The Chip Merchant

2011 Outlook: Cloud Computing

It is that time of the year when business and technology articles are making predictions on the outlook for the new year.

From Gartner stating that PC sales will not grow as expected during 2011, attributed in part to the effect of the current economic situation, but interestingly enough, also to an increasing demand for other devices such as tablets and smart phones, to Market Research firm IDC, stating that shipments of tablets and smart phones will surpass shipments of PCs by 2012.

Although it is unlikely that tablets and smart phones will replace desktops, with the exception of application specific tasks, this is in line with the current cloud computing trends, leaving space and processing requirements to the cloud.

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Tech Industry News

Unwanted “Gifts” in your Inbox?

“Wait…I just got an email from whom?” This is a question you might be asking yourself if you are being subjected to one of the more nefarious SPAM email attacks going on right now.

As hard as it might be to believe (impossible to me), people actually click on those SPAM emails and buy things, so it makes good business sense for SPAMmers to do what they can to get eyes on their emails.

Many email providers do a brilliant job of filtering these bogus emails out, but depending on who hosts your email, and where it
comes from you may be getting emails from yourself to yourself.

Why, I just got an email the other day from telling me about the wonders of V1@gra! Now I know I didn’t send myself an email, so the question is how does this happen?

The answer is fairly simple…on a properly configured mail server, you have to authenticate yourself and prove you are who you say you are to be able to send email. A lot of times when setting up email you have to check a box saying something to the effect of “My outgoing server requires authentication”. This means that when you’re done writing your email and click “Send” your computer looks for the mail server online and says “I have an email to send” and I’m with a username of A and password of B. The server compares that information to information it has on file for you, and if it all matches up, then the email goes out.

If we’re less scrupulous with our mail server, we could not bother with the authentication issue and if you say that you’re then I’ll believe you and send out the email. This works brilliantly for SPAMmers as the email looks like it’s coming from you, they know that it’s got a very good chance of getting through any potential SPAM filter to get into your inbox.

Now…what can you do about it? Sadly, not a whole lot; you could setup a rule in your mail program to send all emails that come from your own email address to the trash, or if you have a SPAM folder in your mail program you could tell it that email is SPAM
and it should try to learn that future emails like that would also be SPAM to get it out of your inbox.

If you run a small business and have multiple users who are getting overwhelmed with SPAM you could sign up for a service like Postini ($12/user/year is hard to argue with). However, if you’re getting large quantities (say 30-50 or 100) of these emails, then you should immediately run a virus scan on your machine, as you might well have a virus that sending out those emails.

Tech Tips

Cloning a Hard Disk

There are many situations in which you’ll want to clone a hard disk. If you want more capacity, a better performing drive, your old drive is making horrible noises like rocks in a blender, etc. There are some great, and generally simple to use tools to get this accomplished:

You’ll need to be able to hook up your new drive to your machine and boot to the respective media to perform this operation, sorry laptop people…it’s just not as easy for you.

  • CloneZilla – A great free utility to clone hard disks. However, one if its limitations it that you need to clone to a drive of the EXACT same size or larger for a clone to be successful. Additionally, when moving from a smaller drive to a larger you’ll need to use a separate utility known as Diskpart to extend the partition to the end of the disk if you’re on XP. Alternatively, there are open source tools such as Gparted that can help you with this. Windows 7 can extend partitions from within Disk Management.
  • Acronis – Pay-for software that offers a robust set of features. You can clone a hard disk and you can also have it take care of file backups. When using Acronis to clone you don’t need to have a destination (new) hard disk that’s larger than the source (old) so long as the used space on the old drive does not exceed the total size of the new drive. It can even take care of resizing the partition automatically to take advantage of a larger drive when migrating data.

There are many other tools you can use to accomplish these same tasks, however these are some of our favorites.

Whenever working with partitions and/or hard disks the risk of data loss is high if operations are performed incorrectly or drives are mishandled. Always maintain current backups of all data and ensure the integrity of those backups before attempting any work involving your data.