Category : Uncategorized

Slow computer? Check for bloatware

Have you ever wondered why that brand new computer you just bought doesn’t run as fast as advertised?  The answer may be bloatware, all that pre-loaded software that the manufacturer so helpfully provides to you.

Often bloatware is just an annoyance, adding to the number of update pop-up prompts a user has to deal with.  But it can cause serious performance issues.  As an example, HP’s Wireless Assistant software has been known to cause spikes in CPU utilization.  Wireless Assistant is an applet that controls the enablement of individual wireless devices.  It may be a handy application at times, but it is not necessary, as the same functionality is built into the network control panel.  See the link for more details:  http://superuser.com/questions/240794/why-does-wmi-provider-host-wmiprvse-exe-keep-spiking-my-cpu An updated version can take care of this particular problem, but this is one of the few pre-loaded applications that doesn’t prompt regularly to check for updates, and so may go unresolved.

There are utilities out there designed to remove bloatware, such as PC Decrapifier .  But with the way these pre-loaded applications can often integrate into the OS, a clean installation is probably the best solution, something which the average consumer may not have the time or the resources to accomplish.

The next time you purchase a new computer, make a point of requesting that the OS be a clean install without all the pre-loaded “goodies”.  The seller may not be able to comply at first, but with enough requests, maybe the manufacturers will start to take notice, and give users the ability to “opt out”.

http://hothardware.com/News/Open-Letter-To-PC-Makers-Ditch-The-Bloatware-Now/

What is the Cloud? And What is Cloud Computing?

You can Google ‘cloud computing’ and read the various explanations you’ll find, and still not really understand what Cloud Computing is all about. The term is over used and misused so much that most people are confused about its meaning, and more importantly, how it can benefit them.

The word ‘cloud’ can mean several things all by itself. Some refer to the Internet as the ‘cloud’ and although it is a necessary part of cloud computing, just using the Internet to access resources does not necessarily mean a business is using cloud computing. For instance the internet can be used to access a company fileserver in a central office. That is not true cloud computing. It’s remote access, but not cloud computing in the real sense.

Cloud computing has a lot to do with the way the resources themselves are stored, managed and accessed. With the advent of virtualization and the ability to create virtualized servers, fileservers have become pieces of software that can be moved around between various hardware servers. And with the increase of available Internet bandwidth and remote access technology, fileservers are no longer location dependent as they once were. As an example, suppose your company has a remotely accessed fileserver that hosts your client database. Let’s say it’s virtualized in a Datacenter and you access it through a web-browser. Because the fileserver is virtualized, the datacenter can move your fileserver around to other locations in their facilities, or across the country, and you can still access its resources normally. You would not know that it’s moving around between various hardware servers. Why would they move it around? To alleviate bottlenecks in their infrastructure, to do maintenance or upgrades on hardware, or to better facilitate their internal administrative needs. The point of the example is that ‘resources move around’. One could say that your resources are somewhere in the ‘cloud’.

Within large organizations like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others, resources are moving around constantly as their internal IT needs dictate. Your information or data stored in such organizations is readily available, but you’ll never know where it is physically. So virtualization and the dynamic movement of virtualized servers and resources is a key part of what makes up ‘cloud computing’.

Additionally, modern online business solutions have reduced or eliminated the need for many localized computer resources.  For instance, Microsoft’s BPOS offers online business applications that include office document creation & storage, email, and document management solutions. These services can eliminate the need for businesses to have localized fileservers. This then becomes true cloud computing.

As businesses evaluate their internal IT costs and compare those with the costs of cloud computing they will see that moving to cloud computing solutions makes more economic sense as time passes.  The benefits of cloud computing are many, some of which are listed below:

  • Resources can be accessed from anywhere the Internet is available
  • Resources are secure and reliable
  • IT expenditures become a fixed monthly expense, like a utility bill
  • Advanced IT solutions expenses are vastly reduced if not completely eliminated
  • The most current software versions are included in the service

Information Technology is constantly changing and accelerating in its rate of change.   Businesses that keep aware of how it can be used to benefit them will be closely watching the value of computing in the cloud.

iPhone on Verizon

Its been quite some time, back and forth between when and how this was going to happen.  A lot of blogs and gossip articles have been written between many reputable websites.  After years and years of speculation, the Verizon iPhone is real. As Verizon president Lowell McAdam put it, “If the press writes something long enough, eventually it becomes true.”  I find this really funny after all the publicity that Verizon put in the media.  It’s ironic how Mac really stayed out of the subject matter and for the most part never drew a line in the sand with a yes or no.  The word comes fresh out of Verizon’s press conference in New York City, where the company has confirmed that they plan to offer the iPhone 4 early next month. Update: February 10th, to be specific.  From what has been published so far, the Verizon iPhone 4 appears to be identical to the AT&T iPhone 4 .

It does not support Verizon’s 4G/LTE network, and Apple took their standard “We don’t talk about future products” stance when questioned on the matter. The 16GB iPhone 4 will set you back $199.99, while the 32GB model will cost you $299.99 (both prices on a 2 year contract.  Additionally, it looks like it’ll have at least one feature that the AT&T model doesn’t (currently): WiFi hotspot, which allows the iPhone to act as a Cell-Data-Fueled-Wi-Fi router for up to 5 devices.

Working from home, is that a good idea?

According to Forrester Research there are over 43 million US adults telecommuting today, and by 2016 that number will grow to 63 million, or 43% of the workforce!  Why the migration to telecommuting?  The reasons are many, but they can all be translated into the one simple fact; namely, telecommuting makes economic sense for everyone, businesses and employees.

The historic technical obstacles to telecommuting have been overcome.  Current technology has successfully addressed security issues.  The increase in consumer Internet bandwidth has improved the telecommuting experience, and that coupled with state-of-the-art remote access solutions, has made the telecommuting experience equal to the ‘in-office’ computer experience.

What about productivity? Across virtually all industries, studies indicate that workers get more accomplished when they telecommute.  In a survey of Fortune 1000 managers, 58 percent reported increased worker productivity.  The state of California’s telecommuting pilot program measured productivity increases of 10 percent to 30 percent, and American Express found a 20 percent productivity gain for off-site call center employees.

Studies of companies of all sizes and virtually all endeavors indicate the same thing; that is, workers are more productive when they are allowed to telecommute.

A few Telecommuting benefits:

  • Increased worker productivity equates to increased company profits
  • Less travel to and from the office equates to less wasted time in traffic
  • Employees appreciate the increased personal and productive time along with reduced commuting cost
  • The environment benefits from reduced pollution caused by auto traffic
  • Companies benefit from reduced travel expenses
  • Reduced requirement for company infrastructure, ie. offices, desks, etc.  In some cases the corporate offices can be completely eliminated.
  • Companies can employ people located over a wider geographical area (not limited by drive time to the office)
  • Companies offering telecommuting to employees attract more workers than those who don’t.

Everything being considered, telecommuting is the future, and the future is now.  To stay competitive in business means to utilize Information Technology to advantage, and successful businesses today and tomorrow will be implementing telecommuting solutions on a significant scale.

So, where do you begin if you’re thinking of implementing a telecommuting solution for your business?  How do you get from an office-oriented business model to one that utilizes remote access for some or all of its computer-user employees?  The first step is to do your homework.  Take the time to better understand the options available, their benefits, and their respective implementation costs.  Know the differences in the various solutions available, and learn what solutions are being utilized by businesses similar to yours.  If you don’t have the time to invest in this kind of ‘homework’ you can engage a qualified Consulting firm, with a proven track record for implementing this type of technology, and seek their recommendation.

Whether you research things on your own, or use a third party IT Consulting Company, it should be a priority to understand, because whether you chose to implement telecommuting in your business or not, your competition will.

Cool Mouse – Microsoft Arc Touch

I was at the Microsoft store in Scottsdale the other day and they showed me a really cool mouse that I think will be very popular.  This Unique, portable design has touch scroll with vibrating feedback. Thumbnail USB has innovative storage on base of mouse which is new to any mouse devise. BlueTrack laser technology allows the mouse to be used on a variety of surfaces. Ambidextrous, no skipping or staggering on different table surfaces.  The Microsoft’s Arc Touch is listed retail at $67.95 and is about as portable as you can get and adds style to the otherwise plain mobile mouse market.   The Arc Touch has one of the most unique form factors I have seen in a mouse. When off, it lays in a prone position (2.28 by 5.14-inches, WH), but to power it on the mouse sits bent; its back arched to create a comfortable structure to hold and navigate with. The mouse buttons are encased in glossy black plastic that tends to attract smudge marks and the like. Breaking up the black is the touch scroll wheel that’s encased in a silver matte plastic. The palm portion on the Arc Touch has a soft rubberized coating.  In terms of buttons, the Arc Touch is outfitted with the basics—a left and right click, and touch scroll. Most mice rolling out these days as least have the two browser buttons, but Microsoft decided to leave this extra out.

Weighing a scant 0.2 pounds and having such a slim profile, the Arc Touch is pretty portable. There’s even a spot to store the wireless USB adapter: On the bottom of the mouse there a small metallic strip that will securely hold the adapter in place during travel. The Arc Touch takes two AA batteries (which are included), and according to Microsoft will last up to 6 months.   The Arc Touch has plug-and-play capabilities, but for those who like to tweak their mouse speed and add different functions to their buttons you can download the designated software. Unfortunately, the software provided with the product will only work for Windows XP, Vista, and 7—no Mac support which angers me. However, the Arc Touch device will work with Mac PCs. Within Microsoft’s IntelliPoint software you can customize the mouse speed, the scroll speed and feedback, and what kind of pointer you want.   The Arc Touch comes packed with the aforementioned USB wireless receiver that transmits on a 2.4GHz frequency, which is fairly standard for mice in this category.

Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack

It’s now been over a year since the release of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, so that means it’s just about time for the first service pack.  With the core operating system being based on the same code, the service pack release will be for both products.  A release candidate for Service Pack 1 is available at the link below, but I highly recommend you read the FAQ’s in the link below also.  Once you install the SP1 Release Candidate 1, there is no upgrade path to the released version of SP1. Consulting companies must either reinstall the operating system, or uninstall the RC version, which is likely not a clean process.  As usual, this service pack is a colletion of security updates and hotfixes, but there are a few enhancements as well.  The ones that caught my eye as I read through the notes are RemoteFX and Hyper-V Dynamic Memory.  First, RemoteFX is an enhancement to the already revamped Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008 R2.  RemoteFX offers support for remote USB devices, 3D graphics and video, as well as enhanced encryption and management.  The idea is to be able to provide high quality multimedia experiences in a Remote Desktop session that is similar to the experience that a user can have on their local Windows 7 computer.

Second, Hyper-V Dynamic Memory is a technology that allows a Hyper-V host to dynamically allocate memory to virtual machine guests as needed.  VMWare supports overallocation of memory, which is allowing more memory to be allocated to guest virtual machines than there is physical memory.  With Hyper-V, guest virtual machines could not be configured for more memory than what is available on the host.  In my opinion, this was a critical shortcoming in Hyper-V and it appears that Microsoft has addressed this with Hyper-V Dynamic Memory in SP1.

It appears that we will have another 3 to 6 months before we can see SP1 released.  You can use the links below to download evaluations, check out the FAQ’s and find out some more in-depth information about the new features in this release.

Download
http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=194726

RemoteFX
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff817578(WS.10).aspx

Hyper-V Dynamic Memory
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff817651(WS.10).aspx

FAQ
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/ff384134.aspx

Securing Your Network

With the proliferation of Information Technology (Companies) and the efficiency it gives businesses today, securing your network against SPAM, viruses, Malware and Hackers  has become vital to survival.  The very technology that has allowed businesses to become so efficient and productive also brings the risk of catastrophe, if that technology fails or is compromised.  Therefore, it is vital that any business that relies on IT for its productivity make sure that they have taken practical steps to secure their network infrastructure.

There are several areas of concern when considering securing any IT network, including user access control, data backup and protection, firewalls, etc., but for the purpose of this article the focus will be limited to protecting a network from viruses, SPAM, and other Malware.

Most computer users are familiar with the need to protect their computers from viruses and most companies have antivirus software installed on their servers and workstations.  However, one of the biggest threats to network functionality comes from email.  Emails are delivered directly to the user’s desktop and can go through firewalls as well as virus scans, depending upon the nature of the Malware they may contain.  Then, if a user inadvertently opens the infected  email and perhaps clicks on the links it contains, they can infect their workstation and alow it to spread to the entire network.

To secure the multiple points of potential infection it is recommended that email be scanned by a third-party SPAM filtering, Malware, and virus protection vendor before being delivered to the company’s Exchange or mail server.  The company’s firewall should also be configured to only accept eamil from the third party scanning servers.   This will vastly reduce the SPAM  getting to the company Mail server, and stop known Malware.   Finally, the Exchange or mail server should also have virus and Malware software running on it.  Why, since the mail is supposedly checked before delivery by the third party scanning service?  Because users can bring in infected laptops and connect to the network behind the firewall, users can also access webmail from their personal accounts  and bring Malware into their computers directly.  Also, users can get Malware from websites they visit.    When this happens the virus or Malware must be stopped on the network side of the firewall and to do that requires that the proper software be installed directly on the Exchange or Mail server.  A recommended antivirus anti-malware solution for a typical small business network is illustrated below in figure 1.

Figure 1

Microsoft Considering Purchasing Adobe

According to industry reports that I have read in a few places, Microsoft might be close to putting in an acquisition bid for Adobe which is crazy in my view. The reports say that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently met with Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen for what reporters are calling a “secret meeting.”  So far, neither Microsoft nor Adobe have discussed such a possibility but it would not be a surprise if Microsoft made such a play.  Their past acquisition history for reasoning falls into this category of company and segment. If anything is certain, it’s that Microsoft shouldn’t even entertain an Adobe acquisition, it makes no sense. Microsoft is clinging to the past as its competition continues to develop new and interesting technology that appeals to customers.  Here are some reason why this makes no sense:

  • Adobe Flash is not popular or prospective enough for the future
  • What market share are they really acquiring from a purchase of this nature?
  • Microsoft is focusing more on the cloud offerings and  getting spread thin with what they really do
  • Its a bad financial move, Adobe has not made good profits for the  last year
  • Microsoft is not focusing on desktop software anymore

MAC Microsoft Office 2011- Finally Got it Right

It feels like I have been waiting forever for the new release of Office for the Mac.  With Microsoft Office for the Mac 2011 (Home and Student version, $119; Home and Business version, $149), Microsoft has finally gotten it right. After a string of disappointing releases, the new Mac version of the world’s most widely-used office suite is a spectacular success, and an unexpected triumph for Microsoft’s Macintosh group. Compared with Office for the Mac 2008 and its predecessors, Office 2011 is innovative, better-designed, startlingly faster, vastly more powerful, and far more compatible with Office for Windows. It even includes a few features that outclass anything in its Windows-based counterpart, Microsoft Office 2010 ($499, 4 stars). If you’re a casual, light-duty office-suite user or a student, iWork ’09 ($79, 4 stars) is still a great option, but if you’ve got heavy-duty work to perform on the Mac, you’ll want Office for the Mac 2011.  The cost for the suite is pretty reasonable for the applications you get.

Office for the Mac still has some minor weaknesses, and at least one feature that’s less powerful than in the previous version—Office no longer syncs calendars with iCal. Overall, it’s the best office suite ever for using the Mac as a serious platform for getting work done.  Office for the Mac comes in two versions, a Home and Student Version (single user package, $119; three-user family package $149) and a Home and Business Version (single user package, $199; licensed for two machines, $279). The Home and Student version includes Word 2011, Excel 2011, PowerPoint 2011. The Home and Business version matches the Home and Student version plus Outlook 2011, which replaces the Entourage mail, calendar, and contact manager app in recent versions.

Pros: Fast, flexible office application suite. Most powerful Mac office software. Highly compatible with Office for Windows. Well-integrated with OS X. Visual Basic for Applications recorded and programmed macros fully supported. Newly-designed Outlook replaces Entourage as mail/calendar/contact app.
Cons: No calendar synching with iCal. Outlook won’t synch with or retrieve mail from Exchange Server 2003 or earlier.
Bottom Line: Office for the Mac roars back with fast, powerful application suite the best of its kind for the OS X platform.

Capabilities and Limitations of the Apple iPad in a Standard Business Network Environment

The iPad is a great device. It’s light, ultra-portable, and you don’t have to take it out of your carry-on for airport security. It’s sleek and sexy. It’s remarkably versatile. Many people wonder: can I replace my Window laptop or MacBook with it? If I add a Bluetooth keyboard, is it a netbook?

You can try, but it’s like trying to get a Corvette to replace a pickup truck: they both serve the same fundamental purpose, but they each excel at different things. You can try to get your pickup up to 180 MPH, and you can try to haul a ton of bricks in your Corvette. With enough effort, “McGyver”-ing, and aftermarket accessories, you could no doubt accomplish each. But is it a good idea? And if you think it through ahead of time, do you really want to?

The longing to replace a laptop with an iPad is easy to understand. An iPad travels well. It’s simple to connect it to a Wi-Fi network, and you don’t have to wait for it to boot up. The battery lasts. When you’re not working, you can use it to play music, movies, or games. It’s a terrific reader for news and e-books. It’s a great email client for Gmail, AOL, and (if your company’s mail system supports it and the corporate policies allow it) Exchange mail, calendar, and contacts using ActiveSync.

But it’s important to remember that the iPad is NOT a laptop or a tablet PC. And, despite being an Apple product, it’s NOT a MacBook. It isn’t built on Windows or Mac OS X – its operating system (iOS) was originally developed for the iPhone. The interface uses multi-touch gestures and an accelerometer, making possible applications that can’t run on a PC or Mac. That also means that applications written for a PC or Mac can’t run on an iPad – unless the author specifically develops a version for iOS. Even then, they would need to publish their application through the Apple App Store (thus sharing their proceeds with Apple) – or you would need to jailbreak your iPad, voiding the warranty.

Importantly, the iPad (like the iPhone and iPod Touch) does NOT support Adobe Flash or Java, meaning that websites that use those technologies won’t behave as designed. Why not? Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the Adobe product insecure, buggy, battery-intensive, and incompatible with a touch interface.

The iPad is better at consuming information than it is at creating it. It’s great for creating and editing smaller emails and documents, but you’ll want a PC to create large or complex documents. Another challenge: once you’ve created or edited the smaller documents, you can email them from the iPad, but only one file per email. To send multiple files, you need to send multiple emails. This can be pretty cumbersome. You’ll note that as you explore the iPad you won’t even encounter the concept of a “file” as you would on a PC or Mac.

To think of the iPad as a replacement for a netbook, notebook, or MacBook is like thinking of the Corvette as a replacement for a Ford F350. Is it fair to call the iPad an overgrown iPhone? No. It’s a terrific multi-function device with some very valuable business purposes in specific situations. Should you expect it to behave like a Windows machine or Mac? You’ll only end up frustrated if you do.

Love the iPad for what it is, and don’t hate it for what it isn’t. And don’t expect your IT consulting company to help you make it do what it’s not designed to do – they can’t fit a ton of bricks in a Corvette, either.

So… what CAN the iPad do in a business network environment? In other words, what is reasonable to expect your company’s I.T. team to support?

  • Email access. If your company allows remote email access from a smartphone using POP or IMAP protocols, you can do it from your iPad. Note, however, that it’s up to you go get the iPad connected to the Internet on the remote Wi-Fi. If you have a 3G iPad, getting it on the Internet is strictly between you, Apple, and AT&T.
  • Calendar/Contact synchronization – if your company has a fairly new Exchange server and the network is configured to allow ActiveSync access. If you have a non-BlackBerry smartphone that wirelessly syncs Calendar/Contacts, your iPad can also.
  • Remote Desktop to a Terminal Server – if your company has a Terminal Server. If you have access using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection software for either Windows or Mac, you can have access from your iPad. Be sure to get a good RDP app such as iTap RDP, which makes it easier to operate a Windows desktop from with the iPad’s smaller display, and makes the best use of the iPad’s direct manipulation and multi-touch gestures.
  • VPN access. If your company allows VPN connections from other devices, such as an IPSec VPN tunnel to a Cisco firewall or a PPTP connection to a Windows RAS Server, you can have the same connection from your iPad. You might use it to establish a Remote Desktop Connection to your office workstation, if your company’s policies allow this.

Now… what CAN’T you expect your company’s I.T. team to support? Pretty much anything not listed above. At its heart, the iPad is a consumer device, and is probably not included in the list of officially-sanctioned “clients” for your company’s server-based applications. There’s no doubt that the iPad will continue to evolve, and new apps are released every day that enhance its functionality and usefulness. But, as a mobile network device, it presents challenges in terms of data security, bandwidth usage, and compatibility. These translate into significant I.T. support costs, so don’t be too surprised if your company won’t support it.