Happy Holidays Bring Unwanted Scams!




Hello again. As the year comes to an end, and with the holidays in the works, there is an ever-growing risk of scams and stolen credit card information. I am going to talk about some of the common types of these things and ways to protect yourself.

One of the most common scams that I have seen is an advertisement of a “good deal” on a product that is a “must have” for the holidays. They are usually holiday coupons for phones or tablets at low costUsually these deals come via email, and the price seems almost too good to be true. Well, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. 

Next, it always seems that around the holidays that credit card theft is at a high. The utilization of credit cards in order to purchase high dollar gift cards, spent at local stores for cash back, online purchase, etc. Keep an eye on your bank accounts and beware where you do you online shopping.

There have also been a lot of scams going on that seem to come from USPS, FedEx, IRS, UPS, etc. I recently got a call from a toll number that left a voicemail stating the IRS was suing me and to call back to rectify my account. It was not an 800 number and I obviously don’t have any legal actions pending from the IRS. As for the postal service and the other couriers, if you get a call, text, or email stating that you received a package and your personal information is needed in order to receive it, disregard and do not respond, let alone provide any information. The IRS, USPS, and other organizations would never contact you by phone asking you for your information. 

Amazon, hotels, and retail chains have also been “spoofed” as well. Consumers have been getting emails stating that there was a transaction processed in error and “click here” to process your refund. This can lead to stolen information and infection of your computer. If you get an email stating you are due a refund, check your account and make sure you actually were charged for what they are stating and DO NOT respond. 

Bottom line: think twice and be cautious. If the deal sounds too good to be true, then it is! If you really think about it, if these things were actually real, you would not be contacted in the way that these scams do.

Have a happy holiday and be safe, both physically and financially!

Awesome Tool For Active Directory



CJWDev logo

Active Directory is the main tool for housing all users’ information and keeping them tied to the network, enabling employees to perform and save work. This role is crucial and can keep the lifeblood of the company running in the background, as all the data is saved and stored on the server. However, there are times when data or a spreadsheet is a useful visual aid for organizing or research. Active Directory, although outfitted with many features, does not contain a tool for exportable data so that it can viewed in a simple text format. But there is a vital tool on the Internet that can help tremendously with this bottleneck. It is called AD Info. It is completely free and is the creation of cjwdev.com.


AD Info is a simple download and a quick install. It opens up to the same choices as AD, with categories ranging from “computers” through “users,” which are all searchable. Once a category is selected, options then range from “users modified in x amount of days” to “users that are hidden from GAL” to even searching for specific groups or by logon script are all available choices. Searches in AD are quick, easy, and are easy to export since, after the search is done, there is a simple feature to “export results.”

This can become a vital tool for any business that needs to have legible data from AD that is not ever normally accessed unless individuals manually pull everything up and export it themselves. It saves an extraordinary amount of time and will allow more awareness and accurate data for the company. 


Website Building: A Tale of Destruction



I have mentioned in older posts that I am a different type of IT engineer. I am not one to look up the latest trends and the coolest gadgets. I do IT work because I was introduced to it a few years back, and out of all of the various career paths I have chosen this one seems to work well. I am still learning something new every single day and will continue to learn in this career path, which I think is a big reason I stay in IT.

Speaking of learning….

This past weekend I tried my hand at learning how to build a website. As frustrating as this experience should have been, I had a blast. Unfortunately, after the weekend is now up, I have nothing to show for it. But here is my story.

It all started with a conversation with my friend, Kyle. We took some ridiculous photos of him and my cats, and he wanted a site to host them. I told him I own a website and would love to set them up there. The problem is, I don’t know how to build a website! I own a name, hosted at GoDaddy, and I’d built a place marker (I think that’s what you call it), but didn’t know where to start.


Here is Kyle with my cat, Buddy. His photos MUST go onto the Internet somewhere. The world needs more of this.

In any case, I began trying to build a website. I know nothing about HTML code, so I figured if I got a GUI interface, somehow, maybe I would have a chance. GoDaddy gives you a list of free applications to help you build a website. Out of the list, I recognized an old foe: DotNetNuke.


I had learned a little bit about this application from my former company. They’d had several websites built with this application, and they’d tasked me to manage it. It’s been a few years since I held that position, but I felt like I understood enough to be able to build a cool looking website. Unfortunately, this weekend was a lesson in humility.

I installed the application, which was incredibly easy to do. Within GoDaddy’s interface, you launch your Web Hosting control panel, and in your drop-down for various web hosting options, you go to Applications:

GoDaddy1When you go into Applications, you will see a ton of free applications offered by GoDaddy. Installing is a breeze. You click what you want, answer a few basic questions, and let it go. Within moments I was ready to work in DotNetNuke.

In DNN you have what are called Skins and Containers. Skins are the layout of the website. DNN installs a default one called Gravity that shows a website called Awesome Cycles. It is a very clean looking, grey website. However, for what I wanted to do, I wanted a dark website. So if you don’t like the Gravity skin, you can install any number of skins that are available in the DNN interface. I did not want to pay for a skin, so I reviewed the free DNN skins and chose one that I found on Codeplex (a site for open source material).

Containers, or Modules, as they are called in the community, are the various components that make up a site. (The rest of the world might be familiar if I refer to them as widgets.) You can install all sorts of modules for your site, including HTML modules (the most popular), calendar, file manager, photo book, PayPal modules, etc. I ripped out all of the modules on the site so I could see the bare skin and begin editing.


Here is what my blank skin looked like, courtesy of ZeroFour.

From this point I believed I was ready to move. However, the header and footer information had to go. I am not a part of ZeroFour, and I wanted to change the background photo. This is where I had problems. I had no idea how to change this. It was the same with the Gravity skin for Awesome Cycles. I figured out how to change the logo, but I couldn’t edit anything. The background was grey, with a dark grey outline of the world, and I didn’t want that. If I could have done a simple black background, I would have.

I will say this: if anyone who knows DNN reads this post, they would probably know how to do it instantly and call me dumb for not being able to figure it out. Unfortunately, I was stuck with this basic task. I needed to edit header and footer information, and it wasn’t well described in any context of the menu.

Regarding the menu for DNN, here is what it looks like (you have to sign in as admin or host, under which are accounts you set up in the beginning of the installation). The host account is a super-user account, and the admin account is a portal, admin-type account.


I could go into extreme details on how to edit pages, insert and delete modules, and modify many aspects of the DNN site, but, unfortunately, my time with DNN is over. Really, the biggest thing that drove me crazy was having issues easily editing the header/footer of the site. I was hoping these would be considered modules, but they were glued somehow to the skin and not easily editable.

So, after discussing this with a few employees here who are much more in the know about websites, my journey will end with DNN and will begin with WordPress. This is another, very popular site-building tool that I am going to dive into. Hopefully the world will get to see Kyle’s Kitties (they are my cats, but we came up with a theme for the photos).

The last question I had to figure out how to answer was: “I have really screwed up my site now at GoDaddy. How do I reset everything back to factory default settings?”

The answer, fortunately, is this:


Log into your GoDaddy account. In the upper right-hand corner, scroll over “My Account” and choose “Manage Hosting.” From this new page, choose “Settings,” and choose “Reset Account.” This will wipe everything, which is good for me, since I have nothing on the site except for failure (I had to do this three times this weekend).

After this, your site will be wiped, and it will be fresh and ready to set up again. I hope some of these issues I have run into help the extreme-novice user. When I begin the second part of this journey, I promise to write about my adventures into WordPress!


Tech Tips for Techs: Testing email Auto-Configuration issues within Outlook



I recently had to utilize the Auto-Configuration feature in Outlook, and, to my surprise, nobody else had even heard of this being a possibility. Therefore, I felt the need to write a blog post about it and share with all of you.

So what happens if your client is having issues connecting to their Exchange server with Outlook? Where do you start, and what information should you be looking for? Well, for starters, you need to ask some basic questions:

  1. Is this happening to one user, or to the entire company?
  2. Can you connect to Exchange via OWA and send/receive messages, or not?
  3. Are all Exchange services started on the server?
  4. Run a test from testexchangeconnectivity.com and review results. Do you like what you see?

Answering these basic questions (and I know there are a ton more, but these are a good place to start) will help you get to the problem quickly (and I could write a novel on different issues and directions to go into, but this post is about one specific feature in Outlook, to help with troubleshooting).

But what if your Outlook is not connecting to Exchange, and you know everything is correct? You can actually ctrl+right click on the Outlook logo in the icon notification location in the task bar (where the small icons are on the right), and you will have many options for troubleshooting.

OutlookAutoConfigAs you can see here, you can review its Connection Status, or Test E-mail AutoConfiguration. This test is great for troubleshooting just that. In some cases it might be the only location you can find the results you are looking for.

When you click on the Test E-mail AutoConfiguration, it will open a new window. Here, you can input an email address and password (although this isn’t needed in a local Exchange environment, only hosted). My preference is to uncheck the GuestSmart options (they seem to be a bit useless).

EmailAutoConfigI have, of course, blocked out my personal information here, but this dialogue box will give you quite a bit of details on how your Outlook is connecting and what it is looking for. If you click on over to the Log or the XML tabs, you get even more information.

My AutoConfiguration is clean. However, I have used this to troubleshoot connection issues with clients in the past, and it gives you specific Microsoft error codes that sometimes you can’t find anywhere else. Take a look at this AutoConfig, which has errors connecting on HTTPS. This is causing the client to get SSL Library pop-ups within Outlook. Through these errors I was able to track down the issue and find a resolution online.

AutoConfigIssueThis tool is extremely useful to assisting in your troubleshooting for connection issues with Outlook, regardless of whether you are using it with an exchange account or not. I highly recommend you keep this in your toolbox of tips.


Sonicwall Registration Issues - NEW UPDATE



I recently wrote a blog about my issues with trying to register at mysonicwall.com. I added a brief update at the end of the blog. However, I have a new update which I would like to share.

Since getting my issue resolved, I figured that was it. To be honest, that would have been perfectly fine with me. As I mentioned in my blog, I knew someone in the company would have resolved my issue, and as long as I have had my issue resolved, I didn’t care. I wouldn’t harbor any hard feelings toward Dell’s Sonicwall line, and I am going to continue to use my Sonicwall, so no harm done really. However, yesterday I was contacted via phone by the Manager of Global Customer Service at Dell — that was something I did not expect. It really went above and beyond what I expected of Dell, so much so that I decided to write my update into a new blog post here for you all.

The manager at Dell said that she’d read my blog post. She said that what I’d said was fair, and they were able to understand the issue and my frustrations completely. She also noted that due to the fact that I’d detailed the issue so thoroughly, the issue was escalated to their website developers… and they identified the bug and resolved it on their website! Woo!

I think it is something to note that a company as large as Dell will take the time to get your issue resolved, and it really turned around something where I was upset into a renewed respect for Dell. I always feel bad when I have to send in complaints to a company, because I know they have a job and a family, just like me. But it’s good to see results as complete and thorough as the ones Dell gave me.