Every month we examine readers’ IT questions and look for answers. We welcome further queries at email@example.com
Q: I’ve heard that the City of London is making WiFi available in the streets but I can already get a signal in some places near me — what’s the big deal?
John Upton, Cardiff
A: Basically the City of London has made WiFi free for a month and thereafter there will be a small charge for anyone logging on in the area. This is useful for anyone wanting the Internet on the move, clearly. It’s true that in some other locations you might find there’s a signal available but frequently this will be due to someone’s insecure wireless implementation. Using someone else’s network without permission is technically illegal and of course when they find the hole in their security they’re likely to plug it without notice, leaving you unconnected.
It’s true, though, that the City of London isn’t doing anything the coffee shops and bars with WiFi haven’t been doing for some time now, it’s just the scale that’s changed.
Q: I’ve been accused of distributing a spam e-mail. I assumed it was some hoaxer until I got a mail that appeared to be from me — and it looked authentic except that it was advertising a get-rich quick scheme. How did this happen and what can I do about it?
Jocelyn Maynard, Ramsgate
A: Your e-mail address has been ‘harvested’ — whether someone with your address had a virus which sent the contents of their contact book to a spammer or three or whether someone’s seen it on a website and nicked it, or even hacked into your ISP to get a load of contacts doesn’t matter. It’s out there and this is a very common occurrence. The thing is, it’s impossible to stop; the only option really is to send out a mail to everyone who complains to you and assure them it’s not you that’s putting all this rubbish around the Internet. The vast majority of your contacts will have assumed as much already (the really IT-literate ones will have been able to check the underlying address rather than the one on the top of the e-mail) — and once you get chatting you’re likely to find a lot of them will have suffered from the same problem.
Q: I’ve been offered a sales package that uses the same database as my accounting system. Is this a good idea?
Alice Staines, Co. Durham
Yes. Many organisations have suffered from having to re-enter all of their customer data from the sales executive’s database and into the accounts or vice versa. It’s time consuming and there is scope for errors to creep in. Meanwhile if there are two databases one can become out of date whilst the salespeople forget to update the accounts department or the other way around. Ultimately people can waste a lot of time, as in the fabled but hopefully apocryphal story of the sales executive who spent three weeks working on a prospect who, if he’d had the accounts database in front of him, he’d have known to be on credit stop. Systems like SageCRM’s ACT! which integrate both databases into the one are to be recommended.