ComTech: IT Support Stirling
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Upgrade or buy new? Choices, choices….

It is the age old question. When is the right time to change my computer, whether it be a laptop, PC or tablet? The answer as always is there is no right answer as it all depends on the systems in question and what they are been using for.


Lets take an example.

I was asked to quote a client a while back to migrate them from Windows XP to Windows 7.  On inspection of their systems it was clear that two of them needed replacing (calling the systems ancient would be polite) but two could very easily run Windows 7 with a memory upgrade.  The client was shocked at this.  In their mind because the two systems were 5 years old they must be past it and they needed new ones.  I pointed out that they were only accessing files on a local server, word processing, a couple of spreadsheets, emails and some internet browsing so they weren’t exactly getting taxed.  In this scenario it made more sense to spend a relatively little amount of money upgrading the two systems in question than purchase two new ones.

It is the same with Windows Vista machines.  Most systems running Vista could easily run Windows 7 with a memory upgrade rather than purchasing new systems.  You would probably be running 32 bit software but unless you are a power user you are unlikely to notice the difference in performance. The reason I am saying Windows 7 and not Windows 8 is that for all the advertising Windows 8 still confuses a lot of users (personally I like it).

The flip side of this of course are the businesses that refuse to change their systems when it is blindingly obvious they are not fit for purpose.  I have known clients in the past who wanted to upgrade systems rather than purchase systems thinking this would be the cheaper option.  I did try and point out that I would be very happy maintaining their systems but they would end up seeing me more than my wife does (and with me would come the bill).

As you can see there is no right or wrong answer to the question as it does depend on the state of the existing systems and what they are being used for.  When you start to think you need new systems ask yourself one question – what exactly do I need the system to do?

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 you encrypt your laptop?

I had an interesting conversation last week with a potential new client regarding encryption.  He works away a lot and was wondering if there was anything that could be done to protect his data should he lose his laptop.  The answer was a big resounding YES. The yes is encryption.


To put it simply encryption scrambles the data on the hard drive making it unreadable. To read it you need the decryption key (password) which when entered allows a user to see everything.  At the moment most types of encryption are unbreakable so as long as you choose the right type you should be fine.

Sounds good but there are some drawbacks which you should know about.

1. Lose the decryption key (password) and you lose access to your data.

2. If you don’t do backups and your hard drive fails you will lose all your data.  I would never recommend encryption to a client if I wasn’t confident about their backup strategy.

3. There will be a slight loss in performance as everytime you enter your password the hard drive gets decrypted.

So which ones are best?

On a Windows system you are spoilt for choice.  On a Windows 7 system I would personally go with TrueCrypt as I have use this in the past and found it to be a fantastic piece of software.  On a Windows 8 system I would upgrade to Windows 8.1 and then use the inbuilt encryption software.  If you buy a Windows 8.1 system and log in with a Microsoft account then encryption is turned on by default so just make sure you do backups!!

On Mac OSX use FileVault2 which following the Apple way of doing things “just works” and on Linux I would again go with TrueCrypt (unless someone has any better suggestions?).

So the question remains should you use it?

If you are a mobile worker who is away from the office quite a bit then definitely yes.  Encryption will give you that added protection and piece of mind should your laptop go “walkies”.  Just remember to do backups and don’t forget your password.

If you work all day, every day from a desk in an office then encryption is probably not for you.

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 both business and personal clients in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

Is Windows 8 really struggling that bad?

I have been reading quite a few articles this week from zdnet regarding the failure of Windows 8.  Windows 9 is even apparently being brought forward for a release in April 2015. Is it really a failure though or is this something drummed up by the media?


Lets take a look at the numbers.  As of the end of December 2013 Windows 8 and 8.1 combined has a market share of 10.46%.  Windows 7 is still way out in front with 47.52%.  The installed PC base globally is estimated to be approx 1.6 billion which means at the moment Windows 8 (and 8.1) are installed on approximately 167 million PC’s (and laptops).  To me that is a very large number of installed systems.

While talking to a lot of my clients regarding Windows 8 there is a very noticeable split of opinion between the younger generation and the older one.  The older generation was quite happy on XP (and in some cases Windows 7) so when they see how different Windows 8 is they hate it.  Compare that to the younger generation with their smartphones and tablets who seam to gell with the “Metro” interface.  Personally I don’t mind it (I used to hate it) but I still disagree with Microsofts vision of one interface for all systems.

For a long time wherever Microsoft led the market followed (UEFI anyone?) but times have changed.  Microsoft is no longer the leader of the pack as the market has been turned on its head by tablets and smartphones.  In the enterprise things are chugging along as normal as Microsoft has a very strong grip with the likes of Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V but the poor PC and laptop are taking a battering.  The PC is not going anywhere anytime soon but the market will reach a point where it can’t shrink anymore and stabilize leaving Microsoft as the big fish in a very small pond.

Microsoft knows this and that is why we have Windows 8.  Would it not have been better though to continue to develop Windows along the same lines as Windows 7 and have a brand new operating system developed specifically for tablets rather than the one interface across everything.  Something along the lines of iOS and OS X perhaps?

I don’t think that Windows 8 is struggling as bad as the media is suggesting but I do agree that it isn’t doing as well as Microsoft had hoped.

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

 

 

Is Windows XP dead? Not by a long shot!!


April 8th 2014. Put that date in your diary as it is the date all support for Windows XP ends. You must be thinking “so what consumers and businesses will have upgraded to either Windows 7 or 8 by then surely”. Or will they?

Current statistics show that Windows XP is currently the second most used operating system on the planet with 37.17% share. Yes its share is dropping month on month but at the current rate it could still be the second or third most used operating system when support ends next year (depends on if Windows 8 finally starts making inroads). So why is that?

In most peoples minds XP “just works”.  They have become so used to it that they don’t want to upgrade unless their hardware dies and they have no choice.  I regularly see PC’s with XP installed which are 6-8 years old which the customer would rather clean up and keep working rather than upgrade to a new one and lose XP.

In the business environment things are much different.  Here applications have been written specifically for XP and businesses are very loathe to upgrade and possibly lose them.  At present Windows 8 is no goer for a lot of businesses so Windows 7 is their only upgrade option.  Even though they have an upgrade option a lot of businesses will still turn to running Windows XP inside virtual machines just to keep their old software running.

A lot of this problem is down to Microsoft themselves.  When Vista turned out to be a complete disaster they extended Windows XP’s lifecycle to counteract the possibly of consumers and businesses turning to OS X and Linux. It worked but it also had the side effect of making people reluctant to upgrade when Windows 7 came out.  If Microsoft has any sense it wont make them same mistake with Windows 8 (even if it turns out to be a dog like Vista).

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!!

 

 

 

 

A week with Windows 8

I have tried Windows 8 a couple of times since its launch but to really see what it can do I decided to use it as my sole operating system on a daily basis for a week.  So it was to be used for internet browsing, social media, invoicing, blogging, updating the website and anything else business wise I could throw at it.  This is not meant to be a review of Windows 8 (there have been plenty of them already) but rather how it coped in my business environment.


As I do a lot of my work within virtual environments I decided to install Windows 8 within Oracle Virtualbox with ‘only’ 2 GB of RAM.  Installation was a breeze and soon enough I had the now familiar login screen.  I don’t like the fact you have to login with a Windows Live ID but since I have one it was not an issue.

Now onto the bit a lot of people hate – the new ‘Metro’ UI.  Personally I don’t mind it as I soon learnt that if you pin all your most used programs to the Start Page accessing your programs is very fast (press the Windows key at any point takes you to the Start Page where all your program shortcuts are).  While we are at it I don’t miss the Start button either. Moving the mouse to the top right of the screen to access the search function becomes second nature when you do it a couple of times, however there is a problem if you don’t know exactly what you are searching for.  If you are used to using Control Panel on earlier versions of Windows then this should not be an issue (just search for Control Panel and you get the familiar Control Panel screen with all the settings) but if you are used to just browsing for the setting you want to change then you might become unstuck.

The underlying feeling with the new interface is that all the good stuff from previous versions of Windows is still there and functions the same way (eg Control Panel) but there is now a completely different way to access it.  People don’t like change (I hated the new interface when it came out) but over time you get used to it.

Now onto the internet where I do most of my day to day work.  Internet Explorer 10 is fast and pretty easy to use however there were times when certain webpages didn’t render properly.  I personally prefer Google Chrome so I downloaded this instead.  Installation again was a breeze but initially Chrome ran a bit slow.  I had to tweak some settings to get it to run faster but since then everything has been fine.

For word processing and spreadsheets I use Libreoffice rather than Microsoft Office since I am an opensource fan and after a week of using it on Windows 8 I can say there have been no issues whatsoever.  It opens up quickly and has not crashed once (which is rather nice).  I have also installed and used GIMP for photo editing (adding images to my website) and again it has worked flawlessly.  The one program I did have issues with was Skype.  The new Skype interface was confusing and wanted to use the entire screen once opened.  This will take some getting used to.  One thing I will ask is it just me or is Skype less reliable now that Microsoft has taken it over?  The reason I ask is that I have had a lot of connectivity issues over the last 6 months which I don’t ever remember having before.

On the hardware side Windows 8 has been fantastic recognising all my usb devices without any glitches and even my HP Deskjet A printer was installed with no fuss (Windows even found and installed the driver without me having to do anything).

Oh I forgot to mention the start up time is very quick too but Microsoft could place the shutdown button in a more convenient place.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on what Windows 8 can do.  I have only really used it for one week and in that time I can’t really expect to use or tinker with every setting or menu.  From what I have seen so far I think Microsoft is on a good path.

So what is the overriding verdict then? For my daily usage Windows 8 has been fantastic.  It has done everything I could want it to do and more.  Would I go out and purchase it? Probably not and the reason for that is it doesn’t offer anything dramatically different (apart from the new interface) than Windows 7.  Here Microsoft has a big problem.  Windows 8 on a tablet or laptop with a touchscreen would be a very pleasant experience indeed but on a ‘traditional’ laptop or desktop there is no real WOW factor.  Yes it is very good operating system in my opinion but so is Windows 7.  People are more comfortable with the old interface and will continue to use that instead. Watch out for Windows 7 becoming the new XP.

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!!

Why hasn’t Windows 8 been adopted more?


Windows 8. These two words have split opinion more than anything I can remember over the last couple of months.  Some people love the new look while others absolutely hate it but whatever you opinion the figures don’t lie – sales are not as strong as Microsoft would have liked. The sales of Windows Vista over the same period after its launch were higher and the public absolutely hated that!! So what are the factors that are affecting Windows 8 adoption? Lets take a look.

The new interface

This is what has caught most peoples attention.  The new UI is completely different to anything which has ever come out of Redmond.  Instead of defaulting to the traditional desktop it now defaults to ‘Metro’ instead and a lot of people don’t like this. Also the removal of the start button has changed the way you load programs (personally I don’t mind this) and people don’t like change.  Both consumers and businesses are going to have to relearn the way you use Windows and this has put off a lot of people.

The hardware wasn’t there

Personally I think this is one of the major factors affecting Windows 8 adoption.  To fully appreciate Windows 8 you need to try it on a touchscreen and to put it blunt the hardware at launch simply wasn’t upto the task and as yet it is still a long way behind.  On a laptop with a keyboard and mouse Windows 8 can feel clunky and not intuitive at all.  Use it on a touchscreen and the experience increases ten fold.

Windows 7

Windows 7 is having a huge effect on how people and businesses view Windows 8 but not in a good way.  People like it and are comfortable using it so why upgrade to a newer and different operating system in which they would have to relearn everyday tasks.  Windows 7 could become the new Windows XP and for Microsoft that could be a disaster.

Different versions of Windows 8

Microsoft has aimed Windows 8 as the operating system that can span multiple devices and architectures.  In my opinion this was a mistake.  Take a look at Apple who have OS X on their Macbooks and iOS on their phones and tablets.  This in my mind is the right approach.  If you try and cover all bases then people will expect programs to work on all the devices.  If they don’t you will receive a backlash (enter stage left Windows RT).  Design an operating system for tablets and touchscreen and design another for the ‘traditional’ laptops and PC’s.  This way consumers are in no doubt you can’t run the same apps / programs on both and everyone understands from day one.  At the moment Microsofts strategy is confusing.

Price of hardware

At the moment the price for Windows 8 tablets are too high.  Windows has always been associated with computing for the masses so trying to position yourself as an alternative to Apple and asking for the same price is just wrong.  Drop the prices and people will start to buy them.

Have I missed anything? If so please let me know!!

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 Windows 8 really that bad?


The dust has settled and Windows 8 has now been with us a while so I thought I would share some of my thoughts regarding Microsofts newest (and best?) offering.

When Windows 8 first arrived I was one of the many people who hated the new interface.  I thought it was overly complicated and so completely different that the average user would find it very difficult.  To use the interface effectively you need to remember that to access anything move the mouse to the top right hand corner of the screen or alternatively use the Windows key to return to the Start screen.  After using it for a while you do get used to it however it is still so completely different from previous versions that a lot of people still hate it.  People just don’t like change.

The lack of the Start button was another issue I didn’t like.  Again after using Windows 8 for a while I will be honest and say I don’t really miss it.  If you pin your most frequently used programs to the ‘Metro’ interface you will have access to them the minute Windows 8 starts.  As for the ‘traditional’ desktop I can say that I am using it less and less due to the fact that any installed programs are automatically attached to the Start screen meaning that I don’t have to go looking for them.  If your programs are attached to the Start screen then what is the point of the desktop? In my opinion Windows 8 doesn’t really need it.

One big plus I only found out this week is that you don’t need to install antivirus onto Windows 8 as it already comes with some installed in the form of Windows Defender.  I didn’t really see the point of Windows Defender in previous versions of Windows as I felt it just got in the way and caused more hassle than it was worth.  In Windows 8 it has the same functionality as Microsoft Security Essentials and seeing Security Essentials is a very good product to start with then surely this is a bonus.

The boot time for Windows 8 is another big plus.  It is very fast at startup and this is very welcome.

I haven’t really begun to explore the inner workings of Windows 8 yet.  For the most part under the hood it is still Windows 7 (Control panel, Computer, Device Manager etc) but the way you access the different menus is completely different.

The big question is would I advise a client to upgrade to Windows 8 or not?

Upgrade to Windows 8 – no.  I am a firm believer that if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it and Windows 7 is definitely not broke.  It is still a really good operating system so if you have it on your system my advice would be keep using it.

What about buying a new system?  This is tricky.  At the moment it is becoming more difficult to buy a system with Windows 7 on it.  I have a lot of clients who use XP and like it because in their eyes it is what they are used too.  A lot of these would find it very difficult to transfer over to Windows 8 without a lot of training so to these I would recommend Windows 7.  As for the rest I would say try Windows 8 but explain to them that the interface is completely different and to approach it with an open mind.  Windows 8 is different but it will grow on you.

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.

 

 

 

My little eeepc 701 lives!!

It lives!! About a month ago my trusty Asus Eee pc701 developed the ‘click of death’ – bugger.  Initially I thought the hard drive was the soldered SSD type which would have meant game over (new motherboard required) but after checking I realised it wasn’t.


Next stop was ebay and I managed to find a new SSD hard drive (16 Gb) for the lovely some of £25 – not to bad.  It arrived the next day and after much rejoicing was fitted.  Now what software to run on it? Initially it had a mighty 8Gb SSD so Windows XP fitted but Windows 7 was a struggle.  Turning to Linux I settled on Lubuntu and it ran smoothly until the hard drive started to fail.  This time around I wanted to see how it would cope with Windows 7 installed so I installed Home Premium first.  With only a 900 Mhz processor under the hood the eepc 701 was never going to be a speed freak but it does run Windows 7 smoothly enough (it is upgraded to 2 Gb RAM) but it is restricted to a resolution of 640 * 480 which is not great.  Due to this limitation I turned back to Linux and currently run it on Linux Mint 13 with the XFCE desktop.  It runs quickly enough for the tasks I need to use it for.

Now why would I go through all this hassle for a netbook which is now 5 years old? A couple of reasons:

1. I hate throwing out old kit.  If I can reuse a piece of computer equipment I will.  The Eeepc 701 still has life in her yet!!

2. Configuring routers and troubleshooting wifi issues.  This is the mainstay for the eeepc 701.  It is great for configuring routers on existing networks and troubleshooting wifi issues. As much as I love my Blackberry Playbook this is one area the netbook trumps it.

3. Sometimes I just want to type.  Surfing the internet on a tablet is great but sometimes I just want to type instead of using a touchscreen keypad.  Yes my Blackberry Playbook has a bluetooth keyboard which is great but it is not the same is it?

4. It is very portable, light and has very good battery life.

Now I could use a laptop but since I don’t own one I would have to go out and spend hundreds of pounds to get one.  The eeepc 701 cost me £25.  No contest is it?

Do you own one of these wonderful little machines?

About the Author

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.

Have you tested that software yet?

April 8th 2014.  You may want to add that date to your diary as it is the end of support date for Windows XP.  If you are still on Windows XP after that date you will not get any further security updates from Microsoft and your systems will be vunerable to all sorts of nasties if they are connected to the internet.


But that seems ages away so why should I worry right know?

True it is still a while away but it is always better to start planning these things early so you don’t end up struggling to make the switch right at the end.  Another thing to think about is will your software run on Windows 7 (or even Windows 8)? Getting systems for employees and training them up on the new operating system is one thing but not having a piece of business critical software running correctly (if at all) is a BIG problem.

If you start thinking about what software you use now, along with slowly upgrading your systems then the cost in terms of training and system outlay can be spread out.

OK so you know what software you currently have and what you will probably need in the future but how do you go about testing it with Windows 7?  You have the following choices.

1. Go out and purchase a system with Windows 7 and install the software on it.  Use the software over a period of time (personally I would say one month) and try to accomplish tasks you would do on a daily basis.  This should give you an idea how the software performs on the new operating system.

2. Install Windows 7 as a virtual machine on your existing system and test the software as described above.  The advantage of this method is that you only have to purchase a copy of Windows 7 and not a complete system.

3. If your software is not able to run on Windows 7 you can try either running it inside a Windows XP virtual machine, running it in XP Compatibility Mode or you may have to purchase a similar piece of software which does run on Windows 7.

Whichever method you chose I would strongly suggest you start thinking about testing your software sooner rather than later.  In doing this any teething issues that you weren’t expecting can quickly be resolved (my printer doesn’t work with Windows 7 — argh!!).

About the Author

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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