Sunday, 28 April 2013

Umbrella Company Or Ltd Company? Which one to go for?

If you're new to contracting, you may be wondering whether to go for a Ltd company or an umbrella company?

A Limited company is a company with at least one director, one company secretary. Basically, it offers you limited liability to the owners. However, the tax people tried to crack down against contractors who were basically "personal service companies" i.e. one-man companies. Read up on "IR35" if you want to know more.

However, the handful of test cases that have occurred so far have seen HMRC fail to win. So does this mean its safe or legal to do? I'm not a financial or tax adviser so can't advise you on that. To a great extent, it's a matter of opinion.

On the one side you have tax people saying that a one-man company is just a ruse to save tax (you only pay corporation tax on dividends that you draw, instead of income tax on all your income). On the other hand, you have Ltd company contractors saying that it's perfectly legitimate that contractors can limit their liabilities as a company as a legitimate business need and that they are not like normal employees who have greater job security.

As you can see, running a company can be some headache, even before you consider the costs of having an accountant administer it. If you just want simplicity, the alternative is an umbrella company.

An umbrella company acts as your employer. They invoice your agency and get paid via them. They then pass the money on to the contractor as an employee.

It works out still to be worse than being a full-time employee of the agency. Why? Because first the umbrella company deducts a fee, around £30 per month. Second, employers are obliged to pay National Insurance to the government. So in this arrangement, the umbrella company makes you pay that instead (they're not a charity after all!).

Why not just go direct with the agency? Well, these days, few agencies have an employee payroll for contractors who get work via them. They just don't want the hassle and the overheads and it's easier for them to be invoiced and make payments instead.

So which should you do? Umbrella company or Ltd company? It's up to you. There is no "wrong" or "right" way. I know people who are risk averse and will only use an umbrella company. I know people who use a Ltd company and cannot understand why anyone would use an umbrella company and take home much less money.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

How to Install Printers On Windows Server 2008

In essence a print server is just a machine with local printers installed and shared on the network. Even a desktop can be used as a print server. However, Windows Server 2008/12 etc. has its own Print Server role which can be installed from Server Manager.

After this, the "Print Management" application is installed.

|Each printer needs installing as a TCP/IP port. Always download drivers (avoid full software packages) from the manufacturer web site. Do NOT use the built-in server drivers.

You need to install both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) drivers for those types of workstations respectively. The best way is to first add the printer and specify the 64-bit driver first (not sure if the order matters but some claim it does).

Then later, add another driver in the drivers section of Print Management (you can use Print Management on the server or via a Windows 7 desktop and connecting to the server by name, the latter I find more convenient actually).

The driver names for both 32-bit and 64-bit must match exactly. Because in the printer, the driver drop down doesn't refer to type. It just goes on name. So you need both to be the same name, ideally the same version too.

Be careful if you are removing drivers and printers from your desktop PC (when checking everything is working) not to accidentally delete from the server! It is easily done!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

How to Hide Windows XP Machine From Network

In Windows 7, when you connect to a network for the first time it allows you to designate it as home, work or public. Home means you can share your resources and public means to hide your computer from the network while work is somewhere in the middle. In XP it is not so easy. I wanted to hide my PC from the network for several reasons (I run a VM and don't want it appearing in the corporate list of networked PCs!). It is also good to know how to do this because it reduces your risk of getting hacked. The easiest thing to do is to run the command: net config server /hidden:yes This will hide it from the network list but you can still ping it. If you want to go further than that you should change a couple more things: First, go to the properties of your network connection and disable file and printer sharing by unchecking the entry for it. Second, double click on "TCP/IP", click the "Advanced" button, then go to the "WINS" tab. Here, change the Netbios setting to disabled. This should do the trick!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

error 429 activex component can't create object, excel add-in, Window 7

error 429 activex component can't create object, excel add-in, Window 7 I had this strange error today. I repaired Office 2010 and reinstalled the program containing the add-ins. I even used a brand new build and still got this error. Look up this error and there are any number of possible causes. Turned out that the add-in was 32-bit and only worked with the 32-bit version of Excel. So I had to uninstall 64-bit Office and then install 32-bit Office. Finally, it worked!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Free Alternatives to WISE Installer and Installshield

I have seen in the job ads that experiencing packaging applications is highly sought after. MSIs are the default Windows installer file type and the most popular programs used to package with are WISE and Installshield. However, they cost around $1,000!

So I've looked at free alternatives. So far the best I've been recommended are the following:

Setup Factory

 Time to doubt companies will still be biased towards commercial software but learning how to use these free/open source programs sure can't hurt.

BES Blackberry Activation Error: Some databases failed to synchronize: Address Book

BES Blackberry Activation Error: Some databases failed to synchronize: Address Book. Here's why:

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

How To Change RDP Listening Port - Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

My ISP routinely blocks RDP traffic. Sometimes works and sometimes not. I think they are blocking the port rather than deep packet inspection as it is encrypted via SSL automatically. So I've changed the port to 443 which is never blocked (SSL traffic). You can change the port easily by editing the registry and rebooting:

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