The State of Digital Skills

A survey from Go.On UK, a charity set up to promote digital skills, warns that over 12 million people in the UK do not have the skills needed in the digital era. The knock on effect is that around a million small businesses do not have the skills to prosper.

It has produced what it calls a digital exclusion heatmap, highlighting the areas where people are most likely to miss out on the digital revolution.

The map also shows that men are less likely to be digitally disadvantaged than women, with 80% having the necessary skills as compared to 74% of women. Where skills are lacking, poverty and a lack of infrastructure are part of the story.

The skills questioned are:

  • managing information,
  • communication,
  • transaction, buying and making payments,
  • problem solving,
  • create and manipulating things online

 

 

Go.on says the UK isn’t doing too badly compared with other countries when it comes to broadband availability, and in our use of mobile devices we are ahead of many of our rivals.But it seems that we are a little below average compared with OECD rivals, and well behind countries like Japan, Finland and the Netherlands.

Download the full report.

If you would like training to improve your digital skills or any aspect of your computer and IT skills portfolio, then please contact us now.

IP Addresses Explained

Following on from the announcement last month of BT to move from IPv4 to IPv6 for their internet connections I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain what an IP address does, and what it is.

What is an IP Address?

An Internet Protocol Address (or IP Address) is an unique set of numbers that acts as the address (or the unique identifier) that computing devices such as personal computers, tablets, and smartphones use to identify itself and communicate with other devices in the IP network. Any device connected to the IP network must have an unique IP address within the network. An IP address is analogous to a street address or telephone number in that it is used to uniquely identify an entity.

IPv4 Addresses

The traditional IP Addresses (known as IPv4) uses a 32-bit binary number to represent an IP address, and it defines both network and host address.

A 32-bit binary number is capable of providing roughly 4 billion unique numbers. As the number of devices connected to the internet increase more IPv4 addresses are required, and hence IPv4 addresses running out. An IP address is written in “dotted decimal” notation, which is 4 sets of numbers separated by period each set representing 8-bit number ranging from (0-255). An example of IPv4 address is 192.168.1.1, which is the (private) IP address often assigned to internal network (such as home or small business) routers.

An IPv4 address is divided into two parts: network and host address. The network address determines how many of the 32 bits are used for the network address, and remaining bits for the host address. The host address can further divided into subnetwork and host number.

IPv6 Addresses

Internet Protocol Version 6 (or IPv6)  is designed to solve IPv4 address exhaustion problem. IPv4 uses a 32-bit numbering scheme to represent an IP address, which has an address space of 4.3 billion. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit binary numbering scheme which has big enough address space for many decades to come. IPv6 is intended to replace the IPv4.

IPv6 Address Types

IPv6 addresses are classified into three categories: unicast, anycast and multicast addressing.

  • Unicast Address – An unicast IP address is an identifier for a single network interface. An IPv6 packet sent to an unicast address is delivered to a single interface.
  • Anycast Address – An anycast IP address is identifier for a set of interfaces assigned to a group but belonging to different nodes. An IPv6 packet sent to an anycast address is delivered to a single node closest to the sender identified by the routing algorithm.
  • Multicast Address – A multicast IP address is identifier for a set of interfaces that may belong to differentn nodes. An IPv6 packet sent to a multicast address is delivered to all interfaces identified by the multicast address.

The IPv6 addresses are comprised of 128-bits (or 8 groups of 4 hexadecimal digits separated by colons), with possibility of leaving out zeros to abbreviate the full address. An example of IPv6 address may look like 6001:0bd7:1032:0009:2dfe:1254:0000:76d1. For convenience, an IPv6 address can be represented in shorter notation by omitting leading zeros. The example address above can be also be represented as 6001:bd7:1032:9:2dfe:1254:0:76d1.

When abbreviating IPv6 address, the following rules apply:

  • One or more leading zeros in any group of 8 hexadecimal digits can be removed. For example, 0009 can be written 9 and 0000 can be converted to 0. (see example above).
  • Consecutive group of zeros are replaced with a double colon ::. The loopback address, 0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001 can be abbreviated to ::1.

Differences between IPv4 and IPv6?

The IPv4 and IPv6 share a similar architecture, and they will coexist until IPv6 completely replaces the IPv4.

  • IPv4 is represented by 32-bit number, and IPv6 is represented by 128-bit number.
  • This translates to 4.3 billion address space for IPv4 and 340 trillion address space for IPv6.
  • IPv4 is separated by 4 groups of 2 hexadecimal digits by a dot, whereas IPv6 is separated by 8 groups of 4 hexadecimal digits by a colon.
  • IPv4 does not support short-hand notation, but IPv6 does by omitting leading zeros.
    Why is IPv6 matter?

The most important factor is that users are not likely notice the difference or even notice the change.

 

BT sets date for IPv6 network conversion

BT has announced that by the end of 2016 its entire network will be able to use IPv6 – the next version of the internet addressing system.

For home and small business uses this will mean swapping routers as ilder devices are unable to work with the updated system. Many BT customers already use IPv6-ready hardware, such as computers and tablets, but the router, the device that connects to the internet does not support the IPv6 standard.

The change is necessary as the internet addresses used (IPv4) have run out, and a new method needs to be brought in.

Routers such as the Draytek range we supply to clients are capable of working with the older IPv4 standard and the newer IPv6 standard. These routers are also capable of working across broadband (ADSL), high speed broadband such as BT Infinity (VDSL), cable networks (such as Virgin), and mobile networks, a truly remarkable range. For further information about the range and advice contact us now.

Vigor_2760nVigor_2860n-plus

Office 2016 Rollout Begins

office2013logoOffice 2016 rollout has begins from today (22 September) across the UK. The news from the post earlier this year that Office 2016 was due in the second half of 2015, so the time has come.

I’ll be looking into this across the next few weeks.

If you’d like help or training with Microsoft Office the contact now.

Windows 10 Finally Arrived

Microsoft_Windows_10_thumb800After what seemed and endless wait, it finally arrived, and downloaded onto our computers here at AHB IT Solutions, the long awaited and much promised upgrade to Windows, the all new Windows 10.

It already has a familiar feel for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. Microsoft is trying to keep some of the touch and tablet features it created for Windows 8, combine them with the familiar Start menu and desktop, and run it all on top of an improved operating system with more security, a new browser, the Cortana assistant, its own version of Office for on-the-go editing and plenty of new features intended to make life simpler. Of course, that can also means it’s very different to use, there’s even a new place even to turn your PC off. Here’s a few features and improvements right away;

  • The Start button is back, but this doesn’t just bring up a menu, it brings up a version of the old familiar Windows 7 and a tiles area reminiscent of the Windows 8 Start screen.
  • A more user friendly notification system to be found on the notifications are of the task pane. This brings up a complete list of notifications from email to wireless settings.
  • Cortana, the Windows Phone assistant, shows up in Windows 10 as a search pane on the taskbar, which you can also trigger by saying ‘Hey Cortana’ – and when you start searching the Start menu. That gets you apps you have installed, documents you have access to, apps you could install from the Store, search results from the web and a range of other information – including from apps and services that integrate with Cortana.
  • Most Windows users don’t know the Alt-Tab keyboard combination to see and switch between all running apps, so as well as having a redesigned task switcher with bigger thumbnails, there is also a task view icon in the taskbar to help them find it.
  • The snap screen from Windows & still exists, pulling the window to the left or right side of the screen snaps the window. All four corners can now be used also effectively snapping 4 applications in one screen
  • If using the command prompt there has always been limitation to the size of the screen, this has been improved in the usage of the screen.

There’s many more feature that I’ll be looking into in the next few weeks.

If you’d like help or training on Windows 10 please contact us now.

Stay connected whilst away from the Office

office365_2013Being away on holiday for the small business owner can be a bit of a worry, being out of touch with what is happening back home. The solution to the problem is to stay connected using Office 365. You may already have heard about Microsoft Office 365 by now but here’s a summary:

  • Email – fully function exchange server allowing synchronisation to your Outlook, including calendars, tasks, and contacts
  • Office Online – the ability to use Office programs through the web
  • Full, installed Office applications:
    Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher, and OneNote on up to 5 PCs or Macs
  • Office for tablets and phones:
    for the full, installed Office experience on up to 5 tablets and 5 phones
  • Video conferencing
  • Sharing files through SharePoint
  • Storing individual files using OneDrive

With all this there’s every opportunity to take a break but still keep in touch. What about when out on the road, away from the office? It’s designed for that too. In use all that’s required is a suitable device and an internet connection. Still not convinced, here’ some benefits:

  1. There’s no upfront cost* and as your business grows you can increase the number of users. If your business decreases, you can decrease the number of users.
    *Annual commitment needed for the first 12 months then recurring monthly cost thereafter.
  2. Access Office 365 on your iPad, iPhone, Windows phone. You can install and work on your device the same as your PC.
  3. Connect from anywhere.
  4. E-mail, calendar, contacts all work together flawlessly- update a contact on your mobile and it will update across all your synced devices automatically.
  5. For security, remotely wipe data from your devices if needed.
  6. Get rid of servers and upgrade fees and offload to Microsoft. With Office 365 all updates are automatically carried out by Microsoft, saving you time and money.
  7. Putting your e-mail and documents in the cloud instead of on premise will prevent your whole business going down in the event of power outages, floods, fires etc.
  8. SharePoint, Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business to help your business even more efficiently.
  9. No more licensing upgrade issues, 2007, 2010, 2013 – There was always an upgrade cycle. Office 365 includes all licensing and can deploy company wide so that everyone has the same version of Microsoft Office!

Interested in Office 365, the contact us now.

Office 2016 for Mac

Microsoft have now released Office 2016 for Mac, this is ahead of the release of the full Office 2016 suite for Windows based devices, which is due for release before the end of 2015 (no specific dates have been muted at this time).

It is available to Office 365 customers using a Macintosh device, whether it be on an iPad or PC based device

For more information see the Microsoft Office Blog at https://blogs.office.com/2015/07/09/office-2016-for-mac-is-here/

Office for Android

Microsoft have now released their Office for Android package. This provides the availability of the new Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for Android phone.  Office apps for Android tablets has previously been released and this release now allows all Android uses to access the Microsoft Office applications.

For more information read the Microsoft Office Blog at https://blogs.office.com/2015/06/24/office-for-android-phone-is-here/.

Using Count Functions In Excel

I was called upon this week to solve a problem using the Excel Count functions. The situation was that the user just didn’t understand the difference between each of the functions available, which I will summarise here.

There are 5 Count functions

COUNT Counts how many numbers are in the list of arguments
COUNTA Counts how many values are in the list of arguments
COUNTBLANK Counts the number of blank cells within a range
COUNTIF Counts the number of cells within a range that meet the given criteria
COUNTIFS Counts the number of cells within a range that meet multiple criteria

For this example consider the following spreadsheet

 2015-08-27_11-20-34

Using Count to count all the numbers produces the following.

2015-08-27_11-21-14

The value for the count is 23 as the count renege is A2:C13, so this includes the 12 entries for dates and the 11 entries for the monetary values.

However if using COUNTA to count all the entries

2015-08-27_11-22-25

This counts all the cells in the range used (A2:C13), that have values in the cells. This function counts numbers and text values, but not the blank cell (C8).

And COUNTBLANK to count the number of cells without any entries

2015-08-27_11-22-59

There being only one blank cell in the range A2:C13 this is the only cell that is counted.

Now using COUNTIF to count the cells in column C of the table that have values greater than £500 produces a total of 7. This uses a single criteria to produce the result.

2015-08-27_11-29-11

Finally expanding on the above, by using COUNTIFS allows additional criteria to be added, in this case the dates were included in the criteria to extract only those entries in the table that have dates in April, and greater than £500.

2015-08-27_11-30-03

Background Services

A client called this week looking for some training on Windows 8 and email as he is having trouble accessing his email now. So I duly went to help this client, but the problem was his computer was running so slow that it was not possible to provide the relevant training. When asked how long this has been happening the response came “a few weeks now”.

The computer was already up and running (using Windows 8.1). The client had already had a friend look at this, but had appeared to make things worse. The first part of any troubleshooting is the diagnosis of the symptoms, the symptoms here were that the email was exceptionally slow to load, as was the internet browser. Given that the “knowledgable” friend had already attempted to add a printer onto the local network the most obvious test was to check the network settings, which proved to be OK.

Again one of the key principles of troubleshooting is to gather as much information as possible, including the startup, so it was back to the beginning and the power up sequence. Starting in normal mode this revealed a missing crucial fact, an error message with “Group policy client service failed sign in” error message during the initial sequence after logging in.

Group Policy Client is a computer service which is responsible for applying settings configured by administrators for the computer and users through the Group Policy component. If the service is disabled, the settings will not be applied and applications and components will not be manageable through Group Policy. Any components or applications that depend on the Group Policy component might not be functional if the service is disabled. This has absolutely nothing to do with the computer being stand alone or as part of a group of computers, the name is obviously misleading. This service is running (and should be running) on all Windows computers.

Quick investigation revealed that the fix here required some registry setting adjustment. Now the registry should not be tampered with normally as the settings in this control the operation of the computer, however the fix applied and worked, email, internet, and all computer operation restored,

There are lessons to be learnt here:

Lesson 1: Regardless how well-meaning friends are, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and they can unintentionally make things worse.

Lesson 2: There’s a lot going on in the background of computers, much of which is essential, play with the settings at your own peril.