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April 28th, 2011

Even if your work computer is maintained and repaired by the IT department, and your spouse takes care of the ones at home, you really should know the basics of troubleshooting. Since about 90% of issues are caused by about half a dozen things (on PCs and Macintoshes both), any time you put into learning basic troubleshooting is a good investment. Troubleshooting Tips for PC and Mac ComputersWe’ll take a look at a few of the most common issues.

The PC side

On PCs, that “90% of all computer problems” phrase means that your computer likely suffers from one or more of the following conditions: a fragmented hard drive; Windows registry errors and improper settings; too many programs loading at startup; and adware, spyware, malware and viruses. Bad RAM, dying hard drives, faulty motherboards and other serious problems cause the 10% of cases that require expert repairs.

CRE computer rentals, of course, arrive in perfect working order, but there’s no magic involved, just the generally accepted PC regimen: Use a decent defragmenter (the one that comes with Windows is notoriously bad); use a registry cleaner; get your startup routine in order; and use a well-rated tool for removing adware, spyware, malware and viruses. If you don’t have time to study all the alternatives, a recent PCmag.com article discusses the best maintenance and tune-up tools.

On the Mac

One recurring problem with Mac OS X is programs crashing (freezing). It can happen even with well-maintained iMac rentals, but the solution is easy – press Command-Option-Escape or choose Force Quit from the Apple menu, and select the unresponsive program from the resulting list. Forcing a crashed program to quit will rarely affect other programs or the OS itself, and the application should run fine when restarted. If your Mac is beginning to slow down and feel sluggish, on the other hand, it could be many things – but remember, the chances are nine out of 10 that the problem is among the basic ones we’re discussing here.

At least 20% of your hard drive should be free space (with Windows, too). Check yours by highlighting the drive icon in the Finder and pressing Command-I (Get Info). If there’s not enough free space, throw out garbage, offload files and/or buy a bigger hard drive (internal or external). You also may need to repair permissions, which you do with the Disk Utility program. This application will also “verify” your drives and “repair” a number of common problems with files and volume structures. The same problems that can crash an iMac can bring down the mighty Mac Pro rentals, too – but never fear, Disk Utility comes on every Mac.

Bottom line reminders

If you learn the basic steps in this article, and read the other instructional blogs that we publish regularly, soon enough you will only have to worry about the 10% of computer problems that require expert intervention. Speaking of experts, our Account Executives are ready to reply right now to your call or e-mail. Of course, you can use the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need.

April 26th, 2011

When Apple unveiled Macintosh OS X in 2001, the only “iDevices” were iPods. There were no iPhones and no iPad rentals, but people were using all makes and models of PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants, like Palm Pilots), older and newer iPods, the first external USB drives and laptops. They needed a way to synchronize (“sync”) contacts, files and calendars among all these devices, with their desktop computers being what Steve Jobs called “the digital hub.”

Apple’s iSync- then to now

Synch iPad to Mac computerApple’s first solution was iSync, released solo in 2003 before being added to OS X 10.3 (Panther) in October of that year. If you were using CRE’s Mac computer rentals then, you kept everything from files to phone numbers updated with iSync. But iSync started getting bloated and buggy as support was added for huge numbers of devices – smart phones, Palm organizers, Blackberries and various gadgets on the Pocket PC, Windows CE or Windows Mobile platforms. By 2005, data syncing was moved from iSync to the OS itself, and iPod syncing was taken over at mid-year by iTunes 4.8.

Paradigm shift in sync services

By late 2009, with the release of iSync 3.1 and Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), the bulk of iSync’s original functionality had been absorbed by the Sync Services framework, Apple code that enables developers to build syncing into their programs. Ongoing refinement has brought us to where we are today, with all syncing – iPods, iMac rentals, smart phones, laptops – now taking place in iTunes exclusively. In fact, syncing with iTunes lets you manage project files among multiple devices, people and locations.

Of course, with the advent of the cloud the whole notion of syncing files by duplicating them among devices is silly. It is also inefficient, and tracking changes is a challenge. Now, with such low- and no-cost services as Zumodrive, you store a single set of files on a password-protected, encrypted network server and access them from your other devices – smart phones, tablet PC rentals or an Internet cafe computer in Vienna. It’s a simple and elegant solution.

Customized (and simple) apps

Evernote, Zumodrive and other cloud-based apps typically support such common “work file” formats as Word’s .doc format, .pdf, .txt, .jpeg and other image files. Along with various dedicated PDF readers/editors, including freebies, they allow markup and comments. Establish a few simple rules for the people using these files – name, date and markup guidelines – and you have a simple, straightforward “remote workflow.” Don’t complicate things.

CRE can help you keep things simple as well as secure. If you already know what you need, use our Quick Rental Quote form. Need some help with deciding? Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive about remote workflows, cloud-based services, production support, digital media management – even office equipment rentals! We can help you see the forest and the trees, and chart a route to the right destination.

April 21st, 2011

Adobe Flash vs. HTML 5

The argument about Adobe’s Flash – “it’s great, we all need it” vs. “it slows everything down, go for HTML5” – has been getting some extra mileage since the release of the Flash-less iOS that runs Apple “iDevices” like  iPad rentals from CRE Rentals. There are opinions across the entire spectrum, from “Flash’s time is short” to “HTML5 is vaporware,” but the safe, middle-of-the-tech-road guess is that Flash is not going anywhere. Fact is, Flash is being adopted at a greater rate than ever over the entire range of mobile platforms.

Christopher Dawson at ZDNet cleared up the misconception that only Android, Google’s new mobile OS, would be Flash-friendly. The Blackberry line, Windows phones and HP’s WebOS all support (or plan to support) Flash. This means, says Dawson, that the only mobile OS not supporting Flash – which gives you “everything from YouTube to the latest hardware-accelerated web-based games” – will be Apple’s iOS. Apple certainly isn’t “killing Flash” by excluding it, but it is differentiating itself from the pack, as always. So, is lack of Flash even a problem?

Apple means options

The first thing you should realize is that, if you simply must have Flash on your Apple iOS device, you can use the Skyfire browser. It has a clever chunk of code that can convert many embedded Flash videos and animations. That said, you don’t notice a lack of video material at Apple’s Web site, do you? With HTML5, all Web standards are supported, as well as many popular add-ons and tweaks, so nothing is “plugged in.” From iMac rentals to every mobile device with a modern browser, HTML5 renders the Web identically.

HTML5 (okay, maybe HTML6) may be the technology that eventually replaces Flash, but right now it is still being refined. It is, however, already in use and fully capable of presenting beautiful Web experiences on a full range of computer rentals with the three major OS installations (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux). The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has told its HTML Working Group (HTMLWG) to bring HTML5 to “last call status” later in 2011, with a target date of 2014 for a fully approved standard.

Time is on your side

A lot can happen in this time. As HTML5 is finalized, other technologies will be out there, too – mature versions of what is now new, as well as things yet to be created. Our Mac Pro with Kona Card rentals combine different technologies seamlessly, and Adobe will keep Flash working the same way. While Flash partisans and HTML5 supporters may scare each other with a few headlines, there’s nothing for tech pros to fear at all. When standards and technologies compete, we all win!

Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive and find out about all of CRE’s winning ways! As always, if you know what you need, use our handy Quick Rental Quote form.

April 19th, 2011

Does “all work and no play” make you “dull” like the old saying goes? Even if it did, the solution these days is right at your fingertips. In fact, it’s so easy to find cool things to play with that your boss might worry you’re wasting time. We have the solution for that – here are just some of the cool things to work with. Tell your boss you’re learning to be more effective at the CRE blog!

www.PopUrls.comPopurls – Is it the perfect home page for info junkies? Popurls pulls headlines from news sites, op-eds, blogs and elsewhere into one spacious Web page with no check boxes, no tools, no fooling around — just gaze, dig or trash 20-30 links at a time. It all happens at the site, so you can use it at work, on iPad rentals or anywhere you want.

Microsoft Surface TableAmnesia – This file transfer application works with the amazing Microsoft Surface table (read our post on the Surface Table). It is somewhat easier to explain what the table and software do together if you take a look. Add one of our Herculean Mac Pro rentals to the table plus Amnesia – and promptly forget about everything else!

Metafilter – With all the free “vote, share and comment” sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, it is somewhat curious that the acknowledged cream of the crop, MetaFilter.com is one of the Web’s best-kept secrets. MetaFilter (known as “MeFi” to its members) is a community weblog whose purpose is to share links and discuss content that users have discovered on the web. There is a real sense of belonging, and the AskMeFi answers are first-rate.

Puppy Tweets – Okay, we promised a little fun, right? Well, is this the funniest gizmo ever? Mattel’s Puppy Tweets is a dog tag that detects your canine’s “activity levels” (barking, running, rolling over, etc.) and transmits a pre-arranged tweet to its very own Twitter feed. If we find dog messages on your returned computer rentals, don’t worry – we will think well of you, as we’re dog lovers, too!

Life is a balancing act. Home and office, work and play, family and friends – there’s lots to do! When it involves digital production, storage, networking and high-tech tools, CRE is your one-stop shop. Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive, or use the Quick Rental Quote form, to get things moving. We’re ready to provide you with cool things for work!

April 14th, 2011

There’s been a ton of talk lately about “net neutrality,” but one of the major problems in the discussion is the lack of an accepted definition. Google has been explaining for a few years where they stand on the subject: “Network neutrality,” Google says, “is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet.”

This issue, hopefully, will be worked out in the marketplace and not in the halls of Congress. But you don’t have to wait to establish your own kind of net and computer neutrality. Mac OS-NeutralityWith Mac computer rentals, you can run both Windows (XP, Vista or 7) and Mac OS X, and “be in control” of what applications you use, whatever OS they run on.

Third party saviors

Back in Spring 2009, one of our first blog posts concerned Steve Jobs’ decision to begin using Intel processors in Macs in 2006-2007. By 2008 the transition was complete, from the Mac mini to the potent Mac Pro rentals. What “changed everything,” as Jobs remarked, was an Apple utility, Boot Camp, that let users install and run Windows.

By May 2009, a few “virtualization” utilities from Parallels Computing and VMware had brought a new dimension to multi-OS computing. With them, you can run Windows and the Mac OS simultaneously, even cutting and pasting between programs on the different platforms. These applications now run swiftly on the entire Mac line, from the latest iMac rentals to the powerful Mac towers.

A clear advantage of an OS-neutral Mac

The advantages of the “OS-neutral Macintosh” to regular users are clear. You don’t have to be a “code head” to understand how efficient it is to use a single computer to run both Windows and Mac OS X. Many artists and engineers that work with AJA Io HD rentals and massive video files settled on Macs long ago – as did graphic artists, writers, musicians, publishers and other “creatives.” Now, they can avail themselves of important Windows applications and be right at home in the firm’s Windows-based network environment, too.

Our Account Executives know the hardware and software, and understand what you need to accomplish your project. They’ll converse in fluent “computerese” if you want, but can translate for you too either by e-mail or over the phone.  Know what you need? Complete the Quick Rental Quote and be on your way to “OS-neutrality”.

April 12th, 2011

Some of the comments about Apple’s iPad, now in its second release, sound a bit like what people were saying 25+ years ago about the Macintosh. “Not ready for the office,” say some. “A toy,” others chime in. We’re here to tell you that iPad rentals are not just big iPods – they are ready to help you work, right now, if you know your way around the device. Here’s a good place start…

Already ready to rock in business

iPad Rental for BusinessBusinesses have adopted e-readers quickly, and the iPad is an e-reader on steroids. If only for its ability to offer up reading materials such as magazines, books, newspapers, manuals and other information, it’s a must-have. At least some of the field personnel that once had to tote heavier tablet PC rentals or even full-size laptops (which still have their important uses)  can now carry service libraries, support materials, special apps and even video tutorials on a much lighter iPad.

Creating, revising and then making presentations is a core business activity, and marketing mavens and sales pros already love the iPad. With a simple adapter or even wireless protocols you can stream your iPad materials to LCD monitor rentals at meetings or conferences. You also have a “portable presentation” right on the iPad for presenting to individuals or small groups  and, yes, the speaker is loud enough for everyone to hear.

Good tools now, great ones coming

Apple has already released a version of its productivity suite, iWork, for the iPad. It is a challenge to create your best work on a 9.2 inch screen, but you can easily edit and display documents created in iWork’s modules (Numbers for spreadsheets, Pages for word processing, Keynote for presentations). There are tens of thousands of other apps, too, among which are a growing number of solid business programs. However, there is not yet a “killer app” for note-taking, and Apple did not build handwriting recognition into the iPad.

Whether or not software alone will bring handwriting recognition to the device remains to be seen, but there are already plenty of note-taking apps, even some “blank page” apps allowing on-screen drawing and writing. You are advised to get a stylus with a fine point if you intend to use your iPad this way, as “fingertip script” is big, clunky and hard to read. You can get voice-memo recording apps, too, but if you intend to do a lot of audio recording, CRE’s digital recorder rentals will help you reserve iPad storage for other important things.

Video calling, first-rate GPS, handwriting recognition, versions of leading office programs – the future is looking bright for the iPad, even before the release of the iPad 3 in another year or so. Call or e-mail an expert Account Executive and find out how the iPad can integrate into your unique workflow. If you know what you need, iPad or otherwise, use our handy Quick Rental Quote form.

April 7th, 2011

Many technological advances (the Internet, monitors, computers) have been driven by overwhelming consumer demand for games . To satisfy gamers, who spend a lot on both hardware and software, R&D money has continued to pour into the development of ever-better display technology and graphics processors.

Days of future past…3D monitors?

3D MonitorMedia, entertainment and science professionals also rely on the biggest, best and most color-accurate monitors, and these folks are looking forward to hooking one of CRE’s powerful Mac Pro rentals to a new 3D monitor. Apple has continued to upgrade graphics processing across the Macintosh line, and all the models from the latest laptops to the workhorse iMac rentals have display performance that would have seemed miraculous only a few years ago. Adding 3D will be icing on this cake.

Fact is, 3D imaging is nothing new, and existing attempts at 3D displays (for TV or computer) are based on an aging electromechanical approach called “shutter technology.” It displays two images that alternate between the right and left sides of special eyeglasses, the same technology used in movie theaters in the 1950s. Today’s fast LCD monitors and shutters can create these images in higher resolutions with faster refresh rates, which means smooth, clear images.

The real future (of real 3D)

The latest 3D approach dispenses with the eyeglasses, opting instead for a special filter (a parallax barrier) that makes light from the LCD act differently at different angles so that the image shifts between your eyes. This produces a sense of depth without using glasses that can cause eye strain and headaches. The 3D view is important to graphics, media and audio/video pros, but the last thing you need when you’re working on high-res images with one of CRE’s AJA Io HD rentals is blurred vision or a headache.

Monitor and computer makers have been moving gradually from DVI to HDMI since 2008, putting one or the other (or sometimes both, or even adding DisplayPort) on new PCs and displays. You could connect most of CRE’s computer rentals to such a monitor now, with an adapter if necessary, but there are other 3D solutions in the works, too. Volumetric displays rely on rotating arrays of lasers or LEDs to create an image in a field of light, so the monitors can’t be like today’s flat panels (yet). Other major limitations to this newest 3D approach include color issues and high material/manufacturing cost.

Until then…LCD monitors

You will not likely see volumetric displays for five or more years. In the meantime,  LCD monitor rentals are state-of-the-art – and always will be. Call or e-mail an Account Executive today, or use the Quick Rental Quote form, and let us know how we can help you!

April 5th, 2011

The miniaturized sensors and controls that let you interact with your digital devices in new ways are known as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). The first consumer products with it were games like the Nintendo Wii. It is MEMS technology, too, that tells iPad rentals to switch screen orientation (to/from portrait or landscape) when you rotate them.

Alternative input is a subject we’ve covered before (and will stay on top of for you). Whether it’s in a product like Apple’s Magic Trackpad or Xbox Kinect-style motion sensing, these methods are being grouped under the name “gesture control.”

Physical gestures to control a PC

Trackpads on PC laptops have lagged behind those on MacBooks and MacBook Pro rentals, but the gap is beginning to close. Synaptics TouchPadIn 2010, Synaptics debuted a button-free, clickable trackpad, and has since upgraded the TouchPad-IS product with four-finger gestures and more.

As these new capabilities reach manufacturers, and then your office, you will discover a more intuitive and productive way of controlling your PC. You can discover it right now, of course, by getting the Magic Trackpad with one of CRE’s iMac rentals.  The Magic Trackpad is a wireless Bluetooth device that recognizes the multi-touch and multi-finger gestures, swipes and “zoom pinches.”

Virtual controls to track finger movement

Camera-based input and control techniques are being developed by a growing number of firms. GestureTek Inc. has applications on the market that promise new efficiencies for challenging digital workflows. The company’s AirPoint controls computers by tracking the movement of your fingers in 3D space, so controlling multimedia presentations, for example, requires nothing more than simple hand motions. As an online product demo shows,  AirPoint is quite accurate at short distances.

The firm’s patented 3D vision-tracking technology, GestPoint Maestro 3D, tracks both body movement and hand gestures in 3D space, allowing device control from up to 10 feet away. The technology can be scaled to work on smart phones, specialized tools like CRE’s tablet PC rentals, desktop computers and other devices. Expect “killer apps” in such areas as vehicle and appliance controls, home environmental systems and robotics – and, of course, computers.

Eye movement tracking in the future

A Swedish company, Tobii Technologies, has a dramatic new kind of interface/input system. Using an array of infrared sensors, the system tracks the user’s eye movement with such speed and precision that product testers called the mouse “an antique.”

Before long, CRE’s clientele will enjoy improved control over the many digital duties they discharge on Mac Pro rentals and other high-end tools. Alternative input methods are among the many exciting changes on the horizon, and a simple call or e-mail to our experienced Account Executives can get you up to speed As always, use the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need.