Tech Tips for Techs: Microsoft utility for resolving Exchange calendar issues

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In this tech tip, I want to talk about one of Microsoft’s automated tools that you can use to help check for and {sometimes} to resolve issues with Exchange-based calendars. This applies to both on-premise Exchange as well as to Office 365. The utility is called CalCheck, and it was most recently updated back in July of 2014.

Available for download directly from Microsoft [HERE]; it will install and run on everything from Windows XP SP3 all the way through Windows 8.1. There are several ways and options with which to run the tool, but for the purposes of the article I’m only going to cover two of them.

The first, “read only,” will process whatever mailbox you point it at, outputting the log and error files to the directory in which CalCheck is running from.

1. Open a command prompt in the CalCheck directory. In my case, this is in my Downloads\CalCheck_x86 folder. Type calcheck and press Enter. It will prompt you for the profile that you want to check. (It’s important to note that you will need an Outlook profile on your machine for the mailbox you want to check, unless you know the LegacyExchangeDN for that mailbox.) Choose the profile, and click OK. The program will proceed to check the calendar, and will notify you in the command prompt when it’s finished.

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2. Same as the first (except we’ll be adding a flag), type calcheck -F into the command prompt. You will be asked again for which profile you want and the program will proceed as it did in “read only” mode. The notable exception is that for any problematic items it finds, it will create a folder in the Inbox called CalCheck and move them into that folder. See the screenshot below for a calendar I ran this on that should have only had about 1,400 items total… CalCheck found over 100,000! It took close to 3 hours to process and clean out the entire calendar!

15-0119_calcheck_clean

The README file in the CalCheck download will provide much better detail on the other options available to you when running this utility, but this post should give you a good starting point if you find yourself dealing with a problematic calendar where you’re unable to pin down a specific issue.

 

Security on a Mac: Setting Passwords & Locking your Screen

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I use a Mac and a PC at my job, and one thing we fall victim to, if we do not lock our computer when we walk away, is we end up coming back to a desktop wallpaper of David Hasselhoff.

Knight Rider

You could wind up with this on your screen. Or worse.

So we are always told to lock our PCs. Fortunately, this is easy to do. You simply press the Windows key + L and it locks your machine (The Windows key is the key between ctrl and alt, that has the Windows flag on it).

But I also needed to find a way to lock my Mac — which isn’t as easy as the nice, two-key combo Microsoft has laid out for us.

You can lock a Mac through key combinations. In newer Macs, you can click control + shift + the power button, and you will see your screen go black, and if you tap any key on the keyboard, it will wake up the screen, and you can see that your Mac is locked.

However, in my case, I can’t even reach my power button, so this just won’t work. What I do (and I consider this the best and easiest way to lock a Mac) is to lock by using Keychain Access.

Keychain Access is the equivalent of Windows Credential Manager, in that it saves passwords that you frequently use on the Mac. In order to use Keychain Access for locking your Mac, you will, of course, need to set a password on your Mac (otherwise what’s the point in locking, if users can hit ‘return’ and go right into your Mac).

To set a password on a Mac, click on the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner of the Mac, and go to System Preferences. From there you will see a location called Users & Groups.

Preferences

Inside Users & Groups, you will see your account listed. You might have to click on the lock, down in the lower left-hand corner, to make changes (if you do, it will require a password, and if you have none set, you can simply click OK). Once you have the ability to edit your account, click on it. You will see the location, next to your photo, that states Reset Password. This is where you will enter your password.

You can then click the lock to prevent further changes and move on to Keychain Access.

When you launch Keychain Access, you won’t need to do anything in the window that pops up, only in the Preferences for Keychain Access. To access Preferences, click on the words “Keychain Access” in the upper left-hand corner, and go to Preferences…

In Preferences, under the General tab, put a check mark where it states: Show keychain status in menu bar

Keychain

This adds an unlocked lock in the menu bar in the upper right hand corner of your Mac. If you now click on that icon, you have an option to ‘Lock Screen’.

Lock

It’s as simple as that!

 

How to Properly Dispose of Laptop Batteries

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battery garbage can-2

Don’t do this!

Many people don’t know how to properly dispose of laptop batteries. We’re so accustomed to tossing anything and everything into the garbage without fully understanding the negative effects it can have on our environment. Now, I’m no environmental expert, but I do know that batteries contain all sorts of hazardous chemicals. If they end up in a landfill, those harmful substances are easily entered into the food chain, affecting both wildlife and humans.

 

Here are some ways you can safely dispose of your batteries:

Recycle!

Contact Manufacturers – Computer manufacturers like Dell and Apple offer recycling services to their customers. They can even make arrangements with you to schedule a pickup directly from your home or office.

Local Computer Retailers - Several computer retailers also provide recycling bins inside their stores, which is convenient for those of us who are constantly on the go.

Call2Recycle Collection Points – this is a non-profit organization that sets up free collections sites across the country. You can locate your nearest collection point on their website.

Contact your Waste Collector

Reach out to your local waste collector and request information about the removal of hazardous waste. In most communities, collectors will pick up these materials (separate from regular trash pickup). They also offer return-by-mail recycling kits that are postage-paid. You simply mail your kit to the collector and they take the necessary steps in proper disposal.

Whether you decide to recycle or use your community disposal service, always place your battery in a closed container or re-sealable bag to avoid contamination in the event of a leak. If you have any questions regarding the disposal of your laptop batteries, don’t hesitate to call us at Everon, at 888-244-1748.

We’re available 24/7, 365.

 

Tech Tips for Techs: God Mode

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Lately, I have been writing about little-known tips that technicians can use to assist in working on their customers’ machines. Another tip that is not well known, but is VERY cool and helpful, is God Mode.

God Mode was introduced in Windows 7, and Microsoft has carried it over to Windows 8. It is simple to do and allows you access to so many areas of the operating system — all in one location. For clients who might have a slow PC or possible virus issues, this is a great tool because it gives you access to 270 control panel functions, some of them not easily found.

Here are the steps to enable God Mode on your Windows 7, or Windows 8 PC:

  • Step #1: Create a folder on your desktop.
  • Step #2: Rename that folder this exactly: “GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}” (minus the quotations).

Your folder will change to look like the Control Panel icon…

GodMode… and inside that folder, you will have a wealth of tools at your fingertips!

GodMode2This is a great tool for any technician, as it puts everything into one convenient location. You don’t have to spend time searching the OS for the right tool. They are all right here now!

 

Staying Safe in the Digital Age

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In today’s world, nearly everything is interconnected. While this provides many great conveniences it does increase the risk of sensitive information landing in unwanted hands. It seems every other week there is news about a new security breach and, while these may be out of your hands, there are things you can start doing right now to minimize having your sensitive info or data hacked.

Passwords
  • Never write passwords down, especially on a sticky note around your desk.
  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Never share your passwords with anyone.
  • Use strong passwords with upper case, lower case, numbers, special characters, and at least 8 characters, overall.
  • Avoid common passwords like “Password1”, “abc123”, “123456”, etc.
Email
  • Do not open emails, attachments, or click links in emails from people you don’t know or are not expecting.
  • Do not click on links in emails that ask you to type in your credentials. Always visit the desired site by typing it into your web browser. A common trick called “phishing” is where you are routed to a look-alike site and have to put your info in.
  • One common method is someone gets hacked and email is sent out to people in their address book. If the sender is familiar but not the content of what they sent, use caution.
Web Browsing
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is (free games, easy money, you’ll never believe this one secret, etc).
  • Never login into an unsecure website. Depending on your browser, a secure site is usually indicated by a lock icon.
  • Avoid clicking on advertisements or pop-up ads. This is a good way to get unwanted cookies or malware on your computer.
Miscellaneous
  • Make sure all your mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc) have a lock screen with a password, pin, or other form of security.
  • Lock your computer whenever you walk away by pressing “Windows Key + L.”
  • Reboot once a week. Some Windows updates cannot apply until your PC is rebooted, which can prevent other updates from applying. This may also help with general performance of your PC as well.

This list only scratches the surface, but hopefully it has provided some good ideas about what you can do. Ultimately, if you are ever in doubt, get a second opinion from your IT department (if that’s Everon, call us at 888-244-1748) before clicking that link or opening that email!

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