No internet for 4 days!!

This has been a very bad week, no internet!

The BT Infinity line stopped working early on the bank holiday morning, when I called to report the fault I was told an engineer would not be able to investigate until the next day at the earliest. An engineer finally turned up on the wednesday, only to say oh the light on the hub is red, this means the problem is a faulty hub. However because this is a buisness line he did not have any replacement hubs in stock nor did the stores have these. Only residential hubs are carried as spares. So I had to call BT directly and get them to post one out to me. The replacement turned up last thing on Thursday!

Last time this happened I was able to get on with some paperwork and update the accounts, it was painfull but at least I was able to get some work done. This time all of our services are cloud based; alongside all of our document storage.

I could not even watch TV as we rely on streaming services. So now I have now started the process of getting a second Virgin Media line installed so there is some fault tollerance.

This has been a very costly week with no work done but at least it is nice weather outside, so I think I’ll go into the garden with my laptop and write a couple of the proposals that I need to.

Living with robots

I have been involved in a number of home automation projects over the past few years, and seen this interesting space move from that of dedicated enthusiast to more of a main stream topic. Hive and Nest have invaded a large number of homes in the UK, providing efficient heating controls. Lightwave RF can be used to remotely control power, and hue can change lighting colours. All from the comfort of your sofa, or even whilst you are down the pub!

One area which still has to gain more of a foothold in the mass market is robot vacuum cleaners. I have used an iRobot Roomba in the office for a few years and it worked perfectly, keeping the floors dirt free. Now having moved to working from home, I felt it was time to free myself from the burden of monotonous vacuuming. We moved Roger, our trusty Roomba 620; upstairs. and purchased a new(ish) Roomba 760 for the downstairs. These two devices now provide a complete daily vacuum of all the floors in the house. Significantly reducing the amount of time either myself or Julie need to spend on this necessary but ultimately boring task.

Roomba620

There are some pitfalls to the robot vacuum cleaner, mainly they love to get tangled up in loose cables. So you need to be extra careful, I have pulled all of the loose cables off the floor and even tied the ones under my desk to the frame of the desk. This not only stops the Roomba from getting tangled, it also keeps thing looking nice. However, it is a pain when things need moving around. So where possible I have used Velcro straps.

These are the areas home automation should focus on, tasks which need to be performed regularly, and if done with the little and often approach can reduce or eliminate to monotonous tasks we all hate. Now my home is cleaned, well heated and energy efficient; without any further intervention by me. OK I still need to empty the waste bins on the Roomba’s and perform occasional maintenance, but the daily grind is reduced. Add to this the wonderful bread maker providing fresh bread, my life is much better off for the robots in my life.

Spring is here

Finally, winter is over and spring is here, the fruit trees in the garden are now showing signs of life; and hopefully signs of some bounty to enjoy later in the year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The past month has been spent looking at a couple of security issues for some clients and trying to decipher some rather poorly written code, in order to quote for further development. I’ll talk about the poor code in another blog post as it poses several interesting issues. The security issues fit rather nicely into the theme of spring, especially the idea of spring cleaning.

Over the past 3 months 5 of my clients have been hit with some form of security attack, including 1 ransomware incident. This is a significant increase in malware and security attacks. It always amazes me how so many companies don’t apply some data security practices. Almost every time I review security at a client I find users have turned off the windows firewall. Normally to resolve a problem, but instead of creating a rule to resolve the issue once the firewall has been identified and then turn the firewall back on, they just leave it turned off.  Anti-malware applications are great; however, the definitions need to be updated. As does all of the applications on the computer, patches more often than not contain security fixes. The number of clients who complain about patches being deployed, and even turn these off so it does not affect their daily work.

I have an automated patch management tool which automatically approves and deploys all patches to my PCs, because this is a little and often approach, I hardly notice the deployment. My computer only needs to be rebooted occasionally for the patches. Now I am using the latest operating system (Windows 10), with the latest version of the Office suite (Office 2016) alongside the latest tools by other vendors. This does help reduce the impact of some patches, Windows 7 for example with Office 2013 can require multiple reboots following patch Tuesday (the second Tuesday in the month) when Microsoft release the majority of their patches.

 

Can I plead with all companies out there to refresh their security policies, ensure patches and updates are applied in a timely fashion, and clean up their user permissions? This will not only help protect your company, but help stop the spread of malware. thereby helping every other company out there.