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Updates – do you love them or loathe them?

Updates are a very controversial topic at the best of time.  Some people don’t mind updating their systems when new software is available whilst some people absolutely detest them.  Me I am somewhere in the middle.  I am of the mindset if it isn’t broke then I try not to fix it, meaning I will update software when I have to for security reasons and not much else (unless the client says they want to).

I met a potential client last week who has a Windows 7 PC in his office on Service Pack 1 with the updates turned off.  He has had the updates turned off for over a year and his system runs like a dream. No update issues or restarting the system when you are in the middle of something.  Now I did try to point out that Microsoft had issued several security updates during this time and it might be wise to install them on this particular system. “Not a chance as I have seen what happens when I update Microsoft software. Some of the other systems in this office have updates enabled and they crash too often when software is updated.  My system just works”

I can see his point.  I have lost count of the times I have had to deal with issues over the last 12 months which were caused by dodgy Microsoft updates.  It is worth noting here that this is not a specific problem to Microsoft.  Apple have had some crackers too with both iOS and OSX and even Android can be just as bad.  One minute my app works then it updates and no longer functions.

Of course the downside of not updating software is security.  If a hole is found and not patched then you leave a potential vulnerability for someone to exploit.  This message though will be lost if said update breaks something else on the way through.

We can’t expect Microsoft, Apple, Google and the like to test every potential configuration for their software as this is just impossible but it does seem that recently (and we are talking 12 months here) standards have been slipping. If anyone is listening a bit more testing please!!

So what do you think? Are updates a good thing or a pain in the ……….?

 

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Should Microsoft be worried about the Chromebook?

I wrote an article a while back stating why I thought Googles Chromebook might just work and it seams that the general public is beginning to agree with me.  As of the end of 2013 Googles Chromebook has achieved 10% market share which is remarkable considering it had 0.2% the previous year. So who has actually bought them?


In the consumer market (ie home users) the tablet and smartphones are king at the moment and I would suggest that these users are not the ones warming to the Chromebooks.  If that is the case then it must be businesses who are buying them.  If businesses are indeed buying them then I suggest Microsoft should be worried.  The reason? A lot of applications are now becoming web based and businesses (and individuals) are re-evaluating if they need a full blown Windows laptop in the workplace.  The workplace has been Microsofts heartland for decades but if Chromebook’s are indeed making inroads then that will hit Microsofts bottom line.

A lot of businesses still use “traditional” software like Microsoft Office and will decide to stick with Windows laptops and PC’s but with Office 365 and Google Apps now becoming more widely adopted even they might start to wonder if they really require a full blown desktop OS.  Don’t rule out the power of cloud storage too.

Even Microsoft’s OEM partners are throwing their weight behind the Chromebook with new models coming from both Lenovo and HP in recent months.  If manufacturers didn’t think there was any money in making them they wouldnt so this in itself should be stirring Microsofts executives.

Microsoft and Windows are not going anywhere soon but I think the early signs of serious competition to their desktop dominance are there.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

Where does Microsoft go from here?


Last week Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft, the man everyone seams to loathe, told the world he will be stepping down within 12 months. This is the man who oversaw the catastrophe that was Windows Vista, brought us Windows 7 and the yet to be proven Windows 8 while at the same time also increased Microsoft’s profits.  Whatever you think of Ballmer he did line the pockets of his shareholders.

The question though is what happens now? As good as Microsoft’s profits are they are a company who desperately needs leadership. Are they now a hardware, software or services company as at the moment even Microsoft doesn’t seam to know.

Microsoft built up its empire based solely on the Windows software and for years this worked for them.

Times however are changing.  Consumers are buying less PC’s and laptops and turning instead to tablets and smartphones. Microsoft was late to the mobile party and at the moment doesn’t seam to have a coherent mobile strategy.  Instead of trying to put Windows 8 on everything they should position Windows RT as THE mobile platform.  Coupled with a strong Windows store they could start to make inroads in the same way that Apple has done with iOS and the App store. Windows RT was never meant to run traditional windows applications but the marketing people at Microsoft failed to convey this to consumers.  Windows 8 should be a desktop OS for PC’s and laptops.  Forget trying to get everyone onto tablets that run a full version of Windows and instead concentrate on your core market.  Leave tablets to Windows RT as no one asked for tablets or touchscreen laptops with Windows 8 on them.

The market is also turning towards cloud based services and it is here that Microsoft has a strong  basis with its Windows Azure and Hyper V platforms.  If they keep developing these then they could start to take market share away from the likes of VMWare and AWS.

Then you have Windows Phone 8.  While slowly starting to gain market share it should be more closely developed alongside Windows RT (the same as Apple does with iOS). It couldn’t hurt to sign up more manufacturers either.

All of the above are issues that the incoming CEO needs to sort and quickly to keep Microsoft relevant in todays tech world while also keeping profits coming in.  Personally I would n’t want that job. Would you?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

What next for Microsoft?


Windows RT is dead, maybe not literally but not far off it.  It was Microsoft’s attempt to take on iOS and Android on consumer tablets and to say it didn’t catch on is an understatement (I did try it once and thought it was pretty good).   It was designed to run apps from the Windows Store in the same way that Android and IOS devices do and for some reason consmuers just didn’t get it (bad marketing perhaps?). They also called it Windows which was a bad idea as Windows is synonymous with PC’s and people expected to run their full Windows applications on it.  When they couldn’t Microsoft got a huge backlash but Windows RT was never designed with that in mind.  With Windows RT now going the way of the dodo what next for Microsoft?

At the moment Microsoft doesn’t have a viable option in the consumer tablet market (7 and 10 inch tablets) and this could hurt them in the long run.   The full version of Windows 8 is not a viable option as it is designed to run on hardware much more powerful than a 7 inch tablet. They could go down the route of adapting Windows Phone 8 to run on a tablet which would be a much better option.  Using Windows Phone 8 would also give them the advantage of no misunderstanding with the consumer on what software could be run on the tablet.

But the bigger problem for Microsoft could be the connection between the PC and Windows. PC sales are plummeting and with it Microsoft’s profits will also start to fall.  The PC will not disappear altogether as businesses will still be using them, however in the consumer market they are getting replaced by tablets and smartphones.  If they want to stay relevant in the consumer market they need to come up with a solution for the post PC era and quickly.  At the moment think tablets and you think of iPads and Android.  Windows is not even on the radar.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more!!

 

Will tablets go the same way as the netbook?


It is 2007 and a mobile revolution is about to take place.  Asus has just brought out the EeePC 701, the first netbook with a 7 inch screen running Linux (XP was to follow). Journalists and consumers alike are starting to get very exited about this low cost, compact and versatile laptop.

Fast forward to 2013 and I think it is fair to say that the netbook era is finished.  All the major manufacturers have stopped making netbooks and Acer, the only firm who still do, are stopping this year. So what exactly killed them off?

1. They were underpowered with low end specs

The spec sheet wasn’t exactly stellar.  Most of the early ones had 512Mb of RAM and a dual core processor running at about 1.2GHz (or there about) meaning it took a while to open documents and generally get anything done.  Microsoft and Intel are partly to blame for this as they realised that they couldn’t make much profit from netbooks and so they put artificial caps on the hardware specs.  When netbooks started coming with Windows 7 Starter on them they were even slower!!

2. Compact size

The compact size was a blessing and a curse for the netbook. It was small enough to get carried around with no hassle but the small screen meant low resolution while the keyboard made typing difficult.

3. Tablets

This is probably the main factor for the demise of the netbook.  Compare the specs of an ipad to a standard netbook and there is no contest.  Couple that with touchscreen, apps and general WOW factor and the netbook didn’t stand a chance.

So with the netbook almost gone and tablets seemingly taking their place what is to stop the whole scenario playing out again and this time tablets going the way of the dodo?

Actually there are a couple of things in the tablets favour.

1. Microsoft and Intel can’t cap the hardware specs

Most tablets don’t run Windows or come with Intel processors but instead come with iOS, Android and ARM processors.  This means Microsoft can’t bully manufacturers they way they did with the netbook meaning tablets will get whatever specs the manufacturers decide.

2. There is a huge WOW factor surrounding the market

There are apps that allow you to do almost everything these days and consumers like touchscreens.  There is still a big buzz surrounding tablets at the moment.

3. Pricing

There are low end tablets (recently saw one for £40 on Amazon) for people who just want to browse the internet and check emails but there are also top end tablets with specs which match laptops of 2 years ago.  There is basically a tablet at whatever price you are looking for.

4. Tablets are truly mobile

Tablets can be connected to either wifi or 3G which allows them to be truly portable. People are starting to work from coffee shops or anywhere else there is a wifi connection and tablets are a great tool to allow them to do just this.

As great as all this sounds there is one big thing which might hurt the tablet and that is smartphones.  Smartphones are getting more powerful with each release and some manufacturers are looking along the lines of using a smartphone with a docking station meaning you get a smartphone when out and about and then a PC when you come back to the office.  If this does catch on then tablet sales could significantly drop but as with everything we will have to wait and see!!

So what do you think? Will tablets go the same way as the netbook?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?


Should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

Now that is a question I have thought a lot about lately.  Their mobile phones aren’t exactly flying off the shelf and their tablets are sitting there getting dust (I have tried a Surface RT and was very impressed by the way) and Windows 8 (again I like) isn’t exactly warming the hearts of consumers.

What also hasn’t helpt them is that PC’s in the home are going the way of the dodo and being replaced by tablets and smartphones.  They were late to the mobile revolution and so far they haven’t been able to catch up.

To put it blunt Microsoft is in a bit of pickle at the moment with their newest offerings to the consumer market.

Contrast that with the business environment where Microsoft is so entrenched that it would take something monumental to shift them.  Their server software is used by millions of companies worldwide along with their biggest asset, Microsoft Office.  With the change to their subscription pricing this should fill their coffers even more (consumers on the other hand HATE paying subscriptions for software).  There is also Windows Azure which has been picking up subscriptions left right and centre lately.

Now what would happen if they suddenly decided to cut their losses and concentrate solely on the business market?

In the short term they would lose out on new licences of Windows but since the consumer market is shrinking anyway maybe that wouldn’t effect them to much.  With consumers no longer a top priority Windows could then be redesigned for business users (unlike Windows 8 at the moment) which would make enterprises very happy and entrench Microsoft further. Their services strategy (eg Azure, Office 365 etc) would also have more resources at their disposal which would mean they could offer better services which in turn leads to happy customers which again leads to full coffers.

This is just my opinion but I would be interested to hear what other people think so should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

How important are opensource skills?


I went to a Linux User Group (LUG) on Tuesday evening and we had a really good speaker in the form of an MSP (I am really awful with names so sorry!!). One of the points he raised was that of vendor lock in, especially in schools where children are taught the software and skills the manufacturers want them to learn and nothing more.

This got me thinking.  Should we be teaching kids things that the manufacturers want them to learn (eg Word, Excel etc)  or rather to think outside the box and use whatever tools are available to them?

Personally I think the latter and there are some very good reasons for this. The first is that opensource skills are becoming increasingly desirable to businesses who are not looking for vendor lock in, especially in the enterprise.

Secondly in my experience if you work exclusively with one manufacturer (eg Microsoft) then you can’t give balanced advice when asked by a client. For example if you work solely with Microsoft software you will say they offer the best software, however their offering may not be suitable for your client or business. If you have knowledge of both opensource and Microsoft then you are able to offer a more balanced argument depending on the clients circumstances and what they are looking to achieve.

To illustrate this point I was asked by a potential client a couple of months back about installing a server.  All they wanted was something to sync their files with Dropbox and sit quite happily in the corner with minimal of maintenance.  I advised them that a Debian Linux server would fit the bill quite nicely.  If I had gone down the Microsoft route it would have cost them more during installation (ie licences and more powerful hardware) and not given them any more functionality than the Linux server.  The ongoing maintenance would have been higher too.  If I had no experience with opensource then I could not have made this judgement.  At this point I will say that opensource software does not always suit client requirements either and in these cases I would recommend Microsoft software instead.

Thirdly at the moment people with opensource experience are paid more than their Microsoft equivalents due to the fact they are seen as having better all round skills.  From my experience I have met both good and bad Linux and Windows technicians so I guess this depends on the individual.

So over to you guys how important are opensource skills?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

Is the desktop on its way out?

Now I am not talking about the PC (that is another blog) but rather the way we interact with our computers.  For years operating systems of all flavours, whether they be Apple, Linux or Windows based, have all had the same basic interface – the desktop.  This all changed when Microsoft brought out Windows 8 with its Modern UI (aka Metro) interface.  Overnight the trusty desktop went from being at the forefront of the user experience to being relegated to an addon and this coupled with the increase in tablet sales has got a lot of people talking about the possibility of the demise of the desktop.  So is the desktop on its way out? The answer is yes and no.  Let me explain.


The PC was originally designed for the workplace but overtime as they got cheaper more and more average people could afford them and so they slowly made their way into our homes. Your home PC will very rarily be used to its limits though.  Most users will download and play a bit of music, maybe watch some videos, surf the internet and might do some word processing but that is about it.  For a home user a touch screen accomplishes most, if not all, of these tasks and this is why tablets and smartphones are on the rise.  Last time I looked there is no need for a desktop on a smartphone or tablet so in the consumer market I would say the desktop is on its way out.

Now lets look at the business market where the mouse and keyboard are king.   Employees in a business environment need to be productive or their company will start to lose money.  A lot of people would miss the desktop if it disappeared simply because they have become used to it.  Without the desktop staff would have to be retrained which would cost businesses a lot of time and money.

A lot of business applications have also been written with the desktop in mind and to get rid of the desktop would mean re-writing a lot of applications and again this would cost businesses A LOT OF MONEY.  In the foreseeable future this will not happen.  Not even Microsoft would throw away billions in revenue just to get rid of the desktop.

Ah but what about the increase in BYOD into the workplace? This is a funny one.  Yes the employee could decide to buy an iPad and then use it for work but, and this is a big but, if they can’t be productive on it then management will pull the plug and get them back on either laptops or desktops.  Yes BYOD is a good thing (keeps costs down) but as yet it is still unproven in the workplace.  Only time will tell but at the moment I can’t see the desktop going anywhere in a business environment and Microsoft will struggle to get businesses to upgrade to Windows 8 as a result.

Here is a thought for you should Microsoft have brought out both a business version and consumer version of Windows 8? The business version could default to the desktop while the consumer version could default to Modern UI as it does now.  This way Microsoft could give both markets what they want.

What do you think?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

A day out with Microsoft

This week has so far been about courses.  Well on Tuesday it was the Microsoft IT Roadshow in Edinburgh that I trundled off to. The course was all about Microsoft showing off its new Server and Cloud offerings and it promised to be very interesting.

First all the boring stuff.  The hospitality was superb (did you expect anything else) with both food and drink in plentiful supply throughout the day.  I was so full after lunch I really could have done with a lie down!!


Now onto the interesting stuff.  Microsoft has recently tried to positioned itself as one of the leading cloud providers in the industry and is heading full steam ahead into the cloud.  They feel that this is where the industry is heading (I agree with them to a point) and so their newest server offering Windows Server 2012 is all about virtualization and cloud computing and how to manage them successfully from one platform.  The capabilities that Server 2012 offers is staggering and I was very impressed.  This is coming from a Linux guy too!!

I currently run Oracle Virtualbox for my virtualization needs so one of the main objectives for me was to see what Hyper V offers.  Hyper V is a completely different beast to Virtualbox. It looks very easy to use and has a lot more features than Virtualbox and all I need to do now is learn it.  Looks like I am going to have to buy some new hardware to run it on as I currently don’t have a spare 64 bit machine lying around.  Sorry kids it is back to spam sandwiches!!

Another cloud offering we were introduced too was Windows Azure. I will be honest and say I had never really paid attention to Windows Azure in the past as I have tended to use Amazon Web Services instead for testing software.  Both offer a pay as you go service for any extra server capacity that your network might need along with the option of either Linux or Windows servers. Both are very powerful platforms.

One thing I kept seeing time and again throughout the day was Linux.  During the demonstrations there were Linux virtual machines in both Hyper V and Windows Azure so I am guessing that Microsoft has finally come around to the fact that some businesses chose to use Linux rather than Windows (especially on servers).  What Microsoft is banking on is that you use them to manage ALL your virtual servers whether they run Windows or not.  From what I saw they are capable of doing just that.

After lunch we were introduced to System Center 2012 and some of its components (Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager to name just two).  This was a very heavy session (boy did my head hurt) and all I can say is that you can manage just about anything on your network (inc iOS and Android software deployment) with System Center 2012.  The type of clients I have will never use System Center 2012 and it is definitely aimed at the enterprise.

One of the surprises of the day was the Surface RT tablet I had a play with during lunch.  I like!! It is a cracking piece of kit and I want one. There I have said it.  Yes it is restricted to software from the Windows store but it comes with Office 2013 installed and has the ability to print.  The keyboard (optional) was nicely laid out and even the mouse pad worked. Only the high price is holding me back form buying one.  If they dropped the price they would sell a shed more of these I am sure but at this price (£400 +) they will struggle.

So what did I think overall?

I was surprised that Office 365 wasn’t mentioned especially with Microsoft marching full steam into the cloud and I was also surprised they only mentioned Windows Server 2012 Essentials in passing.  Yes a lot of the software on show is aimed straight at the enterprise but Microsoft can’t forget the small businesses who don’t need virtualization rights or want to keep their stuff inhouse (lack of broadband speed anyone?) and for these Windows  Server 2012 Essentials will be the software of choice.  Most of my customers (if not all) would probably choose Windows Server 2012 Essentials when Small Business Server 2011 reaches end of life.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Surface RT and Hyper V and it will be these snippets I will take away from the course and learn more about.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Microsoft’s Surface Pro enough for you to turn your back on ‘traditional’ laptops?

Well the dust has settled and it is eventually here – Microsoft’s new Surface Pro tablet.  From the specs it looks a serious piece of kit with its i5 processor and 4 GB of RAM and to be honest I would be very tempted in getting one.  The question is though would you be tempted to give up on the ‘traditional’ laptop and switch all your daily tasks to a device which aims to be the best of both worlds – tablet and laptop?  Lets take a look.


So what are the advantages of the Surface Pro?

1. Runs the full desktop version of Windows 8 meaning you can run all your usual programs.

2. It comes with Microsoft Office as standard.  This will be a major plus for the business orientated customer.

3. It is very quick thanks to its i5 processor and SSD drive.

4. It can be a tablet when you want it too and a laptop when you don’t.

5. Access to the full Windows Store.  Apps make sense a lot more when using a tablet rather than a desktop or laptop.

6. Touchscreen interface.  Most Windows 8 laptops and Ultrabooks don’t have this yet.  Windows 8 makes more sense with touchscreen rather than a mouse.

And the ‘traditional’ laptop?

1. Most laptops are a lot cheaper than the Surface Pro.

2. You can run Windows 7 on a laptop which a lot of people are more comfortable with.  Windows 8 is a big learning curve.

3. The Surface Pro has a good screen but it can be too small for some.

4. Storage space on the Surface Pro might be an issue.  Even though it comes in 64GB and 128GB versions after you install all the inbuilt apps you only get 29GB free on the 64GB model with 89GB on the 128GB model.  Not exactly loads is it?  On a laptop you get hundreds of GB depending on the model you purchase.

5. The battery life on the Surface is awful.  Apparently in some tests it ran out after 3 1/2 hrs.  Most laptops will exceed this.

6. Actually doing ‘proper work’ on a laptop is much easier.  Typing, printing and so forth is much easier on a laptop than on a tablet.  Yes you can add a keyboard to the surface but it costs extra.

The Surface Pro is a good piece of kit but trying to be a hybrid means Microsoft has had to make compromises in some areas (eg battery life is better on a laptop while the iPad is a better tablet) but this is not the main obstacle it faces.  The price is very steep and it also runs Windows 8 which for a lot of business people is still untested.  A lot of businesses are still in the process of upgrading to Windows 7 and won’t probably upgrade to Windows 8 for a long time (if ever) and this is the main market that Microsoft is aiming for.  As much as I would probably buy a Surface Pro (if I could afford one) I think it is going to struggle.

So what do you think? Are you tempted or will you be sticking with your ‘old’ laptop?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

 

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