Posts in Tech Talk

5 top tips for keeping your children safe online

December 5th, 2018 Posted by Latest News, Tech Talk

With Christmas just around the corner, many children are sure to be waking up to new tech from Santa on the big day, be it a new computer, smartphone, laptop or games console.   With all computers and gadgets now having the ability to connect online, it’s extremely important that we educate ourselves and our children on how to not only set up our tech safely, but also how to remain safe when doing anything online.  We can’t escape the digital world that our children are growing up in and we certainly don’t want to scare them, so it’s about working with them to give yourself peace of mind whilst allowing them to enjoy their new gadget! 

Here’s 5 tips for keeping kids safe online this Christmas 

Personal information
When setting up user names, it’s best practice to go for something that doesn’t involve any part of your child’s name.  Your child should remain as anonymous as possible online and this would include a unique username, as well as no other info that can identify them, such as DOB, address or telephone number.      

Images and videos 
It’s a good idea to talk with your child about the importance of what they post 
on social media.  Whilst teenagers may not be too worried about what they’re putting out there, as a 
parent you are all too aware of the potential consequences that can occur when information is posted online, especially photos and videos.  For instance, a person’s online profile might affect their chances of getting a job or applying for a course.  

Work with your child to explore different games, apps and social media channels and choose the right  privacy settings for each.   Them about what kinds of images and videos are acceptable to post online.  
Explain that once they’re out there, they’re out there and can be very difficult, if not impossible to  retract completely. Things can be deleted, but it’s still possible that somebody may have downloaded  an image/video already.   

Adding parental controls to devices is one of the easiest ways to keep children safe on line

Not everybody is who they say they are 
Remember, it’s easy for people to pretend to be somebody else when they’re behind a keyboard.  To stay safe, the rule of thumb for your children is, if they don’t know them, don’t interact with them.  And If somebody tries to befriend them or asks to meet up in person, they need to leave that site, app or game and tell an adult straight away.   

Parental controls
If you have younger children, one of the easiest ways to ensure the kind of content  they see online is to set up parental controls.  This can be done on most devices and allows parents to set filters, so their children can only view suitable content.    An innocent search by your child on You Tube for instance, could throw up some less-than-innocent results, if parental controls aren’t in place.  

Restrictions
Make sure you put restrictions in place on relevant games, shops and apps so children aren’t able to spend your money willy-nilly.  Most games and apps encourage in-app spending to buy extra lives or to enhance characters and some shops allow purchases at the click of a button, so be sure to logout and  Keep your password safe!  You can also add restrictions to your internet browser so you can block your  children from particular websites. 

Talk with your child about what games and apps are appropriate for them

And finally…

We believe one of the best ways of keeping your child safe online is to talk with them openly and regularly.   You might find it easier to approach the subject as a family, discussing in general what’s appropriate and  what’s not.   If you think something needs addressing specifically, you can talk to your child on a one to one basis regarding a particular topic.  They may argue that their friends are using particular apps or games, so be ready to discuss your reasons why you don’t want them to engage in the same content, but also listen to your child’s reasons why they think it’s ok.  A good discussion views the topic from all angles, but ultimately you should do what you think is appropriate in keeping your child safe.  

 

How super-fast mobile broadband could change our world

October 6th, 2017 Posted by Case Study, News, Tech Talk

What impact could 5G – the new high-speed mobile technology being trialled around the world – have on the way we work and play?

Swedish transport company Scania believes lorries could use far less fuel if they drove much closer together, controlled by wirelessly communicating onboard computers.

But to prevent these “platooning” lorries crashing into each other, you’d better be sure your communications are fast and reliable. So Scania is working with Ericsson on trials of the new 5G (fifth generation) wireless broadband technology, due to be rolled out globally in 2020.

It promises much faster data transfer speeds, greater coverage and more efficient use of the spectrum bandwidth.

“Platooning works very well with wi-fi, but in dense traffic situations with many vehicles communicating, 5G is designed to offer more reliable communication,” says Andreas Hoglund, Scania’s senior engineer for intelligent transport systems. This is because 5G direct communication is designed to handle fast moving objects and congestion more efficiently, he says.

“Faster communication will make it possible to reduce the distance between vehicles in the platoon, which might further reduce the air drag and give positive effects on fuel consumption,” he explains.

This could help create “a more efficient, greener” world.

5G is designed to accommodate the growing number of devices reliant on a mobile internet connection – from fridges to cars – and is 10 times faster than the highest speed 4G can manage.

“It will enable a lot of applications which were unthinkable before,” says Mischa Dohler, professor in wireless communications at King’s College London.

South Korea has plans to implement 5G for the Winter Olympics in February 2018, giving visitors access to virtual reality (VR) content on their mobiles.

 

 

Ransomeware ‘here to stay’, warns Google study

August 22nd, 2017 Posted by Latest News, Subjects, Tech Talk

Cyber-thieves have made at least $25m (£19m) from ransomware in the last two years, suggests research by Google.

The search giant created thousands of virtual victims of ransomware to expose the payment ecosystem surrounding the malware type.

Most of the money was made in 2016 as gangs realised how lucrative it was, revealed a talk at Black Hat.

Two types of ransomware made most of the money, it said, but other variants are starting to emerge.

Track and trace

“It’s become a very, very profitable market and is here to stay,” said Elie Bursztein from Google who, along with colleagues Kylie McRoberts and Luca Invernizzi, carried out the research.

Ransomware is malicious software that infects a machine and then encrypts or scrambles files so they can no longer be used or read. The files are only decrypted when a victim pays a ransom. Payments typically have to be made using the Bitcoin virtual currency.

Mr Bursztein said Google used several different methods to work out how much cash was flowing towards ransomware creators. As well as drawing on reports from people who had paid a ransom, it sought out the files used to infect machines and then ran those on lots of virtual machines to generate “synthetic victims”. It then monitored the network traffic generated by these victims to work out to where money would be transferred. The data gathered in this stage was also used to find more variants of ransomware and the 300,000 files it found broke down into 34 of them.

The most popular strains were the Locky and Cerber families.

Payment analysis of the Bitcoin blockchain, which logs all transactions made using the e-currency, revealed that those two strains also made the most money over the last year, with Locky collecting about $7.8m (£5.9m) and Cerber $6.9m (£5.2m).

The research project also revealed where the cash flowed and accumulated in the Bitcoin network and where it was converted back into cash. More than 95% of Bitcoin payments for ransomware were cashed out via Russia’s BTC-e exchange, found Google.

On 26 July, one of the founders of BTC-e, Alexander Vinnik, was arrested by Greek police on money laundering charges. The police were acting on a US warrant and his extradition to America is being sought.

The gangs behind the ransomware explosion were not likely to stop soon, said Mr Bursztein, although established strains are facing competition from newer ones.

“Ransomware is a fast-moving market,” he said. “There’s aggressive competition coming from variants such as SamSam and Spora.”

Novel variants were expanding quickly and many were encouraging fast expansion by paying affiliates more if they placed the malware on to large numbers of machines. The ransomware as a service model was already proving popular, he warned.

“It’s no longer a game reserved for tech-savvy criminals,” he said. “It’s for almost anyone.”

Microcomms can help you with cyber security protection. Please contact us for advice and information.

 

Smart Homes – fun ways to techno charge your kitchen

June 13th, 2017 Posted by Overview, Tech Talk, Uncategorized

In our techno-savvy, ultra-connected society, there is always something greater — cooler, better — just around the corner, shouting at you from a screen. Our kitchens can connect, be controlled from a distance and be responsive via the ‘Internet of Things’. There are ovens that can be pre-heated from an app, refrigerator cameras which we can access at the supermarket to see what we’re running low on and many other exciting innovations. A couple of our members of staff are currently involved in home renovations and they’ve rounded up favourite ‘smart kitchen’ gadgets featuring on their technology wish-lists:

iSommelier Smart Decanter

isommelier-1459558383-YJ8a-column-width-inline

iSommelier promises to soften up the tannins mature wine that normally requires years of cellaring through aerating your wine with highly concentrated purified oxygen. There’s also a smart base with a digital screen that shows you the name of the wine, vintage and aeration progress bar.

There’s an app that connects with the decanter to let you control the device, add aeration programs and gather information about different winemakers.

Portable version available at John Lewis for £349.00

Pantelligent Frying Pan

pantelligent-smart-frying-pan-c

While visually the Pantelligent will fit right in with the rest of your home cookware, hidden inside it is an impressive set of features that will change the way you cook — in a way your standard frying pan never could.

The base of the pan has heat sensors that can measure the surface temperature of your food, and a Bluetooth setup tucked away in the handle allows the pan to sync up with your phone through an accompanying app. Together, the tech works to make cooking an easier, tastier experience for new chefs looking to improve their skills.

Available at The Fowndry £170

 

Drop – smart scale

2015-Home-Guide-drop-smart-scale

This ‘smart’ weighing scale connects with an app on your iPad/iPhone using Bluetooth (not yet available on Android). It allows you to scale recipes up or down according to your needs. If you want to feed more people, for example, or if you don’t have as much of a key ingredient as you thought you did. There are hundreds of recipes available on the app, each with clear step by step guides, images and tips.

Available at Currys for £41.99

 

HAPIfork

hapifork-2

Eating too fast leads to poor digestion and poor weight control. The HAPIfork, powered by Slow Control, is an electronic fork that helps you monitor and track your eating habits. It also alerts you with the help of indicator lights and gentle vibrations when you are eating too fast. Every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth with your fork, this action is called: a “fork serving”. The HAPIfork also measures:

* How long it took to eat your meal.
* The amount of “fork servings” taken per minute.
* Intervals between “fork servings”.

This information is then uploaded via USB or Bluetooth to your Online Dashboard on HAPI.com to track your progress. The HAPIfork also comes with the HAPIfork and HAPI.com apps plus a coaching program to help improve your eating behavior.

Available from Hapi.com, priced $49+$25 international shipping.

Happy New Year! Tech resolutions for 2017

January 3rd, 2017 Posted by Tech Talk

Most New Year resolutions are based around promises to eat less, exercise more, cut down alcohol, be nicer etc…but what about making some tech resolutions to make your life better too?

Unsubscribe from Junk Mail

tech resolution

 

If you’re anything like us, you spend a chunk of time every day deleting junk email from your inbox. Maybe they’re newsletters you signed up for but no longer read, maybe it’s a steady flow of deal promotions from shops where you’ve shopped. Whatever the case, they’re clogging up your inbox and wasting your time.So here’s the plan: Every day, unsubscribe from five lists (not including, ahem, Microcomms, of course). That’s it, just five. Assuming you easily can find the “unsubscribe” link, which is almost always included in tiny print near the bottom of the email, the process should take no more than 30 seconds per message.

 

Set up automated back-ups tech resolutions

It’s never been easier to archive your data. External hard drives and flash drives continue to grow in capacity and shrink in price, so the financial burden is less. Same goes for cloud storage, which makes data preservation an automated, set-it-and-forget-it affair. We can help you set your back-up system up and advise about which solution is best for you – just get in touch!

 

 

Install a password managerpasswords

For your own sanity and security, install a password manager and change all of your passwords so every single one is different, and every single one is long and hard to crack. There are plenty of good choices available, many free of charge – LastPass 4.0, LogMeOnce and Dashlane 4 all come highly recommended.

 

 

Update all your Apps and Operating System tech resolutions

Updates,  don’t just appear for the fun of it. Although they might seem annoying, an update will normally bring a fix for a bug, or make the app itself faster, sometimes it will even introduce new features so they are worth doing, and staying on top of – don’t ignore them.

 

 

Spend less time on Social Mediatech resolutions

A recent study has found that social media increases levels of envy and jealousy. “Millions of hours are spent on Facebook each day,” wrote report author Morten Tromholt. “We are surely better connected now than ever before, but is this new connectedness doing any good to our well-being?” In the test, the Facebook users rated their life satisfaction at 7.74 out of 10 average, but those who stayed away rated it at 8.11.

You don’t have to quit completely, but maybe cut down the amount of time you spend on social media every day – perhaps limit yourself to one or two checks a day.

Here’s to a great 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful guides to keeping your devices safe

November 25th, 2016 Posted by Overview, Tech Talk, Uncategorized

Device Guides

We live our lives through our phones and tablets, you need to keep your data safe.

Read these helpful guides full of tips and advice:

iPhones

iPads

Android Phones & Tablets

The Internet of Things and why it matters to you

November 15th, 2016 Posted by Case Study, Subjects, Tech Talk

The Internet of Things (IoT) is considered to be the next evolution of the Internet. Predictions expect IoT to have five to 10 times the impact on society as the Internet, with over 50 billion devices set to join the IoT landscape by 2020.

What exactly is the IoT? At it’s core is a really simple explanation – it’s about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications, and each other. The most common every-day application in the UK at the moment is within home heating and energy use – think Smart Meters. They have clever functions that let you turn on heating remotely, set it to turn down the temperature if it’s a sunny day, or even turn off when there’s no-one home. Some can tell the latter with motion-sensing cameras, or simply by seeing that your smartphone (and therefore you) has left the premises. If you use a FitBit or similar device you are already interacting with IoT technology.

Here is a great infographic which explains things clearly.

Do you need to think about it for your business?

The short answer is yes. You may not be thinking about smart devices, but you could be thinking about sensors. These tiny devices can monitor areas of your business various ways, think:

Communication – Almost every company has a class of assets it could track. GPS-enabled assets can communicate their current location and movement. Location is important for items that move, such as trucks, but it’s also applicable for locating items and people within an organization. You may have employees that go to meetings, this way you can monitor efficiencies.

Control and Automation – In many cases, a business or consumer will be able to remotely control a device. For example, a business can remotely turn on or shut down a specific piece of equipment or adjust the temperature in a climate-controlled environment. Meanwhile, a consumer can use IoT to unlock their car or start the washing machine. Once a performance baseline has been established, a process can send alerts for anomalies and possibly deliver an automated response. For example, if the brake pads on a truck are about to fail, it can prompt the company to take the vehicle out of service and automatically schedule maintenance.

Cost Savings – many companies will adopt IoT to save money. Measurement provides actual performance data, instead of estimates. Businesses lose money when equipment fails. With new sensor information, IoT can help a company save money by minimizing equipment failure and allowing the business to perform planned maintenance. Sensors can also measure items, such as driving behavior and speed, to reduce fuel expense and wear and tear on consumables.

iot-ready

Are you IoT ready?

Talk to Microcomms about littleBits –  a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that empower you to invent anything, from your own remote controlled car, to a smart home device. The Bits snap together with magnets, no soldering, no wiring, no programming needed. Originally aimed at Schools, the technology is now being adopted by designers, leading institutions and business. Using the simple technology to illustrate concepts and new design ideas. Let us see how it could help you.

 

 

 

 

 

Synergy from Timico

Calling all members of the team – Nuvia from GENBAND

October 26th, 2016 Posted by Subjects, Tech Talk, Uncategorized, Voice

We like to practise what we preach, and for months we’ve been telling our customers all about brilliant new Hosted VoIP technology. We think it’s so good we are installing it as our own Microcomms telephony system.

Nuvia from GENBAND

So, why Nuvia?

The cost and service flexibility advantages of cloud-based telephony over traditional systems are significant. Powered by leading industry provider GenbandNuvia guarantees secure and reliable telephony, enhanced with powerful multimedia collaboration features.

As Nuvia is a cloud-based solution, you don’t have the worries of a physical system on site. A monthly subscription fee replaces the maintenance and upgrade costs you would incur with a traditional system. Call costs are low, and adding capacity as your business grows is incredibly simple – with no additional hardware costs.

The benefits we love:

Nuvia from GENBAND

  • Visual Voicemail
  • Desktop Client
  • Mobile App
  • Video Calling
  • Audio Conferencing
  • Hot Desking capabilities

For our business, we are a team who are often out and about – we need to be able to stay connected on the move and be able to make and receive calls anywhere, any desk, any time. Nuvia gives us the ability to take a single number and assign it to an individual person. The number travels with them from their mobile, to their desktop, to a desk phone ensuring connectivity everywhere they go.

Microcomms recognise that every company is different – what is right for us may not be right for you. That is why all telephony solutions we recommend are tailor-made to your requirements. We aren’t affiliated to one particular provider or service, and certainly don’t try and squeeze a square peg into a round hole. We like to start with what you need and go from there, working with you all the way.

To find out more about all the telephony options available please get in touch with Hal Jenkinson, our Director of Telecom Services – 01209 843636 / 07792 661872.

 

Nureva Brainstorming Tech

The future of good ideas – Nureva, brainstorming tech that works!

October 21st, 2016 Posted by A/V, Latest News, News, Subjects, Tech Talk

Most of us have had the experience of being called into a ‘brainstorming session’. You and your work mates sit about chewing the fat around a particular concept, problem or idea. Generally, results are patchy to say the least. Why is that? Surely great minds working together should produce exceptional results?

Life is simply too short for bad brainstorming.

That is why here at Microcomms we’ve teamed up with market leaders and technology veterans David Martin and Nancy Knowlton (the brains behind the SMART Board™) to bring you their latest business solution – the Nureva.

 The Nureva ensures agile thinking – and helps you overcome the pitfalls of traditional brainstorming. Tricia Whenham, from the Nureva blog suggest solutions to 5 of the most common problems:

1. Just the usual suspects

Next time you’re in a collaborative session, scan the room. If everyone looks like you, or works in the same functional area, or gets information from the same sources, you may be in trouble. Same old perspectives will just lead to same old results.

SOLUTION: If you’re trying to think differently, make sure at least one new person is present. Don’t be limited by geography – the Nureva makes your remote contributors feel like they’re in the room with you.

2. Ill-designed spaces

Many meeting spaces are designed for information consumption, not creation. If you’re gathering your team in a sterile boardroom, you may be stifling the creativity you want to cultivate.

SOLUTION: Design your meeting rooms – and ad hoc working spaces – with creativity and collaboration in mind. If you’re looking for ideas:

Designing_for_collaboration.jpg

3. Uneven participation

At least one-third of the population are introverts, so you’re guaranteed to work with at least a few of them. Do you provide opportunities for these people to contribute  – even if it’s not verbally?

SOLUTION: Let people contribute with digital sticky notes.

4. Facilitator over-steering

Facilitators can play a key role in keeping brainstorming sessions on track. But if you place too much power in their hands, they may be skewing the results more than you (or they) think. Next time you’re in a session, pay attention to which ideas get written down fully and which don’t. Which ideas get expanded on, and which are neglected.

SOLUTION: Let everyone use the same working canvas (physical or virtual) to contribute and organize ideas. Don’t make one person the arbiter of what really counts.brainstorming-session-meeting-space.jpg

5. Session interrupted

We’ve all been there. Everyone’s warmed up, the ideas are starting to flow – and then there’s a knock on the door signaling time is up. So everyone scrambles to put an artificial end to the discussion while snapping photos of the scrawls on the board or rushing around picking up oversized pieces of paper. By the time the group gets together again, the momentum is lost.

SOLUTION: Choose a cloud-based solution, such as Span software, that lets everyone continue to generate ideas after the group work is done. With this type of solution, it’s also easier to pick things up in another space if you get booted from your meeting room early.

To find out how you could generate exciting ideas within your company please get in touch with John Darling, director of AV at Microcomms and we’ll invite you over to see our Nureva in action!