Archive for June, 2013

Windows 8.1- Keeping my fingers crossed

Windows 8.1 Preview

Windows 8.1 Preview

I’ve been using Windows 8 since November of 2012, and I really want to like it, but as much as I try to enjoy it, I really find it frustrating.

I’ve been using computers since the days of DOS (Disc Operating System) , and I skipped the move to Windows 3.1 and fought Windows 95. By the time Windows 98 was released, I had accepted that we were going to move forward with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and mouse, but I continued to use command prompt and keyboard shortcut keys. When I finally embraced XP, it was awesome; and I can still whip around the interface with or without a mouse. XP was straightforward, nothing fancy, and did what it was supposed to do, which is why it’s been around as long as it has. I was even one of those few people who liked Vista (it ran beautifully on my Apple MacBook Pro). Windows 7 was – and is – solid, and again, I could navigate the system without the use of a mouse. When I replaced XP systems with Windows 7, a quick how-to lesson was all that was needed and my users were able to get back to business in no time. So when it was time to replace my last Windows 7 laptop, I decided to order it with Windows 8, since I had to learn the new operating system so I could assist my clients as they move off of XP. (See my first impression of Windows 8 here).

(Really if you are still on XP you NEED to start planning to move off before April 2014.)

My new system arrived and I planned to spend a few hours getting used to Windows 8 (it shouldn’t take more than that to get familiar with the operating system) and setting it up. Two hours in and I was beyond frustrated and I had clients needing assistance ASAP, and I couldn’t figure out the basics. By the time my husband arrived home that evening, I was fit to be tied. I complained about some of my struggles with Windows 8, and how I was under the gun to help my clients, and I couldn’t; and he said I was a “such a user”. Well guess what, I am a typical business user and I don’t have a day off to learn a new system.

After having to Google how to restart the system, then figuring it out, I couldn’t imagine how my clients were going to deal with it on their own. The very thought of  plopping a Windows 8 system on a client’s desk and walking away from it was terrifying. As I start replacing/upgrading XP systems, I am still recommending and installing Windows 7 for my clients.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some really cool things with Windows 8 which I really like, but as it stands right now, I know my clients will hate the interface and will experience some of the same issues I did. The biggest complaints I have about Windows 8 are:

1. Too many clicks to get access the application/file I need. Overall, I find it takes longer to get to where I need to be.

2. Too many shortcut keys that don’t make any sense

3. That horrible “modern user interface”. This interface makes no sense for business use. I never use it, and curse loudly, with words that would make a trucker blush, every time I am popped into it.

For the sake of my clients, and many others, I hope Microsoft has taken a serious look at how corporate users use Windows 7 and make the operating more business-friendly. From what I have seen so far, it looks like 8.1 will be more business user friendly.  Looking forward to trying it. My 12 yr old son has already installed the preview and is enjoying the new features.

What are your thoughts on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1?

More lessons learned from the tour bus

Rideau Falls

I was in Ottawa last week with my daughters grade 8 class trip.  80 kids, 4 days, countless museums, equals one exhausting trip.  As tiring as it was, it was a great trip.

I had told my clients I would be working while away and I did when I could. But like my last trip to Cuba, I have taken away more lessons about how to work while on the road (literally).

First, a huge thanks to my clients!  Without their support and encouragement I wouldn’t be able to spend the time with my family like I do. One of the main reasons I started my own company was to be able to spend more time with my kids.

Lessons learned:

  1. Need a light weight laptop.  I have considered a tablet, but I need a network port. I think an 11 inch laptop would be perfect.  When needed I can use my mobile data plan for connectivity.
  2. Extra power charger – my phone ran out of juice during one of our long tour days.  Luckily, I do have an extra power charger, but the bad news, I didn’t take it with me.  If I need to connect to a client using my phone, I’ll have to make sure the phone has power.

Between my last two excursions, Cuba and Ottawa, I feel like I have learned enough to be able to effectively work from anywhere, tour bus, waiting in line for Parliament etc., and still provide the level of service my clients can expect from me.

Keeping my fingers crossed at a trip to the Florida Keys will be a reality next January.

Categories: vacation

Out of Town This Week

One of the reasons I started my own company was to be able to spend more time with my kids. From June 17-20 I’ll be in Ottawa with my daughter, and 80 of her classmates.  My daughter isn’t thrilled I’m going but her friends think I’m cool (and I am) and they are happy I’m joining them. I hadn’t volunteered to go but one of the female volunteers cancelled at last minute and I was asked to help out. Luckily, I had it in my calendar just in case and my week is open, so I can go.

For the most part I’ll be available and will have Internet access in the evenings to offer remote support if needed.  For emergencies an associate is available to be on-site.

Wish me luck.


Categories: Uncategorized

IT – How Pennywise Would’ve Done It

Screaming like a little girl

Screaming like a little girl

Warning: some material may not be suitable for unqualified IT professionals. Some IT pros may be easily scared by the following scenario. Viewer discretion is advised.

Sometimes you walk into a new client’s site, and are amazed by what you see! I have walked into sites where everything is like a bright, sunny day; but I have also walked into some and it was like walking into a horror movie. Unfortunately, I see more bloodcurdling IT infrastructure than I’d like to. Here’s a classic that Hitchcock could have used:

Before we get into the scary details, this client is an awesome company and they are doing great work in the community; and I am very humbled and honored to be a part of their team. The first time I walked in was because the “server” wouldn’t work. (This situation was the basis of my Microsoft Technet blog post, “My IT Guy was Hit By a Bus“). Needless to say, their IT guy went missing. Locals say he was last seen walking into the fog.

What I saw scared me. I wasn’t just a little worried, I was terrified of their setup; and if I were religious, I would have said a prayer.

Their “server”, which was hosting the shared files for the 10 employees, was a homemade box (nothing wrong with this) with a mysterious copy of Windows Server 2003 installed, but not configured for server use. What made me panic like a little girl watching The Shining (with the lights off), was that all their data was stored on a portable USB drive, with a Post-It note, just barely hanging on (much like a severed limb), reading, “Do not ever remove”. Yes, you read that right! All the data was on a USB drive. Talk about a cold sweat. To ensure that nothing would happen to their data, I hunted for a backup. Go ahead, guess what I found. If you guessed “no backup,” you would be correct. This went from The Shining scary to The Exorcist scary.

By following the steps below, you are guaranteed to have a haunted server, and risk data death; and you’ll be playing the lead role in your own horror movie.

1. Server-rated hardware is overrated, just grab the first desktop you can get your bloody hands on.

2. We can always revive your hardware with electrocution, don’t bother with backup strategies.

3. Mirrored drives (and RAID) are only good for funhouses. Make sure to exclude them from your server.

4. Proper licensing is scary (it really is). Avoid it entirely! You don’t need that in your life.

5. Only hire the undead, and unqualified, IT professionals.

For the client in this situation, we immediately ordered new server hardware with a proper and current server operating system. Until the new system was in place, I manually backed up their data weekly to ensure that if the USB drive was ever possessed, we had a backup of their data.

Both the client and I sleep better at night knowing that they now have the proper safeguards in place. Your IT infrastructure should never look like it was put together by Hannibal Lecter. If opening the server closet is scarier than being slashed through a shower curtain, please have your qualified IT professional come in and rescue you from the horror of it all!

Can you find all the scary references? And which movie scares you the most?

PS: I love scary movies, but seriously, your technical infrastructure should not be a scene out of one.

Is Internet Explorer 10 Giving you Grief

I am not sure what happened with the roll-out of IE 10 in recent weeks, but several of my clients have had hiccups with this update. One client came into his office, and the system notified him that it had updated during the evening, and when they attempted to use IE, it wouldn’t connect to any websites. In another case, IE10 did not work with the client’s current website portals, and he needed to revert back to IE9. Within 5 minutes, I’ll walk you through how to resolve a non-functioning IE 10 update, and how to roll back to IE 9 if required. The easiest solution is to use Fix Microsoft. It has a Fix Tool for this problem, which you can simply run, and with a little luck, the problem will be corrected. Go to and click the run now button in the window under the Resolution section.

Of course, if you don’t have another browser installed, you will not be able to access this page and will need to reset IE manually. For those of you who want a little more control, or don’t have a second browser already installed, resetting the IE settings manually may get IE back up and running in no time. To do this, click Start -> Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Internet Options.

internet options

Then click the Advanced tab to the far right. At the bottom of the window click the Reset button.


I usually leave the Delete personal settings unchecked.

Then click the Reset button. IE will now be reset and you should now be able to successfully launch IE. Now, we all know that sometimes things don’t go as planned, and the reset may not work; and an uninstall of IE may be necessary. If you have to uninstall because the reset failed, or because IE 10 is not compatible with your current websites, you will need to roll back the IE 10 update. To do this, click Start -> Control Panel -> Programs -> Uninstall a Program.


IE is not in this list since it’s considered a Windows Update.  To find it, you’ll need to the click the View Installed Updates link to the left.

installed updates

Now you will be presented with a large list of updates. To make your life easier, type Internet in the search bar at the top of  the window.  Once you have located the IE 10 update, highlight it then click uninstall. The un-installation will take a few minutes and a system reboot will be required. Once rebooted, IE 10 will have been replaced with IE9. Open IE to ensure it is working correctly.

To prevent IE 10 from installing during the next scheduled update, you can either manually approve each update within the Updates. Click Start->Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> Windows Update then select the Change Updates link to the left. Pick the option that best fits your needs. Microsoft has released a program that blocks IE 10 from being installed. It can be downloaded from Simply download and follow the instructions. And, as always, if you have any questions or concerns, consult with your qualified IT professional.

Categories: Small Business IT
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