Category Archives: Tech News

Tech Tuesday Special: Windows XP End Of Support

It’s time for Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

We’ve been asked a lot lately…What does the “End of Windows XP” mean?

The End Is Near with Grumpy Cat

As Microsoft announced some time ago, support for Windows XP stops on April 8, 2014. By all means hit the link for the official Microsoft countdown clock.

What’s the official Microsoft stance?

Simply, that Microsoft will not be working on any more Windows XP security updates after April 8. And if Microsoft isn’t fixing XP problems, no one else will be either.

But what does that mean?

For some people, it’s not a big deal. The sun will rise, the computer will start, and the world will go on.

If you use your computer in business it’s not so simple.

A major part of any security standard includes running a supported, up-to-date operating system.

PCI-DSS, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and Mass 201 CMR 17.00 all mandate that your computer systems must be running supported operating systems with reasonably current security updates.

If you can’t update the operating system you can’t be in compliance.

The safest advice at this time:

  • If your business stores health care or patient information on your computers;
  • If your business processes credit cards using computers;
  • If your business is a publicly-traded entity that’s subject to SEC or other government oversight;
  • If you process or store account information concerning Massachusetts residents;

Then you are obligated to be compliant.

It’s early March…a bit late to get into a large-scale shift, but there’s still time for most smaller businesses to act. And starting to do something, even if you miss the “deadline” by a few weeks, is better than doing nothing.

What to do?

There are several approaches:

  • You can buy new computers that run a supported system like Windows 7 or Windows 8.
  • If your computers are relatively new (2010 or later) they may be able to upgrade to Windows 7 (or 8).
  • If you have a large number of older computers, we can install a Windows MultiPoint Server or Windows Terminal Server, and reload your desktop computers as “thin clients” that only are able to initiate a connection to your server.
  • You may be able to devise policies that restrict credit card entry, etc to certain computers.

It’s time to think about this, and act soon.

 

Windows XP sunset

Windows XP sunset

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Breaking: LogMeIn Free Going Away

After years and years….

Coupon with a globe, promising One Free Internet

One Free Internet!

LogMeIn Free is gone. Yes, the most reliable free remote control platform is gone. Lots of people use LogMeIn, from people who occasionally work from home to part-time techies to IT folks who need remote access to the brand-new machine that they haven’t had time to completely set up yet.

The party’s over.

Next time you sign in you’ll see a happy message saying you have seven days to buy LogMeInPro, which features nice extras like file transfer, printer and sound handling, and troubleshooting tools.

Intro pricing looks like 50% off: $49/year for 2 computers, $129/year for 5 computers, and $229/year for 10 machines.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. I knew LMI had been considering removing the free product, and had already curtailed the Free product to 10 computers.

What’s next?

Quick definition: LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, etc are remote control applications. They let you access your computer from another location, without relying on someone to let you in (like join.me, mikogo.com, etc)

There are several other remote control systems out there:

Teamviewer is based on a technology called VNC that we find a bit less reliable than GoToMyPC or LogMeIn.

Windows Small Business Servers and Essentials Server include Remote Web Access, that controls remote desktop access to your computer.

We’re not heavily impacted by this as we generally use a mix of LogMeIn Pro and Citrix GoToAssist for our remote-control needs.

It’s my opinion that it’s generally worth a few bucks to ensure your remote connection will work securely and reliably, so I recommend either Citrix GoToMyPC or biting the bullet and buying LogMeIn. For most people it’s not worth jumping to another free solution that is not as user-friendly or reliable.

We can offer 30-day trials of Citrix GoToMyPC. Please contact us if you’re interested in a solution for more than 5 computers.

Update: According to LogMeIn companies that buy the $300/year LogMeIn Central product will continue to have access to install, manage, and connect to LMI Free clients. This is the most cost-effective way to companies with more than a few computers to keep using LogMeIn long-term.

Tech Tuesday #12? What’s up with Java?

It’s time for Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Chris from Devens asks….

I saw a report on the news about disabling Java before hackers steal all my info. What’s up with that?

Thanks, Chris

There’s a lot of panic about Java right now. Headlines abound that the US Department of Homeland Security is recommending that all computer users disable java until this cyber-storm blows over. The media, has naturally jumped on this. Is it because “Department of Homeland Security” sounds more impressive than “Computer Emergency Readiness Team at Carnegie-Mellon University?”

Partly, I’m sure. And partly because we love to panic about our computers. Let’s start with the basics…but first this important message.

I don’t think any of these posts explain clearly WHAT Java is. So…What is Java?

Java is a web programming language. It allows websites to run programs on your computer. Similar to Adobe Flash and Microsoft ActiveX.

Allowing websites to run “stuff” on your computer sounds scary..and there are scary elements to it, but it’s also a powerful thing:

  • Want to use web-based remote control like GotoMyPC or Logmein? You need to run a Java, Flash, or ActiveX program on your computer.
  • Want to play Angry Birds, Texas Hold’Em or Bejeweled? The game runs a program on your computer.
  • Want to use web-based e-mail? You need several of these web-based programs to do that.
  • On a site like Facebook…the ticker, chat, and scrolling page updates are all implemented in these programming languages.

There are a number of flaws, recently revealed, that make it easy for someone to trick you into visiting a page that launches code that can take over your computer.

This can be “weaponized” by sending you e-mail that claims to be from the IRS, Quickbooks, the lottery, or your bank. Click on the link in the e-mail…and your computer is compromised.

This also can be brought to bear by compromising other websites and forcing them to host the bad code. This can be a problem for smaller websites without full-time monitoring and support staff.

It’s important to remember…any time you visit a website or load a program on your computer you are trusting the author of that program and the keeper of that website.

For example, if you want to play the online game Pirate Galaxy, you’re exposed to whatever code the developer (Splitscreen games seems pretty trustworthy) has decided to put in the game. You’re also exposed to whatever the host of the game publishes (Kongregate is also legit).

If the chain of trust ended there we’d be in decent shape. However, that’s not the case.

The ads in most pages are not necessarily vetted on a regular basis. It’s entirely possible for a rogue ad to link to a compromised site that looks like the game you want to play.

So for now I think it makes sense to disable java unless you find an important site that absolutely will not work without it. Don’t like those instructions? Try these.

Another way to go is to disable Java, Flash, etc in your primary browser…and use another one ONLY for trusted websites that require running code.

Of course, Java 7 Release 11 fixes the most glaring and commonly-exploited security issues, and adds a major new concept…that the user needs to actively click to let a java program (called an “applet”) run.

We’ll discuss best practices for business Internet safety later this week.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Tech Tuesday #10: 2013 Predictions!

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Joan from Athol asks….What are your tech predictions for 2013?

I’ve got a few thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Windows 8 will fail. Miserably. Sure, Microsoft will make it sound like it’s been accepted in the market, and will use accounting tricks to make it look like money has been made (they count new systems with Windows 7 that include Win8 “upgrade” disks as net sales, for example)

    It will be so bad that Windows 2014 (they’ll change naming conventions again) will come out in December, 2013. Look for 2014 to be like Windows 8 desktop-mode, with a visible Start button and…well…stuff to click.
    Microsoft Surface and Windows Phones will continue to sell to dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft fans. Exclusively.
  2. There will be a new iPhone and iPad. Apple will make them sound magical and revolutionary even though they’re not. They’ll add some nice features and cost a lot of money. Millions will be sold, mainly to Apple fans who are upgrading from their iPhone 5’s.

    Apple stock will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. I still wouldn’t buy it.
  3. As many i-Devices as Apple sells…Samsung will sell twice as many of their not-yet-announced Galaxy S4s (this is a link to a concept video, not even “good” rumor yet.) Still a couple more years before these win the coolness war, though. Here’s a link to a more realistic look at what the actual 2013 S4 could be like. A lot of those will be to Galaxy S3 fans who have gone all cult-like over their phones…becoming every bit as ugly as the i-Fans they hate.
    samsung Galaxy S4 i9500
  4. There will be a major outage and/or security breach involving Quickbooks Online. Intuit hasn’t shown the management wherewithal or the development muscle to keep QBO running as a stable, truly redundant architecture. Many of the promised changes after the last several outages are still in the early planning stages.
  5. Speaking of big companies sucking really badly, I predict outage-prone Microsoft Office 365 will re-brand their service to distance from the current name. Maybe something like Office Anywhere… despite the name change there will be lawsuits from customers who will lose substantial data. Heads will roll, which at Microsoft means several Directors and VPs will make lateral moves to other divisions.
  6. Seems everyone is talking about BYOD (bring-your-own-device) right now. That’ll turn out to be a fad that no one will be talking about this time next year. It sounds good, ’til you think about what will really happen: We’ll “save” the cost of a $1,200 laptop by having Joe co-opt his kids’ computer, or do everything on an iPad. We’ve been hooking up new employees’ phones to the mail server and key resources for year. Add one clause in the employment agreement that says,
    “Employee consents to installation of Company geolocation and monitoring software on employee-owned mobile devices; if such device is lost, stolen, or employment terminated the Company will securely erase all information contained on the device. Employee agrees that personal information on the device will be erased in this operation and holds Company and its agents harmless regarding deletion of such information.” (You should obviously ask you lawyer before you go sticking clauses in your employee handbook!)
    There are some places where BYOD desktop etc strategy can work, and we’re ready to support it there, but it’s just a buzzword that’s going to go away.
  7. We’ll talk about Gesture Control as a next big thing. It won’t go anywhere. I won’t care ’til I can have my own J.A.R.V.I.S. (Y’know, Ironman’s house computer):

  8. This will be the year of the Linux Deskt……HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    Even IF a good linux-based accounting system came out, and despite the confluence of Windows 8 sucking, Apple being evil, and mobile devices being too hard to actually do work on…it still wouldn’t be enough for a linux desktop to take hold.

I guarantee that at least four of these predictions will be completely wrong and that we’ll laugh about them (hopefully together) in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Windows 8 Survival Guide

Well, it’s out. Microsoft officially released Windows 8 yesterday. As your local tech experts we’re happy to answer your questions about any Windows, computer, or general tech topics. Call us at 888-928-3336 or jump on our Contact Us webpage, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

Before you buy:

There are four versions:

  • Windows 8 RT is a tablet-only version that only has the new interface (formerly known as Metro) and runs new Windows Apps…RT does not run Windows Programs like your computer. There’s an “app store” like iPad and Android have. That said, WinRT does come with Microsoft Office “Apps” that will let you use Word and Excel files. Here’s a picture of a MS Surface running RT:
  • Windows 8
    This package replaces the old Windows 7 Home/Home Premium. It’s not Pro so it must be Amateur? Win 8 base is a full desktop/notebook operating system. It combines the WinRT tile motif (and its Apps) with a Desktop “App” that launches Windows As You Know It. This is a good version for most non-business use. Below is a picture of the Win 8 Desktop.
  • Windows 8 Pro: The Professional version of the schizoid monster Operating System adds two important features from the base/Amateur version:
    The ability to operate in Windows Domain networks, and Bitlocker whole-disk encryption. Even if you don’t plan on using these features immediately we recommend going with Pro for any business use.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise is only available as part of a Microsoft Licensing Agreement and its special features are mainly of interest to corporate IT folks. We don’t recommend Enterprise for businesses with fewer than 500 seats.

You’ll want to make sure your system meets the requirements (most computers made since 2007 or so already exceed these. We’ve found Win 8 to run as well or slightly faster that Windows 7 on all supported hardware. Tip: Win 8 loves SSD drives and takes full advantage of the possible speed improvements.

Office

At this time we’re not at all impressed with MS Office 2013. We still recommend Office 2010 for your document, spreadsheet, etc, etc needs.

Finding your way around

There’s an important concept here. RT is RT, desktop is desktop, and never the twain shall meet. Keep that idea in mind and Win 8 will be a lot less confusing to you. Think of the RT environment as a tablet and the Desktop as a computer. (This makes a lot more sense on a convertible device like a Lenovo Thinkpad Twist)

For example, you’ll connect your RT Mail App to your Exchange mail/contact/calendar server. This will synch the RT side of things but you’ll also need to connect desktop Outlook as you normally would.

Remember also that there’s an Internet Explorer in RT which is a different version (and has different favorites, plug-ins, etc) from the desktop one.

For instance, here’s desktop Internet Explorer:

And here’s Internet Explorer’s evil twin in RT. It’s designed as a touch-interface system:

Although Win 8 works best on a touchscreen it’s still usable on a non-touch desktop or conventional laptop. The desktop has a few places where visible navigation has given way to “you just gotta know:”

To bring up the Start Streen press the Windows key, or move your mouse to the bottom-left corner.

To bring up settings move your mouse all the way to the right.

Keyboard shortcuts are back!

In one of their worst moves in years, Microsoft has taken away many of the Windows interface elements, figuring that people would either a) use a touch device, b) eventually figure things out, or c) give up and buy an Apple.

Added tip: Fastest way to shut down or hibernate a Win 8 machine: Press Ctrl-Alt-Del. In the bottom-right corner you’ll see a power icon. Click it and you’ll be able to choose Shutdown/reboot/hibernate, etc.

Here’s a list of every keyboard shortcut we know of (there ARE a lot of them but most of ’em you already know…)

Windows key: Switch between Modern Desktop Start screen and the last accessed application
Windows key + C: Access the charms bar
Windows key + Tab: Access the Modern Desktop Taskbar
Windows key + I: Access the Settings charm
Windows key + H: Access the Share charm
Windows key + K: Access the Devices charm
Windows key + Q: Access the Apps Search screen
Windows key + F: Access the Files Search screen
Windows key + W: Access the Settings Search screen
Windows key + P: Access the Second Screen bar
Windows key + Z: Brings up the App Bar when you have a Modern Desktop App running
Windows key + X: Access the Windows Tools Menu
Windows key + O: Lock screen orientation
Windows key + . : Move the screen split to the right
Windows key + Shift + . : Move the screen split to the left
Windows key + V: View all active Toasts/Notifications
Windows key + Shift + V: View all active Toasts/Notifications in reverse order
Windows key + PrtScn: Takes a screenshot of the screen and automatically saves it in the Pictures folder as Screenshot
Windows key + Enter: Launch Narrator
Windows key + E: Open Computer
Windows key + R: Open the Run dialog box
Windows key + U: Open Ease of Access Center
Windows key + Ctrl + F: Open Find Computers dialog box
Windows key + Pause/Break: Open the System page
Windows key + 1..10: Launch a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + Shift + 1..10: Launch a new instance of a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + Ctrl + 1..10: Access the last active instance of a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + Alt + 1..10: Access the Jump List of a program pinned on the Taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows key + B: Select the first item in the Notification Area and then use the arrow keys to cycle through the items Press Enter to open the selected item
Windows key + Ctrl + B: Access the program that is displaying a message in the Notification Area
Windows key + T: Cycle through the items on the Taskbar
Windows key + M: Minimize all windows
Windows key + Shift + M: Restore all minimized windows
Windows key + D: Show/Hide Desktop (minimize/restore all windows)
Windows key + L: Lock computer
Windows key + Up Arrow: Maximize current window
Windows key + Down Arrow: Minimize/restore current window
Windows key + Home: Minimize all but the current window
Windows key + Left Arrow: Tile window on the left side of the screen
Windows key + Right Arrow: Tile window on the right side of the screen
Windows key + Shift + Up Arrow: Extend current window from the top to the bottom of the screen
Windows key + Shift + Left/Right Arrow: Move the current window from one monitor to the next
Windows key + F1: Launch Windows Help and Support

PageUp: Scroll forward on the Modern Desktop Start screen
PageDown: Scroll backward on the Modern Desktop Start screen
Esc: Close  a charm
Ctrl + Esc: Switch between Modern Desktop Start screen and the last accessed application
Ctrl + Mouse scroll wheel: Activate the Semantic Zoom on the Modern Desktop screen

Alt: Display a hidden Menu Bar
Alt + D: Select the Address Bar
Alt + P: Display the Preview Pane in Windows Explorer
Alt + Tab: Cycle forward through open windows
Alt + Shift + Tab: Cycle backward through open windows
Alt + F: Close the current window Open the Shut Down Windows dialog box from the Desktop
Alt + Spacebar: Access the Shortcut menu for current window
Alt + Esc: Cycle between open programs in the order that they were opened
Alt + Enter: Open the Properties dialog box of the selected item
Alt + PrtScn: Take a screen shot of the active Window and place it in the clipboard
Alt + Up Arrow: Move up one folder level in Windows Explorer (Like the Up Arrow in XP)
Alt + Left Arrow: Display the previous folder
Alt + Right Arrow: Display the next folder
Shift + Insert: CD/DVD Load CD/DVD without triggering Autoplay or Autorun
Shift + Delete: Permanently delete the item (rather than sending it to the Recycle Bin)
Shift + F6: Cycle backward through elements in a window or dialog box
Shift + F10: Access the context menu for the selected item
Shift + Tab: Cycle backward through elements in a window or dialog box
Shift + Click: Select a consecutive group of items
Shift + Click on a Taskbar button: Launch a new instance of a program
Shift + Right-click on a Taskbar button: Access the context menu for the selected item
Ctrl + A: Select all items
Ctrl + C: Copy the selected item
Ctrl + X: Cut the selected item
Ctrl + V: Paste the selected item
Ctrl + D: Delete selected item
Ctrl + Z: Undo an action
Ctrl + Y: Redo an action
Ctrl + N: Open a new window in Windows Explorer
Ctrl + W: Close current window in Windows Explorer
Ctrl + E: Select the Search box in the upper right corner of a window
Ctrl + Shift + N: Create new folder
Ctrl + Shift + Esc: Open the Windows Task Manager
Ctrl + Alt + Tab: Use arrow keys to cycle through open windows
Ctrl + Alt + Delete: Access the Windows Security screen
Ctrl + Click: Select multiple individual items
Ctrl + Click and drag an item: Copies that item in the same folder
Ctrl + Shift + Click and drag an item: Creates a shortcut for that item in the same folder
Ctrl + Tab:  Move forward through tabs
Ctrl + Shift + Tab: Move backward through tabs
Ctrl + Shift + Click on a Taskbar button: Launch a new instance of a program as an Administrator
Ctrl + Click on a grouped Taskbar button: Cycle through the instances of a program in the group
F1: Display Help
F2: Rename a file
F3: Open Search
F4: Display the Address Bar list
F5: Refresh display
F6: Cycle forward through elements in a window or dialog box
F7: Display command history in a Command Prompt
F10: Display hidden Menu Bar
F11: Toggle full screen display
Tab: Cycle forward through elements in a window or dialog box
PrtScn: Take a screen shot of the entire screen and place it in the clipboard
Home: Move to the top of the active window
End: Move to the bottom of the active window
Delete: Delete the selected item
Backspace: Display the previous folder in Windows Explorer  Move up one folder level in Open or Save dialog box
Esc: Close a dialog box
Num Lock Enabled + Plus (+): Display the contents of the selected folder
Num Lock Enabled + Minus (-): Collapse the selected folder
Num Lock Enabled + Asterisk (*): Expand all subfolders under the selected folder

Press Shift 5 times Turn StickyKeys on or off
Hold down right Shift for 8 seconds Turn FilterKeys on or off
Hold down Num Lock for 5 seconds Turn ToggleKeys on or off

Quick Take: Apple Announcements 10/23

Well, the big news today is from Apple. The company has announced some major product updates.

A few thoughts….

In typical self-congratulatory fashion, Apple cheered the iPhone 5 and iOS6, conveniently forgetting the  Maps debacle…  as well as a widespread problem with basic meeting/calendar invite handling. They do sell a lot of phones, though.

New MacBooks were introduced. Apple is firmly committed to killing the onboard DVD drive, so you’ll just buy all your programs Apps from the Apple App Store. Silly me, no one uses programs any more…

I don’t understand the drive to compress Apple displays into the maximum number of pixels. The new Pro has higher resolution than an HDTV, on a 13″ screen. I don’t know about you, but my eyes aren’t good enough to notice that.

“Like all of our products, the team works hard on making these eco-friendly.” Interesting comment by Senior Vice President of Lying Marketing at Apple. The new MacBook Pro build looks very similar to the previous version which is called out in several sources as an example of a sealed, non-recyclable, non-upgradeable design. It seems that Mr. Schiller saying it’s environmentally-friendly makes it so. Seriously, no laptop should have a permanent battery. Even the best ones last 2-3 years tops in everyday work use. Run it flat a few times and it’ll get down to about an hour on a charge. It’s the nature of lithium-ion batteries.

Wow, the iMac is updated after 1-1/2 years. The new version looks really slick. I’m concerned about cooling of the hard drive, and serviceability and lifespan of what look like laptop-type components. Starting price of $1,299 is in the same ballpark as the multi-touch Lenovo A720…which I’d argue is more innovative…

 

 

Apple announces new iMac with 5mm thin profile - Jason O'Grady

Meanwhile the “super user” Mac Pro has gone a full year and a half with no meaningful updates. It’s a very expensive entry in a field of workstations from HP and Lenovo that continue to offer better value. You’ll recall that Tim Cook said earlier this year, “We’re not a computer company.”

If you’re in the Apple iOS ecosystem and like it, you’ll like the newly-upgraded iPad. Except…the only real news is the inclusion of the new Lightning connector. Otherwise it’s kind of like the Cupertino crew needed to release a full-size iPad with the new connector and kept asking, “What’s the least we have to do to get people to buy it?” Gizmodo has an expansion of this line of thinking here.

And finally we get to the iPad mini. It’s magical, revolutionary, and has less bezel around the screen than the Android device.  It’s reasonably priced…from $329 to $659. Interestingly, no mention of the Kindle Fire ($159),  Fire HD ($199), or Fire 8.9, which tops out at $614 but includes high-speed wireless access. I still think the sweet spot of the Kindle line is the $199 Fire HD or the entry 8.9 at $299.

Bottom line

The Kindle Fire line is my favorite tablet right now…a good choice for budget buyers. 2 basic Fire 7″ tablets for the price of one iPad mini! The Fire HD 8.9 at $299 is a nice compromise between size (full-size iPads always seemed too big to me) and price. Amazon has nice integration of apps, books, and video on demand that makes the experience a small step behind Apple. Main drawback: lack of a camera. I haven’t missed having one and I cry every time I see someone taking pictures or video using a tablet.

Other Android tablets are nice for the casual user, Android convert, or the real power-user techie. Root that sucker, build your own baseband, and flash it like you want it! People with lots of android phone apps will feel at home with these devices as well.

And yes, Apple will sell ten million iPad minis. Primarily to people who are already in the Apple ecosystem and own iOS apps, but many of them will go into the education market (and to families) because of the sheer number of apps available.

The Microsoft Surface tablet is expected to cost more than the iPad now, I see Windows Tablets as non-starters. Windows RT Tablets will be sold at fire-sale prices after Christmas but we’ll be living with the legacy of this crap on our desktops and laptops for years to come.

What do you think? Is Apple on the right track? Does any of this really matter?

aNew MacBook Pro most expensive disposable computer ever

The MacBook Pro Retina akes me want a Mac less. Highlights:

  • A beautiful display with more than 200 dots per inch (resolution of 2880 x 1800) on a 15.6″ screen. Seriously gorgeous display.
  • HDMI video port
  • Standard SSD/flash storage for higher speed
  • Thinner and lighter than most other 15″ notebooks

Lowlights:

  • memory is permanently soldered onto the system board, cannot be replaced, upgraded, or diagnosed
  • storage is a custom flash/SSD, I’d expect Other World Computing and other specialty outlets to have compatible upgrades in a few months but don’t count on it being cheap. The low-end with a NON upradeable 256GB drive is too small. The high-end system with 500GB is about right.
  • Battery is permanently sealed into the unit. Delicate cables are placed in the glue so that you’ll trash the system if you try to replace a battery cell.
  • To crack the system open you’ll need a Pentalobe screwdriver (which unless you’re in the business you won’t have) and a lot more patience than upgrading something like a Dell Latitude or Lenovo T-series.

Our advice

  1. Think twice. You’re buying a $3000 disposable computer. Your average computer shop will not be able to so much as open the case on these. Apple’s track record on new technology rollouts has been worrisome
  2. Don’t consider buying one of these without AppleCare (Apple’s $349 extended/enhanced warranty). Apple’s standard warranty is far below industry norm at 90-days. I don’t expect Apple Stores to do much in the way of on-site diagnosis and repair on these. They’ll hand you a new one and send you on your way.
  3. Avoid the low-end 2.3 unit. The 256G drive is too small and you’ll regret it later.
  4. Buy it with 16GB FOR SURE (which in my opinion is still not enough long-term) and the bigger SSD drive if you think there’s any chance you’ll use it.

Geek out and see the teardown at iFixit’s site here.

If you’re able to wait a few months, Lenovo, Dell, and HP all have interesting new products coming soon. Otherwise the 14″ to 15″ market is filled with good choices in the Lenovo Edge and T series, the Dell Latitude, and HP EliteBook.

If you’re a Mac enthusiast I think the old-style Macbook Pro/NON Retina is a much better value and will be a more reliable and serviceable system in the future.

Neat stuff coming this fall!

We’ve gotten previews of new Lenovo products coming in Fall 2012:

Coming in August is the updated X1 Carbon. Small, light, thin, fast ultra-portable notebook computer with 3G “internet anywhere” connection…with a standard 14 inch screen. http://blog.lenovo.com/products/lenovo-reveals-thinkpad-x1-carbon-shakes-up-ultrabook-market According to TechCrunch, “If there ever was a true Macbook Air competitor…it’s the X1 Carbon.” http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/15/the-x1-carbon-shows-lenovo-can-think-different/

We expect the Lenovo X1 Carbon will be available in late August 2012 and start around $1,300. The perfect back-to-school present for your favorite CEO.

I had posted on FB before about the upcoming Lenovo Yoga convertible tablet. In case you missed it, here is an overview: http://www.gizmag.com/lenovo-ideapad-yoga-13/21073/

Lenovo UK released pricing for the device, around 1,199 UK pounds. Some analysts are directly converting this to $1,900 US but I expect we’ll be seeing this Windows 8 multi-format device in the $1,400-$1,500 range. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Official-Pricing-of-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Yoga-Convertible-Tablet-Laptop-Revealed-264371.shtml

Lenovo Yoga is expected out in November 2012. Which means it will miss the back-to-school drop but should make it onto college students’ Christmas lists.

Finally, we’ve got the Solidoodle 2 3-d printer. 3-D printers make plastic parts by building up thin layers of material. These systems used to start at $2,000-3,000…the Solidoodle has a 6″x6″ workspace and starts at $499. It’s like having your own prototype shop (great for engineers), toy factory, or plastic sculpting shop. Why would you want one? http://replicatorinc.com/blog/2008/11/10-things-3d-printers-can-do-now/

Yes, that’s a flute, made entirely from parts from such a printer. More info on the Solidoodle here.. http://www.solidoodle.com/

Wake up, Mac users…

Seriously, folks. Mac OS makes many of the same security/ease of use compromises as Windows.

I’ve been reading with interest the recent reports of malware activity involving Mac OS computers. A couple “must read” pages include the Mac Virus blog the ESET Threat blog,  and Kaspersky’s SecureList blog. Some of these pages get into deep technical content. You’ll either get or cure insomnia depending upon how much of your life and information is online.

The basics:
Within the past two weeks several drive-by-download attacks have been spread against Mac OS computers.

What’s a drive-by-download?
A drive-by-download attack is a way to spread an unwanted program by “breaking into” a website and posting specially-crafted code there. This code takes advantage of security flaws commonly found in Adobe Flash, Java, and Windows/Mac OS, and can activate even without being clicked on or purposely “run.”

What does this bad stuff do?
It depends. These recent Mac-focused attacks haven’t done major damage, but the idea that an unauthorized person can take control of your computer and run whatever they want obviously isn’t a good thing. These attacks are usually extended to report usernames and password, possible credit card numbers, send SPAM e-mail, and try to infect other computers and web sites.

But….I thought Macs were safer!
Macintosh computers have had viruses since the early 1990’s. OS X, the new operating system introduced in 2000, has also had several minor outbreaks of viruses.
Apple touts OS X’s BSD-Unix heritage as a security strength, but there are several ways in which the system trades-off security for ease of use. To be fair many of these are similar to concessions in Windows systems. Things like reducing the number of times a user needs to type a password…the ability for programs to maintain a “run as Administrator” state…and the ability for automatic-starting programs.

Kind of like building a house of bricks with a screen door.

What are Flash and Java?
Java and Adobe Flash are programming languages that allow web developers to run programs on your computer.
Now wait…that’s usually a good thing. The US Official Time page uses Java to show its animated time clock. The Dan-Ball Dust Java game uses Java to waste hours of our time. And Flash is used by many, many sites, including YouTube:

SO there are certainly some good reasons for using Flash and Java.

Why Macs? Why now?
There are people around the world who are constantly looking for new flaws in these programming languages. As these flaws are reported the programmers at Microsoft, Oracle (makers of Java), Adobe (makers of Flash), and Apple work to fix the problems in their own systems. That’s why you’ll see Windows or OS updates….and Flash updates….and Java updates.

When you see them, run them.

The flaws targeted by the recent attacks were fixed by Microsoft and Oracle fairly quickly, but Apple has tended to lag behind in fixing these.

So someone customized code to target Macs. And compromised 600,000 of them.

Yet Another Data Breach: Credit Card Processor Warns of Compromise

Over the weekend multiple sources announced a compromise of Global Payments Inc that led to the unauthorized release of at least 1.5 million credit card records.

According to the reports the hacked data includes credit card Track 1 and Track 2 swipe details, which is everything needed to make a counterfiet card.

What to do?

This might be a good time to re-evaluate use of debit vs credit cards, particularly for business use (credit cards have much stronger protections, and you’re directly using the bank’s money)

Watch your credit and debit card activity online for suspicious charges and report them to your card issuer immediately.