New Firefox release 39 rocks!

Like many I gave up on Internet Explorer some time ago – just too slow and cumbersome.

We still support BreakthePaywall! add-on for IE and we will be looking into any development work required to support new IE versions in Windows 10 and the new Edge browser that Microsoft are developing.

But I changed to using Chrome – which I never liked (because it’s from Google), it was out of necessity.

I did try Firefox for some time but also found it cumbersome and annoying – updates almost every week.

Well that’s all changed now – the latest version of Firefox I’m running at time of writing, release 39, is superb. Fast, clean, concerned with my privacy – it just makes me feel all cosy 🙂 And automatic updating.

Check it out, I promise you will not be disappointed.

And, yes, we will be developing a version of BreakthePaywall! For Firefox – I know we said we would do so in the past but this latest version has made me realise how great Mozilla and Firefox is.

Download at: https://www.firefox.com

New anonymous search tool

I’m always on the look out for better search engines – not just with the results they provide but that also don’t track or store your searches like Google, Bing et al do.

We used to have Scroogle but they died some years ago. Since then I have been using Duckduckgo.com as my default engine. It’s ok but suffers from being US based – i’m in the UK so I do find myself using google.co.uk when i’m searching for something specific to the UK.

But now we have something much better – privatesearch.io

Not only is it an anonymous search engine but it also collates it’s results from all the other search engines. If you search for something then the results are listed with a text icon indicating where the result has come from – Google, Duckduckgo, Wikipedia (directly!) etc. All this can be customised in the preferences – so if you don’t want Google results you can specify that. It’s also very fast. Fantastic!

It’s too early to say if it solves the location problem of getting too many US based results but i’ll report back on that once I have used it for some time. I highly recommend you set this as your default search engine.

It’s also part of a privacy advisory site – privacytools.io -which is a site dedicated to giving you the latest advise on privacy software tools – encryption, VPNs, browsers etc. An excellent resource and well worth checking out.

 

Send As From a different email domain in Office 365 Exchange Online

I get this requested quite often so I thought I should post how to do it.

The scenario is that you have your main email account with Microsoft on Office 365/Exchange Online, say Fred@Bloggs.com, and we connect to that mailbox via Outlook and/or Outlook Web Access. We also have email accounts setup elsewhere – on Google’s Gmail for instance say Fred@Jacks.com – and you are forwarding those emails to your main Office 365 account so that you know when new mail arrives.

Usually you would have to logon to the other service to reply to the Fred@Jacks.com emails – wouldn’t it be nice if you could reply from your Fred@bloggs.com account instead? Well, you can, and it’s really easy to setup:

Firstly, I can’t verify if this works with all email providers – it does work with Gmail accounts though.

To begin with you need to setup a contact in Office 365 for the other email address – Fred@Jacks.com:

Logon as the admin user to Office 365/Exchange Online.

Goto to the Admin Centres, choose Users, select Contacts and add the email:

You will also need to add the domain to the verified domains list:

Goto Admin center, Settings, Domains.

Follow the instructions on adding a domain – you do not need to add the email DNS records in order for the domain to be used in your account. You just need to verify you own the account by adding the TXT DNS record and verifying via this portal.

Note: the adding of a domain can take up to 4 hours to complete – took only an hour in my case.

Next you need to connect to the Exchange online server using Powershell:

This article explains how to do that: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj984289%28v=exchg.150%29.aspx

Open Powershell

Make sure you have issued the command to allow scripts to run:

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

Select ‘Y when prompted to turn scripting on.

Type in the credentials command:

$UserCredential = Get-Credential

You will be prompted for a username and password – enter you admin username and password for Office 365/Exchange Online.

Type in the session variable creation command:

$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName
Microsoft.Exchange
-ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/
-Credential $UserCredential -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection

And then issue the session import command:

Import-PSSession $Session

Here’s a screen shot after issuing all 3 commands:

9.png

You will then see a bunch of stuff being downloaded and will eventually return to the command prompt.

You are now connected and can start issuing commands. For a list of commands available this is a good article:

http://o365info.com/mailbox-permissions-powershell-commands/

You can use a command like:

Get-MailboxPermission Fred

To test connectivity – this will list the permissions for user Fred (Fred@Bloggs.com).

The command:

Get-RecipientPermission "Fred Bloggs"

Will list the permissions on the contact we created above – there shouldn’t be any at this stage.

To give Send As permission to the contact issue this command:

Add-RecipientPermission "Fred Bloggs" -AccessRights SendAs -Trustee "Fred"

This gives the user Fred (Fred@Bloggs.com) permission to Send As the contact “Fred Bloggs” (Fred@Jacks.com).

You may receive an error at this point along these lines:

You can't use the domain  because it's not an accepted domain for your organization.

This means the domain verification and adding process has not completed yet – can take up to 4 hours for this to complete. If you continue to get this error after 4 hours then something must have gpne wrong with the domain adding process.

If all is ok you should be prompted for confirmation – select ‘Y’ to add the permission.

That’s it!

You should close the session properly – otherwise it will stay open – by issuing:

Remove-PSSession $Session

You can now close Powershell.

In Outlook or Outlook Web Access create a new email, make sure you can see the From: option (In Outlook if it’s not there go to the Options menu and click the From button), type in the email address you want to Send As – Fred@Jacks.com – you only need to do this once, outlook will remember it from then on and you can select it from the pull down list (however, at time of writing it was not saving it in outlook web access). Compose your message and send – if you have forwarding setup as described above you should then receive the message and note that the from address is indeed as expected: Fred@Jacks.com.

When you reply to messages received you will need to choose the from address from the pulldown – it defaults to the main mailbox from address – Fred@Bloggs.com – there is no way of changing this behaviour that I know of.

Google at Work

I was at the Google offices in London, UK yesterday for a Google at Work roadshow hosted by one of their premier partners ‘Cloud Solutions’.

Google at Work is the rebranded Google Apps for Business containing cloud based apps like Gmail for Business (Email), Calendar (Shared Diaries), Drive (Cloud storage), Docs (Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Presentations) and Hangouts (Remote Desktop and Conferencing).

After being greeted by various young, attractive Google employees, or ‘Googlers’ as they are called, a group of us were ushered into a small part of the chocolate factory – tin foil wallpaper, captain nemo style doors, strange sculptures hanging from the ceiling, rather like being in some 1960s Beatles acid trip. Pleasing but slightly disconcerting!

Having been suitably lubricated we were then given a brief run-down of all the Google apps with Q&As after each session.

A number of the participants seemed to be able to answer questions which the panel of speakers could not – it seemed a number of them were already using Google apps within their companies so quite why they were there I wasn’t sure. I did start to get the feeling that they were perhaps ‘plants’, brought in the beef up the message and show how you can become a Google evangelist too.

It quickly became apparent that Google do have something to offer. But they are rather delusional about how much impact they can make in the SMB market which is where we were all coming from. You see, with Google it’s an all or nothing approach – if you decide to use Google apps then their impression is that you will want to move completely to the Google platform, there is no hybrid state.

None of the Googlers could bring themselves to utter the word ‘Microsoft’ – the corporate training is obviously very effective. What they don’t seem to realise is that most companies, and especially SMBs, do use Microsoft products, extensively, and they will carry on using Microsoft products for various reasons – familiarity, adversity to change, cost of migrating but more importantly functionality.

There were many questions, after the Gmail run through, regarding how you could use Microsoft Outlook with Gmail. Apparently you can through the IMAP interface but you don’t get the full functionality. Another question asked was regarding whether you can connect Google Sheets or any of the apps to back end databases or web based data services – the short answer was no, not out of the box. If you want to do something like that you have to delve into the programming (Javascript) API and possibly import your databases into Google’s cloud database service – Google Engine.

The viewpoint was that anything beyond the basic functionality was considered to be a separate self-contained application that you would need to create with programmers and application designers. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s approach where, for instance, a typical user may only use 5% of the functionality of Excel but, the difference is, that functionality is available straight away when they do come to need it. And invariably they don’t need to involve programmers or the IT department. Microsoft have also created self-service business intelligence portals into their office products – again providing further functionality that the users can tap into out of the box and enable the IT department to control access to backend systems. The reality is that most applications are not self-contained and have to fit into a wider company eco-system.

Imagine the scenario a short time after your company has embraced the Google cloud mantra and started solely using Google for Work: a user approaches the IT department requesting the kinds of functionality described above only to be told ‘well, you can’t really do that in Google for Work, you’ll have to use those old programmes that we were told were legacy and redundant and the old way of working or you could hire a bunch of programmers to create it from scratch for you’!

However, there were many good aspects as well – document collaboration and live editing by multiple users is impressive. Google Hangouts looks like an excellent tool for conferencing and remote support. The Vault with archiving and versioning offered excellent backup. These are the kinds of apps that fit naturally into the cloud but what Google fails to realise is that they also need to fit in with existing systems.

The fact is that most companies want systems that are as flexible as possible. Enlightened ones will realise that they should not embrace one technology completely replacing another. They will use the best tool for the job – that might be local apps on desktops and/or cloud apps on tablets. They will use Google apps as an extra tool not as a replacement.

Companies like Google need to cater for this reality. Gmail with full functionality via Outlook – yes please. Document collaboration, archiving and versioning with native Excel files stored on a companies’ local storage system – yes please. Google mapping for SQL Reporting Server – yes please. They need to offer extra functionality that fits seamlessly with existing software – Google need to embrace Microsoft technology and enhance it rather than trying to replace it.

SQLServerUpdates.com

Brent Ozar has put together a new website that provides a simple run down of the latest service packs and cumulative updates available for each version of SQL server.

There are also links to the Microsoft download pages for the updates.

I used to check for updates using various web sources this brings it altogther in a simple to use table.

Brent is an SQL guru extraordinaire – I caught his talk on wait statistics at the SQL Bits conference in London back in March 2015 and was very impressed by his knowledge and presentation style (hands everywhere!).

http://www.sqlserverupdates.com

http://www.brentozar.com/

http://www.sqlbits.com/Sessions/Event14/Easy_Performance_Tuning_an_Intro_to_Wait_Statistics

 

NewsXpresso

During my long commute I like to catch up on the news. In the old days this would have consisted of a reading a newspaper. Yes, reading actual print on a piece of paper.

I still read a print newspaper occasionally but only if I have obtained it free from my local supermarket e.g. spend over ÂŁ5 at Waitrose and get a paper free deal.

I did start reading newspapers online, which were mostly free, but soon got bored with that format. It’s just not the same as scanning a whole 2 pages of headlines for something you’re interested in.

Then I moved onto RSS feed aggregators – programmes that will automatically download RSS feeds from websites. These give you the headlines and you click on the article to read the rest.

As time went on I found myself reading less and less mainstream headline news articles and was concentrating much more on tech news. Nowadays this is all I read on my daily commute – I just don’t have the time or the inclination to read all that bad news. It also frees up time to read ebooks – again mostly tech related these days.

To read RSS feeds you need a tablet of some kind and I have been using a Microsoft Surface Pro 1 since it launched in the UK (May 2013 I believe). This is still a joy to use and I have not felt the need to upgrade to the more recent models, yet…

Trying to find a decent RSS aggregator programme was difficult – there were not many apps on the Microsoft store to begin with. Eventually I stumbled across ‘Daily Aha’ from Yisoubi Co. Ltd. This worked really well compared to other offerings. However, on a couple of occasions it just seemed to freeze up and wouldn’t load even after a hard reset of the surface pro. After the 2nd freeze up I wasn’t prepared to re-install and reconnect all my RSS feeds again so I got onto Yisoubi support. They were very quick to respond and after going through a few checks via email they pointed out that a new version of the programme was available entitled ‘newsXpresso Pro’. This version was compatible with Windows 8.1, which was probably the reason for the freeze ups in Daily Aha after I had upgraded windows at some point.

‘newsXpresso’ has the same intuitive interface as Daily Aha with some welcome extra features. Here’s a screen shot:

newsXpresso.png

I would recommend this programme to anyone wanting an RSS aggregator on their tablet – looks like apple and android version also exist: http://newsxpresso.com/ and remember, it’s free!

 

Breakthepaywall website move to Azure

Since its inception the Breakthepaywall website has been hosted by Fast2Host in the UK.

Yesterday I noticed that the Breakthepaywall download link was not working – a IIS 404 error page not found was being displayed.

After frantically trying to work out why, without success, I suspected Fast2Host had changed something their end. I called support, which answered swiftly as usual – they have always been very responsive and helpful, and was informed that they had indeed blocked .exe files from being downloaded from their IIS servers.

I was asked to email the specifics of my site, which I did, but have not received a response and upon checking today the .exe files were still being blocked.

As mentioned Fast2host have always been very responsive and helpful but they have always had problems with keeping things up and running – the shared web server the site resides on usually goes down once a night for one reason or another and on many occasions during the day. There have been numerous occasions that the site has been down for 10s of minutes rather than a few due to a reboot or restart.

So, this was the final nail in the coffin, particularly as they had not informed me of this change! I decided to move hosting providers – not a task taken lightly as it has proved very difficult in the past.

I needed a free/cheap website hoster that supported classic ASP (the greatest scripting language of all time 🙂 and allowed .exe files to reside and be downloaded from the web server.

I have always been an MSDN subscriber (Microsoft developer network) and heard recently about their free credits to the Azure cloud network for MSDN subscribers.

It turns out they give you £95 per month of credits to use Azure resources as you please on a pay as you go basis.

Intrigued, I decided to give it a go. As an MSDN subscriber I already have a Microsoft username so I simply logged onto the Azure portal at:

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/member-offers/msdn-benefits/

The portal interface is superbly designed and very intuitive. And it supports older technologies like Classic ASP. Within 30 minutes I had a fully functioning website with custom domain and all my files uploaded via FTP. You also get a custom IP which I then punched into my DNS A record entry and voila! my new host was serving the Breakthepaywall website and the .exe setup files could once again be downloaded.

All this for just £6.16 per month – shared plan which is required if you want a custom domain name, otherwise it’s free if you’re ok to have an Azure domain name. For me it was free because of my MSDN free credits – fantastic, i’m sold. Microsoft are definitely going in the right direction with Azure.

BreakthePaywall now available in Google Chrome

BreakthePaywall is now available as a Google Chrome Extension.

Visit the Breakthepaywall home page: http://www.breakthepaywall.com

Or search in the Chrome store for ‘BreakthePaywall’

Or click this direct link: 

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/breakthepaywall/ddlcmnkkbojfnfclfhbdfkcmhfaebhgc

The Chrome version utilises referer and agent hacks but does not perform any cookie deletion or other storage manipulation. However, this should be enough for most paywall websites.

The Extension adds a simple BTPW button to the Chrome toolbar which you can use to toggle BreakthePaywall on and off. When it’s coloured blue it’s on and grey is off.

Completely disable IPv6 in Windows

You can’t get rid of IPv6 stuff from windows completely but you can effectively turn it off.

IPv6 seems to cause all sorts of problems under Windows and in most cases nobody needs it – yet….the fear is that IPv4 IP numbers are running out and therefore we have to start moving to IPv6 with it’s huge address range (IPv4 just under 4.3billion addresses, IPv6 3.4Ă—1038 or 340 undecillion i.e. vastly more).

However, apart from the fact that there are still masses of unused IPv4 addresses and address ranges out there – I personally know of 2 class C address ranges for companies that I have worked for in the past, handed back to the ISP when not required anymore and are still listed under that companies name as being used – the software and hardware manufacturers need to make easy to transition and co-exist with both address ranges, otherwise it just aint gonna happen. And this is where MS windows seems to fall down in it’s implementation.

My view is, if you don’t need IPv6 yet then turn it off until you do.

My investigations of how to do this were prompted by noticing rogue network adapters listed under Windows 7 AND 8. Running IPCONFIG in the command prompt brought up several strangly named adapters with names such as Toredo tunneling adapter, MS ISATAP adapter.

The toredo adpaters are described on Wikipedia as:

In computer networking, Teredo is a transition technology that gives full IPv6 connectivity for IPv6-capable hosts which are on the IPv4 Internet but which have no direct native connection to an IPv6 network. Compared to other similar protocols its distinguishing feature is that it is able to perform its function even from behind network address translation (NAT) devices such as home routers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teredo_tunneling

And ISATAP:

ISATAP (Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol) is an IPv6 transition mechanism meant to transmit IPv6 packets between dual-stack nodes on top of an IPv4 network.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISATAP

I would say that both those functions are better suited to gateway devices i.e routers and switches. Most people on home or business networks will carry on using IPv4 locally for ever – there is no need to upgrade to IPv6 addressing on these networks. Therefore, the translation of one addressing schema to another should be carried out at the edge of these networks – on the hardware devices that connect us to the rest of the internet.

So to get rid of these adapters and turn off IPv6 this is what I have gathered so far:

The Toredo and ISATAP adapters are invoked on demand but stay in your system. They are not listed in the normal Network and Sharing centres network connections. They only appear under and IPCONFIG command or within the device manager as hidden devices:

  • Goto device manager under the control panel.
  • Select Show hidden devices from the View menu.
  • Right click on Toredo or MS ISATAP adapters and select uninstall.

Next you need to disable IPv6 on all network connections.

  • Goto Network and Sharing centre in the control panel.
  • Select Change adapter settings from the left hand side.
  • Right click on each adapter and select properties.
  • Untick the TCP/IPv6 component:

IPv6.png

Make sure you do this on all adapters including virtual ones.

Next you need to add a registry entry under the following registry key:

  • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetservicesTCPIP6Parameters]
  • Add A Dword parameter named: DisabledComponents
  • With the value: ffffffff

This is documented here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929852 expand the Disable IPv6 entry and the bottom of the article for a full list of parameter values.

As far as I know that’s about as far as you can go at present at disabling IPv6.

Bittorrent Sync Rocks!

In the past I contantly struggled with keeping my PC’s and devices up to date with all the stuff I needed on them.

The best way to do this was to use some kind of replication program for copying files between devices. I’ve tried most, if not all, of these programs from ones that simply don’t work – MS Synctoy – to ones that do but are hugely expensive – Peersync.

And then, along comes Bittorrent sync, and it doesn’t disappoint.

BTSync uses the Bittorrent protocol to replicate files over any network – local, VPN or internet.

All data is encrypted. You can have one way or bi-directional synching. And it’s one of the simplest programs I have ever used.

To setup a sync simply add a folder to sync. Browse to the folder you want to sync and click the Generate button to create the keys. This will create 2 cryptographic keys – one for full access (bi-directional) and one for read only (one direction). You can view the keys by selecting the folder and hitting Info – copy the relevant key and then on the other device or PC create a folder where the files will be synched to and add this folder to BTSync but don’t hit the generate key – instead paste the relevant key in to the box (how you get the key from one device to another is up to you – if local then just copy and paste, if remote then print out and type in manually, or send via secure email). The synchronisation is now set up and you will see the synching starting. That’s it!

As with all synching programs it may be best to copy the contents from one device to another first – the synching program doesn’t then have to take ages doing the initial sync.

You will soon notice that BTSync only kicks in when your machine is idle. Any changes to files are picked up automatically and if you have it set to start when the machine starts then an initial sync will take place once logged on. Notifications popup showing what is happening – when you are confidant all is ok you can switch off the notifications.

This is just marvellous stuff but what was even more surprising was when I got BTSync installed on my NAS drives. Not all NAS devices have a BTSync app that you can install – Netgear did at the time of writing.

Via a web interface you can setup syncs just like in the normal program.

I setup a repository for My Documents folder under windows – bi-directional sync between my desktop My Documents and the NAS drive and also to my Laptop. That’s right, you can have multiple devices participating in the synchronisation – setup the folder on the NAS device and create the keys there, then on the desktop and laptop simply create a sync using My Documents as the folder and enter the full access key.

Not only does this instantly synchronise my documents folder between machines as soon as changes are made it also does it automatically over the Internet. When i’m out and about with my laptop and i’m connected to the internet (via wi-fi for instance but could just as easily work over mobile network) BTSync will synchronise with my NAS device bi-directionally. Just fantastic!

The only thing BTSync falls down on is not being able to synchronise with offline devices e.g. an external backup disk. It’s just not designed for that scenario. Of course you could synchronise between 2 NAS devices over the Internet. But for general offline backup you still need the old mathod – Peersync workstation being the best choice.

There’s also no way to force a synchronisation it just does it when it can – it does initialise a full sync every 10 mins (this is an option that you can change to any time preferred in the preferences).

But for the kind of application described above it just rocks! And, it’s free!