Rolling Out Windows 10…Rolling Up 7 & 8

If you haven’t chosen to install Windows 10, Microsoft will be making the decision for you – though you will still have the opportunity to roll back to Windows 7 or 8. If you still want to buy Windows 7 or 8 for your computer, Microsoft has set the final purchase dates. Here’s what you need to know.

When Microsoft began rolling out Windows 10, the company invited users to reserve the new operating system. As Microsoft got the new OS ready for computers based on each machine’s manufacturer, it sent each owner a notification that it was ready for download and installation. That’s changing, according to a post by Terry Myerson, executive vice president of windows and devices, Microsoft.

Before the year’s end – which is approaching fast – Microsoft will make Windows 10 an “optional update” for all Windows 7 and 8 users. The kicker comes in 2016.

“Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a ‘Recommended Update,’” Microsoft says. “Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don’t love it.”

However, the move to Windows 10 is getting harder to avoid. You can read more thoughts by a couple of commentators, such as Gordon Kelly for Forbes and Mary Jo Foley for ZDNet. But here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Microsoft is proactively installing Windows 10 code on computers to make the process go faster. It won’t spring into action unless you complete the Windows 10 installation process, but it is there – and that could understandably bother some people.
  2. At some point, you will need to make the active decision NOT to install Windows 10.

In my opinion, Windows 10 is big upgrade over 7 and 8 with more speed, security and capability. I encourage all Windows users to install it on their computers. I am not happy about some of Microsoft’s tactics, but I understand the “big picture” strategy behind them. It becomes expensive for them to support outdated software.

With that in mind, Microsoft has set the final purchase dates for OEMs for Windows 7 and 8. For all intents and purposes, Windows 7 has not been available for computers purchased at retail stores, but as a reseller, we are able to get them. We are able to get computers with Windows 7 Professional, but Microsoft has set Oct. 31, 2016 as the cutoff date. For Windows 8, the cutoff date is sooner – June 30, 2016. The final sales day for Windows 8.1 is Oct. 31, 2016.

We have no problem with any client staying with Windows 7 and 8 or 8.1 operating systems – even though we intensely dislike the Windows 8 family. While we strongly urge home and SOHO users to go to Windows 10, we understand that larger business and professional users may have application software tied to 7 and 8. Migrating from those older systems will require planning to make the move efficiently and cost-effectively. We can help you map out a technology plan for the next 12 to 24 months. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a strategy session

Technology and the Romance Novel

Back in the 19th century, parents feared their children reading romance novels and exposing themselves to things that they – the parents – weren’t ready to deal with. Today, we have technology. A recent seminar on raising kids in the digital age brought home a few time-tested ideas with a new twist.

We are raising our children in a radically different technological environment than we had growing up. My parents remember their families’ first television sets. I remember the first cable TV with the long wire and the clunky rows of buttons to push to change channels. The Internet has always been there for our kids; they’ve used tablets for several years.

In fact, as it was pointed out, how does a one-year-old relate to a magazine? In their eyes, it’s a tablet that doesn’t work. Think about it. It’s close to the same size. It has images, and some can look like icons. But when a one-year-old taps or swipes a page, nothing happens.

While I heard a lot of things I already knew, hearing them all at one time provided some perspective and context. The bottom line is that kids are growing up faster, and they learn things much earlier than we ever thought. For example, while most kids in the US start driving a car through lessons and under supervision by the age of 16, they have really learned about driving at the age of 5 – by watching you. That means they not only learn an attitude about driving and how to handle a car, they also learn about habits, such as talking on the phone or texting.

Technology needs to be viewed as a tool, not a treat. Today’s world holds a lot more risks than teens becoming more sexually active because of what they read in romance novels. Online activity exposes kids to risks of being lured into very dangerous health-and-safety situations, and it can expose entire families to health-and-safety and financial risks.

Further, the seminar speaker noted, helicopter parenting – now known as drone parenting – increases risk in the long run. Kids whose parents monitored all of their online activity, including texts, eventually exhibit riskier online behavior. And through their peer groups, they likely have the collective knowledge to make their technology capable of doing things you would never imagine.

With 74% of kids now having smartphones, putting smart technology use in perspective for kids is even more critical because they may be using channels that are not familiar to you, the parent. For example, texting – which grandparents do all the time – is down among teens, while the use of Instagram and Snapchat is up. What do you know about those apps?

Online safety and safer living require a great deal of common sense – both the common sense you exercise as a parent and the common sense you instill in your children. Step into your children’s digital lives without stepping on them. For example, don’t allow them to have phones and tablets in their bedrooms. Do have family discussions about living in a world that relies more and more on connectivity.

The world has always been an exhilarating place even though its context always changes. As the parents of two technologically adept children, my wife and I can relate to every concern any parent would have. As an IT professional, I make it a point to stay on top of every development and how it affects my family. So, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with any questions or concerns. Together, we can help your children stay safe online and learn the lessons that will help them avoid high-tech landmines.

Traditional Laptop or SSD

Where do you draw the line between speed and price for a new computer? While traditional, business laptops pack a lot of computing power for business applications, newer SSD-based technology, such as the MacBook and Surface families, are a lot, lot faster. They’re also a lot, lot more expensive. Here are some points to consider:

Cost – How much money do you really want to spend? The premium for speed and performance is considerable.

Patience or Impatience – In today’s on-demand world, many computer users are losing patience with their computer’s boot-up time, either when you power it up, restart it or awaken it from sleep mode. In some cases, your impatience can be justified. If you are making a sales presentation, for example, you just don’t want to waste time for your computer to go through its start-up routine, and you want to give the impression you and your technology are on top of your game.

You can manage the start-up time through Task Manager by deciding which applications to load, but that’s something you should do in advance of any presentations. Trying to do it seamlessly while standing in front of people you want to impress probably won’t come off as you’d like.

The difference between the technologies in start-up time can be a couple of interminable minutes, and patience may not be an option.

Physical – Consider a couple of physical points, especially if you will be traveling a lot with your computer. The MacBooks and Surfaces are a lot lighter than traditional laptops. Additionally, SSDs are much more resilient and better able to avoid damage if you drop your computer or if it gets jostled a little too vigorously.

Free Space on Drive – If you have a lot of free space on your hard drive, you may not need the faster SSD or MacBook just to improve performance. As we’ve pointed out, you need to leave room on your hard drive so that your applications have room to move files and do their work. Look at your drive’s capacity and at what you’re storing. Your hard drive should be a minimum of 256 GB, but 500 GB or 1 TB are much more realistic. If you need more space, you can always offload data files to the cloud. If you have a lot of free space and don’t anticipate needing a great deal of storage, you might not need the speed and performance – and expense – of SSD technology.

Flexibility – You don’t necessarily need to buy a new computer to get SSD technology. Depending on the age and RAM capacity of your existing computer, you could buy and install a new SSD hard drive, and that might a good investment to give you a performance boost for a year or two – maybe longer – if that’s what you need.

We are getting into the heavy buying season for electronics, so you can expect to see a lot of choices and price points. New products and ways to upgrade an existing computer will give you enough options to make your head spin. You can make your best decision after you gather all the facts, and that’s where we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and budgets for now and for the next few years, and we can guide you to the best options.

Smart Photo File Management

If you’re like one of our clients, you may have a huge number of photo and video files from your last vacation, and you may be getting ready to add more as your family gathers for the upcoming holidays. If you’re also like this client, you may be wondering where to safely store all your accumulated pictures and videos without paying an arm and a leg.

We can never recommend strongly enough that your precious memories are safest when stored on the cloud. Those large servers have built-in redundancies to protect your data, removing worries about crashing hard drives, whether they’re in your computer or external. Your storage on your own devices are suspect because:

  • Your computer’s hard drive can crash.
  • An external hard drive can crash.
  • Removable storage media (thumb drives and DVDs) can be damaged or lost.
  • Your smartphone can be lost.
  • Your camera, with its SD card, can be lost or damaged (which means you might want to find a way to upload photo and video files daily by one means or another).

In addition, photo and video files can take up a lot of space on your hard drive, and at some point, they will slow down your computer’s performance. If you have an iPhone, you can free up space by managing your storage; just go to Settings – iCloud – Storage, and you can delete files from your old phone. Android and Windows phones have similar capabilities.

So, let’s deal with all those photo and video files. Here are some options:

Free-storage sites all come with various limits, such as file size, types of files you can store and download and exposure to ads or privacy limitations. Some will allow you to upgrade to paid storage for more space and options.

Some of the more notable free-storage sites include:

  • Flickr
  • Shutterfly
  • Smugmug
  • Dropbox

While one of those sites may work for you, our mission here is to give you storage options that give you the same capability to store and retrieve files just as you would if they were stored on your hard drive.

Google gives you 15 GB of free storage, and you’ll always have it no matter how much additional storage you buy. Only monthly plans are available, and you have lots of flexibility. You can buy 100 GB for $1.99 per month or 1 TB (terabyte) for $9.99 per month. You can change your plan or cancel it before your next bill.

Google has apps for uploading and downloading image and video files from a computer, iPhone or Android phone. You can upload RAW files, which is critical for serious photographers who use SLR cameras, and high-quality j-peg files for equally serious photographers who use higher-end point-and-shoot cameras.

Apple gives you 5 GB of free storage and offers 50 GB for $0.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99 per month or 1 TB for $9.99 per month. Again, you can upload all of your files in their original formats and can invite people to view selected files. You can edit files and still retain the originals, which gives you a Photoshop mulligan.

Apple also has apps for uploading from iPhones, Macs and PCs, and you can easily create photo books from your library.

Amazon gives you 5 GB to store “non-photo” files, such as videos and offers 5 GB for a free three-month trial. After that, it’s $11.99 per year. You can scale up to unlimited storage – also with a free three-month trial, and then you can pay $59.99 per year. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you already enjoy unlimited, secure photo storage plus 5GB of free storage for videos and files at no extra cost. You can upgrade to the Unlimited Everything plan at any time.

Again, you can view your files on a computer or mobile device through Amazon’s Cloud Drive.

We like the big three of Google, Apple and Amazon because they have well-earned reputations for safe, secure storage. The pricing is cheap – especially when you compare it to high value of photos and videos that are irreplaceable. Each site has its own peculiarities about setting up an account and uploading files. If you have any questions or need a hand to hold, contact us by email or by phone – 973-433-6676. And while I find them all device-neutral and platform-neutral, we can answer questions you may have about compatibility and raise your comfort level with your choice.