Format Factory Media Converter is a terrific tool for converting file formats

I’ve had a need at various times to convert files from AVI to MPEG, WMV to MPG, MPG to MOV, and today, WMV to MPEG4.  Format Factory’s Media Converter does this FOR FREE!

Today I needed to convert a WMV file to MPEG4 for iPhone.  Besides all the formats listed above, it lets you convert from “All to Mobile Device.”  I picked the iPhone as the device and the file converted perfectly.

I’ve been using Media Converter for years and I love it.

http://www.formatoz.com

Dropbox phishing email sends chills down my spine

I am a Dropbox user like many people.  I use Dropbox to share files from one computer to another.  I don’t use it for anything sensitive like personal financial information or business data.  The reason why I don’t use it for anything sensitive is that I am afraid of what could happen if someone got into my Dropbox account.  I think I have good reason to be afraid and it’s not just the known Dropbox security issues.

A user forwarded me an email that was clearly a Dropbox phishing message.  The login page for Dropbox looked exactly like a Dropbox login page.  Thankfully this user doesn’t use Dropbox.  But the prospects of this sort of message should be terrifying to a systems administrator.

What makes Dropbox useful is also what makes it deadly.  The Dropbox client allows a user to quickly share files with anyone else that has rights to one or more Dropbox folders.  The rights holders may be anywhere inside or outside of the firewall.  So if one persons Dropbox account is compromised, the infiltrator potentially has access to many peoples machines.  Besides the data theft, or undetectable monitoring the bad guy could do, he could also drop infected files onto the machine.

To me it seems that allowing Dropbox on a corporate machine means accepting many dangerous risks.  I don’t think those risks are worth it.  Let the users use the web based version of Dropbox if they’d like, but keep that client off of the machines.

Are En Pointe and Consistent Computer Bargains Inc. shilling reviews on Microsoft’s Website?

I’ve been checking out Office 365 as I mentioned in this post.  Part of that is finding the right Microsoft Partner to help me out.  When I click on “Top Cloud Partners” I get a list of MS partners.  In that list it tells you how many reviews they have and the star rating.  En Pointe has 207 reviewsCCB has 153.  If you look that’s far more than anyone except two other companies which also have suspect reviews.

What do En Pointe and CCB have in common and why do I think someone is shilling?  They have lots of reviews in the last couple months.  They have multiple reviews every few days.  The reviews are completely positive with nothing negative to say.  They are almost all 5 stars.  And in En Pointe’s case, the usernames mostly follow the same pattern of names and numbers (name1234).

I’m not saying they are shilling, but shilling is a common game on the internet.  En pointe’s reviews sure do quack like a duck and walk like a duck.

Microsoft should pay attention to their review system to make sure that companies aren’t fraudulently boosting themselves.

Office 365: First Impressions

I’ve been hearing about Office 365, so I signed up and am giving it a whirl.  There’s much to talk about, but here’s some notable first impressions:

  • BES is not supported.  I don’t know if there’s a way to integrate BES servers into your environment, but MS doesn’t support BES.  You can connect a Blackberry using IMAP.  If you do that, you have to sync contacts and calendars manually.  ActiveSync is fully supported.
  • If you have Office 2010 Professional Plus installed and integrated with Office 365, you cannot use web apps.  You have to use the installed apps and then save into Sharepoint.
  • Office Web Apps are significantly stripped down versions of the Office Apps.  They will probably be fine for most Office users, but this should be understood before making choices.
  • Office Web Apps can be used in IE, Firefox,  and Safari.  I haven’t tested Chrome, but I’m sure that works too.
  • It appears that Live Meeting has been rolled into Lync.  That’s great!
  • Lync can be accessed using OWA, but it’s a stripped down version.
  • Sharepoint Workspace is probably the best way to connect into Sharepoint file stores, but it is possible to map drives into the file stores.  I doubt this is advisable.
  • It’s possible to pick individual Office 365 services instead of the designated “plans.”  This ala carte ordering system allows you to spend as little as $2 a month for Lync only or as much as you’d like.  The nice thing about this is that if you are already licensed for Office 2010 Professional Plus, you can pick plan E2 and add-on services thus saving $12 per user per month (for Office).
  • Exchange Online Archiving is $4 per user per month.  I think that’s a good price.
  • Office 365 is a very powerful service.  It enables organizations to quickly put up Exchange and Sharepoint environments in very little time.  Office 365 can be about as simple or as complex as the user needs.

That’s pretty much it for now off the top of my head.  I recommend organizations of all sizes become knowledgable in the capabilities of Office 365.  It gives companies the ability to replace significant amounts of infrastructure with a very capable service.  And for small companies it puts them on a level playing field with the big boys.  I hate to say it, but once it’s rolled out, it requires very little back-end IT attention.

www.office365.com

Office 365 Buyers Guide (in .xps format for some bizarre reason)

I’m pretty sure IE9 sucks

I have been a loyal IE user since Windows 95.  I even had IE installed on my iMac back in the 90’s.  I’ve stuck with IE on Windows 7 even though I have Firefox and Chrome installed.  IE just doesn’t work in every situation.  For some reason I can’t edit forms properly on some sites.  I’ve noticed this on Invision Power Board based sites.  There are other sites where the menus won’t load right or the ads are in the wrong spots.  It’s very annoying.  I try the same site on Chrome and magically it works!

One of the most peculiar IE9 issues I run into is with ConstantContact.com.  Constant Contact tells me that I’m using IE7!  WTF?  I know this is ConstantContacts fault, but that’s pretty messed up.

Microsoft likes to compare their browser to Chrome and Firefox.  They claim they have more features.  Good for them, but the basic features DON’T WORK!

I think I need to change browsers.

At Apple, “refurbished” is “rebuilt” and paying more money is a value.

I’ve had a couple run ins with Apple over the last couple weeks when trying to help people.  In both cases Apples Orwellian language games came out.

The first situation was a dead iPhone.  I went to an Apple store with my friend for a dead device.  It’s a few months old and just shut down.  It refused to power on.  The Apple employee said Apple was going to replace the device for free.  I asked if the new device was brand new or a “refurb.”  The Apple guy said that they don’t have “refurbs.”  It is either “new” or “rebuilt.”  What a load of BS!  My friend was happy to have a working phone, so that’s a nice conclusion.

The other incident revolves around the new OS X version “Lion.”  A friend of mine needed at least “Snow Leopard” so she could connect her iPad to her machine.  This came up on the day “Lion” came out.  I decided to check out if it was possible to upgrade directly to “Lion” from “Leopard.”  It turns out Apple doesn’t allow this.  Apple forces users to do double upgrades.  That means you have to spend double money.  I discussed this with the Apple guy in the previous story.  He said it’s better than it used to be because in the past it cost over $100 to do the same thing.  Somehow this didn’t comfort me.

One other thing of note is that “Lion” is a diskless install.  It must be downloaded from the Apple App Store.  This cuts out local Apple resellers like Tekserve.  I know Apple is doing incredibly well right now, but it must be impacting longtime Apple support services like Tekserve.  I hope they’re OK because they really do terrific work.

Gray “X’s” when navigating network shares

I had a user getting grey X’s when accessing a network share.  I tried some of the standard fixes including trying to get to other mapped drives, the internet, logoff-logon.  Nothing worked.  I started searching and found this post from SevenForums.  I tried it and it worked…

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