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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The end of Windows XP is finally here

Posted by David Bernstein

If it seems like Windows XP has been around forever, it’s because it has. It was released in August of 2001 and has been going strong ever since. In fact out of all the Windows powered desktops, 44% of them are still running Windows XP. Many people keep their Windows XP computers simply because they work or because the hardware may not be sufficient to run Windows 7 or Windows 8. Plus many corporations don’t want to spend the money to upgrade all the computers in their organization.

Microsoft has decided to pull the plug on Windows XP support on April 8th since its past its life expectancy and the want to focus more on Windows 7 and Windows 8. Plus they want consumers to upgrade and therefore spend their money on the newer versions of Windows. Also this will mean they won’t have to put in the time or effort to patch Windows XP if it’s not supported anymore.

Just because XP won’t be supported doesn’t mean you will have to stop using the operating system. What it will mean is that there will not be any more updates or more importantly security patches which will leave XP users more vulnerable to attacks as security holes are discovered in the OS. Windows XP was developed at a time when internet security was not as big of an issue as it is today. Windows 7 and 8 were designed with security in mind so overall they are much more secure operating systems. Plus Windows XP doesn’t support newer versions of Internet Explorer which are more secure than the older versions. In fact Avast Chief Operating Officer Ondřej Vlček says Windows XP users are "six times more likely to get hacked than Windows 7 users”.

So now the question is, will you be updating?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Google handing over less data as the government requests more

Posted by Jim Bernstein

With all the talk in the news about the government spying on us and collecting personal information from our computers and cell phones people often wonder how much data is given to the government by companies like Google and Facebook etc. Since these companies store so much of our information it makes sense that the government would go after them to get the information they say they need to “keep us safe”.

After the whole Edward Snowden incident people have been looking at companies like Google and Facebook and wondering how much of our information they are sharing with the government. At first Google made it seem like they would never do such a thing but it turns out that they were giving out some information to the government.

But now it seems that they have decided to cut back on how much data they share even though the government has increased the number of requests for information from Google. Government requests have gone up 120% since 2009. During the second half of 2013 Google was fulfilling 64% of government requests compared to 76% of requests in the second half of 2010. The US government has the highest number of requests for data by far with France coming in 2nd and Germany coming in at 3rd.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ATMs may be at risk because of the end of Windows XP support

Posted by David Bernstein

As you may or may not know, computers are everywhere whether you realize it or not. They are running things that we don’t even think about such as our cars and TVs. One place where it’s important to have a secure computing environment is inside of ATMs. Since ATMs give us cash at the press of a button, we don’t want them giving our cash to the wrong person.

Many ATMs use Microsoft’s Windows XP as their operating system and Microsoft is going to be stopping support for Windows XP on April 8th of this year. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use Windows XP anymore but it will mean that there will not be any more security patches and support for the operating system itself.

One news site reports that 95% of the world’s ATM machines run on Windows XP and if it’s true this poses a serious security threat. If the operating system of your ATM was not secure, would you want to put in your card and PIN and risk someone getting your information and potentially your money? Microsoft has been pushing Windows XP users and companies to upgrade their computers for some time and many banks are now in the process of upgrading their ATMs to avoid potential security issues. But will they get the job done before it’s too late?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Microsoft can’t even give Windows 8 away… or can they?

Posted by David Bernstein

As you may or may not know, Windows 8 has not been a huge success and has been met with resistance by die hard Windows fans who like their start button and start menu. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s operating system designed to work with PCs and tablets but as most of us have found out its better suited for tablets or at least touch screens.

Now it seems that Microsoft may be giving away Windows 8 for free (or very cheap) in what they call “Windows 8 with Bing” in an effort to get more people to use Windows 8 and upgrade from Windows 7. This free version will be very similar to the retail version of Windows 8 but come pre bundled with Microsoft apps and services that they think you would use.

There has been a trend going towards selling services rather than operating systems so this may be a way for Microsoft to get Windows 8 on more devices and make their money on services or applications rather than the OS itself. It may also be a way for Microsoft to compete with cheaper “cloud” based PCs like Google’s Chromebook.

Monday, January 20, 2014

HP sticks it to Windows 8 with new Windows 7 PCs

Posted by Jim Bernstein

If you are even slightly into computers then you know how different Windows 8 is from previous versions of Windows and how it’s been a real struggle for Microsoft to get people to adapt to and embrace it. And if you have used it yourself then you know how frustrating it can be to do things you used to be able to do easily before. Then again there are many people who love the new interface but not nearly as many as Microsoft would like there to be.

Hewlett Packard (HP) is a huge computer manufacturer and sells countless numbers of new computers each year. Now it seems that they are promoting Windows 7 over Windows 8 as a preferred option for new computers calling it a "familiar and intuitive environment" and “back by popular demand.” Of course you will still be able to get a new HP computer that runs Windows 8 but now you will be able to “downgrade” to Windows 7 if that is what you are really after.

HP is most likely doing this to boost PC sales which have lost some serious ground to tablets in the last couple of years. Since Windows 8 is designed to run on tablets its better suited for someone with a touch screen rather than a keyboard and mouse so that is part of the problem for diehard PC users. With Windows support set to continue until 2015 we may see more personal computer manufacturers doing the same thing.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Courts rule against Net Neutrality

Posted by David Bernstein

The Internet is a place that most of us consider to be free and open where we can reach any website out there without having to worry about being cut off or restricted. This was the goal of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Net Neutrality plan which would require internet providers to treat all traffic equally and not pick and choose what traffic goes through and who gets what bandwidth.

A federal appeals court ruled against the FCC and Net Neutrality saying its regulations were overreaching and some say that competition is enough to keep things fair. But supporters of Net Neutrality say that regulation is needed otherwise bandwidth will be sold to the highest bidder and internet providers will be able to discriminate against their competitors and not having it benefits the larger carriers such as Comcast and Verizon giving them more control.

The FCC may try to appeal the ruling since they have the authority to write rules “governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic” but that may not be enough to get their legislation passed.

Friday, January 03, 2014

YouTube to offer 4k video

Posted by Jim Bernstein

If you have a semi new TV then you know what HD looks like and are familiar with terms like 1080p and 720p in regards to the resolution\definition of the picture. And if you watch YouTube videos you most likely know that most videos have the option to watch in HD assuming the uploader recorded the video in HD to begin with. Most of the time switching to HD makes quite a difference in picture quality but can sometimes cause slower performance and lagging with the video itself.

The latest and greatest video quality standard is called 4k and it offers higher resolution and has 4 times higher resolution than 1080p. YouTube has announced that they will be offering 4k video support for YouTube videos in the near future. But Google will be using their own codec that they have been developing called VP9 which is a royalty free codec and an alternative to the H.265 video codec used by other 4k implementations.

Google has partnered up with other companies such as LG and Sony to help kickoff the VP9 codec and they have 19 partners lined up pledging to support the new V9 codec. Google has said that they are not opposed to supporting the H.26 codec and don’t want to start a codec war. By using this new codec Google says you will not only have better quality video it will also reduce the amount of data needed to stream video by half which will help with the dreaded buffering we are all used to.