New Shortages Popping Up

Late last year and early this year, we warned of Intel chip shortages, which made it difficult to get new computers for those who needed them to run Windows 10. Now, we have other shortages, compounded by some Apple decisions. So, who’s coming up short? It could be Apple.

Getting Apple stuff for our clients is becoming more challenging for the more expensive, high-end devices. The wait can be up to two weeks for things we used to get right away, and some of that is because of varying store hours.

One of our clients is waiting for a Mac with an SSD hard drive and a 27-inch monitor. It’s a combination that’s out of the ordinary, but it was never a problem to walk out of the store with that system. Now, we’re hoping the wait is only two weeks.

Looking ahead, Apple is expected to start making its own chips later this year for the 2021 Macs. It’s a logical move for the company, which is looking for more end-to-end control of its systems. Whether they’ll be able to produce enough chips because of COVID-19 concerns is one thing. Another thing is that when it drops the Intel chips (which could free up chip production for Windows-based computers), we think it may become harder to run Windows software on a Mac.

This has the effect of drawing a new line in the “cybersand” when it comes to compatibility, and that could be a problem in the business world. A lot of business applications are written for Windows, but the Apple platform has been able to accommodate them. For Mac fans, it’s the best of both worlds. But unless the app developers and Apple can up with apps for the platform, there’s another issue to add to our woes.

For those of you sticking with Windows systems, you can expect Intel’s supply problems to persist through the rest of this year. That is forcing some manufacturers to switch to AMD chips to meet the demand for their products. We’re still a fan of Intel chips, but if you need a new computer, we can certainly take a look at the AMD-equipped machines and see which one can work for you.

On the phone front, Apple is beating the drums for the iPhone 12, and it’s scheduled for release in the fall. Football is also scheduled for this fall, but we live in unusual times. Since all we can deal with at this time are rumors and speculations, this is expected to be the first year that Apple introduces 5G support in the iPhone. This will allow the new phones to connect to much faster networks. While all the phones will have 5G connectivity,  we don’t know if all models will have super-fast mmWave support in all countries. Of course, if you can’t travel, you can hold on to your current phone or, if you must upgrade a phone within your family or business, you can go with any of the less expensive iPhones, which are more than serviceable, and upgrade later.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can discuss your current and future computer and phone needs and help you find the best solution for your needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

Intel’s Chip Shortage Impacts Computer Sales

If you’re wondering why it’s taking longer to deliver and install new computers, it’s because there’s a shortage of Intel chips. Intel has placed the blame on several factors, including a slower demand in China. According to reports, Intel can also cite sales to cloud customers, a weakening NAND flash market and weaker modem demand.

Some observers contend the shortage will worsen this spring, a traditionally high season for entry-level computers such as Chromebooks. Others say Intel simply didn’t anticipate the demand and didn’t put in enough manufacturing capacity to handle the volume. With priority going to data centers (the cloud), that means there are fewer chips available for PCs and laptops. PC processors are reportedly last on the company’s priority list.

As for us, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the lead time for new computers. We used to be able to get them in a day or two. In one instance, an order placed in January arrived at the end of March. One of the computer manufacturers affected by the shortage is Dell, one of our favorites for Windows-based units. Dell prefers Intel chips, and so do we. Dell said earlier this year it might look for other sources, but as it stands, we’re stuck for the moment. We don’t expect the situation to improve until the second half of 2019 – and nobody’s making sure-fire predictions.

Some industry sources predict the shortage will ease by the summer because the large data-center customers have made their required purchases. But with expected Chromebook sales still to be made, others are predicting the shortages will extend well into the summer and maybe beyond. The shortage may worsen before it gets better – because of the Chromebooks. We’ve seen reports that Intel will ramp up production facilities in Ireland and Israel, increasing capacity by 25 percent.

What can we do in the meantime to minimize the effects of the Intel shortage?

If you’re looking at new computers to improve business efficiencies, we can look at upgrading the efficiencies of other equipment, such as routers, servers and peripherals. Those are improvements you are likely to make down the road, anyway, so it could mean you’ll have a two-stage process. The computers will come later. We can also fine-tune your software and make sure that all your operating system and app software is up to date and in sync with your computers’ capabilities.

If you’re still using the Windows 7 operating system and planning to purchase new computers to work with Windows 10, we can place your orders now. Even though your new systems may be backlogged, they will be in the pipeline, and you should be able to plan your migration to your new systems before next February, when Microsoft ends its Windows 7 support.

We can also consider alternatives, such as computers with chips from other manufacturers. However, we urge you to consider the long-term effects of any alternative you select to solve a short-term problem.

If you are planning on buying new computers, let’s talk about your needs and explore possible solutions in light of the Intel chip shortage. Good planning can help you mitigate the effects of the current market conditions. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment.

Spectre and Meltdown Raise Need to Update

We’ve seen lots of patches from chip manufacturers and operating-system publishers trying to resolve the Spectre and Meltdown issues. Their effectiveness is mixed, but there are a couple of things you can do to help protect your systems: backup your files and update your software.

The patches came out quickly last month, and they kept on coming as chip manufacturers and publishers of apps and operating systems tried to close the open doors that Spectre and Meltdown use to get into a computer. If you installed all the updates, even multiple updates from chip manufacturers and software publishers, you did the best you could to mitigate problems.

If you haven’t installed updates for operating systems, applications, firmware, browsers and antivirus protection, do it NOW. If you have not set up your systems to automatically install updates, we suggest you do that now, too. Every supplier with a stake in your success is working ‘round the clock to shore up any weaknesses in their products. The faster you install them, the faster you’ll protect your systems and data.

Here is what you and the computer industry are up against:

Meltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and the secrets, of other programs and the operating system. If your computer has a vulnerable processor and runs an unpatched operating system, you risk leaking sensitive information. This applies both to personal computers as well as the cloud’s infrastructure.

Spectre also breaks the isolation between applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets and may actually make applications more susceptible to attacks.

While Spectre and Meltdown affect chips, they resulted in computer failures that, in turn, resulted in the losses of apps and data files. In a number of cases in which our clients were affected, we found that Google Chrome was piece of every problem. We don’t say this to point a finger at Google; we note it to make sure you have the latest version of your browser installed.

In the more severe cases, we had to reinstall software systems – with all the cumulative patches – and data files because everything was wiped out. In the most extreme cases, we had to replace computers. This, of course, required that all data files were backed and that all software for operating systems and applications were licensed.

Using subscriptions for operating and application software can eliminate just about all problems associated with keeping your systems up-to-date and licensed. They also can provide access to backed-up data files to help restore your system. The bottom-line benefit is that if your system is struck by some disaster, which can include Spectre and Meltdown, a ransomware attack, or a virus or malware invasion, we can wipe your computers and servers of infections and initiate clean installations of your operating system, firmware, and application software and then restore settings and data.

Without the subscription, you may need to purchase software and then recreate all of your settings as best as possible. And if you don’t have data files in a separate, secure location, you’ll need to find the latest files you have and then restore them in your recreated system.

As we make these points, we are aware that everyone has budget restrictions. However, you need to look at the costs associated with an interruption due to an IT system failure. Any money you may have saved by hanging onto old equipment and software can be wiped by a single event.

By making smart investments to your system, you’ll be able to maximize your security and efficiency. That’s important for home use as well as a business. More and more, we have multiple users conducting some sort of transactions over the internet, and those activities can take place from remote locations. It’s a continuing trend in our use of technology. Subscriptions are a continuing trend, too, in the way we keep our systems ready to do all the things we do.

We can help you make the best decisions to balance your IT needs and available funds. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your update needs and develop a plan to meet them.