On 8th April 2014 Microsoft will end support for both Windows XP and Office 2003. Anyone running their business network with Windows Server 2003 servers should be already planning for end of support for this in 2015.
Windows XP has been around for a long time and has been so popular that many users have stuck with it rather than moving to newer operating systems, probably because it was much more reliable than Windows 95, 98, Me (who remembers that one) and 2000 but also better received than its successor, MS Vista. Designed with internet and email access built-in, Windows XP connected with ease to printers, cameras and other peripherals and brought in new security measures for PCs.
If for no other reason, security should be why you replace your machine before April 2014. You will be familiar with the weekly updates your machine receives from Microsoft and many of these updates are to resolve security ‘holes’ found in the operating system. If you are running some internet security software this is unlikely to offer protection for Windows XP from April 2014 or shortly afterwards. This makes online banking and purchasing a very unsafe thing to be doing on a Windows XP machine.
Since the very unpopular MS Vista, and after listening to customers, Microsoft’s Windows 7 software worked with a much wider range of hardware, peripherals and software. Now Windows 7 has been superseded by Windows 8, designed to be easy to use on touch screens. This has not always gone down well with laptop and desktop users who have found it ‘long-winded’ to shut-down and some are annoyed by the ’tiles’.
Over the years Microsoft have released service packs to Windows operating systems which are typically a collection of bug and security fixes. Microsoft has recently released Windows 8.1 which could be taken as the first service pack for Windows 8 and reintroduced the Start button to make it easier to showdown desktops and laptops. Windows 8 also introduces and integrates more ‘cloud’ services.
So if you’re a Windows XP user where should you go next?
Jump ship from Microsoft-based PCs to Apple-based Macs.
Typically at the high-end of the price range of computers but users typically complain less about problems. You can also still get a version of MS Office for Macs if you need to create documents, spreadsheets and prefer MS Outlook as the email client.
Move to a Linux machine.
More difficult to source and more typically built by someone who is familiar with PCs and operating systems. They can work out to be fast and cheap.
Move to a Chrome machine.
Typically you will store everything in the cloud and rely upon a decent internet connection at all times.
Purchase a new Windows 8 PC.
Most computers in the high-street stores and online stores are still Windows based machines. Many of your programs can be reinstalled but also your data (documents, photographs, etc.) will be easy to transfer.
What if you’re an Office 2003 user?
You can upgrade to MS Office 2013 or one of the new MS Office subscription options.
Alternatively consider the free LibreOffice/OpenOffice Suites if you’re not bothered about Outlook for email and don’t need all the MS Office features but still need to edit Word/ Excel documents.
If you are a business user then feel free to try out one of the Microsoft Office365 options on a free 30 day trial or call tKnowIT to assist you.
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Have you had this call?
A growing number of people are receiving calls from companies claiming that they can tell your computer is infected and that, for a fee, they will fix it for you. Sometimes they will claim to be your Internet Provider, Microsoft or BT amongst others and will even give you UK based phone numbers.
I now get one or two calls a week from the public telling me they have had the call and asking ‘Is it true?’
It’s a scam and one of the new ways that people are trying to extort money from you.
They will often try to convince you by asking you to click some options on your machine that will typically display your event logs – which can look like the end of the world is nigh – if you have never seen them before. They will then ask for your credit card details and ask you to visit a website or send you an email with a link in it. Clicking this WILL give them remote access to your machine and likely lead to infections been installed – not removed.
What do they gain from all this? They get £60-£100 from you, access to your machine to attack other machines from, to scan your disk for personal information (identity theft) and, remember, they have your card details so ring the card company ASAP.
What should you do? I recommend you say thank you but you don’t believe them and put the phone down. Then run your own virus scanning software. It is possible that your machine is infected and is reporting back to them using something like the other annoying scam that is ‘Fake AntiVirus’.
If you don’t have any antivirus or you are still not sure then get your machine professionally scanned by a company such as tKnowIT or any of the other local IT companies you already use or can find in The Handy Mag.
The Iconia Tab W500 is a Microsoft Windows 7 based Tablet from Acer. There are not that many tablets running windows 7 and many reviewers say that windows 7 isn’t designed for, or doesn’t work on, a tablet. I’ve had the Acer W500 for a couple of months now and would have to say I disagree. It’s not perfect but it works and works well.
It is heavier than many of the android based tablets but has a ‘well-built and solid’ feel to it. Unlike many NetBooks it uses an AMD processor rather than the Intel Atom and, when combined with the SSD device and 2GB RAM, provides a decent boot up time. Once running the SSD also means it can be put into sleep mode and resume almost instantly.
It’s ideal for surfing the internet and reading emails and a touch of light ‘office work’.
One of the advantages over Android tablets is that if a program will run on your windows PC or laptop then it is likely to run on the W500. Like other windows 7 devices it is also unlikely to crash – which is something Android users are having to put up with for now.
The down side of a windows device is that you may have to buy programs, such as MS Office, to give you more features and install some form of internet security software. The latter will impact on speed but no doubt when the same products mature for android and apple then they will also ‘become slower and safer’
The 1280×800 screen is bright and clear, the sound is loud and clear for music, skype, etc and the W500 also comes with a full-sized USB port, SD Card slot and HDMI port. Like most tablets it has front and rear facing cameras. There is an optional docking keyboard system but I found the onscreen keyboard reasonably easy to use although it was easier still with an optional stylus/pen.
Running windows makes the device more expensive than an Android device and it’s not quite as slick at starting apps as they are but once started they tend not to crash. It makes the NetBook redundant and runs all my windows programs – new and old – so I can confidently carry it around instead of a more expensive laptop.
Acer also do an Android based system called the Iconia Tab A500, which could be confusing but it resembles other Android based tablets which tend to be slimmer and more lightweight.
For those of you looking for a tablet that has a familiar operating system and will run those windows programs you can’t be without then I’d say it’s worth a look.
Many people use the same password for everything because it’s easier for them to remember.
There are a number of reasons that this is a bad idea.
Say that you use the same password for your personal email account and your computer login at work. You give your colleague your password to access your machine at work for some reason. Someone sees this written down or overhears you say it or you don’t really trust the work colleague (or they simply guess it’s the same as the dogs name). Finding your email address is easy as you’ve probably forwarded them loads of jokes or been copied on someone else’s jokes list. Now, typically an email address and password will let you access a webmail system. This means an unknown number of people could get into your personal email account.
Chances are you use the same email address and password to get into your favourite online eTailers. It doesn’t matter if not, they just click the ‘forgot password’ option and a random new password is sent to your email account – which they have access to. They can then log into your eTailer, order some items but change the shipping address.
While they’re on the eTailer site they can often find out additional information to start the process of cloning your identity for other purposes. Your address, age, marital status, security question, mother’s maiden name, previous order details to get an idea of how much money you spend on certain products. This also means they can tailor an email phishing attack to appear as though it’s from the etailer with an unbelievable special offer which you need to click the link to get. You then give them your credit card details including the 3 digit code. They can now buy a few more things from other sites using all the correct card details and card address.
If you use the same password for your Favourite Social Networking site then they can get in and post a few dodgy links on your page to downloads that will infect your friends machines and for good measure send them a few emails with ‘watch this funny video’ type links – with your endorsement. Next thing is you find all your friends phoning and asking why their machines are now infected with Fake AntiVirus warnings after click your links.
Changed your passwords yet ?
The Acer c20 Pico Projector is about the same size as a modern SmartPhone but slighter thicker. It has a built-in battery so you can, in theory, use it without mains power. It comes with a charger and several cables/adapters to connect to various devices such as your laptop.
My initial idea was that it would be good to carry in place of a larger projector when doing small venue presentations, demonstrations or training. However I found that the connector to connect to a SmartPhone was an optional extra and when connected to a laptop the native resolution was less than the standard laptop screen so although the effective screen size was larger, the amount you could get on was less. I later found that better results were achievable if your laptop has an HDMI output in addition to the standard VGA output. However, in a normally lit office environment the image was also difficult to see clearly unless you beamed the image onto a screen close to the projector but this defeats the object and you may as well use a normal laptop screen or 19-21” TFT monitor.
Connecting the Acer c20 to a Freeview Recorder using a HDMI cable and mini-to-standard HDMI convertor (not included but not expensive) and dimming the room light levels and the c20 appears to have found a possible use. Probably not in an office but in a living room or more realistically a bedroom as a replacement for a flat panel TV.
With a flat, light coloured wall the images are clear and watchable without having to also acquire a projector screen. The HDMI feed from a HD device will give High Definition video quality up to 1080i. In my tests I mounted the projector onto a standard inexpensive camera tripod stand (<£10 from Lidl), fed a freeview HD signal from an AC-Ryan PVR and projected onto a flat wall 8ft away and achieved a watchable image with a diagonal image size of about 60”. The projector also comes with a built-in speaker and headphone/audio out socket.
The advantage of this over a TV or conventional protector is that is uses very little power (<10w), runs silently and gives you a 60” image for the same price as some much smaller TVs but takes up virtually no room.
On the down side I found that the projector did not run very long on battery so best to keep it on mains and you need to have a device such as a laptop or freeview/sky HD/DVD unit to feed it a signal as it has no built-in tuner.
I found the Acer c20 pico projector to be good, but maybe not for the original purpose intended. It takes very little time to setup, can be quickly focused using a manual focus wheel on the side although I did find that after the projector had been running for a while you had to refocus the image and the full image edge to edge/corner to corner – was not in full focus but to be fair I was probably pushing it at 8ft away and wasn’t too bothered that I was aiming exactly perpendicular to the wall.
Typical price is £160-180 online
For a number of years I have used HP LaserJet All-in-Ones as my preferred office printer and for a similar number of years I have been saying to myself that I must scan all of my personal and business paperwork into an electronic form. One of the reasons the piles of paper got higher and less organised was that the HP scanner feature was single sided and slow. That’s ok if you have only written on one side of a 10 page document but, call me a Yorkshireman, there’s another side to write on.
One of my customers asked if I could get them a ScanSnap as it had been recommended to them. After unpacking and installing the ScanSnap and its software I was a fan and had to have one for my office too. As the title says, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 is a mobile scanner. It’s small but not too small to compromise the task it is asked to do. The combination of the scanner and software allow you to scan both sides of the page with a single scan then save the pages as PDF, searchable PDF, JPG, load into Microsoft Word and numerous other formats.
I am now happily scanning as fast as I can to convert the mountain of paper and shelves of files into an electronic format which I can more easily access whenever and wherever I need along with ensuring it is backed up along with all of my other data.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap is fast, accurate and compact. If you are out and about on the road with your laptop then it can be powered from the USB port if you can’t find a mains point. The only hesitation to getting one of these for some people may be the price which is £200-250 which could make it more viable for business users who would quickly recoup the cost with the time saved scanning and accessing documentation.
After a few years using a Topfield TF5810PVRt I have had to move on. I was going to say ‘sadly’ as the Topfield was great. It recorded two freeview channels at the same time, had excellent video quality and, importantly, a series link feature. Series link is brilliant as you can record a series and then sit down when you have time and run through the entire series and fast forward the advert breaks (and any boring bits). Unfortuantely the Topfield let me down when the hard drive failed with over 100 hours of unwatched programming. I replaced the hard drive but 6 months later and it’s gone again.
When it failed the first time I started to investigate the alternatives and the Humax caught my eye. Now the Topfield has gone again I decided to retire it and go for the Humax.
Quickly unboxed it, glanced at the Quick Start guide, then plugged it in to all the connections that the Topfield had previously used but with one difference, the HUMAX has a network port. Powered up and 10 minutes later it’s automatically found the network (and internet) and tuned in all the Freeview channels.
First impressions – remote control & menu system easy to use and the image quality looks as good as the Topfield so far. Easy to add programmes to the recording schedule and also a nice ‘find’ feature to scan for programmes that are on later in the week.
As I’d missed a programme at the weekend that was on the BBC I pressed the ‘PC Portal’ button on the remote and then chose the BBC iPlayer icon. A few seconds later and the programme I was after started playing. I had to check twice though as the image quality was better than I’d expected.
Now I just have to wait for a few programmes to record and hope the HUMAX plays them back when I need them.
From late 2010 there was talk of a pending update for the windows phone 7 that would give it features like copy and paste. Microsoft themselves did not start talking about it officially until around february 2011.
I can’t really say that I missed the lack of a copy and paste feature and had several other things on my priority list.
First reports of the update turned out to be a minor update to prepare windows phone 7 (WP7) devices for future updates. Some phones ‘bricked’ when this minor update was installed. Worryingly for me it appeared to be mainly Samsung Omnia 7 models that were affected and that’s my phone. I am not totally clear on the process but I believe that updates are passed from microsoft to the phone makers and phone service providers who then test them and the service provider tweaks it and releases it to their users. Orange , my provider, held back until a couple of weeks ago when the minor update appeared. of course I got all excited thinking it was the major update but anyway my phone updated ok.
Today the major update appeared and I applied that to my phone. It went on without any problems and I now have a feature that lets me select, copy and paste.
A quick look through the menus does not appear to show anything else new but maybe they are for later.
I am hoping for customised ring-tones as the default ones are driving me mad.
I am also hoping for the sync feature to include synchronising of Internet Explorer favourites. This is something I found the Apple iPhone 3G managed quite well.
I’ll post more in the coming days if I find anything as I use the WP7 with the update.