Between a rock and a hard place

I have spent my career interfacing between the IT companies/departments and the accountant end users solving many varied problems. My current issue is made even worse as it is between two of the best in the business.

IRIS Logo        V                 Symantec

Since September 2011 we have had issues using IRIS Accounts Production software, initially with the new iXBRL module and now with their shiny new IRIS Portal menu system.

IRIS has won many awards this year for their iXBRL software but we have only been able to use it by numerous workarounds interrupting the usual workflow of the business.

IRISBSODAt the beginning of September last year all twelve of our identical Vista 32 Dell OptiPlex workstations crashed (Blue Screen of Death) when we tried to produce any iXBRL report. In their usual cavalier manner IRIS support blamed Dell and the video drivers/cards. So we added new cards to each machine but found the issue continued.


At the end of September the issue disappeared, machines started working we could file our first returns and go back to issuing invoices on completion we have no idea why.

Bonfire night came and the issue returned with no visible changes to the machines other than the usual Microsoft and AV updates.

Anti virus and firewalls were now blamed and with some reluctance I ran the software on our Small Business server, it worked but the workstations all continued to crash BSOD.

We then installed the then latest version 10.7 on machine 13, an HP machine with more memory than the Dell’s and a copy of the database. We removed Symantec Endpoint and the machine worked. This allowed us to file the returns during the practice’s busiest time but only as a single user system. Running a machine without Anti Virus was something we only did with reluctance.

Once the busy period was over we tried the machine as a network one but again the workstations crashed.

Finally in February we formally complained to the CEO of IRIS – Phill Robinson. This resulted in a more senior support person being assigned.

clip_image001After some investigation it was found that a part of the iXBRL process was using a screen dialog from the Accounts Production area and was removing a tick from a box and causing a BSOD.

The little tick in the Screen box was being removed, this was shown in an ini file.

The engineer seemed to think this was caused by Symantec Endpoint in some way so the tag editor was excluded from all scans Endpoint might make. Moving back to the full server version we also made sure before all iXBRL reports were produced that the Annual Report Output screen had at least one tick in its output section and all was well until …..

We upgraded to 10.9 for iXBRL 2nd generation


The new IRIS Portal caused our machine’s to blue screen again. This resulted in the IRIS engineers excluding a further four files from being scanned by Symantec Endpoint.

This worked fine on most machine’s but I had left a few not edited whilst Symantec did some investigations from the West Coast of America. In the normal course of events Symantec Endpoint issued an upgrade and when I tried to enter the exclusions in the new client software I found that it was ever so slightly different from previously. Enough that the new exclusions didn’t work.

Symantec had "corrected" several errors in their exclusion module!!

So IRIS say its Symantec, though I have crashed a machine with the client software stopped and Symantec say its poor programming or not using the white list facilities they offer.

I put this rant together to try and see if anyone out there is suffering like we are?

Vista 32 OS, Iris 10.9 and Symantec Endpoint 12

We still want to use the two market leaders, the software packages when they work together do the job exceptionally well. The amount of man hours invested by our end users cannot be underestimated something we need to bear in mind when considering changing.

BT Vehicle for Change parked in a wet puddle

I was really looking forward to attending the BT Vehicle for Change event this morning. After all the invite had said:

The interactive environment at the BT Centre showcase in London has proven to be an extremely successful tool in  helping different organisations and businesses to gear up for a changing world. But it is not always easy to get to London, so BT have developed the Vehicle for Change – an interactive road show that will bring the showcase to customers throughout the UK. 

imageI sent in my application promptly on the 14th of November and had an immediate confirmation, then nothing until I phoned Oxonline, then quick trip down the M40/A34 but BT weren’t expecting me at the lovely plot on Milton Park, not a good start.


The BT showcase truck looked the part in the damp pot holed car park


I have somehow managed to miss all the Oxonline events so far, for which I apologise to Councillor Roberts who opened the event.

The Councillor gave a brief overview of his BDUK campaign where Oxfordshire have been promised £3m+ providing they match fund it. He has put this forward into next years council budget and is “hopeful”, but this means nothing can be spent until next April at the earliest.

There is also some funding for the Oxfordshire Community Network. My broadband readers will remember the OCN, that great idea of a broadband network linking schools, libraries and public buildings running in a ring round Oxfordshire (but configured in an expensive point to point star configuration). Councillor Roberts mentioned Fire Stations which must be new. In 2002/4 I remember the OCN being trailed by most of the incumbent councillors as Oxfordshire’s way of bringing broadband to the local communities that BT had then chosen to ignore. They couldn’t because, if memory serves, the BT educational products they had used to provide it, at subsidised prices, had contractual clauses that prevented them being used for non educational uses, thus precluding the local business community from entering the broadband era. It looks like those contracts must still be in place as the OCN still cannot be used as back-haul for the rural communities it was intended to serve (though this morning Councillor Roberts blamed the EU).

As Councillor Roberts gave his presentation it brought back memories of 2002/4 when BT needed “broadband champions” to do their unpaid marketing for them and help their local communities have their exchanges enabled for ADSL. I have a certificate from BT Wholesale (before BT Openreach was created) thanking me for my efforts in enabling the Wroxton St Mary exchange (my campaign website is buried on here somewhere, see here.)

The Oxonline website could have been written in 2002/4 with all its statistics on the 80+ exchanges in Oxfordshire 25 of which (urban) BT has enabled for BT Infinity but has few customers. These 25 exchanges are also the ones that have been “unbundled” so other providers can compete -  the cherries in the network.

Then the presentation moved on to BT Next Generation Access:

For the next hour the Vehicle for Change Team will demonstrate some of the relevant cloud based services that can be enhanced by Next Generation Access methods. For example: BT Cloud Contact Centre, BT Compute (a hosted data centre offering), VPOD: The Government Pod which overcomes the communications gap, how it could deliver real benefits for government, by enabling staff to conduct face-to-face interviews without the need to be there in person. Agile working: how technology is an enabler to allow employees to feel empowered and to work flexibly.

It is no wonder that BT have so few BT Infinity customers, after receiving a lovely email from BT Business, yesterday, saying it had arrived in my area (a small rural exchange) well perhaps notSad smile


I was so looking forward to hearing where the advantages to NGA were, but the whole presentation could have been done much better on my home ADSL connection. First a static display of a corporate network while the presenter told us NGA saved us all the equipment needed to do Video conferencing that Skype has managed for several years and bits about the Cloud saving on hardware upgrades.

A video conferencing session using Microsoft Lync (the corporate version of Windows Live Messenger). This failed because it seemed the truck was only connected to a 3G signal. Even the local Wi-Fi signal was not used for the video display!

One would have thought that the all embracing BT would have parked the truck where they could just plug in to a BT Infinity connection, perhaps one of their exchange car parks – or are they owned by BT Openreach and not available to the BT department making the presentation.

Then a demonstration of BT Cloud Contact that again can be used on a standard ADSL connection.

So the whole event was a waste of time, I learnt nothing about hi speed internet, multiple concurrent connections, video streaming, HD video conferencing to multiple locations.

Oxonline needs our support but it looks like BT do as well, we have a technology that everyone wants but no one is buying because no one knows what to do with it. Until the “killer application” comes along we will be back in 2002 looking for high speed solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. The “killer application” in 2002 was simple it was “always on” giving rise to all the presence applications that abound today



From @BBCRoryCJ:

BT welcomes Osborne’s £100m for 10 superfast cities – "BT is already upgrading large parts of these cities…this could help us go further"

See the full story on the BBC website, why oh why do the powers that be give BT money to do things it would do anyway!!

Love Fiscal the Fraud Fighting Ferret!!

Fiscal FerretThanks to Graham Cluley (@gcluley) of Sophos and the Naked Security website for introducing me to Fiscal from the Queensland Police.

I love his little videos, the third in the series covers ATM fraud and skimming:

All about ATM Skimming

The first covered Identity theft where Doris Pennywhistle, receives a phone call supposedly from her bank, asking her to confirm her account details. Unaware the caller is an offender and of the risks involved in providing personal information over the phone, Mrs Pennywhistle soon realises when Fiscal steps in. This animation is primarily aimed at raising awareness amongst our senior population and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Identity Theft danger

The second covers social networking safety (Sofie (aged 13) learns of the risks involved in online social networking. This animation is primarily aimed at children and teaching them about how to enjoy the internet in a safe way.)

Social networking safeguards

qpsbadgeIn a week where we have seen the local police forces joining Twitter these videos from Queensland show some of the way forward. I also found  Thames Valley Police Channel but no UK Fiscal Ferrets.

The original article that made me look was

DNS and the way we search points out mistakes

I was browsing my twitter feed this morning and remembered one of my followers/followees (?) had just spent some time changing their website and thought I would have a look.

Their twitter profile had their website link in it and I duly clicked it and found the landing page for their hosting company – oops.

What had been forgotten was that “” is a different website to “” they had omitted to make a second entry in their DNS server for “” easily done in the rush to launch. Some companies actually use it for a second machine for redundancy or extra pages. I have found internal servers using this function and being presented with Microsoft Small Business Server login screens before now, giving access to the local network with some username and password social engineering, not really where you want customers to end up even by mistake.

example remote web workplace login and how to change it

borrowed this image from SBS Diva’s blog, thank you.

I recently had a big debate with the branding department of a major UK  organisation where they said that “” looks better in documents than “” they had no idea of the ramifications when they did it on sites that they had no control over.

This made me think of how lazy our web browsing has become, we now use the browser address bar as a search bar:

IE Header

This means we stop typing http:// or www and just enter the company name. We could end up anywhere !! Mostly Google, Bing etc. show you the right sites (after having noted your search history) but there are a lot of phishing sites out there ready to grab your details and they have been known to sell to you and take your money before you know anything about it.

I am not the only one that thinks this, HMRC has a page on it, all about emails but note the web links lower down

HMRC Security examples link

As do Microsoft, note the misspelt links on the pageMicrosoft Securoty scam link

Google’s search shows over 7m examples when you search for “examples of phishing scams”

The answer is to be very careful about DNS and your use of the search bar when you are surfing somewhere which holds your personal information and when you shorten things for Twitter feeds etc.

Security of information on hard disks

At a recent Banbury Tweetup (usually first Thursday of the month at the Inn at Farnborough, next one on the 9th June 2011) we discussed the security issues of broken computers and hard disks. You should always remove the hard disk or use a secure wipe tool to erase all the data otherwise it might turn up in some sort of identity theft scam later in your life.barracuda_xt_320x340

Just because a drive cannot be read by your computer (USB drives dropped on floor or USB stick/camera SD drive broken in half ) or your mobile phone sims appears duff does not mean someone could not spend time and read your life story or business secrets from it.

Did you know that an awful lot of laser printers also have hard drives/writable flash media in them, saving your documents for possible reprinting later or just caching them.

So no matter what hardware you recycle remember that you need to be careful about any personal/business information still on the hard disk or flash memory installed in them.

Remember this BBC news item, it could still happen today.bbcharddisk

There are services that can wipe and dispose of your drives safely.