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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 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 24th, 2012

There is always a sense of both excitement and dread when Adobe announces the development of a new product. It’s exciting because Adobe has great products that have helped the firm corner the market for high-end photo-and-image software (Photoshop) and dominate the publishing world (InDesign). These are two superb programs, running on everything from plain vanilla PCs to the beefiest customized Mac Pro rental around.

Of course, the other members of Adobe’s Creative Suite, soon to be at version CS6, are also heavyweights in their respective categories – Illustrator for design, Acrobat for PDFs and Dreamweaver for websites. But Adobe has also put dread in the hearts of its customers by showing signs of “Microsoft Frontpage-itis,” a condition characterized by a dumbing down of software. Adobe Muse

With the introduction of Muse, yet another website program, comments in the blogosphere are gaining in number as well as negativity.

Who’s the target?

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Muse is aimed at Microsoft Frontpage level users, people who (1) don’t want to drop hundreds of dollars on a top-of-the-line program like Adobe’s own Dreamweaver, and/or (2) will never, ever learn HTML. Muse will compete with Apple’s iWeb, MS Frontpage and a slew of other paint-by-the-numbers website makers from Intuit, Coffee Cup Software and Xara. Adobe will differentiate the product by offering more control, precision placement and power user options. Differentiation and branding in its own product line will be a bit tougher.

Available until release (late 2012?) as a free beta download, Muse is aimed at non-coding web designers who want to work in a powerful WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) environment. “Earth to Adobe, Earth to Adobe: You already have that capability in Dreamweaver!” In Adobe’s existing web program, Dreamweaver CS5, you can split the screen to show both the code and the design preview, or work in one or the other. Like some of the self-contained online site builders, Dreamweaver is an advanced program, but beginners can get decent results with practice.

Rare Adobe misfire?

In fact, if Dreamweaver were just a bit more user-friendly, it could arguably command more market share. What is the compelling case for Muse? Inquiring minds want to know – but will have to wait, perhaps until Muse is headed toward version 2.0. As presently constituted, it is not quite entry-level and certainly not advanced. It’s as if a post-production pro were using floppies (but nice, new multicolored ones) instead of an Xserve RAID for mass storage: Sure, you can do it, but why would you?

We could ask you the same question when it’s time to rent laptops or get state-of-the-art trade show convention rentals. Why would you go anywhere else but CRE? One simple call puts an experienced, expert Account Executive on the job for you. And your visit to the Quick Rental Quote page can get you set up in mere minutes. We’re here, ready to help!

February 28th, 2012

Windows 8

Windows 8 is coming. Really! Microsoft has mailed invitations to a media event they are holding at Mobile World Congress 2012. The company will announce some new products, new developments – and new vocabulary. “Beta software” packages, the full-featured versions that follow “Developer Previews” and engage millions of users in debugging the final commercial release, will now be called “Consumer Previews.”

More importantly, though, there’s a change in the Windows “design vocabulary.” Windows 8 is a dramatic “re-imagining” (in Microsoft’s marketing vocabulary) that follows the “design language” of Metro, the user interface (UI) initially developed for Windows Phone 7. Following the lackluster Vista OS, Windows 7 – installed on most every PC desktop computer rental from CRE – offered both cosmetic and operational improvements a-plenty. Elements of desktop and mobile UIs are combined in Metro.

From desktop to mobile

Microsoft typically makes Consumer Previews available on the day they are announced. The company has always had special flavors of its OS tweaked for 1990s handhelds or today’s tablet PC rentals, so its decision to release the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the Mobile World Congress is a strong signal that the firm will push Windows 8 very hard in the mobile market.

In mid-September 2011, Microsoft released the Windows 8 Developer Preview. In 90 days the unfinished OS was downloaded over 3 million times, more than the total downloads for the feature-filled Windows 7 beta in early 2009. Compared to the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview targets a broader audience and could account for up to 10 million downloads, given the level of interest and how much is at stake.

Wanted: Bug reports

The Windows 8 Developer Preview was incomplete, but the Consumer Preview should have nearly full implementation of new features. People will install it on all kinds of PCs, as well as on the iMac and every other Macintosh from laptops to towers (since Macs run Windows). Millions of bug reports will help Microsoft refine and finish the product.

There are doubtless a few Microsoft executives, marketing directors and product managers mulling over the following points:

Feedback is mixed – Microsoft has already received tons of feedback about the Metro look and feel. The relatively recent builds demoed at CES 2012 incorporated user feedback in an attempt to blunt the criticism.

Windows “true believers” – A hard-core minority will always resist change, but will have to accept it this time around since the final release will most likely not have a “classic” option.

A new course – Apple left OS 9 and Motorola processors in the dust as OS X matured and the Mac Pro became the media professional’s go-to gear. As Microsoft charts a new course, we’ll keep you posted as we follow along!

CRE is a leader, not a follower, when it comes to providing post-production gear, trade show rentals, A/V equipment, plasma display rentals, touch screen PCs, workstations and computers. Call or e-mail an Account Executive, or use our Quick Rental Quote form, to get the right tool for the right job – right away, too!

February 7th, 2012

DT Videolabs has a short, sweet product line. Along with two versions of its playback software, PlaybackPro and PlaybackPro Plus, the firm makes two USB keyboard controllers and a few other products. Adding Playback Pro Plus software and the 40-key PlaybackPro Plus USB Controller turns your computer into a digital video powerhouse. DT Videolabs’ products work with Apple towers, laptops and the iMac, but not Windows PCs.

Playback Pro

Setup and use

The PlaybackPro Plus software is a snap to install, and the keyboard simply plugs into a USB port. Because the products are Mac-centric, DT Videolabs recommends that you save clips in Apple’s ProRes 422 format on a RAID 0 drive to ensure the best quality and reliability. CRE, of course, is an expert in Xserve RAID and other mass storage solutions.

This software/controller combo gives you a flexible multi-channel player that becomes a recorder, too, when you add the RecordPro application. The features are extensive:

  • cut and dissolve between clips
  • variable fade and kill settings
  • individual control of gain, saturation, gamma, volume and black levels
  • automatic adjustment of output resolution and aspect ratio
  • works in any ratio (4:3, 16:9, etc.) with infinite adjustability of sizing, stretching and cropping
  • completely non-destructive to original files
  • full start and end point controls
  • easy fade-in and fade-out settings
  • time-elapsed and time-remaining counters
  • SimpleSync application enables multiple machine synchronization

Straightforward and efficient

With keyboard controls logically laid out, the learning curve is short, and adding the appropriate QuickTime components lets you use almost any file format. With a switching system that accepts VGA, DVI, DisplayPort or HDMI high-res inputs – which the Thunderbolt port on new Macs like our MacBook Pro rental can handle with simple adapters – you can connect directly, and even gen-locked signals can be handled with just a simple add-on or plug-in.

The same kind of tight hardware/software integration that makes using a Mac Pro a “seamless experience” enables the DT combo to give you total control of every function. The device is essentially half a keyboard with buttons in clearly divided Preview and Program areas (left and right, respectively), with Loop, Freeze and Link buttons in the middle. Group buttons are color coded, and there’s a double-sized green “Take” button on the left and a same-sized red “Kill” button on the right. It all makes sense – and works great.

Bottom line

The PlaybackPro Plus software/controller combo is perfect for corporate presenters, and is even making inroads into the hotel, theater and concert/touring industries. Adding DT’s controller and software to a Mac yields a dependable, professional presentation solution. And we should know – CRE is the leader in trade show convention rentals, as well as potent post-production gear, high-end A/V equipment, plasma display rentals, touch screens, workstations and computers. Call or e-mail an Account Executive, or use our Quick Rental Quote form, to get the right tool for the right job – right now!

January 17th, 2012

There’s a lot of exciting news to absorb from the recent CES 2012, as it lit up Las Vegas once again with the latest and greatest consumer electronics. Here are some of the show’s hottest items.

OLED Monitors…the next generation

CRE Rentals’ selection of plasma display rentals and other monitors have kept pace through the years with evolving technologies. The next paradigm shift features OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screens. LG will offer the first OLED TV – model 55EM9800, a 55-inch model – in the third quarter of 2012. OLED screens feature “absolute black,” superb viewing angles and an ultra-thin form factor. Computer monitors will come as the technology spreads (and gets less expensive).

PC gaming tablet

Razer is an ambitious hardware maker that is entering the computer market from the gaming side. Its Project Fiona gaming tablet runs Windows 8, which Microsoft is seriously promoting as a game platform, but it won’t be competing with our iPad rental, which is a full-featured, business-capable productivity tool.

Tablet time for AsusAsus MeMo 370T

With a potent quad-core chip and Android 4.0, the Asus Memo 370T tablet approaches the power of CRE’s  tablet PC rentals. Standard configuration includes 1GB of system RAM, 16GB for storage, a high-res screen, 8-megapixel camera and HDMI output.

HP’s take on ultra books

The PC industry has a name for the MacBook Air-inspired lines of super-thin, light laptops. They’re called “ultra books,” and HP Spectrethe HP Spectre “out-ultras” many with its all-glass lid and palm rest. Of all the new laptops at CES 2012, the Spectre is special, with premium Beats Audio, an inset analog volume control wheel and HP Wireless Audio.

Software and apps for Windows 8

BlueStacks, which is going to be pre-installed on certain Windows 8 computers, puts the entire Android marketplace at the beck and call of Microsoft’s upcoming OS. So when Windows 8 launches, some 400,000 Android apps will be available to run on your PC.

Dashboard tech for cars

QNX has developed a car “apps system” that provides instant, automatic Bluetooth pairing of the auto sound system with a smartphone. In addition to Bluetooth, the short-range radio connection built into everything from the MacBook Pro to iPods, QNX has included technology that renders phone calls in CD-quality stereo, as well as apps integration for front- and back-seat passengers.

Watch upcoming blogs for complete coverage of the new technologies rolling out of CES. Meanwhile, for everything from trade show convention rentals to do-it-all iMac rentals, one call or e-mail puts an expert Account Executive to work on your solutions. (As always, if you know what you need, use our Quick Rental Quote form.)

May 24th, 2011

Malware Threatens MacsA new malware program is targeting Mac computers. According to an Apple call center employee, it has pushed call volume up “4-5x higher than normal” recently. Although still more secure than Windows 7, which is more secure than XP or Vista, Macs are not immune. You must intervene to protect your PCs and Macs, just like CRE does with all its computer rentals.

An offensive “defender”

The malware – known variously as Mac Defender, Mac Security and Mac Protector – appears in Safari, the Mac’s default browser on everything from the latest iMac rentals to laptops, iPads and iPods. After you click an infected Google search result, the malware announces itself as an anti-virus program and downloads in several ways, but cannot be installed without an administrator password. If Safari is set to open “safe” files automatically, you will see the malware install “automatically,” too.

If you enter your password, the malware installs into your Applications folder, adds itself to your log-in (startup) items and begins running. The malware installs a menu bar item, but there’s no Dock icon and no way to quit/exit. The malware will say your Mac is infected and advise you to buy a subscription to fix it. If you don’t, the malware begins opening random porn Web sites.

Multiple solutions

Every Mac user should know what a recent CRE blog called the “sanity saving basics” of troubleshooting, as well as malware defense. Updated with the latest virus definitions, Norton Anti-Virus, VirusBarrier X5, MacScan and similar programs can find and remove malware quickly. Get a fully operational, 30-day MacScan demo if you need it and use the “Check for updates” command to add the latest virus definitions.

To remove the malware manually, power users can use the Mac Terminal as described here. For a simpler manual method, follow these steps:

  • Open Activity Monitor (Utilities). Set drop-down menu to “All Processes.”
  • Enter “MacDefender” in the Search field.
  • Click on the MacDefender process, then “Quit Process” and finally “Force Quit.”
  • Drag MacDefender icon from Applications to Trash. Empty Trash.
  • Remove MacDefender from log-in items in Accounts (System Preferences).

Avoid problems

  • Learn to browse safely, and be extra careful with search results. Trust your intuition – if a site seems fishy, leave.
  • Don’t download indiscriminately. If files start downloading or installers pop up, don’t install anything without proper investigation.
  • The same OS X security features on our powerful Mac Pro rentals are on every Mac. Use them all, from the Firewall and Sharing preferences to network settings and strong passwords.
  • Install some well-rated security software, and keep the definitions database updated.

We mean to empower you, with our blogs as well as high-tech render farm rentals and other technology. A call or e-mail puts an experienced Account Executive on the job for you, and our Quick Rental Quote form enables you to accelerate the process even more. It’s not really equipment we deal in – it’s solutions. Get yours here!

March 3rd, 2011

A recent blog on digital video provided marketing professionals with the basics of creating a simple video project.  Today, we’re not focused on professionals using high-end AJA Io HD rentals, but those professionals who want a better understanding of the different editing software programs and file format considerations when creating a video for a Web site or a PowerPoint presentation.

In the past, film editing was once a laborious process of cutting and splicing, extremely time-consuming and expensive. Today you can shoot HD video (720p or better) on under-$150 digital cameras about the size of a cell phone and edit on iMac rentals with Apple’s iMovie application.

Editing Software…big movies from a little computer

The first “real movie” made with iMovie on an iMac dates to 2004, when Jonathan Caouette combined original audio and photos, VHS home movies, new digital footage and Super-8 experimental shots into his film Tarnation. The total cost – $218.32. The gap between professionals (using Final Cut Pro on potent computers like CRE’s Mac Pro rentals) and the “pro-am” folks (using iMovie) is narrowing every year. You can make films with MacBook Pro rentals, too, as the iLife suite (which includes iMovie) ships on every Mac.

CRE supports production pros with render farm rentals and mass storage such as CRE’s über-capable Ethernet disk RAID rentals. But even novice editors can now leverage the power of iMovie and Windows Movie Maker for simple business uses, such as converting video to Flash for Web sites or company training materials. It’s important to know about the many different file formats – and how to convert raw footage into the right format for your intended use.

File Format…MP4 to the future?

Handheld cameras save video in various formats, but the Flip models and others are now settling on mp4 (MPEG-4 , Motion Picture Experts Group). Apple’s own H.264 format, used for all of its iOS devices, is a kind of mp4. Editing programs handle some conversions, but you will likely need some conversion software to have all available formats. Many converter applications are freeware and will run on everything from laptop rentals to the latest multi-core Mac towers.

Whether your goal is a modest Web site video or a feature film, we can outfit you with everything you need. It’s one of the main things we do, so call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive and we’ll get you squared away. If you know what you need, go straight to the Quick Rental Quote form. Helping you is the number one thing we do, day in and day out.

February 15th, 2011

Surface Table from Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled its new Surface Table at January’s CES, the first upgrade since its 2007 debut. Although fine for a single-user PC, the 2.9GHZ AMD Athlon II X2 may be a bit sluggish while processing media files from multiple people and input sources. The CPU is not as capable as those in CRE Rentals’ high-end computer rentals, and may be replaced before production ramps up in the next several months. But the concept? Wow!

New Table with new apps coming

The new unit, made by Samsung, has a gorgeous, 40-inch, full-HD LCD display like state-of-the-art LCD monitor rentals. Reviewers have noted that the people in the Microsoft promo spots look a bit cramped standing around it. Still, there’s a bit more room up close now, since unlike the original Vista-based model, the new Surface Table doesn’t require connecting a mouse and keyboard to complete the setup.

Surface Tables now use Windows 7 (and supports 64-bit computing), so the entire experience, from setup through use of all available and potential applications, is touch-driven. The Tables are now about half the original price, making them affordable as interactive solutions as well as graphic arts production aids. The new Surface 2.0 Software Developers Kit (SDK) ships later this year, and the next development phase is all about third parties coming up with the requisite “killer apps.”

Surface Table magic show

Amnesia Razorfish has said goodbye to the antiquated “send and receive” procedure for file transfer with Surface Table software named Amnesia Connect. It uses a natural, gesture-based interface – like iPad rentals for instance – so tablet and smart phone users can move digital content between devices easily. How?

Content is transferred to the Surface Table with a single swiping gesture on a smart phone or iPad. With the same motion, it can be sent to another device – but before it finishes the user will get a live preview like an X-ray going through to the Surface display. (check out the video).  Amnesia says using its product with the Surface Table “promises a range of new possibilities,” and the company believes people will soon use their digital devices – from tablet PC rentals to phones and iPads – for fast, safe “commercial transactions for both physical and digital content.”

When you need to know about the latest, greatest solutions – to the same old problems, or new ones – our experienced Account Executives are the folks to contact. Send an e-mail, make a call or fill out our Quick Rental Quote form, and we’ll explain the best strategies for taking care of business. Fact is, our business is helping you take care of yours!

February 1st, 2011

At the pro level, video editing is very demanding. When you need more workstations and servers, CRE Rentals comes through with both the computer rentals and the other gear you need to get the job done – without spending a small fortune on new equipment. Render farm rentals will cut processing time drastically while your need for high-speed, centralized and secure storage can be accommodated with Xserve rentals. Need a RAID version? We’ve got that, too.

Video EditingWe don’t just support media professionals, though. If you’re not a pro, but want to edit some clips or produce a video presentation, you can do it. And CRE Rentals can help. In fact, many simple video projects can can be done quickly, and well, even on a basic laptop rentals. For everyone from marketing professionals to administrative coordinators uploading interviews to YouTube, there are hardware and software solutions for all levels of expertise.

Software for basic editing

It doesn’t matter whether you work on a PC or a Macintosh, as many leading software programs support both. One advantage with Apple is the iLife software suite that comes pre-installed on every Mac. It includes iMovie, a great entry-level editing program. On entry- or intermediate-level systems – PCs running Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 or iMac rentals running iMovie – you can get decent results right away with templates and sample workflows, and near-professional results if you actually read the manual.

View your video

For a clear view with accurate color, CRE Rentals has state-of-the-art LCD monitor rentals to fill the bill. You may also need a larger display, perhaps a 30″ Apple Cinema Display rental if you want to preview finished work to management or show it in a conference setting. You can’t get your video projects done wisely and cost-effectively without comprehensive advice, which you get from CRE Rentals – along with the right tools, at the right price.

An Account Executive will help you get just what you need to get that video  project started. Make a call, send an e-mail or fill out the Quick Rental Quote form, and we’ll get you what you need to succeed. Indeed!

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