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
Microsoft’s Windows 8 has already been released to manufacturers and developers and is scheduled to be released to the general public and for sale on new computers as of October 26th. Windows 8 brings a wealth of new features and better security to the PC as well as tablets. Optimized for touch screens, Windows 8 is a pretty big departure from previous versions of Windows and make take some getting used to. We have been using Windows 8 throughout it’s development cycle and have been playing with the final release version now for over a week and it is impressive.
Starting with the new Start Screen (there is no more start button), Windows 8 brings us live tiles and apps that provide a live link to web content in a full screen app. We were really impressed with some of the start up apps such as Weather, which brings together a wealth of information in an easy to browse format. Also included in Windows 8 are 2 versions of Internet Explorer 10, a full screen one that runs from the app screen (but does not include support for plug-ins) and the normal desktop mode. We found that while the full screen app version does provide both excellent speed and rendering, the lack of plug-in support made us switch to the desktop version quite frequently – this will of course depend upon your own personal browsing habits, but we tend to use quite a few sites that require plug-ins on a regular basis.
Under the hood there have been quite a lot of changes to optimize the Windows experience, both from a performance and a security standpoint. Gone is the resource hogging Windows Aero (which provided the cool transparent windows borders, but also taxed the system), and Windows now sports many updated features including a new Windows Explorer and a much improved task manager. Windows also comes with much better default security and privacy features that offer a much higher level of protection than previously.
Coming in the following weeks will be providing a wealth of info on the new Windows 8 including some galleries and specific hardware review.
For any questions on the upcoming Windows 8, including information on Windows 8 installation and Windows 8 upgrades, please visit http://pensacolacomputers.com
There is a virus/malware computer scam going around that we have seen already on a number of computers here in Pensacola, FL called the FBI MoneyPak Rasomware aka the Reveton Trojan. This little nasty locks up your computer and programs and tells you that you are guilty of either download illegal copywrited material or porn and that you could be fined and or go to jail. It then tells you that your computer is locked until you follow the instructions and pay $100 or $200 dollars via MoneyPak. The page that is show with the warning may also have the ability to activate your webcam which scares people even more into thinking this is legit – it is NOT legit!!!
The warning also tells you your ISP, which is easy enough to do from any webpage, which is what the warning actually is.
Thankfully, the guys over at bleepingcomputer.com have a guide to help remove this particular nasty – http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/remove-fbi-monkeypak-ransomware - just be careful in doing so as using any of these tools can cause issues if not used properly. If you have any questions, or prefer to have someone else help you remove this, head over to http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call.
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
Wolfram Alpha [http://www.wolframalpha.com/], the self-proclaimed “computational knowledge engine” that produces all manner of calculations and factoids from a given input, has been around in its current, free-to-use form since 2009. Last month, however, the makers of the engine unveiled Wolfram Alpha Pro [http://www.wolframalpha.com/pro/], a subscription-based service that offers an even wider range of features.
Where the free version of Wolfram Alpha accepts input only as text, through a search-engine-style interface, the Pro variant can process uploaded documents. Images [http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/ImageInput.html] can be analyzed and processed with different filters; text in the image can be read into an editable form. Spreadsheets can be uploaded to allow mass computation of various attributes, rather than entering individual equations and numbers as the free version would require. Audio files can be analyzed, and various scientific, mathematical, and geometric formats can also be interpreted.
In addition to the increased format compatibility, Wolfram Alpha Pro also increases the interactivity [http://www.wolframalpha.com/pro/interactive-features.html] of produced results. Parameters of equations can be altered in real-time, without the need to re-submit the equation. 3D graphics and enhanced visualizations allow for results to be more easily interpreted; the ability to zoom and scale output is new to the Pro version. Furthermore, results produced are more in-depth, as Pro users receive additional computation time on all their queries.
Wolfram Alpha Pro is available from the Wolfram Alpha site [http://www.wolframalpha.com/pro/]. Subscriptions start at $4.99 per month, though special discounts are available for students and educators.
“qwerty”, “monkey”, and “abc123”. These are the 4th, 5th, and 6th most-used passwords of 2011, according to a study [http://splashdata.com/splashid/worst-passwords/index.htm] released by password management software company Splashdata. Also on the list are classics like “123456” and, of course, “password”. It should be obvious to just about anyone that passwords like these are not especially good ones, so why do people keep using them? The mere fact that a password is present is no guarantee of security. Hackers and those wishing to gain unauthorized access to a system have any number of tools at their disposal to help them discover and thus bypass passwords. This does not mean that placing password protection in the way is futile, however. The better the password, the longer it will take for hackers to go through or around it.
So what makes a good password? Cracking passwords is a matter of time, and the time depends on how many characters the program doing the cracking is required to guess. Consider a password with nothing but lowercase letters (a bad idea, but one that will be covered later). There are 26 letters, and thus 26 possibilities for each character. A one-character password thus has 26 possibilities, and for every character past that, the number of potential passwords is increased by 26. A password with five characters has over eleven million possible combinations. Keep in mind, however, that it is a computer doing the cracking in most cases, a machine capable of performing millions of calculations in seconds. That five character, lowercase letters only password would be broken in mere moments by a dedicated hacker. But now consider adding a single uppercase letter in place of a lowercase one. This doubles the number of potential values per character, so that the time-to-crack is increased by a factor of thirty. Adding numbers to the mix triples that time. Then we have what are known as “special characters”, the set including things like punctuation, brackets, symbols, and the like. Since there are tons of these characters, and no pattern to guess which one might be inserted where, the resulting delay in cracking is huge. Special characters can make any password vastly harder to break.
Up to this point, we’ve been discussing a mere five character password, but now we come to one of the most important points: length. Even when using only lowercase letters, increasing the length of the password by one letter multiplies the field of potential passwords by 26. A long password, even without variation in the characters, is much harder to crack by brute force. There are other types of password crackers to worry about, however. The dictionary cracker, for instance, runs through a dictionary stored in its memory and tries every word. Using “elephant” as your password might befuddle a brute force cracker, but the dictionary hacker would figure you out in no time at all. Don’t try to play around with substituting numbers for letters in common words (“passw0rd”) either, as hackers have long since grown wise to this trick and programmed their tools to check for such substitutions; the same goes abbreviations (“trustno1”) and common character sequences (“123456”, “abcde”) . Nonsense passwords, or those which have meaning only to you, are better choices; you won’t find “18kaff?kaff!92cake” in any dictionary, and a brute-force cracker would take months, if not years, to bypass it.
The last point of importance is less about passwords and more about how you use them. While it might be tempting to come up with one good password and use it for all your important business, keep in mind that not all websites are equal in terms of security. If a single site turns out to be less trustworthy than you thought, and hackers gain access to their databases, your password could be handed to them on a silver platter, potentially allowing them access to any accounts, like your facebook or email, using the same password. If you’re really concerned about security, it’s best to change your passwords every few months, ensuring that even if someone got access to old account records, their information would be obsolete and useless.
Unfortunately, in my job I see a lot of computers that have gotten a virus or malware and need to be fixed (and not just PC’s but Mac’s as well lately). While some infections are due to lack of adequate protection – up-to-date antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software, others are due to people falling prey to social engineered malware (fake links on facebook etc), or people accidentally clicking on things, or one of the ones I really dislike – a virus coming in through one of the mass forwarded emails.
It is a misconception that just because you have antivirus/antimalware software that it will protect you 100% – even the best software is hard pressed to protect a computer when someone allows something to come in by clicking ok, yes, or installing questionable software or downloading questionable files (yes, all of the people using limewire, frostwire, or torrent software – you all are at risk every time you download a shared file!). Many times a virus or malware will get onto a computer because someone has installed some ‘toolbar’, ‘searchbar’, screen-saver, coupon printer, rebate searcher, or other such program like those worthless ‘speed up my computer’ programs that are either badly written or are actually malicious and downloads other bad software behind the scenes. **Special note: Almost ALL of the speed up my PC programs are basically worthless and can often do much more damage to your computer than good. Anything that messes with the Windows Registry can damage your Windows installation if it remove the wrong things, and many of them do that!
So what can you do to better protect yourself and your computer from these nasties? Here is a short list of things that I always recommend following to eliminate the most common ways that a computer can get a virus, malware or spyware.
1. Never click on links from social networks such as facebook, or links in emails – regardless of what a link says it is, it can easily be made to hide something else. What you can do is right click on the link, select ‘copy shortcut’ then paste that into the address bar of your browser to see what it really is (or if you have the status bar in your browser enabled, you can often see it there) – if you don’t recognize the link or it looks suspicious – DON’T GO THERE!
2. Never open email attachments unless you specifically know that the specific person who sent you that specific email was sending you that specific attachement – too often people will get an email from a friend or family member that has an attachment and that attachment is a virus that a virus on their computer sent without them even knowing about it. If you don’t know what it is, and weren’t expecting it – DON’T OPEN IT!
3. Don’t download songs, software, videos etc from file sharing networks – when you use software such as Limewire, Frostwire, Vuze, or other torrent or file sharing software to download things you always take a big risk because you have no way of knowing where exactly the files are coming from, or if they have been altered – even a song can hide a virus or malware within it and it won’t activate until you play it. Also the majority of software ‘cracks’ or ‘activators’ have malicious viruses in them. Not to mention that downloading copywrited material is also illegal
4: Keep your antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software as well as your operating system software up to date! It is always important to update your system regularly as the software updates often carry fixes for security issues that have been found and without them you are much more vulnerable. Also update your OS to the latest version (yes, if you are still running Windows XP you might have to get a new computer, but XP is 11 years old and was never designed to handle today’s internet).
5: Beware programs like coupon printers, rebate searches, search toolbars, browser add-on’s, screen savers, and especially the fix all or speed up pc programs. Many times these programs are either malicous themselves or are so poorly coded that they make it much easier for bad things to get onto your computer – IF IT ISN’T FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE – DON’T INSTALL IT!
If your computer does get a virus, try to remove it with your antivirus/antimalware/antispyware software, or you can try to do a Windows system restore to a time before you got the virus (as opposed to a full computer factory restore which will wipe all your data).
Got a virus or malware and not sure what to do? If you run into something particularly nasty or need some advice on how to get rid of something, or just need great computer service or computer repair, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call.
For those who might have waited until the last minute, or forgotten someone on their list, here are a few great last minute tech gift ideas:
Malwarebytes Pro – Malwarebytes is one of the best and finding and killing pesky malware on your computer. The Pro edition also offers a pretty good protection module and best of all it is a lifetime license with free upgrades. Use coupon code Q65-TRJ-G7J for a 15% discount at checkout here: Buy Malwarebytes from Malwarebytes.org
Carbonite online backup – This is one of the best ways to protect your data from hard drive crashes, accidents, data corruption etc. You should Always have backups of the important files and pictures that you can’t replace. Carbonite offers basically unlimited backup for a great price and it is one of the most easy to use, set it and forget it programs out there: Click the following link to get the computer protected now!
ESET NOD32 Antivirus – ESET is hands down one of the best antivirus products out there with consistently excellent detection rates and low demands on your system resources. All computers should have an up-to-date Antivirus software product protecting them – use the following link to save 25% : New – ESET NOD32 Antivirus 5 – Save 25%
Also, if you hurry, BestBuy is currently having a special midnight sale with some great discounts through 7AM Central time on the 23rd: Midnight Sale, Online Only, Starts Thursday (12/22) at Midnight Through Friday (12/23) at 8am EST.
For any computer or technology related questions or needs, contact us at http://pensacolacomputers.com where the advice is always free! Providing the best IT service in Pensacola
Microsoft has finally taken the wraps off of the upcoming Windows 8 which is due out in 2012 and I must say there are some amazing innovations. Using a new HTML5 driven application development, Microsoft has shown that it is definitely willing and able to compete in the current and future market. Developing an operating system that can easily run on both standard desktops and laptops as well as tablets is something that only Microsoft would tackle, and looking at the preview of Windows 8, it looks like they are headed in the right direction.
Of course, all the old familiar Windows apps will still work which makes it even better – the ability to use the programs that people are used to, combined with the new cutting edge technology that enhances our ability to consume and produce information just about anywhere.
Following is a video from Microsoft which highlights some of the new features they are working on for Windows 8:
Pensacola Computers has been Microsoft Beta Testers since 2002 and was heavily involved in both Windows Vista and Windows 7 development – we are expecting to be fully involved in the testing for Windows 8 and will be able to help individuals and organizations with any questions in the upcoming months.