Safe Mode

Having an accustomed environment encircle you can exude reassuring emotions of safety and keep you in a state of tranquillity and composure… unlike this sentence.
That is why safe mode can be such a great tool to use and see from an IT perspective.
In the past week I’ve had to resort to using safe mode on several occasions, all of them because of different causes and all of them required different solutions – and all of them used the Safe Mode OS (Operating System) to get the job done.

If you have never seen or heard of safe mode, it can simply be described as a diagnostic mode built into an electronic device to help a technician diagnose and resolve technical issues usually involving software issues such as driver problems, incompatible software, viruses, display problems or corrupt files.

On a Windows based system, if you would like to access Safemode the most common method of starting up safe mode is to reboot your PC, press the F8 key (although this does vary depending on the PC type, model and BIOS version) and then select “Safe Mode” from the boot options.
If you run Windows 8, it will be either a combination of SHIFT+F8 or a different button depending on your motherboard developer. (Had to press F12 to access safe mode on an ASUS Motherboard this week).

There are other ways of starting in safe mode on a Windows based PC.
Run the Microsoft Start up configuration utility, Under General, Select “Diagnostic Setup” and then reboot your PC. This method sometimes gets blocked by rogue malware and therefore the first method needs to be implemented.

What safe mode does is try and boot into the Operating System with as little drivers as possible.
This means that whatever prompted you to use safe mode should not start along with the bare minimum of drivers to run the operating system.
This minimalistic boot up allows the user to isolate a driver problem without having to think about dozens of variations or issues because all but the very essential “core” drivers are running.
It practically takes away all the non-needed software and presents you with an OS that should be working… helping you work backwards and resolve the problem

I personally try and use the option “Safe Mode with Networking” if the issue does not involve viruses or malware as this loads up the network drivers and adaptors along with the bare minimum OS files.


Browser Hijack

Click on a link that you want to open and you find yourself on the bad side of the internet staring at pop ups, free prescription medicine and critical security warnings?… Looks like you have a browser hijack.
Usually I get to work on a Friday ready to have a good finish to the working week and then enjoy a relaxing weekend away from many things related to IT.
This end of the week we had to deal with multiple PC’s that had their browsers hijacked.

What is a browser hijack? Simply put it’s a program or setting that unknowingly to the end user changes the browsers configuration.
The best browser hijack is one where the unsuspecting user is not even aware of its presence both visually or functionally.
Browser hijack’s usually modify things such as the home page, the error page (or creates fake error pages), adds tool bars and search engines and probably most annoyingly redirects the users’ clicks to other web pages. This is usually the only visual queue the end user recognises as strange.
Browser Hijack programs and software is part of the malware virus group and highly urgent that it gets removed from the infected browser.
Some infamous browser hijack software is Conduit Search, CoolWebSearch, Babylon Toolbar, Onewebsearch, MyStart.IncrediBar Search,, and many more.

If your home button takes you to a page other than your original home page, if you get all kinds of pop ups, if your search page looks totally different or gives you undesirable results, it more than likely points to a browser hijack.

In my experience I have found that Internet Explorer gets the most browser hijack’s. Even with its home page change prevention software and reset software.
Firefox has also been hit and miss in this regard. I have found that it is much easier to remove bowser hijack software from Firefox because of the way it manages addons.
As for Chrome, Safari and other browsers, they seem to do a great job of protecting the end user (or the end users of such programs are more aware of the dangers and protect themselves).

In such instances Malware removal software by itself is not always sufficient to get rid of the browser hijack. Sometimes it requires reconfiguration of the browsers settings and on some occasions even a full reinstall.
Personally I am a sound believer and proponent of prevention is better than cure, so take care and don’t get hijacked in the first place!

Cloud Computing Services

Cloud computing services is one of the most important thing happening in MSP’s. Traditionally, users rely on applications that run directly or locally on the hardware, Compute/Storage/Networking, of their organization running in some On-Premises Data Center. This type of infrastructure is one in use all over the world today. Cloud computing changes it by running applications at Data Centers owned by the organization or somebody else accessed via the internet. Cloud computing can be categorized in three ways: Cloud applications, Cloud platforms, Private clouds.

One of the most important aspect of cloud computing is the idea of running applications in the cloud. This means running applications in data centers owned by third parties accessed via the internet called the “public cloud.” Running applications in the public cloud is commonly referred to as “Software as a Service” pronounced SaaS. One example of SaaS is Microsoft Office 365 which we are currently offering to our clients in Brisbane.

Cloud platform provides self-service access to resources such as a virtual machine or gigabytes of storage commonly through a web browser interface. It allows fine-grained allocation of resources. For example, you do not have to request a server by the month rather you can request for an hour. It also allows charging only for the resources an application uses. Examples of these are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure. These two cloud platforms

In essence, what private clouds do is import the technology of cloud platforms into organizations own data centers. As an example for this, an ESXi Server with vCenter as the platform or portal for user to request resources such as virtual machines.

Cloud computing is here. It is real and important. All three aspects are important: Cloud applications, Cloud platforms and Private clouds. A and S Tech Pty Ltd is prepared to be a part of this shift to cloud computing services.


The big news this week is that DisplayPort has officially ousted the aging but very handy VGA display interface.

Up until this week all the PC’s, workstations and servers we had sold or configured for our customers came with a VGA display port among other display options… but not anymore. We had shipped our first DisplayPort only workstation and we were (sad to admit) caught a little off balance in the sense that we didn’t have a compatible monitor to ship to the customer. Yes we did sort out the issue quite quickly and with little hassle, but it got me thinking and ultimately blogging about this new step in the field of IT… and it looks like a major step.

DisplayPort isn’t new in the sense that it was first approved in May 2006 by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) and started shipping in very late months of 2009. I must say that it is new enough and unknown enough that even Microsoft’s Word puts a little red line under the term “DisplayPort” (Time to add to dictionary I think). To the untrained eye it looks very similar to another interface that much of the public knows about, of course I’m referring to the HDMI interface. But more about these two standards a little later.

DisplayPort contains 20 pins and sends its data over these pins via small data packets called micro packets. It was designed this way because it allows VESA to add additional features later on in the future without the need to change the interface physically. (Think USB)
DisplayPort sends both video and audio out of the same port, so we may see the familiar I/O on the back of PC’s change even more with no audio inputs or VGA outputs.

At the end of 2009 VESA released version 1.2 of DisplayPort which is a mini interface already running on some of Apple’s products and some high end GPU’s from AMD.

The differences between DisplayPort and the widely known HDMI standard are minimal in the physical sense or the end product, but it’s the difference’s between these two standards which may determine what the back of our PC’s will look like in the future.

  •  Firstly DisplayPort is a royalty free standard. Which means as a manufacturer you can add it to your electronic device without paying the developers of the standard. HDMI on the other hand asks an annual fee of around $10,000 US dollars and between US$0.04 and US$0.15 per device which the input is attached to.
  •  DisplayPort currently is in version 1.3 and has more bandwidth than the current version of HDMI 2.0. DisplayPort can transmit 21.6 Gbit/s[46] (17.28 Gbit/s with overhead removed) as opposed to HDMI 2.0’s 18 Gbit/s[47] (14.4 Gbit/s with overhead removed).
  • DisplayPort 1.4 can also send a much higher resolution image, but this will soon change as HDMI is getting a big change in the coming months.

Besides these differences, these two standards can be found on the same machine as complimentary devices. They even have adapters that go from one to another.
It’s just slightly a new dawn for us who have looked to the often blue coloured VGA standard and felt almost comfortable by it. Not physically, but subconsciously when we thought it would be with us our whole careers. Goodbye VGA, please wipe your feet and come on in DisplayPort, we have a lot of catching up to do.