Latest Entries »

My Take on Windows 8

OK, I have spent a few months now with W8 on some of my own machines and have fixed many other W8 machines.  My impressions are a mixed bag.  I think the concept is good, but the initial execution is poor.

The omission of the start button and accompanying start menu is ludicrous.  You have to believe that a company the size of Microsoft would have brought in a few hundred people and focus group tested the product before release and discovered that most people want the traditional start/navigation at least as an option instead of being force-fed the new “modern” interface and/or traditional desktop sans start button.  I don’t know whether to label that stubbornness or stupidity,   Either way, it has given the OS a black eye.  I hear it constantly from clients.  We add Classic Start to all our client machines.  It seems that Lenovo has also flipped Microsoft the metaphorical bird by shipping all their new machines with a third party start button feature.  Rumor has it that MS will add the start button back with the 8.1 update, but still no navigation menu!  C’mon man!

I can truthfully say from the repair side of the equation, Windows 8 is a freaking nightmare!!  With no F8 safe mode option, Safe Boot/UEFI BIOS settings that make booting off of a CD nearly impossible and a “refresh” feature that works maybe fifty percent of the time, trying to repair W8 is about as easy as trying to get Congress to agree on anything.  I’m not a conspiratorialist, but it almost seems that MS does not want anyone working on the OS so that everyone will have to call them, which in turn creates another profit center for them.

Overall, I think it will be a good system once the proverbial bugs are worked out, but that may end up being another iteration of the OS in the way that W7 became what Vista was supposed to be.  Can anyone say Windows 9? http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

 We are both humbled and honored to have been nominated five times by our customers for the Angie’s List “Page of Happiness.”  Our main focus is always customer satisfaction.  We are serious about doing the “right” thing instead of what will make us the most money.  We believe that pursuing excellence will automatically bring the rest.  Thank you to all our loyal clients.  Without you, we would not be here.  http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

Ok, so I get a call from a frantic client the other day telling me that she did a refresh in Windows 8 and now all of her programs are gone.  Unfortunately, I had to break the news to her that in fact they were gone and would have to be reinstalled.  Microsoft does not make that real clear in my opinion.  The process indicates that your “store apps will be kept, but any programs installed from discs or the web will be lost.”  Now, that does seem clear if you understand what is being said.  Sadly, many people do not understand the difference between store apps and desktop apps/programs in the new operating system.  Simply put, if you downloaded the program from the web or used an installation disc, they will vanish and you will have to reinstall them.  Office installed from a disc…later.  Quickbooks…gone.  Antivirus…poof!  Proprietary programs installed from disc…adios.   Your docs, pics…will however be kept.   Make sure you understand this before running the refresh function on your W8 machine.  With that being said, we can perform a command prompt procedure to create a custom refresh snapshot that will maintain your current state of things INCLUDING your programs.  Takes about an hour, inexpensive and well worth it.  http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

As round one ended, Microsoft was sitting in its proverbial corner beaten and bruised by the failure of Surface RT and what still seems to be a slow adoption of W8.  However, as round two has begun, Microsoft has come out swinging again with Surface Pro and a newly emerging form factor (actually and improvement on an old idea) known as the laptop/tablet hybrid or “convertible.”  Lenovo Yoga and Lynx, along with the Surface, seem to be the  dominant emerging form factor.  Take a super slim ultrabook and add a detachable screen/tablet and you have a fully functional laptop for business power users, gaming PC, or tablet for the casual web browser, e-mailer and E-book reader.  As I have said repeatedly, iPads are an expensive novelty and will prove to be a passing fad as I believe most tablets will be.  They absolutely suck for any type of hard core computing tasks.  Why would anyone with any brains want to buy a laptop for work and a tab for casual computing when you can combine the two?

This is leading to my point regarding Microsoft and W8.  Adoption is slow for W8 because no one really needs it right now.  That will all change moving forward if the convertible does in fact emerge as the most popular form factor.  Microsoft will then be positioned for a knock-out punch because not only the Surface will be running W8, but many other manufacturers machines as well including Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus…  Microsoft and W8 could well be crowned champion at that point.  Sure, Apple will throw an iPad or Mac convertible out there, but will have little impact in the overall marketplace.  Once W8 is in full swing, many may opt to have that same cross-platform UI on all their devices, which could easily bump Windows Phones into respectable market share numbers.

The tech battle is an epic brawl that will go on for years and Microsoft has the deep pockets and patience to see the fruits of its labors come to fruition.  Ignore all the articles proclaiming the end of Microsoft…  They are positioned quite well all things considered.

Ding, Ding… see you for round three.  http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

The Arrogance of Apple

Well, Tim Cook laid it all out at his hour long talk during the Goldman Sachs Tech Conference today and it is more of the same dreck we have come to expect from these clowns.  The shear arrogance of Apple’s leadership is just amazing considering the truth behind the myth.  Their stock has crashed.  They only control about 14% of the PC market.  They only control about 18% of the smart phone market.  Their iPhones are constantly behind the innovation curve because there is only one of them released ever so often.  They gouge their customers constantly with planed obsolescence.  Contrary to popular belief, they did not invent the smartphone.  Palm and Blackberry were the pioneers, while Apple “invented” a better mouse trap, which has been eclipsed several times over by top end Androids like EVO and Galaxy…

They better pray to the tech gods that their “cool” factor does not wear off or that tablets are not just a passing fad.  They better get their heads out of their collective rectums and realize that today’s tech darling is tomorrow’s has-been.  Can someone say Atari, Sony, Blackberry?

Apple is a great marketing company.  They have positioned their products as “premium” and are happy to be a niche seller with relatively low market share, but a high margin.  That, I do not have a problem with.  What raises my ire is their delusional notion that they are above failure and they can do what they want, sue whom they wish, abuse their freakishly loyal customer base…with impunity.  Many companies that had that same self concept are now in the business grave yard.  Will Apple come crashing down soon?  No.  Will the luster wear off eventually?  Yes, and I cant wait to see Cook and company eat crow.  They obviously understand the “innovate or abdicate” concept, but they clearly do not grasp the “arrogance leads to attrition” concept.  As with everything Apple, iDon’tcare. http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

FBI Virus Outbreak

ImageThe geniuses (I use that term loosely) that sit in dark rooms and develop these lovely little pieces of malware (generically referred to as viruses) that wreak havoc on our computers have come up with a rather clever one this time.  The Reveton Trojan or FBI/MoneyPak virus is ransomeware and stops the functioning of your computer and you are presented with a lovely white screen with a very official looking FBI logo and a rather lengthy proclamation that your computer has been found to have kiddie porn or some other such nonsense and that you must run down to the store and obtain a MoneyPak payment for $200 or more and pay these freaks to restore your computer to functional status.

Needless to say it is not the FBI, there is no kiddie porn on your machine (unless you are a freak), paying them will do nothing to fix your machine and you will be out $200 plus dollars for no reason.  We have seen about six different strains of the infection in our shop.  Most will allow you to boot into safe mode and run advanced virus removal software to remove it. Other strains will block safe mode as well requiring boot from a live disc and subsequent removal.  Some will activate your webcam equipped machine and you will see your own smiling face in a box that is ostensibly being recorded by the FBI (clever indeed).  I have also seen some that will alter the registry to the point that the desktop will load and summarily the desktop icons will be hidden and your wallpaper will change to plain white rendering the machine unusable.  The most extreme version will actually corrupt the NTFS file table, requiring a wipe and reinstallation in some cases.  In short, this is one nasty little piece of malware.  It can be easy to remove in some cases or extremely difficult.  I do not recommend a DIY approach to this critter.  Let a professional like ShockNet Computer Repair Charlotte help with the cleanup or you could risk severe damage and/or data loss.

Anti virus programs will catch some strains of the malware, but the clever folk who develop these things keep changing the code so that the AV data bases are constantly playing catch-up.  Unfortunately, 2013 will probably be the year of the FBI virus and its spawn, so the best protection is pure common sense web browsing.  Do not rely on the AV to prevent these bugs from infecting your beloved computer.  Here are a few things you can do to lessen the chance of infection.

1- Use common sense when browsing.

2- Don’t open any suspicious emails, especially ones with links.

3- Never allow anyone to access your computer remotely unless you know and trust them.

4- Keep your AV updated every day.

5- Make sure all Java and Adobe programs are updated.

6- NEVER install toolbars or download wallpapers from the net.

7- “Speed Up My PC” programs and the like are BS.  Don’t buy and install them.  I have seen ample evidence that these types of programs actually cause problems with the intention that the client will call and pay more money to the company that provided the program to have them fix the “problems.”

8- Run all Microsoft updates and make sure the OS has the current service pack (XP=sp3, Vista=sp2 and 7=sp1).  They can be found here http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/service-packs-download#sptabs=xp.

Stay safe my friends!  Visit us here for removal services.  http://tinyurl.com/bjenvds  http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

ImageThere is a lot of nonsensical talk about being in the post PC era.  “The PC is dead.”  “Desktops are dinosaurs.”  “Laptops are so yesterday.”  Categorize these statements along with those regarding the end of the world and the Mayan calendar nonsense.  Here are the facts.

1- PC shipments are down because the market for them has reached super-saturation.  In short, everyone has one and the poor state of the economy is keeping many from dropping cash on new ones.

2- Smart phones and tabs are grabbing some dollars from the PC market (laptops and desktops).

3- What kind of computer you use is HIGHLY situational.  Graphics designers and architects are not using tabs or smart phones to do their daily work.  Most are on powerful laptops or desktops.

4- There is a place for all of them, which will create a highly fragmented market.  The surviving manufacturers will have to gain a foothold in the predominant market or cover many bases well.

I believe the real question is what will become the predominant computing device and what will that form factor ( a techie term for what a computer looks like in terms of size and shape) look like?  My original thought was a dockable smartphone into a lapdock that resembled a laptop with full screen and keyboard.  Next to the Motorola Atrix there has been little move in that direction.  So for now, let’s say my prognostication was wrong.

I think what people are looking for is an all-purpose device; something that combines the best of everything.  I am a full-blown techie and still do not own a tab.  Why?  Because personally I find them useless.  I use my high-end smartphone phone for mobile computing.  I do not want to invest in a desktop for work, laptop for home and travel, a smartphone and a tab.  That to me is insane unless you have more money than brains.

Microsoft Surface may be on the right track.  It is a tab, with laptop-like keyboard, hybrid.  The Lenovo Yoga takes it a step further and combines an ultra-book/tab.  The market may very well land in one of these two form factor camps.  But, there is another choice that many industry insiders are predicting will become the predominant form factor.  Drum roll please.  The “phablet” may just be the device that becomes the heavy weight.  What is a “phablet?”  It is an oversized smart phone, i.e., the Galaxy Note.  Typically it will have a 5+” screen and beefy processor.  It combines the best of the phone and tablet.  Apple already has jumped (although after the Galaxy Note) into the market with the iPad Mini, but with no phone feature.  Of course that is planed and the next iteration will empty the pockets of all the fan boys getting the latest and greatest iPad Mini 2 with a phone feature.

The only issue on the table is portability.  Women can throw them in their purses, but men cannot stuff them into their pockets.  I would envision some type of hip cool holster that straps onto a belt, around your thigh or a shoulder holster type deal that holds the phablet and that would become the norm, kind of like the ubiquitous back pack on high school and college campuses.  I know that is a stretch, but somehow the market must develop a device that crosses form factor barriers and is portable.  I still like the dockable smart phone concept.  Time will tell.

In the meantime, give me my giant comfortable desktop work station will full sized keyboard and 24″ monitor that I can upgrade at anytime utilizing numerous expansion ports.  The same computer that does not cause massive eye strain to watch a movie and one that gives me a full-blown gaming experience.  My laptop collects a little dust, but is great for mobile power uses.  My smart phone is my third arm.  The big question for me, and millions of others, moving forward is what is the most economical device that gives me the most useful functionality.  Phablet anyone?  Phablet with a Surface-like keyboard?  This is going to be fun.  Need to buy a new computer or tab?  We can help. http://tinyurl.com/bjenvds http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

Thanks to Greg Shultz over at TechRepublic.com for posting this awesome way to create the missing start button in W8 that is giving so many people heartburn (http://tinyurl.com/ar4oul9).

As a tech pro and Windows user, I must say that not having the start button is a little unnerving and makes finding things tricky until you get the logic of the new OS, but if, like many folks you, you get frustrated easily, this little trick will warm your heart as you again see a start button that can launch your favorite programs/apps.  Check it out.  Need us to do it for you?  Visit us here.  http://tinyurl.com/bjenvds http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

ImageBack in August I asked the question “can Microsoft pull it off?”  This is a fifteen round fight and nothing definitive can be decided in what amounts to round one of a very long fight between Microsoft, Apple and Android, but so far things look very rough for MS.

Windows 8 has shipped more units so far than W7 in the same time frame, but keep in mind that W7 was a PC only piece of software and W8 is cross-platform being shipped on PCs, tabs and phones.  With that in mind, not all that impressive.  Surface, which is a cool little tab, is selling anemically.  The fact that RT came out first and the app market is underwhelming could spell disaster for the tab.  The different iterations of Windows phones are making little progress in snatching market share from Apple and Android. The last stat I saw was Apple controlling about 18 percent of the smart phone market and Android around 73 percent.  That leaves MS and RIM to fight over the 9 percent table scraps!

The problem for MS is fairly simple. If consumers have no need for, or do not want, a Windows tablet or phone, then they also have no need for Windows 8.  Why embrace a completely new OS and GUI, with a stiff learning curve, on a PC?  Windows 7 works fine thank you very much.  That leaves MS in a very difficult place.  If their tabs and phones don’t gain steady market share, then Windows 8 may die with them.  I own a computer repair and tech support business and do not yet own a copy of Windows 8.  Why?  I don’t need it.  Customers ask me constantly if they should upgrade and my answer is simple.  No, if you have XP or Vista, go to 7.  If you have 7, stay with it unless you have a specific need for W8.

I still believe that tabs are an expensive novelty and in that ring Apple clearly has the knock- out punch with iPad and Android is still finding their footing in the fight, while Microsoft is still trying to get in the ring.  As I said in my previous post regarding app development for Surface and Windows Phone, if MS cannot attract the developers, those devices will die in the broad consumer market and may end up being an IBMish enterprise-centric phenom.

Right now it does not look good for them.  I like Microsoft and I am in their corner hoping they can stand at the end of fifteen rounds and proclaim “yo, Apple and Android, we did it!” However, if things don’t change fast, they may be forever holding the spit bucket while the true heavy weights battle it out.  Stay tuned.  Want to roll back to Windows 7?  We can help.  http://tinyurl.com/bjenvds  http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/

The only place on earth I can think of where people will stand in line and pay money to get screwed is at a whore house.  But, the sad reality is that Apple iPhone cultists will do it as well.

The phones are simply over-hyped, over-priced, overly-controlled and usually playing catch-up to the hundreds of Android phones in the market place.  The “new” iPhone is 4G LTE, has a “big” screen, panoramic view camera… blah…blah…blah.  So do many Android based phones.  In fact, many of the Android phones have had all this for quite some time.

If everyone is truly honest with themselves, two facts are apparent.  One, earth-shattering improvements are not going to happen with smart phones.  They will be incremental and for the most part marketing gimmicks.  Who really gives a crap if your download speed was so two seconds faster than mine!  Two, Apple is a marketing machine with little concern for their customers.  They are strictly a micro-controlled tech manufacturing company trying to maximize profit at your expense.   Case-in-point, the new iFail has an “improved” connector, which is not backwards compatible with anything, but you sure can go and by a $29 adapter to make it work!  Nice.  A few million phones times $29, not a bad profit center for Apple.

It is all done purposely and people stand in line to get the backdoor job.  Apple is the master of “planned obsolescence.”  There is only one iPhone.  So, if you stick with that brand you are at their mercy as to what is included or not.  In the Android market, competition drives innovation much faster.  I have hundreds of choices. My HTC First Gen EVO was at the time, and still is by some measures, the best smartphone ever.  It had a big screen, 4G, 8mp camera, wifi hot spot… before Apple.  Apple’s business strategy almost assures playing catch up all the time and yet the devout actually have been convinced they are always on the cutting edge.  Sorry, that is nonsense.

Take Siri for example, that was supposed to be the greatest innovation since sliced bread.  Android has the same thing called Speaktoit, which runs circles around Siri.  I asked the same questions to Siri and Speaktoit and by far the Android assistant was more detailed and precise.

Oh, and iTunes?  Don’t even get me started on that!  It is the scourge of the earth.  I get all my music, cheaper and faster from Emusic, download it onto my Android, copy it where ever I want it to be with the hassles of syncing and reauthorizing…

What is my point in all this?  Simple, Apple is a case study in marketing genius and corporate greed, not so much technological revolution.  They have created an “exclusive” brand that makes people feel special about owning.

Go ahead and stand in line.  I will be at home with my Samsung GS feeling quite special thank you very much.  Oh, and sitting is not a problem after the purchase!  http://www.shocknetcomputerrepair.com/