Discus Systems PLC - IT Support Company in Birmingham West midlands
0800 880 3360
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 26th Apr 2011
Good security advice can be hard to find. Lots of security experts offer help, but not all of their tips are accurate or up-to-date, and many address PC security only. So even if you follow their advice, you may be more vulnerable than you think. That's where we come in. We've assembled a dozen simple but essential tips--a 12-step security program--to keep your PC, smartphone, gadgets, and identity safe. The steps are practical and fairly easy to perform, so you can strengthen your security without losing your mind in the process.
 
 
1. Use Virtual Credit Card Numbers to Shop Online
 
You have good reason to be nervous when using your credit card number to shop online. After all, you may know little or nothing about the company you're buying from, and your credit card information is at risk of being comprom­ised in a data breach. Using a virtual credit card number is one way to make your Internet shopping excursions more secure.
 
Essentially a wrapper for your regular credit card or debit card account, a virtual card number is good for one use only. When you use the virtual number, the bank that supplied it charges your purchase to your regular credit or debit card, but hackers never gain access to the underlying credit card information.
 
Various financial institutions maintain some sort of virtual credit card program. Bank of America, for instance, offers a ShopSafe service, and Discover has a similar service built around what it calls a Secure Online Account Number. Check with your bank or card issuer to see what options are available. Alternatively, consider Shop Shield, a virtual card number service that you can use with any credit card or checking account.
 
2. Secure Your Wi-Fi
 
Is your Wi-Fi network at home password-protected? If not, it should be. You might not care if your neighbors use your Wi-Fi connection to surf the Web, but someone with more sinister motives could take advantage of your generosity (and lack of protection) to gain access to data stored on your home PCs.
 
The easiest way to guard against Wi-Fi interlopers is to encrypt your Wi-Fi network. Afterward you'll have to enter a password whenever you connect to your Wi-Fi network, but that's a small price to pay for improved security. Most Wi-Fi routers support WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryption standards. Be sure to use either the WPA or WPA2 encryption settings, which provide a much higher level of security than WEP encryption.
 
Another safeguard is to set your router not to broadcast the SSID (your network's name). With SSID broadcasting disabled, your wireless network won't be visible to computers nearby, and only people who specifically know your network's name will be able to find it. The procedure for locking down your Wi-Fi will vary depending on your router's model and manufacturer. Check the router's documentation for instructions.
 
3. Encrypt Your Hard Drives
 
Hard drives and USB flash drives are treasure troves of personal data. They're also among the most common sources of data leaks. If you lose a flash drive, external hard drive, or laptop containing sensitive personal information, you will be at risk. Fortunately, en­­crypting your hard drive can give your data an extra layer of protection be­­yond setting up a system password. Encryption will conceal your drive's data and make accessing the files almost im­­possible for anyone who does not know your encryption password.
 
 
The Ultimate and Business editions of Windows 7 and Vista come with BitLocker, a tool that lets you encrypt your entire hard drive. If you don't have the Ultimate or Business version, another alternative is to use TrueCrypt, a free, open-source tool that can encrypt your entire disk, a portion of a disk, or an external drive. For its part, Mac OS X includes FileVault, a tool for encrypting your Mac's home folder; Lion, the next major Mac OS X release on the horizon, will be able to encrypt a whole hard drive.
 
Another option is to buy external hard drives and flash drives equipped with en­­cryption tools. Some of these drives have built-in fingerprint readers for additional security. See "Secure Flash Drives Lock Down Your Data" for more about secure flash-drive options.
 
4. Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
 
One of the simplest but most important security precautions you should take is to keep your PC's software up-to-date. I'm not talking exclusively about Windows here: Adobe, Apple, Mozilla, and other software makers periodically release fixes for various bugs and security flaws. Cybercriminals commonly exploit known vulnerabilities, and Adobe Reader is a constant target of such assaults.
 
Not infrequently, the latest version of a popular program introduces entirely new security features. For example, Adobe Reader X, the newest version of the company's PDF reader, uses something called Protected Mode to shut down malware attacks. If you still use an earlier version of Adobe Reader, you aren't benefiting from Reader X's security enhancements.
 
Most major commercial software packages come with some sort of automatic updating feature that will inform you when a new update is available. Don't ignore these messages; install updates as soon as you can when you're prompted to do so. It's a little bit of a hassle, but it can prevent major headaches later on.
 
5. Upgrade to the Latest Antivirus Software
 
If you're running antivirus software from two or three years ago, you should up­­grade to the most recent version, even if you still receive up-to-date malware signature files for the older edition. The underlying technology for antivirus software has im­­proved significantly in recent years.
 
To detect threats, antivirus products today don't rely solely on the traditional signature files (regularly updated files that identify the latest malware). They also use heuristic techniques to de­­tect and block infections that no one has seen yet. Given how frequently new viruses crop up in the wild, the ability to protect against unknown malware is critical.
 
Not sure what to use? Consult our latest reviews of antivirus software and security suites. And you don't even have to spend money to protect yourself, thanks to various free antivirus options.
 
 
6. Lock Down Your Smartphone
 
If you use your smartphone the way I use mine, your handset probably contains lots of personal information--e-mail addresses, photos, phone contacts, Facebook and Twitter apps, and the like. That accumulation of valuable data makes smartphones a tempting target for thieves and cybercriminals, which is why the smartphone is shaping up as the next big security battleground.
 
Android phones are already being hit with Trojan horses and other types of malware, and security experts agree that mobile malware is still in its infancy. Worse, many users don't think of their phones as computers (though that's what the devices are), so they don't take the same security precautions they would with a PC. If you haven't downloaded a security app for your Android phone, you should. Most smartphone security apps are free, and it's far better to have one and never need it than to get caught off-guard and exposed without one.
 
If you have an Android phone, the first app you should install on it is an antivirus program. Besides scanning for malware, mobile antivirus apps may support such features as a remote wipe (so you can securely remove all data stored on the phone if you lose it), GPS tracking (for locating your phone if you misplace it), and SMS spam blocking.
 
Our favorite freebie in this category is the Lookout Mobile Security app. Lookout scans your phone for existing malware threats and automatically scans any new applications you install on your handset. Other popular antivirus apps, available for a subscription fee, are Symantec's Norton Mobile Security (beta version), AVG's Antivirus Pro, and McAfee's Wave­Secure.
 
Because Apple's App Store takes a more restrictive approach to apps offered for sale there, iPhone owners generally don't have to worry as much about malware, though it's always possible for something to slip through the cracks. Apple hasn't allowed any proper antivirus applications into the App Store, either, but you do have some security options.
 
One is a device tracking and remote-wipe service from Apple called Find My iPhone. It comes as part of Apple's paid MobileMe service ($99 per year), but Apple also offers it to any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch owner, free of charge. With Find My iPhone, you can lock and remotely delete data stored on your iPhone, track the device via GPS, remotely set a passcode, and display an on-screen message with an alarm sound (so you can find it if you misplace it around your house or office).
 
One more tip: When choosing a mobile antivirus program, it's safest to stick with well-known brands. Otherwise, you risk getting infected by malware disguised as an antivirus app.
 
7. Install a Link-Checker Plug-In
 
 
Security threats may lurk in seemingly innocuous Web pages. Le­­gitimate sites may get hacked, cybercriminals game search engines to make sure that their infected pages come up in searches for hot topics (a technique known as "search engine poisoning"), and seemingly safe sites may harbor malware. Although you have no way to guard against these attacks completely, using a link checker can help protect you from many of them.
 
Link-checker tools typically show small badges next to links in search results and elsewhere to indicate whether a site is trustworthy, dangerous, or questionable. Many such tools also add a status indicator to your browser's toolbar to signal the presence of any problems with the site that you're currently visiting.
 
Various options are available: AVG LinkScanner, McAfee SiteAdvisor, Symantec Norton Safe Web Lite, and Web of Trust are all available for free. Many security suites come with a link scanner, too.
 
8. Don't Neglect Physical Security
 
A thief can snatch an unattended laptop from a desk and walk away in a matter of seconds. And a thief who has your laptop may have access to your files and personal information. A notebook lock won't prevent someone from cutting the cable, but it can deter crimes of opportunity.
 
Kensington is probably best-known for its notebook locks; it offers an array of locks for laptops and desktops. Targus is a second vendor that specializes in laptop security gear, including one lock that sounds an alarm when someone tries to pick up the attached laptop or cut the lock cable.
 
Prying eyes are a common security hazard. To prevent unauthorized viewing of your data when you step away from your desk, always lock your screen before leaving your PC unattended. To do this, simply hold down the Windows key and type the letter L. This will bring up the lock screen. To get back to work, press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and enter your login password at the prompt.
 
Another way to shield your screen is to install a privacy filter over the display. These filters fit directly on a monitor so other people can't peer over your shoulder and see what's on the screen. A privacy filter may be particularly useful if you work in an "open" office that lacks cubicle walls. Various companies sell these filters, including Targus, 3M, and Fellowes.
 
9. HTTPS Is Your Friend
 
When you're browsing the Web, protect yourself by using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) whenever possible. HTTPS encrypts the connection between your PC and the Website you're visiting. Though HTTPS doesn't guarantee that a site is secure, it can help prevent other parties from hacking into the network and gaining access to your account.
 
 
Many sites use HTTPS by default: When you purchase an item online or log in to online banking, for instance, your browser will probably connect to the site via HTTPS automatically. But you can go one step further by enabling HTTPS on Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail.
 
To use Facebook's HTTPS feature, log in to Facebook and click Account in the upper-right corner. Select Account Settings from the drop-down menu, and look for ‘Account Security' on the resulting page. Under the Account Security heading, click Change, check the box next to Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible, and click Save.
 
For Twitter, first log in to your account. If you're using the new Twitter interface, click your account name in the upper-right part of the screen, and select settings. (If you're still using the old Twitter interface, click the Settings link in the upper right of the window.) From there, scroll down to the bottom of the resulting page, check the box next to Always use HTTPS, and click Save.
 
To enable HTTPS on Gmail, log in to your account, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, and select Mail Settings from the drop-down menu. Next, under the Browser Connection heading, select the button labeled Always use https. When you're all set, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes. To learn more about Gmail security, visit Google's Gmail Security Checklist page.
 
10. Avoid Public Computers and Wi-Fi
 
As convenient as free Wi-Fi and publicly available computers may be at, say, a public library or café, using them can leave you and your personal information exposed. Public computers might be infected with spyware and other types of malware designed to track your movements online and harvest your passwords.
 
The same is true of open Wi-Fi networks. Cyberthieves may set up rogue Wi-Fi networks that look legitimate (for instance, one may be named for the café that you're visiting) but enable the crooks to collect your personal information. Even legitimate open Wi-Fi networks may leave you vulnerable. For an example, look no further than the Firesheep plug-in for Firefox, which allows just about anyone to hijack log-in sessions for various social networks.
 
Sometimes, you may have no choice but to use a public computer or Wi-Fi network. When you do, don't use it to check your e-mail or social network accounts, conduct online banking, or perform any other action that entails logging in to a site. If you have access to a VPN, use it.
 
11. Be Password Smart
 
You probably know already that using obvious or easy-to-discover passwords like "password" or your pet's name is a bad idea. But how can you make your passwords significantly more secure?
 
First, you need to use a different long, strong password for each account. Hackers often attempt to break into accounts by employing a "dictionary attack," which involves using words straight from the dictionary to guess your password. So don't use standard words as your passwords; instead, try creating them from a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. And don't simply replace letters in a word with a symbol (for example, using the @ symbol in place of an A); it's too common a trick. You can also strengthen your passwords by using a mix of lowercase and capital letters.
 
 
Basically, the more complex a password is, the better. But try to use something that you'll be able to remember--a mnemonic of some sort that incorporates various alphanumeric symbols--and that nobody but you would know.
 
Remembering multiple passwords can be a challenge, which is why many people find that a good password manager is indispensable. KeePass is a good, free password-management option that works on Windows and Mac OS X systems. Another possibility is 1Password ($40), which can generate and manage passwords for you.
 
12. Check Your Credit Report Each Year
 
Unfortunately, even if you do everything right, bad guys might still succeed in stealing your identity. After all, you can control who has access to your personal information, but you can't control how well a company that you do business with secures its personal-data records.
 
Nevertheless, you can limit the damage that would result from undetected identity theft by checking your credit report regularly. Periodically checking your credit report is a good way to make sure that no one has opened credit card or bank accounts under your name.
 
If you are a U.S. citizen, you're entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit agencies--Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion--via AnnualCreditReport.com. The service will let you examine and print out your credit report for free, but if you want to obtain your actual credit score, you'll have to pay for it. Since your freebie credit report is just a once-a-year affair, it's a good idea to insert a reminder in your calendar to check in again with AnnualCreditReport.com in 12 months.
 
Nick Mediati
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 19th Apr 2011

 

Discus Systems plc

 

 

The Discus Diviner

April 2011 

 

We do hope you enjoyed the first edition of The Discus Diviner. This month, the beginning of a new financial year for many companies, the challenge of sticking to the coming year's budget will be a worry. In this edition we have looked at how three of our services can help you save money and fix your costs.

 

The IT Support Guy finds himself in a tricky situation - having to solve a pedantic academic's 'Cloud' problem.

 

Damien has also provided a few 'hints and tips' to help you in your business.

 

 

 

The IT Support Guy

 

Victor can't miss the nameplate. The big gold letters on the door scream the importance of the office's occupant.

  

DR. THADDEUS STRINGFELLOW

VICE-CHANCELLOR

 

This is Victor's first support call on the Vice-Chancellor. Stringfellow was Ted 's customer - until Ted suffered his recent nervous breakdown. Could the two be connected?

 

He raps on the door, hoping no one is at home. The sound of a chair scraping across the floor puts paid to that. The door opens to reveal a pair of bifocals perched precariously on a nose filched from Pinocchio.

 

'You are?' says a thin mouth, lurking in the shadow of the nose.

 

Victor holds out his ID card. 'I am.'

 

'Hmmph. Come.'

 

Victor follows the nose into the room. Every surface is covered in books. Closed, open, tumbling off shelves, strewn across the floor. The only place where there is none is a large, leather-covered desk in the middle of the room. The top is occupied by an overflowing in-tray, a 22" monitor, a wireless keyboard and a mouse.

 

Stringfellow eases himself on to the edge of the desk, peers at Victor over his spectacles. 'You took your time, young man.'

 

'Got stuck in traffic.'

 

'That's what Ted used to say. Are you his apprentice?'

 

'Er, no.'

 

'Only it might be a complicated problem, you see. Beyond your experience?'

 

Victor feels his mouth tighten. 'What's the problem? The ticket says "difficulty with The Cloud".'

 

'That would be my diagnosis.'

 

Smiling inwardly, Victor gives Stringfellow his sympathetic look. 'Very tricky. It's been giving us a lot of problems recently.'

 

'It has?'

 

'Yeah. Incredible. worse than any virus. Completely takes out the internet.'

 

Stringfellow's jaw drops. 'No!'

 

'Fortunately I've had all the training. Otherwise . . .' Victor draws his fingernail across his neck, 'that would be that.' He gets down on his hands and knees, crawls under the desk, says to Stringfellow, 'This Cloud problem often happens after the cleaners have been in.'

 

'That's remarkable! They were in here first thing this morning!'

 

Victor rolls his eyes, plugs the router power cord back into the socket.

 

NEXT MONTH: Victor gets a call from the farm 

 

 

 

 

Wayville Trading chooses Discus

  

We are pleased to welcome Wayville Trading Limited, a brand new company formed by Phil Brown, formerly the Managing Director of Pearse Complex Alloys and Consolidated Stainless Recycling. Phil has used Discus for IT support in his two companies for over 13 years and chose Discus to setup the IT requirements for his new venture based in Bromsgrove.

 

 

 

Save Money and Fix Costs No. 1:

IT Support for a Single, Fixed Monthly Fee

  

For a fixed monthly fee we provide unlimited IT support and assistance, both on-site and remotely. No matter how much you use the service the fee will remain the same during the contract period.

Our TotalCare® package offers:

  • A fixed monthly fee - budget with confidence, no unexpected costs
  • A negotiable contract period - no 'tie-in'
  • A single service option - no confusing alternatives
  • Problem resolution before it occurs - no disruption to your business
  • Regular reporting updates in plain English - no indecipherable jargon


For further information email
u2us@discus.co.uk or for an informal discussion call Terry or Martyn on 0800 880 3360 

 

 

 

 

Save Money and Fix Costs No. 2:

Hosted Telecommunications Service

  

This is not an offer to shave a few pounds off your organisation's telephone bill by switching from one telephone service provider to another. This is an offer to reduce your annual expenditure on telephones that you will find hard to resist.

 

How? By utilising our hosted telecommunications service you can save up to 30% of your annual bill. Yes, thats' right. Up to 30%. And we guarantee to save you 15% on call charges alone.

  • 100% guaranteed call quality - no loss of speech
  • 30 day contract- no 'tie-in'

Saving money isn't the only benefit:

  • Make and receive calls to VOIP phones, mobile phones. PBX phones, PSTN phones
  • Route calls to VOIP phones, mobile phones. PBX phones, PSTN phones, PCs and MACs

Special Offer for April! Take advantage now of a free, no obligation trial.

  

For further information email u2us@discus.co.uk  or for an informal discussion contact Terry or Martyn on 0800 880 3360

 

 

 

 

Save Money and Fix Costs No.3:

Hosted Microsoft Exchange Service

  

As our hosted service is deployed over the Internet, there is no need to modify your existing e-mail infrastructure, install and maintain any new hardware or specialized software, or invest in training for IT staff or end users. You can begin using Microsoft Exchange right away.

Our hosted service provides online tools to help your organization protect itself from spam and malware, satisfy retention requirements for e-discovery and compliance, and encrypt data to preserve confidentiality.

For further information email
u2us@discus.co.uk or for an informal discussion contact Terry or Martyn on 0800 880 3360 

 

 

 

 

Moo Time

Down on the Farm

 

To end on a different note . . .

You may hear strange noises in the background during your phonecall.

There are many pleasures to be had from working in the the countryside - clean air, wonderful views, easy parking.

However, life goes on, and cows are no exception. So allow me too apologise in advance for the sound of new bovine life entering the world. It's temporary only! 

 

I hope you enjoy our newsletter.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any comments or criticisms.

Sincerely,

Terry Biddulph

Managing Director

Discus Systems plc 

 

In This Issue

The IT Support Guy

Wayville Trading chooses Discus

Save Money 1: Fixed Cost IT Support

Save Money 2: Hosted Telecommunications

Save Costs 3: Hosted Microsoft Exchange

Damien's Tips 'n Tricks

The Hampton Joker

 

 

 

Quick Links

  

 

Damien's Tips 'n Tricks 

Damian

How to improve your Wireless Signal!

 

Reposition the router to a central location in the house - for example, the centre of the house.

 

Place the router away from any large objects or walls.

 

Make sure the router is raised - i.e. not on the floor

 

Place the router away from anything which is metal.

 

Keep it well away from the microwave!

 

When purchasing or specifying your router, ensure you look to upgrade the aerial or antenna to a hi-gain one. If you use the standard aerial you'll have your wireless signal directed outside the house. With a hi-gain one it is designed to focus its signal actually at the device you want to connect to and from!

 

Upgrade your machine's wireless network adapter with a new USB version. (Laptops with built-in wireless normally contain outstanding antennas. They do not usually require to be upgraded.)

 

Add a wireless repeater to extend the signal range.

 

Change the wireless channel/frequency to increase its signal strength. You can do that through the configuration page of the router. The computer will detect the new channel itself.

 

Reduce wireless interference by avoiding wireless electronics which use the 2.4GHz frequency. You should use cordless phones which use the 900MHz or 5.8GHz frequencies.

 

Update your firmware updates for your router through the manufacturer's website.

 

Update your network adapter driver through the Windows Update feature of Windows 7 and Vista or visit the website here for Windows XP.

 

Upgrade 802.11b devices to 802.11g or buy a new 802.11 g equipment. It is five times faster than an 802.11b device!

 

 

The Hampton Joker 

Tech support: How may I help you?

The Joker: I'm writing my first email.

Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?

The Joker: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the little circle around it?

 

**********

The Joker: I can't get on the Internet.

Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?

The Joker: Yes, I'm sure I saw my colleague do it.

Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?

The Joker: Five dots.

 

**********

Tech support: Good day. How may I help you?

The Joker: Hello.. I can't print.

Tech support: Would you click on 'start' for me and . . . The Joker: Hey, don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates!

 

 

 

Discus Systems - providing IT support throughout the West Midlands,

covering Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield, Tamworth,

Wolverhampton, Dudley, Bromsgrove and Redditch.

 
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 19th Apr 2011
Dell makes a lot of noise about its bespoke servers cobbled together by its Data Center Solutions unit, and this gets under Hewlett-Packard's skin a bit considering that it is the largest shipper of servers in the world and it has its own quasi-custom, dense, energy-efficient servers aimed at hyperscale customers, too. So you might think that HP would make some noise about the new ProLiant SL machines at one of the recent press and analysts events it has hosted.
 
 
Nope.
 
Instead, HP has done a soft launch on a revamped lineup of cookie-sheet servers that slide into the ProLiant SL6500 rack-mounted ovens enclosures. By "soft" I mean it's talked to key analysts and journalists about the machines and then just plunked the feeds and speeds out there on the corporate web site for people to find.
 
"We don't beat our chest about it as much, but four out of five of the world's largest search engines are powered by ProLiant servers," director of marketing for service providers and high performance computing at HP Glenn Keels tells El Reg. He adds that HP can and does build custom servers "where needed, and at scale."
 
The ProLiant SL6500 Scalable System chassis is not any different from when it was announced last October. The chassis is 4U high and allows for half-width server trays that are 1U or 2U in height to slide into the chassis.
 
There are also now full-width blades that can slide into the enclosure, and you make be asking yourself how this differs from an enterprise blade server that has been tipped on its side. The answer is simple: a cookie-sheet server does not have a midplane that blades and switches plug into and that a management controller in the chassis uses to control all of the individual nodes. Cookie-sheet servers are just funky ways of packing in free standing servers (as far as networking goes) but having them share power and cooling.
 
There are four new server trays that slide into the SL6500, two of them based on Xeon 5600 processor from Intel (of course) and two based on processors from Advanced Micro Devices. This is the first time the ProLiant SLs have had Opteron options, and considering that the Opteron 6100s came out in March 2010 and Opteron 4100s followed in June, you might be wondering what took so long. The sales cycle for the SL family of machines is a bit different from the general-purpose market and HP wanted to make sure the SL idea flew before it started expanding the lineup.
 
The two new Intel-based cookie-sheet servers are the ProLiant SL160s G6 and the ProLiant SL390s G7. The two new Opteron-based nodes for the SL6500 chassis are the ProLiant SL165s G7 and the ProLiant SL335s G7.
 
The SL160s G6 is still at the G6 generation because it has the iLO 100 service processor on the server node rather than the full iLO 3 card that is included with the G7-series servers in the ProLiant family aimed at enterprise-class data centers.
 
It is a full-width tray that can have one or two Xeon 5600 processors on its system board, which is mounted on the front left of the tray. The mono for this server node has 18 memory slots and can support a maximum of 192GB of main memory. You can only use a dozen of the slots with 16GB memory sticks to 192GB; with 18 of the 8GB sticks, you top out at 144GB.
 
HP is supporting Xeon 5600s with either four or six cores in the node. The SL160s G6 tray has room for six 3.5-inch SAS or SATA disks or ten 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disks or solid state drives. (Fat 3.5-inch SSDs are not supported.) The drives are not hot plug, and given the distributed nature of the applications that are run on these types of servers, they don't need to be. The system has two expansion slots and has one integrated Gigabit Ethernet port; it also has an on-board, six-port SATA RAID controller.
 
The base SL160s server comes with a single four-core Xeon E5620 processor spinning at 2.4GHz and 6GB of main memory; it costs $1,475. Using a slightly faster six-core X5640 running at 2.66GHz and putting in 12GB of main memory boosts the price to $2,545. Kicking that up to two Xeon X5672 processors (quad core running at 3.2GHz) and bumping up memory to 24GB raises the price to $5,745. These SL machines are not in the online store configurator, so you can't see the effect of choosing other processors and adding disk and SSD options.
 
Timothy Prickett Morgan
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 18th Apr 2011
Universities, government labs, and sometimes IT vendors donate their excess supercomputing capacity through grants to academics to help advance various sciences. Now Google is letting boffins loose on its systems.
 
 
In a blog post, Alfred Spector, vice president of research and special initiatives at the Chocolate Factory, said that Google had created an academic research grant program called the Google Exacycle for Visiting Faculty, which will donate one billion core-hours to science.
 
Google says that this level of computing is orders of magnitude more computing than most academics can get their hands on, no matter how big the endowment is at the university or how much research they do for government.
 
Google is not just giving away compute cycle on its massive server clusters to get a tax write-off on unused capacity, but to blind us with science. "Google Exacycle for Visiting Faculty is not a conventional grant program," the company claims. "We aim to stimulate advances in science and engineering research by supporting the computational needs of projects that push boundaries and reach for remarkable breakthroughs."
 
Google is not giving all of the billion core-hours to one lucky researcher. The plan is to solicit distinguished researchers and postdoctoral scholars from all over the globe and award them grants for jobs that can chew through at least 100 million core-hours.
 
Those who win the grants will do their work from Google offices and sign an employee agreement with Google for the term of the simulation. You have to pay your own travel, lodging, and living expenses while the simulations run.
 
The company says that large-scale genomics and protein folding simulations are the kinds of jobs it expects to most benefit from such a large number of cores to frolic upon; embarrassingly parallel jobs will do best, and "pleasantly parallel" jobs (yes that is a technical term) will work.
 
"The higher the CPU to I/O rate, the better the match with the system," Google says, and jobs that have minimal communication between nodes will do best. (Sounds like Gigabit Ethernet to me.) Your program has to be coded in C/C++ and compiled via Google's Native Client SDK, its tweak of the open source GNU C++ toolbox. Sorry, no Fortran or Java apps need apply. Researchers have until May 31 to apply for the capacity.
 
Looking ahead, Spector says that Google is thinking of extending CPU capacity grants to businesses in various industries, including biotech, financial services, manufacturing, and energy. Spector did not say that these grants would be free – he didn't say Google would charge for them, but it makes sense that it would – and is soliciting ideas from industry now on what jobs companies might want to run.
 
So just how much is a billion core-hours in terms of HPC capacity?
 
The largest cluster of Xeon machines in the world not using a proprietary interconnect of some kind is the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center. It uses Intel's old quad-core Xeon 5400 processors from two generations ago in two-socket machines; the cluster has 81,920 cores running at 2.93 GHz and links the servers together with an InfiniBand network.
 
Those chips can issue four floating point instructions per clock cycle per core, which works out to over 960 teraflops of aggregate peak number-crunching power. (On the Linpack floating point test, the Pleiades machine delivers 772.7 teraflops of actual performance.) If you ran the Pleiades machine flat out for a full year, you are talking about 718 million core-hours.
 
A grant of 100 million core-hours is around 11,408 Xeon cores running for a full year, and with modern six-core Xeon 5600 processors, you are talking about Google giving 950 server nodes. (Obviously, if you want to run that job in three months instead of 12, you have to quadruple the server node count.)
 
Google has millions of servers, so this is a tiny fraction of what the search giant has running in its 36 data centers. Depending on how fast you want to burn those cores, the virtual HPC cluster that Google will grant you could be rated from one to several hundred teraflops.
 
So the Google grants may be a tiny piece of Mountain View's capacity, but the capacity Google is putting up for grabs is a lot more than most researchers can get their hands on
 
Timothy Prickett Morgan
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 18th Apr 2011
The UK is expected to pass 250,000 high-speed broadband lines this month according to broadband analysis firm Point Topic. The company has projected figures based on December 2010 data to determine that the number of broadband lines with a speed of greater than 25Mbps at the end of March was 236,000, and should exceed 250,000 in April.
 
 
"We went on from [first-generation broadband 10 years ago] to reach over 13 million broadband lines within five years. Now we have over 19 million. It's dangerous just to assume that history will repeat itself, but it's still a good pointer to what will happen to superfast broadband in this decade."
Tim Johnson, (Chief Analyst) Point Topic
 
The majority of these connections are Virgin Media customers which make up an estimated 146,000 at the end of March. Virgin customers can receive 50meg or 100meg broadband through Virgin's fibre-coax hybrid network. 86,000 were estimated to be from what Point Topic refer to as 'BT networks' with the large majority of these being BT Infinity customers who have BT's up-to 40meg broadband through fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). Around 4,000 are other BT Wholesale customers using FTTC. Only a small amount of these customers (around 3,700 in December 2010) were thought to have a full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) based connection offering 100meg or above.
 
With TalkTalk to launch their FTTC products next month, the number of connections and rate at which these are added is only likely to increase, and this will continue as other broadband providers come on board.
 
John Hunt
ThinkBroadband
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 12th Apr 2011
Victor can't miss the nameplate. The big gold letters on the door scream the importance of the office's occupant.
 
 
DR. THADDEUS STRINGFELLOW
VICE-CHANCELLOR
 
This is Victor's first support call on the Vice-Chancellor. Stringfellow was Ted 's customer - until Ted suffered his recent nervous breakdown. Could the two be connected?
He raps on the door, hoping no one is at home. The sound of a chair scraping across the floor puts paid to that. The door opens to reveal a pair of bifocals perched precariously on a nose filched from Pinocchio.
'You are?' says a thin mouth, lurking in the shadow of the nose.
Victor holds out his ID card. 'I am.'
'Hmmph. Come.'
Viktor follows the nose into the room. Every surface is covered in books. Closed, open, tumbling off shelves, strewn across the floor. The only place where there is none is a large, leather-covered desk in the middle of the room. The top is occupied by an overflowing in-tray, a 22" monitor, a wireless keyboard and a mouse.
Stringfellow eases himself on to the edge of the desk, peers at Victor over his spectacles. 'You took your time, young man.'
'Got stuck in traffic.'
'That's what Ted used to say. Are you his apprentice?'
'Er, no.'
'Only it might be a complicated problem, you see. Beyond your experience?'
Victor feels his mouth tighten. 'What's the problem? The ticket says "difficulty with The Cloud".'
'That would be my diagnosis.'
Smiling inwardly, Victor gives Stringfellow his sympathetic look. 'Very tricky. It's been giving us a lot of problems recently.'
'It has?'
'Yeah. Incredible. worse than any virus. Completely takes out the internet.'
Stringfellow's jaw drops. 'No!'
'Fortunately I've had all the training. Otherwise . . .' Victor draws his fingernail across his neck, 'that would be that.' He gets down on his hands and knees, crawls under the desk, says to Stringfellow, 'This Cloud problem often happens after the cleaners have been in.'
'That's remarkable! They were in here first thing this morning!'
Victor rolls his eyes, plugs the router power cord back into the socket.
 
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 12th Apr 2011
This is the third time in a week that Victor Parsons finds himself staring at the insides of the same Proliant ML330.
 
 
'It's buggered, ain't it?' Charlie Shufflebottom, MD of Here2There Removals, leans over Victor's shoulder and stares as he unscrews the housing containing the hard drives.
'No. Mr Shufflebottom. It's old, that's all.'
'Don't be daft, son. It's only ten years or so since we bought it.'
2001, thinks Victor. Same year I left school and joined Discus. Windows 98, Windows 2000. Ah, nostalgia.
'Well. if it ain't buggered when's it going to be fixed?'
'That depends, Mr Shufflebottom.'
'Depends? Depends on what?'
'Depends on whether the disk is f—, I mean not working.'
'How long will it take to get it working, son?' I've a business to run, you know. Time is money, as they say.'
Twitching, Victor runs his finger around his collar. 'It may not be that simple. I'll find Derek and tell him about the problem with the backup.'
'Derek? Derek Snodgrass? That lazy so-and-so. I got rid of him, he was always fiddling with the computers.'
Victor rolls his eyes. 'He 's an IT manager, Mr Shufflebottom. That is . . . was . . . his job.'
'Don't get lippy with me, young man. Anyway, where's the backup when it's at home?'
'Sorry?'
'You deaf? The backup . . . show me where it is.'
'But it's not—'
'Is that it?'
'No that's the PSU.'
'The what?'
'The power supply unit.'
'What does that do?'
Victor sighs, rubs his neck with a sweaty palm.
It's going to be a long day.
 
 
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 12th Apr 2011
Microsoft in their wisdom gives you a pop up box usually when your wireless has a low or weak signal. This is obviously a sign things need to improve... but have you ever wondered how? - It is basically telling you that the connection isn't good enough for a reliable or good qualitly signal and therefore will give you bad performance or low speeds. Sometimes your signal for your wireless will be completely lost in certain parts of your house!
 
So how do we do something about this? - try these few tips and tricks below. The tips will increase the wireless range. They will also improve the overall performance as well as reliability of the wireless network.
 
  1. Reposition the router to a central location in the house - For example the centre of the house.
  2. Place the router away from any large objects or walls.
  3. Make sure the router is raised - ie not on the floor
  4. Place the router away from anything which is metal.
  5. Keep it away from the Microwave! 
  6. When purchasing or speccing up your router ensure you look to upgrade the aeriel or antenna to a hi-gain ariel. If you use the standard aeirel you'll have your wireless signal directed to outside the house, with a hi-gain one it is designed to focus its signal actually at the device you want to connect to and from!
  7. Upgrade machines wireless network adapter with a new USB version (Laptops which have built-in wireless normally contain outstanding antennas. They do not usually require to be upgraded.)
  8. Add a wireless repeater to extend the signal range.
  9. Change the wireless channel/frenqency to increase its signal strength. You can do that through the configuration page of the router. The computer will detect the new channel itself.
  10. Reduce wireless interference by avoiding wireless electronics which use the 2.4GHz frequency. You should use cordless phones which use the 900MHz or 5.8GHz frequencies.
  11. Update your firmware updates for your router through the manufacturer's website. Update your network adapter driver through the Windows Update feature of Windows 7 and Vista or visit the website www.update.microsoft.com for Windows XP.
  12. Upgrade 802.11b devices to 802.11g or buy a new 802.11 g equipment. It is five times faster than an 802.11b device.
 
All sounds a bit too technical? - we can help! call us free on 0800 880 3360 and speak to a member of our support team.
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 11th Apr 2011
People who make a lot of online transactions, are popular online and who respond to most of the emails they receive are at the highest risk for being duped by malicious phishers, according to a multi-university study.
 
 
That's because they don't focus properly and so make decisions about what to do with emails based on simple cues embedded within rather than analyzing their entire contents, say researchers at the University of Buffalo, Brock University, Ball State University and the University of Texas, Arlington.
 
LATEST PHISHING THREAT: 'We regret to inform you': The Epsilon breach letters you don't want to see
 
People are most susceptible if they read so many emails that they don't have the time to accurately weigh whether they are spam, the researchers say. Contributing to this problem are receiving a lot of emails, responding a lot of emails, maintaining many online relationships and conducting lots of online transactions.
 
Authors of spam have tapped into the psyche of the email recipient to exploit basic human weaknesses, the researchers say. Statements indicating urgency -- disaster relief, security of bank accounts, free tickets -- distract recipients and make them more likely to miss indicators that the email isn't legitimate, they say.
 
There are steps email users can take. The researchers offer tips on reducing the likelihood of being duped, starting with spam blockers. "By way of prevention, we found that spam blockers are imperative to reduce the number of unnecessary emails individuals receive that could potentially clutter their information processing and judgment," says Professor Arun Vishwanath, of the UB Department of Communication.
 
They suggest using many email accounts, each dedicated to a single purpose -- banking, personal correspondence, etc. -- so off-topic spam seems out of place. For instance, if banking spam shows up in the personal account, it will stand out, the researchers say, making the recipient consider it more carefully.
 
The researchers say setting aside a regular time for handling different email accounts also helps recipient focus and be less susceptible to phishing.
 
Tim Greene
 
corner spacer corner
 


Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 4th Apr 2011
Identity theft has saddled thousands of children with debt, sometimes for years before they ever discover their personal information has been stolen, a study says.
 
 
Within a database of 42,232 children that was compiled by an identity-protection business, 4,311 -- 10.2% -- had someone else using their Social Security numbers, according to "Child Identity Theft," a report by Richard Power, a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon Cylab.
 
MORE ON THE PROBLEM: FTC: ID theft again tops consumer complaints
 
In one case, a 17-year-old girl's Social Security number was used by eight different people to amass $725,000 in debt. In another case, a 14-year-old boy had a 10-year-old credit history that included a mortgage on a $605,000 house, according to information supplied to Power by the identity-protection firm All Clear ID.
 
The study analyzed the types of documents on which the Social Security numbers appeared, and it found that 70% were loan or credit card applications, 18% utility bills, 5% property assessments, deeds, mortgages and foreclosures, 4% driver's licenses and 2% vehicle registration.
 
While 1 in 10 children in the database had their identities stolen, only 0.2% of the adults fell victim in the same way, Power says, and that stark contrast raises questions. "Are child Social Security numbers a hot commodity?" Power writes. "Are cyber criminals and other fraudsters seeking them out? Are child IDs preferable for fraudsters?"
 
The answer is that he doesn't know, and can't know until there is a study that is designed to compile results that can be extrapolated to the general population. Power says he and others at Carnegie Mellon University are considering such a study, but none is planned yet.
 
Meanwhile, it doesn't make a lot of difference what percentage of children's IDs are stolen, Power says. If you're the one it happens to, it's a nightmare, and most people don't even consider it as a possibility. "The other dimension is to raise awareness of this as an issue," he says.
 
In some cases parents with bad credit ratings use their children's Social Security numbers to open accounts with utility companies so they can get water and electricity without intending to harm the children's credit, Holland says. In other cases, criminals use the number to profit. Some are used by people in the country illegally who are trying to establish credit, and buy houses and cars.
 
The database used for the study was all the people under 18 that were listed in All Clear ID's 800,000-plus database of people whose personally identifiable information had been compromised. The firm is hired by businesses that suffer data breaches and want to extend some protection to those who could become victims, says Bo Holland, All Clear ID's CEO.
 
In most cases, identities endangered by data breaches do not fall under systematic attack, Holland says. The identities are compromised, but don't appear to be taken by someone who then actively tries to capitalize on them. Names that fell under targeted attacks were dropped from the database used for the study, he says.
 
Tim Greene
 
corner spacer corner

Veeam Specialist Microsoft Small Business Specialists Birmingham Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Birmingham Siemens Solution 1 Reseller Birmingham Sonicwall Specialists Birmingham Business Link Approved Birmingham Fujitsu Primergy Certified Partner Birmingham Facebook Follow us on Twitter ESET NOD32 VMWare
IT Support
IT Services
IT Solutions
Get Support Now
Sitemap
© 2018 Discus Systems plc. All rights reserved. Content Management by Verve Digital