Collections

Good night everyone. This will be my final post on the matter of outstanding balances for this year (2022) before I get back to regular tech posts – periodically.

I checked today and it will cost 30% of what is owed plus GCT. I don’t mind since something is better than nothing – and with some persons with outstanding amounts, that’s been the case for months/years.

If JPS/NWC is not paid then your service is disconnected. I may not be as large as they are, but I do have overheads that need to be addressed. Having me tied out for an extended period of time makes me have to shift things up. As a client – if you had to wait until you paid everything up front, you’d have been highly inconvenienced and unable to meet deadlines or get work done. I usually get the job done beforehand as most persons need their equipment in order to earn.

Let’s leave it at that. Let’s hope that the general outlook for persons in 2022 will improve, and persons will be more forthcoming with their status.

2022 – Update to collections & service terms

Happy New Year everyone. 2022 wants to be 2020 too….started off badly if you ask me. Aside from family passing away, we lost Betty White in December and started the year with Sidney Poitier leaving as well. While there are other celebrities that we’ve lost, those are the two most prominent ones that are easily identifiable to locals (Jamaicans) if you ask me.

One of the younger deaths in 2022 was Bob Saget. That was unexpected if you ask me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2022

Now – with those unpleasantries out of the way – let’s get into some more unpleasantries. The topic of the post.

TERMS OF SERVICE

While there are no major changes to the terms, there will be updates to how I handle some things. I will also be updating these terms on the main site. I’m probably going to be lazy and type it out here then just copy/paste into the main site. Or not.

https://carlosthomas.net/TOS/

I’m going to be rather blunt about certain topics here. This has come out of necessity. I will also go a bit more into details about certain clients here – without getting too specific. I assume you will read the details and be aware of where things are.

Unfortunately I’m getting older – and I’m getting a bit less tolerant when it comes to providing the services without payment being sent. I love I.T. There are few things that I enjoy as much as doing repairs and troubleshooting, but having a love for something does not pay the bills.

My day job is my priority. If I’m not able to address your issue in a timely manner, I’ll refer you elsewhere or discount your repair if you’re willing to wait. as I’ve said on the main page link, some persons have had me waiting for payment for 3+ years now. I’ve held old devices for persons for 5+ years. It’s going to stop.

CASE STUDIES

I have two cases that I’d like to highlight. Just to give examples and make the persons involved aware.

One customer I ensured to have the system back up and running as it’s needed for them to earn. Partial payment was done, but almost 50% of the invoice has been outstanding for 3+ months now. That’s on the lighter end of tings.

The next customer – I’ll highlight that this is a business – has owed for 6 separate invoices within 2018, and only 1 of 6 has a partial payment. That’s going on 4 years now.

I’m not doing it again. I’m sorry. The details are on the website – which covers my legal obligations. While I already have a network of IT persons that I spread delinquent names among, I am going to check with my lawyer about posting the names of these persons/businesses online. Maybe I should. Maybe I can’t.

The information given to the network of IT persons/businesses simply has the details of the offender, and a warning to ensure that collections are done. But some offenders will not have me doing work for them ever again. I’ve been patient enough I believe.

I’d like to mention something – just so individuals don’t think I’m picking on them and praising businesses. Government is no better. Had a situation where one of the Parish Councils owed me for a printer repair for 2 years. When they needed me again – I sent someone else. After the other person visited twice and brought reminders physically, they finally paid. Government of Jamaica. TWO YEARS.

IN CLOSING

That’s it for now. I’m done being that nice. I love what I do – but free work does not cover the petrol cost (have you seen those lately?) or the electricity costs to do the work. Has got to stop.

Especially for those who have long outstanding payments – if no effort is made to clear the balances, the collection will be handed over to an agency.

AnyDesk Update – Version 7

Hi everyone. This update is done from my phone, so no photos or anything yet. I’ll probably update this post with some pictures and added links once I’m able to.

UPDATE – 2022 – As of version 7.0.4 the profiles issue (mentioned below) has been fixed.

So as you know, I’ve been using AnyDesk as my primary support tool in more recent times. While not as fully featured as ScreenConnect or TeamViewer, it gets things done nicely.

The latest update adds a feature that still needs some work, but will be useful when all bugs are worked out. That would be what I’d call “connection profiles” – official name is “Permission Profiles”.

The update comes with 4 existing profiles that you can tailor, and a menu item suggesting more custom profiles can be added, however that presently doesn’t work. Still, 4 should be enough for most persons to define their connections. What’s available so far are:

  • Default
  • Screen Sharing
  • Full Access
  • Unattended Access

You can specify the level of control each profile will have, and set passwords for each. If you’re a technical user, you can specify access for yourself and others. If you’re an admin, you can set your access and secondary access for assistance when you’re not fully available.

Again, 4 should be enough but I’m waiting for future updates when the profiles can probably be renamed and custom ones added.

As a workaround – if you happen to click on the “ADD PROFILE” option and find a blank page like below – don’t worry about it. Simply close the window and then go back in settings (if you need to) or – if you JUST clicked it – just hit ENTER on the keyboard to get rid of the screen and get back to the settings.

Windows 10 Updates – Printer Problems

In recent times I’ve found that people have been having problems printing. Most of the issues occur with networked printers or network shared printers.

My first encounter was around October 14th, 2021.

Apparently this is due to Windows Update. Some specific updates taken keep breaking the network printing, whether it’s an actual networked printer or one shared from another PC.

The main culprit is KB5006670. If you can’t manage to find it within “Add/Remove Programs” or such, you can remove it manually using a command.

Run the command without quotes “wusa /uninstall /kb:5006670” from an elevated command prompt. The exact command is below for your convenience to copy/paste.

wusa /uninstall /kb:5006670

The problem is – many times the update reinstalls. You’ll have to use your favorite tool/s to block updates and prevent it from being reinstalled.

Some other removal commands which include other updates that could cause your issue are listed below. I’ve included the one above as well.

wusa /uninstall /kb:5006670
wusa /uninstall /kb:3197868
wusa /uninstall /kb:3170455
wusa /uninstall /kb:5005613
wusa /uninstall /kb:3163912
wusa /uninstall /kb:3172985

At the end of that, you may want to run “msdt.exe /id PrinterDiagnostic” to start the print troubleshooter and see if it’s possible to resolve your issue.

If you had the printer installed before and it stopped, these may help. If your printer disappeared from your list – you’ll have to add it back.

If you’re in an organization and can afford to, you may want to deploy up a localized Windows Update server. This will allow you to cherry pick what gets distributed.

Links to external resources can be found below. Just note that my specific reason for the research was a bit different. Yes – I had the printing issue – but my client also had failing drives and I initially thought the print failure was due to corrupted files. This was the case on one (1) of the machines on that network.

Hopefully the information provided helps to get your print issues resolved.

https://www.howtoedge.com/fix-printer-error-0x00000709-on-windows-10/

https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/280261-a-policy-is-in-effect-on-your-computer-which-prevents-you-from-connecting-to-thi

http://www.networksteve.com/windows/topic.php/When_trying_to_add_a_networked_printer_i_get_this_error._On_wind/?TopicId=26560&Posts=1

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/888046/en-us

https://www.ubackup.com/windows-10/dism-offline-repair-windows-10.html

2021-2022 Cleaning

So I’m just putting this here. Each year I try to clean up and clear out things that I have for various persons/customers and many times things don’t get picked up. I’ve literally had some items for more than 5 years – some more than 10 years – and I’m seriously going to be clearing out by or before January 2022.

If I have a device that belongs to you – request it back before then. If I’m working on something for you – request an update. I am not going into next year with any open tickets in my system. Everything needs to be purged or updated. Whatever’s not working – you either take it back or I dump it.

Without giving names – for privacy – you can review and see if any of these are yours. If your device isn’t listed then please reference your ticket number or other details for me to locate and return your device. If you don’t want it – it will be dumped or donated.

I have:

  • 1x Printer (HP)
  • 1x Printer (Epson)
  • 1x iMac
  • 1x Laptop (Acer)
  • 1x Laptop (HP)
  • 1x Desktop (DELL)

These are the only items that belong to clients that I’m still working on. The printer I’ve had for 5+ years and will be dumping soon. The Acer I’ve located because it was packed away with other things – so I’m testing to return. The Mac I’ll be returning soon if I can’t get anything out of it. The owner of the Mac also owns the printer. Both need to go, and I’ll be working on that by or before the end of November. The DELL desktop has been in my possession for maybe 10+ years. The owner has moved to laptops in the household so I will be dumping if no action is taken.

The last HP laptop – I cannot get a sale for since it has either a board or screen issue, and the internal storage is 64GB EMMC. I’ll be returning that in the next week or two.

That concludes everything. I should have everyone sorted by or before the end of this year. I NEED things to be streamlined by or before 2022. Whatever I can’t do I’ll pass on to someone else. Time is an issue with my day job, so please let me know what should be done with your items. If I get no communication by January 1, 2022 – I will just dump or give away everything.

Browser Certificate Errors

Recently I’ve gotten a few calls about “Certificate Errors” with browsers on various Windows installs. Quick version – solution in link to Microsoft.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/support-for-urgent-trusted-root-updates-for-windows-root-certificate-program-in-windows-a4ac4d6c-7c62-3b6e-dfd2-377982bf3ea5

This happens when updates aren’t installed, but that’s another story. Been seeing recently where updates are breaking Windows functions, especially with network printing. Will touch on that later/tomorrow.

Download the update from the link above if you keep getting certificate errors from trusted sites such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc.

One user attempted to test from a site called “ttyoutube” which I had to explain is not a trusted site. While other websites exist to help with downloading videos from YouTube and other sites, you run a risk of malware installations by using those sites. Pop-ups and tracking cookies are hopefully the only things you’ll encounter.

Hopefully this will help if you find yourself with errors while browsing known good sites.

FireFox Updated – 2021-06-08 – Faster

Well – this was a bit unexpected. With the various browsers available there was a large market share by Google Chrome. This may not shift as people don’t really care generally, but there were some privacy issues with it that came to light in more recent times.

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/google-chrome-browser-data

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2021/03/20/stop-using-google-chrome-on-apple-iphone-12-pro-max-ipad-and-macbook-pro/?sh=68893baa4d08

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2020/06/03/google-chrome-privacy-lawsuit-could-you-get-a-5000-payout-incognito-mode-class-action/?sh=73fa17fe1485

That last link is about a privacy lawsuit. People concerned about that have stepped away, but I doubt it will reduce the number of users by any significant amount.

I’ve always used a number of browsers for various things. Currently installed I have:

  1. Edge (no choice here).
  2. Opera.
  3. Google Chrome.
  4. Mozilla FireFox

FireFox has been pretty decent, but always had a major issue with closing multiple tabs. If you even had 2 open tabs, once you close the browser it would sit for a while before the “close multiple tabs and exit” prompt would appear. The workaround would be to close EVERY SINGLE TAB before finally exiting.

In my current tests, I’m glad to say that this issue seems resolved. This is as of 2021-06-08 on FireFox version 89.0. Take it for a test drive if you like. Link is below.

https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox

Updating Invoice Ninja v4 on Shared Hosting

 

INTRODUCTION

This post is related to a prior one done about installing InvoiceNinja on shared hosting. You can view that at the link below.

Thanks for this go to @david and @hillel on the InvoiceNinja forums. Keep up the good work guys!

I’ve not found another dedicated invoice system that works better. I highly recommend the paid version for persons who can afford it. It would remove the hassle of having to do all the work on the back-end and also remove all of the system requirements.

This assumes you already have a v4 installation present.

!!!MAJOR NOTICE!!!

You cannot directly update from v4 to v5. If you attempt this – stuff may not work. Will probably cover this later on (if I get it working). As of this writing there is no way to install v5 without PROC_OPEN available.

REQUIREMENTS

Before doing an update – above all else – it would be best to have a PHP option called PROC_OPEN available. Without this a lot of things may fail. So let’s list them.

  • PHP 7.3.
    • For v4 (4.5.39 as of this post) do not pass PHP 7.3 – it may cause problems.
  • proc_open (PHP).
  • FTP client (like FileZilla).

This I would class as medium difficulty. So here we go. There are two main methods.

METHOD #1 – PROC_OPEN AVAILABLE

If your hosting provider allows proc_open then simply:

  1. Download the latest v4 (4.5.39 as of this post).
  2. Extract the files.
  3. Backup your ENV file.
  4. Upload the contents of the ZIP to your web folder/directory.
    • Overwrite all files.

That’s it. Navigate to your invoice URL after and use it. The second method however is a bit more tedious.

METHOD #2 – PROC_OPEN NOT AVAILABLE

This takes a bit more time. A listing of what to do would be:

  • Backup your database.
  • Export your settings (just in case).
  • Remove 2FA (if enabled). You can put it back when done.
  • Rename the current folder (ninja) to something else (ninja.old).
  • Download and extract the current v4.
  • Create your usual working folder (ninja).
  • Upload your extracted updated v4 to the folder (ninja).
  • Go through the setup process – but point the database settings to the existing DB.
    • You may use all of your original credentials/passwords.
  • Log in with your credentials.
  • Verify everything is working.
  • Setup 2FA once more if you had it before.
    • Or set it up just because.

I’ll be editing this post later on and adding photos of the steps – but for getting the information out there – that’s it. Hopefully this will help you with updating your InvoiceNinja.

Invoice System Temporarily Down

So with the updates done by my hosting provider – I had to make changes to the invoice system. In doing so I did some really dumb things – like attempt updates without backup. So now the invoice system is down and I’m working on getting it back up. The good thing is that I can probably get it working. The BAD thing is I may lose all prior information. I really hope not – working on it and will update.

This is as a result of older PHP versions being totally deprecated and forced upgrades for everyone. I’m not a “software” person and me alone managing the site plus doing my day job makes this….difficult somewhat. So please bear with me until I get this resolved.

Connectwise Control Review

Site: https://www.connectwise.com/
Rating: Very Good

  • Features – 5/5 (most features of any remote software)
  • Pricing – 2/5 (one of the most expensive)
  • Ease of setup – 4/5 (a little difficult for inexperienced users to setup)
  • Address book – 5/5 (unlimited)
  • Customization – 4/5 (best customization – but moderately difficult)

ConnectWise Control is by far – leaps and bounds – the most feature filled remote control tool on the market that I’ve seen. Nothing that I’ve tested comes even remotely close. Here’s a rundown of all the features I’ve seen.

  1. Remote connection.
  2. Remote ADMINISTRATION without connecting.
  3. Multi-desktop/monitor support.
  4. Meetings.
  5. Reverse-sharing (you share your screen).
  6. Sending clipboard keystrokes.
  7. Blanking guest monitor – with custom message!
  8. Credential storage.
  9. Reboot & reconnect.
  10. Remote printing.
  11. Clipboard sharing – including file transfer.
  12. Custom space for “toolbox” files.
  13. “Guest” login.
  14. FULL auditing.
  15. Screenshots and screen/session recording.
  16. Screen annotation.

And that list above is not exhaustive – just the ones I can recall from my usage. Some of the things in the list above I’d like to highlight would be numbers 2, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13.

#2 – Remote Administration

The remote administration side includes things such as uninstalling software, checking for running processes and killing them, checking for both private and public IP and seeing the MAC of the system – just to name a few. If a client reports an issue you can then remotely issue commands without connecting – and check for malicious software installations and remove them. You can view what processes are running and terminate them if needs be – among many other things.

#6 – Clipboard Keystrokes

This is a feature that not many other remote tools have and is most useful for persons logging on to a PC or server remotely. In the event that you are sent a password by a client, or have a long/complex password to enter, you can simply copy to the clipboard from your system and “send keystrokes” to the remote system. This ensures no mistakes when entering details.

#7 – Custom Blank Screen

Most developed remote software will have an option to blank the screen. ScreenConnect is the only one I’ve seen that allows a custom message while the screen is blanked on the client side. So you can place a custom message such as “John’s Remote Support” which will be displayed while you work away and what you need.

#8 – Credential Storage

This feature is another that I’ve not seen anywhere else. ScreenConnect allows you to save the login password or administrative password for the system you’re connected to. This means you don’t need to remember passwords for every system – and also means the client doesn’t need to give the password out to you. Whether a one-time support or permanent install on a regular client’s system, the option can be used to have the client type in their password which will then be stored – encrypted – on the ScreenConnect server. This means the client doesn’t need to be there if a reboot is done.

#12 – Toolbox

There is an option to upload files that are most commonly used by you to the ScreenConnect server and then initiate a push to the client PC. This allows you to easily and quickly have access to things that are most used without having to search for and download them each time. Let’s say for example you’re setting up a new PC for a client and they need Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox – whichever they rather. Instead of having to then go online and download it, the files can be pushed to the remote system. This is especially useful if working on newly commissioned VPSes. Other tools such as compression or even hot-fixes can be uploaded to then be pushed to the remote system.

#13 – “Guest” Login

This is another option that I’ve not seen anywhere. Let’s say you’re at the airport and need to do something for a client. You’re about to get on the flight and the client urgently needs your attention. You can either send by email or generate a “guest” link which can then be sent to a trusted colleague, co-worker or employee to do the connection on your behalf. The only issue is the time – each “guest” link is valid for a set amount of time and cannot be revoked. Once you’ve provided the link, the time must expire for the link to become invalid.

The Dark Side

While ScreenConnect is AWESOME – there is one major flaw. As ConnectWise is an established company with a history in IT, they are targeted by hackers greatly.

https://www.crn.com/news/managed-services/connectwise-control-msp-security-vulnerabilities-are-severe-bishop-fox?itc=refresh

https://labs.bishopfox.com/advisories/connectwise-control

Those are just two links of many showing the vulnerabilities in the software. The use of forced 2FA for all MSPs now has reduced the exploits, but it may still be a security risk if a feature is exploited.

CONCLUSION

Overall, ScreenConnect is one of the best pieces of software available. The added security with 2FA reduces the risks, but skeptics should seek another alternative. In my usage of the product (over a year) I’ve not had any security issues, but pricing was my primary reason for discontinuing.

I was approached with another ConnectWise product which would offer the things I need – but I need a minimum of 100 clients/devices. My list had over 200, but 90% of clients weren’t paying for the service – which has also forced my decision to step away for now.

Depending on your needs and budget – ScreenConnect may be the choice for you. Best product in overall features, but just a little pricey.

Regardless of the tool in use, bear in mind that unscrupulous persons will use different methods to attempt entry into your system. A call pretending to be from Microsoft or some other company – someone pretending to be from your office who needs to connect and install new software or do troubleshooting. The best thing to do is use safe practices, because MSPs (Managed Service Providers) and individuals alike have been attacked by hackers, and scammers have used the tools to gain access to systems. Regardless of the tool in use – please ensure you thoroughly check out who is providing support. Never grant access to anyone that you haven’t confirmed is supposed to have access.