Microsoft ended official support for Windows XP recently—on April 8, 2014—but no one can claim surprise. And they didn’t need to convince the tech-savvy, who have been moving to Windows 7 and 8 (and, in small numbers, to Linux and Macs, like our potent MacBook Pro rental) for the last few years. It’s true that, as of March 2014, XP was the world’s second most popular OS, holding about 28 percent share. But the pace of upgrading is accelerating, a pretty predictable result when you really do get to the end of the road.
Microsoft has been “pleading with customers” to upgrade, observes Spencer Ferguson of Wasatch IT, who was on Microsoft’s licensing and anti-piracy teams back in the day. It might look and sound like a sales pitch for buying the company’s latest OS, but Ferguson says it should mean only one thing to users: “It means you should take action.” We offer up these simple, straightforward FAQs about this crucial matter, and suggest that whatever action you are going to take, do it ASAP. Now consider:
What’s the #1 reason to upgrade? — One word: security. Windows XP computers will certainly still function, but without new security updates, non-security “hot fixes,” free or paid support plans, or online technical content updates. Some firms are moving to fill in the gaps, but your XP computer will be poorly defended, and hackers will exploit bugs and back doors that Microsoft is neither fixing nor closing.
Are there exceptions? — After the initial negative feedback , in February 2014 Microsoft extended Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP until July 2015. Enterprise customers will get System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security and Endpoint Protection, and Windows Intune, while consumers will receive Microsoft Security Essentials updates. nti-malware solutions are limited, and only “some anti-virus providers” will extend support for XP.
Is it a big deal for real, or Y2K-level dramatics? — A new data breach or computer invasion hits the headlines daily. The risks are real. Just because you like XP, or you don’t want to hassle upgrading, you’ll risk your company? Anti-malware maker Avast estimates that Windows XP systems are “six times” more vulnerable than PCs running Windows 7. (Of course, when you rent iMac computers from CRE, you get the least hacked OS around.)
How do I make the switch? — Microsoft’s online tutorial help you get from Windows XP to Windows 7, so make certain to back up all your files. The update process will not preserve your settings, preferences, files, and programs.
Can I upgrade straight to Windows 8? — It is technically possible, of course, but Microsoft warns that “Windows 8.1 isn’t designed for installation on PCs running Windows Vista or Windows XP.” What with the costs of two OS packages, if you want to end up with Windows 8, you really should buy a new machine. If you have a tight budget, search for reports like “Best Budget Laptops.”
Microsoft, naturally, wants everyone to adopt its latest and soon-to-be-upgraded-to-greatest OS, Windows 8. It has picked up market share slowly (it just went over 11 percent in February) because of the touch-centric UI, but the newly released Windows 8.1 Update promises to bring some of the Windows 8 resistors back into the fold. We’ll keep you posted!
When you rent computers from CRE Rentals you can feel safe knowing that you’ll be getting the most secure, up-to-date OS and Anti-virus versions available. Plus, our post-rental wiping process ensures that any data you leave on the machines will not make it into the hands of the next client. Keeping your valuable data safe is just a small part of the CRE Rentals experience. Call 877-266-7725 today to let us know how we can help with your technology rental needs.
Among the biggest and oldest bottlenecks in the computerized workplace are the aging input methods, specifically keyboards, mice, and trackpads. With tablets, and even our LCD touchscreen monitor rental, yet another input method is now available: Various finger moves and combinations on a trackpad or touchscreen will run your hardware and software. It’s a whole new dimension of “hands-on control.” Well, perhaps not so new anymore, as there are new products advancing an entirely different paradigm.
Gesture Glove…Coming to a Cubicle Near You
Now, from the inventive world of the gamers, comes another input device that offers hands-off control. The technology revolving around the Nintendo Wii, Sony PS4, and Microsoft’s own Xbox One (which is catching up to the PS4 in the sales race) has led to the development of the Gesture Glove (Gesture Glove Mouse and Air Mouse Glove in some markets) by Japanese firm Thanko Co., Ltd. A 2.4GHz wireless radio (Bluetooth) connects the device to just about anything:
Android and iOS tablets;
PCs running Windows XP SP2, Vista, 7, and 8; and
Macintoshes running OS X 10.5 or later.
As it is based on technology that has thus far been used for games, and not productivity software (or even handy-dandy tablet apps), there has been some resistance to the Gesture Glove. It looks a bit clunky and it does take getting used to unless you’ve been using a similar game-controller. The moves you learn for Microsoft Office on a PC will work just as well with Office for Mac on our MacBook Pro rental. Controlling media files for volume, playback, etc., is also a learn-once, apply-everywhere proposition.
A simple wave of your hand (your right one, as there is no “left hand” model) initiates control of the on-screen cursor. A device wrapped around the glove’s index finger has two buttons for invoking right and left clicks with your thumb. Finally, a pause button is on the underside of the button device. Fact is, you can get a lot done with just a few moves and gestures. The integrated USB charger provides 12 hours of use after one hour of charging. Like most Bluetooth devices, it has a maximum range of about 30-40 feet.
A Crowded Field… for Now
The new Gesture Glove is based on a design project by Google and is an exclusive offering from what is known as Japan’s “rare things shop,” the Thanko firm. Its compatibility with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android makes it a broad-based peripheral anyone can use. Plenty of other companies are jumping into this market too. As the technology progresses, and better and better glove controllers (and other new input devices) are developed, we’ll be back to update you!
While CRE does not currently stock the Gesture Glove we do have the latest and greatest technology, including Mac Pro, wifi arrays and HD 4k monitor. Let us solve your technology rental needs by calling today 877-266-7725 or simply Contact Us.
For a few years, so-called “netbooks”—small, light, inexpensive mini-laptops—were wildly popular despite leaving out optical drives, having minimal RAM, and reducing the number, size, and type of connections (except WiFi, of course). Some overeager early adopters thought they could replace laptop rentals for their field sales personnel and conference teams with netbooks, and quickly discovered the limitations.
Today’s netbook is a Chromebook, an entirely different animal. Google’s Chrome OS lets manufacturers build reasonably priced, hard-drive-free, cloud-centric, small-form laptops with decent screens and enough “oomph” to get work done. Chromebooks are no competition for our MacBook Pro rental, but they aren’t supposed to be. Still, only someone with modest computing demands—web, social media, email, basic office work—would make a Chromebook her primary computer.
Google’s success is no joke
As global PC sales continue their downward trajectory, media outlets are reporting Chromebook sales increases. The major stories indicate neither how much, nor who in the product chain is making any money. When trying to confirm technology rumors, you pore over shipping reports of touchscreen panel makers and other component subcontractors; in the absence of hard figures about sales and shipments, you make inferences from market share estimates and price tiers. The picture that emerges from them lately shows a company that has had its blunders, certainly, but which has steadily advanced toward its ultimate goal: Subjugation of the universe!
In all seriousness, Google is creating wildly popular products and services that are changing the world. And how’s this for change: Gartner notes that worldwide PC sales dropped nearly another 11 percent in the second quarter of 2013, while NPD Group notes that Chromebooks grew to a new high and account for 20-25 percent of all units under $300. Of course, we cannot put that in perspective until we know (1) accurate sales figures and (2) margins. However, Google wants people to know that Apple is not the only tech firm that can create new PC paradigms, and that Google and its growing group of A-list manufacturers—Samsung, HP, Acer, Lenovo—have birthed a healthy niche in a dwindling market.
On the other hand…
Remember, it was Windows 8—which is either flailing about wildly or really stirring it up, depending on your choice of pundit—that was going to “save the PC industry.” Instead we have a continuing slide and another 11 percent drop in sales, while Google’s Chrome OS gets packaged by some of the same respected manufacturers in the CRE computer rental inventory, then grabs about a quarter of the sub-$300 U.S. PC business.
Estimates on numbers of Chromebook units that have been shipped, sold, or put to use are varied. NetMarketShare data from April 2013, however, showed total web traffic from Chromebooks at approximately 1/50th of 1 percent. ZDNet estimated earlier in 2013 that Windows RT had earned a larger share than that after being on the market a mere three months (Chromebooks began shipping in 2011). So, will Chromebooks succeed? There are good signs, like wide acceptance in the education market, and support from Google Apps resellers and CSBs (cloud services brokerages). If more big-name manufacturers sign on to make Chromebooks, that’s another giant step for Google—but it doesn’t mean you have to buy one, or help them take over the universe. Just don’t bet against ’em.
When you need just the right event production rentals, another mountain of mass storage, or high-end post-production gear, CRE is your smartest source. Give us a call at (877) 266-7725, send a short (or long!) message, or use the Quick Rental Quote page to reserve what you need, when you need it, 24/7/365!
As Windows 8 neared its official release date, tech journalists kept the interest level up with leaks and rumors as computer makers busily prepped new models. Because Microsoft wants to draft mobile and touchscreen users into the Windows universe, this OS utilizes gestures and there are tons of touch-enabled devices coming soon, including more workstations.
Through 2011 and 2012, PC sales have sagged. For a while it almost felt like all the people in the world were holding their breath in order to release a single, synchronized, 6-billion-strong “wow!” on October 26th, Windows 8′s debut. Did you happen to hear anything?
Reports Start Coming In
Of course, there hasn’t been a unified reaction to Windows 8, but there will eventually be millions of individual ones. From gamers with water-cooled towers to secretaries with a basic desktop PC computer rentals, reports are coming in from every niche. Some users absolutely love the new navigation, while others have reported technical issues. Many may fear the learning curve of a new OS, are wary of upgrades after Vista, or are simply happy enough with Windows 7 to put off upgrading for now. If Windows 8 is going to succeed, it needs seriously deep and broad market penetration.
Overview and Impressions
Windows 8 brings a major performance boost. After noticing the snappier boot time, however, there appears the quite dramatic new Start screen.
The original Start menu, of course, was somewhat controversial when it debuted, but you now may feel pressured to buy apps and content if you tie your Windows account to an existing Microsoft account, all due to Microsoft’s “three screens and a cloud” strategy. You can avoid the hard sell by changing your default applications, or using a local account instead, but not tying Windows to your Microsoft account means you forgo much of what was hyped about Windows 8. The stripped-down RT version of the software would be particularly limited without a linked Microsoft account.
The Kids Are Right
At various times it was argued that age cohorts and media types would drive future OS adoption. Now it seems both are in play as the Windows 8 era has officially arrived, which for Microsoft means:
increased use of digital images, audio, and video; and
continuous, robust social media interaction.
The foregoing items are all associated with younger users, the same ones who use iPad rentals and watch YouTube. They may be more amenable to Windows 8 than other “old school” computer users, but only time will tell if Microsoft made the right move.
To Upgrade or Not Upgrade?
Windows 8 is not right for every PC user. Desktop power users who work with render farms and people who have nicely personalized systems have no compelling reasons to upgrade. But for mobile users who rely on the “Microsoft ecosystem,” and business pros who rent laptops to stay ahead of the curve, Windows 8 is a must. If you are somewhere between those two endpoints, it’s worth a close look. We’re keeping an eye on things and will let you know everything we find out about Windows 8 specifics in the coming weeks.
For all our scientific progress, humans have a dismal record of predicting the future. There is not a scintilla of evidence for supernatural prognostication, despite people believing in so-called psychics like Sylvia Browne (a proven fraud). Of course, the scientists and skeptics that expose psychic charlatans are no better at making predictions than phony seers are – yet they continue trying.
When a bespectacled fellow in a lab coat speaks, many of us lower our intellectual guard. Scientists are intelligent – the moon landing! the paleo diet! the iMac! – so we may listen even when they hold forth on subjects beyond their expertise. There are no experts at predicting the future, which these five embarrassingly wrong tech predictions prove quite conclusively.
1. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson founded Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), one of the first manufacturers of mainframe computers for government and industry. Asked about the home-use potential of the PC in 1977, when Apple and others already had minicomputers on the market, Olson may have shown a lack of imagination, but he had a lot of company.
2. “We will never make a 32-bit operating system.”Bill Gates said this in 1983 at the launch of MSX, a computing architecture that was going to take the world by storm. It didn’t. On the other hand, the latest three OS packages from Microsoft – Vista, Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows 8 – have both 32- and 64-bit versions, which are installed on a wide range of PC desktop computer rental units.
3. “There is practically no chance [that] space satellites will be used to provide better [communications] inside the United States.” In 1961, the FCC Commissioner – appropriately named T. Craven – announced this conclusion of an in-depth government study. Today, whether people buy tablets or rent laptops, they can connect to the world wirelessly because commercial communications satellites began blasting into orbit in 1965.
4. “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.”Albert Einstein gave this gloomy prediction about nuclear power in 1932. As part of the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb, Einstein worked with ENIAC, the first “real” computer, which was less powerful than a 1980s-vintage Casio DataBank watch. A MacBook Pro rental would have seemed like alien technology to ol’ Albert.
5. “Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.”Alex Lewyt, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, was thus quoted in a New York Times article in 1955. The early years of the Atomic Age were exciting (and scary). Today, render farm rentals from CRE comprise technological components so powerful and advanced that Mr. Lewyt just might have thought them nuclear-powered.
Apple scores the most headlines, but far more people in the world use Windows PCs than Macintoshes. 2011 brought speed increases for buyers of some new PC and Mac models, but progress by Intel was nearly canceled out by the flop of AMD’s so-called “Intel-killer” chip, nicknamed Bulldozer. Still, Intel helped the iMac achieve power rankings in Mac Pro territory with the latest, third-generation “Core-i” chips.
Ironically, now that a basic PC desktop computer rental can sport a high-end CPU – and since AMD is no competition – speed gains are no longer Intel’s “goal #1.” The newest Core i7, the fastest PC processor ever, is only marginally speedier than its predecessor. Even with two of its six cores turned off, it powers some iMacs past a Mac Pro rental in speed tests. That’s why Apple is reconsidering the future of its tower models (more in an upcoming blog).
What’s coming in 2012?
The modest progress in CPU power was widely expected, but so too were advances in graphics processors – and Android tablets were going to take over the world at $99, remember? For 2012, the following developments seem likely:
• CPUs will take a back seat to GPUs (Graphics Processor Units);
• Android tablet makers will finally field a worthy competitor to the mighty iPad rental; and
• light, thin laptops from numerous makers – with SSDs (Solid State Drives) – will try to knock off the “original Ultrabook,” the MacBook Air.
The CPU/GPU scene
There won’t be a big increase in core count or clock speed in 2012, with the former number maxing out at four (“quad-core”) and the latter at 3.5GHz (3.9 with Turbo). But potent integrated graphics means speedy encoding times, and images will get to plasma display rentals or other high-end monitors with greater speed, resolution and clarity.
Summarizing PC hardware trends for 2012, we expect to see:
• the race for the fastest PC chip to slow down, as Intel’s Core i7 outperforms the competition even with two of six cores turned off;
• graphics performance to make gains in 2012, meaning Apple Cinema Display rentals will look better, react faster, reproduce color more accurately and use less electricity; and
• the new Ultrabook form factor to pack desktop power into an under-two-pound, half-inch thick form factor. (If you want to see the future now, check out the Asus Zenbook. More on Ultrabooks in Part 2.)
At CRE, we serve experts in post-production who need render farms and other high-end gear, just as we serve marketing managers who need trade show convention rentals. If you know what you need, use our Quick Rental Quote form. But if you need help to overcome today’s bottlenecks – and prepare for tomorrow’s – then one call or e-mail puts you in touch with an expert Account Executive. Just let us know how can we help!
Watch for PC Progress in 2012, Part 2 on Thursday, May 17th.
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.
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!
As the Internet and other modern communications technologies continue evolving, so too do the various security threats. With every new laptop or PC desktop computer rental, it seems there’s also another new virus or identity-theft scam. Now a report from the experts at M86 Security Labs predicts the top Internet security threats for 2012, the first three of which continue trends that emerged in 2011: targeted attacks, social media threats and mobile malware.
In 2011, targeted attacks increased dramatically over previous years, lighting up the mass media headlines with well publicized hits on RSA, Sony and Lockheed. With the incredible growth of social media, cybercriminals have developed sophisticated, legit-looking scams on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to steal users’ personal and financial data and, as usual, spread some more malware around.
With so many tablets, iPad rentals and smart phones around, perhaps the most troubling security trend is malware that exploits weaknesses in wireless/mobile devices, turning them into bots, infiltrating mobile applications and stealing data. With people now using their personal devices at work, cybercrooks can kill two birds with one stone and potentially get both personal and corporate information through a single, vulnerable device.
What’s in store for individuals and companies in 2012? The full report from M86 (PDF) details the top 10 web and e-mail threats that their experts expect to see this year, but today lets focus on targeted attacks (in Part 2, we will discuss social media threats and mobile malware).
Until the last few years, incidents of targeted attacks were rarely made public, as corporate victims preferred not to advertise their weaknesses. However, such “hacktivist” groups as LulzSec and Anonymous happily report on their nefarious deeds. Also, since there are now many more Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) being used against corporate and governmental targets, Internet “battles” and “cyberwars” are regulars in the news.
In 2011, a series of attacks forced Sony to shut down its PlayStation service for long enough to lose lots of money (and even more credibility, since confidential user information was obtained). A cyber-attack on Lockheed-Martin may have resulted in the theft of fighter jet blueprints. Armed with no more than a Linux netbook, a PC laptop or a MacBook Pro, a hacker can cause real chaos, and real easily, so you should expect more attacks via APTs in 2012 – and more of them being launched against big corporate targets.
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.
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!
Today’s computers are a far cry from those of just seven or eight years ago. The average desktop computer rental has more RAM, a bigger hard drive and better graphics performance than the high-end models of 2005. Improved case design and modular components also make it easier for non-nerds to add memory, install additional hard drives and otherwise personalize their computers.
It is also easier to maintain computers today, which extends their lifespans. In addition to utilities that come with every new computer, there are low- and no-cost ones for both Macs and PCs to aid with preventive maintenance, routine “cleanup” and the occasional repair. Whether it’s your office iMac or your home PC, doing your own maintenance, upgrades and repairs is a big money-saver.
The regular stuff for computers
Regular maintenance helps keep the OS (Operating System) and the hard drive in shape, reduces clutter (seen and unseen) and protects your PC from attack. The Windows OS wants you to “clean the registry,” Mac OS X requests that you “repair disk permissions” – but both want you to defragment your drive (and leave 10% free space). Whether you have an office full of workstations or rent laptops for a conference, you may need to do some or all of these tasks.
While some utilities scour your hard drive and list files that (they think) are expendable, you could lose something important. For example, controlling recording gear and certain audio visual equipment rentals with your PC requires special plug-ins that often have cryptic names. Review any such list to ensure you don’t toss something you need. Your spyware/malware protection is likely automated, but if not, run a scan regularly (at least weekly).
Updates and patches
Windows Update sends patches, updates and “service packs” to your computer’s OS and Internet Explorer, with automatic installation if you choose. On the Mac it’s called “Software Update” and accomplishes the same thing. Having a clean, well-oiled machine (figuratively speaking, of course, so put down that oil can!) means you will get the best plug-and-play performance from your computer, even when using such high-end peripherals as render farms or RAID arrays.
Open source boosters would tell you to install Linux on your computer and be done with drive fragmentation, start-up applications running in the background and viruses. But using Linux brings you back into nerd territory, and if you’re not up to it, stay put with your Mac or PC and get whatever help you need to whip it into shape. There are plenty of help sites out there. You are not alone. You can do this!
Use our Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need, but if you want advice on equipment, conference strategies or post-production solutions, a single call or e-mail will connect you with an expert Account Executive. We don’t charge a cent for brainstorming solutions and strategies with you. Call now!