How to Get iOS Devices to Work with Windows Servers

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 Jeff's iOS devices and Windows servers blog-3

A while ago a client asked, “How can I use my Apple iPad with my documents at work?” 

Initially, it seemed like an easy question. Windows computers and iPads are both very popular products; of course there would be an easy solution. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be.

These two large competitors are not very interested in working together. My client, who had his shares on a Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Server and wanted his Apple iPad to access those shares, had presented a challenge.

There were obvious solutions. You could use any number of remote desktop apps, such as Teamviewer, to get into your company’s terminal server, to work on the server’s desktop. But my client did not want to remote-in to anything. He wanted to access the documents without needing any device. He wanted to be able to use his domain credentials to authenticate and access shares.

I realized my solution needed to be broken out into a few parts. The first was to get an iOS device onto a Windows domain network. That’s actually the easiest part out of this entire process; every iOS device has a VPN tool built-in. As long as your network has RRAS (PPTP on port 1723), you can join the device to the network. If you are inside the network and have WiFi, even easier. To find the VPN tool on your iOS device, go to Settings –> VPN. It will request your information for connecting, simple as that. WiFi is in the exact same location (Settings –> WiFi).

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FileBrowser

Once connected to the network, you need to browse SMB shares. Unfortunately, Apple decided not to build this portion into their devices. You need a separate app. I tried out many, but the one I liked most was FileBrowser ($5.99). For any business looking to complete this task, it’s worth the price. FileBrowser allows you to set up locations in your iOS device, called Remote Servers, and connect to see all shares to which your domain credentials have access. For my example we joined a VPN, then mapped a “Remote Server” to an internal IP address where his file server existed, and then reviewed the various shares related to that file server.

If you have your shares locked down in the appropriate security groups, you will only see the shares to which you have access. (FileBrowser doesn’t get around any security flaws that could be present. It’s all based on your domain credentials.

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Google Docs

My client loved this, but he added one last piece to the puzzle. His company didn’t want to just view the files, they wanted to edit them, too. After much searching, I found the best tool for this job in another app (a free one) called QuickOffice, by Google (later replaced by a more powerful version of Office editing, Google Docs.) With Google Docs you can pull up any of the FileBrowser-searched documents, edit them with tools very similar to Microsoft’s Office suite, and then place them back on the server.

Although it sounds complicated, all the apps worked together seamlessly to allow my client’s company to review and edit files in their Windows environment, thus allowing them to integrate Apple devices into their Windows domain. And in the end, my client was happy.

For more information on how you can integrate your Apple products into a Windows domain, call Everon at 1-888-244-1748.

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Microsoft to Stop Making Windows OS: How this will impact your business

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windows 10 - last osIn a recent conference speech, Jerry Nixon, a Microsoft exec, announced that Windows 10 will be the software giant’s last operating system. Instead of creating an entirely new OS after Windows 10 is released (widely rumored to happen in July), Microsoft will continue to make improvements to Windows 10 through regular updates.

This type of OS-updating is already seen to some extent with the Apple OSX architecture. Nixon stated that a big reason behind the move was due to how the development team would lock themselves away for three years to create the next operating system… but their end-result would be a product the world wanted three years ago. Given how quickly technology changes, this new process will be a welcome departure.

Microsoft has not yet determined what it will call its iterations, post-Windows 10. However, we will not see the continued numerical names to its OS. Microsoft also mentioned that this will help sales, as the idea of selling end users on entirely new operating systems has become increasingly difficult. This way of thinking can be somewhat attributed to the failures of Vista and Windows 8.

Windows 10 will have some version of the Start Menu, which is what seemed to be a stopping point for many businesses. You can download a free preview of the operating system here. (For information on how to create a virtual Windows 10 preview, see my previous blog post, found here.)

Of special note, if you are a small-medium business: you can rejoice in the fact that you will no longer have to have a test machine in your network, to test all of your applications and specialized network setup, every time Microsoft releases a brand new OS. Once your company moves to Windows 10, you should not need to worry about having a new operating system, preventing your company from moving to the latest version. (Although you will want to ensure you are getting the appropriate updates, as they will be critical for keeping your computers protected, and allowing Microsoft to patch security flaws.)

Microsoft’s updates to Windows 10 will likely be free, similar to the way Apple handles its updates to OSX. In fact, if you own Windows 7 or later, and you update within the first year of Windows 10′s release, you will get Windows 10 for free. (Details for that can be found here.) The Windows 10 free upgrade is also free for users who have pirated software as well. (Details for that can be found here.) Microsoft is allowing this to happen to help combat piracy and ensure their OS is patched and in the hands of as many end users as possible.

Microsoft’s idea of giving away their OS for free is a departure from their old way of thinking. It is a strategic move, as Microsoft continues to battle Apple for the OS user base.

Microsoft has made some other bold changes lately, including a decision to discontinue its popular web browser Internet Explorer for its new product, Spartan. Spartan will reportedly be lightweight and very similar to other popular lightweight browsers on the market, such as Chrome and Firefox. The new browser will appear on Windows 10.

Our engineers at Everon are constantly staying on top of the tech-trends that affect small to medium businesses. If you have any questions about Microsoft or Windows 10, feel free to call 1-888-244-1748.

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Networking Macs & PCs Together

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 windows and mac communicating

Here at Everon we primarily deal with the Windows environment. However, as Macs have become increasingly popular in the business world, we have gone with the tides and have been assisting in the troubleshooting of Macs, as well. At times, however, those two different types of operating systems can conflict with each other. Here’s how to solve that.

I, myself, have an Apple Mac on Mavericks OS and an HP machine on Windows 7 Professional OS. Sometimes I need to send files back and forth between the two, so my best idea was to set up a mapped drive between the two machines.

To do this, I started on my Windows PC and created a folder. Due to issues with security under user profiles, I created the folder on my C:\ drive called “Mac.” Once that was created, I right-clicked on the folder, and went into Properties ->Sharing and shared out the folder.

Mac1I then went into Advanced Sharing ->Permissions and ensured that “Everyone” was set to “Full Control.” When dealing with permissions in a Windows environment, it is always best to use your Security permissions as your more restrictive permissions. Sharing should always be set to allow everyone full control, and then you tighten it down from there. (Maybe I will write a blog post about that later. ;) )

Once that is done, go to the Security tab and set your permissions. For me, since I wasn’t too concerned with the security of this share, I simply allowed “Everyone” to have “Modify” permissions (not “Full Control”). The difference between “Modify” and “Full Control” in a Windows environment, is that “Full Control” allows the user/group the ability to change/edit permissions and take ownership. This could mean that someone can lock you out of your own share. “Modify”allows creation, deletion, editing of files and folders inside that share, but does not allow for modifying any properties of that share.

Mac2Now you can lock down your permissions to just your Mac (however, I am not going into that here). Once you have allowed “Everyone” the “Modify” rights to your share, you are ready to share it out on your Mac.

Go to your Mac, and in the Finder, go to GO ->Connect to Server:

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I have modified the image to remove my computer name. However the address string you need to type is the following: smb://{computername}/{sharename}. If you hit the + symbol, it will add this location as your favorites, so you don’t have to type it repeatedly.

Once you have that set, hit “Connect.” This will pop up a new window requesting credentials. These are login credentials to your machine, so input your username and password, and hit Connect:

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This maps the share to your Mac, and you are ready to go! As you can see, I have the mapped share set to show up on my Mac desktop, however this isn’t done automatically, as it merely opens the folder.

Mac5To get the share to show up on your desktop, go to Finder ->Preferences, and inside Preferences put a check mark on Connected Servers. That is it!

Mac6For more help with networking your office Macs to your office PCs, call our technicians at Everon at 1-888-244-1748!

 

Identifying Computer Ports on PCs: a primer for everybody

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In the world of being a remote technician, we sometimes have to talk clients through physical troubleshooting techniques, whether it’s walking them through BIOS settings or plugging a cable into a port on their PC. As a client, how can you understand what your tech is telling you?

Communication is key, but a diagram is even better. Take a look at what my co-worker Frank sent over to me earlier today. This excellent diagram goes through most of the identifiable ports on a standard PC. (Apple’s Macs are a different animal, altogether.) If you are the client, this diagram can help you better understand (and explain things to) your technician.

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Photo used with permission from removeandreplace.com.

At the top left, you have ports that have all been replaced by USB technology. These can be considered the dinosaurs of the PC ports world. Serial and parallel ports were used for connecting many peripherals to the computer, in particular printers. This is generally no longer the case.

The ports on the upper right-hand corner are all dedicated to video. These are what link most monitors to computers — the old style of connecting (i.e. non-wirelessly). VGA is still used today, and many monitors also support DVI. Realize, however, that DVI (Digital Video Interface) is not just the connection you see above. The various DVI cables have a range of uses. Here is a great guide for explaining those differences.

The next two areas, networking ports on the left, and USB ports on the right, are the two most common causes of questions. Ethernet ports are what CAT5e/CAT6 cabling plugs into. It is your most standard method of connection to networks, like the one at your office, and to the Internet. (The RJ14 connection is not used much any longer. This port was for modems and analog phones.) USB A is the most standard connection you will see to plugged into the computer, and USB B is the type of connection on the other end, in cases such as printers, external drives, etc. The mini and micro versions of USB are used primarily for cell phones, digital cameras, etc.

The next section details audio connections on the left, and Firewire connections on the right. The Audio connections are color-coordinated for your understanding. As for Firewire technology, this isn’t seen too terribly much, despite it being faster bandwidth than USB. Firewire grew in popularity in Macs, however, not so much with PCs.

The bottom sections show power cables and miscellaneous connections you might see on a PC. Many computers nowadays are coming with Display Port, which allows you to connect a second monitor to your PC. The eSata connection is an external SATA connection, which provides an even faster connection to your machine from the outside. SATA connections, or Serial ATA technology, is what most hard drives are being built with. This connection allows you to connect a hard drive and provides for very fast speeds.

For the most part, Macs have the same ports as PCs (USB, audio, etc.), however, they do have some proprietary ports/cabling that does not come on PCs. A few examples are the Lightning Port and the Thunderbolt Port. Lightning ports are in newer iPhones (past the iPhone 4) and are used for charging those devices. The Thunderbolt port takes PCIe and Display Port technology and combines them to make a very fast connection. You can read more about the Thunderbolt port here.

Newer, faster ports and cabling are coming out all of the time, so eventually this list will be full of dinosaurs. But it’s a great starting point to help understand what all of those fancy holes in your computer mean! ;) And remember, if you have questions about this, or need any other tech help, you can always reach us at 888-244-1748. We’re available 24/7, 365.

 

 

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

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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.