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December 17th, 2013

Technology advances, sometimes gradually, sometimes spectacularly. We keep tabs as best we can on this never-ending parade of progress, especially progress on the tools that we provide tech, web, media, and entertainment firms—the Mac Pro rental, mass storage, servers, post-production tech. We also bring you information about all the overlapping technologies people use in both their business and personal lives (smartphones, TVs, media players) and keep you up on tech news. There are a number of ongoing technology battles that should resolve, one way or the other, in 2014. technology battlefield

Here are four technologies that will definitely make the headlines.

A Mobile OS Free-for-All

Joining iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry 10 in 2014 are three more mobile OS packages. Firefox OS, Tizen, and Ubuntu Phone will all debut with great fanfare to compete in a volatile international market. Even with “jailbroken” phones you cannot install the OS you want unless both the hardware and the carrier support it. Samsung is leaning toward Tizen, while carriers ZTE and Alcatel have previewed working Firefox phones. No encouraging news as yet for Ubuntu Phone, despite a clean interface and the ability to run desktop apps. Advantage: Android.

Mobile Processing Power vs. Battery Power

Many tech sites and magazines have withheld a buy recommendation from Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet. With a powerful Core i5 processor, it is a real Windows 8.1 tablet, not “fake Windows” (RT), and runs both desktop software and Windows Store apps. Still, it earned “don’t buy” ratings for dismal battery life: 4 hours, 37 minutes. An iPad rental, with its mobile (not desktop) OS, is not a direct competitor—but the battery lasts almost 12.5 hours. Competition will focus more on battery efficiency, with the entire world awaiting the long-promised battery breakthrough.

Google vs. High-End Laptops

As a category, Chromebooks are doing well. Samsung has Amazon’s best-selling laptop at under $250, offering the battery life and low price that define the niche. But a Chromebook’s operational limitations cannot be overcome by adding a thousand dollars of admittedly great cosmetic components. The Chromebook Pixel from Google impresses with a gorgeous touch screen, first-rate keyboard, and superb quality. Problem: It’s a Chromebook that runs apps, not business-grade software. And it’s overpriced by, oh, just about a thousand dollars. Google will pull Pixel’s plug by the end of the year.

Google vs. Low-End Laptops

At $300 or so, Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP, and others look good to first-time buyers. Strengths: Chromebooks are generally safe from malware, get great battery life, are often lighter than Air, and won’t break the bank if lost or broken. Weaknesses: Chromebooks can’t handle real-world business. A Chrome browser with a desktop theme limits you to apps, but some apps will not run since you can’t install required plugins. You can rent laptops right now that are many times more cost-effective and powerful. If you need laptop for real work, there are scores of low-cost Windows laptops that are ready for prime time. Chrome is not. Windows will win by a KO.

No matter what battles are taking place in the technology world, CRE Rentals continues to offer the latest technology rental for entertainment production company starting up to organizations setting up in-house training. If you know what you need, complete the Express Quote form online. Not sure? Give us a call at (877) 266-7725 to speak to one of our experienced Account Executives.

November 14th, 2013

It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. This is meant to underline the folly of “static thinking”  – assuming that today’s pace of resource depletion and waste will continue unabated into the future. The fatal flaw? There is no acknowledgment of the greatest resource of all, human imagination. For example, the dawn of the Computer Age saw predictions that beige boxes would cover the landscape. Instead, we have smaller, lighter, recyclable products, and new technologies and services for taking care of e-waste, outmoded gadgets, and “used tech.” Human ingenuity wins again.

Recycle

There are various ways you can participate in recycling and re-purposing old tech. We’ll take a look at four major ways to:

  • trade, recycle, or dispose of branded electronics with most of the big-name tech firms, as well as retailers;
  • sell or trade them in, putting them back into the (used) market;
  • donate devices to nonprofits and others—government agencies, churches, community groups—to repair and give to others; and
  • repurpose various tech products via DIY projects at home, school, and other locations.

1. Trade, recycle, dispose — Some firms (Lenovo, Canon, Dell) will accept only their own products for recycling, while others (HP, Sony EcoTrade) take any device regardless of maker. In addition to big phone makers (LG, Motorola), niche firms like appliance maker Dyson and game company Nintendo offer programs for their products, too. When you return an Apple product, whether it’s an iMac or MacBook, the firm will apply any monetary value it may have to a gift card.

2. Sell or trade in — You can easily go on the Internet and list your used tech for sale. There are brand-specific sites that specifically want, say, Apple’s Macs, Xserve RAID units, and iPhones. Other firms will buy any and all used devices to refurbish and resell. Gazelle is well known for this, while others such as Glyde will even estimate the varying amounts you’d get from selling on various websites. The Amazon Trade-In Program issues gift cards for eligible used electronics (plus books, DVDs, phones).

3. Donate for redistribution — Your working used tech can be quite beneficial to someone else. Many nonprofits and groups collect and refurbish cellphones, PCs, tablets, and other devices to give to those in need. Both the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)—which works with Cellular Recycler—and Verizon’s HopeLine are connecting survivors of domestic violence with important resources. You can direct your donations to soldiers, the disadvantaged, and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

4. Repurpose via art, DIY Projects — An old television makes a great picture frame, among other things. Consider using your old tech gear as containers, frames, bases for lamps or sculptures, vases, or freestanding “statements.” Some project sites are meant for true, soldering-iron-wielding geeks who want to make robots or Rube Goldberg contraptions. However, there are also scores of websites that show you how to turn old tech gear into works of art (or sheer whimsy) with no special skills required.

Of course one of the easiest ways to recycle is to rent technology for short-term office use, projects or events. CRE Rentals is stocked with the latest computer, audiovisual rental inventory, ready to deliver (or ship) to your location to meet your needs. Learn more about our products and services by calling (877) 266-7725.

August 9th, 2012

NetbookNetbooks were set to take over the world just a few years ago. Optimized for social media and web surfing, these smaller, lighter offerings flooded the market, especially Europe. Now no one even uses the word, much less the (original) devices. What happened, and what can we learn from it? Let’s take a look.

What’s in a name?

With the introduction of the Asus Eee PC in 2007, the term “netbook” gained currency. Acer Aspire models were also popular, due in no small part to the ease with which one could install OS X on them (and pretend to own a MacBook). Then, after a couple of roller coaster years, netbooks started losing that “cool” factor. And when CRE stocked its first iPad rental in 2010, it signaled the end of the upward curve for netbooks. By mid-2011 the netbook craze was over.

After being trumpeted as the most significant computer innovation since the trackpad (maybe the Magic Trackpad?), the netbook was finally seen for what it was – an inexpensive mini-laptop with no optical drive. With most keyboards too small for serious work and the CPUs generally underwhelming, the traveling professionals that were field-testing them finally gave up. It made more sense to buy or rent laptops with desktop-level power, since a new generation of potent CPUs was beginning to provide it.

Cupertino category killers

A two-round volley from Apple put the final kibosh on netbooks. First, in 2010 the iPad immediately captured the entire world’s imagination (like iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 are doing now, before they’re even released). If you just needed a tool for browsing, e-mail and buying the occasional widget, you could now do so with the iPad – along with a slew of other handheld devices, smart phones and tablet PC rentals. With both Apple and Android devices now flooding the market, there is no reason to maintain an artificial product category like “netbook.”

The second move from Apple was the repositioning of the MacBook Air. Initially underpowered and under-loved, the model had been around a short time when Apple gave it that 11-inch screen. Diminutive and super light, the upgraded Air sported a full-sized keyboard while its souped-up components made it a true desktop-replacement machine.

If you don’t want to use a Mac, the “Ultrabook” form factor is the Next Big Thing in PC laptops. With proper CPUs, generous helpings of RAM, huge amounts of SSD storage and full-size keyboards, connectors, ports and plugs, Ultrabooks are real computers ready for real work. To summarize: “Netbook” is dead, “Ultrabook” is ascendant – and we’ll keep you posted on what comes next!

CRE Account Executives can recommend the appropriate PC desktop computer rental for your expanded telemarketing project, as well as processing and storage technology for post-production work. One call or e-mail, or a trip to our Quick Rental Quote page, is all it takes!

June 12th, 2012

Google’s Chrome Web browser just keeps getting better, with some pundits calling the recent release, Chrome 19, ”perfect.” Google has a Chrome Operating System (OS), too, but it has yet to make low-cost “Chromebooks” a viable replacement when you need to rent laptops that offer desktop-grade power. Chrome the web browser, on the other hand, is a huge international hit.

Chrome Browser

Chrome rules

Chrome rules now. As of May 2012, Chrome had 33% of the world browser market, inching past Internet Explorer (IE) in a big PR win for the California company. Microsoft had gotten quite used to being #1, while Apple is content to have browser share beyond its computer share (Safari is for Windows, too). Want your iMac rental outfitted with Chrome, IE, Safari or all three? Just ask.

Chrome 19’s most useful new feature is tab syncing. Chrome has always been a great “syncer” and now – in addition to apps, history, themes and other settings – you can sync your open tabs. This works with all your computers, from your home PC and office workstation to the MacBook Pro rental you got for that upcoming conference. Further, it will also work with any smart phone running on Android Ice Cream Sandwich with a copy of the Chrome beta release for Android. Warning: Don’t leave your work PC on with this feature engaged unless you want all your coworkers to see that you download Hannah Montana posters at home.

Privacy, security upgrades

Of course, Chrome has all the privacy tweaks you need. Head to the Options menu, then to the Under the Hood tab. From there you can control what goes on with cookies (now including Flash cookies), JavaScript, image displays, pop-ups, plug-ins and location data. This is definitely the browser to run if you are setting up a conference booth or breakout session and want to put live Internet on some plasma display rentals – the control is total and nearly glitch-free.

Some users reported trouble with Chrome 18, the last version, particularly under the Windows 7 OS (64-bit). Two different reviewers this past month decided to try duplicating the problems, which seem to occur when multiple tabs with heavy Flash requirements are open. On powerful systems, neither tester could cause a crash. Bottom line? “I can’t say that you won’t have problems with this new version of Chrome,” concluded one reviewer. “All I can say is that on my Windows 7 box, and on my various Linux and Mac boxes as well, Chrome 19 never faltered no matter how heavy a load I put on it.”

No matter how heavy a load is put on you, CRE is here to help. Whether you need trade show convention rentals or high-end post gear, help is always a single call or e-mail away. If you know what you need, visit our Quick Rental Quote page and be done in minutes!

June 7th, 2012

There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of different web browsers that you can get from open-source apps to The Big Guns (Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera). Today we will bring you up-to-date  on the pros and cons of the top web browsers to ensure that you know how to meet your web browsing needs.

Top 5 Web Browsers

In reviewing information from Tom’s Hardware, CNET.com and other sources, we found a solid consensus on the top five browsers. Here are the top five browsers:

Internet Explorer (current version 9) is notorious for not following standards. The famous “Destroyer of Netscape Navigator” has a huge installed base – it’s on our PC desktop computer rentals – but in one tech site’s “browser showdown”,IE finished dead last in over half the 20-odd tests. Its media tools are good with Silverlight excelling at interactive media, but one of the “showdown” judges said that IE’s overall results were “nothing less than sad.”

Opera (current version 12) was one of the first browsers, debuting in 1996. It is considered a RAM hog, but in test after test is a close second to Chrome in speed. Many creative pros, including CRE customers working with AJA IO HD and other potent technology, seem to gravitate to Opera, possibly due to the company culture (old hippies?).

Safari (current version 5.1.6) is not “the world’s fastest web browser.” Chrome is the true “speed champ” and Opera beats Safari, too. On  iMac rental, Safari is tightly integrated into the OS, an advantage it loses when running on Windows – and which may have kept it out of first place. Overall, Safari is still behind Google – for now.

Firefox (current version 13) goes back to the 1990s and is an international presence. Although a test judge noted its “staggering number of customization options,” Firefox has somehow managed to lose its edge. Tablet PC rentals and touch devices make use of some of its custom strengths, but as a go-to browser, Firefox loses to all but IE.

Chrome (current version 19) is the undisputed winner of all the browser comparisons it has appeared in. In fact, Google’s browser has so very many unique, powerful features that it deserves its own blog. Look for that next time, on Tuesday, June 12th.

In the meantime, look to CRE when you need to impress a conference crowd with plasma display rentals or furnish an entire breakout room. Media professionals appreciate our huge inventory of Xserve RAID rentals, potent Mac towers and monstrous mass storage devices. One call or e-mail, or a short visit to our Quick Rental Quote page, and you’re back to work!

May 24th, 2012

It started with “enterprise software” companies like Oracle and Microsoft offering ever-more-centralized control over a firm’s data, storage and workflows. Now Adobe Systems and other SaaSsoftware makers are jumping on the bandwagon, too, giving startup firms and solo professionals some of the flexibility they need to compete with “the biggies.”

We’re talking about software subscriptions, a niche within a large new tech service category known as Software as a Service (SaaS). While some tech categories are dead (netbooks) or dying a slow death (fax machines), subscription software packages are booming. Let’s take a look.

Subscription software options = advantages

Reasons both economic and managerial can support choosing subscription software services over buying programs outright. Whether you’re running Microsoft Office on a PC desktop computer rental or a 3D design package on a top-rated Macintosh, you now have options you didn’t have just a few years ago.

Of course, even when you pay $1,000+ for Adobe Creative Suite, you don’t “own” the software. Rather, you have a license to use it, a “perpetual” one that lasts forever. The downside? It doesn’t matter if you’re using a PC, an iMac or a laptop – updates, upgrades and ongoing tech support are not free, and can be as much as 20-25% of the total cost of ownership (TCO).

Make your best subscription deal

With a subscription deal, you pay for a certain term (a month-to-month or year-long agreement) and can’t use the software if you don’t renew. For example, if you decide to rent laptops for your conference team, and need special software installed, the cost-effective way would be short-term subscriptions or other SaaS arrangement. For longer periods, cost effectiveness improves, as upgrades, support and repairs are all included in your recurring payments.

You will always need the latest version of the program(s) you and your firm rely on daily, so the subscription model is best if you have a tight budget. Like plasma display rentals from CRE, your software rental is always ready to work, will be replaced immediately if defective and is guaranteed to do the job. There does come a point at which a purchase makes sense, but this differs for everyone and the variables are quite numerous. Rely on your trusted number cruncher to advise you.

If your company needs a dozen tablet PCs, a breakout session setup or a range of trade show convention rentals, then CRE is where it’s at. Just call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive. Know what you need already? Visit our Quick Rental Quote form and you’ll be on your way in no time!

May 17th, 2012

In Part 1, we reviewed the progress of PC technology in 2011 and pointed to the probable advances of 2012 – faster graphics, better tablets but no real increase in CPU potency. Today, we will add some details to the ultrabook tale (mentioned in Part 1), and tell you how a special version of the upcoming Windows 8 will challenge the reigning tablet champ, the iPad rental.

Laptops of the future?

Apple may not have invented the “ultrabook” form factor – ultra-light, ultra-thin, ultra-capable-for-its-size and equipped with a Solid State Drive (SSD) – but its MacBook Air was the first to market. From the original Bondi Blue iMac to the upcoming iPhone 5, Apple products have always carried a price premium, as they are well designed, well made and highly coveted. Now that the Air has the latest Intel chips, plus other upgrades like the super speedy Thunderbolt that debuted in early 2011 on the MacBook Pro rental, its price is surprisingly competitive.

In 2012, we will likely see successive waves of low-priced ultrabooks from the big guns in PC manufacturing. The “sweet spot” for pricing is under $1,000, much less than current high-end “thin and light” notebooks from Sony, Acer and Dell. By the third quarter of 2012, according to more than a few pundits, you’ll have your choice of a wide range of light, high-powered, Windows-based notebooks that will run all day on a single charge while offering the computing experience of a capable PC desktop computer rental.

Windows 8 tablet strategy

According to many of the same pundits that got the ultrabook prediction right, last year was to have witnessed a “tablet transition” with Apple’s iPad pushing the tablet “paradigm” into the mainstream. They got that one wrong, but clearly Microsoft is now taking mobile platforms seriously, so this particular prediction is being recycled for 2012. The “mobile edition” of Windows 8 – for pads, phones and tablet PC rentals – will have a proper touch interface born of Windows Phone and its leading edge UI (User Interface), Metro.

The arrival of Windows 8 also raises questions about the future of the PC, which until now has been based on what’s called the “x86″ processor family. Is a PC still a PC without an x86 processor? The fact is, Microsoft will ship a version of Windows 8 with support for ARM (WOA, Windows On ARM) as well as one for x86 processors, the former for mobile devices and the latter for desktop PCs. It will be interesting to see how it all works out – and we’ll keep you posted!

CRE is ready to supply you with the finest trade show convention rentals as well as whatever post-production gear, high-end A/V equipment, monitors, touch screens, workstations and computers you need to get the job done. Call or e-mail an Account Executive – or use our Quick Rental Quote form – to get the right solution, right now!

May 1st, 2012

Microsoft has gradually taken the wraps off Windows 8, the most recent version of its flagship operating system (OS). Windows 8 is the first “MS OS” to be developed from the ground up for multiple devices – your laptop, that PC desktop computer rental, various tablets, big-name smart phones and who knows what else down the line (your refrigerator?). You can get a preview version of the OS online and use it until the final product is released late this year.

Microsoft “spokesfolks” describe the current pre-release version of Windows 8 as “a work in progress [that] will change before the final release,” advising those who install the trial to expect “hiccups and bugs.” Companies that distribute “beta” and “consumer preview” releases count on getting a lot of feedback – via user forums, blog posts and telemetry – for refining the final product. There is a little feedback trickling in, and it is cautiously optimistic. Let’s check it out.

Microsoft Windows 8

OS mash-up?

Windows 8 strikes some as a “crazy quilt combo” of the iPad, classic desktop Windows, Windows Phone and Microsoft’s Metro interface. The tile layout is meant to appeal to folks that have adopted and adapted to the uncluttered interface of the latest smart phones and iPad rental. The Redmond firm clearly wants this new, growing generation of multi-device users to see Windows 8 as a common interface.

That common interface comes in three versions. The newest member of the family is Windows RT, optimized for use on a tablet or all-in-one multitouch display PC with such “touch-optimized” software as OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With a lean, clean interface and excellent battery-power management, Windows RT is what you’ll run on your new ARM-powered tablet.

Not your Daddy’s Windows OS

The standard package, Windows 8, is headed for most people’s laptops and desktops as the successor to Windows 7, with Internet Explorer 10, built-in access to the new Windows Store and all the flexibility most users need. Windows 8 Pro, for serious business users and geeks, ups the ante with virtualization, encryption, network management and domain connectivity. Finally, Windows Media Center – with expanded capabilities for controlling external devices like A/V (audio visual) equipment rentals – is a simple “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro.

This isn’t your Daddy’s (or Mommy’s) Windows OS. Windows 8 was developed to combine standard desktop components with new-fangled elements from the parallel world of pads, tablet PC rentals and phones. Tiles, finger swipes, icons and apps, the touch-driven interface – these are among the new threads that tie everything together in Windows 8. Microsoft execs have not announced a precise release date for Windows 8, but they’re smart, so expect it in the fall, right on time for holiday shopping.

CRE is always right on time, too, with everything from event production rentals to special, high-powered post-production technology like  render farms and mass storage. One call or e-mail, or a trip to our Quick Rental Quote form, gets it all going! Call now!

April 12th, 2012

In Top Security Threats in 2012, Part 1 of 2, we discussed the increasing number of targeted attacks on websites and servers in 2011. Today’s, lets focus on social media threats and mobile mayhem.

Social media scams

Social media is among the primary means by which consumers and businesses communicate, do business, interact and share on the Internet. This makes social sites virtual magnets for criminal types. When the original iMac debuted, makers of cheap PCs immediately copied the colorful design to capitalize on Apple’s resurgence. In the same way, much of the current crop of malicious spam mimics the “look and feel” of such leading social networking sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and, increasingly, Google+.

Scams on Facebook, in particular, spread by “likejacking,” where people are fooled into “liking” a page to make their Facebook walls available to the scammer for posting ads, porn promos or who-knows-what. Facebook alone will have over a billion users before long, logging on with phones, laptops, tablet PC rentals, game consoles and as-yet-unimagined wireless doodads. Despite ongoing improvements in security measures, the concentration of users and data on a handful of sites makes an irresistible target. Expect more of the same scams, along with some new ones, in 2012.

Mobile mayhem

With social media such an inviting target, malware targeting social media will increase, especially as millions more people buy tablets, rent laptops or log on to social media from even the cheapest cell phones. In addition to stealing data, malware can also track a device’s location, a serious new risk to child safety. And personal photos on most devices get stamped with the time as well as GPS coordinates of where the picture was taken, revealing more than you may wish to share.

The primary concern with mobile malware is the vulnerability, as well as the technical ignorance, of average users. In most companies, PCs are maintained by an IT department (one person or 100, depending on the size of the firm) that handles everything from operations and upgrades to networks and security. But if employees use their own mobile devices to access, use and store corporate data, some security teams may not even know. Companies must expand their security policies to control access to company networks by mobile devices. This may just be the most serious security threat for the year ahead.

If the year ahead holds production and/or post-production challenges for your firm, CRE can help you strategize just the right solutions from our industry-leading inventory of render farms, mass storage and other specialized gear. Plus, our rental equipment is tested to ensure security threats are eliminated.  One call or e-mail, or a visit to the Quick Rental Quote page, is all it takes!

April 5th, 2012

Although it debuted on the MacBook Pro in 2011, Thunderbolt – the wicked-fast data transmission technology – still seems like a “new” feature, possibly because it is entering the Macintosh product line gradually (the Mac Pro does not yet have it). Industry rumor-meisters assert that Intel, which developed Thunderbolt with Apple, is releasing a new “Ivy Bridge” processor in April that supports both Thunderbolt and its high-speed transfer competition, USB 3.

macbook pro with thunderbolt

Thunderbolt’s growth rate should accelerate dramatically as the technology moves to the Windows side of the market and starts appearing on computer rentals (and everything else). At 5Mbps, USB 3 is 10 times faster than USB 2, but Thunderbolt is twice as fast as that at 10Mbps. Thunderbolt also supports “daisy chain” connections (every Thunderbolt device has an in and out port) so computers need only one port to support up to seven devices.

Gradual acceptance of Thunderbolt interface

At first, Thunderbolt technology almost struck out. The two immediate strikes against it were chips cost about $20-25, and it was competing with USB 3. Thunderbolt did not get much attention from the IT crowd right away, but as Apple incorporated it into its monitors, MacBook Pro, iMac and MacBook Air, demand surged. The cost for adding Thunderbolt will drop throughout 2012, enabling standardization across computing platforms.

Some folks saw the future back in September 2011, when Asus and Acer committed to Thunderbolt-compatible PCs and peripherals for 2012 in an attempt to position themselves as front-runners. Intel has already announced the “full release” of Thunderbolt specifications in April, so these firms and other top-tier PC makers have Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards and desktops in the pipeline. And it won’t be long before you can rent laptops from CRE with it, too.

Watch the floodgates!

If you want to standardize a technology for computers – desktops, laptops, tablet PC rentals, all kinds – it needs to be on PCs, not just Macs. (You never saw AppleTalk on any Dell products.) As Intel’s development partner, Apple was initially the sole vendor with Thunderbolt technology, but as demand grew Intel released it for wider use. Speaking of “wider use,” Apple apparently has plans to include Thunderbolt on iOS devices, too, and with more and more PC makers getting on board, Thunderbolt’s prospects are bright.

Sony is integrating Thunderbolt technology into its product lines, too, while Asustek Computer and others are expected to add it, as well. Gigabyte Technology has been aggressive about all new transmission technologies, and is set to launch Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards in April to compete against Asustek, ASRock and other board makers. Your chances of being hit by lightning are still as low as ever, but you’ll probably run into a Thunderbolt, and soon!

CRE is the undisputed leader in trade show convention rentals as well as powerful post-production gear, high-end A/V equipment, monitors and touch screens, workstations and computers. Call or e-mail an Account Executive – or use our Quick Rental Quote form – to get the right solution, right now!

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