The holidays are upon us and once again I am often asked – what do I get when shopping for a new computer. First let me get the whole Apple vs PC issue out of the way – Unless you are an adult who is great with technology or already use a Mac, then stick with PC’s. Mac’s are not for business use (at least not in the corporate world – and many corporations do not allow Macs on their networks), they are NOT good for students (no one in the job market cares if an applicant has Mac skills, they want PC skills), and in terms of security, while it is true you have less of a chance of getting a virus on a Mac, they are NOT more secure (in fact they are often the first to fall to hackers, and some of the viruses that are out there for Macs are very nasty). Not that Macs are not well made machines (although their latest models are next to impossible to service easily or upgrade), but they are overpriced in terms of hardware (exactly the same hardware as you can get in a PC), and unless you already use one, relearning everything can be challenging especially if you use a PC at work and a Mac at home. I am sure there are those who will argue that they just love their Mac, and to each his own, but we do not recommend them for general and current PC users for a number of reasons including the ones outlined above.
With that out of the way – what to shop for when it comes to a computer? With Windows 8 being sold on almost all new retail computers (if you must have it, you can still get Windows 7 machines from big manufacturers like Dell and HP, but more on that later), the question is do I want Windows 8? (Yes) And what kind of hardware do I want? For the first question, there is really no reason to not go to Windows 8. The biggest complaint about Windows 8 that I have heard from some people is the new start screen and the lack of the Start button on the Desktop mode – if you hate the new Start screen and miss the old Start Button you can get a free download of Classic Shell that gives you the start button back as well as gives you the option to go directly to the desktop mode at startup, bypassing the new Start screen (there are also other free and paid for programs that do this as well). The nice thing about Windows 8 is you can use it almost exactly like Windows 7 after a few alterations such as installing Classic Shell, but you also have access to all the new features of Windows 8 including the fantastically quick boot times, the better security, and the better integration of features (such as native .iso image support, VHD support etc).
The new Start Menu has caused some consternation among old time Windows users, but it is actually pretty cool and the number of Apps are growing every day. Windows 8 is designed to be usable on all kinds of devices, but the Touch features have come a long way and now using Windows on a touch screen PC or a tablet PC is a much more satisfying experience (see our preview of the Lenovo A720 Touch Screen all-in-one). We have also been using Windows 8 on a new Lenovo Yoga 13 convertible laptop/tablet and the experience is awesome! There are quite a few great apps, including productivity apps, entertainment apps, and game apps (Wordament is one of our favs). The cool thing is that many of these apps are free and Microsoft has done a good job so far of keeping the garbage adware kind of apps out of the store.
As far as hardware for Windows 8 goes – if your budget is enough to go with a touchscreen (whether an all-in-one or laptop/tablet), I highly recommend it as the touch experience is very good. If not interested in touch, then make sure that you base your decision on a number of factors – what will you use the computer for? (no need to buy a gaming machine if you are going to be just surfing the internet and checking email – conversely, don’t buy a low end machine and expect to play today’s games on it). What is your budget? (remember, you usually get what you pay for, and sometimes paying a bit more can save you a world of disappointment). Do you need a home use machine or a business machine? (most all local retailers only stock home use machines, if you are buying for work or business, you are much better off going through a major manufacturer like Dell, Lenovo, or HP). Do you want a warranty, and what kind/length? (we never recommend getting a warranty from the store itself, most all computer manufacturers allow you to purchase a warranty directly from the manufacturer within a period of time after buying a computer from a store (usually 90 days, check with the manufacturer before you buy). Store warranties are basically useless as they usually require you to bring the computer to them, do not guarantee your data, and you have no idea how long it will be until you get it back – many manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo offer in home warranty service. For business users we definitely recommend going directly through the business websites of the big manufactures as you will get better deals, support and warranties.
As for actual hardware recommendations – We personally recommend the intel core i processors (core i3, i5, and i7) as they are some of the best performing and are good with power usage (make sure to get the 3rd generation i series – denoted with 3000 series numbers as they are the newest). The intels core i series have proven themselves, and generally if you get them, the rest of the hardware will be better than some of the mix-and-match used with other processors. While AMD does make some good chips, and they are generally cheaper, the performance of their chips (as well as the lesser intel chips like the Pentiums, Celerons etc ) are all over the place and can be quite disappointing at times. Stick with the i3, i5, or i7 and you should be happy. If buying a laptop, make sure to check the screen resolution to ensure you are getting enough screen real estate – the resolution is just as important as the screen size itself. Also, if purchasing a laptop, if at all possible, try it out to see how you like the keyboard and how it fits your hands (the smaller laptops especially can cause some issue when typing because of the key placement).
If you have a higher budget, definitely check out the Lenovo a720 27″ all-in-one, and the Lenovo Yoga 13 ultrabook – we have really enjoyed ours!
As always Pensacola Computers is available for all of your PC needs including Windows 8 upgrades and new computer setups. Feel free to visit us on the web at http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call with any questions you may have – especially Before you buy a new PC – our general advice is always free!
Friday October 26th is a big day for Microsoft with the release of Windows 8. Windows 8 is a big departure for Microsoft and has a lot of big changes in both appearance and in underlying code. We have been working with Windows 8 throughout the development cycle and have been running the final version on a number of systems for the past couple of months ever since its release to manufacturing and partners. The biggest difference off the bat is the new start screen which replaces the start menu – this is going to be one of the hardest things for users to adapt to, but it is a great feature that offers many advantages, especially for touch enabled devices.
On Friday October 26th, most major retailers will begin selling new computers with Windows 8 pre-installed, and you will also be able to upgrade many older machines with a download from Microsoft’s website ($40 until January 31st 2013). If you have or do purchase a Windows 7 machine between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 you can get upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $15 which is an excellent deal (*Note: only Windows 8 Pro with the media pack contains Windows Media Center which included codecs for DVD playing and an interface to watch TV if you have a compatible TV card).
Windows 8 is the first version of Windows that is truly designed for multiple device platforms and has a number of features which make using it on a touch enabled device much easier than on previous versions of Windows. Windows 8 comes in several different versions and it is important to understand the differences – especially between the standard/pro editions and the RT edition.
Windows RT is made especially for ARM based processors (the kind used in many smartphones and tablets), and while it shares some of the code and looks similar to the new start screen on the other versions of Windows 8, it does NOT run software that was designed for x86/x64 PC’s and previous versions of Windows. It does run Windows Apps, and comes with a somewhat stripped down version of Microsoft Office with Apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. (In our opinion, it will be better for many people to wait a bit and check out the Windows 8 Pro tablets that are coming out which will offer the full features of Windows and run legacy programs as well as new ones.
For a detailed explanation of the different Windows versions, see this blog post from Microsoft made earlier this year: http://blogs.windows.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/04/16/announcing-the-windows-8-editions.aspx
Windows 8 is tightly integrated with Windows Live services which allow you to logon to Windows using your Windows Live ID (hotmail, live.com, outlook.com email address), and also gives you direct access to Windows Live services like your Skydrive files. Using a Windows Live account will also allow you to synch your settings between multiple Windows 8 devices which is pretty cool.
THE START BUTTON ON THE DESKTOP IS GONE! This is one of the most apparent and controversial changes in Windows 8 and will probably cause a bit of confusion among new users. Windows 8 offers both the new Start Menu screen as well as the old desktop mode, however the old desktop mode is missing the familiar Start button. (it is easy to jump to the start screen by mousing to screen corners, and there are also several third party vendors which have made start button replacements. Using the new start screen takes a bit of getting used to, but the live tiles are very cool and once you play around with it for a while you will find that it has some really cool features.
Touch Gestures are amazing! Windows 8 is optimized for touch gestures and support 10 touch points (yes you can play a piano app with both hands and use all 10 fingers!). Getting around Windows 8 with a touch enabled screen is a breeze as it uses swipe gestures to do many things like open the start screen and move between apps. (*Note: beware on buying older or clearance touchscreen computers as many of the older ones only come with 2 touch points and you will not be able to take advantage of all of the new touch features!)
We have been using a Lenovo A720 27″ all in one touch screen to test Windows 8 and must say that it is amazing! Swiping through apps and using the touch enabled programs is a breeze and it changes the way you can use your computer. We highly recommend going to a store like BestBuy (don’t listen to the salespeople there though!) and trying out some of the newe touch enabled systems before you buy.
Windows 8 has a number of features which improve both performance and security, and it comes with Internet Explorer 10 (2 versions, one on the start screen for full screen only browsing with limited add-on support and the second full featured version available from the desktop)
For Windows 8 support, and help with upgrades and new Windows 8 installs, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com . We provide computer service and repair in the Pensacola Florida area for small businesses and home users
With access to the final RTM version of Microsoft Windows 8, I just had to get a computer that would handle the wealth of new features. Although Windows 8 will not be available pre-installed on new hardware before October 26th of this year, I did a good bit of searching before I settled on the new A720 27″ IdeaCenter all-in-one computer. The A720 according to Lenovo is built for Windows 8, and includes full 10 point multi-touch (most current touchscreen all-in-ones have 2 point touch) which is amazing to see in action (try the piano app for one!). The A720 I got also has an intel third generation i5 processor, 6 GB of RAM, built in tv-tuner, Blue Ray, Bluetooth and HDMI in and out.
I figured I would try doing an upgrade to the pre-installed Windows 7 so that I would be able to take advantage of some of the pre-installed Lenovo apps as well as perhaps having an easier time with drivers etc. I am still not sure this was the best route to take as I did have to do a bit of tweaking to get everything to work. According to the Lenovo website, they recommend uninstalling most of the pre-installed applications, but I only uninstalled a few that I knew would have issues, such as the basically worthless Mcaffee security software.
The actual installation I will cover in a future post, but for the most part, it was quick and painless, and certainly a much quicker upgrade installation that previous versions of Windows I have done. Once I got the correct drivers updated and installed, I began to play around with the Windows 8 interface using the native touchscreen. While I had previously installed Windows 8 on a few machines, none of them had touch and I hadn’t been able to really see the wonders of a touchscreen with the Windows 8 interface.
Using touch on the Lenovo A720 is fluid and easy, and the Windows 8 charms menu seemed much easier to use with a flick of a finger. Pinching and zooming was also a thrill that most people are used to on their smartphones, but never get to use on their computers. I have found that there are many times that I just don’t want to use a keyboard now, especially when browsing the web. With the use of the touchscreen and the built in speech recognition that has been part of Windows since Vista, there are many things that I can now do without need of the keyboard, and for those times when I do need one, I can always use the on screen keyboard if needed.
This isn’t to say that I want to type a long article or document using the onscreen keyboard, and despite the much improved accuracy of speech recognition, the old school part of me does have the need to keyboard it when writing an article (perhaps it is part of the whole ‘process’ of writing), but the A720 with Windows 8 does have me using a keyboard much less. The new Start page (there is no more start button on the desktop, much to the dismay of many), is actually pretty cool with its live tabs and views that give you a quick insight into things like your email, news, weather, social media etc. I am not sure whether I can use it fully as a replacement of the start button, so I have made my own sort of workaround by writing a small script which copies my start menu items to a folder on the desktop every time I logon, then by adding desktop to the taskbar I have a working kind of start menu that gives me quick access to my programs as well as common folders etc.
Windows 8 is a wonder to behold in many ways, and while I think that most people will not see a huge difference between it and Windows 7 (except for the start menu issue), there are plenty of features that I really like including the new task manager which really has undergone a fantastic evolution, as well as the new and improved Windows Explorer which now features the Microsoft Office type bars instead of the old menu driven system.
Windows 8 is very quick to boot up, and pretty darn responsive in multi-tasking and web browsing, although I do find myself using the desktop browser pretty much exclusively due to the inability of the app browser to use plug-ins (although that feature may certainly save a lot of grief for those who click too much and get viruses malware often).
The Lenovo A720 is definitely a fine choice for the Windows 8 Experience, and I will follow up soon with posts on the installation/upgrade as well as some feature focuses.
Windows 8 comes out to the public on October 28th, but if you have purchased or will purchase a machine with Windows 7 on it between June 2 and January 31st 2013 you can qualify for the Windows 8 upgrade offer with which you can get upgraded to Windows 8 Professional for $14.99 here in the US
For questions about the upcoming Windows 8, or upgrade information for local Pensacola Florida businesses and home users, please visit: http://pensacolacomputers.com for contact information. We have been working with Windows 8 throughout the development cycle and can help you migrate, upgrade or start out fresh with Windows 8.
Once again it is hurricane season with an imminent threat looming over the gulf coast. It is time to prepare for the storm and this includes protecting our valuables including our data as best we can. One of the often overlooked things in the rush to evacuate or stay and ride out the storm (not advised if evacuations are recommended) is the protection of our technology, our computers and most importantly the data stored on them. Having a good backup plan is extremely important as today we often have irreplaceable and important data stored on our computers.
For both business and home users, it is recommended to have a two stage backup plan in force at all times, this includes an on-site removable backup device as well as online backup storage. Keeping a full backup of your computer on a removable hard drive is the best way to ensure a quick recovery in case of disaster as you can store an image of your entire computer on a backup drive. If you are running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or have Server 2008 (R2), there is a Windows Backup program that will make an entire image of your computer for you. If you are still running Windows XP, you can get a third party backup tool, such as Acronis to help you create a computer image backup. You should also have online backup, such as Carbonite, or IBackup as a second line of backup. Online backup will help give you piece of mind should anything happen to your on-site backup, but it is not recommended as your only backup due to the time involved in restoring everything (downloading an entire computer’s worth of data from the internet can take a very long time!).
The best case scenario in case of a hurricane is to take your computer with you, however this is not always practical, and in the case of businesses almost impossible. For businesses it is recommended to move or remove your servers if at all possible before the storm. For computers that must be left behind, it is recommended that both the power and ethernet cables be removed before a storm to prevent electrical shocks from entering the systems – this is true for all electronic devices as well! Also, if the systems are in an area that could possibly be effected by roof leakage or flooding it is recommended that if they cannot be removed, that they are set up off the floor and covered with a water barrier such as heavy plastic bag or tarp.
Having good backup plans as well as equipment protection plans in place is the best way to ensure the safety of your data, and when it comes to irreplacable data, multiple backups are always recommended.
For questions regarding backup systems and backup plans, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com
Microsoft is now offering an excellent deal for anyone who purchases a new PC with Windows 7 on it between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Basically the offer is: Buy a Windows 7 PC and get Windows 8 Pro for $ 14.99. This is good for any computer purchased new that has Windows 7 Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate.
After purchasing a new PC you will need to register it at: https://windowsupgradeoffer.com/ and when Windows 8 is released you will recieve an email with a promotion code and insturction for purchasing and downloading the software (the promotion code will allow you to purchase one copy at the promotional price). You can opt to receive a installation DVD for an additional price, but the downloadable version can be used to create your own installation media on a DVD or USB device.
Another cool thing about this offer is that you do not have to install the upgrade on the new computer, you can install it on any one computer that has a valid copy of Windows XP (SP3), Windows Vista, or Windows 7 currently installed. This upgrade offer also includes 90 days of no-charge support from Microsoft that begins once Windows 8 is installed and activated.
Windows 8 is going to be a big change in many areas, and will bring a new level of computing to a wide array of hardware including tablets, touch screen PC’s as well as traditional desktops and laptops. With the new Windows Metro Apps, Microsoft’s aim is to make it easier to find and connect with the information and people you care most about.
At Pensacola Computers, we have been actively involved in testing Windows 8 since the early stages of development and will be available to help local small business and home users in upgrading or learning about Windows 8. For Pensacola computer service and repair, classes, networking, troubleshooting or just general computer questions, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com today. Our advice is always free, so call on us with any questions about your PC.
I am often asked by people if they think they have to get a new computer or can their new one last a bit longer? This is often more of a personal choice unless the old computer is dead or near death. Personally I believe that technology should work for you, and that you should not have to wait on your computer any more than absolutely neccessary. However, just running out and buying a new computer can be a somewhat daunting task – what kind of computer? how much memory? how big of a hard drive?, what kind of graphics? All of these answers will of course depend on your own needs, but there are certainly things you can do to narrow down the choices.
Before you decide to take the plunge, you should look at whether your old computer just needs a good computer service and repair. Sometimes, cleaning out the operating system, or reinstalling Windows can revitalize a lagging system, at other time you may be able to add some RAM memory to increase the capabilities and give your computer a bit longer lifespan. Often, people have accumulated many unneeded programs on their computers which may be slowing it down. In addition, spyware, malware, and adware can be hampering your system. Either of these problems can normally be fixed fairly easily with a bit of time and patience.
You might also be holding on to an old Windows XP machine because you are comfortable with it – while XP was a great a pretty stable operating system, it is going on 11 year old now and is just not capable of keeping up with today’s technology on many levels. If you are still using XP, it is definitley time to plan the upgrade – most XP machines (if they were made for XP) will not easily run a later version of Windows due to lack of hardware drivers, so attempting to upgrade these systems is generally not advised.
Windows 8 is due out later this year, and if Microsoft and the manufacturers run the upgrade process as the have in the past, sometimes the best thing to do is wait until they (hopefully) announce the free upgrade of Windows 7 systems bought after a certain date, and then scoop up one of the Windows 7 systems that comes with a free upgrade to Windows 8 (hopefully at a discount as manufacturers often want to clear their inventory before a new version of Windows arrives). Of course if you want the latest and greatest in hardware, waiting until the first (or second) wave of Windows 8 systems might be a good idea.
Windows 8 is going to bring a lot of changes, and some people may not want to take the initial time to learn something new – for those people, I recommend waiting a bit to see exactely what other people say about upgrading. You can test out Windows 8 by downloading the free consumer preview here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was opened to the public this week, a pre-release version of the full Windows 8 operating system, bringing with it a bounty of new features. The most drastic change, a new user interface designed for ease-of-use on touch-screen systems (especially tablets) is obvious, but that’s been a known factor since the Developer Preview back in September. The new interface is certainly different, though it may be awkward for those who have grown used to the typical taskbar-and-start-menu of previous Windows versions. Tiles take the place of folders and files, making for a sleeker but blockier interface, and customizing the layout of tiles on the screen is possible, though not a focus.
Another new feature is the Windows Store, which (like the Apple Store and Android Market found on modern mobile devices) allows for the distribution of programs in “app” format. Apps take up the entire screen while running, rather than existing in windows like programs in previous versions of Windows, and in many cases integrate gesture-based behaviors for things like scrolling or switching between views. The departure from the traditional interface of buttons is somewhat jarring, but has potential to be used in interesting ways.
Also similar to mobile devices is the new corner functionality, where simply scrolling the cursor over the corners of the screen produces different effects. Clicking in the bottom-left corner switches to the start screen, which allows access to apps much like the old Start Menu allowed access to programs. The upper-left corner allows for quick switching between open apps, while the right edge of the screen is home to the Charms menu, similar in function to the buttons on Android phones. The Charms menu includes the Start screen, the search function, settings for the computer itself and for individual apps, and quick access to content sharing and device management features.
A separate, but equally important component of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the latest version of the Internet Explorer browser: Internet Explorer 10. As with the operating system, IE10 has been redesigned with touch-based controls and more space on the screen is devoted to the websites being browsed as opposed to toolbars and menus. Browser speed and security have also been improved since IE9, resulting in an all-around better experience. Also on the internet front, Windows 8 contains integrated cloud networking compatibility for Hotmail and SkyDrive, allowing files and messages to be retrieved from any Windows 8 device.
The Consumer Preview should not be confused as being the “final” version of Windows 8. It is stable, but not nearly finished, and certainly isn’t ready to replace Windows 7 as the primary operating system used by home or business users. All the same, those who don’t mind troubleshooting and updating frequently, and who have an extra system that they don’t mind taking a risk on, should give it a spin.
You can download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at this link: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download. Any problems can be brought up on the Microsoft Answers forums at http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8.
Continuing with my posts on OfficeMate installations, I will go over some things I learned doing the actual installations. **Note: Make sure to follow the official OfficeMate guide, though be aware that the official guide has a few mistakes and is misleading in a few places as well. This guide takes in account that you have followed and met the needed pre-reqs for installing OfficeMate such as security setup and hardware/software requirements.
Once you have installed the server (see Pre-regs and Server install) it is time to install the client software. There are a few things I have learned that are not covered in the official installation guide that have helped me through. I had a heck of a time on one of my first installs trying to upgrade the client software, and I found that when upgrading from OfficeMate version 8 to version 10 on client machines that it is often best to first Uninstall the previous version of OfficeMate, then freshly install version 10 (this is not necessary on the server if you are using it as a workstation or remote terminal server, all of my client upgrades worked fine on the servers).
Before installing version 10.5, first make sure you are using the latest version available (10.5.23 at the time of this writing – previous versions had a bad bug relating to insurance claim filing I am told). Also ensure that your workstations have at least Windows Installer version 4.5 or above – Windows 7/Server 2008R2 have version 5 installed by default which is fine. You also need to ensure that .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 is installed on each system. For XP, and Vista, check in your add remove programs, for Windows 7, check in Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off (it is part of Windows 7, but the feature might need to be activated).
Once you have the client pre-reqs installed, it is time to get ready to install OfficeMate 10.5 client – this will be the OM_Suite_Programs.exe file (unfortunately OfficeMate again did not properly make their install program and there is no real way to tell the version of the program from the installation file – checking the file details just shows a product name of InstallShield version 12 – fyi, this is a HUGE security issue as there is no way to tell if the file is legitimate prior to installing as it is not properly named, nor does it have a valid digital signature – complain to OfficeMate about this!). Prior to starting the installation, you will want to make sure that you have properly mapped your shared network drive for the OfficeMate Data folder as this will be needed during the installation. Before installing, also ensure that you have turned off your Antivirus and any screensavers. Although not required, I always right click on the installation file, and if there is an Unblock button I click that, I then right click on the install file again and select run as Administrator.
Once all of these things are done, follow the instructions in the official Upgrading to OfficeMate 10 pdf guide to start your installation.
The installation is pretty straight forward so I will just cover a few of the differences and issues I have run into during various (though not always all) installations.
Once OfficeMate 10.5 client is installed, you need to make sure it works! If you click on the OfficeMate link and nothing happens, go to your taskmanager and look for Login.exe (not omate.exe) – if that is running, but nothing is happening, then you need to first check your networked drive. If you can see all of the files in your network drive, but OfficeMate will not open, then you probably have a firewall issue on your server. Even though you can see the shared files on your server’s shared drive, the server firewall could be blocking the SQL ports which causes this problem. If this is the case, go to your server and turn off your firewall there, then recheck to see if you OfficeMate client will start (it probably will now). If this is the cause, you just need to check your SQL ports on the server and add a firewall rule for them, then turn your firewall back on and check again.
The client installations are fairly easy to accomplish once you have gotten everything set up properly such as the pre-reqs, mapped drives etc. I highly recommend downloading a copy of Windows Installer 4.5 and .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 to a shared folder on your server if you are doing many XP, Vista installations to save time. Also it is a good idea to follow a checklist for each workstation as you are installing so you don’t forget anything.
While the OfficeMate software definitely could use some tweaks to bring it up to standards, especially in the compilation of the installation files and having install file security digital signatures and proper names etc, the actual installation of version 10.5 seems to be a bit better than earlier updates and upgrades.
If you have any questions or issues, feel free to contact us via our contact information at http://pensacolacomputers.com
* Pensacola Computers is not officially connected to OfficeMate software in any way, and all opinions stated are my own observations and you may experience different results. This guide is meant only as a narrative of my own experiences and is current as of the date posted.
I have been working as an IT consultant with Optometrists that use OfficeMate for over 5 years and have installed OfficeMate numerous times for 7 different practices. I have successfully upgraded 4 practices in the past couple of months to OfficeMate 10.5 and am currently working on getting 4 more done in the coming weeks. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
After performing numerous OfficeMate version 10.5 installations and upgrades, I have found a few issues that I would like to share that may help ensure a successful installation or upgrade.
First: Make sure to read all the ‘official documentation’, being aware that there are some ommisions and some mistakes, but overall the procedures should be followed as closely as possible. Especially important is to ensure that you have setup Security Preferences and that at least one user has checkmarks next to “Access All” AND “Maintain User Security”.
Second: Ensure that you have full backups – I personally recommend having both a full SQL (or access) database backup, as well as a full backup of the OfficeMate Data directory. In addition, it is highly recommended to do a full server bare metal backup, or similar backup image in case you have a conversion/upgrade error and need to roll back the server.
Third: It is highly recommended to install SQL server express 2008 R2 if at all possible before upgrading or installing OfficeMate v 10.5 as this version has a 10GB database size limit as opposed to the 4 GB limit in the defualt installed SQL server express 2005. (If upgrading, do a SQL upgrade from 2005 to 2008 R2). Also, if you are using an Access Database, ensure you backup your database BEFORE running the Repair utility.
When downloading the upgrade software there are a couple of things you should do which are not mentioned in the ‘official’ documentation: If using IE9 or other browser with security, you may get a warning regarding the OfficeMate installation files, unfortunately there is no way to verify the authenticity of the files - for some reason, OfficeMate did not digitally sign their installation files (in my opinion this is a serious security issue as there is no way to verify the authenticity of the installation files – as it is, the files have a Product name of Install Shield and copyright from Macrovision – the maker of the install packager they used) – most legitimate software makers digitally sign their installation packages to ensure their customers of the authenticity of the files. When I downloaded the files, they appear to be hosted on an Amazon server instead of directly from OfficeMate.net.
Once the files are downloaded you will need to right click on them, select properties, then click the ‘Unblock’ button. Also, when installing, when using Windows 7, Vista, Server 2008 (R2), right click on the installation file and select run as Administrator to ensure a smooth install.
Before installing there are still a few other issues to deal with such as User Account control, and firewalls, and proper configuration of your SQL database.
The user account section of the installation instructions is not quite complete or clear as with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 there is no “Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer” checkbox, instead there is a slider which you can set down to the “Never notify” position. **NOTE: unfortunately, turning off UAC on a workstation that is connected to the internet is not usually a good idea as the whole reason for UAC is to help PROTECT your computer from unauthorized changes and is a major defense against viruses and malware being installed (if OfficeMate had followed best practices guidelines for Windows Security, they probably could have programmed their software to not conflict so much with UAC).
Firewalls: If your systems are using an active firewall you may have to set some custom permissions to allow OfficeMate to function properly on your network – if you install OfficeMate and are having difficulty connecting to the SQL server, disable your firewall – if you are then able to connect, you will need to adjust your firewall settings to allow OfficeMate – as many firewalls have different ways of doing things, you will have to check the documentation of your firewall for how to do this.
If you are upgrading your SQL server to 2008 R2 Express, or you are moving your SQL database from one server to another, make sure you follow the instructions for OfficeMate SQL server installation – you can find a guide here ffor Reinstalling SQL server: http://www.officemate.net/omkb/Article.aspx?id=21190 - a couple things to note here: make sure that you enable named pipes and TCP/IP ports via the SQL Server Configuration Manager or you will not be able to connect from a client machine, also, I personally prefer to use the backup and restore method when moving a database rather than the detach and attach database method and have not had any problem doing it that way (there is issues with doing it each way – you decide which is best for you). Also make sure that you don’t forget to create the OM_USER using the link provided in the above instructions once you have your database restored or reattached to the new SQL installation/instance.
In Part 2 of the Guide, I will cover the installation procedures and how to deal with some of the issues I have run into.
OfficeMate is an eyecare practice management software used by a large number of area eyecare offices. I have been working with OfficeMate software installations and upgrades for the past 6 years and have done quite a few new installations, upgrades and conversions. Just recently released, OfficeMate version 10.5 has been certified as a Complete EHR cy CCHIT and is part of what is needed to achieve the ‘meaningful use’ neccessary to receive federal stimulus money.
OfficeMate has had quite a history with version 10, and its release date has been changed quite a few times, and in addition its hardware requirements have also changed massively since even last July: http://web.archive.org/web/20110723232816/http://www.officemate.net/officemate_sys_req.aspx
In July, there were minimum requirements for workstations an Intel PentiumE5800 or better, and minimum Dedicated Database Server requirements of a Quad Core Xeon 3100, 4 GB RAM and a 250 GB SATA 7200 RMP Hard drive (no Raid). Since that time, OfficeMate has radically changed its requirements, they eliminated the minimum requirements and instead made the new minumum what was previously the ‘recommended’: http://www.officemate.net/officemate_sys_req.aspx
What these official changes in hardware requirements mean to the average practice is quite a bit of money $$$$, and pity any practice that based their hardware on the previous requirements (not really, but officially according to OfficeMate). The new workstations have a minimum requirement of a Core2 E8400 processor which is a bit heftier requirement than a Pentium E5800, but where the big difference lies is in the server requirements – the drive requirements change from a single SATA drive (about $100 or so for a good quality drive) to 3 15k SCSI or 10k Enterprise SATA drives which means about $750 for the drives, another $200 or so for the needed RAID controller card, plus another $100 or so for the needed power supply upgrades. This of course assumes you don’t need extra imaging storage which would of course raise the price substantially more.
Now OfficeMate information states: Failure to meet hardware and system requirements may lead to an unsuccessful upgrade, including the inability to install or run v10.5 on your computers in your office.
The Upgrade guide actually states: “You will not be able to install the software on computers that do not meet the stated requirements” – somewhat false, basically for the server, if you have 4GB of RAM, regardless of anything else, it should install. I actually installed the server version on a $400 i3 single hard drive system with 4 GB of RAM that I bought from Office Depot to use as a test and it installed fine (I wouldn’t recommend using it for more than a few clients, but it did install) – in addition I have installed it successfully on a number of Virtual machines using 4 GB of RAM and as little as a single core of processing power. I also installed the client software on a number of older Pentium 4 single core machines (purely as a test, I got it to install on a system with only 512MB of RAM and it actually ran no slower than version 8 had on that same machine).
**NOTE: I would of course advise coming as close to the stated requirements in order to have an optimum experience, but it should be noted that if you have hardware that is close, you ‘should’ be ok.
I have done a number of full start from scratch test installs as well as a number of ‘in production use’ upgrades for clients, and so far I have not had any complete failures, although there have been some issues with firewalls, one database conversion that failed on the first attempt (not really sure why, but it worked on the second attempt – thankfully I had a full server backup to roll everything back!). The official guides from OfficeMate are not completely accurate, nor do they deal with all the issues properly. My next post will detail the issues I have had, as well as steps to take to ensure a proper upgrade experience: OfficeMate version 10.5 Software upgrade and installation guide – dealing with real world OfficeMate installations and upgrades for hardware and software.
For questions, please contact: Pensacola Computers at http://pensacolacomputers.com
* Pensacola Computers is not officially connected to OfficeMate software in any way, and all opinions stated are my own observations.