Help Scientific Research When Your Computer Is Idle

Yes, you really can help scientific research without being a scientist.

I bet you frequently leave your computer idling for long periods of time. But did you know, during this downtime, you can put it to good use?

Scientists around the world are trying to solve very complicated problems, which ultimately benefit humanity. However, they need more resources. Some harness the processing power of millions of computers around the world to create a supercomputer, which can help solve these problems.

That’s where you come in. If you want to help with scientific research when your computer is not used, you can get involved with any of the projects below (courtesy of Bullguard’s blog).

Scientific research projects

  • The BOINC Project

    BOINC is a software platform for volunteer computing. It is a project that comes out of the US University of Berkeley. You can volunteer your computer resources to help cure diseases, study global warming, help advance physics, find objects in space and so on.

    The project has something like 172,000 volunteers with over 850,000 computers in the network. As a result BOINC has something like 27 petaflops of computing power, which is a lot. If you’re interested all you need to do is download the software and choose the projects you want to support.

  • World Community Grid

IBM’s World Community Grid is the umbrella for a number of non-profit projects that address some of humanity’s most pressing problems. The project started in 2004 and has supported 24 independent projects worldwide, ranging from ending childhood cancer to clean water.

It has had some remarkable results thanks to the computing power provided by volunteers such as the discovery of seven compounds that destroy neuroblastoma cancer cells without side effects. Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.

You can donate your spare computing power to help Harvard researchers design the most efficient solar cell in the world, help scientists develop new drugs to fight Ebola, or design more personalized cancer treatments by mapping cancer markers.

  • Folding@home

Folding@home is another volunteer service that comes out of a US university, this time it’s Stanford. Its main purpose is to research diseases by looking at protein folding.

Folding refers to the way human protein folds in the cells that make up the human body. We rely on proteins to keep us healthy and they assemble themselves by folding. But when they misfold, there can be serious consequences to a person’s health. The project is essentially about helping design new drugs to fight diseases.

  • SETI

This is possibly the most well-known volunteer computing project and has been running for close to 20 years.SETI stands for the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence. The the actual project has been running since the early 1900’s following the advent of radio.

SETI is a collective term for scientific searches for intelligent extra-terrestrial life, for example, monitoring electromagnetic radiation for signs of transmissions from civilizations on other planets. Based at US University Berkeley, it relies on internet-connected computers and a free program that volunteers download to analyse radio telescope data.

  • Asteroids@home

If space is your thing, this project  from the field of astronomy might be just what you’re looking for. Asteroids@home comes out of the BOINC project. It aims to identify the properties of asteroids such as shape, spatial orientation and rotation period using something call photometric data.

Part of the project is to determine orbits and also alterations in orbit. You can read a bit more about it here though a warning is required, it’s a bit technical and without a degree in astrophysics it might just go over your head. Like an asteroid.

There are lots of volunteer computing projects. Those listed above are just a sample. You can find projects that research into diseases as cancer, malaria, Alzheimer disease, malignant anthrax and other genetic and viral diseases. Many of them come out of the BOINC Project mentioned above.

 MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.

Source: Bullguard

Using Dropbox For Business To Work Better And More Safely Together

Dropbox for Business

 

With GDPR legislation on the horizon, we thought we’d let you know about an alternative way to transfer your documentation – Dropbox for Business.

Dropbox for Business is a great way to simplify your work, with a central place from which to access and share your files.

It delivers all the features your business needs, including:

Flexible storage plans

You have the ability to choose the right plan to ensure your team has the space it needs to be productive.

File and version recovery

It provides a quick way to recover deleted files and restore previous file versions.

Team folder manager

Get visibility and control of team folders, including sync management.

Link permissions

You can password protect your links or set expiry dates to grant temporary access.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox paper gives you a simple and powerful way to create, share and keep your team in sync – with the added benefit of admin controls.

Smart Sync

Access every file in their Dropbox, directly from their desktop, using very little hard disk space.

Admin dashboard

Monitor team activity, view connected devices and audit sharing activity.

Account transfer tool

You can easily transfer files from one user to another when responsibilities change.

Groups

Create groups to manage team member access to specific folders efficiently.

Remote wipe

Clear files from lost or stolen devices to keep company files in the right hands.

Third-party app integrations

Extend the power of Dropbox with over 300,000 connected apps.

Live support

Get answers to your questions quickly via priority phone, email and chat support.

If you’re not already using it or thinking of upgrading your current DropBox account to a business one, pop along to their website and compare the different plans they offer. 

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Is There a Link Between Our Increased Use of Tech and Growing Levels of Short-sightedness?

short-sightedness and tech

 

Short-sightedness isn’t a topic I usually address. However, it’s such an important topic I feel it’s important to talk about it in relation to our children’s health.

Our kids’ increased use of electronic devices isn’t helping their waistlines or fitness levels, but what about their eyesight?

There’s not a lot of research about this at the moment, but there has been a massive rise around the globe in short-sightedness – or myopia – over recent decades.

“We know that myopia or short-sightedness is becoming more common,” says Chris Hammond, professor of ophthalmology at King’s College London and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital.

“It has reached epidemic levels in East Asia, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, where approaching 90% of 18-year-olds are now short-sighted.

“In Europe, it’s potentially getting up to 40% to 50% of young adults in their mid-20s who are short-sighted now in Western Europe. It’s been gradually rising over the decades of the 20th Century from around 20-30%.” (BBC)

Why is short-sightedness becoming more common?

Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London told the BBC it is due to a lack of natural light.

“The main factor seems to be a lack of exposure to direct sunlight. Children who study a lot and who use computers or smartphones or tablet computers a lot have less opportunity to run around outside. Therefore, they are less exposed to sunshine and at more risk of developing short-sightedness.”

Prof Hammond says:

“It may be that there’s no coincidence that in East Asian countries, the most myopic ones all correlate with the maths league tables.

“These kids are being pushed with very intensive education from a very young age and spend a lot of time indoors studying everything close up and very little time outdoors.

“Therefore the concern is that all close work – like playing with the iPad and iPhone – carries the potential that it could make them more short-sighted.”

How do we combat short-sightedness?

1. Reduce their screen time

Dr Dahlmann-Noor says trying to stop screen use is probably an unrealistic aspiration.

“You can only tell them that it might make their eyes uncomfortable, it might make them short-sighted and they should not use it as much as they like to.

“But, hand on heart, I don’t think we can get away from this because they also have to do their school homework on laptops and iPads and they do their searches for background information on screens.

“If you’re a teenager and you have got revision to do for GCSEs or A-levels then you can’t really switch off, can you? So I don’t think we will be reducing the screen use, really, in years to come.”

  1. Play outdoors more

The best thing to do is to get children playing outside as much as possible.

“Protective of myopia development is time outdoors – sport and leisure outdoors are protective of eyesight,” says Prof Hammond.

“In a perfect world, probably on average across the week and the weekend, two hours a day outdoors is protective of becoming short-sighted in children.”

Myopia research in Sydney, Australia shows that only 3% of Chinese-heritage children living in Sydney – who spent two hours a day outdoors – are short-sighted by the age of six, compared to nearly 30% of six-year-olds in Singapore.

  1. Rethink their diet

Dr Dahlmann-Noor says diet is also an area where families can help with eyesight.

“We always tell parents about omega-3 essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, C and E and nutrients that are good for the back of the eye.

“Healthy diet really is important – in terms of getting oily fish, avocados, green vegetables, green leafy vegetables as much as possible.

“Or in children, all these supplements that you can buy over the counter that are good for the brain, also happen to be good for the eyes – they’re just not marketed for that.”

She also recommends regular annual eye checks.

How to spot if your child is becoming short-sighted

According to NHS Choices, signs that your child may be short-sighted include:

  • needing to sit near the front of the class at school because they find it difficult to read the whiteboard
  • sitting close to the television
  • complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  • regularly rubbing their eyes

When someone’s short-sighted, the eyes have grown slightly too long, which means light rays focus just in front of the retina, at the back of the eye, so distant objects to appear blurred, but close objects are seen clearly.

Watch Out There’s a New Mac OS Ransomeware About

Mac OS ransomeware

 

Ransomware and the such like is not something Mac users have had to worry about too much. Seen as a ‘safer’ option than Windows machines, the Mac user has been happily using their devices, relatively trouble free, for quite some time.

But that’s changing.

According to Computerworld:

“A new file-encrypting ransomware program for Mac OS is being distributed through bit torrent websites, and users who fall victim to it won’t be able to recover their files – even if they pay. Crypto ransomware programs for Mac OS are rare. This is the second such threat found in the wild so far, and it’s a poorly designed one.”

The offending ransomware, dubbed OSX/Filecoder.E, was spotted by security firm ESET and was developed in Apple’s Swift programming language.

It works by pretending to be a cracking tool for commercial software such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Mircosoft Office for Mac. However, because of programming errors, and the lack of a developer certificate from Apple, it is often blocked by newer versions of Mac OS.

The biggest problem with this malware, according to Computerworld, is:

“It generates a single encryption key for all files and then stores the files in encrypted ZIP archives. However, the malware doesn’t appear to have any ability to communicate with an external server, so the encryption key is never sent to the attacker before being destroyed.”

Sadly, malware is never going to go away, and more and more cunning scams will be developed. The best advice we can offer is to remain vigilant and never click on or download anything that you’re unsure about.

We’re grateful to Computerworld and Spiceworks for this update so we can pass it on to you to help you and your data stay safe.

 

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Security Advice For New Computer Owners

New PC

 

Security isn’t always the first thing you think of when you get your first computer.

The excitement of getting it out of the box and working your way through the setup procedure is much more fun.

You can’t wait to get on the internet and besides, all that security stuff is just hype to get you to spend more money, right?

Wrong.

Online security threats are real, and if you don’t take it seriously, you could end up losing your data and watch your beloved computer slowly curl up and die.

Here are our top 10 tips for new computer owners. None of them are complicated, but they’re all important.

  1. Your computer is a sturdy piece of kit, but it’s not indestructible. It does like to be cleaned (see your computer’s guide), and it doesn’t like liquid or food
  2. Even though you write a document on your computer, it doesn’t mean it’s there forever, even if you save it – back everything up
  3. The best policy is not to trust anything that comes from the internet until it’s proven safe
  4. Saving is not automatic. If in doubt save it again
  5. The internet is a public entity. Only post things you’re happy for everyone in the world to know
  6. Don’t attempt any DIY fixes. If in doubt don’t touch your machine and get someone who knows what they’re doing (it will be cheaper in the long run)
  7. If you get a call from “Microsoft” hang up, it’s not them
  8. Get paid antivirus
  9. Set a strong admin password and use a non-admin account for everyday use
  10. Above all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

If you follow those tips as you start to get to know your computer, you won’t go too far wrong.

Above all, take care of it, and it will take care of you.

 

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

What is Better – SSD or HDD?

SSD or HDD?

 

Should you be opting for a solid-state drive (SSD) or a hard disk drive (HDD)?

They both do the same thing – storing data so you can save your documents and install operating systems and applications – but in different ways.

To help you decide whether to remain a traditionalist and stick with the HDD or embrace the new kid, SSD here is a bit more information.

What is an HDD?

HDDs have been around forever; well, at least since the early days of computing. Although technological evolution has brought with it a few changes, an HDD still works in the same was as it always has. They use a magnetic head moved by a mechanical arm to read and write data on one or more storage platters.

What is an SSD?

An SSD is a storage device that reads and records data on flash memory, a medium that uses transistors to represent the ones and zeros that make up digital information.

They have been around for decades but didn’t become commonplace until the early 2000s, when prices came down to affordable levels for the masses, and the technology grew more mature.

What are the benefits of SSDs?

The thing that sets them apart from HHDs is that they have no moving parts, which means they are:

  • Faster – SSDs don’t have a moving arm to slow them down. That makes them faster at things like random read/writes (about 200 times faster), data access times (about 100 times faster), and even sequential read/writes (about 5 times faster), which significantly improves overall system performance
  • Energy efficient – SSDs consume less power because they don’t need cooling. Mind you; the difference isn’t as big as it was because HDDs continuously improve their efficiency and SSDs do more internal housekeeping
  • More durable – thanks to the lack of moving parts, SSDs are better able to operate in harsh environments, where they are more resistant to shock, vibrations, and high temperatures

Therefore, SSDs are an excellent choice for high-performance users and their laptops, as well as for application servers with demanding I/O requirements.

Are there any downsides to SSDs?

SSDs don’t last forever; after you’ve overwritten a block enough times, it will wear out.

Some early SSDs had the reputation of giving up the ghost without warning, but since 2012 consumer SSDs have become far more reliable. Even though we don’t have to worry about SSD reliability as much as before, as of 2016 the price per GB is still high compared to spinning hard disks.

What about consumer vs. enterprise SSDs?

Enterprise SSDs are expensive, but because they use more durable single-level cell (SLC) technology that can last longer than the more consumer-oriented multi-level cell (MLC) and triple-level cell (TLC) flash technologies – that’s not surprising.

You’ll also find that enterprise drives have a much higher terabytes written (TBW) limit, rating companies give to their drives to indicate how much data you can expect to write to them before you start experiencing trouble.

Now for the big question – should you buy an SSD?

Right now SSDs are at the point where their reliability is excellent, and prices are finally within reach for many users, even if the price per capacity is still a bit high for some. So yes, now would be a superb time to invest in an SSD.

 

 MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Soure: Spiceworks

 

 

Watch Out Cerber Ransomware is About

Cerber Ransomware

 

Cerber ransomware is the latest scam to watch out for.

This one is a spam campaign that uses fake credit card reports to trick unsuspecting users to infect themselves.

The email they send looks like this:

cerber ransomware email

Yes, there are some tells that show you it’s probably not genuine, but imagine if it landed in your inbox on a particularly busy day – are you still convinced you’d pick on the signs?

The attack is executed by the user opening the Word document attachment and enabling macros. One step you can take to keep yourself safe, if feasible, is to make Office macros disabled by default. 

If you can’t do that or worry that someone might enable them again, the best course of action you can take is to circulate the image above so everyone one in your organisation knows what to look out for.

According to Spiceworks, Cerber is currently doing the rounds so stay vigilant.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Source: Spiceworks

 

Google Increases the Pressure on Insecure Websites

Google increases pressure on insecure websites

 

In a perfect world, you would be able to surf the internet safe in the knowledge that you could come to no harm. The problem is it’s a far from perfect world.

There are numerous websites out there ready to trick unsuspecting users with their malware, or because they are used as instruments of phishing.

Google already has various initiatives to penalise poor website security practices, but it’s just got a lot tougher.

Not only will it undoubtedly mark websites that pose a threat to web users, but it will also highlight repeat offenders.

Google will take decisive action against those that repeatedly skip over safety rules. Once a website is marked as dangerous, the admin must update the page in question to eliminate the infractions. If the search giant has to notify the admin to inspect the warning repeatedly, their chance of having the warning removed will be rescinded for 30 days.

The option to resolve issues will also be eliminated for websites that, after requesting reappraisal, make a few changes to the code and then go back to practices that put users in danger. In these cases, the warning message will remain for a whole month.

These new measures increase the pressure on companies to make sure their corporate websites don’t pose a risk to users. After all repeat offending will result in the displaying of a message that will end up scaring future clients away.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Source: Panda security

How to Securely Access Your Computer Using a Remote Device

 

remote access

What was once a pain in the neck has now become surprising easy.

You can use the traditional methods, like third-party software, or you could use Windows 10’s easy-to-use tools, which are designed to enable you to remotely link your smartphone (Windows, Android or iOS) to your desktop PC.

Here are a few options for you.

Windows 10

Windows 10 is, in many senses, similar to its predecessors, but this incarnation has been designed for a multiple device world.

This means you can move between a phone and tablet and access your desktop PC from these devices.

  • Windows 10 has a ‘Phone Companion’ app built-into it that helps you connect your Windows PC to your smartphone – whether it’s a Windows phone, Android phone, or iPhone
  • When you launch the Phone Companion app on your PC, simply pick which type of phone you use –Windows phone, Android phone, or iPhone. With a Windows phone, there’s nothing extra needed
  • For an Android phone or iPhone you need to follow a few steps to get the right apps on your phone to make it work in conjunction with your Windows 10 PC
  • All your files and content will be available on your PC and your phone

OneDrive

OneDrive is an important part of Microsoft’s platform, and in Windows 10 it’s central to the operating system.

Basically, OneDrive is a file hosting service that allows users to sync files and later access them from a web browser or mobile device. Users can share files publicly or with their contacts.

  • With the OneDrive app setup on your phone, every photo you take on your phone will show up automatically in the Photos app on your Windows 10 PC.
  • With the Music app, you can store and access your music from OneDrive not only on your PC but also play it anywhere on your iOS or Android phone (it already works on Windows phones).
  • This means the music playlists you have on your Windows 10 PC will now show up and be automatically playable on your phone.
  • Notes you write on your PC in OneNote will show up on your phone. And any note you tweak on your phone will get synced to your PC.
  • You can also work on your Office documents from any of your devices, without worrying about moving files around.

Virtual private networks

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure method of connecting a remote computer or other devices to a server, using special protocols to establish a temporary bridge between the two machines.

The level of sophistication you will need in terms of choosing the right VPN will depend on how many remote devices you want to connect.

However not all VPNs are the same. Before setting up a VPN, the type of network protocol has to be chosen. There are four options:

  • SSL (Secure Socket Layer) – this is the encryption used by online banking and commerce sites. For very small businesses, SSL is ideal as the VPN is set up via an internet browser.
  • Open VPN – if cost is an issue, this VPN is based on open source SSL code but as its name suggests, the code can be seen – and potentially hacked – by anyone.
  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol) – this is supported by Windows, Apple operating systems and mobile operating systems, which makes it ideal in the world of mobile computing
  • IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) and L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol) – these VPNs are more secure than PPTP but are more complex to set up

There are quite a few VPN services to choose from so it’s vital you pay close attention to the service level agreement. Often you will be giving your agreement to be plagued by adverts and irritating content.

Remote desktop access

Remote desktop refers to software or an operating system feature that allows a personal computer’s desktop environment to be run remotely on one computer while being displayed on a separate computer.

This software is usually associated with remote administration by IT staff who don’t have to physically travel to the location where the computer is. But it also allows users to connect their device to any PC connected to the internet and recreate their desktop via a connection to the cloud.

Some of the best known services are:

  • TeamViewer
  • LogMeIn
  • GoToMyPC

Windows remote access

Last, but not least, is Windows that offers remote desktop connection from a computer running Windows to another computer running Windows as long as it is connected to the internet.

This means you can use all of your work computer’s programs, files, and network resources from a remote computer, and it’s like you’re sitting in front of your computer at home or work.

That said enabling Windows Remote Desktop can be a little tricky if you’re not specifically tech literate as it requires knowledge of port forwarding, firewalls, and router settings.

 

So there you go. There are several options available to you should you want to securely access your computer using a remote device. All you have to do is pick the one that fits your needs and budget.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Source: BullGuard

Childproofing Your iPad

Childproof your iPad

One the most annoying things in life is that although it might take you a few weeks or months to master a new piece of technology, your kid can just pick it up and start using it without a second thought.

Growing up in the technical age, our children have a huge advantage over us, which is why it’s essential you protect your files and bank balance.

You’ve probably heard the horror stories of parents having their bank balances severely depleted by their kids who were just ‘playing’ on their iPad, well now’s the time to take action (if you haven’t already done so) to make sure you’re not the next victim.

From toddler to teenage years, it’s important to make sure your iPad has the right parental restrictions activated. Thankfully, Apple has made it easy for you.

Restrictions on 

Turning on restrictions allows you to control which applications are permitted on your iPad.

You can do this by going to Settings > General Settings > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions. You will then be asked for a four digit passcode, which can be different from the passcode you use to unlock the iPad.

Switch off app downloads

By default, when you download an app, iTunes will prompt for a password, even if it’s a free app or game. But if you have recently typed in your password, there is a grace period where apps can be downloaded without being verified.

To prevent your child merrily downloading God knows what to your iPad it might be a good idea to turn off the App Store.

If you decide on this course of action, it might me wise to turn off the ability to delete apps.   Remember, it takes the intervention of a parent to download apps to the iPad, so if your kid deletes a game because they are tired of it or simply by accident, you will need to reenable the App Store, download the app or game, and then restrict the App Store again.

Age restrictions

If you don’t want to disable the App store you can restrict apps based on an age range instead.

The categories in the age-based restrictions are 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+, with that last one including apps such as web browsers that give full access to the web, and thus, full access to websites you would rather your 12-year old not see.

Many kids, even six-year-olds and seven-year-olds, will be perfectly fine on the 9+ setting.  This is the rating given to the LEGO games and applies to apps that have cartoon violence but no “realistic” violence.

The same can be done for movies, TV shows, books and websites.

Switch off in-app purchases

Have you heard of freemium games?

These are the ones that are free but stacked with in-app purchases – usually currency or food within the game that can easily add up to a rather high price tag.

This is why it’s so important to turn off in-app purchases.

When you turn off in-app purchases, the option to buy these extras within games and apps will be disabled. This means no surprises when your iTunes bill comes in your email.

The setting for this is towards the bottom of Allowed Content, right above the time interval for requiring a password (see navigation path above).

 

Congratulations, you now have a childproof iPad – so now you have the relevant restrictions in place, how do you download apps?

First, you can simply turn on app downloads in the restrictions page, download the app or game, and turn app downloads back off again. Or, you can download the app or game on your PC using iTunes and then sync your iPad to your PC.

Another options for making sure your child doesn’t run up a huge iTunes bill is to remove your credit card from your iTunes account, or set an allowance to limit their spending.

Whichever course of action you take, it’s important to make sure your iPad (or other tablet) is childproofed – unless of course you want a hefty bill to land in your inbox.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Source: iPad