Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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I hope that you have been using Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, or an Internet browser other than Internet Explorer for the last two weeks or so.

Though Microsoft ended support for its popular Windows XP operating system on 08 April 2014, recent security threats spurred the company to issue an emergency security patch on 26 April. The security vulnerability affects users of Internet Explorer versions 6-11 on various Windows operating systems.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 Logo

“We have made the decision to issue a security update for Windows XP users,” Dustin Childs, group manager of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, wrote in a blog post. “Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, and we continue to encourage customers to migrate to a modern operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8.1.” 

Read more…

Logo: Google

In news releases on 28 April, the US and UK governments asked people to stop using Internet Explorer (IE) until its security vulnerabilities were fixed. According to netmarketshare.com, over half of the desktop PC market used IE in one version or another when the “zero day” vulnerability was identified. Many organizations immediately switched from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome.

 


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What’s the best use for an iPad if you’re savvy with a laptop and smartphone?

When you get an iPad, you think, “Hey, I can replace my laptop with this small tablet!” 

Technology stack with overlapping functions

I look at my “technology stack,” and see a Windows 7 PC, a MacBook Pro, an iPad and an iPhone. These devices all help me get through my daily routine, with overlapping capabilities:

  • Read content
  • Read and compose email
  • Read and create documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • Participate in social networks
  • Attend Web meetings
  • Visit Web sites
  • View photos and graphics.

Depending upon what I want to achieve, these four devices are not totally interchangeable.

I can use my smartphone to create a presentation, but anything but a simple presentation is best created on a laptop or tablet. I can sort through hundreds of emails on my tablet or smartphone, but must use a laptop for powerful sorting and cleanup. Likewise, I can create complex spreadsheets on the tablet, but likely would use my MacBook or PC with a keyboard and full functionality.

Rethinking the tablet

If you’re already quite comfortable with a laptop and a smartphone, and a tablet falls into your hands, what’s the best way to use it? Here’s an interesting perspective on the use of tablets, worth reading: Rethinking the iPad

My take—Tip #1: I DO use the iPad for mail and social apps; Tip #2: I use the iPad to catch up on reading; Tip #3: I turn off MOST notifications; Tip #4: I change SOME of the settings to improve battery life.

Let me hear how you use your tablet!


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New Apple MacBook Air appeals to the mobile business set

In late April Apple beefed up its MacBook Air product line. The lightweight notebook computers now boast faster, 4th generation Intel processors, longer batter life, bigger flash storage, faster and better WiFi and slightly lower price tags. This makes the Air more attractive to on-the-go business travelers who need or prefer a full-fledged computer over a tablet or smartphone.

Apple MacBook Air 2014

Photo: Apple

The new MacBook Air specs go head-to-head with the most powerful Windows laptops. Apple is taking the opportunity to win business users over to its hardware and the OSX operating system.

Why? Here are several issues that left market share up for grabs:

  • Windows XP End of Support
  • heartbleed and security vulnerabilities with Internet Explorer
  • Sarbanes-Oxley compliance concerns
  • increased use of Cloud applications in large organizations
  • Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) and mobile apps.

Read New MacBook Air specs make for better business laptops and visit the Apple Web site here.

Those who need less powerful computing power have a number of other options, from smartphones to “phablets” to tablets and ChromeBooks. For further reading on the risks and benefits of sticking with Windows XP, and the increase in organizational use of non-Windows operating systems, see recent IT Insight columns:


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Microsoft Pulls Plug on Windows XP Support

Just last week—08 April 2014—Microsoft stopped supporting the tremendously popular Windows XP operating system. They will provide security updates/patches for another fifteen months, through July 2015.

Loyal XP users need to decide if “I’d rather fight than switch” or “I’d rather switch than fight…” and they need to decide soon, since upgrades in large organizations can take 12-18 months.

pull-the-plug-square

Windows XP Sails into the Sunset… Maybe speaks to the impacts and unintended consequences of the long-announced end of support.

End of support impacts millions of users. Where does that leave the millions of business and consumer users still on that operating system? Will they fight upgrading to Windows 8.1, or switch to an alternative operating system. What challenges will people face when upgrading to a new OS?

End of support has unintended consequences. First, it resulted in a resurgence in Windows 7 laptop sales and Windows 7 OS upgrades. Second, it resulted in the purchase of Windows-alternative hardware and software. End of support gives organizations a reason to evaluate whether they need laptops into the future, or if other technologies (cloud, mobile, and social) are better alternatives.


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Too much email? This company offers a solution…

Has email taken over your life? Do you have so many email accounts, and receive so many messages that it seems you spend all day on email? Do you wish that it would all stop?

The average person receives over 100 emails a day, and many people in large organizations receive many more than that.

As the author of an IT column–and this blog–I read lots of tech publications and blogs. This takes me in interesting directions. A couple of days ago I read about SaneBox, an application that claims to help users save hours each week normally spent sifting through hundreds of Inbox messages.

laptop with email spilling out of mail slotSaneBox triages incoming emails into three folders:

Inbox – important 

BlackHole – spam – junk mail

Later – bacn – read later

What’s intriguing is that SaneBox takes a first stab at what goes into each of these three folders. Then you review SaneBox’s choices and “train” the application if you want to move emails from certain senders elsewhere. This is something that none of my email client apps can do. In MS Outlook, I can make rules, but it would be time-consuming to create a new rule each time I receive email from a new contact. In Apple mail and with Web versions of most common email providers, rules don’t exist.

SaneBox works with Google Apps, Microsoft Exchange, IBM Notes (fka Lotus Notes) and IMAP email accounts. By default, the application adds two new folders (@SaneBlackHole and @SaneLater), and you can add a couple more–but start with the default to keep things simple.

This is a subscription service. You can register for a free 14-day trial and $5 in SaneBox credit if you click here.

Email is here to stay, at least for a while.

Since email is here to stay, at least for the immediate future, it may be worth your time to  look at this application.


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Windows XP support ending soon

Microsoft stops support for the Windows XP operating system (OS) early in April, and stops support for the associated malware software in July. Despite Microsoft’s warnings to update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 before “end of support,” many large organizations continue to use the almost 13-year-old computer operating system. It is the most popular OS next to Windows 7. And some companies will switch to Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.x.

windows-xp-computer

Image: Microsoft

Companies can

  1. continue to use Windows XP and later change to another OS;
  2. upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1; or
  3. upgrade to an OS such as Chrome OS, Mac OSX Mavericks or Android.

Windows XP end of support allows an opportunity to evaluate how IT needs have changed in the last 13 years. Organizations can decide which new technologies—hardware, operating systems, mobile, Cloud and Big Data—will work best for them.

The next “IT Insight” column, Windows XP sails into the sunset… maybeappears in em Magazine on April 1. Check back here or on our web site early in April for a link to the column.


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Work in the Cloud removes some operating systems barriers

IBM Cloud Computing

IBM Cloud Computing (Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

A little over two years ago I paid about $999 for a state-of-the-art Windows desktop with a small footprint, plenty of speed and a huge hard drive. When it failed just past the two-year warranty mark, I tried to replace the hard drive–but the hard drive was not the problem. My attempt to salvage the computer was fruitless, and the computer was essentially worth nothing. I took it to the recycling counter at my local big box store and received nothing in return, not even a $10 gift card!

This seems like an awful short life for a name-brand computer from a company that used to have a good reputation. My current notebook computer of the same brand had a “blue screen of death” issue when the unit was only three months old. And it has had intermittent startup problems ever since. I do not expect the notebook to last much longer.

In a recent meeting, I was asked if I was planning to switch to Microsoft Windows 8. My reply, after these two recent issues–which may or may not be related to software–was this:

I am getting close to where my work does not require a Windows-based system. I expect that my next computer will be a Mac.

This should become a reality soon. Some of my clients use Google Docs and GMail or Microsoft Office 365 in the Cloud. These are accessible from essentially any device with an internet browser, and your information resides in the Cloud. These and other options like OpenOffice.org  and Zoho remove some of “frills” or “bloat” from the desktop software counterparts and allow easy document sharing and collaboration 24/7.

If everything were operating system-neutral, then operating system does not matter. Form and function rule the day. It is some of the more specialized software programs that are available only as a Windows desktop client that tie me to my Windows notebook device.

Maybe the short life span of  my Windows devices will encourage me to try some of the other options available, at the same time allowing me to leave my computer at the office and use a tablet instead.

Should you have old computer equipment, repurpose or recycle it; you should not leave it in the dumpster or set it out on the curb on trash day, or stash in a computer “boneyard.” For ideas on what to do with old computing equipment, click here.


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The year of the tablet

Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy Note

It’s clear that 2012 was The Year of the Tablet with Android and iOS tablets creating market excitement for much of the year and Windows 8/RT creating excitement late in the year. Tablets extend BYOD (bring your own device) beyond smartphones in the business enterprise.

I have seen senior executives and mid-level managers tote tablets to meetings in lieu of notebook computers. In 2013, look for more pervasive tablet use as organizations begin to develop proprietary applications for 24/7, global connectivity. In 2013-2014, expect to find new business applications in the “app stores,” allowing tablets increase productivity and proving their value to businesses.

With the winter holidays a faint memory and 2012 coming to an end,

we wish you a happy, healthy and successful new year!


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TIME’s “top 10 tech gadgets” list for 2012 has pleasant surprises

Most of us are familiar with David Letterman’s “Top 10” lists, the “best-dressed” and “worst-dressed” lists, etc. Time magazine released its “Top 10 of Everything 2012 with a whopping 55 lists in numerous categories. Here’s their list of the top 10 tech gadgets for 2012:

  1. iPhone 5
  2. Nintendo Wii U
  3. Sony Cybershot RX100 camera
  4. Raspberry Pi Model B
  5. Lytro light field camera
  6. Apple Macbook Pro 15″ with Retina Display
  7. Microsoft Surface with Window RT
  8. Samsung Galaxy Note II
  9. Nest thermostat
  10. Simple TV

The list includes two of the best smartphones, a new tablet and a notebook with a stunning display–no surprise. What did surprise–and intrigue–me is the innovation and ingenuity in three items on the list:

  • Raspberry Pi

    Raspberry Pi is a $35 computer. Yes, you heard this correctly! It’s stripped down to bare essentials; all you need is a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

  • Lytro cameraThe Lytro camera captures the direction of light rays, as well as color and intensity, letting the user refocus photos after they’re taken. It’s by no means a pocket camera, but it is affordable. 
  • Nest thermostatThe Nest learning thermostat incorporates simple form and function, with a touch screen display. Former Apple employees designed it.

You can view all 55 TIME Top 10 of Everything lists here.