Monday, August 31, 2015

Survey highlights Mac vs. PC buying in back to school shopping trends

More than 4,000 shoppers surveyed give you their outlooks on Mac, PC, tablets, and more for Fall semester 2015.

If you think that college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are looking for cool, bleeding edge, super duper, expensive technology to begin or to continue their studies, you'd be very wrong. Truth is that they're looking for reliable, smart, and traditional. Surprised? I was.

When I read a survey headline, I'm usually not surprised by the results. But the results of this survey, conducted by CivicScience, where 4,399 U.S. adults polled from June 30 to July 27, 2015 are different. Some of the numbers really surprised me when I read them. For example, 31 percent of the respondents surveyed said that their next computer will likely be a Windows laptop or desktop, while only 13 percent said they will buy a Mac laptop or desktop. If that's not surprising to you, then maybe the fact that 42 percent of the respondents said that they have no plans to buy a new computer is.

A total of 14 percent said that they're going to buy various other computer formats such as iPads, Chromebooks, Android tablets, or Linux computers.

However, the numbers change when you filter for the college age range of 18 to 24. Both Windows computers and Mac computers rise by 7 percent each for this age group. And alternative computer platforms also drop by 2 percent.

Next personal computer purchase (All Adults):

42% - None/No plans to purchase
31% - Windows
13% - Mac
14% - Other
Next personal computer purchase (Adults 18-24):

38% - Windows
29% - None/No plans to purchase
20% - Mac
12% - Other

So, who's buying iPads? From this survey, if you're buying an iPad, you're likely to be between the ages of 35-44, educated, professional, and relatively affluent. Those numbers make sense if you note that only 6 percent of those surveyed are buying iPads. For light computing, iPads are portable, and have a long battery life, but are somewhat of a status symbol at several hundred dollars per unit.

Windows buyers are more likely to be in the STEM professions in the Associate's or Bachelor's degree levels, while Mac buyers are in the arts, humanities, or business, and have attained a graduate or professional degree.

Mac and iOS device buyers are also more affluent than those who buy Windows. Of course Apple products are significantly more expensive than those that use Windows. The decision is easy for those who are on a budget, when your choices are between a $2,000 Macbook Pro and a $400, or less, Windows 10 laptop from a major PC manufacturer.

College is tremendously expensive. In fact, it's ridiculous. The price of college is so disparate from the reward (salary) that you get from it, I'm surprised that so many people still attend. Unfortunately many are going into deep debt for their disappointing future earning capabilities. So it's no wonder that many opt for less expensive technology. If you do a pure numbers comparison between Mac and PC, you could buy a new $500 Windows laptop every year of college for the price of a single Macbook Pro. And at the end of four years, you'll still have to buy a new computer with which to start your new career. You don't have to be a STEM major to figure that one out.

So what's the grand takeaway from this research?

You and technology manufacturers should be aware of the following conclusions from this survey:
  • People aren't buying tablet computers to replace their PCs, so the whole post-PC era thing is nonsense.
  • College students buy Windows two to one over Mac. Professionals buy Windows almost three to one over Mac.
  • And 30 to 40 percent aren't buying anything at all in any age range.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Windows 10: How is it really doing so far?

There have already been tens of millions of downloads of Windows 10 - so does that mean it's already a success?

The future for Windows 10 looks bright. Image: Microsoft

After nearly a month since its release, just how well is Windows 10 really doing?

Earlier this week Microsoft revealed that more than 75 million devices are now running Windows 10. That includes more than 90,000 different PC or tablet models - even some devices manufactured as long ago as 2007.

Microsoft has previously said Windows 10 had 14 million downloads in the first 24 hours. Big, big numbers, but how do they stack up compared to previous versions of Windows?

Off to a promising start

Back in 2012, Microsoft said it sold 40 million Windows licences in the first month that Windows 8 was on sale, and that is had sold four million upgrade licences in the first three days (licences are slightly different to downloads but the best metric we have). In contrast, in 2009 Microsoft sold 60 million Windows 7 licences in the first two months it was on sale.

Clearly, Windows 10 has the edge on previous versions. There's one big difference of course: Windows 10 is a free download available to hundreds of millions of PC owners, so its takeup should obviously be a lot faster than that of its paid-for predecessors.

There are other sources of data to draw on. Web analystics company StatCounter has been tracking web traffic coming from Windows 10 devices. According to the company, Windows 10 devices account for about 5.7 percent of all desktops and tablets it's tracking. Looked at another way, it has taken Windows 10 two weeks to overtake Windows 8, and four to catch up with iOS.

StatCounter's data goes way back so that we can compare Windows 10 with some earlier releases of Windows. It tells us that it took Windows 8, which went on sale in October 2012, until June 2013 to get the same market share - that's seven months. In contrast Windows 7 got there much faster - by early December after its October launch.

There's another wrinkle to consider - some PC users may not actually be able to download Windows 10 yet even if they desperately want it. Microsoft is staggering downloads, starting with the systems it thinks can be upgraded most easily. It could be weeks (or even months) before everyone who has registered for Windows 10 can actually get it.

It's unwise to make big assertions based on early data like this but the StatCounter data does suggest that after the usual initial explosion of excitement, growth in Windows 10 is going to be slower from now on. Perhaps the next significant bump in Windows 10 adoption will come with the back-to-school rush and then again over the festive season.

Enterprises of course will be at the back of the queue; it could be the second half of next year before the average big business has done all the testing necessary to get serious about Windows 10.

B+ performance

So - thus far it suggests that Windows 10 is doing a lot better than Windows 8 and maybe better than Windows 7.

"Generally it's a success. If you have to give Microsoft a letter grade on how they've done with this upgrade, you'd probably give them a good solid B+. It's not an A because there have been some rough edges, a few things that haven't gone quite right, but overall it's gone really well," said Stephen Kleynhans, research vice president at analyst Gartner.

He said the general feedback from customers, both consumers and enterprises who have been kicking tyres, has been pretty positive. "The product as it sits right now is pretty solid and people are liking what they are seeing," he said.

Kleynhans pointed out that the Windows 10 upgrade process had the potential to be a nightmare because it involved updating tens of millions of devices remotely. "If even a small fraction of those start going bad it could have been a really terrible event for Microsoft. There's been a few hiccups here and there but it's gone well for the most part for millions of users, so generally you've got to give them good marks on this."

Enterprises last to the party

Still, despite all the excitement, installs of Windows 10 are still small compared to Windows 7 (or even the antique Windows XP). Kleynhans said that while Windows 10 will be considered mainstream for consumers by the end of the year, for enterprises it takes a little longer.

"Enterprises need some time to test things, to learn about a new operating system. Often there are other pieces of the infrastructure that need to be upgraded in order to support a new operating system and Windows 10 is no different," he said.

However, he added: "By the end of 2016 we'll start to see Windows 10 showing up in enterprises relatively commonly. Not the dominant operating system, that will take a lot longer, but it will be common and if you are going to sell something into an enterprise by the end of 2016, you'd better be able to support Windows 10."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The new kid in the block strikes again: Cyanogen hit de markeyt with two new phones

New smartphone entrant Wileyfox has launched a 5.5-inch phablet and five-inch smartphone for the US and Europe.

Following in the footsteps of OnePlus, UK startup Wileyfox has released two low-cost, but decently specced, smartphones running on Cyanogen OS.

The more expensive of the two, Storm, will cost £199 and features a 5.5-inch full HD display, 20-megapixel auto-focus main camera from Sony and an eight-megapixel front shooter. The device runs on Qualcomm's 1.5GHz Snapdragon 615 processor with integrated LTE, and offers 32GB onboard storage, 3GB RAM, as well as expandable memory up to 128GB.

Meanwhile, Swift, which retails for £129, comes with a five-inch HD display, a 13-megapixel main camera from Samsung and a five-megapixel selfie snapper. It's running on Qualcomm's 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 processor with integrated LTE and offers 16GB internal storage and 2GB RAM, with expandable memory up to 32GB.

Rare for devices in the UK but common in emerging markets, both include dual SIM slots. They also have a 2,500 mAh capacity battery, which is removable in the Swift but non-removable in the Storm. Finally, they're both available only in black.

Wileyfox launches after a year-long incubation with VentureSpring, which has also backed Kazam, the UK-based maker of the super-slim Tornado 348.

Wileyfox said it launched because people "are tired... of being bound by contracts for phones that are past their best and of paying a premium for brands that spend a fortune on flagship stores and ubiquitous marketing campaigns".

The Swift and Storm join a growing number of new hardware brands that are exploring ways to undercut traditional OEMs such as Samsung and Apple by offering aggressively-priced and well-specced handsets via online-only sales channels. Wileyfox's debut also comes as almost every smartphone OEM besides Apple struggles to find profits in the industry.

Xiaomi, the Chinese hardware startup that's been valued at $45bn, appears to have mastered the art of driving interest in its portfolio of budget and high-end - but still comparatively cheap - handsets through online sales, though Xiaomi phones are yet to reach the US and Europe.

OnePlus, the maker of the popular One and 2 phones, is sticking to its one device per year model, coupled with its invite-only system for purchases. Though the OnePlus One launched with Cyanogen, the company is now developing its own Oxygen OS for future smartphones.

Wileyfox joins a growing number of brands to launch devices with Cyanogen OS 12.1, including the Z1 from the Lenovo-backed ZUK, which arrives in the US and Europe next month, two handsets recently released by Micromax-backed Yu for the Indian market, and the Andromax Q from Smartfren in Indonesia.

Cyanogen, the company behind Cyanogen OS, aims to offer a more open alternative to Google's Android and, if its executives are to be believed, there will be many more such devices on the way.

Some of the key features the Android Lollipop-based Cyanogen OS brings to the devices include customised lockscreen shortcuts, themes, PrivacyGuard and PIN scramble, a feature that jumbles up the order of keys to prevent attackers figuring out passcodes from smudge marks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How Tim Cook reversed Apple's plummeting stock price

Apple's CEO emailed CNBC's Jim Cramer to reassure investors that all is well. Jordan Golson explains.

Apple stock

Yesterday was a historic day for the world's financial markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Index took a hammering, dropping 3.57%. It was an improvement over the early minutes of the trading day, but still a tremendous whack.

An hour after the trading day began, the DJIA began gaining back some of its losses, partially thanks to a single email sent yesterday morning.

It wasn't just any email, however—it was a missive from Apple CEO Tim Cook to influential CNBC host Jim Cramer, saying that all was well for Apple in China (where much of the current market uncertainty is centered).

"As you know, we don't give mid-quarter updates and we rarely comment on moves in Apple stock. But I know your question is on the minds of many investors.

"I get updates on our performance in China every day, including this morning, and I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August."

After CNBC reported the contents of the email, Apple's stock shot upwards after being down an astounding 10% on the day, rising temporarily into positive territory and finally finishing the day down 2.5% at $103.12.

It's possible that Cook's email may have violated SEC rules, because it gives a look into Apple's performance in the middle of a quarter, well ahead of an expected earnings call in mid-October.

Cook could face an investigation or at least an inquiry into the email exchange with Cramer, but it's also possible that Cook will get a pass because of the extraordinary market activity yesterday. Cook's email had the effect of "righting the ship" somewhat and bringing some calm into the markets. The SEC fair disclosure rules require companies to share material information with all investors simultaneously, something that can even be done via Twitter.

Apple is one of the stocks in the influential and closely-watched Dow Jones Industrial Average, and it's positive spike had an effect on the rest of the market as well. It also likely helped reassure investors about the state of the economy in China, a massively important market for Apple and where much of its recent growth has occurred.

Cook noted to Cramer that he believes China "represents an unprecedented opportunity over the long term" for the company because of low LTE (high speed cell service) penetration and a rapidly growing middle class.

Still, it reiterates that Apple is special. It's so huge and so influential that a single email from its notoriously secretive CEO can, perhaps, change the fortunes of the entire US stock market—for a few hours, anyway.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

U.S. and Russia Can't Even Agree on How to Handle Astronaut Pee (BusinessWeek)

The International Space Station flies with two completely separate water systems. Drinking urine isn't actually the main reason 
Expedition 44 crew members Kimiya Yui (left) of JAXA and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren on the International Space Station

It’s been a rough year for the people who keep the International Space Station (ISS) working. In June, Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated less than three minutes after launching from Cape Canaveral, Fla., sending a cargo capsule plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean. The failure followed the October 2014 explosion of an Orbital Sciences rocket on a launchpad at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. In April, a Russian Progress cargo ship carrying three tons of supplies spun out of control in orbit and was destroyed as it fell back to Earth. 

Both of the U.S. resupply vessels carried water-processing equipment needed on the station. Their failure to reach outer space raised the stakes for the Aug. 19 launch of an unmanned Japanese cargo craft, the Kounotori 5, or White Stork, which successfully docked on Monday. “Once it gets up to the space station, my life gets a whole lot better,” says Layne Carter, the water subsystem manager for the ISS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Ala.

Among the cargo losses on both U.S. launch failures were a pair of multifiltration beds for the water processor and filters for the urine-processing system, which recycles astronauts’ waste into a drinking supply. “It tastes like bottled water,” Carter says of the water that emanates from the urine processing system, “as long as you can psychologically get past the point that it’s recycled urine and condensate that comes out of the air.” (Condensate is a polite way of describing the collected breath and sweat of crew members, as well as shower runoff and urine from animals aboard the ISS, including a dozen mice that arrived on the Japanese supply mission.) Without the spares, Carter’s team was forced to stop processing condensate for water in mid-July and engineered further ad hoc backup plans to keep the water running in case something went awry. “There’s always an adventure right around the corner with the water system,” says Carter, a 27-year NASA veteran. 

The space station carries roughly 2,000 liters of water in reserve for emergencies, split about evenly between the U.S. and the Russian sections of the ISS. The two sides operate separate water systems mainly because of decades-old decisions on how best to disinfect water. When the space shuttle program began in 1981, its astronauts’ water relied on iodine, a common biocide for water that had long served as a staple for U.S. troops operating in areas with suspect water supplies. Those standard practices carried over to the American side of the space station, which was launched in 1998. It’s an effective but inefficient way to clean the water supply, because it has to be filtered out before crew members can drink it. Too much iodine can cause the thyroid gland to become enlarged.

The Russians, however, rely on a different go-to: silver, which in its ionic form is a powerful antimicrobial agent. Its use dates back to the Soviet Mir space station, which was launched in 1986. Unlike iodine, silver doesn’t have to be filtered out of the water. Epsom salts are added to improve its taste. NASA has decided to switch to silver-ionized water on future missions, but Carter says he likes that there’s both silver- and iodine-treated water aboard the ISS: “It really makes a lot of sense," he says, "to have dissimilar redundancies in the space station in case one of the systems has problems.”

The U.S. water recycling system produces about 3.6 gallons per day, for an average of three NASA crew on the ISS, slightly more than the Russians yield from processing just condensate and shower water into a potable supply. The reason? NASA takes Russian urine, too. “We collect it in bags, and then the crew hauls it over to the U.S. side,” Carter says. “We don’t do 100 percent of the Russian urine. It depends on our time availability.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ashley Madison hack should serve as your IT security wake-up call

 When making the case for investing more money in IT security, reference the Ashley Madison hack as an example of what you don't want to happen at your company.

Last month, the affair matchmaking website Ashley Madison was hacked by a group calling itself the Impact Team. On ZDNet, Violet Blue correctly points out, the website is "a honeypot for people who had something to hide" — between the company's claims that it is "the last truly secure space on the Internet," the cringeworthy advertisements it runs, and the salacious nature of the business, this hack was probably inevitable.

As the data from the hack has been disseminated over the last week, there has been an immense amount of social commentary made about Avid Life Media (the owner of Ashley Madison), and the subscribers who have had their email addresses made public. Bearing that in mind, the focus of this article is the enterprise security lessons that can be learned from this event.

Lesson #1: Don't skimp on IT security from the start

If you've ever read any other article on this website, you probably already understand the importance of data security. The problem is that most bean counters do not, and spending on security does not grow sales or pageviews. So, it falls by the wayside because IT is ultimately beholden to the demands of management, and there is not sufficient time / staffing / money available for hardening information security.

This might be the case that changes that. Ultimately, paying for security upfront is likely better for the bottom line and corporate reputation than cleaning up the issue after the fact and paying out any judgements in court.

Presently, Avid Life Media is facing a $578 million class-action suit in Canada, with other individual suits being filed in the US. One point of contention is the $19 "full delete" service that users paid with the expectation that their information would be removed from the Ashley Madison databases — users who now have their personal information leaked alongside millions of other users.

According to Aldo M. Leiva, a partner at Lubell Rosen, users may be able to "pursue breach of contract claims," and that Avid Life Media may face "an FTC investigation and enforcement action... most likely for unfair or deceptive trade practices."

Providing context to the Ashley Madison data

It has been reported that not all of the Ashley Madison registrations are genuine — any valid-looking email address can be used. As such, registrants with obviously fake email addresses such as,, and the email address for the opinion line of The Wichita Eagle are among the addresses listed. According to Dadaviz, about one third of the addresses are fake.

Also of importance is the difference between paid and free accounts, as well as the fact that not everyone is using the website for the advertised purpose. Under the expectation that registration email addresses would never be publicly visible, private investigators and human resources workers sign up for free accounts in the course of their investigations. According to Rob Holmes, the CEO of IPCybercrime, "With a free account used for investigations, you're not contacting people, so it's more convenient to not use a burner account."

Lesson #2: Don't mix business with pleasure

With the release of 36 million email addresses with subscriber information, this information has been used by curious onlookers and extortionists to see who has registered for Ashley Madison.

Generally speaking, it is advisable to not use your corporate email for personal affairs. Information about registrants from tech companies using their work email address has been widely disseminated following the release by the Impact Team.

Ultimately, any information you would prefer to keep private from your coworkers — like being in a B-52's fan club, or having a Second Life account — is ultimately private, and thus should be handled using a private email address. On an individual level, if a hack out of your control results in your work email address being disseminated worldwide, it has the potential to be damaging to your career. At a corporate level, having the dubious honor of having the most number of registrants on a website intended to facilitate extramarital affairs is not particularly good for PR. As such, putting a policy in place to not use corporate-assigned email addresses for private affairs is highly advisable.

Lesson #3: Don't linger in stages one and two of Kübler-Ross

The initial reaction from Avid Life Media thus far has been one of denial — the first step in the Kübler-Ross model of grief. A former CTO at Ashley Madison, Raja Bhatia— who is now working as a contractor for Avid Life Media after the announcement by the Impact Team last month — told Brian Krebs that "The overwhelming amount of data released in the last three weeks is fake data," in reference to other groups using the publicity from Impact Team for their own (likely criminal) purposes, as if that negates the fact that Ashley Madison was hacked.

As a reaction to this, the second leak had a one-sentence note attached to it - "Hey Noel [Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media], you can admit it's real now." Additionally, in an interview with Motherboard, the Impact Team claimed that "We worked hard to make fully undetectable attack, then got in and found nothing to bypass" and that gaining access was so easy that "You could use Pass1234 from the internet to VPN to root on all servers."

Another journalist at Motherboard has received a DMCA takedown demand for posting a screenshot of the header cells of an Excel document from the leaks, which contained no personal information. Unfortunately, the reaction here is very similar to the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack late last year, in which that company also issued DMCA takedown demands in an attempt to prevent information from being disseminated.

Too often, companies spend far too much time in the Denial or Anger stage of the Kübler-Ross model. Being forthright with users and the media in the event of a data breach will assist the affected customers on how to protect their safety.

In the case of Ashley Madison, the claims that credit card information was not exfiltrated turned out to be wrong, as the Impact Team recovered the login credentials for the payment processor, and disclosed that information in the first data dump. With finances, every minute counts when securing information, and spreading misinformation and interfering with reporting of events is a disservice to everyone.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Windows 10 FAQ: Everything You Need to Know

Now that Windows 10 is available for public download and installation people have more questions than ever about the new version of Windows. We’ve rounded up the questions we get most frequently here at How-To Geek and compiled them to help you get up to speed about Windows 10.

Every week we get hundreds of questions to our email inbox and we field dozens more from friends and family that know we work for a tech publication. People across the board are very curious about Windows 10. Further, because it’s a free upgrade for millions upon millions of users across the globe there is a huge amount of interest in everything from the upgrade process to changes in the operating system.

For all our curious readers, neighbors, and people searching for more information about Windows 10 we’ve rounded up to most frequently asked questions we’ve come across here for your convenience.

Is Windows 10 Really Free?

There has been significant confusion regarding the pricing (or lack there of) of Windows 10 over the last year. Don’t be ashamed if you’re confused, Microsoft themselves changed their story regarding the upgrade and pricing schedule more than a few times during the development and beta testing of Windows 10.

For a huge number of people Windows 10 is really, truly, free-as-in-beer free. If you are currently running any legitimate (non-pirated) version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 you will be upgraded for free to an equivalent version of Windows 10. Windows 7 Home/Basic/Premium users and Windows 8.1 users will be upgraded for free to Windows 10 Home. Windows 7 Professional/Ultimate users and Windows 8.1 Pro users will be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro.
You’ll note we didn’t say Windows 8; if you have a Windows 8 machine you first need to perform the free upgrade to Windows 8.1 before upgrading to Windows 10. The vast majority of current Windows users fall under the umbrella above. Your Windows 7 desktop, your Windows 8.1 laptop, as long as it has a legitimate Windows license it is eligible for upgrade. It’s also worth noting that the Windows 10 free upgrade key is tied to the hardware. You can’t upgrade a machine and roll back and keep the key to do a clean install on another computer.
There is a minor catch: the upgrade is only free for the first year Windows 10 is available. Windows 10 was officially released in 07/29/2015 and the upgrade will remain free for qualifying users until 07/28/2016.
If you’re building a new PC and need a brand new Windows license you can purchase Windows 10 for $119 (or Windows 10 Pro for $199). Practically speaking though, buying a full price Windows 10 key, of either flavor, is a bad deal considering that you can purchase a cheaper key for Windows 7 and upgrade (or just scrounge it off the bottom of an old laptop or computer). You could, for example, buy a horribly dated (and possibly broken) Windows laptop at a garage sale for next to nothing and use the key to upgrade.
Even if you don’t want to gamble on using a key off an old laptop that somebody else might have recorded for their own use, it’s still cheaper to buy an old version of Windows and upgrade it. You can buy a brand new copy of Windows 8.1 Pro for $131, for example, and upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro (saving yourself ~$70 in the process).
In short, even when Windows 10 isn’t free (as it is for nearly everyone) it’s still pretty economical because you can use old (and cheaper) Windows 7 and Windows 8 keys to perform the free upgrade to Windows 10.

How Do I Get Windows 10?

So Windows 10 is, for nearly everyone, free-as-in-beer. But how exactly do you get your hands on a copy? Things have changed more than a bit over the years (and quite a bit from the days of heading down to the old computer store to buy a shrink wrapped box with your new OS in it).
Fortunately, getting Windows 10 on your computer (whether you’re performing an upgrade or a clean installation) is a simple affair. You download the Windows 10 installer tool from Microsoft, you run the installer, and you work your way through the installation wizard with a reboot here or there, and boom, you’re running Windows 10. It’s really a surprisingly simple process and we’re impressed with how smooth upgrading is. You can go from running Windows 7 or 8.1 to running Windows 10 pretty much as fast as your connection will download the update.
If you’re the kind of person who wants a clear picture of exactly what you need to do and what steps are involved in the process, definitely check out our article How to Upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 (Right Now) to see the upgrade steps outlined in detail.

Will My Computer Run Windows 10?

We’ve been asked this question quite a bit and we won’t lie, we’re not huge fans of the question because it’s so hard to give a good answer. Unlike other questions that have concrete answers like “Can I upgrade Windows 7 Home to Windows 10?” this particular question only has a concrete answer if we have detailed information about the computer in question and detailed information about the hardware therein.
If your computer is currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8 to your satisfaction, especially on newer hardware, there’s a very strong chance it will run Windows 10 just fine. On the other hand if the hardware you’re using was from your old Windows XP machine and it is barelyrunning Windows 7 at a satisfactory level then the reality is jumping all the way to Windows 10 is probably going to yield a sluggish user experience you won’t be particularly happy with.
While we can’t give you a concrete answer about your particular hardware we can suggest that you read the Windows 10 system required here, and check the compatibility of your computer and hardware with the Get Windows 10 system tray app (which will report not just on whether or not you have enough memory and such but if your printers and other devices are compatible).
What we can say before leaving this particular subject is that we’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well Windows 10 has run on older hardware so don’t rule out an upgrade just because your computer is getting a little long in the tooth.

Do I Have To Upgrade?

Earlier this year when Microsoft pushed out the the “Get Windows 10″ tray app to millions of users, many people who were, more or less, totally unaware of Windows 10 were suddenly very aware of it and very curious what the icon (and the resulting info-app that pops up when you click on the icon) meant.
The most frequently question we received regarding the Get Windows 10 app was, hands down, “How do I get rid of the Get Windows 10 app?” because people hate annoying in-your-face stuff they didn’t ask for. The second most frequent question is “Do I have to upgrade?”
The answer is, firmly, no. You do not have to upgrade to Windows 10. Although Microsoft is aggressively promoting Windows 10 (it’s free for most people after all) you are not required to upgrade unless you wish to do so.

Should I Upgrade?

Those who aren’t concerned about if they have to upgrade are usually wondering if they shouldupgrade. So should you upgrade to Windows 10? Barring some compelling reason for not doing so (like you can’t get drivers for a piece of hardware your job depends on) there’s very little reason to not upgrade to Windows 10. It’s a huge leap forward from Windows 7. It’s an excellent update to Windows 8 (and, in every way, an improvement from the total mess that was the forced Windows 8 no-desktop-tile-system).
Should you upgrade right this second though? If you’re reading this article at the time of publication, mere weeks after the official Windows 10 release date, you probably shouldn’t. We’ve updated several machines without any problems as part of our very write-about-Windows oriented tech writing jobs, but if you’re considering upgrading your primary machine it would be very wise to wait at least a few months for any hiccups to be ironed out. That window provides time for manufacturers to update drivers, unforeseen problems in Windows 10 to be patched, and for you to properly backup all your files and be really ready for the transition.
Ultimately it would be very foolish to stubbornly hold onto Windows 7 so long that you miss the Windows 10 upgrade period. Whether you wait a month or six months, Windows 10 is a solid and worthwhile upgrade.

Do I Have To Upgrade To Do A Clean Installation?

This is one of the more confusing and annoying things about upgrading: if you want to do a totally clean install (and many folks do) you can’t just run the installer and give it a legitimate Windows 7 or 8 key. You actually have to first upgrade your machine from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 and then run the installer again to perform a clean install.
While this seems convoluted (and frankly it is) there’s a reason behind it. When you perform the upgrade your hardware configuration is registered with Microsoft and serves as the “fingerprint” if you will of system confirming that it is a legitimate Windows machine. That fingerprint is what authenticates your Windows 10 machine when you go to do the clean installation afterwards.
It’s a hassle but you only have to do it once and that machine is forever registered for use with Windows 10.

Can I Downgrade Back To Windows 7 or 8 If I Hate Windows 10?

You can absolutely downgrade from Windows 10 back to the previous version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. You can even totally wipe your machine and reinstall your old version of Windows with the old key. But, and this is a very big but, you can only do so within the first 30 days.
After 30 days two things happens. First, the rollback files stored on the PC are deleted (thus no downgrade is possible without totally reinstalling the previous version of Windows). Second, and less visible to the user, your previous Windows key is used as a golden ticket of sorts to approve your transition into Windows 10.
If you rollback your machine in that first month you get your entire old Windows installation back. If you rollback after the 30 days you aren’t as much rolling back anymore as you are just releasing your Windows 10 license and freeing up your old key to be used for your older version of Windows. You’ll still need to totally reinstall Windows and use your old key to get your old installation back up and running.
Now what’s interesting is that upgrading to Windows 10, even if you roll back to your previous version of Windows, secures you a permanent copy of Windows 10 linked to that license key. If you decide to upgrade two years from now, at least according to Microsoft at the time of this article, you’ll have a Windows 10 download waiting for you for free.

Will My Old Apps And Peripherals Still Work?

Like the question “Will my computer run Windows 10?” this one is subjective. The good news is that we haven’t run into a single app that hasn’t worked yet (included some very old but useful apps we’ve hung on to since as far back as Windows XP). The bad news is every case is different and maybe that photo print you like so much that worked perfect with Windows 7 doesn’t even have Windows 8 drivers, let alone Windows 10 support.
One subject we’ve heard more than a few inquiries about is the subject of automatic updating in Windows 10. The rumors you’ve heard are absolutely true: in the home edition, or just plain Windows 10, the updates are automatically downloaded and applied at the time of their release. You can trick Windows by modifying your internet connection type, but we don’t recommend purposely delaying updates.
If you’re running Windows 10 Pro you can delay updates for a period of time but they are still automatically applied once the delay in up (unless you take advantage of a group editor trick or registry hack to disable them).

Does Windows 10 Report Back To Microsoft?

Windows has, for ages, reported back to Microsoft in various forms. The most obvious and enduring reporting is the basic Windows authentication process. There’s also the equally as old error reporting service that phones home when your programs crash and things fall apart so Microsoft can, ostensibly, prevent such problems in the future.
Windows 10 takes all that a step further, moving beyond the simplicity of verifying installation and reporting software problems, to more intimately integrating the online experience with the local computer experience in a way that ensures Windows 10 has a higher degree of communication with Microsoft and Microsoft properties (like Bing) than any previous version of Windows.
The short of it is that, yes, Windows 10 is really chatty with ol’ Man Microsoft. The long of it is that nearly all of the privacy settings can be bent to your will if you’re willing to dig for them. We’d strongly suggest checking out our article Digging Into and Understanding Windows 10 Privacy Settings for more information.

Do I Really Have To Pay For Solitaire And DVD Playback?

You don’t really realize how many people really love old Solitaire until Microsoft messes with it. Back in Windows 8 Microsoft ditched the old school Solitaire and Minesweeper apps that had been with Windows for over twenty years, only to replace them with Xbox-integrated versions from the Windows Store. Because of the low adoption rate of Windows 8 the change went, more or less, unnoticed as most of the world was still using Windows 7 and happily playing their free games.
With the release of Windows 10 the scandal of the missing Solitaire game really came to the forefront, especially in light of the fact that the new model is subscription based. To say that people have a hard time swallowing paying a subscription to play Solitaire (after years of the app being free and included with Windows) would be a bit of an understatement. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. Check out article You Don’t Have to Pay $20 a Year for Solitaire and Minesweeper on Windows 10 for information on how you can get your old-school game fix without playing the silly freemium subscription game racket.
Another surprise waiting for people making the jump from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is the lack of DVD playback support. You can still use data DVDs, of course, but Microsoft has (since Windows 8) opted to not include a license for DVD video playback in Windows. This means, by default, you can’t pop a regular DVD movie into your computer and watch it on your Windows machine. While they’d prefer you shell out money for the official Microsoft DVD for Windows App ($15) you can, in fact, get the upgrade for free if you’re upgrading from a qualifying previous edition of Windows. Anyone doing a clean installation, regardless of the Windows status of their computer before the clean installation, is not eligible.
We’d encourage you to just grab a copy of the very popular media software VLC and be done with the whole thing. You’ll get a great media player without having to jump through any silly hoops.

Where’s Windows 9?

The vast majority of Windows 10 questions we get are fairly serious questions about upgrade paths, whether or not we like the new changes, and so on, but at least a few times a week somebody inevitably asks us something along the lines of “Wait. I have Windows 7. I didn’t want Windows 8. Now it’s Windows 10? What happened to Windows 9?”
Personally, we think it was an extremely long con job to make the joke “Why was Windows 10 scared of Windows 7? Because seven ate nine!” Or not. Most like not that at all. Honestly? We have no idea and outside of a few tight lipped people at Microsoft, nobody else does either.
If we were to fathom a guess more dignified than the total dad-quality joke we just made, however, we’d say this: we think Microsoft wanted to break the pattern of people waiting for the next big thing (e.g. “I have 7 and I like it. I don’t want to gamble with 8 so I’ll wait for 9″). Between rolling it out for free to millions of people and breaking the sequential numbering we think Microsoft is trying jolt people out of their old habits (namely of being stubborn late-to-never-adopters and complaining about Windows on an odd-even schedule).
Whether that’s the strategy or out whether or hypothesis about it is right is another thing altogether, but it’s as good as any other assumption as to why there is no Windows 9 that we’ve heard.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jeep hack serves as reminder not to rely on security through obscurity

Security can no longer be an afterthought, nor can IT leaders rely on security through obscurity. Here's how to incorporate security into IT products and initiatives from the start.

A major security breach that made news recently is the hack of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Far less abstract than a data theft, the video included with the Wired article shows two mild-mannered engineers remotely controlling a Jeep vehicle miles away, with the hapless reporter at the wheel. The hacks start mildly enough, with the HVAC system being activated and the radio turned to full volume, and ultimately ends with the engine being turned off on the highway and the brakes being disabled. Even for the least IT savvy person, this video clearly demonstrates the risk of security breaches in a very real sense.

See on CNET: Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.4 million vehicles following remote hack and Fiat Chrysler waited 18 months to tell regulators about hacking risk

Security as an afterthought rather than as a feature

Security is largely an afterthought in most IT initiatives. While the need for security is always acknowledged, actually implementing that security is usually reserved for later stages of a project; in the worst case, it's assumed that the platform is far enough away from hackers' tentacles that security can be ignored or vastly simplified — the old concept of security through obscurity.

There are seemingly good reasons for waiting to implement security until the end of a project.

Security is difficult and can interfere with development and testing.

Most projects seek to get systems and code connected and talking in the simplest manner before worrying about securing it.

The project team assumes that proprietary systems and networks represent security that's "good enough," and well-meaning intentions to add security later are pushed off the roadmap when deadlines loom.

The main problem with this approach is that security becomes regarded as an additional layer that's applied atop a system that is tested and functional, or pushed to a future update since the obscurity of the platform is perceived as security itself. The logic goes that you get the underlying system "right" and then slap security on top when you can, usually at the final testing phases. This approach is obviously flawed, so rather than regarding security as a separate layer, regard it as a critical path feature that should be implemented early.

Test early and often

Just as the features and functions of a platform that are implemented earliest usually get the most rigorous testing, security that is implemented early will receive more rigorous testing and become more thoroughly integrated with the overall product. This can also mitigate the urge to add more security later; if security is a feature that's implemented early, the product can't progress until the security models are implemented and unit tested.

Security testing, often done as one of the last phases of the implementation, should be cyclical, and included in every phase of product testing. This not only improves the product's overall security, but it can ultimately save time and money, since you'll identify fundamental flaws in your security model that may impact other portions of the product. Security-related or not, it's better to discover a fundamental flaw in a system and correct it early, rather than identifying it at the last moment and realizing there is a cascade of dependencies that must be modified and retested as well.

Communicate the risk

IT security has long been perceived as a game of Chicken Little, with someone from IT expounding on the need for more security, while others are nervously looking at their calendars and the short remaining time for delivery. The problem with past approaches is that they focused on the technical aspects of security, rather than the direct business impact. For Jeep, the impact is painfully demonstrated in the video above; fixing security flaws that result in a customer's car being disabled or unable to brake is worth tens of millions of dollars in lawsuit avoidance alone.

IT leaders need to communicate the cost and timeline for integrating security as a key feature, as well as the varying levels of security that can be implemented, and the business risks they mitigate. Focus less on doomsday scenarios, and more about what risk mitigation additional time and money buys. There's a sweet spot between cost and risk that should be articulated and agreed on.

Get a little help from your friends

Many of these exploits have been identified by outside engineers and so-called white hats who attempt to hack systems to identify defects rather than do damage. Some may seek publicity or bragging rights, while others may seek cash outright. In either case, tapping into these resources can be a great way to augment internal or vendor-provided security services, and result in a better, more secure product overall.

While you may not be developing automotive systems, housing financial data, or storing secret government information, it's critical that security be a feature of any IT-driven product or project, rather than an afterthought and inconvenience. Failure to do so may not result in cars driving off the road, but it will certainly hinder your career from staying on its track.

Friday, August 14, 2015

10 supercomputers that are leading innovation around the world


The current no. 1 system is the Tianhe-2, which is part of the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China. The system has 16,000 nodes and more than three million computing cores.


The Titan resides at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Titan is a Cray XK7 system and is highly energy efficient. It is an upgrade of the Jaguar supercomputer.


IBM Sequoia is one of the IBM BlueGene supercomputers. The first computer to sustain 10 petaflops of performance, it lives at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

K Computer

The RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Japan is home to no. 4 on the list, Fujitsu's K Computer. The computer uses a proprietary interconnect called Tofu, and its OS is based on the Linux kernel.


Mira, another IBM BlueGene supercomputer, is installed at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The computer was supported, in part, by the United States Department of Energy.

Piz Daint

The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Switzerland is home to Piz Daint, the most powerful computer system in Europe. Piz Daint is a Cray XC30 and is one of the most energy efficient supercomputers, consuming a mere 2.33 MW of power.

Shaheen II

Shaheen II, a product of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, was put to work in 2015. The original Shaheen system was an IBM BlueGene system, but the Shaheen II is a Cray XC40 system.


Leave it to the University of Texas, Austin Longhorns to name a supercomputer Stampede. It's a Dell PowerEdge C8220 system working out of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the university.


Another IBM BlueGene machine, the JUQUEEN, is installed in Germany.


Taking its namesake from Mr. Spock's home planet, the Vulcan supercomputer system is also out of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It is used to operate in tandem with its roommate, Sequoia.