Spot phishing e-mails with Outlook

I got e-mail the other day from Turbotax saying someone had filed my taxes for me. Obviously a cause for concern, right? Here’s how I determined the message was fake in about three minutes. You can spot phishing e-mails with Outlook the same way.

Some people will tell you not to even open a message like this, but if you’re a computer professional, at some point someone is going to want you to prove the message was fake. I think this is something every e-mail administrator, desktop support professional, security professional, and frankly, every helpdesk professional ought to be able to do.

So here’s how you can get the proof. And generally speaking, Outlook 2010’s default configuration is paranoid enough that this procedure will be safe to do. If you want an extra layer of protection, make sure you have EMET installed and protecting Outlook.

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How to keep your Android from being hacked by a text message

In case you haven’t heard, it’s possible to hack into about a billion Android phones by sending them a text message with a specially crafted picture or video attached.

Google has a fix. The carriers and phone makers are taking their sweet time pushing it out. They may never do it. Here’s how to protect yourself.

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Taming Office 2013’s appearance

A couple of months ago I upgraded to Office 2013 at work. I liked it, but around the same time, my eyes started burning. I never made the connection, but then last week, when a coworker upgraded, he mentioned his eyes were burning, and he made the connection.

He found this guide for toning down Office. We both recommend the dark gray scheme, which is much easier on the eyes than the default harsh white scheme.

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What to look for in a cheap laptop in late 2014

So the sales fliers for the 2014 Christmas shopping season are out, and I’m seeing tons of cheap laptops. If you only have $200 to spend, they have something for you.

Some of them look like they’re even worth having. Yes, I’m shocked too. Here’s how to figure out which ones are worth taking home, and which ones are best left for some other sucker. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, you’ll probably want to keep the following in mind.

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Don’t like paying for software? There’s an answer but old software isn’t it.

Corporations are in business to make money. That’s the premise of the classic business book The Goal, and the point of The Goal is that a lot of companies forget that.

That also means they’re not exactly happy to spend money unless there’s an obvious reason why spending that money is going to help them make more money. So that’s why you see 30-year-old minicomputers in data centers. That old system is still making the company money and with no clear financial benefit to replacing it, most businesses are perfectly happy to run the machine until the minute before it will no longer power up anymore.

That’s what makes quitting Windows XP so difficult for businesses. At this point, Windows XP and that 30-year-old minicomputer are both about as sexy as a Plymouth Volare station wagon. But they get the job done, and they’re much better than what they replaced, so the business leaders are content to just keep right on using what’s already paid for. Read more

How to clean up a Windows server

From time to time, Windows patches will fail to install because a server doesn’t have enough space to install them. Finding the ginormous files are that are hogging all the space on the C drive is really tedious if you do it by clicking around in Windows Explorer, but there’s a better way.

Download the free Sysinternals Du.exe utility and you can find the behemoths in minutes, if not seconds. Read more

DoSing your cubicle neighbor

My baby at work is a centralized logging tool. That means my system has to touch every other system in this large company’s large network, which is kind of cool. Not many projects deal with that many different things, and I’m seeing some things I haven’t seen since college–and never expected to see in the real world, actually.

A week or two ago, we had some trouble pulling the logs in from a highly specialized system. That happens. Unix is easy, Windows is almost as easy–yes, the world of logging is a little bit upside down–but the one-off systems that don’t fit into neat categories take a lot longer to bring into the fold.

The problem was that the user account my tool uses kept getting locked out. Read more

Plain, pure and simple advice from the guy with a credit score of 848

One day a Cleveland-area man walked into a Bass Pro Shop, and they offered him a credit card with a promotion that would pay the sales tax. The savings amounted to $50, so he accepted. A few weeks later, he received a letter in the mail informing him that his credit score was 848. Perfect score is 850.

 My credit score raises eyebrows when people see it, but mine is still a pretty fair distance from that.
This Cleveland Plain Dealer article has some down-to-earth advice from the guy with 99.7% credit. Read more

Do you think if software cost less, people would pirate less?

The BSA says 57% of people use pirated software. A big part of the problem is that software is just too expensive. You can buy a decent computer for $300, and the copy of Windows that comes with it accounts for 1/3 of the cost.

Microsoft Office Home and Business, which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook, retails for another $280. Office Professional, which includes Publisher and Access, retails for $500.

So even if you opt for the cut-down Home and Business version, you’ve already spent more on software than you spent on the hardware it runs on. Read more

Fixing my boss’ Outlook

My boss’ PC went wacky on Tuesday afternoon and wouldn’t let him log in, so he had no choice but to shut down the computer. The computer came back up OK, but Outlook didn’t. He got a lot of weird error messages that I didn’t see, and Outlook created a new OST file on his desktop. But Outlook refused to connect to the Exchange server, and his inbox came up empty.

Like a lot of Outlook problems, the solution was the tag-team of Scanpst and Scanost. Fortunately, you don’t have to have admin rights to run them.

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