twice about installing Yosemite. But the allure of having the latest OS for my Mac was getting to me, so over the past several weeks, I had been trying to install Yosemite on my Mac… with discouraging results.

When downloading and installing Yosemite, I would consistently receive the following error:

YosemiteInstallErrorI did extensive research to find out what was going on. I even downloaded the Yosemite installation on a separate Mac on a separate network, and still, when trying to install on my Mac mini at work, I received the error.

I even tried creating a bootable Yosemite USB drive (found here), but no luck! What gives?!

After much research, I thought the answer was that I was using an Apple account to download the package that was not associated with a previously purchased OS. I had heard grumblings that you cannot install Yosemite unless you have a previous OS on your Apple account (which I didn’t necessarily believe), however, I figured, “Why not?” So I signed in with my personal Apple account. I have a purchased OS on the account, I tried the update, and that’s when everything went dark.

This might as well have been what happened to my Mac-Mini...

This may as well have been what happened to my Mac-Mini…

My Mac gave me the Apple-equivalent of the blue screen of death:

BSOD

I tried restarting the Mac and found that not only could I not finish Yosemite, but I couldn’t boot into Mavericks, either! Oh no! What will happen to all of my sweet cat photos that I use as wallpapers? (No, I did not back up this Mac beforehand.)

This is one of my favorites; Starcraft Kitteh...

This is one of my favorites; Starcraft Kitteh. (Source: http://catsinspacesuits.tumblr.com/)

I ended up booting into the recovery utilities (Apple+R) and trying to repair the disk via Disk Utility. Sadly, it would not repair the disk. To be honest, I have been in this situation before, and I have NEVER seen Disk Utility actually repair the OS, so I didn’t have high hopes.

I also tried testing the hardware on the Mac by holding down the D-key upon startup. I received an error stating that it could not connect to Apple to perform the tests (this is an Internet-based test). I had nothing left to do but to go back to Mavericks with a new installation.

I installed Mavericks and decided, “Now that I have a fresh, completely new version of a Mac OSX, maybe I can update to Yosemite now?”

NOPE.

NOPE.

No matter what I did, I could not update to Yosemite. Fine. If Yosemite didn’t want me, I didn’t want it. I would stay with Mavericks and enjoy my Apple life.

Upon deciding to install the rest of my applications, I was greeted with another Mac BSOD! And again, like last time, I could not boot to Mavericks! Argh!

At this point, I was done with Apple. I was ready to become a Microsoft lifer and swear off Apples forever. However, I powered through, installed Mavericks one more time, and installed all of my applications.

At this point, though, I am cowering in fear of my Mac mini. I feel like, any wrong turn, and I will receive the ill-fated BSOD. I am scared of my Mac right now, and that isn’t the way to be. As a technician, you can’t be scared of the system you are working on. Being an IT engineer, you need the confidence that you can fix anything. That is the best way to succeed in this ever-challenging business, so, with that, I need to learn more about Macs. I need to learn how to read the kernel panic commands I am receiving, and I need to take charge and show the Mac who is boss!

I figure in the coming weeks I will tackle this head-on and try to beat it. But for right now I am a wounded duck, cowering in the weeds, hoping the hunter doesn’t find me.

I expect that my love of all things Apple will come rushing back when I make a breakthrough. Then, you can expect more Mac posts from me. But not at the present moment. Right now, Apple and I are having a little spat.

 

ISIS Attacks, Duped CEOs, Baby Monitor Hacks, and Data Privacy Day

Standard

DPD_profile_icon (All Platforms)

 

Today is Data Privacy Day. Celebrated in the US and Canada (and in Europe as Data Protection Day), Data Privacy Day commemorates the 1981 signing of the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. Here are some compromises that are going on in the world today and ways you can protect yourself.

Email

Early January, 2015. Emails being sent all over Australia looked as though they were being sent from News Corp Australia, a leading Australian news company (part of Rupert Murdoch’s dynasty). They had a subject line, “ISIS attacks in Sydney?” They carried attachments that looked like Word documents. Unfortunately, when users clicked the attachment to read the news story, they unleashed “a malicious attachment that could allow hackers to access targeted computers.” (Source.)

Data Privacy Day reminder: The bad guys are very clever, and they have no conscience. Never, never, never click on an email attachment—even if you think you know the sender—unless it’s something you were expecting. When in doubt, contact your IT department.

Company finances and sensitive business info

Late January 2015. News blew up about a sophisticated email scam which targets CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and Controllers. In the scam, a victim receives an email that looks as though it’s coming from a legitimate vendor with whom the company already does business, or sometimes from the company’s own founder or CEO, and requesting a wire transfer. (Source.) Since late 2013 an estimated 1,200 U.S. businesses have lost upwards of $180 million. (Source.)

In similar, recent attacks, a group of hackers infiltrated the emails of senior execs at biotech companies. The hackers were apparently native English speaking, and were savvy enough with Wall Street lingo, that they were easily able to dupe their targets into dishing sensitive company info. The hackers have not yet been caught. It is believed that their motive is to garner enough intel to be able “to affect global financial markets.” (Source.)

Data Privacy Day reminder: Again, there’s not much you could do to recognize these very clever criminals—especially through the veil of cyberspace. (Chris Hanson, “To Catch a Predator,” anyone?) In both of these cases, though, emails were hacked and read—this is how the criminals discovered a lot of the specialized details that made them seem like insiders. Change your passwords often, and if your information is truly sensitive, consider encrypting the email. Also, ask your IT company whether all of your security policies are up to date (including firewalls, antivirus, etc.).

Internet of Everything

On the news last night and this morning, a major headline was about baby monitors being hacked. Baby monitors! A creepy guy decided to freak out a nanny in Houston, Texas, by letting her know he was watching as she changed the baby’s diaper. And who knows how long he’d been sitting there, checking out things on the networked cameras all around the house? It’s not the first instance of baby monitor hacking, just the most recent. (Source.)

Data Privacy Day reminder: Another challenge we face, as more and more things are interconnected through cyberspace, is security. The baby monitor’s camera, in this case, was not password protected, even though the family’s WiFi, to which the camera was connected, was password protected. The baby monitor’s manufacturer has made changes to its software, but not all of its customers did the software updates. The manufacturer also notes that the most common ways baby monitors are hacked is because of users’ easy-to-guess passwords. Make sure to always do updates to any software you have and create a unique, difficult password to your home’s WiFi. Use of both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation make your password exponentially stronger. This will detour all but the most sophisticated hackers — and sometimes even them.

And remember, if you have any questions, you can always contact us here, at Everon. We’re available 24/7 at 888-244-1748. We can also be reached at info@everonit.com. We’re here for you!

 

Tech Tips for Techs: Windows Animations vs PC Speed

Standard

 

One of the issues we constantly get calls on is how to speed up the user’s PC to make it run faster. While there are many ideas out there on how to do this properly, I am going to discuss one area that was introduced in Windows Vista, and more-so in 7 and beyond, that bears keeping in mind when trying to speed up a Windows PC.

Windows Animations are something you might miss (especially if you have been using a Vista or greater OS for a while now). They are the little pieces of flair that Microsoft has added to your OS to give it a smoother, less block-y feel.

Click on Windows Explorer. Notice how it briefly expanded to its proper size? Ever notice how certain menus can fade or slide into view? These animations give you the appearance that Windows is smooth, but all of these animations must use up a bit of processing to handle.

Here is where you can turn them all off.

You need to get to the Advanced System Settings, found in the System Properties of your OS. One way to get there is to click on the Start logo ->right click on the word Computer ->go to Properties. 

Under Properties, on the left hand side of the window, click on Advanced System Settings. This opens up System Properties, on the Advanced tab. On this tab, click on Settings under the area called Performance.

The window on the right is what opens when you click 'settings' on the window on the left.

The window on the right is what opens when you click ‘settings’ on the window on the left.

As you can see, the default is to allow Windows to choose what’s best for the computer. However, you can change that to either “Adjust for Best Appearance” or “Adjust for Best Performance.” If you chose “Adjust for Best Performance,” all of the check marks will go away (under Custom, which is another option, as you can turn individual animations on or off), and you will be left with an OS that does not run any animations. It will thus be a bit faster, albeit a bit uglier.

The difference in speed that you are likely to see is very minimal — this is just one small step to making the machine run faster. However, instead of animating the opening of windows, etc., they now snap right open. Even the appearance of this is likely to make you, or your client feel as if the machine is running faster. Sometimes even just small differences are what counts.