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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

 

 

 

 

Which is better a Mac, Windows or Linux? I don’t think it matters that much anymore


I got asked the legendary question this week from a client which is better a Mac, Windows or Linux? Now a lot of users will have strong opinions of which is best and each operating system will have their own merits but my answer to the client was “none of them as your choice of operating system is slowly becoming irrelevant” to which I got a blank look of confusion.

Let me explain. Last week I purchased a Mac for the simple reason I have a new client who wants support on his Mac so I had better brush up on my skillset.  The first thing I did when I bought it was to install Google Chrome and sync my bookmarks.  Like most people these days (both corporate and home users) I spend most of my time in a browser and in my case this happens to be Google Chrome.  The underlying operating system is irrelevant.

I also have all my files stored on Dropbox which is cross platform so I can access them from any operating system or from any browser. I have clients (big and small) who are also going down the route of accessing everything online.

My office also contains a Linux system and multiple Windows virtual systems which also have Chrome installed and synced.  My choice of which system to use will obviously depend on what I am doing (eg testing some windows software, SSH into a server etc) but 90% of the time I spend in Chrome updating social media, updating website, monitoring servers etc.

Now if you have to use a specific package that only runs on Windows, Mac or Linux then you have already answered your own question but for the rest of us the choice of operating system is slowly becoming a non choice.

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

 

I am having a love affair – with Linux!!


My wife has finally found out what she has always thought – I am in love with Linux.  I honestly can’t help it (before someone asks no I don’t have a thing for penguins!!).  My main distributions of choice and Debian and Linux Mint and I love how stable both are. They both don’t (usually) break when I update them and in the case of Linux Mint things just work straight out of the box. Debian is a bit harder to setup but it makes a bloody good server platform.  I currently have two Debian and one Ubuntu server installed “out in the wild” and have had little problems with them over the last 12 months.

In my line of work one of the perks is trying out new and different pieces of software and hardware.  I get to see what works for me and what doesn’t (everyone will have their own way of doing things).  I have come to rely on Linux Live CD’s to recover data off Windows installations which will no longer boot up, running virus scans with Antivirus Live CD’s (BitDefender anyone?),using a netbook running Xubuntu 12.04 which I use to configure routers along with an Android tablet (based on Linux) which monitors my servers and which I also use to carry out wifi audits.  This is coupled with my own Debian 7 server running Oracle Virtualbox which allows me to try out different versions of both Linux and Windows operating systems.

But you see I have a problem which I have only just come to recognise.  The IT world is not just Linux based but also incorporates (to a very large extent) Windows.  Most of the clients I meet will be running Windows in some form, maybe just desktops and maybe for servers too and I need to keep my eye on the ball with regards to what is best for my clients and not necessarily best for me.  This is one of the reasons my next server install will probably be Windows Server 2012 Essentials as I have done loads of testing in a virtual environment but nothing as yet “in the wild”.

I have seen too many tech people (and good one’s too) go down the route of “I am Windows based”, or  “I am Linux based” or even “I just work on Mac’s”.  I would rather have a well rounded experience of both Windows and Linux systems so I could then judge what would work best for my clients in a particular situation.

I may end up working more on Windows systems but my toolkit will always contain Linux.

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 Perth.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Why hasn’t Linux broken through on the desktop?


Lets get the preconceptions out of the way first.  Linux is a very viable option on the desktop. All the major distributions are easy to use, do not require you to learn the command line and long gone are the majority of hardware issues that plagued Linux in the past.  But, and it is a big but, why hasn’t Linux broken through on the desktop then? Lets take a look.

1. Microsoft

By the time Linux came onto the scene Microsoft had already cornered the market.  Windows was coming preinstalled on almost every PC and laptop and Microsoft had the backing of all the major manufacturers.  Since not many people change their operating system on their laptop or PC it was very hard for Linux to gain traction.

2. It was and still is seen as a techies plaything

Perceptions can be good or bad and in Linux’s case it hasn’t really helpt that it is seen as an operating system for techies.  This was maybe true at the start but over the years distributions like Ubuntu have tried to bring Linux to the masses with new interfaces and less command line stuff.  Peoples perceptions though are very hard to change.

3. It’s free

When people see FREE they usually think what is the catch.  It is the same with businesses. In this case FREE means no licence fees and the freedom to do anything you want with the operating system (unlike with Windows).  You pay for support if you want it in the same way as you do with Windows, however again due to peoples perceptions FREE is seen as not very good and only for techie minded individuals.

4. Windows Vista

Windows Vista should have been Linux’s finest hour.  Surely with so many people hating Vista there was an opening for Linux to go mainstream?  Well not quite.  As it turns out people and businesses turned back to Windows XP in droves, hence hardening their commitment to using Windows.  Manufacturers weren’t convinced about Linux’s viability as a desktop operating system enough to start preinstalling it on their hardware and instead went back to XP.  The opening had gone.

5. The iPad

Back in 2007 the netbook was born with the introduction of the EeePC 701 and it came preinstalled with Linux.  The market immediately took off and for a time suggested Microsoft’s dominance could finally be challenged.  In 2010 Apple released the first iPad and killed the netbook off overnight.  It had better specifications than a netbook but more importantly it had WOW factor.  Once again Linux had been thwarted.

So what now for Linux? Everyone should try Linux at least once and I can assure you any preconceptions you may have will be blown away.  It works and it works very well.  The year of the Linux Desktop however has long gone.  The PC / laptop market is shrinking and consumers are switching to tablets and smartphones.  In the business environment most businesses are so entrenched in Micrososft products that it would be very difficult for them to switch over to Linux.  But there is one shining light and that is tablets.  Most tablets on the market use Android which itself is based on Linux so the year of the Linux Desktop may be gone but the Year of the Linux tablet is coming!!

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 Android becoming the new Windows?


At the moment in the smartphone market Android is king.  It is currently the most used operating system by some margin and most analysts expect this to continue.  In some ways this resembles the rise of Microsoft Windows in the early nineties and like Windows Android’s popularity is coming with a big price tag – viruses.  If you don’t believe me then check out the shear number of antivirus providers who are offering apps for Android.

Viruses on a smartphone? Yes you can get viruses on a smartphone just as easily as you can get viruses on Windows and usually it is down to the user.  Let me explain.  A lot of Windows users will go online looking for a specific package and just download it without really caring about where they get it from.  It just so happens that when they download their package “added goodies” will be attached and downloaded too.

It is the same with Android. As Android has gained in popularity so these same users are using the same tactic to download their apps.  If you use Google’s Play Store then you can generally be satisfied that the app you are downloading is free from viruses as Google does check all the apps in the store.  Apple also does this with the App Store but they are generally more rigorous than Google hence the low level of viruses on iOS.  But what about apps outside the Play Store?  Here you are own your own.  Some of the websites will be legitimate and you will have no problems while others will not be.  It is a minefield waiting for you to trip up.

So what should you do? You could swap to another operating system (iOS, Windows Phone or Blackberry etc).  You should only get your apps through the Play Store which minimises the threat but most importantly get yourself some decent antivirus for your phone.  As said earlier there are plenty of antivirus companies providing Android apps.

So do you have an Android phone? Are you worried about viruses? 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

 

Why the operating system is becoming irrelevant


As always it starts with a question and this time the question was – can I run Logmein on a linux system? In this case the answer was no and I pointed the client in the direction of Teamviewer instead.

At the moment software manufacturers are writing their software for certain operating systems only (for example LogMein doesn’t work on Linux) but with more and more users now turning to the internet to get their work done, for example using Google Docs or Office 365, or using apps does it actually matter what the underlying system is?

Lets take the consumer (ie home) market first. Here the PC is on its last legs and tablets and smartphones are on the rise.  Where previously you had to have a copy of Windows to be productive this is no longer the case (Office 365 for iphone anyone?).  You can now get apps on your tablet that allow you do accomplish almost anything.  For example on my Blackberry Playbook I purchased an app called Smart Office 2 which allows me to produce and edit .doc or .xls files from my tablet.  The same can be found on Android and iOS too. Failing that you can use Office 365 or Google Docs straight through your browser and use online storage to back up your files.  There are numerous apps for remote desktop software, photo editing etc.  In fact you can get apps for almost everything.  In this environment it doesn’t matter what operating your system is running.

Now let us turn our attention to the business environment where it is not so clear cut.  At the moment you are either a Linux business, an Apple business or a Windows one.  Yes you can have a mixture of all three but on the whole a business will use one operating system across all their computers.  Here businesses tend to stick with software that runs on their platforms, which makes it easier to support, however iPads and iPhones (and Android to a lesser extent) are slowly beginning to encroach on the traditional PC’s (PC’s will still be around for a long time yet).  With the advent of BYOD (Bring your Own Device) this will only increase and the only realistic way for businesses to support all these different devices is to put all the data in the cloud.  If you are accessing data online (again taking Google Apps as an example) it doesn’t matter what system you have so long as it can access the internet.  The ‘mobile takeover’ hasn’t happened yet but it is slowly making ground.

So what do you think does it matter what operating system you use to get things done? 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

 

 

The rise of the Cloud Backup server


It usually starts with a meeting and this time was no different.  I got asked to a new clients offices last week to discuss networking up their infrastructure.  Now we are talking 6 laptops max with one remotely working from home.  Should be nice and easy.

So we get talking and it turns out that what they really need is to share files.  Up comes the topic of online storage and very swifty I am quoting them for a new Linux based server which will have Dropbox installed.  This way they can have one copy of all their files on site and another backed up to the cloud which they can access from anywhere.  This fits their requirements perfectly so the job is a good un.

I my last post I mentioned that I was installing more and more NAS boxes onsite for business clients but if I am honest I am probably installing more cloud backup servers (ie Linux or Windows servers whose main purpose is to synchorize files with Dropbox so the client has a full copy of their files onsite, and in one central location, should anything happen to the cloud provider). Now I choose Dropbox because I have used it for the last 5 years on my own systems and like the feature set, its security and you can access your Dropbox from anything with an internet connection.  Yes I could use Box, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive etc but I tend to stick with software I trust and in this case that is Dropbox.

With more and more people working away from the office accessing your files on the move is becoming very important to a lot of companies. Cloud based solutions have very much come of age and I am sure I will be asked to install lots more Cloud Backup servers for clients (depending of course on the broadband speed in their main office!!).  On the flip side there are still a lot of businesses who rely on either on site backups or in a lot of cases no backups whatsoever and it is these companies that risk losing all their data if the worst happens.

So what do you think? Are cloud backup servers here to stay? Do cloud backups have a future? 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 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!!

 

Are NAS devices becoming the new standard for file servers in small businesses?

Almost every company I deal with has some form of file server whether it be a full Windows Server on a domain, a Linux server or even a Windows 7 box just sharing files across a workgroup.  There is one device though that I keep seeing and installing more and more and that is the little NAS box.


These little devices are fantastic at sharing files or being used to backup all the systems on the network.  They can also be administered from a web page and are usually much cheaper than implementing a server.  The cost of ownership is usually less too with lower energy consumption (lower spec CPU with less heat generated).

Now the question is are they better than a full server? This depends on what you mean by better.  For instance if you are just looking at the cost of maintenance and implementation then yes they probably are.

But if you are looking to add roles to your server at a later date ( eg maybe running a file serving, DNS server and DHCP server on the same box) then a file server is a much better proposition whether it be Linux or Windows based.  Chances are you are also more familiar using a Windows or Linux based file server so training costs would also be less.  There is also one major thing going for file servers that NAS boxes in general (but not all) don’t have and that is backing up to the cloud.  You can install Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or whatever you fancy on your file server that can automatically backup your files to the cloud.  If cloud backups are required then you seriously need to look at implementing a file server (again whether this is Linux or Windows based depends on your network and expertise).

In my experience small businesses are trying to squeeze more value from their IT so in this scenario the little NAS box becomes an attractive proposition.

It was only last week I had a meeting with a company ( 8 employees) who are interested in implementing a file server on their network which would also backup their files on a nightly basis.  I quoted them for a SBS  2011 system, a Linux one and also a NAS box.  It was no surprise that the NAS box was the cheapest and in this case it does everything that the client wants (they don’t require cloud backups) so they are going with it.

So what do you think are NAS devices becoming the new standard for file servers in small businesses?

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!!

 

When should you call in the professionals?


Everyone likes to dabble in a bit of DIY sometimes and computers are no different.  When the computer ‘breaks’ a lot of people will tinker with it without realising they are actually making it worse.  So when should you call in the professionals?

I had a call from a gentleman once who said that his computer wasn’t booting up and asked if I could take a look.  Once onsite I asked the usual questions; what exactly is the problem, when did it start etc to which to uttered the immortal words “everything was working fine until I took out all the fans!!” It turns out that the fans (it was a gaming PC so he had two in the case) had both become very noisy so the gentleman decided to make it quieter by taking them both out.  Consequently the system had overheated and would not boot up.  I am guessing the build up of dust within the system (vents were also blocked) didn’t help his cause either.

There was a business I used to deal with who had a server within a cupboard which they allowed me to have a look at once.  They didn’t want me to touch it as they were happy with it the way it was.  I asked them “What exactly is the server doing?” as at that time it wasn’t very obvious to which they replied “We think it is taking backups”.  I am not making this up.  A couple of months later one of the laptops died (hard drive) and the client lost all the data on it.  It turns out the server wasn’t even connected to the network!!

But one of the best ones I have come across was the business who’s IT support was a friend of a friend “who knew about computers”.  The companies network had wifi which had no encryption, a Windows 2008 server sitting in the corner of the office which he hadn’t got around to installing just yet, a mixture of Vista, XP and 7 systems (all home versions) and everyone backing up to pensticks!! It took a while, and quite a bit of money to get them up to an acceptable level which allowed them to carry out their daily tasks and secure the network.

So next time you think about ‘tinkering’ with your systems please remember one thing. Don’t touch them unless you know what you are doing as you might just be making things worse, not better!!

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

 

 

Please don’t delete anything!!


One of my first ever call outs was from a woman in Stirling who had issues with her internet. When I arrived on site I started troubleshooting the problem.  First I checked the cables, then the ethernet adapter swiftly followed by the router but as I dived deeper into her system something was not quite right.  A lot of things weren’t working as they should.  For example the graphics seamed off while a lot of programs weren’t opening properly.  It was at this point she said the immortal words ‘It hasn’t worked right since I started deleting things!!’. Apparently the system had been running slow for a couple of weeks so she thought she would have a bit of a clean out.  She had inadvertently started deleting important system files thinking that she didn’t need them!!  Needless to say the system had to be reset and it cost her more than it should have.

Don’t for one moment think this only happens in the home market.  I had a call out (again in the early days) from a company who were having issues with their server running Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.  There was a guy who worked there who thought he was a bit of a wiz kid when it came to computers and had been ‘tweaking’ the settings and cleaning up the system.  During one of his ‘clean up’ operations he deleted the antivirus on the system thinking it was out of date and it was getting replaced with a newer piece of software.  It wasn’t and it didn’t get replaced  Having left the server completely unprotected for two weeks the server contracted a virus which resulted in the whole thing getting reset and restoring from backups.  Needless to say the company was not best pleased!!

So the moral of todays story is do not to touch your computer systems unless you are certain you know what you are doing.  If you are in any doubt then contact someone who does know and leave them sort it and whatever happens DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING OFF THE SYSTEM UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS.

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

 

 

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