Ever wonder where your auto complete address entries have gone?

Most people who use e-mail on a regular basis usually have a list of e-mail contacts that they use to simply their lives.  This includes the auto complete feature with in Outlook that drops a suggestion box down with a list of potential email selections depending on the name you start to type.

Then one day you get a new PC or laptop, load Outlook and import your contacts but for some strange reason the auto complete feature does not function.  Auto complete is a learned function within Outlook.  This is actually a file that is not part of the import and export process within Outlook but many people would be very upset if they had to re-enter all of the commonly used e-mail recipients again after accumulating an auto complete list over years of e-mailing.

I recently helped a business owner retrieve her 5+ years of auto complete entries from her old Win XP machine to her new Win7 PC.  Outlook 2007 was the version loaded on both machines.  The IT company she is using; the ones who decommissioned her old PC and installed her new PC told her she just needed to renenter addresses as she goes along.  They were not able to retrieve it from the old box, more likely they didn’t care enough to do it or want to spend the extra time to research, correct the issue and make their client happy.  She is happy now.

There are several different methods of accomplishing this, it all depends on what version of Outlook you are using and what version you are importing it into.  We can give you a hand if you post your auto complete issue and we will be happy to guide you in resolving it.

Harry McConchie – hmcconchie@carterinfo.com

Carter Information Solutions – 301-576-6456

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IT people wearing sheeps clothing

When you have a hardware error or just need some custom computer work performed it is sometimes easy to fall prey to a friend of a friend. You are afraid that the big box office outlets will be too expensive, (believe me, I have heard the crap they feed people in order to get them leave their machine for ransom, I mean repair),  or they would just take too long and you go with someone you do not know. Unfortunately there are people out there that like nothing better to take your money with very little or nothing at all in return.

I recently encountered a client that performs professional specialized work that requires very specific hardware and software in order to function correctly.  She needed some tune up work done to her PC and wanted a clone machine built that she could use in case of system failure.  This client was referred to this computer repair outfit by a passing acquaintance, she checked out the website which looked legit and called the number.

The technician/owner arrived and took her PC back to his shop to do an image of her hard drive to put on a PC he was to supply to the end-user.  During this process he states that the new hard drive was smaller than her original hard drive so he had to compress the image and he lost some of her data and programs, blah blah blah.  He returns a Frankenstein PC box with a new hard drive and her original hard drive.  It works about a week and then fails.  This is where I come in.

I checked the PC out and found that not only would it not boot or return any video, one of the hard drives was not even screwed in or contained in a cage.  I tried a couple of video cards and came to the conclusion that the mother board was bad.  I returned the PC to my shop, retrieved her data from her hard drive, installed it in a loaner PC, configured it to run her profession specific software and hardware and she was functioning once again by Monday afternoon.

I then ordered a PC for this user from a major PC manufacturer designed to meet the end users very specific needs.  We ended up with a 32 bit machine as opposed to a 64 bit due to one software program and Windows 7 Professional with XP Mode which I think is pretty wicked.  More about XP Mode in my next blog post! We then delivered the configured box and the user is up and running on a new machine.  We are also working on an XP spare for this client to use in case of an emergency.

My client then contacted the first technician to do a swap; she wanted her original PC back and she would then return Frankenstein JR but he became very agitated, told her basically that she was a liar and sent her a bill for $350.00.  She is handling him in another way.

So folks, be wary about who you contract out your computer life too and please post any of your personal or professional IT nightmares made by IT people in sheep’s clothing.  You may also contact me:

Harry McConchie, Systems Engineer, Carter Information Solutions

301-576-6456 or on the web at http://carterinfo.com

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The simplest of things can trip you up.

Millions of people around the globe rely on computers daily for many different reasons but have little clue that the simplest of actions or failures can stop you in your tracks.  I encountered a client that had a new hard drive installed and his software and data reloaded.  The machine performed as it should for about a week and then suddenly would not boot any longer.  In his description to me it appeared that it would load to the manufactures screen then freeze.  It would not allow him to select F2 for set up, F8 for safe mode or F12 for boot menu.  I had him bring the ailing PC in and I plugged it into all of my cords, keyboard, mouse, monitor, power and it booted up fine, rebooted as well with no worries.  I unplugged the PC tower from all connections, he carried it back home, it would not boot up.  After questioning him for a minute I realized that the PC was not receiving any power at all, the outlet was hot but the every day, ordinary generic power cord was faulty and needed to be replaced.

Another interesting example involved a wireless mouse.  A client installed the USB fob for a new wireless mouse and the PC accepted it with no problem.  The client used the machine all day and then rebooted prior to leaving the office.  The next morning they went to log in and found the PC was frozen on the manufactures logo screen about one-third of the way into the load.  They unplugged the USB mouse fob and the PC booted as normal.  I went on site and discovered that the old wireless mouse was still plugged into power and the PC so it was causing a conflict with the new mouse on boot.  I removed the old device and everything is back to functioning once again.

If you have situations you have encountered that were solved by the simplest solution please post it here, we always enjoy learning from other people’s adventures in computer land.  You can also post a network or just PC issue you have been encountering here and we can give you advice or solving your particular issue.

Just post here or contact me, Harry McConchie – Systems Engineer, Carter Information Solutions – 301-576-6456 or check us out on the web at http://carterinfo.com.

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Does all of the software on your Network really belong to you?

In this fast paced world of business computing it is easy to lose track of the resources on your network. Software is the easiest thing to add and remove from your systems especially if you have multiple users with administrative rights.  What every company needs to be mindful of is unauthorized or unlicensed software on your systems.  You also need to realize that if the software is essential to your business such as Anti virus and it is not properly licensed to you it may fail at a very inopportune moment leaving you with out protection or application processing that your business may rely on.

All it takes is one disgruntled ex employee to drop a dime on you to a major software company explaining to them that you are using unlicensed software to result in some pretty hefty fines and penalties.  If you ever need assistance in doing a software level network license assessment then I am your guy.  You can contact me:

Harry McConchie – Senior Systems Engineer – Carter Information Solutions

hmcconchie@carterinfo.com – 301.576.6456

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Boom Boom, out go the lights!

Have you ever found yourself happily computing along when suddenly you can’t see the keyboard?  This can be caused by some yahoo with a backhoe digging a flower bed, knocking down a power pole or maybe you just didn’t pay the electric bill.  Whatever the cause, when the power goes out the very least you can do is make sure your sensitive electronic equipment is plugged into a surge protector; preferably one with a battery back up that will at least allow you enough time to shut down your computers safely.

These solutions can run as little as $10 for a basic surge protector with no battery back up to as much as hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the level of uptime you or your organization require.  The most important element being protecting your equipment from a power spike that can ruin a perfectly good PC, laptop, or server.  Some of the large electric utilities will even put a heavy duty surge protector on your home for a small monthly fee that will guarentee to replace damaged equipment up to $10,000 or more.

If you need any advice on protecting your equipment from power spikes fell free to contact me:

Harry McConchie – Carter Information Solutions – System Engineer

301-576-6456 – hmcconchie@carterinfo.com or simply reply to this post with your query.

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Troubleshooting and the Physical Layer of the OSI Model

When issues occur on your network a high percentage of the issues will lie within the physical aspect of your network. What exactly is physical you might ask. Physical is anything you can lay your hands on; monitors, laptops, cables, (USB, ethernet, especially power), switches, routers, printers, you get the drift. These items magically move and change configurations all by themselves, at least that is what the end-user may tell you when you ask what they were doing when the issue occurred, (it was like that when I sat down).

You would tailor your method of troubleshooting to the symptom you are experiencing.  If there is no power to device you would check to make sure that the power cable is connected, is the reset switch on the surge protector tripped and believe it or not; is the receptacle that it is plugged into attached to a light switch.

If you cannot connect to the internet or network resources you would check to make sure the ethernet cable from the device to the wall or switch is secure, unplug then replug, make sure that the light on the switch or router that the device is plugged into is lite green and flashing.  If so then you would drop down to a command prompt by selecting start, run, cmd and hit enter.  At that point you could try pinging a website like www.yahoo.com, hit enter and see if it responds back, if not you can type the phrase ipconfig /all and see if you return an address of 169.254.xxx.xxx where the xxx could be any set of numbers.  This means that the PC is not able to get an ip address from its usual DHCP host, (Dynamic Hosts Configuration Protocol, that’s the one that hands out the ip address’).  There are a multitude of other resolutions for connectivity issues.

You can see that these issues all associate with something physical in one way, shape or form.  These extend to video issues, application issues, and our favorite issue of all, printing………and many more.   If you are experiencing something on a physical level and are out of ideas on how to correct them please feel free to leave me a comment with your issue.  You can always reach me at:

Harry McConchie – Systems Engineer

Carter Information Solutions – 301-576-6456

hmcconchie@carterinfo.com

 

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What is your favorite virus? Did it make you cry?

No matter how computer savvy we may think we are, we cannot always rely on anti-virus, anti malware, or anti anything else for that matter to completely protect us from evil outside forces.  I think the one that I have seen that has reduced most of the victims to at least the panic level is the fake anti-virus scam.  You know the one, it appears out of no where from the depths of the bottom of your monitor and states in bright bold colors, You have 12 Trojans, 331 malware and a partridge in a pear tree!!!!! Send us $59.95 US for your license activation fee, and we will eliminate the threats for you!  Then it wont go away, disables task manager, control panel, msconfig, etc.  Your now officially stuck………

What to do next?

It could be as bad as you think.  You could send in the funds and the fake virus people may not even return a cure, they could just keep the money and leave you stuck or I could sit here and regurgitate verbatim on the many, many steps involved in removing one of these; but if you are not computer savvy detailed instructions while you’re in panic mode will not help in the least.  Most people will be inclined to run the PC down to the nearest office big box store or to the company IT person if your fortunate enough to have one at your disposal, most people are not.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you need to…
Call someone you trust to help. The reason CISI, the IT solution provider I am a part of, was established is to step in and protect people who just want to work and don’t have the time or interest in being a tech specialist.  “IT Solution Providers” (aka the tech folks in the white hats) keep an eye on your systems for you, either through monitoring and letting you know when and what you need to do.  Or they just fix problems before you even know there is one.  We believe it saves our clients time and money in the long run.   And we want to see your business making that long run!

In the meantime, we’re here to help in anyway we can.  Just send me a question and I will do my best to help you fix it on your own.

Harry McConchie

301-576-6456

hmcconchie@carterinfo.com

 

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Who is handling your IT functions?

In many small to medium size companies the individual who becomes responsible for many company IT functions is usually poorly qualified to do so.  This is due to the lack of funds for a full-time IT staff member.  I have seen everything from the company controller, (a lot of times it falls to a finance person), a sales manager and the manager of the lumber yard. These people just happen to have the most IT skills or were foolish enough to volunteer for the task.

When these individuals end up managing these functions the jobs which they are supposed to be performing can suffer greatly. The controller ends up missing deadlines resulting in fines and the sales manager fails to meet sales quotas. The lumber yard manager fails to keep common stock in inventory resulting in lost sales. This is due to these people being distracted by IT tasks that they do not understand well.  It normally takes them much longer to perform simple tasks due to the lack of professional training.

When these companies finally realize that the bottom line is suffering they need to find an outsourced IT company to assist with their daily computer network functions.  That is where an outsourced IT company comes into play.  Not only can they monitor your systems in the back ground to prevent failures before they happen, they can assist in adds, moves and changes in a timely and efficient manner freeing up your non IT staff to perform their jobs properly.

If you are in a non IT position and need advise on a particular issue you are having on your network, place your post here and we can help you out.

Harry McConchie – Systems Engineer – Carter Information Solutions

cisi@carterinfo.com – 301-576-6456

 

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Are bizarre things happening on your computer network?

Computer networks can be fun, fascinating and totally frustrating.  Things usually roll along just fine until you really need a project to complete or are trying to impress a new client.  I specialize in untangling complex issues that make absolutely no sense until you get to the root of the evil causing the issue.  They get especially interesting when your IT department or an IT person is not involved in the change.

Once upon a time I worked for a  retailer that wanted to move the ordinary piano into the digital age.  They started taking saws to the bottom of VERY expensive pianos and attaching player systems that communicated via hard-wired and wireless routers downloading onto hard drives mounted to the bottoms of the beast.  This was supposed to be experimental and was SUPPOSED to involve the IT department prior to deploying.

The WAN’s we had were based on a 10.1.xx.xx scheme where the third octet would denote the remote store location, (i.e. 10.1.190.xx meant San Antonio), and the remote router would handle DHCP and dole out the IP address’s to the remote PC’s.

One afternoon I received a call stating that the lines must be down since none of the PC’s were able to communicate to the network in Maryland.  I was able to ping the remote router at 10.1.190.1, and could also ping devices with a static IP such as printers.  When I had a user do an ipconfig on his PC he returned an address of 192.168.1.22.  Hmmmmm, something else was handing out IP address’s.  I asked the user if the delivery department had delivered the piano with the player system and he confirmed that they had.

At that point I had a really good idea of the issue and contacted the technician who installed the system on the piano.  I asked him if he had disabled DHCP and he said no.  Go figure that he leases had expired on all of the PC’s in the store at roughly the same time and the piano had started handing out IP address’.  After turning off DHCP on the piano’s wireless router the store PC’s were able to pick up a 10.1.190.xx address after doing an ipconfig /release and renew.

You better believe that the IT department was included in future installations.  Do you have bizarre things happening on your network?  Post here, we may have an answer for you!

Harry McConchie – Systems Engineer – Carter Information Solutions

cisi@carterinfo.com – 301-576-6456

 

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