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January 5th, 2010

2010 is upon us, and it’s likely you are considering yet another list of New Year’s Resolutions. These usually concern losing weight or changing careers, but smart computer users should resolve to keep their computers in good working order.

Technology New Year's Resolution - ComputerRentalsOne step before basic

This may seem silly to you, but it really isn’t. You need to check your power cords, USB/FireWire cables and so forth. It’s possible for cables to “go bad,” particularly when they are bent into 90-degree angles or squished under heavy printers. With LCD monitor rentals, for example, you get the  cable in good shape and ready to work.

It is important to keep sufficient airflow around your high-tech equipment, so check out your “office ergonomics” to ensure enough room between devices. Layers of dust can build up on internal PC components, too, sometimes causing overheating, so have some canned air handy for a quick “spray” every month or so.

Backing up

You simply must back up your files. This means the system files, work files, everything. Your primary drive is likely internal, but if you save files to external or online storage, back those up, too. Windows Backup in Windows Vista and Windows 7 is a good tool. You can also clone your drives and make “disc images” with ImageX (free from Microsoft) and other applications.

Macintosh users also need to back up everything. The Mac OS boasts Time Machine, which automates the process in a lot of customizable ways. Naturally, when you use a Mac Pro rental you should save all your work to an external drive, which means that you should back it up to an online service, another hard drive or to DVDs.

Security

Always “okay” the Windows and Mac automated system updates. This will ensure you have the latest security fixes for your OS as well as updates for installed programs. On the Mac, Software Update can also be started from the Apple menu. The Windows Update application in Vista or Windows 7 can even recommend settings for folks short on time, expertise or both.

In addition to using your firewall, get a good anti-malware and anti-virus utility  – or two or three, since not all programs can defeat all types of malicious code. Since e-mail continues to be a primary method for spreading Trojan horses, viruses and other destructive malware, check that your antivirus program will scan your e-mail. Also use anti-spam software like MailWasher or a mail-checking service.

Other tips

Consult a more thorough article on maintenance if you need to, then create a schedule for taking care of things regularly. Actually, if you are doing a comprehensive backup for the first time, it may be a real time- and money-saver to rent a computer to act as “command central” for copying, duplicating, deleting and moving files around your network.

CRE employees know their way around technology, so we’re the ones to call when you need help. Send an e-mail, fill out the Quick Rental Quote form or use the phone. Whatever your business goals for the New Year, we’re here to help you achieve them. That’s our resolution, each and every year.

December 29th, 2009

Review - Computer & Technology News 2009

This past year, for computer lovers, was as good as it gets. While every year sees new inventions and further refinements of existing products, 2009 was a landmark year in many ways. From the new MacBook models that CRE now rents to new display technology and “wireless everything,” 2009 was a big year.

Laptops have gotten more powerful while getting lighter. Leaving aside the new netbooks, subject of a future blog, the laptop sector has made big strides in power, heat dissipation, battery life, displays, and connectivity. The year started off with dual-core processors limited to the MacBook Pro laptop rental and PCs, and ended with quad-core processors available at the high end of some lines.

Desktops have changed in terms of power and ports. Apple dropped the original FireWire 400 connector for FireWire 800 (backward compatible with an adapter). USB is king of the hill for connections, with USB 3.0 right around the corner promising another serious speed bump. Ethernet? Faster. Phone modems? Disappearing. Hard drive capacities are into the terabyte (TB) range and no one gets a PC with just “a gig of RAM” anymore. Even low-end PCs now come with 2-4GB of RAM. Powerhouses like CRE’s quad- and eight-core HP computer rental can have up to 32GB.

LCD Displays – Seeing is believing

Computer users can thank display manufacturers for their less-strained eyes. The LCD and LED-backlit monitors look better, use less power and emit less radiation. Plasma monitor (rentals) are still tops in the largest sizes, while the Apple Cinema Display 24-inch LED monitor is what every post-production pro wants under the tree this year.

Look, Mom, no wires on technology rentals

Yes, it was a “wireless” year, for sure, and not just in terms of Web browsing at the coffee shop. The mouse, your phone, the printer, your TV – everything is hooking up with everything else by radio, Bluetooth, WiFi and (it seems) smoke signals, too. It’s not just  tablet PC rentals that provide portability with connectivity. Your phone, its headset and your office all-in-one have all lost their electronic umbilical cords. This coming year, watch for wireless recharging of these devices.

If you want to know what else to watch for in 2010, keep checking our blog. We will  feature tech trends in 2010, laptop and desktop guides, a netbook report, gadget updates and other problem-solving, trend-spotting news. In the meantime, when you’ve got work backed up and no time to waste, remember that CRE is here to solve your problems with just the right tools.  Contact us or fill out the Quick Rental Quote, and an expert Account Executive will take good care of you. That’s what we do!

December 22nd, 2009

The next wave in display technology for television will be called 3DTV, but marketing terms for 3D-type monitors have not been created yet. These monitors will display a 2D image with stereoscopic depth added. How good will it look? Compare an old 1998 CRT monitor to the LCD monitor rental, and you will note an incredible improvement. Going 3D will be even more dramatic.

3DTV

3D technologies have improved to the point where Hollywood has a small but growing library of “depth-enhanced” films. Just as black-and-white films were “colorized,” movies can be “depth enhanced” now, especially if made with computer technology like the PowerMac G5 with Kona card that CRE rents to production professionals. Toy Story 3D, in fact, is an enhanced “combo” of the first two 2D films.

The 1950s vs. now

The 3D projection used for 1950s 3D films called for superimposing polarized or differently colored images on each film frame. Viewers wore “passive” glasses that revealed different images so that the brain would “knit” the images into layers that gave a sense of depth. Viewing newer 3DTV displays with “active” glasses would create much more convincing “alternative realities.”

Active glasses are expensive at this point, but as with all technology the price will drop. Sony, Samsung and others are building “3D-capable” displays now, and Panasonic recently demonstrated a large-screen 3DTV that it hopes to ship in 2010. Again, as happened with high-end plasma rentals, premium 3DTV models will arrive first, followed by more-affordable models.

Coming soon?

Existing cable and IPTV networks are already capable of distributing 3D content. The bandwidth that networks use to deliver HD content will handle 3D content with the latest video compression techniques. Of course, high-end PCs (like CRE’s HP XW 8400 computer rental) and Intel-based Macs are powerful alternatives to TVs.

Using physical media, of course, means Blu-ray. It can store, burn, save and present the data needed, and 3D BR players are already in the works. No changes to the Blu-ray specs are necessary, so standards groups and manufacturers are focused on practical things, like making sure that 2D TVs can play 3D discs.

Flexible standards

Conflicts or development dead-ends due to “battling standards” should not be particularly troublesome, as long as 3DTVs stay flexible. Just as digital TV was defined in 480, 720, and 1080 formats – along with progressive (p) and interlaced (i) versions – an industry group is working on a simple, straightforward standard, the kind that has led to the proliferation of WiFi in laptops and tablet PCs.

The first 3D displays will use alternating images viewed with shutter-style glasses until holographic displays are developed. Until then, 3DTV could be sold as a minor upgrade to existing HDTV units. Stay tuned, they’re coming soon! In the meantime, CRE can handle any display needs you have – for your office, conferences or presentations – so give one of our Account Executives a call, send an e-mail or fill out our Quick Rental Quote form. We’ve got you covered, in all dimensions.

December 17th, 2009

Several times this year, most recently at the end of October, Apple upgraded and updated its Macintosh product lines. It still has its top of line Mac Pro towers, last “refreshed” in Q1 2009, but now has faster iMacs with larger screens and a potent Mac mini. (Not that it will replace the Xserve line that CRE rents, but the mini can now be purchased with Mac OS X Server installed.) The new Mac laptops are pretty exciting, too; read the MacBook Pro laptops review.

Go with a Mac Pro

When the Mac Pro high-performance desktops like CRE rents get their next refreshing in early 2010, they may get Intel Xeon six-core processors, according to a recent unconfirmed rumor on the Web site, Hardmac. Mac Pro rentalsReports from “an inside source at Apple” indicate that the firm wants the dual-socket, six-core “Gulftown” chip in its next Mac Pro.

The Core i9 chip will increase performance while decreasing power usage, or so the story goes. The Mac Pro might also have a modified motherboard with a 10 Gbit/second Ethernet port (a major increase) and support for 8 and 16 GB RAM modules (current maximum is 4GB). This allows a potential total of 128 GB of RAM.

A new iMac for you?

The iMac line has had two screen sizes in its modern (flat panel) version, now measuring 21.5 and 27 inches, but has new LED backlit displays with 16:9 widescreen ratio. A 21.5-inch imac rental has a high-resolution 1920 x 1080 pixel display. Movie lovers should note that the 27-inch model’s Mini DisplayPort supports bi-directional connections – just connect an HD source and your iMac is an HD monitor.

The iMacs now have 4 SO-DIMM slots supporting up to 16 GB of RAM, and four different Intel processors. The 21.5-inch models can be configured with 3.06 GHz or 3.33 GHz Intel Core2 Duo processors, but the “serious fun” starts with the 27-inch iMac. It is configurable with the aforementioned CPUs, a 2.66 Quad-Core i5 or a 2.8 GHZ Quad-Core i7 processor. The two Quad-Core options take the iMac to the level of performance first seen in the Mac Pro – very impressive!

Mini goes maxi

The Mac mini has two new configurations: one model featuring a 2.26 GHz Intel Core2 Duo, a 160 GB hard drive and 2 GB of RAM; the second has a 2.56 GHz Intel Core2 Duo processor and double the hard disk and RAM (320 and 4 GB, respectively). Both feature seriously upgraded graphics capabilities via an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chipset. These minis are becoming very popular as “small-but-mighty” servers especially for small businesses or for off-site, temporary offices at a convention center.

Call one of our Account Executives today and find out how a Mac Pro rental  or iMac rentals can help increase productivity or solve those backlog problems. Give us a call or send an e-mail, or simply fill out a Quick Rental Quote form. We are Mac rental specialists and are here to help.

December 10th, 2009

With the pace of technological change seeming to accelerate all the time, how can SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses) hope to stay current? It’s not just a matter of getting the latest equipment. You also have to keep your employees updated, trained and equipped. It’s not easy, but online education of various kinds may help you.

There are companies that run well-structured, highly organized online schools, and you might want to look into these. However, there are also many low- and no-cost ways to keep your employees up to date. If you work in digital media, with audio and video applications like Final Cut or Vegas—on powerful quad- and eight-core desktop computers like the Mac Pro or an H-P XW 8400 workstation—then you already know how much time it takes to stay current.

Training ClassFor your other employees, perhaps working with continuously upgraded software like office applications and operating systems, you can save money by locating some free tutorials online. Get a Macintosh and/or PC desktop like CRE rents, set it up in a spare office or corner of the break room, and establish a training schedule. This way none of your regular workflow is interrupted and you can upgrade skills without downgrading your firm’s productivity.

Use it or lose it?

Remember, too, that the software packages you’ve invested in usually come with tutorials, online help files, sample documents and other training aids. It may be that you are well covered for software training without knowing it. In that case, extend your horizons a bit and you will discover that there is as much, or more, business and marketing training available to help you grow and expand your company.

It should go without saying that most companies need a strong, compelling and (hopefully) original Web presence or “online strategy” in this day and age. Check out these excellent online webinars and seminars featuring search engine marketing topics that will help your organization “conquer” search.

Low-cost training/research station

One of the lesser-advertised benefits of a computer rental is training and research. In SMBs, most computers (like their users) are dedicated to certain daily tasks that are interrupted at your peril. Renting a wifi-enabled tablet PC, laptop, or desktop from CRE will keep your own assets invested in ongoing work, and allow you to keep skills updated as you rotate your computer users through a new training workstation—outfitted with free lesson plans that you’ve just learned about.

Fill out our Quick Rental Quote form now and our expert Account Executives will help you set up whatever you need to keep you on the cutting edge. Let the training begin!

December 8th, 2009

A few technological ages ago, some Web designers purposely made pages that worked best, and sometimes only, with specific browsers. Some still do. The smart ones, though, will rent a PC, a Macintosh or both from CRE, to ensure that all browsers running on both platforms display site pages correctly.

HTML5The standard tool for creating Web pages is HyperTest Markup Language, or HTML, and the version now in the works is HTML5 which will produce Web pages that will look, sound and work the same way on any browser, from desktop to mobile phone.

Splitting up the work

HTML5 does away with plug-ins for handling video, audio and interactivity. HTML5 will require that they these capabilities are on their own, built-in. Users of new Macs, like the Mac Pro rentals that CRE stocks will not be surprised to find out that Apple claims to be “almost there” with its Safari browser (the “next” version, of course). The same jobs will get done to deliver a faster, richer, multimedia Web experience, but they’re split up differently in HTML5.

Companies will be able to create Web sites that look, sound and work the same on any browser, on laptops, desktops, “net appliances” like Sony PSPs, cell phones, netbooks and anything else with a display and WiFi connection. It may take the legal eagles a while to work out licensing for the A/V formats that will be used for “universal support,” but owners of the desired formats have lots of incentive to make a deal.

Compatibility heaven

It is not just the copy on the page, the soundtrack in the background or any other single component that makes for a “user experience.” This term falls into the “greater than the sum of its parts” category, and now Web site designers, Web app developers and content providers can stop mucking around with browser incompatibilities or doing complex workarounds.

This is a particularly noteworthy advance for mobile devices, as today’s cellphones, iPods and PSP browsers offer only limited multimedia support. The iPhone’s version of Apple’s Safari browser has no Adobe Flash capability despite Flash being on just about every other platform, browser and device. This is just one of the many loose ends that need tying up before HTML5 rolls out.

Rolling, rolling, rolling

WebKit, the developer tool behind many desktop and mobile programs, is on track to be HTML5-compliant “soon,” but Microsoft says that Internet Explorer 8 will not support the “whole spec,” risking even lower market share for IE. Adobe says Apple is dragging its corporate feet in making the iPhone Flash-friendly, suggesting the Cupertino firm may have its own agenda with HTML5, too.

“Apple,” an official Adobe statement says, “has not provided the level of support required to deliver the Flash Player to the iPhone.” Chances are we will hear about Apple “coming around” soon, since the World Wide Web Consortium has announced that HTML5 is nearing its final draft. Mac folks, from vintage iBook users to those doing high-end animation work on a G5 with Kona card rental, will expect Apple to come through. Ease of use is not something users are willing to “think different” about.

If you need the latest technology equipment, request a Quick Rental Quote from CRE and they’ll make sure you get what you need.

December 3rd, 2009

It’s not something we like to think about normally but the fact is that not everyone is honest. For years, companies that suffered employee theft and vandalism had very few unobtrusive means of employee monitoring. Today’s covert technologies have come to the rescue of these corporate victims and there are now any number of ways to prevent theft, personal use of technology (from phones to computers) and corporate espionage.

Whether you do the research yourself, or use a well-seasoned computer staffer or well-regarded IT partner, the range of employee monitoring capabilities is now quite broad. From on- or off-site network security protocols and keystroke-capturing software to site-wide videotaping, there are many subtle and effective ways to keep tabs on what your employees are doing with your company’s data and property.

Consider a test drive

Few business owners advocate unrestrained spying by any means necessary however, it is a prudent to implement security procedures to safeguard proprietary information and data.  One way is to test drive various wireless mini-cameras and other new devices on your PC, Mac or both (consider renting a computer for testing purposes).

You need a “multiple-track” approach to the issue of security. First, there is prevention. Inform employees in clear, understandable terms that employee monitoring is taking place, what is being protected and how it is being done. When you make it clear that you are not doing wide-ranging eavesdropping or illegal employee surveillance, most employees are both understanding and cooperative.

The other tracks

Network SecurityThere are also defensive moves to make. Learn how to read all your network activity reports. You need to see, from a printout or monitor display, who in your company is looking at (or copying) data, changing inventory figures or visiting “adult” sites. Knowing how to pinpoint the problems is key, and knowing right away is even better. The next time you talk about backup strategies and “crash recovery,” remember that security will be strongest if it is part of an overall strategy.

If you decide to investigate a security upgrade, be advised you may need to “test drive” both PC and Mac applications, in addition to cameras, interfaces and peripherals, as previously mentioned. With a Mac Pro rental from CRE,  you can run both Windows and Mac OS X programs, and keep your testing safely separated from your office networks when you need to do so. When you get ready to upgrade your approach to company security, request a technology rental quote from CRE for a swift response. Or, contact one of our expert Account Executives. We’re here to help you, and our only measure is your success.

December 1st, 2009

USB 3.0The next release of USB will be version number 3.0, already dubbed “SuperSpeed” by the USB Implementors Forum, the USB-IF, for its theoretical top speed of 4.8Gbps. The idea is for the jacks to be “backwards compatible” and work with USB 2.0, while taking the speed up by a factor of “5 to 10 times.” Every desktop computer that CRE rents has USB 2.0, and as the new standard is adopted, it will soon take over.

As 2.0 runs at 480Mbps, the 10x improvement would be the full theoretical maximum, and real-world experience with upgraded standards, like 2.0’s release a few years back, suggests that USB 3.0’s actual top speed will likely turn out to be around 3.2Gbps. That would make it faster than either flavor of Firewire, 400 or 800, whose numbers refer to its speed in Mbps, or megabits per second, and means USB 3.0 is capable of moving 15GB in about a minute. That’s fast, as users of CRE’s Mac Pro rentals know (some iMac users, too), as the top Macs have Firewire 800 ports, the current speed champ.

Which niche is which?

Some connections, like the increasingly ignored eSATA, are faster, but will likely remain niche players such as Firewire is becoming. Firewire never caught on with PCs as it did with Macs, where it is standard. Still, the big news about USB 3.0 is its potential to replace all the different ports computers now have. Here are their names and major uses:

  • Ethernet connects you to networks, the Internet, network-attached storage and peripherals (servers, printers, scanners);
  • USB is for keyboards, mousing/pointing devices, printers, multimedia devices (iPods, etc.), phones, still and video cameras, external hard drives, scanners, audio interfaces, musical instruments and game controllers;
  • FireWire 400 and 800 (IEEE 1394a or 1394b) ports allow connection of still and video cameras, audio interfaces and mixers, high-speed hard drives and tape drives; and
  • DVI and DisplayPort connectors feed images to monitors and other displays.

There is one more transfer protocol CRE customers may know about, and that’s the Fibre Channel (FC) interface on Mac’s Xserve RAID that CRE rents. The Xserve RAID is only accessible via Fibre Channel, and only using the integrated Fibre Channel protocols. Xserve RAID cannot serve or share its storage via an Ethernet network.

USB 3.0 could eliminate most existing standards, except Ethernet, FC and other special solutions. Instead of different ports and jacks, tomorrow’s computer might have four to six USB 3.0 ports. Although people are not used to thinking of USB for monitors, 3.0 will be far faster than necessary to deliver data to monitors (which is even done now with 2.0), while continuing to retrieve it from scanners and exchange it with hard drives.

Get ready for USB 3.0 – the new standard

Whatever it is you are moving, storing, transferring or archiving, USB 3.0 will be a revelation, moving some 15GB of data per minute. The USB-IF has no doubt that the standard will conquer the computer and home electronics market in no time – so, ready or not, here it comes. If you have questions about the imminent arrival of USB 3.0, or any other computing matter, contact one of our Account Executives today, or fill out a Quick Rental Quote form for a speedy reply.

November 24th, 2009

You’ve started a business and now you need everything from phones to office supplies. Plastic in hand, you run full steam ahead toward—debt! Instead of watching your dreams come true, you are watching dollars go out the door for credit card payments and interest. One day, thousands of dollars down the road, you may suddenly turn around and ask yourself, What happened?

For one thing, until you have your business plan worked out, it may be smarter to rent a Mac Pro from CRE Rentals than buy one. You won’t know that, of course, until you’ve crunched all the numbers, including the ones related to your company credit cards. Look into low APR’s (Annual Percentage Rates) and annual fees, and aim for the best deals on late charges and other penalties. Also look for a card that accrues points that you can use for travel, rebates on products or supplies, and other benefits of real value.

Simple rules

Corporate CreditIt is easier to borrow money on a credit card than it is to go get a bank loan—easier but costlier, of course. Do not risk your credit rating by getting caught up in a vicious circle of debt.  After you’ve had your cards for awhile and have been making payments on time, call the credit card companies and negotiate for lower interest rates (if current rates are high). Also be careful with introductory offers. Many cards offer interest-free periods to bait you, but once that period ends the rates may then rise to (or past) the 18.9% national average.

Just remember: Don’t mix business dollars with personal ones. And that goes for mixing your computers, fax machines and printers, too. If you don’t have the money to buy, keep your personal things personal (like the IRS wants you to) and rent your office equipment from CRE—along with whatever else you need.

Use it, don’t abuse it

Try to make the most of your credit card. If you qualify for a low-interest “rewards” card that earns cash back at the gas station, get it. Small businesses can save a lot of money by using their rewards correctly. It all adds up—if you are paying attention. If  you get an LCD monitor rental from CRE, you can use the ongoing rewards to offset some other expenses. Of course, if the items that you are considering are not necessities, then rent, pay by cash or go without. Remember, every time you swipe that card you are incurring debt, and debt can become a beast to maintain.

You cannot charge your way to success, or borrow your way into better revenues. Your credit cards, of course, can finance your good ideas and help you advance toward your goals, just like a computer rental from CRE. If you end up making bad decisions that get you financially stressed, remember the old saying: It’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools. Credit is a tool, so use it—don’t abuse it. If you need help crunching those numbers to see how renting can make sense until you can afford to buy, call one of our expert Account Executives toll free at (877) 266-7725, send an e-mail or fill out our Quick Rental Quote form. CRE is ready when you are.

November 19th, 2009

Whether your business involves manufacturing, distribution, a profession or a service, you can build it up by creating a plan to expand your online presence.

09_11_19_SiteWe recently ran a series on Web design tips (Part 1 and Part 2), so now it’s time to put your new knowledge to good use. Even if you don’t launch a state-of-the-art site, you can help your customer service staff out big time if you put up a site with FAQs, parts manuals, solutions to common problems and perhaps an online chat page.

Don’t worry about it!

Web sites can cost a lot in both time and money. If you don’t have a large monitor, consider renting a LCD monitor (or two) so you or your designer have plenty of screen real estate to handle all the pages, menus, art and tools that need to be right at hand. It might be easier to start with something a tad less complex than a full-blown site, too, since you can “scale up” gradually.

Glamorous corporate Web sites can cost a lot to develop. Do you really have to have a site in the first place? Probably. Does it need to cost a lot? No. Web presence is going to be important to your customers, but start out easy. You can get budget hosting plans for as little as $5 a month, and most of the offers today include everything you need, including shopping carts.

If you are considering getting new software and embarking on a Web project, you might consider a computer rental (Mac and/or PC) so you can dedicate a workstation or two to the job without interfering with other work. If you anticipate having a lot of photos, audio or video material, consider some extra storage like a Xserve RAID rental. You can never have too much storage—ever!

Now go get the customers

Now, you need to drive traffic (customers) to your Web site. Let’s face it, if customers don’t know you’re there, you won’t have a business, no matter how nice your site or how great your product or service. You need to invest what you can, which will mostly be time plus whatever money you can allocate, in promoting your site and your business.

You should devise an e-mail campaign, send press releases to print publications and online services, get trade links, create a Facebook Page, use twitter, post comments on online forums and generally sing a “one note song” about what you are doing. If you need wireless laptops for a “mobile campaign,” or plasma screen rental for a digital signage program, CRE rents all sorts of technology equipment.

Whatever you need, our expert Account Executives are here to help you. You can call us, send an e-mail or fill out our Quick Rental Quote form, and the solutions you need will be on the way. That’s what we do, after all—provide the solutions that keep you going and growing.

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