Month: August 2013


Cloud Storage Alternative

Devices Built With Cloud Storage in Mind

cloud-storageIf you have an iPad, Google Nexus, Macbook Air, Windows tablet or any smart phone, chances are you could use more storage space.  All of these devices have solid state storage which is great for speed and power usage but it tends to limit the capacity of your device.  Depending on what your use your device for, it can be hard to get all the files you want on your device.  The Big Three: Apple, Microsoft, and Google all have their own cloud services they would like you to use, iCloud, SkyDrive, and Google Drive.  All three offer a basic free account, 5 GB, 7 GB, and 15 GB respectively.  Cloud service from one of these three is usually baked into  the operating system making it simple for you to store your data on their servers.  The problem comes when you need more space. Google and Apple both count email space in their free accounts.   So if you have a lot of emails in your Apple account, that uses a portion your 5 GB of space leaving the remainder for other files.  If you have emails with photos or movie clips, your space can erode quickly.  Google is a bit more generous with 15 GB of free space.   Microsoft Outlook or Hotmail emails accounts do not encroach on SkyDrive space.  Of course you could mix and match as well.  Anyone can use a Gmail account giving them 15 GB of storage, while they still use iCloud for syncing photos between their devices.  Other services can be added such as Dropbox or any number of other cloud storage services.

If you have more data than what a free account will allow and you would like to keep your data in one location under your control, I suggest using your own cloud.  OwnCloud is an open source cloud program that runs on your own computer or server.  This allows you to make your own files available and share them with whoever you want to because it’s your “OwnCloud.”  You could have terabytes available on your own server and share between devices easily.  If you have a family or small business with a lot of devices and a growing storage bill, it may be time to consider keeping your own data.  If you would like more information on solutions that 12 Stones Tech can offer, please contact us.

Keyboard Symbols


Alt + 0153….. ™… trademark symbol
Alt + 0169…. ©…. copyright symbol
Alt + 0174….. ®….registered ­ trademark symbol
Alt + 0176 …°……degree symbol
Alt + 0177 …±….plus-or ­-minus sign
Alt + 0182 …¶…..paragr­aph mark
Alt + 2 ……☻… smiley face
Alt + 15…..☼…..sun
Alt + 12……♀…..female sign
Alt + 11…..♂……m­ale sign
Alt + 6…….♠…..spade
Alt + 5…….♣…… ­Club
Alt + 3……..♥….. ­Heart
Alt + 4…….♦…… ­Diamond
Alt + 13……♪…..e­ighth note
Alt + 14……♫…… ­beamed eighth note
Alt + 8721…. ∑…. N-ary summation (auto sum)
Alt + 251…..√…..square root check mark
Alt + 8236…..∞….. ­infinity
Alt + 24…….↑….. ­up arrow
Alt + 25……↓…… ­down arrow
Alt + 26…..→…..r­ght arrow
Alt + 27……←…..l­eft arrow
Alt + 18…..↕……u­p/down arrow
Alt + 29……↔…lef­t right arrow

To create these keyboard symbols you press the Alt key then type the number then release the Alt key and the symbol will show up.

WiFi Security, Piggybacking and Cantenna’s

Is Your WiFi Network Secure?

If you have a WiFi network, and let’s face it who doesn’t, WiFi security is important to you.  Most people believe their WiFi connection is secure, but from my experience, some of them aren’t.   Most SOHO (Small Office Home Office) routers purchased these days include built-in WiFi.  From what I’ve seen, most of the manufacturers are now setting the default security settings to be encrypted.  In the not-too-distant past though either WiFi was disabled or it was wide open by default.  I still find people who unknowingly operate open WiFi networks.  An open network is just that, it’s open like an unlocked front door.  It allows anyone to connect to your network without a password.  Once connected, a person may connect to the internet and use your connection, and they may try to access your computers also located on the network.

We all like those restaurants and other businesses that offer FREE WIFI, but they do that to attract customers.  When it comes to your business or your home, you probably don’t want those types of customers.  If you are a business that wants to offer free WiFi, then you need to take precautions so that the free portion is not directly connected to your secure side.  If you don’t know what that means, then you definitely need to read on!

Piggybacking is the term used to describe using an internet connection without permission.  Using up your bandwidth may not seem that bad unless you have limited bandwidth or are paying for data on a hotspot device.   Now for a little tin foil hat time. It’s not unheard of for law enforcement to get their hands on the browsing records of an internet account.  If you have been sharing your account knowingly or not, anything searched for and or downloaded via your account is on your record.  So if someone has been looking for ways to knock off their boss while connected to your network, that is now associated with your account.

Gaining access to your network also means access to all the computers and devices on that network.  If someone has access to your network they can then attempt to access any computer on that network.  With poor or no passwords on many computers, that potentially gives access to your files stored on your computer.  Once access is gained your pictures, movies, bank info and whatever you have stored on your computer can be viewed.  Depending on the level of hacker you have allowed onto your open network and how much time they have, it’s hard to say what they could access.  Once on the inside it’s possible to lock you out of your own network.

You might be thinking that none of my neighbors are hackers and they all have their own internet access.  My WiFi is only visible if they were sitting on my driveway so I am pretty safe.  While anonymity and distance is a security plus for WiFi it doesn’t eliminate the problem.  With a simple device that can be constructed or purchased your WiFi can be accessed from up to 2 miles away.  The device is called a cantenna and they really work.  The word is derived from can and antenna because it is an antenna placed inside a can.  This changes the omnidirectional WiFi antenna into a directional antenna.  Once the signal is directed it can be accessed from much farther away.

If you still want to operate an open WiFi hotspot for customers you can, but you might want to lock it down with a simple access code like “guest”.  That way the causal passer by looking for open WiFi won’t take notice.  Your customers who are inside hopefully paying for your services can see your sign posting the access code.  This will help reduce your usage to your actual customers.  If you have computers that you conduct business on at the same location, you will want to separate the guest network from the business network.  For home offices or just home usage there is no reason you would want an open WiFi system.  It would be like leaving the front door open all the time.

If you need help setting up a wireless network or want to be sure you are locked down please contact me.

Parental Control of the Internet

Parental Control software can stop this

Not the face you want to see on your child while surfing the internet.

Keeping your family safe while online

How many of you worry about what your kids get into while on the computer?  There is so much inappropriate content readily available online that it truly is like navigating a minefield.  Even on YouTube, it only takes a click or two to go from a kid video to a more adult video.  So how can we protect our kids online without just blocking everything?  Here are some options:

1. Limiting the times devices can access the internet is one tool.

2. Limiting sites or filtering what sites can be visited.

3. Keeping computer and device usage out in the open where others can see where they are going on the internet.

There are software solutions for PC’s and Mac’s that can limit the times that someone can use their account, and/or filter content that work well.  For younger children it’s best to use a white list of sites they can visit.  A white list will limit them only to sites on the list.  Microsoft Family Filter actually will allow the person on the controlled computer to request access to a site and it will send an email to the account holder for approval.  As kids get older though, white lists get hard to manage, and a switch over to a black list will probably be necessary.  A “black list” is a list of sites that are not allowed.  This is an ever-growing list and usually requires a subscription to a service that keeps adding to that list.

Mac parental control info

Microsoft family filter info

One filtering problem I have encountered is tablets and phones.  While there is some parental software for blocking sites, not all devices lend themselves to using this software.  Not all devices can handle the added load of the filtering software.  If the device is a phone or tablet with an data plan, then the only method of blocking would be a software based on the device.  Router level filtering can be used to control tablets and phones that are using your network connection.  Most SOHO (Small Office Home Office) routers will block http content but not https.  More advanced https filtering at the router level usually requires the purchase of a license.  For example Untangle router software offers their full filter for $270 per year.

Another option to limit access to sites is OpenDNS.  DNS or Domain Name Server is the method most devices on the internet use to locate resources.  Domain name servers work as a phone book to direct your request such as to the correct IP address of the server it’s operating on.  Every site on the internet operates on a server that has an IP address.  Most legitimate servers also have a domain name associated with them.  OpenDNS can work from the computer level or from the router level to direct inquiries to the OpenDNS servers as opposed to your ISP’s servers or Google servers.  They have a service that allows you to select content you want to block.  You can get a free account, or they have paid accounts that give better control over your content.  This can be a good method especially before kids understand much about the internet.  As kids get older and smarter than their parents, they will probably learn that typing in an IP address directly for a site will bypass the DNS server.  So this service doesn’t actually block access to the content, it just doesn’t list it in the phone book.

Ultimately “parental control” us just that and it is up to parents to control what your kids see online.  If you have concerns and would like to discuss your situation please feel free to contact me.