XP in Context

It’s one thing to measure a lifespan in dog years. It’s another to measure it in technology years. If a 12-year-old dog is like an 84-year-old-person, then a 12-year-year-old operating system is truly older than dirt. Here’s a look at XP’s timeline.

Most of you will remember Sept. 11, 2001 forever. As grave as that day was, six weeks later, Microsoft issued the XP operating system.  We can all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Do you remember what technology you were using at the time?

You are likely reading this article on the Internet, which you reached either by a Wi-Fi connection to a high-speed, broadband network or by a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.

In 2001, the Internet was nothing like it is today. You probably accessed it through a dial-up modem as a customer of AOL, CompuServe or a local provider. DSL service was in its infancy, usually only available to phone carrier customers who lived less than two miles from a switching facility. Internet access by cable TV companies was also in its infancy.

While both industries could offer Internet access, you still used the phone company for telephone service and the cable company for TV. Today, either company can provide Internet, TV and phone service with speeds and capabilities only imagined by a few scientists. And more people are using the Internet to bypass those companies for all of their services.

Think about your smartphones and tablets. Cell phones in 2001 were clunky devices that you could only use for talking. And, it didn’t take too much mobility to be outside your service area and racking up roaming charges. Your phone? It could have been a Nokia. That was the leading manufacturer in 2001.

Today, more and more people have no landlines in their homes, and many business people on the road use cellphones as their primary phones. And the cellphone itself? In addition to being a telephone, it keeps calendars and contacts and provides access to email and the Internet.

If you have a tablet, can you imagine life without it?

Some people thought X-10 was a cool way to control the lights in their houses from their desktop computer. Now, you can control lights, appliances and door locks – and answer your doorbell – with a mobile device.

Video conferencing through Skype or any number products may have done more than any technology to shrink the world.

All of this change happened since 2001, during the life of XP. Our technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. XP really did withstand the challenges of its time and more. But when you look at everything you want to do with computers and devices, your needs have outgrown the capabilities of a technology that dates back more than 12 years.

If you still have XP, you had a good run. Now, it’s time to catch up. We’re available to help you. Just call us (973-433-6676) or email us.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

Pop-Ups at XP’s 11th Hour

“Hear ye, hear ye,” the Windows town crier is saying. “It’s 11 o’clock for Windows XP, and if you haven’t upgraded or made your upgrade plans, all is NOT well.” The town crier will come in the form of pop-up messages, starting today, that can lead to either a bad solution of operating-system issues or a breach of your security. If you want to eliminate annoying pop-ups and their consequences, you need to replace your XP OS with a new one that will meet your needs and avoid the ultimate pop-up problem.

Security of your data – and likely your identity – will be your biggest problem if you remain on XP. As soon as Microsoft stops issuing security updates, hackers will swing into action. They will have had a month to crack the last security patches, and they have all the time you give them to further their exploitation of your vulnerabilities. Their clock will stop ticking when you stop using XP.

In the meantime, the ticking – in the form of pop-ups – could drive you batty and lead to a security breach before the end of XP’s support. The pop-ups from Microsoft will direct you to the company’s web pages for Windows 8, which we believe is not good for businesses. Your annoyance level is sure to increase, but the worst consequences will come after you let your guard down and click on any of the many hacker redirects that are sure to come.

We all click on pop-ups at some point without really knowing to where they are redirecting us. In essence, these links are no different than bank and credit-card scam links that try to get you to enter sensitive information. Once a scammer has you unknowingly at their website, they likely will be in your network – with access to all the information stored on computer drives and servers.

If you move away from Windows XP ASAP, you’ll have no more pop-ups and one fewer set of security worries.

In addition to the annoying pop-ups and security vulnerabilities with XP, you’re going to lose operating efficiency. The newer operating systems are suited for the newest programs you use for business and home. As Microsoft ends XP support, it ends support for Office 2003. But if you try to use Office 2003 with a newer operating system, you’ll find it just doesn’t have the same capabilities. Any perceived savings from not investing in OS and software upgrades will be quickly eaten up by operating inefficiencies.

One more note, this one on timing. You need to allow time for ordering and taking delivery of computers with a Windows 7 OS. You cannot buy them off the shelf at your favorite retailer. Major manufacturers may have some computers in stock, but a late rush could wipe out their inventories, pushing delivery back considerably – even with expedited shipping – and leaving you exposed. You could buy new computers with Windows 8 installed, but businesses will not be happy. The OS’s totally different look and feel will bog down operations.

So, if you haven’t done anything yet, we advise to contact us right away (phone: 973-433-6676 email: [email protected]) to set up a plan and a schedule to move from XP. Here are some options, in order of preference:

Replace Your Computers with Windows 7 Machines

We can get them, and we can get them in quantities from 1 to 10. We can best help you by not only determining how many computers you need but what you will need each one to do. Some users in an office will require more computing capability, meaning faster, more expensive machines. We can help you get a computer that matches each user’s needs and avoid overpaying.

Replace Your Software – or Phase in What You Can’t’ Do Now

While it would be preferable to get all new software to take advantage of more speed and capability, you may need to phase in transitions. We can analyze your new computers and the capabilities of your current software to determine which programs should be upgraded first. This will give you the opportunity to perform your most critical tasks with the most up-to-date systems and minimize the consequences of having to take fast action in less-than-ideal conditions.

Business and home users can lower their out-of-pocket expenses or manage cash flow better by subscribing to Office 365. Microsoft offers a number of plans, but basically, you get a subscription that includes a number of licenses that cover computers and devices. We discussed this in detail last month, and we’ll be happy to review your options with you.

Switch to Mac

We would only recommend this for home users and some SOHO businesses with one or two users. While we love Macs – and fully support them, there are a couple of major issues. First, most of the robust programs for business applications are written for Windows-based computers. In many cases, Windows versions are better when you have programs that run on both platforms. Second, you will need to train everyone in your office on the Mac, and that could present the same issues as switching to Windows 8.

Ideally, you should replace all of your XP computers and business software at the same time, but in the real world, we know it’s not possible for everyone. However you choose to approach the end of XP, contact us right away to help you (phone: 973-433-6676 email: [email protected]). The clock is ticking, but it’s more like a time bomb that is going to go “boom” very soon.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

The Windows XP Fallout and Buying Technology

More than Windows XP support will disappear after April 8, 2014. Support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Office 2003 will cease. If you happen to depend on all three, we strongly recommend you begin your exit strategy if you haven’t done so already. And if these aren’t reason enough to upgrade, you may also be eligible for tax breaks on your new technology. Here are a few pointers to get you started or farther along on your 2014 planning.

First and foremost, don’t count on Microsoft not sticking to its guns on stopping support for XP and the 2003 products. As one industry commentator pointed out, the company gave its customers and their support organizations warnings for the last four years. If you haven’t planned your transition, you have only yourself to blame.

Section 179

If you have been dutifully budgeting for your transition from XP and the 2003’s, you should be planning now to buy desktop and laptop computers capable of running 64-bit versions of Windows 7. If Microsoft XP going away is not a strong enough stick to motivate you to buy, the Federal Government has a carrot: Section 179 of the Tax Code.

Section 179 lets you claim a full deduction of the price you pay for new and used computer hardware and off-the-shelf software purchased or leased and put in service between Jan. 1, and Dec. 31, 2013. Off-the-shelf software is software available for purchase by the general public – not custom-written. The value of all qualified purchases and leases is limited to $500,000, and you must use them for business at least 50% of the time.

If you will not make a profit in 2013 and will not pay taxes (this is separate from not filing a tax return), you can carry forward a 50% deduction to a year when you will have a profit and pay taxes.

You should check with your tax advisor to make sure you apply the provisions of Section 179 correctly. In fact, your tax advisor could find more benefits for you.

What to Buy

Computers with Windows 7 operating systems are still available, and we can help you with selecting them and buying them. Windows 7 computers are not readily available in retail stores or from many online vendors. As the time draws near for Microsoft to pull the plug on old technology, supplies will get tighter.

As we’ve talked to people about the upgrade, we’ve been asked about other operating systems, such as Mac and Linux. We don’t expect Linux to be a big player in the consumer or small-business markets. Part of the reason is that most users will find it different from what they’re used to and that there won’t be as many people able to service Linux computers.

Macs, on the other hand, can be a viable alternative. You can run PC programs on Mac systems, and you can use Macs or PCs if you access programs and data files through cloud computing. Another advantage is that Macs are sold through retailers, including both Apple stores and dealers. If you have a computer crash, you can buy a new one, bring it back to the office or your home and start setting it up in a matter of hours. We sometimes wonder if Dell and other major suppliers to business missed the boat by not having a strong retail presence.

In addition to new computers, you should replace your Windows 2003 servers and your Windows Office 2003 software. As with XP, the lack of Microsoft support will make them more vulnerable to attacks from hackers, and your operating efficiency will drop drastically. Attacks and inefficiencies could well cost you much more money than replacing those systems now.

Don’t Forget Your Router

And while we’re on the subject of upgrades, you should also take a look at your router. Verizon, for example, is offering a router – called a gateway – for FIOS® services and technology. While the fiber optic technology is blazing fast, the gateway is more like a gate. If you want or need faster Wi-Fi and/or a stronger network to run multiple computers and devices, including large-screen, high-definition TVs, you’ll want a better consumer-grade product.

A consumer-grade product is better even if you have standard cable for TV, Internet and phone. You will get better network performance with a better router than the gateway your provider supplies.

In both cases, you will still need the provider’s equipment. However, we can set up a bridge to send the Wi-Fi signal to your router.

We can help you select the best routers and Wi-Fi equipment for your office and home-office needs and make sure they are set up to give you all the benefits of your service. Getting a new router makes sense every few years because the components can wear out during the temperature swings that come from normal use.

Put Section 179 of the Tax Code to work for you. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or send us an email to talk about technology purchases that Uncle Sam can help you make.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

Getting the Right Technology Match

In talking about preparing for the end of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system, we’re counseling clients and prospects more and more about the need for a systematic approach. Remember, Windows XP support ends next April, and we strongly recommend upgrading to Windows 7. As we’ve pointed out many times, Windows 8 is difficult for most business users to get used to. And because it’s such a departure from the look and feel most users like, anyone who needs to shuttle between the two platforms will want to tear his or her hair out.

However, upgrading one part of your technology system may have unintended consequences for an entire operation. We can perform a lot of magic on systems, but even the best IT support company can’t give you more rabbits if you don’t have a hat. You can supply the hat by following this tech system checklist.

  1. Don’t buy retail. Price aside, every retailer we’ve looked at does not sell computers with Windows 7. You’ll need to go directly through a manufacturer that offers you the Windows 7 option, but even then, you need to consider a number of factors. Every manufacturer’s website will have enough options and feature packages to make your head spin.
  2. Have the right computer. In all likelihood, if you have a computer running XP, it likely won’t handle Windows 7. Many old machines have 32-bit processing, and the newer operating system works best with 64-bit processing. The performance difference between the two is like night and day.
  3. Get the right processor in your computer. Many Windows-based computers come with either Intel or AMD processors. Each of those has a variety of processing speeds. The fastest isn’t necessarily the best for you. Higher-speed chips are required for doing a lot complex calculations, gaming and working with graphics (which, to a computer are complex calculations).
  4. Right-size your RAM. RAM (random access memory) is where your computer does its thinking. Generally speaking, the more RAM you have, the more information your computer can process faster. As with selecting the right chip, the amount of RAM you need depends on the application you’re running. In some cases, you can add RAM by adding and/or upgrading the RAM chips, but every computer has a finite RAM limit.
  5. Consider your peripherals. If you are a small business or have a home office and are hanging in with an older computer, you likely will need to upgrade peripherals, such as your printer and monitor. An older printer may not be able to handle a newer, faster computer. As with everything else, printer manufacturers reach a point where it doesn’t pay them to develop drivers (the software that connects the computer and your network to the printer) to support obsolete printers. And, if your old printers slow down computer and network performance, you won’t get full value. While older CRT monitors may still work, they’ll be so slow and fuzzy that you’ll strain your patience and your eyes. Flat-screen monitors will give you a bigger viewing area with higher resolution, and they’ll use much less power, too.  If you do wind up with a Windows 8 computer and want to use it like a tablet with a touchscreen, you’ll need a touchscreen monitor.
  6. Upgrade your software. When you go from a 32-bit to a 64-bit computer, you’ll need to upgrade your software. Older applications won’t run efficiently on the new computer, and you’ll lose time or capability or both. Again, software publishers reach a financial tipping point when supporting old software, so just roll this into your budget to get the best ROI on technology.
  7. Maintain enough network capacity. Businesses and homes depend on wireless networks with sufficient capacity to meet business, entertainment and education needs. For all the money you spend computers, devices and big TVs (including cable and satellite fees), it makes sense to have a network to handle everything. We’re seeing a lot of homeowners with under-powered networks, either because the routers are not robust enough or because they don’t have a good system of boosters to relay signals. Boosters can improve network performance substantially, but you need to locate them in the right places. In some newer, bigger buildings with a lot more concrete and rebar steel, you need to be especially careful about your installation.

Let’s talk about the technology you have and what you want technology to do. Then we can help you source and set up the right systems to give you a faster ROI and longer, less expensive service life. Drop us an email or call us – 973-433-6676

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.


Preparing for the End of Windows XP and Office 2003 Support

Support for Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 ends on April 8th, 2014. Are
you ready? After support ends, there will be no new security updates,
non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online
technical content updates.

If you continue to run Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after
April 8, 2014, you are exposing your company to potential security risks, as
unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security threats.
Further, independent software vendors (ISVs) and hardware manufacturers are
less likely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP as we near
the retirement date.

For many, migration efforts are well underway to get current. For those that
require additional assistance, Microsoft offers in-depth technical resources,
tools, and expert guidance to ease the deployment process. To learn more about
migration and deployment programs, and to explore solutions if your current
migration plans extend beyond April 8th 2014, please contact your
Microsoft Support Professional. We are dedicated to helping you remain secure
and are here to assist you every step of the way.

Visit the Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 end of support site
for more information on resources available to help with your migration.

For additional insights on the security risks of running on older operating
systems, see the Microsoft Security Blog on Operating System Infection Rates.