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January 31st, 2012

Confused about “the cloud”? You’re not alone. Still, believe it or not, we may be nearing that point where we’re finished defining it and are moving into some clearly understood efforts and approaches. Perhaps IT managers can finally stop going to every workshop or conference on “virtual teams” or “whatever-as-a-Service” (the first was probably SaaS, Software as a Service).

We’ll call that the good news. And the bad? The cloud computing options are seemingly limitless. That a list of just the “top firms” in cloud computing runs to 100 is a sign of just how big this latest top-down paradigm shift might be. For now, though, the whole thing still seems big and a bit unwieldy – and hard to explain in the desktop computing vocabulary most people have learned via basic home and office use.

The real problem with “the cloud”

There is a dizzying array of activities surrounding “the cloud,” but that’s not really the problem – having choices is a good thing. But it gets complicated when you have to decide on vendors, choose commercial vs. open-source solutions, ensure the “portability” of applications among various clouds and so on. For individuals and firms exclusively using the Mac Pro or other Macs, Apple has a top-down solution in iCloud. But for PC users and mixed environments (like most companies), it can be messy.

Running a business has never been more complicated than it is now. Everyone is talking about “cloud projects” but your IT manager (or outsourced service) spends 70-80% of the time (and budget) just keeping things running. Now, if you’re a small post-production firm handling your own IT you may be comfortable with high-tech gear like a Xserve RAID rental but confused by all these cloud offerings. And it’s expensive to acquire the right skills whether you promote internally, retrain, cross-train, get a consultant or hire a full-time expert.

Public or private?

For larger firms a Private Cloud may be worth a look, so study the best practices of current Public Cloud operators like Netflix to see what you can implement. And it’s not just about what happens in the office. If you outfit your conference team with  iPad rentals you’ll want access to your cloud for PDF brochures and other data. Universal access is one of the main reasons to have a cloud.

From chaos and confusion comes opportunity, as long as you’re open to change, new ideas and an incremental (read “cautious”) approach. We’re experiencing an historic change in computing and communications that will affect businesses on many levels. How inventors, vendors, businesses and individuals handle the challenges will chart the course of IT for the next decade or two. It should be interesting!

For event production rentals or post-production gear, CRE is your one-stop shop. We can support your cloud project with a room full of iMac rentals or mass storage. One call or e-mail does it – and if you know what you need already, use the Quick Rental Quote form.

January 26th, 2012

When Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer did his keynote address at CES 2012, more than a few attendees (and most of the media) thought that the overproduced hip-hop-techno-video-extravaganza introduction was a bit odd. Plus, there was no “core messaging” at all regarding Microsoft’s focus of  “three screens and a cloud.”

The three screens are PCs, tablet/game devices and phones, all with online storage and apps in the “cloud.”

PCs – Microsoft’s “first screen”

Microsoft is doing great with the “first screen” – PCs. Windows 7, which powers all of CRE Rentals’ PC desktop computer rental units and PC laptops, has shipped over half a billion copies since 2009 and is solidly ensconced in both homes and businesses.

Games & Tablets – “second screen”

Following the introduction of Kinect, the Xbox 360 has overcome its slow start to become a billion-dollar success. With new film and TV partnerships, Xbox is becoming a media hub for moms and dads, at least when they can get the kids off the thing. Chasing the success of iPad rentals are hundreds of Android tablets, but Microsoft can’t field a tablet product until later in 2012, after Windows 8 ships. Hardware details are nonexistent at this point but it’s fair to say that Microsoft is moving in the right direction with the “second” screen.

Smartphone – “third screen”

The firm’s biggest problem is with the third screen – smart phones. Windows Phone got mostly positives reviews, but market share is tiny after more than a year and attempts to use it on devices like tablet PC rentals didn’t work out. Apple and Samsung products dominate phone hardware, while iOS and Android own the software side. Windows Phone has a big challenge ahead.

The big question…what about the Cloud?

cloud confusion

With little information about how and when Microsoft and its partners plan to roll out Windows 8 tablets, even the rosiest scenario puts the company in a distant third place at the end of 2012. So much for the three screens – what about the cloud that ties them all together, like Apple’s iCloud? For consumers, Microsoft has steadily refined SkyDrive and Windows Live, introducing new features and planning much better Windows 8 integration. For business users, Office 365 is doing well against Google Apps as Windows Azure continues a slow but steady growth.

Since the company’s cloud strategy requires customers loyal to Microsoft on all three screens, can Microsoft bring smart phones into the mix? The firm has been slow to deliver solutions for Android or iOS, and there are no Office apps on non-Microsoft devices. Microsoft already has a presence on the iMac and other Apple computers – as Macs run the Windows OS natively. If the company dedicates itself to “invading” the iPad and iPhone, this will be a very interesting year.

One call or e-mail puts an expert Account Executive on the job for you, or use our Quick Rental Quote if you know what you need!

December 15th, 2011

“The times they are a-changing,” Bob Dylan sang over 40 years ago. He was right then, and he’s still right. In the tech world, change moves at supersonic speed, and there is so much to keep up on that doing so can be a full-time job. Lets take a look at what’s happening to Windows and Mac OS X as a direct result of advances in “tablet tech.”

Windows & Mac OS X

Tablet tech…small is (now) beautiful

When the first practical tablet devices debuted in the early 1990s – Apple’s Newton, the Palm Pilot and other Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) – they weren’t ready for prime time. The CPUs were slow, handwriting recognition was spotty and wireless didn’t exist. Just making room for batteries required a larger form factor, the predecessors of tablet PC rentals. It wasn’t until the first decade of the 21st century that WiFi, faster processors and new battery technology got small and inexpensive enough to usher in the “mobile computing era.”

In the mobile universe, screen space is limited (compared to your desktop’s monitor) so icon-based operation, whether via touchscreens like on an iPad rental or smart phone buttons, is a sensible approach. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Windows Phone (7.5 was just released) were all developed with ease of use in mind.

Icons, apps, constant connection

As devices began to proliferate and improve, special software programs (“apps”) were developed to do specific, focused tasks. While WiFi didn’t become a standard feature until just a couple of years ago, every device of every kind (and size) is now built to be “always on.” Expect your desktop OS – Mac, Windows and, to a lesser degree, Linux – to continue making communications and connectivity as easy, simple and fast as a phone. You will get a familiar “look and feel” whether you’re on a phone, a tablet/ipad or an iMac. At long last … convergence!

Many more small-device developments will find their way into both Windows and Mac OS X, but some are already visible in current releases. The latest Mac OS X release is Lion, 10.7, but it’s not the first to use elements of Apple’s iOS (now at version 5). The App Store is now, well, an app, permanently situated in the Dock, and like others in Lion it opens into “full screen” mode. With the newly inaugurated iCloud, which we wrote about recently, you can synchronize everything from work documents to iCal entries among all your devices, from the Mac Pro at your office to the iPhone in your pocket.

Mobile advances really are changing your desktop, and fast. Whether you need high-tech advice, high-tech gear – render farms, mass storage, A/V equipment – or the best trade show convention rentals, one call or e-mail (or a few clicks on our Quick Rental Quote form) will put you on the fast track to a solution!

November 3rd, 2011

Some Information Age pundits think that PC and Mac users are innately different kinds of individuals. A 2009 study resulted in some intriguing findings, shedding light on the characteristics of the two main (self-selected) groups of computer users. The differences go far beyond a predisposition toward a certain computer or operating system (OS). So, what are the differences between “Macsters” and “PC people,” and do they matter?

PC vs Mac

Some major findings

• PC users like well-defined, structured jobs. Mac users like flexible, fluid ones.

• PC users consider “works of art” to be paintings of people or nature. Mac users choose objects or architecture, and consider the award-winning designs of the iMac and other Apple computers “good art,” too.

• PC users think “There’s Something About Mary” is a good comedy. Mac users like “Little Miss Sunshine.”

• PC users consider themselves rational and are oriented toward numbers. Mac users are intuitive, conceptual and geared toward words and images – among the reasons that iPad rental has the new, icon-based iOS.

• PC users typically buy clothes at department or discount stores. Mac users like unique/boutique shops.

PC people: Genetic or tribal?

Some of these differences may arise from the nature of Microsoft’s and Apple’s founders, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Gates was a child prodigy, scored 1590 on his SATs and went to Harvard University (but dropped out). Jobs wasn’t a brainy type, as Steve Wozniak had that role, but his marketing genius and design sense – from the looks of the original Bondi Blue iMac to the uniquely efficient interior of the potent Mac Pro – account for a huge part of Apple’s success.

Many PC users originally came from a programming background, and PC users still tend to be more down-to-earth if a bit “tribal” or insular. Whether using a standard desktop PC or an all-in-one multitouch display PC, they prefer function over form, like to get the job done and don’t need flash or gimmickry. Practicality reigns in their choice of such things as cars and clothes, too, and the Windows 7 “I’m a PC” commercials suggest a certain ordinariness that some find reassuring.

Mac folks: Just different?

One of Apple’s longtime slogans, “Think different,” urged Mac users to avoid conformity and be themselves. They are more attentive to modern art, independent films and whatever helps them express their unique identities, which are nicely displayed in a infographic.

If Apple continues its mainstream growth, but doesn’t give its loyal customers the feeling of individuality that they want, then all bets are off. On the other hand, CRE is a sure bet. We’re experts in everything from trade show conventional rentals to high-end post-production computer gear. One call (or e-mail) puts an experienced Account Executive on the job for you, or you can use the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. PC or Mac — we’re ready with the right solution, right now!

October 27th, 2011

Although you can use it as an remote archive, Apple’s new iCloud service that debuted on October 12th is not primarily for storage. It is made to keep your data synchronized among your iOS devices and computers (Mac, PC). After it’s set up, you can work on your iPad rental and know that the document will instantly be ready for editing on any synced device. Transferring files by e-mail or USB flash drives is on the fast track to obsolescence.

iCloud by Apple

How iCloud works

First off, iCloud doesn’t work without the latest OS X Lion update, 10.7.2, and the latest iTunes update, 10.5. For better iCloud integration, Safari also got a bump to 5.1.1. Pages, Numbers and Keynote – the iWork programs that run on every Macintosh, from the cutting-edge laptops to the mighty Mac Pro – now sync documents via iCloud. Contacts, Calendar and Mail data also updates automatically on multiple devices. Just as importantly, iCloud also stores device settings, apps, screen layouts, ring tones and text messages, so all your vital data comes with you when you upgrade devices.

The new Photo Stream lets you download up to 1,000 photos for 30 days without counting against your storage total (see “What’s the deal?” below). Third-party apps can also leverage iCloud services, and it’s vital to remember that iCloud is “open territory” where tablet PC rentals running Windows are free to roam, too. Future blogs will update you on the features developers implement for their various iCloud products and services.

What’s the deal?

You get 5GB of iCloud storage for free, and iTunes music, e-books, apps and Photo Stream pics do not count toward your total. Your iCloud real estate will be populated by documents, application data, mail, non-Photo Stream photos, settings and other information. You can buy more storage for annual fees of $20 (10GB), $40 (20GB) and $100 (50GB), but Apple’s customer research indicates that 5GB of storage should be sufficient for most people. There are numerous variables – the size of your Camera Roll, how many documents you carry around, how much application data you’re amassing, etc. – so you will have to figure out what works for you.

iTunes Match confuses

There is a possible point of confusion with iCloud, and that revolves around iTunes integration. When you buy tracks from iTunes, they are automatically synced to your devices and don’t count toward your free storage total. However, if you want to sync music that was not purchased from iTunes, the privilege requires paying $25 a year for the separate iTunes Match service.

CRE, like Apple, is all about “value added” and excellence. From Audience Response Systems (ARS) to high-end digital gear and Xserve for that new post-production project, we’ve got you covered. One simple call or e-mail puts an experienced Account Executive on the job for you, while a couple of clicks gets the ball rolling with our Quick Rental Quote. We’re ready with solutions for whatever challenges you face!

October 18th, 2011

Newsweek magazine’s second annual Green Rankings for 2010 rates the most environmentally conscious, least wasteful companies in America. For the second time (the list started in 2009), the rankings were dominated by technology firms, which took eight spots in the top 10. The Green Rankings reward firms that save energy and eliminate waste, with a company’s “green score” being a weighted average of three “subscores” that quantify green policies, environmental impacts and company reputation.

High-Tech Eco-Heroes: The 2010 Green Rankings

New for 2010 is an additional assessment of corporate transparency, that is, how much data each firm discloses about its environmental policies, procedures and programs. CRE’s own Green Statement makes clear our own commitment to transparency, sensible stewardship and sustainability, and we feel it’s important to recognize the great work of other high-tech firms. So, who’s the greenest of them all?

Who’s on first?

Computer maker Dell won the #1 spot on the second annual Green Rankings with such strong and innovative environmental policies as free product recycling worldwide and a strict ban on exporting e-waste to developing nations. At #2 this time, and the 2009 winner, is Hewlett-Packard, whose energy-efficient models are well represented among CRE’s PC desktop computer rentals.

Like Dell, #2 HP brings its new, clean, future-oriented thinking to bear on all facets of its business. So, while warm, fuzzy, feel-good ads might interest some potential customers, making efficient products will actually get green consumers buying. Dell, H-P, #3 IBM and other PC makers now produce desktops and laptops that use up to 25 percent less energy than 2008 models. Many such models are available when you rent laptops from CRE.

Not only hardware

Media companies like #8 Yahoo earned points (and respect) for unique cooling solutions in their data centers, which are voracious consumers of energy. Yahoo’s “evergreen” data centers now consume 40% less energy and an astonishing 94% less water than typical installations. With all the tablet PC rentals, iPads, smart phones and mobile web gadgets in the world, and the growing demand on such data centers, this is an important development.

The rest of the tech firms in the top 10 (U.S.) are #4 Intel, #5 Sprint Nextel, #6 Adobe Systems and #7 Applied Materials.

You’re the top!

Every CRE client and customer is a “top firm,” and we’re ready to give you our very best to help you overcome a wide range of challenges. From trade show convention rentals to high-end post-production gear like mass storage and render farms, we’ve got you covered. Call or e-mail an expert Account Executive today, or “go self-serve” with our Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. Either way, we’ll equip you to succeed as “greenly” as possible!

August 23rd, 2011

We’re deep enough into 2011 to make some “tech predictions” for 2012, despite the big non-tech prediction calling it humanity’s last year of existence. We prefer to think positively, and we’re positive you will find the  “10 New Technologies You’ll See in 2012″ Parts 1 and 2 – as useful as they are interesting.

1. Windows 8. Windows 7 came out ahead of the usual Microsoft (MS) schedule due to the low adoption rates of Vista. Windows 7, more stable than its predecessor, has been well received on CRE computer rentals. (Meanwhile, so many people stuck with XP that MS finally had to declare an end to XP support in April 2014 to prod its installed  base of users along the upgrade path.) Watch for Windows 8 in 2012, with cloud integration and a complete overhaul of the file system.

2. New components and form factors. The cylindrical tube in the accompanying image looks very much like a futuristic scroll.  Cylindrical tube componentUnlike great laptop rentals, this device isn’t ready for work yet, but computer scientist and designer Hao Hua’s “next generation laptop design” does feature emerging tech like a flexible OLED screen, flexible pull-out keyboard, straps with USB outlets and a wrist-mounted webcam. You will see these features debuting independently in new products that will compete for attention (and buyers) starting next year.

3. Smart TVs. The Vizio XVT3D6SP has a very easily satirized model name – it looks like comic book swearing – but it won CNET’s Best of CES award in the TV category and is a major hit. Passive 3D functionality, LED backlighting and Google in the DNA makes it part of a true dynamic duo when paired with an Android phone or tablet. The era of net- and computer-connected TVs is fully upon us, and this is the trailblazer.

4. iPhone 5. Rumors of a radical new design are based on the assumption that the Apple iPhone 5 needs a new lease on life. Instead, say other observers, Apple will follow its usual evolutionary path. The iPhone isn’t new, and doesn’t need much in the way of new excitement to stay wildly popular. It is much more likely that internal improvements – an A5 processor, FaceTime cameras like those found in MacBook Pro rentals, improved battery life – will get the nod, as the body and screen are already gorgeous.

5. LightPeak aka Thunderbolt. Sony is incorporating leading-edge technology throughout all its product lines. For its VAIO PCs and laptops, some of which are in our computer rentals inventory, Sony has now added the same next-gen connection technology (LightPeak, aka Thunderbolt) that the new iMac rentals have, and other computer makers are poised to follow.

Unfortunately, we can’t help you with these new technologies just yet but we can offer you some other digital strategies to improve your company’s workflow. Talk it over with an expert Account Executive in a phone call or e-mail, or use the Quick Rental Quote if you know what you need. We’re always ready to help!

Don’t forget to check out Part 2 – “10 New Technologies You’ll See in 2012.” 

August 11th, 2011

As Apple adds superfast Thunderbolt ports to all new Macintoshes, the technology is beginning to appear on PCs, too, under names like LightPeak, Intel’s code name for the multi-partner project. The Information Age has already given us numerous connectors and cables, but the relentless march of progress means we’ll see more. This quick cable review will show you what’s up today, and offer a glimpse of tomorrow, as well.


Cable standbys

If you still use an older computer as a server or mail station, you still need parallel, serial and SCSI devices. Many PCs still have PS-2 type keyboard and mouse ports. And, there are the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) connectors (for keyboard, mouse, modems) that Apple abandoned in favor of USB.

Today’s major Cable players

Despite the rise of wireless everything there are still physical RJ-45 ports for Ethernet on most computers.

USB has gone from 2.0 to 3.0 with the peripheral-connector looking the same, but it has five hidden pins for SuperSpeed 3.0 capability. The computer end of the cable, however, gets a new piece above the existing, square-ish Type B connector.

FireWire will not likely develop beyond its current 400Mbps and 800Mbps forms, using the connectors/cables shown in Illustration below. It is much less widespread than USB, but it’s been around since our Macintosh laptop rentals came in rounded, candy-colored cases.

Monitor connections

VGA is the oldest, most prevalent monitor connection, while today’s other popular protocols are DVI, DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort. A variety of adapters are available to connect most kinds of computer rentals to most kinds of monitors, regardless of what ports are built in.

I/O for tomorrow

New Apple models like our iMac rentals have Thunderbolt, which uses the same connector as a Mini Display Port to carry audio, video, user data, network data and power. You will see Thunderbolt adapters with audio, Ethernet and other connections, as well as cables that use some or all of the available 100W of power to run external devices.

On iMacs or MacBook Pro rentals, a single Thunderbolt port provides two channels with 10Gbps of two-way throughput each, twice as fast as USB 3.0. You can connect Mini Display Port-equipped displays directly, or other kinds with appropriate adapters. Thunderbolt handles data, too, so  firms are also developing adapters to connect FireWire 400/800 and USB devices to the new ports, with the peripherals working at the same maximum speed as on their own native buses.

At CRE Rentals, we work at maximum speed all the time, too, with maximum effectiveness to meet your need for computers, plasma rentals, conference gear and post-production technology. One call or e-mail puts our experienced Account Executives on the job just for you, finding the solution you need – now. (Need it even faster? Use our Quick Rental Quote form.)

July 21st, 2011

It has already been an exciting week, as Apple released its long-awaited upgrade, OS X 10.7 (Lion). We will give you that story in an upcoming blog, because there are some very exciting things happening “on the PC side.”

Solid state control

Wave of PC AdvancesSolid State Drives (SSDs) are increasing in size while decreasing in price. The secret to their speed is the “drive controller,” the best of which is made by SandForce. They sell controllers and “SSD Toolbox” firmware kits to manufacturers who then supply SSDs to computer makers like HP and Dell.  SSDs are mainstream enough now that CRE could install them in a variety of computer rentals depending on customer need. One day all drives will be solid state (but don’t hold your breath, we’re talking years not months).

USB is up to 3

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) debuted in the mid-1990s and quickly lived up to the first letter in its acronym, connecting computers to everything from printers to external drives. About seven times faster than USB 2.0, USB 3.0 is fast, but is not as fast as the Thunderbolt technology on the new MacBook Pro rentals. Apple is not planning to add USB 3.0 to its models any time soon, and even Intel is favoring other technologies.

DDR4 memory chips

Everything from laptop rentals to Mac Pros pumping out video will work faster now. Developed by Samsung Electronics with a 30nm class process, the new DDR4 memory draws lower voltage (1.2v) than existing DDR3 chips (1.35v and 1.5v). Like new car engines that get more power with less gas, the lower-power DDR4 memory will run at up to 3.2Gbps, versus 1.6Gbps for DDR3.

New brainpower, too

“Bulldozer” is the code name for the new CPUs coming soon from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The chips will have 8 cores, and are said to be as much as 50 percent faster than the top-of-the-line Core i7 4-core CPU from Intel. Folks who can get their work done on tablet PC rentals don’t need this much power, but post-production pros using potent Mac Pro rentals and doing sample-accurate work (you know who you are) need all they can get.

Staying abreast of all the changes in technology is tough. At CRE, we specialize in technology so you don’t have to – and we can make it all understandable for you if that’s what you need. A simple call or e-mail is all it takes to connect with an experienced Account Executive whose sole focus will be solving your problems and giving you options. If you know what you need already, save time with our handy Quick Rental Quote form.

May 26th, 2011

Apple is due to release the latest version of Mac OS X this summer, numbered 10.7 and code-named Lion. Let’s look at the broadest, most basic changes coming to the OS X Lion.

Mac OS X Lion

Centralized control panel

Mission Control replaces the old Exposé and Spaces control panel and adds other new ones that help you “take control” of your desktop. With the increased power in every Mac, from the awesome new iMac models to our workhorse MacBook Pro rentals, multiple Spaces (virtual desktops) help you multitask with the best of them. You can now add, remove and edit Spaces on the Mission Control screen without even opening the control panel.

Finder revisions

Finder windows now feature a drop-down menu for quickly applying the “Arrange by” commands. Arranging icons in a particular folder or accessing additional Finder options is also possible with a simple right-click, which brings up a contextual menu. This is especially handy when navigating through hundreds (thousands?) of files on one of our Etherhet disk RAID rentals.

Stylish new wallpapers

The Lion Developer Preview 3 (aka DP3) release added some new wallpapers, but did away with some old favorites. You can take a gander at these Lion-worthy wallpapers at the Cult of Mac site.

iCal upgrades

Here’s proof that the iOS “style” is coming to the Mac. The “look and feel” of the iCal application on the Mac is quite reminiscent of the Calendar app on our iPad rentals. In addition, the to-do feature of iCal now refers to items on your list as Reminders.

Safari “Reading List”

This new Safari feature is front and center in DP3 – available in the toolbar, contextual menus, dialog boxes – as opposed to being tucked away in previous versions. Like the Web and iOS app Read It Later, you use Reading List to save (bookmark) Web pages “in the cloud” for later reading. No doubt this feature will find its way to iOS, letting you sync your Reading List among home-bound and mobile devices. Of course, Safari runs in Windows, too, meaning this cool feature could run on all computer rentals from CRE.

Bottom line

Among Mac fans, there is no doubt that Mac OS X Lion will be the best Mac OS ever. That’s what we think about every Mac OS upgrade. And at CRE we know that the latest Mac computers are always the best ever, too – but if you need a potent PC, we can do that, as well! PC or Mac, convention rentals or post-production gear, we’ve got you covered. Call or e-mail (or fill out our Quick Rental Quote form) and we’ll equip you to succeed, whatever the challenge!

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