Saturday, December 12, 2015

Windows 10 - Did Microsoft actually get this one right?

I received a phone call from one of my clients back in August.  It seems she upgraded her computer to Windows 10 and could no longer find her way around the system, couldn't find her desktop shortcuts, and could not get her email to work.  While I had been involved with a beta test of W10 with one of my other clients, I had not yet sat down to use Microsoft's latest Windows version, let alone provide client support! I scheduled an on-site visit to help her straighten things out.

All-in-all I was favorably impressed.  Microsoft's upgrade practically installed itself on this 70-something grandmother's PC with hardly more than a click or two required on her end.  Her biggest problem came in not knowing how to navigate the new interface without a few tips from her helpful tech support guy, me!

One week ago, I finally got around to installing Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade on one of my Windows 7 Professional computers so I can give click-by-click client support when the need arises.  Personally, I have never felt the need to upgrade immediately to the "latest and greatest" if the "tried and true" was still doing the job properly.  Experience has taught me that waiting for the price to come down on the latest PC configuration or waiting for "bug fixes" or service packs on software was well worth it in both cost and aggravation savings!

Seven days into the experience and I must admit that I like the look and feel of W10.  Yes, there are a few things that I don't like, but so far none of them are deal breakers.  The interface is smooth and intuitive.  The subdued color schemes calm my ADD-riddled brain.  The inherently slow-as-death (by today's standards) PC that I am using (Pentium Core2 1.8GHz processor, 4GB RAM) seems to respond a tad faster than it did under Windows 7.  Best of all, the programs that were installed prior to the update are still there and working flawlessly under W10.

The actual upgrade process was relatively easy.  Clicking the "Get Windows 10" icon in the system tray area of the task bar starts the process.  This icon will appear automatically on Windows 7 or 8 computers that are up-to-date with Microsoft Updates and whose hardware is compatible with Windows 10.  (This only applies to computers that are not part of a "domain" network.  If your PC belongs to a domain it must be updated manually.)  You are given the choice of updating now or just downloading the update and installing it later.  Make this choice carefully - once the update starts it cannot be stopped and will take one hour or more depending upon your Internet connection speed.

In my case, the download and installation took about one and a half hours.  The system restarted at various points in the upgrade without any intervention on my part.  (There is nothing that wastes more time than an upgrade that requires a manual reboot before continuing to the next step!)  Once completed, I had a working Windows 10 computer, but I was not pleased!  My desktop and documents were nowhere to be found!  This PC was configured for several different users, but is usually logged-in as a user named "server," since it  hosts some shared folders and backup services for my network.  While I could find the upgraded user folders for every other user, the "server" files were missing!  I started going through the process of rebuilding the desktop and reinstalling software, mildly cursing Microsoft for losing my stuff, when I needed to restart the computer to complete an install.  After the reboot, the login screen listed the four users that were originally on the machine prior to the upgrade . . . so I clicked on "server" . . . and my previous Windows 7 desktop appeared.  My documents were back, and everything was right with the world!  What happened?

I recalled that the first time W10 came up at the end of the upgrade, there was no choice of user given.  I assumed that it came up as the same user it was using at the start of the upgrade in Windows 7.

Don't assume anything!  Restart one more time after the upgrade finishes if you have things missing!

I spent the rest of my spare time last weekend learning more about the features of Windows 10 and getting comfortable with the new look and feel.  For those who liked Windows 8 or 8.1 you will still find "apps" and "tiles" that work the same as they did in 8.  For those who could not function without a "Start" button (like me) you will find the W10 icon at the far left of the task bar works very much like the Start button, with a handy alternate menu for administrative tasks if you right-click it.

Of course, there are some big changes with Microsoft's new browser, Edge, embedded in W10 like spots on a dalmatian.  (Don't worry, you can still use IE, Firefox, Chrome, or "whatever" as your default browser!)  My jury is still out on Edge . . . perhaps that will be a subject for a future blog!

In the meantime . . . if you feel the need to upgrade you probably can . . . as long as you are not on a domain network or are using old software that may not work under W10.  (Check with your software vendors first to ensure compatibility!)  Feel free to email me if you have questions or need help feel free to shoot me an email: brad(at)bbays.com.

Peace!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nana's Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I'm getting a little bit away from my usual Information Technology blog, but this is about technology of a different sort.  Technology that brought us from the days of Adam and Eve all the way to today.  I'm talking about a special technology called "cooking" . . .

Those who cook (and generally love to eat what is cooked) are a special breed.  While some cook (and eat) to live, others live to cook (and eat); I certainly fall into the latter category!  I love nothing more than to share cooking techniques and recipes with other like-minded souls.  Most "foodies" are always looking for the next "new recipe" or latest cooking technique.  I, on the other hand, have been searching to find a flavor from my youth . . . a taste of a bygone era.  I speak of my Grandmother Robinson's chuck roast and her incredibly rich, dark gravy - so tasty when served on the meat, potatoes, and of course, her homemade bread!

One thing that I learned years ago is how important a piece of cookware can be to the outcome of a recipe.  In the case of Nana's roast, her cookware of choice was an old cast iron Dutch Oven.  I don't know when she acquired it, but I can only guess that it has been around long enough to feed my mother and her five siblings as they grew up on Cascade Hill in Gorham, New Hampshire between the two World Wars.  My mother said Nana used her Dutch Oven on top of the stove.  From my youth, I remember an old, black, pot but I never really paid much attention to the details at that young age . . . besides, Nana didn't allow too many people into her kitchen when she was cooking, and I never dared to ask questions!  As close as I ever got was at our family's lake cottage, when I would sit on the stairs overlooking the kitchen, watch her cook, and smell the goodness.

Mother told me that she believed the old Dutch Oven was still at the lake cottage where it had been since her passing in 1973.  I asked my Uncle Barney, the present owner of  "Camp" and youngest of my mother's siblings, if he knew where the old Dutch Oven was.  He told me he wasn't sure, but I was welcome to take a look around the camp (both downstairs and up) and see what I could find.  Sure enough, in the cupboard next to where she kept her flour tin and bread board I found it - her Dutch Oven!  I asked my dear Uncle if I could borrow it, to try to re-create her chuck roast and gravy.  He took it one step further and told me that I could have it!  Needless to say, I didn't argue the point!

At some point, the pot had been placed into a plastic grocery bag and tied tight.  The exterior was in beautiful shape, but sadly, the interior bottom was showing some light rust.  I did something I have never done with cast iron cookware . . . I used a steel-wool soap pad and scrubbed the heck out of the bottom!  After I cleaned up the rust, there was a little mild pitting left behind.  I used some 400-grit wet sandpaper to polish out the pitting.  This was followed by a good wash, a coating of shortening, and an hour in a  350-degree oven to re-season the bottom of the pot.  With fingers crossed, I was now ready to try it out!



I decided that the first thing I would cook in Nana's oven would be braised boneless beef short ribs.  This is a dish that I cook regularly (in the oven) and would be a good control to compare the outcome using the Dutch Oven on the stovetop.  Also, the fact that our local supermarket, Shaw's, had the beef on sale this week (buy one, get one free) for a net price of $3.99 per pound!  That didn't hurt my decision-making process one bit!


I started by browning the beef in two tablespoons of shortening melted in the bottom of the pan.  They browned beautifully with absolutely no sticking!  (Yes, my re-seasoning was a success!)  I flavored the beef with salt and pepper and added garlic, chopped onions, celery, carrots, rosemary, and bay leaf to the pot. 


Once the beef was browned, I added one can of beef stock, turned the heat down, and put the lid on.  I lifted the lid to check it after about fifteen minutes.  The meat was simmering nicely, and I noticed an aroma that I haven't experienced in over forty years . . . this pot of short ribs already smelled like Nana's gravy!  Two hours later, I had some white rice ready along with some fresh broccoli that I stir-fried with some olive oil and soy sauce.


I removed the meat and carrots/celery from the pot, and added some freshly-chopped mushrooms.  I brought the pot back to a slow boil for a few minutes to cook the mushrooms.  I put 1/4 cup King Arthur flour (Nana always used King Arthur flour!) and 1/2 cup cold water into a shaker jar, shook it up well, and added it to the stock and mushroom mixture.  I added a little pepper and salt to taste.  Plating was simple and basic - some rice, broccoli, meat, and of course, gravy . . . along with a glass of cold buttermilk!


Mindy mentioned that this was the best tasting gravy that I had ever made.  While it didn't taste exactly like Nana's gravy, it did have a different character and richness of taste than when I make this dish in the oven using a covered enamel roasting pan.  A good meal was enjoyed by all!


So, I guess the next step is to buy about $20 worth of seven-bone chuck roast and really give this thing a workout!  Stay tuned!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Scam - Beware of Phone Call from "Windows Support"

Over the past few weeks I have received several phone calls from individuals claiming to be from Microsoft, Windows Company, or Windows Support.  The Indian-accented voice addresses me by name and asks if I am the main user of my computer.  I have responded in many ways . . . getting angry, replying to them in Spanish, and lately, letting them speak for a minute and then using my handy-dandy duck call to give them a splitting headache!

Why would I be so rude to someone who is only trying to help?  That answer lies in the fact that these friendly folk are only trying to make their way into my pocketbook by way of my computer!  These dudes don't work for Microsoft, Windows, or any other legitimate company.  (Believe me, Microsoft has a hard time responding to incoming support requests, let alone having time to initiate outgoing calls!)

They start by asking how you are doing, and how well you are enjoying your computer.  They then tell you that they have scanned your computer and have discovered "viruses" on your computer that need to be removed.  To "prove" the existence of viruses, they talk you through viewing your computer's event log and count how many red and yellow-flagged item there are.  They then tell you that these items are from viruses and are responsible for slowing down your computer.  Fact is, any Windows computer in use for any length of time will log some critical errors and experience some slowdowns.  They then guide you through viewing the msconfig window.  One of the tabs will show all the processes installed on the computer from Microsoft and other software vendors.  They ask you to see how many processes are turned off, and use this a "proof" that viruses are shutting down critical computer functions.

For their final act, they talk you into viewing the "prefetch" directory, a hidden folder that is not normally viewed.  This folder contains system installation files, all with cryptic names.  They tell you that these are actual virus files and cannot be removed.  They ask you to count them . . . you will be well over 100 files before they stop you and tell you how badly "infected" your machine is!

Now that they have gained your confidence, they ask you to access a website and download a remote access program that will give them direct control to start removing the viruses.  In doing this, you will be giving them the ability to download actual malware and completely cripple your machine.  The final act is to ask for your credit card or bank account information in order to "renew" your warranty (for life!) and allow them to fix your horrible problem . . .

Today it is known as "Social Engineering" . . . but it is really just a modern-day version of the old "confidence game" . . . which is where the term "con-man" came from!

For legitimate technical support you can trust be sure to call Brad Bradford, At Your Service!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Extend Your "Brand" With Social Media Marketing

It seems like everybody in today's world has "friends" on Facebook.  Many of us follow "tweets" on Twitter.  Professional folk are LinkedIn with one another.  People share their vacation videos with the world on YouTube.  You can find someone to buy Mom's old Pontiac through Craigslist, and most of that stuff in your attic can find a new owner using eBay.

Websites that connect people with other folk of similar interest are known collectively as "social media" sites.  Sharing user-generated content over the internet is not a brand-new idea.  Many of us started out with the old text-based AOL or Genie chat rooms back in the '80s.  Teenagers who used MySpace in the early 2000s are now young adults who not only have an appetite for consumer goods and services, but also make their purchasing decisions based on information shared with and delivered to them through social media outlets.

According to Nielsen's Social Media Report 2012, Internet users in the United States spent a collective 121 billion minutes on social media sites in July of 2012.  In July of 2011, that figure stood at 88 billion minutesfor a one-year increase in social media usage of 37 percent! 

Considering the marketing opportunity for your business, social media sites have unlimited potential to deliver your company's advertising message directly to the computer and smart phone screens of thousands of local users and potential customers.  The best part of this marketing strategy is in its cost: practically free!   Establishing your social media presence takes a little time and regular posting keeps your message moving.  Unlike newspaper, television, radio, and Yellow Pages, there is no cost for using the service or web site!

Give Brad Bradford a call if you would like more information or assistance in establishing a social media presence as part of your marketing strategy.  "Like" us on Facebook by clicking here!  Or, you can contact us through our web site, www.bbays.com.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Here's One Reason Why I Recommend Dell Computers

Recently, one of my clients asked me to order a Dell Vostro 270 PC for them.  Dell, in their usually efficient manner, built the computer to the client's specifications and shipped it two days ahead of their originally promised ship date.  Sadly, the computer was DOA - Dead on Arrival at my office!  (Never before had I experienced that fate with a Dell!)  I worked with a support technician via telephone to determine that yes, in fact, the computer was a large, handsome, paperweight.  But, this is just where the real story begins . . .

Within 48 hours of my service call, Dell had another machine built and passed it along to Fed-Ex for overnight delivery on December 22nd, with no extra charge for the shipping upgrade!  Even with the complete application of Murphy's Law (a weekend, Christmas holiday, and a winter storm closing the Fed-Ex Memphis hub for two days) we were only "fashionably late" on the client delivery!

Dell goes the extra mile to support their product - just one of many reasons I specify and recommend their products for my valued clients!  Be sure to stop by our web site at www.bbays.com or call Brad today!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New, Updated, and Improved Web Site Launched!

Brad Bradford, At Your Service, has launched a fresh, new website at www.bbays.com!

The new site more accurately presents the product and service offerings that BBAYS has available to North Country clients.  Check it out, and be sure to let us know what you think!

Speaking of new web sites, we have web design and hosting packages priced as low as $299 - isn't it time that your business (or family) had their very own web page and email at your own "dot com" address?  Call us today for details!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

BBAYS Blog is "On The Air"


Brad Bradford, owner of Brad Bradford, At Your Service (BBAYS) and bbays.com is pleased to announce the launch of a new blog site at www.bbays03584.blogspot.com!

We will be using this blogsite to communicate special information to BBAYS clients and friends.  Our blogs will also be available on our web site, www.bbays.com!