mikedavis

Mobile Live Stream Road Case

A local church wanted to be able to live steam their services from the far side of their parking lot. They had power in a small out building, but not internet. They were in the practice of running an extension cord to a sound board for audio including an FM transmitter.

The requirements for the live stream cart were:

  • quick set up and tear down
  • wireless bridge to main building
  • durable enough to be loaded in a trailer with other AV gear for other events
  • hold dual monitors

This was the end result:

Road Case

The red cable coiled up on the keyboard plugs in to the PTZ Optics NDI camera.

road case half folded

The second monitor folds towards the first monitor.  The video and power connectors for the monitors are easily accessible.  No VESA brackets were needed – just lay out the VESA mount pattern and drill it through the 3/4″ birch plywood and mount with 1″ screws.

Road Case folded up

Folded up it’s ready to roll.

Unifi mesh AP

This is a Ubiquiti Unifi Mesh AP that is configured to connect with a Unifi Mesh AP mounted to the side of the building.

Unifi PoE switch

The wireless AP and the camera connect to this Ubiquiti Unifi PoE switch for power and network.  The computer also connects to the switch.

EliteDesk back

This is a the back of the HP EliteDesk mini computer.  The EliteDesk line has lots of USB ports and enough CPU to handle running OBS and PowerPoint at the same time.

EliteDesk

The front of the EliteDesk has USB ports that are accessible for the USB keys, etc.

VESA mount

The mini computer is mounted to the road case with a VESA mount bracket so it is secure during travel, but can be quickly disconnected for troubleshooting or maintenance.

locking casters

These 3″ wheels make it easy to roll across the parking lot and lock in place during use.

The PTZ optics camera sits on a tripod that is stored in the bottom of the road case when not in use.

PTZ optics case

The camera is stored in a plastic case and put in the bottom of the road case when not in use.

 

It’s probably about 150′ across the parking lot from where the Ubiquiti Unifi mesh AP is mounted on the building.  The APs have no connectivity issues at that distance.

The total cost for the project was about $2,600 with $1,000 being the PTZOptics VL NDI HX ZCam HD IP Network Camera with 4.4-88.5mm Lens.

 

Setting a Verizon OneTalk phone back to Yealink firmware

If you are leaving Verizon Onetalk and want to reuse your rebranded Yealink T46G, Verizon doesn’t make it easy.  If you try to web in to the phone, you’ll find that the web interface is disabled.  Here’s the process summary:

  1. Disconnect the phone from the network and power it on.
  2. Do a factory reset (don’t connect it yet)
  3. Enable the web interface and reboot it (don’t connect it yet)
  4. After the phone has completely booted, plug in the network cable
  5. Web in to the phone
  6. Upload the current firmware from yealink

I found the steps above on reddit.  https://www.reddit.com/r/VOIP/comments/6nk7qx/flashing_verizon_t46g/

I have to admit it took me a couple tries because if you don’t follow the steps exactly, the process won’t work.  I should also add that calling Verizon for help is about the last thing you’d want to do. They will tell you that all the lines have to be canceled off your account for it to stop provisioning and other stuff that they make up as they go.

The process is easier if you have a Yealink power adapter. 

Unplug the data cable and restart the phone.

If your phone is running the Verizon firmware, the menu will be all red icons like this:

When you try to open the advanced menu, the admin password is admin, but you have to put in the password like an old school cell phone 23466644 so that it reads admin. Go under the advanced menu and select Reset & Reboot.  Then select Reset to factory settings.

Say yes to the warning.

The phone will boot and look the same.  Go under the advanced menu (
you have to put in the password like an old school cell phone 23466644 so that it reads admin. )and this time go under networking.  You will now have a new entry under # 3.  Select Webserver type and enable port 80.

Let the phone reboot and connect it to the network after it has fully booted.  Press the OK button twice to see the IP address.  Open up a web browser and log in.  By default the username is admin and the password is 23646  (it’s like spelling out admin on the dial pad) (If that doesn’t work, I’ve heard reports that “admin” will work.)

Once logged in, click the settings tab and then upgrade.  Go to http://support.yealink.com/documentFront/forwardToDocumentDetailPage?documentId=10

To get the latest Yealink firmware.  Click upgrade and let the phone reboot.

As it reboots you’ll notice it reboots with a different screen than the Verizon one. 

Home computer vs business computer

The difference between a business line computer and a home computer.

 

“What computer should I get?” Is a question I get a lot.  For businesses I always recommend a business line computer.  For HP this means something from the ProDesk, EliteDesk, or z series line. Typically you don’t find these models on the shelves at Staples or BJs.  So what’s the difference between a home computer and a business class machine?

  • Production cycle
  • Product testing
  • Support
  • Operating system
  • Hardware compatibility
  • Price

Production cycle

First of all the production cycle is different.  Home users only buy a computer once every few years and when they are buying only look at what’s in front of them that day.  Home users are very price sensitive from one brand to the next.  To be competitive each manufacture needs to use the cheapest parts they can get that month.  Once in a while there are quality issues, but the manufactures are more concerned with price than putting out a bad model.

This also means that if you’re reading a review of a home computer, there likely isn’t a month’s worth of reliability data.  If you wait much longer, that exact same model might not be available.  On the pro line, you can look at a model that has been out a few months and check the reviews.

Being able to order the same model month after month is important to a business.  Having all the same model makes it easier for a company to deploy, troubleshoot, and manage their computers.  Most large companies create an image of their computer with the software exactly the way they want it and deploy a copy of that image to each new machine.  Changing models means they have to redo the image in some cases.  Also it makes it easier to troubleshoot hardware issues if you can just swap parts from one machine to another.  If an application isn’t working on one machine you can try it on another identical machine to narrow down the problem.

Product testing

On the business side, a manufacture typically commits to production runs of a year or more for each model.  If a model is going to be sold for a while, it has to reliable.  They can’t afford to produce a machine that costs them in lots of warranty work.  This is especially true for models that are intended to be ordered by the thousands by universities or large businesses.  If they put a bad model out, that organization may never buy that brand again.

Support – Most business class machines have better support from the manufacture.  This means 3 year warranties instead of 1 year, and next business day service instead of a mail in service that can take weeks.   In some lines this also means US based support.  These are important things to consider when selecting a machine.

Operating system – The obvious thing here is that many home systems come with Windows Home vs Windows Pro.  The main difference is that with Home, you can’t join a Windows Domain. (Active Directory)  You can put a home computer on the network, and even map drives manually, but the computer can’t be connected to the server for things such as Active Directory and Group Policy.  Upgrading from Home to Pro can be done through the Windows store in Windows 10 for $99 at the time of this writing.

Hardware compatibility – In some business lines, such as HP’s z series, they offer application support if you think their hardware isn’t working properly with an application.  This can be a big deal for some CAD applications.

Stable Drivers – Sometimes the specs on things like video cards look similar, or even better for the same price when you compare a business computer to a gaming computer.  The truth is that with different target audiences, the manufacture makes choices favoring speed over stability when making a gaming card instead of a CAD card.  For a designer they are more than willing to give up a few frames per second (FPS) if it will keep AutoCAD from crashing.

Price

This is at the bottom of the list for a reason.  Business class systems typically aren’t that much more than similarly configured home computers.  When the warranty is factored in, it’s almost always a better idea to go with a business line computer.

 

Meltdown and Spectre

Meltdown and Spectre

 

In 2017 computer researchers found a hardware design flaw in the processor inside most of our computers and servers.  They made their findings public in January of 2018.  The flaw has been there for years.

This hardware bug allows malicious programs to steal data that is being processed in your computer memory. Normally, applications are not able to do that because they are isolated from each other and the operating system. This hardware bug breaks that isolation.

So, if the bad guys are able to get malicious software running on your computer, they can get access to your passwords stored in a password manager or browser, your emails, instant messages and even business-critical documents. There are also some papers that suggest that this exploit can run in a browser such as Internet Explorer or Chrome. Not good.

So what’s the solution?

All computers need to be updated and patched. Microsoft expects to release a patch on January 9th.   Google has announced that it expects to have a patch ready for Chrome January 23rd.

The important thing for you to know is that this isn’t an issue on your computer unless malicious software gets installed.  You need to be on the watch for emails and websites that try to trick you in to installing malicious programs.

If you would like some security awareness training where you learn how to spot their tricks, please contact Extra Mile Technology Services.

Copy Paste Ninja

Have you ever stood behind someone that moved text around the screen like some kind of keyboard ninja?  They were probably using keyboard short cuts.  With a few basic keyboard short cuts you can move text around faster than your mouse wielding coworkers.  Here are the basics you must know:

Short cut        What it does

ctrl c               copy

ctrl x              cut

ctrl v              paste

alt tab          switches between windows

 For example, to copy some text from a word document and paste it to an email, you would select the text with your mouse, and then hold down the “ctrl” key and press the “c” key.  Then flip to the email and hold down “ctrl” and press “v”. To really impress your coworkers, you can flip between the windows by holding down the “alt” key and pressing “tab”.

The Meaningful Subject Line

In 2016 the average person received 88 emails per day and sent 34.  If we only spend one minute per email that’s still a huge chunk of our work day.  How many times do you stop what you’re doing to read an email to find out it wasn’t urgent, important, or even relevant to you?  

There are a few things we can do to help each other spend less time on the handling email and more time on our jobs.  Perhaps the biggest thing we can do is use a meaningful subject in every email we send.  

Have you ever got an email with a subject of “help”?  Our natural response is to stop what we’re doing and read the email.  The body of the email could be “I have a client that I need help with right now.” Or “Thanks for your help the other day.”  Either way if you’re searching for the email later, it will be hard to find.  Also, if you’re on the one sending the email, using a meaningful subject helps you organize the responses.  Remember, if it’s worth sending, it’s worth a meaningful subject.

OpenVPN set up on Windows 7

If you’re using an Ubiquiti EdgeRouter, you may want to configure a VPN connection if you have a Windows client that you want to be able to connect to the corporate network.  Setting it up on Windows 7 is not as straight forward as it could be.

To get started, right click on your network adapter on your task bar and select “Open Network and Sharing Center.”

Then click “Set up a new connection or network.”

 

Connect to a workplace

 

Use my Internet connection

 

The Internet Address is going to be the public internet address of your Ubiquiti EdgeRouter.  The address in the example below is an internet address.  Don’t let this confuse you.  You can name the destination whatever you want.

 

The username will be the username and password that you configured on the line in your ER that says:

set vpn l2tp remote-access authentication local-users username user1 password <password>

 

It gives you no choice to click Connect, so click it, but then click Skip.  It’s not going to work if you’re using a preshared key.  This would be the case if you have the following lines:

set vpn l2tp remote-access ipsec-settings authentication mode pre-shared-secret
set vpn l2tp remote-access ipsec-settings authentication pre-shared-secret <secret>

 

Click Close.

 

Click Change adapter settings.

 

Right click and select Properties of your new VPN adapter.

 

Click the Security Tab and then Advanced settings.

 

Click the radio button for “Use preshared key for authentication” and paste in the key from the line:
set vpn l2tp remote-access ipsec-settings authentication pre-shared-secret <secret>

Click OK, and then you can connect.

How To Find A Good Account Representative

If you’re in IT then probably buy lots of gear.  Some IT shops do things on a project basis and some do continuous upgrades.  Either way between budgets and project approvals, you have to buy stuff.  Having a good account rep can make your job easier and makes you more productive.  They can also save you money, which is often the first thing that people think about when they think about buying stuff.

Save you time:

  • You can call them and tell them what you’re looking for and they can chase down the part numbers or pull in the right people and come up with a solution. This isn’t a big deal if you’re ordering some mouse pads, but if you’re ordering a server and a wall mount rack and you want to make sure it will fit, it can save you a bunch of time, and if it doesn’t fit, it’s on them to resolve it.
  • When it comes time to put together your yearly budget or get some pricing for a project, they can do the leg work to put all the pieces together and give you some numbers that will make you look good.
  • If you have an issue with an order, instead of going through the normal channels of support, you can reach out to them for an advanced replacement or exchange. These kinds of things aren’t advertised on websites, but if you have a good relationship with your rep, they can make things happen.
  • A good rep can also arrange to have demo items sent to you so you can get your hands on something you’ve only seen pictures of.
  • They also share information that you can’t get through normal channels. For instance they may call and say, I know you’ve been ordering a lot of this model of workstation and that model is reaching end of production.  Did you want to order a few more before they’re gone, or can I send you some demos of the model that is replacing it so you can select your next model?

So now that you know what they can do for you, how to find one?  The first piece of advice is that to have a good account rep, you need to be a good customer.  If you’re a bad customer, no matter who you go to, you will probably have a bad account rep.  Even if a friend recommends a rep that they say is very good, if you’re a bad customer, they will probably not be a good rep for you.  How can that be?

Account reps are like everyone else.  They only have so many hours in their day.  When requests come in from multiple clients at once, who do you think gets priority?  If their nickname for you is “Low Bid Bob” are they going to work on your stuff when they have more profitable customers waiting?  If you only buy 1/3 of the things you have them quote, are they going to put much time in to researching a solution for you?

A good customer figures out as best as they can what they need and explains it to their rep so they don’t have to come back multiple times for questions.  If it’s an email, it’s written so that it can be forwarded on to the different manufacture reps and they can come up with a solution.  If a good customer has all the part numbers of exactly what they want, they just go to the website, plug in the numbers and order right from there.  A good rep will provide you with a portal that will automatically give you discounts, so there’s no need to bother a human with a request like that.

Even if you’re a good customer, that doesn’t automatically make your rep a good rep.  If you’re an IT Manager for any length of time and don’t screen your calls, you will probably get calls daily from resellers that guarantee you the lowest price and tell you they have the line card with the most vendors on it.  That doesn’t really differentiate them though.  When I used to buy a lot from Dell I had my share of good reps and bad reps.  The bad reps had a voicemail that played that said for the best service to send them an email.  They also never used their out of office reply and I never knew when I was going to hear back from them.  This was frustrating if I needed a quick price on something.

The other type a bad account rep is what I call the “part number monkey.”  This rep was absolutely useless unless you had the part number of what you were looking for.  Worse than not understanding what you were looking for, they typically didn’t understand English well enough to pass your request around to their team to find the right solution.  If you already have a part number, a website will do what you need.

So let’s say that you moved in to a new role and now all the sudden, you need to find a good rep.  Where do you start?  I would first reach out to colleges at other companies and see if they can recommend someone.  Sometimes reps are territorial and or only work with certain client types, so you can’t use them.  In that case I would call some of the big vendors (CDW, Insight, Zones, PC Connection, etc) and give them a sample project to work on.  Ask them about their background and how long they have been with the company.  Then see how they process goes.  Did they take days to get back to you only to ask more questions about your request?  Were they easy to get a hold of if they called/emailed while you were out?

With some luck you’ll find one that seems to work pretty well with you and from then on you can just send everything to them first.  If they’re working good for you, there is no need to send everything out to 3 vendors to quote it, unless you are required to.  That just leads to more phone calls/emails that suck up more of your time and doesn’t really save you much money.  If you really want to spot check prices, websites can do that, and you can use your back up rep for that every so often.

Backup rep?  In my experience, it’s a good idea to have a backup rep that you purchase from every so often.  The reason for this is that if you only have one rep that you run everything through, and they leave the company, get promoted to another division, etc and you have to find a new rep at a different company, it can take a while to find one, and even if you, it can take time to set up things like net 30 terms that allow you to purchase large amounts of stuff without all kinds of paperwork.

So there you have it, finding a good rep and being a good customer will build a relationship that will help you get the most out of your working hours.

mailbox clean up

How to clean up your inbox

 

There are a few reasons that people decide that they need to clean up their inbox.  At the top of the list is the administrator that blocks people from being able to send email when their inbox reaches a certain size.  Other times it’s a friendly email from your administrator asking you to thin it down some.  Sometimes Outlook becomes slow and you realize that you have over 10,000 items in your inbox.  Whatever your motivation you have a few different ways to solve your problem.

Email bankruptcy

The first method is what I call email bankruptcy.  This is where you go in your inbox highlight everything and press delete.  A slightly less destructive method is to create an archive file (also called a .pst file) and move all your email off the exchange server and in to that file.  The advantage of this method is it takes very little time and is very effective at getting the size of your inbox down.  Another variation of this is to generate an archive file for each year and put all the email for that year in that file.  The downside of this approach is that depending on where the .pst file is stored, it may not be backed up.  Also you can’t search the contents using Outlook web access.

Outlook 2007 will help you archive anything older than 6 months in two steps.  Do this by going to your main Outlook window and:

Click Tools -> Mailbox Cleanup…

Click the “AutoArchive” button.

Outlook will follow the rules under Tools -> Options -> Other Tab -> AutoArchive button.  By default it will create a folder in your Outlook called AutoArchive and move everything older than 6 months in to it.

Deleting the heavy hitters

This is a quick way to find the emails with large attachments so you can delete them or move them somewhere else.  The reason this is so effective is that a single email with photos attached can take up the same space as 2000 emails without attachments.  So by deleting that one email, you have gained the same amount of space back as if you deleted 2000 emails without attachments.

Outlook 2007 will help you do this by going to your main Outlook window and:

Click Tools -> Mailbox Cleanup…

Leave it selected on “Find items larger than 250 kilobytes” and click “Find…”

cleanup01-larger-than

From there you will get the results displayed in a window.  Take a look down the list and if you don’t need those emails anymore, delete them.

cleanup02-larger-than

Sort by sender

We all sign up for different lists that can send out a tremendous amount of email.  Many of them are time sensitive, so after a week or so, they are irrelevant.  Sort your inbox by sender and select the group and delete.

 

Where my name is not in the to or cc box

This could also be called the “getting rid of cake in the break room” emails.  Add the to field to your view and sort by that.  At the top you’ll see the emails where someone left the to box blank and then just blind carbon copied you on an email.  Most of these broadcast type emails can be deleted.  Then scroll until you get to the everyone group used in your organization.  A quick scan will probably reveal that most of these emails are not something you need to save.

 

In Outlook 2007, the steps are:

  1. In the main Outlook Window, click View -> Current View -> Customize Current View
  2. Click the Fields button
  3. Scroll down to “To” highlight it and click the “Add->” button
  4. Click OK until all the dialog boxes are closed
  5. Back in your outlook window, you will now have the To field all the way over to the left
  6. Click on “To” at the top to sort that Column
  7. Scan through the emails and delete at will

cleanup03-To

 Sort by subject

This typically isn’t as effective as other sorts, but is still better than deleting individual emails.  Just sort by subject and look for groups of emails (threads) that you don’t need any more.

 

Trick or Treat – how criminals infect your computer

Often when I hear someone telling someone else about how their computer got infected with malware, someone will chime in with “you’ve gotta be careful.”  In order to “be careful” you have to know what the dangers are and the tricks criminals will use to infect your computer.

Before we get in to that, many people are probably wondering why they want to infect your computer.  The answer is pretty simple, money.  In November 2013 we saw the first cases of a new category of malware called Ransomware.  The Trojan horse is called Cryptolocker.  If your computer gets infected with this malware, it will encrypt your files and then force you to pay a ransom if you want them back.  Another reason they might want to infect your computer is to use your computer to attack other computers or send spam.  That way your computer will get blocked from the internet and not theirs.

The Search Poison

So how do they infect your computer?  One way is to trick you in to installing their malware.  Google now lets companies bid on key words.  Malware purveyors have used this to their advantage by bidding on keywords for commonly downloaded applications and tricking you in to installing their infected application.  You might not even notice when they are done since they will also install the application you were looking for as well.  Even Google has fallen victim to this attack.  If they can’t protect themselves, other companies don’t stand a chance.   Take a look at the example below:

chrome-malware

 

Notice how the second link takes you to www.gchrome-app.com/GoogleChrome  instead of www.google.com/chrome, which is the real site.  Protect yourself by looking at the address and see if it matches the company that produced the application.

 

Another way they trick you is to create a pop up on another site that says you need to download something.  If a pop up comes up that says you need to download something, close it and go to the site by typing the address in the address bar.  For example to get Adobe Flash player you would go to: www.adobe.com/flash

flash-player

In the example below they trick you in to going to their site and putting in your username and password.  What they then do, is take control of your email and then go to sites like Amazon and PayPal and try to empty your accounts.  Even if you have different passwords to those sites, they’ll just use the password reset links to reset your passwords on those sites.

OutlookWebAccessScam

walmart-order

In this one they create an email about a phony order and make it seem like you’re going to lose money.  If you go to the site, they will ask for your credit card number “to credit your account” but once they have it, they will use it to buy some stuff of their own – usually months later because they know that for that month you will be checking your statement for the phony Walmart charge.  Here again, if you hover over the link, you will see that it doesn’t take you to Walmart.com where you would expect it to go if it was legitimate.

your-password-is-incorrect

This one takes advantage of people using the same password for every site.  The site will say something “the first 200 people to register will win an iPad” or something like that.  You register by putting in your email address and creating a password.  They then try your email address and password on other sites to see if you used the same one.

 

head-shoulders-extramile
Mike Davis
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