Fixing iSight Error: There is no connected camera

A rash of users with “There is no connected camera.” problems with their Mac iSight Cameras has prompted a few calls on the subject. The problem manifests as a blank screen with a crossed out camera in iPhoto, with the text “There is no connected camera”. It does not appear to be limited to any particular type of Mac, and has been seen on a brand new 2017, top of the range MacBook Pro within a few weeks of purchase.

Mac Error There Is No Connected Camera Image
Mac Error There Is No Connected Camera

The error message “There is no connected camera.” comes up when the iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air detects an issue with the camera’s connection. The problem appears to be with VDCAssistant, which is the process or daemon that is responsible for the built in iSight camera. Killing this process often fixes issues with the built in web-cam.

To Diagnose ‘There is no connected camera.’

First check If The OS recognises that the camera is installed by doing the following:

  1. Alt + Click on Apple (Top Left)
  2. Then Alt + Click System Information
  3. Under Hardware in the Left Column, click Camera

If no camera appears, then there may be a hardware problem, such as a lose ribbon connection on a laptop, so it is a trip to the Genius Bar or your local Tech Support.

How To Kill the VDCAssistant Process

If the camera is recognised then it is possible that the VDCAssistant process has stalled. To kill the VDCAssistant and any associated processes, close all applications1 that use the camera such as Photo Booth, Face Time or Skype. Then carry out the following steps:

  1. Open the Terminal application: Click on the Spotlight search and enter Terminal, and then select Terminal – Utilities.
  2. Enter sudo killall VDCAssistant in the Terminal window and hit Return.
  3. If the Password prompt appears, enter your password, followed by Return.

Open Photo Booth and see if the camera is working. The green camera light should be on

Still ‘There is no connected camera.’?

If the camera has now been restored, then the process has been killed and then successfully restarted. You can also kill the process by restarting the machine, although that is not always convenient. If you still get the error message “There is no connected camera.”, then the quick fix did not work, and there is a more challenging problem to deal with. In this case it is off to the Apple Genius Bar2 or your local Tech Support. If this did not help, please Contact Us to let us know.

Notes
1. Although not recommended, it is possible to do this with the application(s) running, as the VDCAssistant process will restart automatically.
2. Other support channels are available to help with the error “There is no connected camera.”

Microsoft Phone Scam Still Running

Have you seen reports about people from Microsoft Tech Support, who call you because you have malware on your computer? Have you had a call from a plausible sounding agency saying you have a virus on your PC? Did you feel uneasy about someone who knew your name and had details about how slow your PC was running? Chances are that you have been at least peripherally involved with a Phishing attack. Today’s security incident concerns the Microsoft Phone Scam, which is still running after eight years or so.

Why the Microsoft Phone Scam?

This attempt to get access to PCs, or personal information on them, often targets Windows users, so the scammer claims to be from Microsoft tech support. They target Windows based PCs, because there are a lot of them, but they are equal opportunity criminals. They will attempt to hack a Mac too.

What the Scammers Do

Today the support line received a call from a very helpful gentleman named Derek, who claimed to be from Microsoft tech support. He asked for me by name, which was nice, but then went on to explain how my PC had become infected by malware, and so was running slowly. A safe bet really. Is there anybody who doesn’t think their Facebook response time could be quicker? Pity that his technical report did not tell him I was using a Mac. Still, we decided to let the call run, as we were recording for training purposes.

He then proceed to explain that the fix for this problem was simple, and would only involve typing something into the command line. We got him to repeat the instructions several times to make sure we got it right. Had we actually been following his very patient instructions, we would have connected to fastsupport.com and accepted a GoTo Assist remote call. This would have given him unrestricted access to our PC, at user level, so he could have installed anything he liked.

Unfortunately we developed “technical difficulties” once we received the support key number, and had to hang up on Derek. He was persistent, and called back five times over the next ten minutes. He even let the phone ring for up to two minutes at a time. When we tired of this game, we answered, and informed Derek that we were cyber security specialists, investigating Phishing attacks. We told him that we were recording the conversation, and pointed out that our PC was, in fact, a Mac. He still tried to get us to accept the remote access call!

You couldn’t make this up!

How the scam works

Rather than producing computer virus directly, which is time consuming and involves skill, these scammers resort to Social Engineering. This is the practice of manipulating people so they give up confidential information. If they can trick you into letting them access your computer remotely, they can secretly install their malicious software themselves. That would give them access to your passwords and bank information, as well as giving them control over your computer.

How to deal with Microsoft phone scam calls

As Fast Support is a legitimate company, they have a mechanism to prevent abuse of their system. If you want to get one back at the scammers, play along up to the point that they give you the support key. Get them to repeat it a couple of times, to make sure you have it right, and then hang up and report the incident to Fast Support using the following link:
www.fastsupport.com/abuse. You will only need the support key number, and it only takes a couple of seconds

What Else You can Do

Probably the most important thing you can do is let people know about the Microsoft phone scam. It preys on people’s insecurity about their lack of technical knowledge. The best defence against Social Engineering is sharing knowledge, so tell everyone about it.

You can also report the incident to the police through reportlite.actionfraud.police.uk. As we have pointed out previously, they will only record the incident for statistical purposes.

Another PayPal Scam Email To Delete

Another day, another PayPal scam email hits the in-box. It would be easy for someone to think that this was genuine, especially when is rendered with PayPal graphics. This is why we investigate each and every scam email to see how convincing they are, and assess the risk of people getting fooled into responding. We then report them through the appropriate channels, and encourage others to do the same.

What to look for on this PayPal scam email

The email, reproduced below, is based on a genuine PayPal notification, but with subtle differences.

PayPal Scam Email Image
PayPal Scam Email

A quick check of the sender by hovering over the from PayPal  shows that it is directing to someone called anitad@uvigo.es.  So the PayPal scam email would send your  reply there, not to PayPal! Be warned.

The Log in now button, does render in the browser as a button, but we have the html blocked to avoid surprises. As you might expect from a scam email it does not point to PayPal either, but an unlikely domain registered in Australia. This site is buried at the bottom of a deep sub-domain chain, so it is possible that the site owner does not know about it. We will be contacting the organisation separately, as they might not even be aware that their site is being used nefariously.

How to deal with PayPal scam emails

Make sure your family, friends and colleges are aware that these emails are out there, waiting to trap the unwary.  If you receive an email claiming to come from PayPal, please do not reply to it. Do not click on any link or button, or open any attachments. Simply forward the email to spoof@paypal.co.uk, then delete it.

You can also report the incident to the police, although they will only record it for statistical purposes. The police suggest that the public can help disrupt fraudsters by reporting scam emails. People are urged to report them through reportlite.actionfraud.police.uk.

What else can we do?

For further advice on fraud and how to avoid it, see the police fraud action  website: www.actionfraud.police.uk (opens new window)
For further information on phishing and malware please use the following links:
www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-phishing (opens new window)
www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-malware (opens new window)

VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam Email

Why User Vigilance Is Important

Today we received a gentle reminder that no matter how hard we work to keep out cyber-threats, there is always a weak link to target in any business system. The users. This exploit concerns a VAT Return and Payment Overdue scam email which was received in the office today. The instant reaction was to jump to the conclusion that we had to do something quickly, to avoid a penalty. Which is just what the reprobate behind the email was hoping.

What To Look For

This is a warning about a VAT Return and Payment Overdue scam email, which may catch out the unwary. If you are a business owner or have responsibility for finance matters please watch out for this innocent looking communication.

VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam Email image
VAT Return and Payment Overdue Email Scam

How To Tell It Is A Scam Email

VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam WhoIs Result Image
WhoIs Result

If you hover the mouse over the sender, most good email systems will tell you the address you will be replying to. In this case you will not be surprised to learn that it is not from HM Revenue and Customs  (HMRC) at all! It comes from a suspicious email address which is registered to someone called Denis. Denis apparently lives in Moscow, and is using the unlikely email address of info@hmrccustomersupport157.top.

When The Penny Drops

After a few laps of the office, looking for a quick solution, or a way to pass responsibility over to someone else, the recipient had the good sense to check up via the HMRC website. The information there on the site , which is linked below, made him think twice. He reported the matter to Information Security, fortunately, before clicking on and opening the email attachment.

Cost of the VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam

In our case, the cost of this particular email scam was trivial. It mostly involved additional wear and tear on the carpet and some lost productivity. According to an anonymous source in finance, there was also some lost paint from the ceiling. It could have been much more costly, if the user had opened the attachment and did not have up to date anti virus.

While HMRC may send you an email if you are overdue with VAT payments, they will use the normal contact email address, and will recommend that customers pay online to avoid further action. These emails will never ask you to provide personal or financial information. You won’t be able to reply to the emails, which will be sent from no.reply@advice.hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

In Conclusion

This VAT Return and Payment Overdue scam email has been timed to catch the unwary by being the right date, but a month early. Let people know that they should ignore the call to act immediately, and instead report the matter to IT security. Even if there is no malicious payload in the attachment, scam emails like this can disrupt the flow of energy in a business and ultimately cost money.

The Upside

On the upside, this scam is an early reminder that our VAT return has to completed at the end of this month, so I might go and give the finance team a gentle reminder!

Further Information

For authoritative information about when your VAT return is due, see www.gov.uk/vat-returns/deadlines

To report instances of this email scam, forward the suspicious emails to HMRC phishing team at: phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

How to Insert a Mac Degree Symbol in Mac OS X

Something that we get asked, on a frequent basis, is how to insert a degree symbol in Mac OS X. There are at least four ways to insert a degree symbol into text, for example 45˚ or 100°C. So here is a quick guide to inserting a Mac Degree Symbol.

The quickest way is to use a Degree Symbol Keyboard Short-cut. Move the cursor to the location at which you want to insert a degree symbol. Then, use one of the following keyboard short-cuts:

  • Option-K: inserts a small angular degree symbol (135˚)
  • Shift-Option-8: inserts larger temperature degree symbol (72°C)

For a slightly slower way, use the Special Characters menu (also called the Emoji & Symbols menu in OS X Yosemite and later) which gives hundreds of useful symbols, characters, and emoji from which to choose. To access it, place the cursor where you’d like to insert the degree symbol and then either:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Control-Command-Space
  • In the Menu Bar use Edit, Special Characters (or Edit, Emoji & Symbols)

Remember the small Mac degree symbol is correctly used for angles, like 360˚, while the larger degree symbol should be used for temperature, 37°C or 98.6°F. So there you have it; how to insert a degree symbol in Mac OS X.

Government Signs Deal to Extend Microsoft Windows XP Support

In a move that sends shivers down the spines of security and IT professionals across the country, the government has signed a deal with Microsoft to provide Windows XP support and security updates across the whole UK public sector for 12 months after regular support for the operating system ends on 8 April. The agreement is worth £5.548m, and covers critical and important security updates for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003, all of which have reached end of life in Microsoft’s normal product cycles.

While it is difficult to get any accurate figures for the numbers of Windows XP desktops which are still in use in government circles, approximately 800,000 PCs in the NHS still ran XP as of September 2013, and 27% of all desktops worldwide still run XP (Netmarketshare.com).

Perhaps some bold MP would like to ask Parliament why government users are still using using this outdated operating system. You could buy an awful lot of Linux support for £5.548m.

For more information on the Extended Microsoft Windows XP Support see:

7 Ultra Useful WordPress Plugins

WordPress, one of the most popular content management systems now powers over 16.6% of all websites. The great thing about WordPress sites is the community support that it gets, which means WordPress developers are busily created useful plug-ins that help with SEO, social media, editorial, site speed, and more.

There was until recently a useful list of seven helpful plug-ins at evergreensearch.com, compiled by Eric Siu which we have found could significantly enhance your site. They’re simple to install and will have effects that scale across your site. Keep in mind that not every plug-in will be a fit – mix and match and see what works for you.

  1. Scribe SEO – this plugin will help you do keyword research, grade your post in terms of overall SEO, and also help you find external or internal links. In short, it’s like having an SEO assistant in WordPress. If you have multiple editors writing for you, Scribe SEO is a must.
  2. Facebook for WordPress – enable your posts and pages to include Like, Send, Subscribe, Social Publisher, Recommendation Bar, and Comments capabilities. This plugin also includes Facebook Insights in your backend. In a nutshell, this plugin connects your site to Facebook.
  3. Tynt – if you are worried about scrapers or people that manually cut and paste your content without giving you credit, you can use Tynt to automatically create a link back to your site when people scrape your content. By doing this, you’re adding a wall of defense from scrapers and gain some SEO value by acquiring more links. Tynt states that you can expect to get up to 40% traffic from these added links. If you’re a big news site, you can expect to see 8,000 to 10,000 more links per week. Not bad for a plugin, right?
  4. WordPress SEO – this is the best SEO plugin out there for WordPress. Control indexation, breadcrumbs, RSS feeds, sitemaps, authorship, titles, and more. A must have.
  5. Social Sharing Toolkit – if you want to add social media buttons before and after your posts, this is the plugin to do so. You have the option of displaying various social network buttons such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and more. The added benefit is the ultra clean look and feel of the buttons.
  6. WP Touch – with mobile usage slated to overtake desktops by 2015, it’s no secret that you need to have a mobile site. This plugin will create a simple mobile version of your site.
  7. Zemanta – this plugin allows you to add relevant links and images around the web to your blog posts. It’ll also help you tag your posts and give you more additional research points. In short, this plugin can help drive more traffic to your site.

Update: eMarketer’s estimates US Time Spent on Mobile to Overtake Desktop by 2014

How to Use the WordPress Media Manager Gallery

As of December 2012 and the release of WordPress Version 3.5, the new Media Manager has changed the way photo galleries are created. If you are new to WordPress, or have been using one of the photo gallery plugins and themes, then this post might help you use the built-in WordPress Media Manager to display photographs on your site.

Place your cursor at the point on your post or page where you want the photo galley to appear, and follow the following easy steps:

  1. Click on the Add Media button on the left, just above the Editor quick menu bar.
  2. Click on Create Gallery
  3. Click on the image you want to add
  4. Under Attachment Details fill in the following fields:
    • Title
    • Caption
    • Alt Text
    • Description
  5. Add as many photos from your media library into the gallery as required, repeating 3 and 4 above for each
  6. Click on Create a new gallery
  7. At the Edit Gallery screen drag the images into the required order.
  8. Under Gallery Settings Select the number of columns of thumbnails to display
  9. Click on Insert Gallery to finish.

You can then preview or publish your gallery of photographs in the usual way. If you decide that you need to add more photographs to the gallery, or change the order the pictures display, follow the following steps:

  1. Edit the post containing the gallery.
  2. Click on Visual editor tab, if not already selected.
  3. Click on the gallery you want to edit
  4. Click on the top left icon in the gallery (a camera picture)
  5. To add new images click on Add to Galley and proceed as before.
  6. Reorder or make any other required changes then click on Update Gallery.

That is it! All you need to do to use the new Media Manager to display photographs on your WordPress site.

For more information about using the built-in WordPress Media Manager, including a video of inserting a gallery then click here to visit How to Insert a WordPress Photo Gallery into Your Blog

Top 10 WordPress Plugins

When we get asked “What are the Top 10 WordPress Plugins?”, it is sometimes a challenge to limit the list because there are so many out there. The ones which we are currently finding the most useful are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Breadcrumb NavXT
  2. Broken Link Checker
  3. CMS Tree Page View
  4. Contact Form 7
  5. Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
  6. Types – Complete Solution for Custom Fields and Types
  7. Viper’s Video Quicktags
  8. WordPress Database Backup
  9. WP-PageNavi
  10. WP-Table Reloaded

The details of our Top 10 WordPress Plugins are listed below, together with links to further information. Each is given a TechCo Rating, which is an indication of the level of use which we would expect to see.

TechCo Rating:

  • Basic – Every site must have a plugin like this.
  • Intermediate – Most sites should use this plugin
  • Advanced – Plugin could provide functionality to make the site special.
  • Admin – Plugin provides administrators with tools not seen by the public.

Breadcrumb NavXT
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Breadcrumb trails are a good supplementary navigation system that aid in site usability, and can provide SEO benefits. This plugin adds a breadcrumb navigation showing the visitor’s path to their current location. These represent the page hierarchy leading to the current page.

For details on how to use Breadcrumb NavXT plugin visit Breadcrumb NavXT.

Broken Link Checker
TechCo Rating: Admin
This useful WordPress plugin checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the Admin dashboard if any are found.

Among other things it will detect missing images and files, and links to deleted YouTube videos. New and modified entries are checked immediately, while the plugin periodically checks links in posts, pages, comments, custom fields and the blogroll. If any problems are found you get a notification on the Dashboard.

You can run a full site scan from scratch by Settings, Link Checker, Advanced and then click on Recheck All Pages. You might get a surprise if you add this plugin to a mature WordPress site!

For more information on the Broken Link Checker plugin visit the Broken Link Checker site.

CMS Tree Page View
TechCo Rating: Admin
This plugin is for admin use only, and adds a CMS-like tree view of all pages on the site. You can use the tree view to edit, view, add and search pages, while drag and drop allows you to rearrange page order.

To find out more about CMS Tree Page View visit the CMS Tree Page View site.

Contact Form 7
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Not just another contact form plugin, Contact Form 7 is simple and flexible. It allows you to flexibly design the form and mail, and allows you to manage multiple contact forms. In addition, it supports many features including AJAX submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and file uploading.

To find out more about Contact Form 7 visit the Contact Form 7 site.

Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This plugin can be useful for managing permalinks without losing existing SEO to the page, or for sites converted to WordPress. It allows you to redirect Pages, Posts or Custom Post Types to another location quickly, for internal or external URLs.

The options available are extensive, so for more information on how to use the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin visit the Quick Page Post Redirect plugin site.

Types – Complete Solution for Custom Fields and Types
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This is a useful plugin if you need to create custom fields, custom post types, or a custom taxonomy to your website through the WordPress admin screen instead of adding PHP code to your theme. For PHP developers, Types provides a comprehensive PHP API and documentation.

To find out more about the Types plugin, check out the Types User Guide

Viper’s Video Quicktags
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Easily embed videos from various video websites such as YouTube, DailyMotion, and Vimeo into your posts. Since version 2.9, WordPress has featured native easy embeds. However this plugin offers more customization than the default options. It will work alongside the easy embed code, and you can opt to use either embed method.

For more information about Viper’s Video Quicktags, visit the Viper’s Video Quicktags site

WP DB Backup – WordPress Database Backup
TechCo Rating: Basic
Everyone should have a regular backup of their WordPress database, and this plugin provides on-demand and scheduled backups. To configure your backup go to Tools, Backup, and backup your WordPress database.
To install this plugin search for “WP DB Backup” Keyword on the Install Plugins page.

To find out more about WP DB Backup

WP-PageNavi
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This is a handy plugin if you want to replace the old Older posts and Newer posts links with some more advanced paging navigation.

This plugin provides the wp_pagenavi() template tag which generates fancy pagination links. See the installation instructions for using it in your theme.

To ind out more about WP-PageNavi, visit WP-PageNavi site

WP-Table Reloaded
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
This plugin allows you to create and easily manage tables in the admin-area of WordPress. However it has been superseded by the TablePress plugin, which at time of writing stands at 0.9-RC

You can still download WP-Table Reloaded, but if you are starting a new project, we recommend waiting for the full release of TablePress.

For more information on the table plugin see TablePress replaces WP-Table Reloaded from the plugin author.

Well, that is our current stab at the Top 10 WordPress Plugins. This list may change in a few months as trends and available plugins, so is not fixed in stone. In future we will offer deeper insight into some of these plugins a give examples of how they can be used.

Featured Blog Making Movies by Giacomo Sardelli

This months featured WordPress Blog is Making Movies, the blog of Giacomo Sardelli, the person behind the viral video Further Up Yonder, which has been on local and global news. For those who have not yet seen the video, it explores the idea of different nations and cultures all living together on the International Space Station (ISS), exploring the edge of our world.

Making Movies uses the Twenty Eleven Child theme, a child theme based on the 2011 theme for WordPress, and caters for both English and Italian readers so may not be to everyone’s taste both style wise and for content. However, it does show the incredible versatility of WordPress.

Among the plugins in use are Jetpack, SEO Facebook Comments and Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions. You can find out more about the details via the following links:

This site is well worth a visit if you are interested in movie making or editing and the viral video is a must see, as it is a classic stop frame compilation using images from the Science and Analysis Laboratory from NASA. We recommend a visit to Making Movies, so follow the link below and watch the video, then check out Giacomo Sardelli’s blog.