How to set up your first office with little money and no technical expertise

I get a few people ask me (usually in social situations where I'm trying to think about anything other than work!), "What is the cheapest office set-up I can do?" for their new small business. runPCrun are many things, and while we believe we are the best solution considering time,cost and quality, we happily admit we're not necessarily the cheapest solution and this can be important when starting a cash-starved first business.

Laptop Battery use and storage guidelines.

laptop batteries One of my laptop's batteries had died a little while ago and couldn't figure out why, so I've been reading around the subject to try to find out what can be done about it and what I can do to prevent it in future.

First of all, I've learnt that it is possible (for the more technologically ept of us) to replace the Lithium Ion batteries inside of laptop batteries. However I wouldn't recommend this unless you are an expert at wielding a soldering iron.

To avoid this and an expensive new battery I decided to simply buy one cheaply second hand from Ebay, this was not necessarily the best approach however as laptop batteries (which I will refer to as Li-ion batteries from now on) have a definite shelf life which affects the storage capacity of the battery (and therefore how long it keeps your laptop powered). This shelf-life can be be prolonged by various means.

The best guidelines I found was at the excellent Battery University , mostly in an article on Li-ion battery life which I found extremely informative and I am now citing here. 

Guidelines for prolonging Li-ion battery life

  • Unlike Ni-Cd batteries, lithium-ion batteries should be charged early and often. However, if they are not used for a longer time, they should be brought to a charge level of around 40%. Lithium-ion batteries should never be "deep-cycled" like Ni-Cd batteries.
  • Li-ion batteries should be kept cool. Ideally they are stored in a refrigerator. Aging will take its toll much faster at high temperatures. The high temperatures found in cars cause lithium-ion batteries to degrade rapidly.
  • Lithium-ion batteries should never be depleted to empty (0%) and then stored.
  • Li-ion batteries should be bought only when needed, because the aging process begins as soon as the battery is manufactured.
  • When using a notebook computer running from fixed line power over extended periods, the battery can be removed and stored in a cool place so that it is not affected by the heat produced by the computer.

How to make a CAT 5 cable and presentation point


We rarely have to make our own CAT5 cables, as the amount we use it's cheaper to buy them. However there is the odd occasion, and by then we've forgotten the wiring diagram. So here is a few useful resources for when it has to be done:-


Optiplex 745, TPM and Bitlocker


Installing Vista and Activating TPM with Bitlocker

The Premium version of Vista comes with a new feature called Bitlocker. This encrypts the whole disk partition and offers protection from out of operating system data compromising. For extra security this technology can be enabled with something called TPM, or Trusted Platform Module,  a chip on the motherboard that can securely store and generate encryption keys. Here is how I installed such a set up recently for a security minded client.

Since we are a Dell reseller, I purchased a new Dell OptiPlex 745 desktop which comes with a TPM chip.

TPM & OptiPlex 745

Now, the first issue - To activate BitLocker, the system needs to have it's disk partitions set up in a certain way which the Dell website simply did not offer. The disk needs to have a small unencrpyted boot partition and a large OS partition which will be encrypted.

Rather than worry about how the OS would be delivered, I ordered the PC without an OS and ordered a copy of Vista Ultimate OEM 

Once the PC was unpacked and set up, the first task is to switch the TPM chip on in the system BIOS. This is a two stage process. Once you enter the BIOS, locate the "Security" tab and turn TPM on. There is another setting called "Activation" which must be enabled as well. Save the BIOS and reboot. You should get a warning that the BIOS TPM settings have been modified - this is OK, so select "Modify" and continue. Now, I recommend going back into the BIOS and double checking the TPM chip actually is on as the first time I did, for some reason it wasn't and you will get an error later.

Now reboot with the Vista disk in the DVD drive. Since my harddisk was empty, I was able to create the partitions in the way recommended by Microsoft. A good page to visit and recommended reading for the whole process is the Microsoft technet site  article - Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide


Backups in a SOHO or SME environment.

We've come across it more times than we care to mention. Companies that spend very little time on their backup needs. That is until a problem occurs and they really need that data they just lost, either simply losing man-hours or expensive data or having to pay for expensive data recovery services.

This is usually the point we are brought in by new customers!

So what happens if data is not backed up and there is no preparation for disaster?