Archive for April 2011

WebBrowserPassView – Recover Passwords from Web Browsers

Authors: Bryce Whitty

WebBrowserPassView is a small, portable and freeware utility designed to recover passwords from:

  • Internet Explorer (Version 4.0 – 9.0)
  • Mozilla Firefox (All Versions)
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

Once WebBrowserPassView has gathered all the passwords from the various browsers, it displays them in a single table with the URL the password was saved for, what browser it was saved in and of course the username and password.

From there, you can save it as a TXT file, export the table as HTML and more. This product was created by Nirsoft and in true Nirsoft fashion, the application is very easy to incorporate into scripts due to its excellent command line support.

This utility works on any version of Windows, starting from Windows 2000, and up to Windows 7, including 64-bit systems.

Note: Due to the hacking/password revealing nature of this application. Some antivirus products will detect it as malware or a hacking tool. You can view the VirusTotal.com report here.

Screenshots:

Downloads:
Download from Official Site – 204kb

More Information

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their Computer Business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. WebBrowserPassView – Recover Passwords from Web Browsers

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Free Forums at National Small Business Week

Authors: Karen Mills

Karen Mills

We’re gearing up for National Small Business Week, which is May 18 through 20. This year’s theme is “Empowering Entrepreneurs.” That’s exactly what we want to

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Diversity urged for business at conference

Authors: Mitalis

By Allison Bruce

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National IT Warranty Companies – The Good and the Bad

Authors: Bryce Whitty

National IT & Warranty companies allow businesses access to a huge range of IT Professionals from all over the country. This means more work for us Computer Technicians, but some National IT & Warranty companies also have a dark side. In this article I would like to talk about dealing with "Nationals" and what to watch out for.

There are generally two types of Nationals. National IT Services allow businesses such as your own to hire Computer Technicians in other states, expanding their reach. The other type are National Warranty providers where a company can send you out to fulfill their warranty obligations. A typical client of a National Warranty provider would be a very large business that has warranty obligations to fulfill such as Staples. Staples primary focuses on office supplies but they also sell computers and peripherals. They don’t want to maintain a network of their own technicians across the country so they outsource this work to a National.
Nationals acting as the middle men will then refer work to a technician who is geographically close to the location of the work and take a cut of the profit.
The obvious benefit of this to Computer Technicians is that we have work sent our way. It really sounds like it is win-win for all parties and I know some technicians who have had success with them. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. The good ones are good and the bad ones can be really bad. Here are some of the reasons that make the bad ones bad:

Lowballin’
A large problem with the National companies is that many of them allow the client to set the rate of the work that needs to be done. The rate is often so low than no legitimate Computer Business would waste their time accepting it. You would believe that the market would sort itself out when no one accepts the lowball jobs and forces the client to pay a higher price. However, this is often not the case as inexperienced and possibly unqualified technicians accept the work.
The client gets work done cheaply and continues to post lowball jobs driving technicians with real overheads out of the Nationals marketplace.

My Monitor Has A Virus
When a client needs some work done, the job gets put the onto the Nationals marketplace for techs to snap up or the National might even directly call a technician who is in the area. The client wants the work done at a price they specify and its up to the technician to either accept or reject the work.
The real danger here is the diagnosis of the initial problem. Have you ever had a client say that their computer has a virus only for you to go onsite and find out that it was a blown power supply? In most cases, the client’s initial diagnosis was wrong.
When you are working for yourself and are being paid on an hourly basis, this is not a problem. You simply tell the client that the problem seems to be X and is not a virus. You let them know the costs of fixing X, get the go-ahead and fix the problem.
When you work for a National you have agreed to do a certain job at a certain rate, even though that is obviously not the issue. In some cases you can get approval to fix whatever needs to be done, but with some Nationals you are just the grunt who needs to do what they say.
In some cases, the person with the failing hardware had to call a support line who diagnosed the issue over the phone and then sent you out with the appropriate parts. The diagnosis might be a little more accurate but it is still possible that they are wrong. The whole back and forth, getting approval and getting parts can get ugly.

Getting Paid
I have heard horror stories where technicians have gone onsite to do a very specific task with parts in hand, find out that the diagnosis was incorrect and are unable to fix the problem. Since the problem wasn’t fixed, the client isn’t going to pay the National and in turn the National isn’t going to pay you, even though you did exactly as they asked.
I have also heard of other payment horror stories where they take months to pay you and make you jump through all sorts of hoops. This is possibly a cash flow issue on their end.

So Should I Avoid National Service Providers?
I don’t believe you should avoid National Service Providers entirely. I know of many technicians who have used them to fill slow times in the day. Apparently, If you have a very specific qualification you might be able to avoid the majority of the issues I have pointed out in this article. If you are the only person in a certain area that is qualified to do a certain job, then you can call the shots and set the price you want.
The trick with working for Nationals is to build your business with your own clients and use the Nationals during slower times. If you don’t rely on them, you have the power to say “Pay my rate and I am happy to do the work. If not, see ya later”.

If you are doing some work with them for the first time, do not accept a large job to begin with and do not accept any more work until they have paid you for your first callout. Many technicians have had problems getting paid by certain Nationals.

If you need some work and want to do a job for a National, always research them first by searching for terms such as:
[name] scam
[name] complaints

Also search for the name of the National (or even just the word “nationals” using the search box in the top right corner of the Technibble site.

I would have listed the names of some of the better known Nationals here in this article but some of the mainstream ones have so many complaints against them that I wouldn’t dare mention them. So, I am going to send this question out to the Technibble community.

Which National’s have you worked for? Which ones were the best and which ones were the worst? Please leave us a comment in the form below.

As always, you do not need to sign up to leave a comment and you can even do so anonymously. Email/RSS readers will need to visit the site in order to leave comment.

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their computer business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. National IT & Warranty Companies – The Good and the Bad

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National IT Warranty Companies – The Good and the Bad

Authors: Bryce Whitty

National IT & Warranty companies allow businesses access to a huge range of IT Professionals from all over the country. This means more work for us Computer Technicians, but some National IT & Warranty companies also have a dark side. In this article I would like to talk about dealing with "Nationals" and what to watch out for.

There are generally two types of Nationals. National IT Services allow businesses such as your own to hire Computer Technicians in other states, expanding their reach. The other type are National Warranty providers where a company can send you out to fulfill their warranty obligations. A typical client of a National Warranty provider would be a very large business that has warranty obligations to fulfill such as Staples. Staples primary focuses on office supplies but they also sell computers and peripherals. They don’t want to maintain a network of their own technicians across the country so they outsource this work to a National.
Nationals acting as the middle men will then refer work to a technician who is geographically close to the location of the work and take a cut of the profit.
The obvious benefit of this to Computer Technicians is that we have work sent our way. It really sounds like it is win-win for all parties and I know some technicians who have had success with them. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. The good ones are good and the bad ones can be really bad. Here are some of the reasons that make the bad ones bad:

Lowballin’
A large problem with the National companies is that many of them allow the client to set the rate of the work that needs to be done. The rate is often so low than no legitimate Computer Business would waste their time accepting it. You would believe that the market would sort itself out when no one accepts the lowball jobs and forces the client to pay a higher price. However, this is often not the case as inexperienced and possibly unqualified technicians accept the work.
The client gets work done cheaply and continues to post lowball jobs driving technicians with real overheads out of the Nationals marketplace.

My Monitor Has A Virus
When a client needs some work done, the job gets put the onto the Nationals marketplace for techs to snap up or the National might even directly call a technician who is in the area. The client wants the work done at a price they specify and its up to the technician to either accept or reject the work.
The real danger here is the diagnosis of the initial problem. Have you ever had a client say that their computer has a virus only for you to go onsite and find out that it was a blown power supply? In most cases, the client’s initial diagnosis was wrong.
When you are working for yourself and are being paid on an hourly basis, this is not a problem. You simply tell the client that the problem seems to be X and is not a virus. You let them know the costs of fixing X, get the go-ahead and fix the problem.
When you work for a National you have agreed to do a certain job at a certain rate, even though that is obviously not the issue. In some cases you can get approval to fix whatever needs to be done, but with some Nationals you are just the grunt who needs to do what they say.
In some cases, the person with the failing hardware had to call a support line who diagnosed the issue over the phone and then sent you out with the appropriate parts. The diagnosis might be a little more accurate but it is still possible that they are wrong. The whole back and forth, getting approval and getting parts can get ugly.

Getting Paid
I have heard horror stories where technicians have gone onsite to do a very specific task with parts in hand, find out that the diagnosis was incorrect and are unable to fix the problem. Since the problem wasn’t fixed, the client isn’t going to pay the National and in turn the National isn’t going to pay you, even though you did exactly as they asked.
I have also heard of other payment horror stories where they take months to pay you and make you jump through all sorts of hoops. This is possibly a cash flow issue on their end.

So Should I Avoid National Service Providers?
I don’t believe you should avoid National Service Providers entirely. I know of many technicians who have used them to fill slow times in the day. Apparently, If you have a very specific qualification you might be able to avoid the majority of the issues I have pointed out in this article. If you are the only person in a certain area that is qualified to do a certain job, then you can call the shots and set the price you want.
The trick with working for Nationals is to build your business with your own clients and use the Nationals during slower times. If you don’t rely on them, you have the power to say “Pay my rate and I am happy to do the work. If not, see ya later”.

If you are doing some work with them for the first time, do not accept a large job to begin with and do not accept any more work until they have paid you for your first callout. Many technicians have had problems getting paid by certain Nationals.

If you need some work and want to do a job for a National, always research them first by searching for terms such as:
[name] scam
[name] complaints

Also search for the name of the National (or even just the word “nationals” using the search box in the top right corner of the Technibble site.

I would have listed the names of some of the better known Nationals here in this article but some of the mainstream ones have so many complaints against them that I wouldn’t dare mention them. So, I am going to send this question out to the Technibble community.

Which National’s have you worked for? Which ones were the best and which ones were the worst? Please leave us a comment in the form below.

As always, you do not need to sign up to leave a comment and you can even do so anonymously. Email/RSS readers will need to visit the site in order to leave comment.

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their Computer Business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. National IT & Warranty Companies – The Good and the Bad

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The Amazon Outage – bringing our heads out of the cloud

This week, cloud computing experienced a major disruption – Amazon’s datacenter went down for about 12 hours on Thursday, taking major web sites and web-based services down with it. For those who don’t utilize the cloud for much, there was little effect, but for those who rely on the cloud for much of what they do, they were pretty much grounded for the better part of a day.

The outage sparked a very spirited discussion in The Force Field Forums about cloud computing in general. In the forum thread “The Cloud Bites the dust…” , IT service providers, some of whom also offer cloud-based solutions to their customers, reflected on the long-term negative effects of the outage and discussed why the cloud is hyped as much as it is. Overall, there was agreement that the outage would likely be a setback for proponents of cloud computing.

For Amazon, this was certainly a setback. Their business is based in the cloud. For those IT companies who hype the cloud as the greatest thing since sliced bread, this was a return to reality. The reality is this: cloud computing just one tool for IT, not the entire toolbox. It isn’t a panacea for IT providers and it isn’t the solution for everyone.

Some seem to think The Cloud is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I disagree. From a practical standpoint I think toilet paper is still the greatest invention.

Think I’m wrong? Wait until you go to the restroom with an unsliced loaf of bread, no internet access and no toilet paper and then tell me which one you need more.

I’m not dismissing the cloud. Like other technologies available to us, there is definitely a place for it. In fact, it can be a very important tool for IT, a technology that can complement or enhance the desktop computing experience. But it gets hyped as a replacement for the desktop, especially by pro-cloud service providers and industry trade publications. The idea that the cloud will destroy the desktop is a presumptuous claim made by industry pundits who have their heads stuck too far up in it and their feet too far from the ground.

A lot of these trade publications also oversell Managed Services. I subscribe to several trades and just about all they promote these days are Cloud Computing and Managed Services. It is as if these two technologies, either by themselves or together, are now the ultimate solutions for everything in IT. They aren’t. Personally, I think the current capabilities of both managed services and the cloud are overrated, oversold and certainly overhyped.

Like managed services, cloud computing is here to stay, but there are applications and solutions that are and will continue to be better suited for the desktop for a long time to come. I’ve watched the hype surrounding the cloud grow considerably during the last three years, just as the hype for Managed Services (another industry buzz word that is annoyingly over-used) has grown. Like the cloud, there is also certainly a place for managed services in IT, but it isn’t the end-all solution for everything, either.

Until man devises a way to repair all desktop issues remotely and for even the smallest customer, there will continue to be a need for the independent on site technician. Managed services is best suited to complement personalized onsite service – not replace it. Likewise, the cloud can certainly complement the desktop – but until man devises a way to connect all solid state devices with omnipresent connections and with complete stability, reliability and free, full accessibility anytime, anywhere, there will still be a need for the desktop.

I think the reason the cloud is overhyped and oversold is because those who sell and promote it consider it a cash cow of free money. It is perceived as an easy path to riches for many companies in the field who view it as a product with minimal investment, little overhead, low maintenance and disproportionately high yield. So they set out to sell it as a solution for everything.

While the cloud can be used for a lot of different services in theory, in reality using the cloud for all of them is clouded judgement; while certainly possible, isn’t always practical and in some situations can even be too risky in the long term.

Yes, I think there is an important place in IT for the cloud, But I also think there is way too much emphasis placed on it and I think it is way oversold. I believe the Amazon datacenter outage this week proves that point. The outage served up a dose of reality to bring IT back down to earth a little and clear the clouded mind.

Conference focuses on government, corporate business for diverse suppliers

Authors: Mitalis

By Allison Bruce
Posted April 18, 2011

What: Power Your Business diversity conference<br

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Entrepreneurs Share Keys to Success in “America’s Best” Video Series

Authors: Karen Mills

Karen Mills

We’re constantly working to ensure that small businesses with big potential have the support they need to scale up and create hundreds – or thousands – of jobs.

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RESULTS: What Do You Think Of Registry Cleaners?

Authors: Bryce Whitty

In my last post I asked the question “What do you think of Registry Cleaners?” and the community spoke. At the time of writing this there were 164 responses and after taking out the discussion comments (where they didnt say one way or the other), here are the results:

There were 86 Yes’s with 66 of those recommending CCleaner. 22 No’s and 9 Unsure’s.

The majority of the people who answered Yes said that they make use of a registry cleaner in most system cleanup jobs and they mostly use CCleaner. Glary Utilities also got a few mentions.

Those who said No consider registry cleaners as modern day snake oil or find its just better to work on the specific issue rather than a scattergun approach.
Those who were unsure typically hasn’t really been proven either way or they are unsure of any speed improvements after using one.

Lets look a little deeper into each answer:

Yes, I use registry cleaners
The registry is a large and complex database of information and there is no doubt that after a while there will be many entries left behind by applications that have since been removed. Less entries means a smaller registry and therefor makes it load faster right?

I spent some time looking for a study from a reliable source on the performance improvements of registry cleaners, but I couldnt find any. I could definitely find many sites talking about the benefits of a registry cleaner, but those sites are either directly selling a registry cleaning product or its a third party site that is making a commission for every registry cleaner product they sell.

One of the few trusted sources I could find was from Mark Russinovich’s blog. Mark is a widely recognized expert in the Windows operating system internals as well as operating system architecture and design. You might have heard Mark Russinovich before as he is the creator of Process Explorer and Autoruns.

On Marks blog, he said:

A few hundred kilobytes of unused keys and values causes no noticeable performance impact on system operation, but I figured it was natural for a Registry cleaner to be an essential part of running a tight ship for the anal retentive systems administrator.

So reducing the size of the registry by removing unneeded entries probably wont speed up the system, as Mark said, removing these entries would only reduce the size of the registry by a few hundred kilobytes.
But what about the contents of the registry keys? not so much the amount of space they take but the fact they are referencing a missing file? I expect there would be some speed improvements there, but I really couldn’t find any data from reliable sources proving this.

Wikipedia had something to say about it. While you cannot ever fully trust Wikipedia due to the fact that it is volunteer based, it is usually pretty good.

From Wikipedia:
Metrics of performance benefit
On Windows 9x computers, it was possible that a very large registry could slow down the computer’s startup time. However this is far less of an issue with NT-based operating systems (including Windows XP and Vista) due to a different on-disk structure of the registry, improved memory management and indexing. Slowdown due to registry bloat is thus far less of an issue in modern versions of Windows. Defragmenting the registry files (e.g. using a Microsoft-supported tool such as PageDefrag), has likewise been de-emphasized due to this increased efficiency, and is largely an automated process under Vista.

Are Computer Technicians following old information? Are we doing something we have always done but never actually tested it on a modern system? The comments left in the previous article were overwhelmingly in favor of registry cleaners, so there is definitely something there.

No, I dont use registry cleaners
Much of the hate towards registry cleaners seems to have been caused by the many questionable products out there with advertisements saying that “You have 1000 critical errors with your registry. Press OK to fix it now”.
This is known as “Scareware” and even if you believe in good products like CCleaner, you can understand why people believe that registry scanners are modern day snake oil with this kind of advertising going on.

Some of the nay sayers also mentioned that most technicians dont fully understand the Windows registry and unless you know what you are doing, you cannot trust an automated program to do it for you. This is good advice. If you use a registry cleaner such as CCleaner or Glary Utilities, take a look through the list of what it is going to do and untick things you arent sure about. Dont use it indiscriminately and before you do any work with the registry, always back it up beforehand with something like ERUNT.

I am not sure
Some of the “I am not sure” responses said they do use registry cleaners but cannot see any obvious speed improvements, but it doesn’t hurt to do it anyway.
Other “I am not sure” responses said they weren’t sure because there aren’t any studies to back it up so they cannot make an informed decision.

In conclusion, the majority of the commenter’s do use them and when they do its usually CCleaner. I am personally in the “Not sure” camp since I haven’t seen any research to prove it one way or the other. The only time I dive into the registry to do something specific like a registry tweak or removing remnants of Malware, but thats about it. Anyway, a big thank you to all who commented!

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their computer business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. RESULTS: What Do You Think Of Registry Cleaners?

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Is The Barrister Blog for real?

I came across the Barrister blog on Blogger this morning. Apparently someone connected with Barrister Global Services is so upset with all the complaints posted on the Internet from frustrated and angry techs, they launched an all out frontal assault on them, claiming the complaints against them are all fake and the complainers are – scammers?

The word scam is used so loosely throughout the blog and the grammer is so poor, it was difficult to determine if the blog was simply talking about complaints that claim Barrister was a scam or if they were calling the complainers themselves scammers for calling Barrister a scam. In short, the blog is just weird. But I digress.

The blog was purportedly created and maintained by someone named “Jessica”, who, according to her own profile, seems to be employed by Barrister.

The Barrister blog, called Barrister Global Services Network Complaints Scam, was apparently set up on the popular blogging service Blogger sometime last August. The last entry in the blog appears to be as recent as last month.

The blog is devoted to “debunking” the “myth” put forth by complaints posted on various blogs, forums and complaints boards across the Internet (mostly by techs who previously performed work for the company and were not paid or were not paid on time) that Barrister Global Services is a “scam”, and claims that any and all such complaints about Barrister posted on the Internet are fake.

Unfortunately, due to the poor grammar used in the blog posts, the blog itself comes across as somewhat questionable. With all of the grammatical errors, it is difficult to take the blogger seriously. Add to that the assertion that all the complaints made by their detractors who call Barrister Global Services a “scam” are fake (without any real explanation as to how the blogger arrived at that conclusion), well, that comes across as unprofessional at the very least.

For instance, in one of her early blog entries in August, 2010, Jessica said this: “After going through internet I found that most of these scam posts are made by Barrister critisizer and competitors.”

Well, yeah, most of them do criticize Barrister. That part is obvious. As for whether or not they are competitors, technically speaking, everyone in this business is a potential competitor or partner, depending on your relationship with that entity.

Also, technically speaking, Barrister can compete directly against their own techs at times. That’s the risk of working with a national as a contractor – particularly a middleman national, as Barrister itself is in some ways. If you perform work for Barrister you may potentially find one of your own customers serviced by Barrister on a warranty call sometime. In such a scenario, are you the competition, or is Barrister? Well, if the customer was originally yours, technically, it’s Barrister.

In a September 2010 entry, Jessica wrote this: “Barrister Global Services complaints are not based on any truth these are all of not fact based. Any type of such complaint which had been been posted any where on internet are of no use.”

However, she provides no evidence whatsoever to back up her statement or explain how she determined that the complaints against Barrister were fake. Without such evidence to corroborate her statement, how do we know she is right? Do we simply take her at her word?

On the other hand, a number of techs, many of whom are members of The Force Field, have done business with Barrister Global Services and have proved themselves to be reputable sources of information. Ask any of those techs if they would do business with Barrister today, and, with very few exceptions, they would probably answer almost unanimously with a very emphatic “NO”.

Like I said earlier, the blog is just plain weird.

This is an excellent lesson to every tech business regarding the use of blogs to promote their company or improve poor customer relationships. Blogs can be very powerful tools in the management of public relations, if handled competently. To do so, you first need to know who your audience is and how to talk to them rationally in order to establish yourself as a thought leader and win their trust and confidence in you.

Now, if I were Barrister and I wanted to create a blog for my business to address the complaints of my detractors and do “damage control”, I would first make an effort to acknowledge the issue, engage in real dialogue to find out why the complaints exist and then commit myself to doing whatever I could to rectify the cause of the complaints and improve my relationship with those techs who are unhappy in a genuine, honest attempt to set things right.

That’s how you fix a PR problem. Many companies have done it, and have often turned a detractor into a loyal defender. It’s all about respect for the customer, attitude and approach.

But the person who created this blog thought it best to take the low road instead and went after the techs who complained about them, engaging in an online smear campaign in an obvious attempt to paint the detractors as some sort of organized effort to take down Barrister.

Instead of trying to fix a PR problem by communicating with techs thoughtfully, rationally, and changing the way they treat techs in general, they are trying to make themselves look like the victims and discredit their detractors. This may work in some political arenas, but in business it is a very bad move. It just makes Barrister look very unprofessional, and worse, serves to only confirm the claims made about the company by their detractors.

The real question is this. Is the Barrister blog just a defensive response created independently by a frustrated Barrister employee, or is it a real blog founded and sanctioned by Barrister Global Services itself? If it is the former, Barrister may need to check into it to ensure that it does not damage their already questionable reputation further. If it is the latter, well, I think the blog only makes matters worse for their image.

If Barrister Global Services wants to come across as an intelligent, professional company, so far this blog isn’t working in their favor.

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